Sunday, December 24, 2006

Sexy beach?

Politics as usual. Byron is where the politically correct and self-rated wise ones go

Only one Australian beach has made it on to a US travel website's list of the world's 25 sexiest beaches. Byron Bay was the sole Aussie beach to get a nod from Forbes Traveller, which compiled the list based on research by their own journalists, and other industry experts including tour planners, meteorologists, hotel owners and marine biologists. The far north coast NSW beach was lauded for its "chalky-white sands, deliciously temperate weather and occasional visits from dolphins and migrating whales". Byron Bay's cosmopolitan population, local festivals and nudist beach were also given the thumbs up.

Forbes Traveller journalist Bruce Kluger said it was difficult to narrow the field to just 25, and that the criteria for the sexiest beaches was a special combination of "sensuality, sassiness and scenic beauty - both geographic and human". It's a description that would fit many of Australia's beaches. However, no other part of the country's coastline made the exclusive list....

Byron Bay ranked alongside other stunning destinations such as Eleuthera in The Bahamas, Lover's Beach on the Baja Peninsula, and Fiji's Natadola Beach. Rio took two of the top 25 places, with Ipanema Beach and Copacabana recognised for their hedonistic atmosphere and plethora of bronzed bodies, and two of Hawaii's iconic beaches, Ka'anapali and Kauapea, also made the grade. Europe also featured highly, with the Greek Islands, France, Spain, Cyprus and Italy rating a mention.

More here

Seven years for killing an Aborigine

Why are crimes alleged to be "hate" motivated penalized heavily while other negligent but unintentional killings in Australia get just a slap on the wrist? The victims are equally dead

A man has been jailed for 7 1/2 years for shooting dead an Aboriginal woman and wounding another man in a racially motivated attack. Bradley Stuart Burge, 33, was today sentenced to seven and a half years in jail for the January 2000 drive-by shooting in Port Hedland, in Western Australia's north. He had pleaded guilty to murder and causing grievous bodily harm.

Burge, originally from country NSW, admitted using a 12-gauge shotgun to fire a single shot at people gathered in a park. The shot hit a 39-year-old woman in the leg and she bled to death. The blast also hit a 32-year-old man in the leg, leaving him with a permanent disability. Burge's brother Kerry James Burge, who was allegedly driving the car at the time of the shooting, has pleaded not guilty to the same charges and will face trial next year.

Burge's lawyer Josephine Pepe today told the West Australian Supreme Court her client had not meant to kill or harm anyone, only to frighten them. "They were out to do a prank that went horribly wrong,'' Ms Pepe told the court. But prosecutor Carolyn Moss called the attack "cowardly''. "This is a clear cut case of a racially motivated offence,'' she told the court. "It was pure chance and pure luck that no one else was hit . . . and there were no further fatalities,'' she said.

Justice Ralph Simmonds sentence Burge to a minimum of seven and a half years in prison, backdated to his arrest in September last year. "These are matters of grave community concern,'' he said. "The results were deeply and doubly tragic.'' But Justice Simmonds said he accepted Burge had not intended to kill anybody. He said the attack had been out of character for Burge and was not part of a pattern of violence or racism. Burge was made eligible for parole.


Greenie water hysteria

Greenies are great at turning a problem into a panic

From the country that brought you KD Lang and little else comes water warrior Maude Barlow. The celebrated thinker is legendary in her native Canada for transforming water shortages into the apocalypse. She's in Australia this week, claiming that Sydney will be reduced to having only drinking water within three to five years. "I want to say to people in Australia you have a limited amount of time before you're going to have to evacuate your country. I mean that," she said.

Well, just because you mean something Maude, it doesn't necessarily make it so. The Sydney Catchment Authority concedes the water shortage is dire, but encourages Australians not to abandon their homes and make tracks for Port Moresby just yet. Official forecasts predict that current supplies would last 4 1/2 years on current usage - and if existing rainfall patterns continued.

Before Maude starts charging like an Alberta steer, this does not mean Sydney will run out of water in 2010. If it doesn't rain between now and then we may have to put the cottage garden on hold, but it's hardly cause for national evacuation. The Sydney Catchment Authority's latest figures - gathered last Thursday -- have the Sydney, Blue Mountains and Illawarra dam systems at 37.1 per cent capacity. That is an historic low, but the authorities insist alternatives like desalination and recycling are still being viewed as a last resort. The SCA has done some calculations on what it would take to restore the dams to 100 per cent capacity. About 70mm of rain every day for five days across the system's 1600sq m catchment area would do the trick, but it's unlikely. The last time the dams were full to the brim was not between the wars, as you might have presumed from Maude's hysterics. It was in 1998.

Now, Maude is undoubtedly an authority on water, but in the face of these raw statistics she's coming off sounding a little shrill. Maude reckons Sydney is on a par with Beijing and Mexico City to be the first major city in the world to run dry. She covers such predictions in her book Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of The World's Water, a copy of which should be in every Christmas stocking. "Blue gold" once referred to office Cabcharges, but that's a different kind of corporate theft.


More on the science teaching disaster

Astronaut Andy Thomas has warned that primary schools are failing to inspire young students to study science and follow in his footsteps. "Students getting hands-on experience doing science experiments is not happening because of liability and safety issues," Dr Thomas said in his home town of Adelaide yesterday. "You have to plant the seeds in their minds, usually before they're aged 10 - before the seventh grade."

His comments follow a scathing review of the teaching of science in the nation's schools, with The Australian reporting that laboratory experiments are being squeezed out of classrooms by tight budgets and health and safety laws that require risk-assessments in some states.

While Dr Thomas did not excel at school in Adelaide, he sees science and maths teaching in primary school, and experiments in particular, as crucial to inspiring future scientists. "If you haven't sparked some interest before the seventh grade you have lost them, you ain't gonna get them," he said. His comments came as he was awarded an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, the University of Adelaide, for his career as a research scientist.

University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor James McWha backed Dr Thomas's call for better teaching. "Maths and science teaching in schools has been diluted," he said. "There has been a huge demand for engineers and scientists, and as a consequence not enough of them are going back into school teaching. "You need to get more scientists teaching, otherwise we're going to end up with a society which has a complex technology but doesn't understand it."

Dr Thomas's honorary doctorate goes with the first-class honours degree and PhD in mechanical engineering he earned while studying at the University of Adelaide in the 1970s. A specialist in high-speed drag and fluid dynamics, the young Dr Thomas was immediately hired by aircraft maker Lockheed, the maker of some of the US military's most revolutionary aircraft, including the stealth fighter. He later headed its flight sciences laboratory. In 1989 he went to work for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, and in 1992 he entered the astronaut training program. In 1996, he fulfilled a childhood dream by flying into space on board the space shuttle Endeavour. Dr Thomas, Australia's only astronaut, completed three shuttle missions and more than four months on the Russian Mir space station. He lives in Texas with his wife, NASA astronaut Shannon Walker, and works on the ergonomics of the next generation of spacecraft, which will go to the moon by 2020.


No comments: