Thursday, June 23, 2011

Web censorship begins in Australia next month

MOST Australian internet users will have their web access censored next month after the country's two largest internet providers agreed to voluntarily block more than 500 websites from view.

Telstra and Optus confirmed they would block access to a list of child abuse websites provided by the Australian Communications and Media Authority and more compiled by unnamed international organisations from mid-year.

But internet experts have warned that the scheme is merely a "feel-good policy" that will not stop criminals from accessing obscene material online and could block websites unfairly.

The voluntary scheme was originally proposed by the Federal Government last year as part of a wider, $9.8 million scheme to encourage internet service providers to block all Refused Classification material from users as an optional service.

The Government dropped its funding for the scheme last month due to "limited interest" from the industry, but a spokesman for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said a basic voluntary filter was still on track to be introduced by Telstra, Optus and two small ISPs.

"The ACMA will compile and manage a list of URLs of child abuse content that will include the appropriate subsection of the ACMA blacklist as well as child abuse URLs that are provided by reputable international organisations (to be blocked)," the spokesman said.

System Administrators Guild of Australia board member Donna Ashelford said blocking these website addresses should not affect internet speed, but was only a "cosmetic fix" that was easily circumvented by criminals.

"The effectiveness will be trivial because you're just blocking a single website address (and) a person can get around it by changing that address with one character," she said. "Child abuse material is more likely to be exchanged on peer-to-peer networks and private networks anyway and is a matter for law enforcement."

Electronic Frontiers Association board member Colin Jacobs also expressed concern at the scheme, saying the Government and internet providers needed to be more upfront about websites being blocked and offer an appeals process for website owners who felt URLs had been blocked unfairly.

"There is a question about where the links are coming from and I'd like to know the answer to that," Mr Jacobs said. "We've been waiting to hear details on this from the Government. It they turn out to be zealous with the type of material that is on the list then we'd want to have a discussion about ways to introduce more transparency."


Fibre network a waste of money, says Abbott

OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott has compared the national broadband network (NBN) to ripping up a freeway and replacing it with a toll road.

Telstra, the Federal Government and the builder of the $35.9 billion national broadband network, NBN Co, today announced they had signed definitive agreements for the rollout of the network across Australia. Telstra will receive $11 billion to decommission its copper network, shift customers to the NBN and allow access to its cable ducts.

Optus has also reached an $800 million agreement with the Federal Government to move its customers to the NBN.

Mr Abbott said the NBN was a "great leap backwards" and similar services could be delivered more cheaply with a mix of technologies. "What the Government is doing is analogous to closing down a freeway to make Australians use a toll road," Mr Abbott said.

"And it's typical of the incompetence and the ineptitude of this government that they are paying vast amounts of money not to create infrastructure but to close it down."

Mr Abbott said it showed a lack of proper economic priorities. "They are going to spend $50 billion plus on something which is not necessary at a time when Australia's road, railways and ports are completely clogged," he said.

Mr Abbott said a coalition government would announce "at the time" what it would do in terms of broadband services. "We don't know how far advanced the NBN will be, if and when we take government," he said.


Pathetic Australian public school leaves kids wearing blankets

WHILE most schools insist on ties and blazers, Greensborough College's new uniform policy is likely to be somewhat more unusual - blankets will be allowed to be worn in class. The school council will vote today to amend temporarily the uniform policy and allow students to bring blankets to school due to occupational health and safety concerns.

"The school is responsible for the well-being of children and this is the only way we can see we can meet their needs," said school council president Glen Martin.

Greensborough College's power supply is so inadequate, the electricity has cut out four times this winter, leaving students shivering in classrooms without heating. "It is always on bitter cold mornings … if the power goes out even the gas heaters don't work," principal John Conway said.

Year 9 student Nick Goldsmith said students were already allowed to wear beanies and scarves in class - provided they were in the school's colours of navy blue and white.

"Last Thursday the year 12s were doing a GAT [general achievement test] and the power went out," Nick said. "It does get pretty cold."

Conditions at Greensborough College, which was promised a $20 million upgrade by the previous government, are so Dickensian a corridor floor collapsed last year, trapping bags under the building. "The building has been sinking into the ground for over 40 years - the stumps are rotten," Mr Conway said.

An audit found the school needed a 400-amp power supply rather than the existing 300-amp supply. However, this would cost $187,000 and the Education Department told Greensborough College it would have to fork out for a quarter of the cost. "I've written a submission to the department, saying I can't pay that," Mr Conway said.

He said Greensborough College's enrolments had jumped from 355 to 986 in the past 10 years, and the school had to spend all its cash reserves on things like new lockers just to cope with the influx of students. "We had to spend locally raised funds on facilities development, including building a new kitchen," he said.

Mr Martin said parents were frustrated the Baillieu government had not committed funding to the school and hoped the blanket uniform policy would highlight the deprivation. "The government is spending nothing in the northern suburbs on education - we are the forgotten suburbs," he said.

