Monday, November 30, 2020

Politicians and military brass have failed to 'honour the presumption of innocence'

Sky News host Alan Jones says politicians and military brass have failed to understand they must “honour the presumption of innocence," adding the contemplation of placing the Brereton report on display in the War Memorial is a great “indignity”.

His comment comes regarding news the Australian War Memorial could make changes to its existing Afghanistan displays following the Brereton report.

“Well, why not add the Ruby Princess inquiry report to the Australian Museum?” Mr Jones said.

“The War Memorial is the veritable soul of the nation, the resting place of the Unknown Soldier. And here we are, in 2020, unproven allegations and politics directing what the military legacy will be.

Mr Jones says after the release of the Brereton report, which spoke of alleged crimes committed against Afghanis but did not name the alleged guilty, every Australian soldier “has been maligned, guilty around the world”.

“The Special Air Service Regiment's Second Squadron is to be dismantled. This non-leader, Campbell, is apparently going to recommend that the Meritorious Unit Citation, to the Special Operations Task group, be revoked,” he said.

“How much longer will the prime minister remain silent in the face of this assault on the integrity and contribution of these selfless men.

“Prime Minister, speak up and defend them and correct your original grubby comment that the report contains "brutal truths."

“Is the War Memorial now to be an institution to honour allegations?

“Rarely has the real truth been laid so bare through this shameful episode. The simple truth is we have lost our way; we are leader less.”

A psychologist correspondent comments

In course of my work I interview and assess many war veterans.

Because I connect, inquire, and do not keep records, many have described to me the awful dilemmas they face in war. Dilemmas and pressures which most civilians cannot imagine without having them explained and being asked, "What would you do then?"

I cannot even repeat their stories to my lefty/feminist colleagues because they get shocked, reject the reality of the stories and take offence, especially when I put that question to them.

Lefties cannot bear reality and individual responsibility, in other words, truth and freedom. That is why they are obsessed with changing reality/society into some fanciful version where everyone is equal and no individual responsibility exists.

Leftism is immaturity. It is basically a tantrum against reality.

Electricity supplies under pressure due to heatwave, energy market operator warns

This is a complete nonsense. I live in central Brisbane in SEQ and when I looked at my thermometer at mid-afternoon, it showed only 32 degrees, where a normal summer temperature at that time is 34 degrees. So any blackouts are clearly NOT blamable on a "heatwave". Greenie pressures on traditional generators are the real problem

In parts of northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland, the Bureau of Meteorology says it is looking like a five or six-day heatwave for millions of people.

Overnight, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) said there might not be enough reserve capacity (Lack of Reserve Level 1) in New South Wales this afternoon between 3.30pm and 5.30pm.

Earlier in the week, it also said Queensland would likely be affected on Wednesday.

The Queensland prediction was serious enough to prompt it to issue an official Lack of Reserve level 2 (LOR2) forecast, meaning the possible shortfall could be enough to require the AEMO to ask big energy users to use less power.

"LOR2 means we are one contingency away from load shedding," said Ben Skinner, the general manager of policy at the Australian Energy Council.

But by Thursday, the AEMO had downgraded the forecast risk to LOR1.

"That is mild in terms of reserves, and they're largely being met at the moment, but we'll watch that very carefully to manage that over the coming days," said Michael Gatt, the AMEO's chief operations officer.

Australia's Covid vaccines: everything you need to know

Around the world about 200 Covid-19 candidate vaccines are being developed, with more than 40 in human clinical trial stage. The Australian government has agreements to secure four of the most promising vaccines, and will roll them out if they prove to be safe and effective.

All four vaccines require two doses, spaced a few weeks apart. As the pharmaceutical companies behind some vaccine candidates begin releasing results, many questions remain about the next steps towards controlling Covid. Here is what we know.

What are the four vaccines Australia is getting?

Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine: This is a viral vector vaccine, containing a weak or inactivated virus that cannot cause disease. This virus has genetic material from the Covid-19 virus inserted in it. Once the viral vector is inside human cells, the cells make a protein unique to the Covid-19 virus. This triggers the body to begin to build an immune response. If infected with Covid-19, the body will remember how to activate this response and fight the real virus.

Australia has secured 33.8m units of this vaccine. The phase three interim clinical trial results have only been communicated in a press release, so it is hard fully to interpret the results in subgroups, for example in elderly people.

In clinical trials, phase three represents the final stage before the drug is rolled out to the general population, and involves tens of thousands of participants.

Novavax vaccine: This is a classical protein vaccine, and includes harmless pieces of Covid-19. Once vaccinated, the immune system recognises that the proteins don’t belong in the body and begins building antibodies.

If the vaccine proves safe and effective, 40m units will be available in Australia as early as the first half of 2021. Phase one and two clinical trials are being conducted in Australia and the United States. Phase three clinical trials are under way in the UK.

University of Queensland/CSL vaccine: This is also a protein vaccine, and Australia has secured 51m units, which it hopes will be available by mid-2021. Phase one clinical trials in humans began in July in Brisbane, with phase two and three clinical trials to be under way in December.

Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine: This is an mRNA-based vaccine that gives human cells instructions for how to make a a protein unique to Covid-19. The protein is harmless, but the body recognises it should not be there and begins to build an immune response. If infected with the real virus, the body will know how to attack.

