Friday, August 28, 2020

Coronavirus: Australian antibody treatment offers aged care hope

An Australian consortium of 30 national peak clinical groups is working to develop an antibody-based preventive treatment for COVID-19.

“We’re interested in is actually developing antibodies that can block the entry of the virus into the cells and, therefore, stop virus infection,” Associate Professor Wai-Hong Tham said on Wednesday.

The treatment is designed to have antibodies that target the COVID-19 spike protein, which is what the virus uses to enter the body’s cells.

Tham, who is part of the research team via the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, explained the COVID virus has “a lock and key mechanism between spike protein and human cells. So, if you can actually bind an antibody that blocks spikes from doing the interaction with the human cells, you stop virus infection.

“What you’re developing really are antibodies you can deliver to patients, that you know are already going to be safe, that are going to be potent, they’re going to stop virus entry, stop virus infection, and they probably hopefully will work against all the variants that you have in the community,” Prof Tham said.

Antibody therapies have previously been used successfully for the treatment of cancers and multiple immune disorders.

Prof Tham said antibody treatments would be particularly beneficial in protecting aged and immune-compromised populations.

While Prof Tam refused to provide a timeline for the treatment, she said she and the consortium were “hopeful” and said “we are working as hard as we can … looking at clinical trials early next year. But it does take time and for us the most important thing is to make a safe and effective product.”


'Major victory' for paedophiles as baffling law is passed that could see rape and sexual assault victims thrown into JAIL just for telling their stories

This is presumably to protect the offender but surely the interests of his victims come first

Victorian sexual assault survivors could be jailed for up to four months or face fines exceeding $3000 for telling their stories using their real names.

The Judicial Proceedings Reports Act was changed in February, prohibiting victims from identifying themselves publicly if their attacker has been found guilty.

The new law applies retrospectively, meaning victims who have lawfully spoken out previously are now censored from speaking out publicly. Media outlets who defy the law can also be prosecuted and face fines of up to $8,000.

The only way for victims to identify themselves and tell their stories is to obtain a court order - which is not only time consuming, but would cost more than $10,000 in legal fees.

Dr Rachael Burgin, lecturer in the Swinburne Law School, described the change in the law as a 'major victory' for convicted paedophiles and rapists.

She said thousands of survivors will now find they cannot tell their stories.

Not only can victim's no longer use their real names, they cannot provide any identifying features such as photos in publications such as memoirs and autobiographies unless they get a court order.

 'There is no way that I would just have $10,000 sitting around to pay to do this. (I’d) be taking money away from (my) family,' Maggie*, an adult survivor of child rape told       

Sexual assault survivors are now fighting for their right to share their stories, with the #LetUsSpeak campaign launched on Wednesday. The campaign, which is a collaboration between Rape and Sexual Assault Research and Advocacy (RASARA), Marque Lawyers, End Rape On Campus Australia, and is calling on the government to reform the law.

Melbourne mother Maggie, 44, was raped from age eight by her father, who also sexually abused her older step sister Kate*.

When Maggie was 17, he was arrested and charged with rape and gross indecency as well as multiple counts of bestiality, after Kate reported her abuse to police.

In May 1997, four days before the trial was set to begin, he shot Kate dead at work after tracking her down using a private investigator.  

He was sent to prison the following year, after pleading guilty to murder in exchange for the sexual offences being dropped.

With his parole eligibility date looming, Maggie decided to come forward, resulting in her father receiving a nine-year jail sentence for multiple counts of incest and rape against her. 

However, in March this year, the Supreme Court of Appeal slashed his sentence for the crimes against Maggie and ruled he could serve them concurrently with his murder sentence, leaving him eligible for parole in June 2022.

'I’m now a mother of three beautiful children and I wouldn’t want him out in any community. I’m not just scared for my children. I’m scared for all children. I also have to be the voice for my sister too. She never got justice for the sexual abuse she experienced either,' Maggie said.

Maggie contacted Australian media outlets to draw attention to the lenient sentences given to paedophilles, only to learn of the new law that makes it a crime for the media to publish her name, or her fathers, as it could indirectly identify her.

'My sister was murdered for trying to tell her story and now I’m stopped from telling mine. He has all the power again. It has to change,' Maggie said.

Victorian Attorney-General, Jill Hennessy has written to Maggie and other members of the #LetUsSpeak campaign to say she is 'very sorry' to hear of their experiences.

