Sunday, November 19, 2006

Stupid accusation about Tasmania from a leading British newspaper

The stupid political correctness described below is added to by the newspaper's accusation that the Tasmanian blacks were "eradicated by genocide". The accusation is scurrilous but is a favourite of Leftist historians worldwide. All the evidence shows that the Tasmanian blacks were already dying out when white men first arrived and that their demise was hastened by the diseases of the white settlers to which the blacks had no immunity. See here and here

One of the world's most significant collections of human remains is to be lost to science, after the Natural History Museum (NHM) today agreed to repatriate it to an Australian aboriginal community. Bones and teeth from 17 aboriginal Tasmanians, which were collected in the 19th century, will be sent back to Australia next April, where they are expected to be cremated.

The specimens are the first from the museum's collection of almost 20,000 human remains to be repatriated since the law was changed last year to allow it to do so. The request from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC), supported by the Australian Government, was accepted by the museum's trustees even though its own scientists had argued strongly that it should be kept intact as "a particularly important collection to the global scientific community." The ruling sets a precedent that could ultimately see thousands of items from the NHM's collection returned to indigenous communities for burial or cremation. Although 54 per cent of its human remains are from the UK, all those from abroad that are less than 1,000 years old could now qualify for repatriation if an appropriate request is made.

The Australian Government has already begun negotiations about the return of a further 450 items that originated in Australia, and Native American and New Zealand Maori groups are also in discussions with the museum. The prospect of losing so many specimens from one of the world's foremost repositories of human remains has dismayed some scientists, who argue that they retain great importance. Original remains are valuable for studies in fields as varied as human evolution and forensic science.

The Tasmanian collection is particularly signficant because the island has been isolated from the Austrialian mainland for thousands of years, and its aboriginal population offers valuable insights into human evolution that cannot be obtained from other sources. A few dozen museum specimens are all that remains of this unique ethnic group, which was eradicated by genocide in the 19th century.

"Failure to maintain scholarly access to these remains would reduce the ability of all people to know aspects of their common heritage, to the detriment of both the Tasmanians and the wider community," NHM scientists said in their response to the repatriation request. "The Tasmanian human remains must continue to be available for scientific research, either at the NHM or at another repository."

While most scientists accept the case for repatriating remains where a clear line of descent to living individuals or communities can be proven, many object to the idea of granting broad claims where ancestry is less certain. Some modern aborigine groups can trace descent to full Tasmanian aborigines, but have heavily interbred with other populations. The NHM's trustees, however, agreed to the TAC submission, which argued that the remains were taken without consent from an oppressed people, and should be returned for cremation in accordance with local spiritual and religious traditions.

The museum, however, has approved a three-month period of extensive scientific research on the remains before they are returned, including DNA analysis and CT scanning. The TAC had explicitly asked that no further research be conducted on the specimens. Michael Dixon, the museum's director, said: "This is something of a momentous day for the museum. It is a landmark decision, following our first opportunity to consider the repatriation of human remains. "We acknowledge our decision may be questioned by community groups or by some scientists. However, we believe the decision to return the Tasmanian remains, following a short period of data collection, is a commonsense one that balances the requirements of all those with an interest in the remains."

Chris Stringer, Head of Human Origins at the museum, said: "I regret the future loss of scientific data from these specimens," he said. "If the Tasmanian people in the future want to investigate their own past, they will no longer be available."

The decision marks only the second time that a national museum has agreed to repatriate human remains since the Human Tissue Act allowed them to do so. Prior to last year, the NHM and other state collections were banned from parting with any of their specimens by the British Museum Act of 1963. This provision was repealed following the Palmer Committee's 2003 report into collections of human remains, which recommended that institutions should normally seek to return such specimens if an appropriate modern ethnic group requested them.

Several private collections, such as the University of Manchester, the Royal College of Surgeons and the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford, have already returned specimens voluntarily, and the British Museum has returned cremation ash bundles to Tasmania since the law was changed. The NHM will also return a skull of an aboriginal Australian that was exported illegally in 1913. This decision was not contested by scientists.


Bush reassures friend-in-arms on Iraq

US President George W. Bush has assured John Howard that he will be fully consulted about any change in Iraq troop deployments, as the two men reaffirmed their vow to stay in the war zone until "we get the job done". Despite his political buffeting at the hands of the Democrats, the US President declared he would not be watering down the military commitment to Iraq, declaring it was "going to take a while". And he refused to rule out increasing the US's 140,000 troops in the strife-torn country, after talks lasting an hour with Mr Howard in the Vietnamese capital yesterday.

