Monday, August 05, 2013

Marine life on the move due to global warming --  says CSIRO

Now that global cooling has set in. it will be moving back

The first global snapshot of marine life shifting under climate change has found it is on the move towards the poles at a rate of about seven kilometres a year. Fish and other marine creatures are seeking cooler habitat much faster than terrestrial life, according to an international study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

In Australia, this re-shaping of the marine ecosystem will have significant repercussions for people such as fishers, according to CSIRO marine ecologist and study leader Elvira Poloczanska.

Dr Poloczanska, of the University of Queensland, and 18 international colleagues found no doubt about who was responsible for the greenhouse gas-related warming of the ocean's upper layers. "Global responses of marine species revealed here demonstrate a strong fingerprint of this anthropogenic [caused by humans] climate change on marine life," the paper said.

Dr Poloczanska said in Australia's south-east, tropical and subtropical species of fish, molluscs and plankton were shifting much further south through the Tasman Sea.

A 2010 CSIRO study found that warm surf-zone species such as silver drummer were more abundant, while the range of others such as snapper and rock flathead has increased.

In the Indian Ocean, a southward distribution of seabirds has been detected, as well as a loss of cool-water seaweeds north of Perth.

The latest study assembled a data base of 1735 marine biological responses around the world, where climate change was considered to be a driver in species movement.

"The leading edge or 'front line' of a marine species distribution is moving towards the poles at the average rate of 72 kilometres per decade," Dr Poloczanska said. "This is considerably faster than terrestrial species moving poleward at an average of six kilometres per decade . . . despite sea-surface temperatures warming three times slower than land temperatures."


Green tea extract has anti-cancer potential

Study in laboratory glassware only

A green-tea extract could help destroy deadly childhood cancers that are resistant to traditional chemotherapy, ground-breaking NSW research has discovered.

Cancer researcher Orazio Vittorio says a modified antioxidant called catechin can kill 50 per cent of the cells from neuroblastoma cancers within three days in laboratory studies.

On Friday night he was awarded the Kid's Cancer Project Award in the NSW Premier's Awards for Outstanding Cancer Research, which will give him $25,000 to put towards developing potentially life-saving treatment from his research.

Neuroblastoma is the most common cancer to strike infants, and has the lowest survival rate of all childhood cancers.

Catechin, extracted from green tea, is thought to be a promising cancer treatment, but its instability when it enters the body limits its effectiveness.

Dr Vittorio worked with a team of chemists to modify the catechin into a more stable form.

"The modified form of catechin is effective at destroying neuroblastoma cells that are highly resistant to conventional chemotherapy, yet has minimal effects on normal cells," said Dr Vittorio, from the Children's Cancer Institute Australia and the Lowy cancer research centre at UNSW. "Now I'll be able to build on this research and work towards an effective therapy for aggressive neuroblastoma".

Dr Vittorio, who survived kidney cancer five years ago, said that as his as-yet unpublished results were preliminary, he did not know how long it would take to develop treatments. "But as a father of a boy who is two years old and a cancer survivor, I'm doing my best to win this," he said.

His was one of 10 awards valued at $395,000. Premier Barry O'Farrell presented the award for outstanding cancer researcher to Professor John Thompson for his work in melanoma research.

David Currow, the chief executive of the Cancer Institute and Chief Cancer Officer, said as we learnt more about cancer, it was becoming clear no single solution would be found.

"Through our investment in research excellence we are enabling our talented researchers to come up with a wide range of innovative and practical solutions that make a very real difference," he said.


Prime Minister Kevin Rudd must explain how Australia blew almost $1 billion on projects in Afghanistan

IT'S time for Kevin Rudd to tell us all he knows about the waste of hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers' money on "white elephant" reconstruction projects in Afghanistan.

Hospitals and schools were built with not enough doctors, nurses and teachers and there was bribery and corruption in allocating much work, a bipartisan Senate Foreign Affairs committee found.

However, Australia's misadventure in Afghanistan is a scandal that dare not speak its name.

Prime Minister Rudd was foreign minister as the full extent of the folly began to emerge. So far he has said nothing, not in public anyway.

He visited Afghanistan again recently for a photo opportunity but spoke not a word of the controversy which has embarrassed the Department of Defence and Australia's international reputation.

In March 2011, Rudd flew to Afghanistan to open a $233,000 mosque built by Australian soldiers in Sorkh Murgab, in Uruzgan province.

In a solemn ceremony with much hand holding, Rudd joined the Uruzgan Governor Mohammed Omar Shizad and local leaders in cutting the ribbon.

The goodwill project, like many others in Afghanistan, quickly soured.

The Taliban declared the mosque a no-go area because it was built by Australians. A newspaper report said the Taliban threatened to punish any mullah who led prayers there, presumably because it was built by Christians.  So the handsome, copper-domed mosque sits empty, a tribute to poor management and jingoism.

More costly blunders stretched back over two decades, the Senate committee reported to Parliament.

Professor William Maley, who heads the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy at the Australian National University, told the committee the Australian aid may even have made matters worse by fuelling corruption.