Local Labor MP Colin Brooks said students at Greensborough College should not be punished because of the way their parents voted. "It's time that the Premier stopped dithering and intervened in this embarrassing saga," he said.

Education Minister Martin Dixon said the education department was working with the school to help overcome its power supply and facilities issues. "The department has provided more than $80,000 for internal electrical works at the school and is also currently undertaking an energy audit of the school site," Mr Dixon said.


Sugar doesn't make you fat

FOOD scientists claim that new federal draft dietary guidelines reflect nutritional "dogma" and perpetuate the "myth" that sugar is as dangerous as fats and salt.

"Sugar has been unfairly demonised in the national dietary guidelines," said consultant dietitian Bill Shrapnel, deputy chairman of the Sydney University Nutrition Research Foundation. Along with Sydney University nutritionist Jennie Brand-Miller, Mr Shrapnel is highly critical of the newly released draft Australian Dietary Guidelines prepared by a National Health & Medical Research Council working group.

A list of the key recommendations, but without their scientific justification, was posted recently on the NH&MRC website and discussed by the council last week.

Reflecting existing guidelines, the draft document recommends people limit their intake of foods and drinks containing fats, salt, alcohol and sugar.

"Unlike saturated fats, trans fats, salt and alcohol, sugar doesn't actually do any direct harm to the human body," said Professor Brand-Miller, author of The Low GI Diet and recipient this month of an Order of Australia.

Mr Shrapnel and Professor Brand-Miller argue a sweet touch at the end of a meal isn't a dietary sin. Sydney restaurateur Lucio Galletto couldn't agree more. "A beautiful dessert with different types of sugar makes you feel good. Sugar is not why you get fat."

Professor Brand-Miller says he's correct. Studies show that Australians are eating less sugar, but gaining more weight.



Four current articles below

Viscount Monckton hits out at ecofascism

Renowned climate change skeptic Lord Monckton has lashed out at the Federal Government's climate change advisor Ross Garnaut, labelling him a Nazi.

The 7News exclusive report shows Lord Christopher Monckton, Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, addressing the American Freedom Alliance Conference earlier this month.

Using extreme political labels to characterise the Green movement and climate change believers, Monckton singles out Australia's Professor Ross Garnaut and calls him a fascist.

"Let's look very quickly at a few eco-fascists speaking in their own words." says Monckton at the conference. "Professor Ross Garnaut ... that again is a fascist point of view that you merely accept authority without question, Heil Hitler! On we go." Monckton continued.

In response, Professor Garnaut says the climate debate is becoming increasingly bitter, "I think the tone of the current discourse is less civilized. It's noisier, more ignorant." says Garnaut.

Lord Monckton is due to appear at a mining conference in Perth next week which is reportedly being opened by Tony Abbott.


Peer review denial and the abuse of science

Can someone get Stephan Lewandowsky his medication? His new marketing message is that “deniers” don’t do peer review papers. There’s a curious case of acute-peer-review-blindness (APRB) occurring. It doesn’t matter that there are literally thousands of pages of skeptical information on the web, quoting hundreds of peer reviewed papers, by people far more qualified than a cognitive-psychologist, yet he won’t even admit they exist.

…most climate deniers avoid scrutiny by sidestepping the peer-review process that is fundamental to science, instead posting their material in the internet or writing books.

Dear Stephan, deny this: 900 papers that support skeptics. What is it about these hundreds of papers published in Nature, Science, GRL, PNAS, and Journal of Climate that you find impossible to acknowledge? (And do tell Stephan, if people need to publish peer reviewed material before they venture an opinion on climate science online, how many peer reviewed articles on climate science have you produced?)

Obviously, the real deniers are the people who deny the hundreds of papers with empirical evidence that show the hockey stick is wrong, the world was warmer, the climate changes, and the models are flawed.

Twenty eight million weather balloons show there is no hotspot. So in response, stumped for evidence, the establishment team rolls out a psychologist to deny the results, and issue unscientific pronouncements about how we all have to “trust the establishment” and use only its’ approved formats to further human knowledge.

Instead of sidestepping the process, articles by people who want to sidestep the issue give themselves away in the first line. We can always rely on Lewandowsky to solve our climate dilemmas by analyzing… something else.

“On 20 April 2010, a BP oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and creating the largest oil spill in history.”

Then if he does get to the topic at hand, you can count on him to stick to fallacies, like argument from authority and ad hominem attacks. No doubt, UWA will be renouncing Lewandowsky’s science degree (I mean, surely the faculty of science at UWA have higher standards than that don’t they?). Breaking laws of reason is an embarrassment for any science faculty, and to any psychology school.

Then when he gets past the fallacies and actually tries to make a socio political point, he reverts to a kindergarten black and white world view – me: good, you: bad. Humans in business = evil and untrustworthy. Humans in government = above question.

During peer review, by contrast, commercial interests are removed from the publication decision because journals are often published by not-for-profit professional organisations.