The President said the Vietnam War, which ended more than 30 years ago, offered lessons for the Middle East conflict, as he brushed aside calls to begin phasing down the US military presence in Iraq. Mr Bush is under intense pressure to consider new measures in Iraq after the Democrats won control of the Congress nearly two weeks ago.

Flanked by the Prime Minister, Mr Bush promised "close consultation" with Australia on any review of strategy. This could result in the military presence being beefed up in and around Baghdad, leaving Australia's 750-strong force to do more of the heavy lifting in other, less-troubled regions. "I assured John that we will get the job done. We will continue to help the Maliki Government meet the aspirations of the Iraqi people," Mr Bush said.... Mr Bush's hardline comments on Iraq on the eve of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit signals that Australia's troops will remain in the country indefinitely. This, in turn, ensures Iraq will feature prominently in next year's election campaign.

Last night, Mr Howard declined to place any timetable for withdrawing Australian troops from Iraq. "Any suggestions that the Americans are going to change their fundamental strategy and get up and go is as far away from reality as it can possibly be," he said.

Mr Bush conceded that the US-led coalition's original timetable for bringing democracy to Iraq was optimistic. "It is hard work in Iraq and that is why I am proud to have a partner like John Howard who understands it is difficult to get the job done. We will succeed unless we quit," he said.

But Mr Howard, speaking later to Australian reporters, said the President was "very upbeat about the medium-term prospects" for Iraq. "If anybody is thinking that he has changed his mind fundamentally about America staying in Iraq, stop thinking so, because he hasn't," Mr Howard said. Asked whether he could give any clearer indication on how long Australian troops might remain in Iraq, Mr Howard said: "I didn't seek a timeline in my discussions."

The Democrats won back control of the Congress for the first time since 1994 after voters in key swing states rebelled against the Iraqi conflict and the mounting casualty toll. But Mr Bush insisted he would not be dramatically changing a strategy, despite fears the US-led coalition would fail to deliver lasting peace. "The elections mean that the American people want to know whether or not we have a plan for success, and I assured John that any repositioning of any troops would be done in close consultation with John and his Government," Mr Bush said. "But I also assured him that we are not leaving until the job is done, until the Iraqi Government can sustain and defend itself."

Many in the US have drawn parallels between the botched Vietnam campaign, which ended in a humiliating withdrawal by American troops in 1975, and Iraq. Asked whether there were lessons to be learned from Vietnam, Mr Bush replied: "One lesson is that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world and the task in Iraq is going to take a while. "But I would make it beyond just Iraq. The great struggle we are going to have is between radicals and extremists versus people who want to live in peace - and Iraq is part of the struggle." Issuing a strong challenge to Muslim extremists, the US President said it was going to take a "long period for the ideology that is hopeful, that is an ideology of freedom, to overcome an ideology of hate".

Mr Bush is only the second US president to visit Vietnam since the conflict ended in 1975, following inthe footsteps of Bill Clinton, whomade the trip in 2000 as the two countries reconciled their differences. Mr Bush said he found it hopeful that countries could "move beyond past differences for the common good". As his motorcade moved through Hanoi, Mr Bush passed Truc Bach lake, where then-Lieutenant Commander John McCain, now a Republican senator from Arizona, was captured after parachuting from his damaged warplane. Senator McCain spent more than five years as a prisoner of war. The collision of past and present seemed to affect Mr Bush. "Laura and I were talking about how amazing it is that we're here in Vietnam," he said.


Leftist protests 'could harm poor'

One do-gooder sees reality

Protesters trying to stop this weekend's G20 meeting in Melbourne risk creating further disadvantage for impoverished nations, World Vision chief Tim Costello has warned. Speaking today on behalf of the Make Poverty History campaign, Mr Costello said his group welcomed the G20 summit as a way for poorer countries to meet with wealthier ones in an attempt to solve world poverty. "The poor would lose if you stop G20," said Mr Costello, brother of Federal Treasurer Peter Costello. "The truth is that part of what my brother and the G20 are on about does lift people out of poverty. "Trade and access to markets is actually what Africans and Asians want. Poor Africans and Asians want that too."