Rudd and Defence Minister Stephen Smith this week ignored an invitation to comment. It's time they told Australians where their money went.

It is known that Australia has generously pumped $710 million into reconstruction projects since 2001, with another $250 million pledged until 2016.

The Senate committee praised the quality of Australia's reconstruction work but was highly critical of the lack of accountability in spending.

Expenditure will be nearly $1 billion by the time the projects are complete.

The committee, chaired by Senator Alan Eggleston, found Australia's efforts were blighted by bribery and corruption in allocating contracts and jobs.

The inquiry heard illiterate "teachers" were given school jobs by relatives in high places or corrupt government "powerbrokers". Poor attendance at some schools built by Australians was also blamed on a Taliban ban on girls aged over 10 from attending any school at all.

Millions of dollars may also have been squandered on well-built roads and bridges that are rarely used because locals are afraid to travel on them.

An Australian-built sewage treatment plant on the outskirts of Tarin Kowt isn't operating because no technicians were trained to run it.

Critical hospital services were "far from satisfactory", the committee found.

The committee said Australians deserved a full explanation. Indeed.

Eggleston told me yesterday there had been no response from the Rudd Government.  "There are very serious questions about the expenditure that needs to be answered," he said.

He said the lack of response was "disappointing" and "poor".

Eggleston said threats of reprisals against worshippers attending the mosque were an ominous sign.

The Taliban had regrouped as a formidable force, he said, and remains a threat to a peaceful transition when Australia and the US withdraw next year.

Underlying many of Afghanistan's woes is the opium and heroin trade, which the committee heard permeates every level of society. Opium poppy production in Afghanistan provides 90 per cent of the world's heroin.

The Senate committee was told what international law enforcement officers already know: opium poppy cultivation generated large criminal profits that undermined governance, fuelled corruption, nurtured dysfunctional politics and stimulated conflicts.

It was in this evil atmosphere that Australia continued to hand out money.

A total of 154,000ha of poppies were cultivated last year despite an eradication program.

Is it any wonder that Australia's good works are tainted by corruption?

The committee was especially critical of the Australian Defence Force and demanded it explain "a significant and serious miscalculation" of $200 million over six years. The committee found hundreds of millions were spent without proper accounting.

"The committee has evidence that the quality of work produced under Australian Defence Force supervision is high but understands that while a project can be 'beautifully constructed' it may not be operational," it said.

The committee said some funds were "wasted, misdirected, poorly targeted, or of limited benefit".

It added: "The committee has seen no evidence suggesting that Australian government agencies delivering aid to Afghanistan have attempted any genuine critical evaluation of the effectiveness of Australian aid, including an assessment of the cost-effectiveness of aid programs.

"Information is available on the inputs and when recording outcomes the information is often restricted to quantitative information such as schools, clinics and roads built but with no indication about how these facilities are making a difference.

"Such reporting presents an incomplete picture and may mask serious underachievement.

"The committee does not share AusAID's confidence in the robustness of its evaluation and reporting on Australia's official development assistance to Afghanistan."

The committee said Australian aid in Uruzgan produced "tangible benefits" such as schools. And our aid helped the provincial government develop a cadre of trained public servants.

"Some witnesses, however, expressed reservations about the effectiveness of aid delivered by the Australian Defence Force in Uruzgan, suggesting that some projects were 'quick fixes and unsustainable'."

The committee tabled comments from NGOs who reported "government corruption or bribes demanded from powerbrokers was one of the single largest sources of waste".

One local NGO representative admitted bribing government officials to ensure projects were completed and "alleged that bribery is widespread in the province and organisations often have no choice if they want to continue to operate. Corruption is like a virus," it noted.


Qld. school subject review considers axing mandatory languages

Language studies rarely lead to fluency

LANGUAGES could be dropped as a compulsory subject in state schools in a move teachers warn would disadvantage Queensland children.

A review of mandatory languages in Years 6, 7 and 8 is also considering whether the subject should be dropped in primary school, after Education Queensland (EQ) recommended the subject start in Year 7, once the year level moves into secondary.

In documents obtained under Right to Information, EQ says a Prep to Year 6 languages focus "is not recommended".

"Commencing languages in Year 7 would allow for efficient focusing of curriculum time in Junior Secondary," a Ministerial briefing note states.

"Consequently, in Prep - Year 6 it would allow more time for schools to focus on EQ core priorities as stated in United in our Pursuit of Excellence. A second consideration is whether languages are mandated."

In the note Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek is warned of problems sourcing language teachers in rural areas, with more than 1200 students learning the subject through Distance Education, and that some school communities and parents are against it being mandatory.

Mr Langbroek said a review into the mandatory languages policy was under way.

Japanese is currently the most popular language in state schools, followed by German, French and Mandarin.

Modern Language Teachers' Association of Queensland president Cynthia Dodd said she believed Year 7 was too late to start languages because students attitudes had hardened by then and research showed children were more receptive to languages in the early years.

P&Cs Qld CEO Peter Levett said research showed it was beneficial for students to learn a language, although there were two schools of thought on whether it made a difference if it started from Prep or not.


No comments: