Thursday, August 13, 2020

Sydney dams start to spill after a saturated six months

The Greenies were telling us that the drought was due to global warming.  So does this show global cooling?

The fact of the matter is that rainfall in Australia is erratic but can be made adequate by use of dams

Sydney's dams have started to spill after the latest big rain event over eastern NSW filled most reservoirs to the brim, with more rain forecast.

By Tuesday, the storages had gained more than 10 per cent in a week, or a net 253 billion litres, to climb to 95 per cent capacity, WaterNSW data shows.

The giant Warragamba Dam, which accounts for about 80 per cent of Greater Sydney's reservoir capacity, had risen to almost 96 per cent full, or about double the storage of a year ago.

The smaller Nepean Dam on the Upper Nepean River has started to spill after gaining almost a quarter of its capacity in the past week.

Tallowa Dam is also spilling, into the Shoalhaven River, with flows contributing to the highest flood levels downstream at Nowra in 29 years.

At its peak spill rate on Monday, Tallowa was releasing water at the rate of 375 billion litres a day, WaterNSW said.

The near-full capacity comes just six months after the storages dropped towards 40 per cent before a huge three-day rain event in February doubled water levels. The jump in inflows allowed the Berejiklian government to ease water restrictions and delay plans to double the size of Sydney's desalination plant.

A spokesman for WaterNSW said Warragamba was not expected to spill as a result of current inflows generated by the rain event.

"However WaterNSW will be making small operational releases from the dam’s spillway gates in order to bring the storage back to target level in anticipation of further rainfall," he said.

The forecast rainfall for the coming weekend had been scaled back, including 5 to 15 millimetres for Friday, but those predictions could change, the spokesman said.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Olenka Duma said "we're not expecting a huge amount of rain" from the strong cold front that will move eastwards towards the end of the week. Still, there remains the prospect of thunderstorms over much of NSW as the front draws in tropical moisture from the north.

In addition, the bureau is putting the odds of a wetter-than-normal September-to-November period for the eastern half of mainland Australia at greater than 65 per cent.

Stuart Khan, a professor in the University of NSW's School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said the rapid shift from water restrictions to full storage "is something we haven't seen since 1998".

Professor Khan said it was "pretty likely" Warragamba would start to spill soon. The Wingecarribee Reservoir, for instance, was 99.6 per cent full, and any spill from there would largely end up in Warragamba via the Wollondilly River.

The rapid rise inflows has meant NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey had been vindicated in her decision to stop work on preparations to double Sydney's desalination plant, he said. The high flows, though, should not put a halt to consideration of water-saving measures such as water recycling.

"It's exactly the time we should be talking about long-term water supply strategies," Professor Khan said.


Australian doctor may have breakthrough coronavirus cure

Imagine if a renowned Australian gastroenterologist invented an effective, cheap, readily available treatment for COVID-19 and his own country ignored him.

That’s what has happened to Professor Thomas Borody, who is famous for inventing a cure for the bacterial infection which causes peptic ulcers, saving millions of lives around the world.

This time Dr Borody, of Sydney’s Centre for Digestive Diseases, has found a promising treatment for COVID-19 using Ivermectin, a drug that has been used safely to treat parasitic infections for half a century. He combines it in a “triple therapy” with zinc and the antibiotic Doxycycline to attack the virus from multiple angles.

Clinical trials on his Ivermectin ­triple therapy are underway in 32 countries and are about to start in California. Dr Borody says the trick is “treating patients very early”, within seven days of onset, before the virus spreads through their organs and makes them sick.

Already results using the drug off-label have been promising.

In Bangladesh, 400 patients with mild to moderate symptoms were treated and 98 per cent cleared the virus within four to 14 days.

In the Dominican Republic, in 1300 patients the average duration of infection fell from 21 days to 10 days.

Mortality in already sick patients at Broward County Medical Centre in Florida dropped by 48 per cent. The results have been so remarkable that the government of the most populous Indian state, Uttar Pradesh, last week approved the use of Ivermectin for COVID-19 patients and also as a prophylactic for health workers.

Dr Borody calls Ivermectin a “wonder drug”. But ever since he ­received the positive preliminary ­results of the overseas trials, he has been banging his head against a brick wall trying to get someone in Australia to take notice.