However, he said G20 needed to make aid a priority and a "failure of leadership" had allowed it to slip down the agenda. "The G20 often just focuses on markets when you've got to also have aid because how can you run markets when people are sick with HIV and dying from Malaria and don't even get access to school - 200 million kids don't go to school," he said.

Speaking as police strengthened barricades around the G20 conference, Mr Costello said the difference between his organisation and today's protesters was that the protesters were ideologically opposed to a market economy. "They say capitalism is the problem, we don't," Mr Costello said. "We say markets actually create wealth. In India and China they have actually lifted people out of poverty. "But markets can't do it alone, you need markets and aid, which is why I'm calling on Australia to stop being miserly ... and just get with the program." He said Australia needed to increase the amount of aid it provided.

Make Poverty History last night held a concert in Melbourne, at which U2 frontman Bono - a vocal anti-poverty campaigner - made a guest appearance. Mr Costello said the concert and the campaign had been effective in raising awareness about poverty and placing it on the social agenda.

Police have meantime closed off one of Melbourne's busiest city streets and set up double metal barricades at major intersections as protesters prepared to march en masse against the G20 summit. Security has been tightened and a large number of armed and mounted police officers are expected to set up a presence in the area during the day. Collins St has been closed between Spring St and Swanston St and Russell St between Little Collins St and Flinders St and trams rerouted along Lonsdale St.


A billion dollars worth of ambulance funding evaporates

The number of emergency service vehicles on Queensland streets has declined over the past three years while community taxes have raised almost $1 billion in revenue for the State Government. Figures from recent Emergency Services annual reports state the number of operational vehicles - including ambulances, fire units and emergency helicopters - had fallen by about 50 each year since the introduction of the community ambulance levy. Last financial year $238 million was raised from fire levies and about $110 million from ambulance taxes.

Across Queensland, 2145 vehicles were stationed last year, a drop of 95 since 2004-05, but these figures were disputed yesterday. Emergency Services Minister Pat Purcell, who admitted on radio that he did not know how many ambulances were in the fleet, said the reporting conditions had changed and there was an increase of 18 ambulances from the previous year. "Vehicles are only one part of the picture," he said.

Opposition emergency services spokesman Ted Malone questioned how the additional funds were spent and called for a review. "The focus has been taken off running a lean, mean department of service delivery right at the cutting edge all the time," he said.


Sardine trains: How to get people out of their cars?

Almost 22,000 additional passengers a day are squeezing on to southeast Queensland Citytrains compared with four years ago. The burgeoning passenger numbers - the equivalent of almost eight million extra trips a year - comes despite the fact no extra train carriages have hit the tracks since 2001. Transport Minister Paul Lucas yesterday played down the increasingly crowded train services, saying the Government was well advanced with its plans to address booming demand. Mr Lucas said more than $500 million was being spent building an additional 44 three-car train sets which would be rolled out over the next three years.

He said from the initial 24 trains, eight would service the Gold Coast, three the Sunshine Coast while the remaining 13 would go into service across Brisbane. "The Beattie Government has invested massively in rolling stock on the Citytrain network," Mr Lucas said.

However, Coalition transport spokesman Vaughan Johnson said the extra trains were "too little, too late". "The Government knows the population has been exploding in the southeast corner," he said. "They should have been delivering between four and six three-car sets every year to meet demand."

Queensland Rail's annual report for 2005-06 reveals only four additional train carriages in total were added to the statewide network last financial year, taking the total rolling stock to 666. However, none of the extra trains was built for the Citytrain network. Two of the carriages went into service on the company's heritage excursions while the other two were added to Traveltrain services where passenger numbers are plummeting.

Queensland Rail figures show the Citytrain network had 144 three-car trains sets and eight four-car sets in 2001-02. In 2005-06, the only change has been the loss of one of the three-car sets to an accident several years ago. Over the same period, the number of Citytrain passenger trips increased from 45 million to 53 million following a jump in trip numbers of 4.5 million over the next 12 months.

However, Mr Lucas said the growth in Citytrain had not just come in peak times. "That growth in passenger trips has come from a number of sectors including free travel to and from major sporting events, new late night and early morning services, off-peak trips made easier through integrated ticketing under TransLink, as well as increased trips to and from work," Mr Lucas said.


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