She has requested the Department of Justice and Community Safety look into the cases.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to cover the court costs of survivors battling to overturn the gag law.

Similar gag laws were overturned in the Northern Territory and Tasmania earlier this year as a result of #LetUsSpeak campaign.

However, they differed to the Victorian legislation as they were out-dated pre-existing policies.


Australia has an epidemic of nonsense jobs

As if the coronavirus hasn’t foisted enough change on us, NSW and Victoria are about to unleash more. Last week alone, during the ­biggest economic downturn in a ­century, the two states were advertising 20 high-paid jobs variously requiring skills in “change, culture, transformation and strategy”, with total salaries above $3.5m.

Pick of the bunch was the $249,000 director of intersectionality and inclusion role at the Victoria Department of Justice, who must, naturally, “provide authoritative, strategic and innovative advice in relation to inclusion and intersectionality”.

Also appealing was the $327,000 director of people and culture role at the NSW Department of Education, who should “provide expert strategic advice across a range of strategic priorities”. Familiarity with Sun Tzu’s Art of War is presumably a given.

But it was vocational training giant TAFE NSW that’s at the vanguard of a change revolution, advertising separately for a “change lead”, “change manager”, “change analyst”, “change co-ordinator”, “change specialist” and, the lowest-paid of the group, an “organisational change officer”, making do on $88,000.

The change lead ($194,000), manager ($173,000) and co-ordinator ($119,000) will at least have lots of time for blue-sky thinking with only a change analyst, specialist and officer to oversee.

The NSW Ombudsman, which handles complaints about government, isn’t immune to the change revolution either, seeking (albeit more frugally) its own “change lead” on $164,000 to “develop and embed a strategic approach to change across the Ombudsman”. Perhaps, like obscenity, you know a strategic approach to change when you see it. “The Change Lead will own the single view of change,” the advertisement explained. Talk about ­pressure.

Change is afoot south of the border, too. Victoria’s Environmental Protection Agency and State Revenue Office were luring change experts with $161,000 and $141,000 salaries, respectively. The former would need to “achieve organisation-wide support, enthusiasm, and participation in the changes … including delivery of change solutions (such as) change facilitation, change champions and change leadership”.

One feels for the successful applicant in a #WFH world, having to psyche up colleagues on Zoom call and nurture change champ­ions who may well have the camera option turned off.

Perhaps the SRO change role should be greater paid given the challenge at hand: state taxes have barely changed in 20 years.

Our two biggest state governments would appear to have provided an answer to anthropologist David Graeber’s 2019 book Bullshit Jobs: The Rise of Pointless Work and What We Can Do About It. Answer: not much.

“Economics around the world have become vast engines for producing nonsense,” Graeber writes in a book that delineates five classes of bullshit jobs, of which change roles fit best into “flunkie” and “box ticker” categories. The former “exist to make someone else feel or look important”, the latter “allow organisations to claim they are doing something that in fact it is not doing”.

You might think the tier of government most directly responsible for destroying livelihoods on an unprecedented scale in this country might have the modesty to rein in such profligacy. This is the biggest economic contraction since the national accounts were developed more than 50 years ago. Private sector wages are shrinking for the first time in a generation.

Jobs that are necessary, which arise from real demand from households and businesses, such as accommodation, retail, many professional services, have been wiped out, while those existing purely by fiat, for which no one would pay a cent, flourish.

It’s government arrogance and amorality that justifies such “jobs” — and the extraordinary salaries — in a major recession. It’s not the job creation we need.

Naturally, these advertised roles are just the latest recruits to the massively unproductive standing change, diversity and inclusion army entrenched in the public sector across the country.

In May the NSW Department of Planning hired a “manager, diversity & inclusion strategy” on a salary of $148,134, who would “lead a small, diverse team which is responsible for developing and implementing strategic plans to embed diversity and inclusion” across the department.

Perhaps this crack team is musing over whether brownfield developments are racist.

Meanwhile, as government sucks intelligent workers into the pointless work Graeber identifies, it hobbles the private sector’s scope to generate jobs.

For example, four years after it started negotiations, the Fair Work Commission knocked back an enterprise agreement sought by Swissport for its thousands of ground support staff.

That leaves intact the Airline Operations — Ground Staff Award 2020, which specifies, among other absurdities, that workers be paid $3.19 a week more for every coffin they handle and $5.18 a week if they handle money between $200 and $1000. You might think an industry facing an existential crisis required more flexibility.