The Australian government said 10m units of the vaccine would be available from March. Phase three clinical trial results found 95% of people given the vaccine were protected against the virus, and while the full results have not been made public, they are being provided to regulators.

Why mRNA, instead of the proven path of an inactivated virus?

The study protocol for the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine states there are benefits to this type of vaccine. “Unlike live attenuated vaccines, RNA vaccines do not carry the risks associated with infection and may be given to people who cannot be administered live virus (eg pregnant women and immunocompromised persons),” it says. However, the vaccine still needs to be tested in these groups.

It would be the first mRNA vaccine to be rolled out to the general public, but there have been clinical trials of mRNA vaccines to treat other diseases since the 1990s. They have the benefit of being easier to mass produce and cheaper. But the instability of mRNA vaccines has meant their study has been limited.

With the arrival of Covid-19 it made sense for different pharmaceutical companies to explore different technologies, in case one type did not work. Vaccine technologies have improved rapidly, allowing scientists to address some of the previous problems with mRNA vaccines, such as degradation during delivery into cells.

The Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA Covid-19 vaccine does need to be stored at minus 70C, but sophisticated eskies with dry ice and remote sensing have been produced to keep it stable in transit.

Does it matter that there will be different types of vaccine?

No, this is not uncommon. Each year there is a variety of types of flu vaccine. High-dose flu vaccines are offered to the elderly, but not routinely to healthy adults.

A taskforce of medical experts will look at the Covid-19 vaccines and decide which should go to which locations or groups of people. Like other common vaccines such as for tetanus and hepatitis A, the four Covid-19 vaccines are delivered with an intramuscular injection.

How will the vaccine be distributed?

The first doses will be rolled out from March.

The program will depend on the nature and test results of the vaccines approved for use, the federal health department has said, and will take into account any current outbreaks. If there was a large outbreak in a particular state, it would make sense to send the vaccine there first.

The physical rollout will be complex due to different storage, transport, security and administration requirements for the vaccine types. The federal government will be responsible for safely transporting vaccine doses to storage and administration sites within each state and territory.

Once vaccine doses are delivered, the states and territories will take responsibility for the safety and storage. Vaccines may be administered in GP clinics, dedicated vaccination clinics and workplaces, and vaccination teams will visit aged care homes and other centres with vulnerable populations.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled health sector will help identify rollout locations. Pharmacies are likely to play a role once enough doses are in stock and vulnerable and target populations have been vaccinated. If vaccines are licensed for children, they may be administered in schools.

The federal government said “to achieve wide population coverage it is likely that all or most” of these locations will need to be used over several months.

Who gets it first? Can rich people buy the vaccines?

According to a federal department of health spokeswoman, potential sales are up to the vaccine companies. “The Australian government is committed to providing Covid-19 vaccines at no cost to consumers,” she said. “Decisions to make any vaccine available privately are for the sponsoring company, noting all vaccines need to be registered by the TGA before they can be supplied in Australia.”

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation is advising the federal government about which groups should be prioritised for the first free doses. In line with World Health Organization recommendations, ATAGI said the first groups to be vaccinated should be:

Those who have an increased risk of developing severe disease [such as the elderly].

Those at risk of exposure, being infected with and transmitting the virus.

Those working in services critical to society functioning [such as health work and aged care].

Once enough doses are in stock, all Australians who want the vaccine will be given access on a voluntary basis during 2021.

The real reason China is imposing duties on Australian wine

Despite entering into a free trade agreement

China's decision to impose temporary anti-dumping duties on Australian wine from Saturday is more about "other factors", Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says.

Australian wine going into the Chinese market will face tariffs of up to 212 per cent, having benefited from zero tariffs under the China-Australia free trade agreement.

Relations between Australia and China have soured in recent years, with China's grievance list spanning foreign investment rules, banning Huawei from the 5G network and the push for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus.

China has launched a series of trade strikes against Australia encompassing barley, cotton, red meat, seafood, sugar, timber and coal exports, as the diplomatic row deepens.

"The cumulative impact of China's trade sanctions against a number of Australian industries during the course of this year does give rise to the perception these actions are being undertaken as a result or in response to some other factors," Senator Birmingham said.

"(It) is completely incompatible with the commitments that China has given through the China-Australia free trade agreement and through the WTO."

Australian officials will seek to overturn the move over the next 10 days, after which the dispute could be taken to the World Trade Organisation.

Chinese officials said an investigation had found "substantive" evidence of the dumping of Australian wine and "material damage" to the Chinese wine market.

The tariffs cover a range between 107.1 per cent and 212.1 per cent.

The rate required of Australia's Treasury Wine is 169.3 per cent, which saw its shares fall more than 13 per cent before being put on a trading halt pending an announcement.

China began an anti-dumping probe into imports of Australian wine in August at the request of the Chinese Alcoholic Drinks Association.

Senator Birmingham said the investigation's finding was "erroneous in fact and in substance" and Australia would provide Chinese authorities with detailed evidence of how the wine industry works.

Australian wine exports to China were worth $1.1 billion in the year to June 30.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the government was extremely disappointed in the move by Australia's top wine market.

"The fact is Australia produces amongst the least subsidised product in the world and provides the second-lowest level of farm subsidies in the OECD," he said.

"The Australian government categorically rejects any allegation that our wine producers are dumping product into China, and we continue to believe there is no basis or any evidence for these claims."




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