Obviously, commercial interests who advertise in journals, or own their stocks, their distribution, their publishing house, or offer jobs-for-the-boys never have any influence on angelic science publications**. And government interests are of course, obviously benign. No government has ever used it’s power to deceive its subjects. Right?

Even if private publishers are involved, they make their profit primarily via university subscriptions, and universities subscribe to journals based on their reputation, rather than based on individual publication decisions.

And universities make their money… follow that dollar… by appealing to government bureaus, ergo?* So government-paid-researchers vet other government-paid-researchers-papers which are published in journals which want to get more subscriptions from government paid entities. What could go wrong with that?

Very occasionally a contrarian paper does appear in a peer-reviewed journal, which segments of the internet and the media immediately hail as evidence against global warming or its human causes, as if a single paper somehow nullifies thousands of previous scientific findings.

Dear Stephan, that’s the point of science remember, as Einstein says, it only takes one experiment to prove a theory wrong, and your anti-science mind-set means if a skeptic proved man-made warming wrong (actually we already have) you would “know” the skeptic was wrong before you even read the paper.

In Stephens obey-thy-leader form of “science”, the answers to the universe can be figured out by counting the peer reviewed papers. It’s not about quality. It’s not about a chain of evidence. It’s not that some papers matter. It’s just the tally.

And if we only had a bureau of perpetual motion issuing papers, then we could finally solve the energy crisis. (In fact, why bother to do the research, just ask the government?)

Most of the Lewandowsky-carbon-tax-marketing-tactic is simply to confound his followers with a bread crumb trail of smears, which reinforces the neural pathways of pavlovian fans-of-the-carbon-cult so they too can issue reflexive insults against scientists, and warm themselves with smug superiority. And this man does it with your taxes.

John McLean corrected Lewandowsky’s points on the ABC site. Stephen apparently denys that too.


Climate debate 'appalling', says Australia's chief scientist

But he contributes nothing to the debate himself, just the usual unscientific appeal to authority. It would seem that it is criticism of Warmism that he finds appalling

AUSTRALIA'S Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, has lamented the quality of public debate on climate change, saying it "borders on appalling" and the level of scientific literacy among politicians is "not high".

In his first big speech since his appointment by the Gillard government in April, Professor Chubb rejected accusations that he was partisan because he believed that "the science is in on climate change".

"Well, I don't think that's partisan. I think that I can read English - as Ross Garnaut once said - and understand it. And I think that the evidence is overwhelming," he said at the National Press Club.

Recently, prominent climate scientists have reported receiving death threats, and actress Cate Blanchett was criticised for fronting an ad campaign in support of a carbon price.

"I think attacking people because they're giving a message is appalling. I think that some of the language that's used is bordering on the hysterical," Professor Chubb said.

He said the media often gave undue weight to the views of climate sceptics. "I think the media has an obligation to present scientific debates, including on climate change, in a proper and balanced and appropriately weighted way."

He said there were respectable people who held different views. "But when you get the overwhelming majority of people with real expertise heading in one direction, you have to take notice of that, because if you wait for proof, you wait forever."

Professor Chubb complained that despite its potential to cure diseases and deliver transformative inventions, science struggled to compete with football and celebrity gossip for public attention.


Warmist journalist wants skeptics gassed

You can't make this stuff up. Do I need to mention whom her wishes align her with? You won't be surprised that she made her career with the ABC, Australia's main public broadcaster. And, needless to say, she pays zero attention to any of the science concerned. In effect she just says "Heil Klima" while her right arm edges upwards. In other words, she accepts the Warmist faith without question ("Klima" is the German word for climate)

Jill Singer

While Tony Abbott has previously lent support to schemes including an emissions trading scheme and a carbon tax, you wouldn't know it today. The only real scheme he and supporters are currently backing is political interference.

It's a dangerous game they're playing with our future, but you've got to hand it to them, they're ruddy good at it.

Cate Blanchett pops up her head to support a carbon tax and Abbott's band of climate sceptics quickly lops it off because she's richer than most.

But when Gina Rinehart pops hers up, Australia's richest woman is touted as some kind of working-class hero.

Then there's David Murray, chair of Australia's $71 billion Future Fund and recipient of a $28 million golden parachute from his time running the Commonwealth Bank. Murray states there's no link between global warming and carbon dioxide emissions because carbon dioxide is necessary for life, colourless and odourless - and therefore can't be considered a pollutant. It's a popularly held view.

Andy Semple of the Menzies Institute claims it's "refreshing" for someone with Murray's standing to take on the global warming "scam" by expressing such views.

Really? I'm prepared to keep an open mind and propose another stunt for climate sceptics - put your strong views to the test by exposing yourselves to high concentrations of either carbon dioxide or some other colourless, odourless gas - say, carbon monoxide.

You wouldn't see or smell anything. Nor would your anti-science nonsense be heard of again. How very refreshing.


Carbon monoxide inhalation is of course rapidly fatal

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