Then there’s the Building and Construction On-Site Award, whose mind-blowing complexity makes it a wonder much is built at all. The construction sector is facing the loss of 150,000 jobs by early next year, yet it specifies loadings for working at different heights, in different types of weather.

And, a personal favourite, employees “who are regularly required to compute or estimate quantities of materials in respect of the work performed by other employees must be paid an additional 23.3 per cent of the hourly standard rate per day or part thereof”.

At least they are being paid more for something that need to be done, unlike the “change” army.


Australian state to make landowners clear fire hazards

Since landowners have been prosecuted in the past for doing that, this is a great leap forward

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's most populous state said on Tuesday it will compel owners to clear their land of flammable material as it endorsed 76 recommendations from an enquiry into deadly bushfires.

Fires razed more than 11 million hectares (37 million acres) of bushland across Australia's southeast early this year, killing at least 33 people and billions of native animals, a disaster that Prime Minister Scott Morrison called Australia's "black summer".

Amid public anger, the federal and state governments commissioned independent enquiries.

New South Wales (NSW), which recorded the highest death toll from the fires at 25, on Tuesday became the first to release findings. Its Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said the state government had accepted all recommendations.

Among recommendations, the state will require landowners to clear or burn flammable material - usually dried brush and dead leaves - for firefighters to be trained in treating wild animals and the creation of a fund to develop technology to detect fires.

"These 76 recommendations are wide-ranging but what they also show is that there is no silver bullet. The last summer was caused by a crippling drought," Elliott told reporters in Canberra.

The issue of hazard reduction, however, is the most contentious as questions arise about the cause of the fires.

Morrison, a supporter of the fossil fuel industry, this year said removing flammable material was as "important as emissions reduction and I think many would argue even more so", a stance rejected by several former firefighting chiefs.

Environmental groups said Australia - one of the world's biggest carbon emitters on a per capital basis - must reduce its greenhouse emissions, amid forecasts for more frequent and severe droughts as the climate changes.


Superannuation funds increase pools of cash despite Australians withdrawing their money early

It's not exactly cash.  It is share investments

The rush by millions of Australians to withdraw their superannuation early and a rebounding sharemarket has left the nation’s honey pot of retirement savings virtually unscathed, new statistics show.

Data from the banking regulator, the Australian Prudential and Regulation Authority, released on Tuesday found total superannuation assets fell by just 0.6 per cent in the June quarter, from $2.88 billion to $2.86 billion.

The Federal Government’s early release of superannuation scheme has come under intense scrutiny by the Federal Opposition for allowing cash-strapped Australians to withdraw their retirement savings prematurely.

Under the scheme eligible applicants who have suffered hits to their incomes could withdraw $10,000 tax-free last financial year and another $10,000 up until December 31.

Latest ATO figures show more than 2.7 million people have withdrawn $33.9 billion from their super accounts under the scheme.

But a rebounding sharemarket has helped cushion the financial blow to super accounts during the COVID-19 crisis.

Figures from super research firm Chant West showed median growth funds (61 to 80 per cent in growth assets) climbed by 6.4 per cent in the June quarter.

This meant for $100,000 in super savings, it climbed to $106,400.

Debate has erupted over whether the compulsory superannuation payments should rise from 9.5 per cent to 10 per cent in 2021.
Debate has erupted over whether the compulsory superannuation payments should rise from 9.5 per cent to 10 per cent in 2021.
During this quarter the amount of quarterly benefits paid out to Australians climbed by 31.2 per cent in 12 months, from $76.5 billion to $100.4 billion.

All types of super funds also increased their assets in the June quarter including industry super funds which grew from $717 billion in March to $747.9 billion in June.

Retail funds also fattened, growing from $1.85 trillion to $1.9 trillion in the same period.

Federal Labor MPs have criticised the scrutiny of the scheme which allows Australians to go through a self-assessment application via the Australian Taxation Office’s online portal before getting the green light from their fund to withdraw money.

The compulsory superannuation guarantee is legislated to rise to 10 per cent on July 1, 2021 and then in increments up to 12 per cent by 2025.

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe warned this month that ­increasing the super guarantee would “certainly have a negative effect on wages growth”.

He said if it went ahead he would “expect wages growth to be even lower than it otherwise would be”.

This legislation has also come under fire in recent weeks from Coalition backbenchers who said the rise must be halted.

Many MPs believe small and medium-sized businesses cannot afford the hikes and want it delayed or scrapped as the economy fights to recover from the deepest recession since the 1930s.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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