He has sent letters to the Morrison government and the Victorian government, urging them at least to make Ivermectin available to high-risk patients and as a preventive dose for frontline workers. “I wrote to the federal and state governments,” he said on the weekend.

“I wasn’t even responded to … It got to a certain level of the fortress, but I don’t think it got to the decision- makers. You can see how frustrating it is, whereas a big state of India says let’s use it. If nothing else, make it available in aged care homes immediately. Our elderly are at the highest risk and this is a very safe option, ­especially when we have nothing else except ventilators.”

He points out Ivermectin is on the on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential medicines, and has been safely used since 1975 to treat parasitic infections such as river blindness and head lice.

In fact, US President Donald Trump uses Ivermectin in cream form to treat the skin condition rosacea, ­according to his White House health records.

Dr Borody says he may absorb enough through his skin to protect him, despite people around him at the White House becoming ill.

But despite the drug’s proven ­safety record and promising results on COVID-19, “the government in Australia — and the US — does not have a curative plan”. It’s all about lockdowns and vaccines.

And because no “no large company is pushing it,” says Borody, the government won’t listen.

“Not only is it too good to be true, it’s cheap” he says. An Ivermectin tablet can cost as little as $2. “This isn’t going to make money for anyone. It just needs a doctor to write a script,” he said.

And therein lies the problem. The pharmaceutical industry doesn’t like cheap off-patent drugs such as Ivermectin because they don’t reap huge profits in the way that new drugs and vaccines do.

The demonisation of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is a case in point.

After President Donald Trump ­described it as a promising treatment, “maybe a game-changer” for COVID-19 at a March 19 press conference at the White House, the media derided him as a quack and discredited the drug.

The negative publicity played into the hands of Big Pharma, who stand to make tens of billions from vaccines and new drugs. Hydroxychloroquine’s main competitor is the new antiviral Remdesivir, developed by pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences, which charges $US3120 per ­treatment.

Trump also praised Remdesivir at that press conference. Yet all the ­attacks afterwards were against ­hydroxychloroquine, while Remdesevir got a free pass. And, of course, the drug companies had the financial ­incentive to discredit hydroxychloroquine and the lobbyists to advance their interests.

Dr James Todaro, one of a group of rebel physicians calling themselves America’s Frontline Doctors, points out that Gilead’s stock plummeted after Trump’s press conference, wiping $21 billion off its market cap. The share price only recovered six weeks later after a promising clinical trial.

The jury is still out on hydroxychloroquine. But the campaign against it has been ferocious. Doctors can’t get results of studies published, and social media censors mention of the drug.

A flawed study on a small sample of very sick US Veterans ­Affairs patients received enormous publicity before it was debunked. Positive studies were buried. Two prestigious medical journals, The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine, had to retract a paper which used bogus data supplied by a shadowy company to discredit the drug.

The damage was done. Clinical trials stopped. WHO temporarily withdrew support for the drug.

In New York, hydroxychloroquine is banned for COVID use.

In Switzerland, where it was banned from May 27 until June 11, ­Politico reports this week that daily COVID fatalities jumped markedly during that period.

Dr Borody is anxious that Ivermectin doesn’t meet the same fate.

Without any institutional backing, he has joined forces with California researcher Dr Sabine Hazan, founder of Ventura Clinical Trials, to fund trials themselves, at around $3500 per patient.

Dr Hazan said on Sunday that she is “hopeful this is going to be a gamechanger for COVID-19”. But she is at pains to point out there is no “one pill solution” for everyone.

If the trials go well, with expedited FDA approval, the Ivermectin triple therapy could be on the market in blister packs before Christmas. That’s for patients in America. Australia will have to wait.


Public mural sparks Shire censorship debate

It would certainly make me ill if I had to walk past it every day

It is the public mural that has divided opinion in Sydney's Sutherland Shire provoking two petitions, a social media debate and even a critique from the local mayor.

Critics have launched a campaign to remove the large mural, which is painted on a wall outside a retail shop in Miranda, claiming it is inappropriate and offensive. But the owner of the building says the mural was commissioned to prevent just that kind of content, and had succeeded in deterring graffiti and vandalism.

Painted outside Ferrari Formalwear, on the corner of an intersection near Miranda train station and Westfield shopping centre, the mural depicts three figures in different poses, including one smoking and another holding a glass.

Shire resident Yvette Graf has been campaigning to have the artwork removed for almost a year. Her cause gained renewed traction at the end of July when another resident posted a photo of the mural to the Sutherland Shire Council's Facebook page and started an online petition, which in turn sparked debate and a counter-petition.

Ms Graf said the mural was inappropriate because it normalised drunkenness and promoted "degrading imagery of women".

"My gut instinct is it's not respectful to stereotype women with dog collars. The three women have either bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils, indicating they've been drinking or taking drugs. We don't need that as role-models for our children," Ms Graf said. "I'd like to see an image celebrating the Dharawal people - something that makes you inspired and makes you feel good."

By Tuesday afternoon, the petition to remove the mural had 452 signatures and the counter-petition in support of it had 585 signatures. The original Facebook post attracted nearly 500 comments.

The counter-petition claims the artwork adds "both culture and flavour to our streets" and should be protected to ensure "freedom of expression and or free speech".

Sutherland Shire Council mayor Carmelo Pesce said he understood both supporters and detractors of the mural.

"It's probably not the best piece of art you could put up, but people interpret art differently," Cr Pesce said. "I've had a couple of the older councillors think it promotes abuse. I don't see that. I interpret three women who have gone out and had a big night."

Cr Pesce said he wished the building owner had consulted the community before commissioning the mural but council was ultimately powerless to censor artwork on private property.

"If that art there was in Newtown would we be having this discussion? Look at the demographics of who's complaining. The youth aren't really complaining," Cr Pesce said.

The artist, who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of backlash, said he was bemused the mural had attracted controversy as he had painted it last year.

"As a young Indigenous artist, I am offended that these people are offended. It is an artwork that was never intended to be offensive," the artist said.

"When your intention is to combat illegal graffiti-writing on a problematic graffiti wall by means of painting a picture on it, that picture may resonate with the youth of today more so than with the demographic of people who claim to be offended.

"Unfortunately you can't keep everyone happy, especially with art. Seriously. This is a G-rated artwork."

The building owner, who also asked to remain anonymous due to the heated nature of the debate, said the mural was a "special commission" that had succeeded in deterring graffiti.

"My concern has always been the amount of graffiti that's put on that wall," the owner said. "I don't find it offensive, it's just not my flavour."

The most recent NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research data shows the Shire ranks fourth in the state for police reports about graffiti behind Wyong, Lake Macquarie and Sydney local government areas.


Australian state grants Whitehaven's controversial coal mine expansion

A New South Wales state regulator on Wednesday gave the green light for Australian miner Whitehaven Coal Ltd to proceed with the expansion of a controversial coal mine, in a blow to local farming communities.

Whitehaven applied in 2018 to expand the Vickery project, asking for approval to increase coal extraction by nearly 25%, increase the peak annual extraction rate more than three-fold and also expand the so-called disturbance area.

The state's Independent Planning Commission (IPC) said it had received 1,928 unique submissions regarding the application – with 40% in support, 57% against and 2% neutral – as well as 935 campaign emails objecting to the application.

However, the IPC said it found that the impacts associated with the expansion were "acceptable" and "in the public interest", when weighed against an increased disturbance footprint and additional environmental impacts.

Whitehaven welcomed the decision, saying the A$700 million ($498 million) expansion would generate jobs for 500 people during construction and 450 ongoing roles thereafter.

The Lock the Gate Alliance community action group described the outcome as bitterly disappointing and an indictment of the New South Wales state government's failure to protect farmland, communities, and water resources.

"Following this approval, if the company decides to proceed with the new 10 million tonnes per annum coal mine, it will irreparably alter the social fabric of the Boggabri farming community and hurt agriculture in the district," it said in a statement.

The IPC's decision comes ahead of its ruling due in September on a coal seam gas project at nearby Narrabri proposed by Santos Ltd.

The project has also drawn strong opposition from farmers and environmental groups due to concerns about potential damage to water supply and a state forest.


 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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