“Two people posing as journalists tried to kill him, you won’t get access to him.” I’m sitting in a Sydney coffee shop with a Syrian contact. “Nobody knows anything about him.” I retort.
He slowly sips on his coffee, one of the many he’s had since I first proposed getting access to the leader of the Free Syrian Army. “OK, let me see what I can do.”
A few months later I am in Antakya, Turkey, interviewing the almost anonymous Colonel Riad al-Asaad. Reporting for SBS’s Dateline program, I have been granted rare access to him at a military camp where he is protected by Turkish security forces after several attempts on his life. The camp is meant to be strictly off limits to journalists.
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Welcome to another edition of I Call Bullshit, a column dedicated to talking about all sorts of baloney and bunkum. Today we’re looking at Professor Richard Muller’s ‘conversion’ from climate change ‘sceptic’ to believer.
Conversions are big news. If someone finds religion or loses it, or someone prominent changes their mind on an important topic, it’s always interesting.
That person becomes a lightning rod, focussing the debate, delivering hope to whichever side they’ve switched to, and a blow to the other side.
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The first athletes sent home at the Athens Olympics were Greek. Sprinters Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou were accused of intentionally staging a motorbike accident to avoid the mandatory pre-event drug test.
The first athlete to be sent home from these games is also a Greek athlete, but instead of being doped up, she was just being a dope, and not a very nice one that.
Triple jumper Voula Papachristou was sent home last Thursday after mocking African migrants on her Twitter account. It was a stupid mistake made which has cost Papchristou her chance to compete at the Olympics, and she took to Twitter to post her apology in English:
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Nick D’Arcy did bugger all in the London pool this morning, and can now bugger off and pay his debts to society and Simon Cowley. Won’t happen of course, but it doesn’t hurt to dream.
But not every “loser” at these Olympics is as uninspiring as D’Arcy. Many are winners. Take Emily Seebohm, who won silver in the 100m backstroke this morning. That’s right, the 20 year old Adelaidean “won” silver, even though on face value you could say she “lost” gold as she was overhauled by 17 year old American Missy Franklin in the final strokes.
Seebohm was devastated and in tears afterwards. “I just wish I could have finished it off, I feel like I disappointed my parents, and my coach just worked so hard for me, this is so tough,” she said. She’s wrong. Despite being a clear cut favourite after breaking the Olympic record in the semis, Seebohm disappointed nobody.
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Before he went all whimsical-Mary-Poppins-kitsch with his London Olympics opening ceremony, Danny Boyle directed the darkly disturbing zombie flick, 28 Days Later.
In the film the highly contagious Rage virus cascades through society, turning everyone it touches into raving angry psychotics in a matter of seconds.
You’d be forgiven for seeing it as a commentary on modern society, with so much furious spittle flying from mindless mouths. A quick database search of the nation’s major newspapers brings up 609 stories on angry people. It’s not very scientific, but it does show that our community tends to be infuriated quite a bit.
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As far as missiles go, James “The Missile” Magnussen is a bit like the rocket they tried to launch in North Korea a few months ago which made a fizzing sound and ended up lying on the tarmac.
If the Olympics are meant to teach us life lessons the lesson from Magnussen’s failure is a very old-fashioned one, that pride comes before a fall. Not only did Magnusson fail to “medal” in the relay – to use that ludicrous verb – he is also unlikely to win any medals for being gracious in defeat. In the lead-up to London he acted as if he had one hand on the gold, grabbing the microphone and declaring “brace yourselves” after the Olympic trials back in March.
On Sunday, like that ill-fated North Korean missile, Magnussen had a hissy fit of his own with a display of pursed-lip poolside churlishness where he said he had “no response” and “no idea” as to what went wrong, before wandering off leaving his three better-performing teammates to face the music.
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Julia Gillard is taking a short break this week while the Olympics dominates the news cycle, but the return of parliament a fortnight from today looms as a new danger period for her if enough colleagues read the evidence in the same way.
That evidence now includes a poll published yesterday after a month or so of the new carbon pricing system operating.
Labor’s primary vote rose (a statistically insignificant) two points from 28 per cent to 30 per cent in the survey.
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The short-term fix of Olympic glory aside, Essential’s weekly poll suggests Australia is a pretty miserable place right now. We may be living in one of the most prosperous societies in history, but we aren’t happy with how our own lives are travelling.
The majority of us say we are either struggling or just coping financially; we are worried about losing our jobs and expect our personal situation to deteriorate over the next 12 months.
We actively dislike our elected leaders, both PM and Opposition are disapproved by about two thirds of us. We have have not only lost faith in government in most of our public institutions – the public service, the High Court, the Reserve Bank, business, unions, the media, even religion.
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I’m a little worried that Australians might be experiencing a sort of Stockholm Syndrome. We’ve been held hostage to high housing costs for so long that we’ve learnt it seems, to love them. We hear cheers every time house prices rise, and don’t stop to think what spending $500 a week on rent might do to the household budget.
I’m guilty of it myself. A few weeks ago when I saw a report by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Reform Council that showed over half of low income renters in Sydney were in housing stress I was hardly surprised. But when did it become normal to accept that people on low incomes should have to give up going to the dentist, cut back on kids school trips or skip meals, just to live in our cities?
Rents in every capital city are chewing up more household income than ever. The 2011 Census showed that between 2006 and 2011 the median rent in Sydney rose by 42 per cent, while household income rose by just 23 per cent, and for every city it’s a similar story.
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Here’s something you don’t see every day: a climate change sceptic says the science has converted him, and he now believes humans are responsible for climate change.
Professor Richard Muller founded the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (Best) project, a large study that found the Earth’s temperature was increasing and we are almost entirely the cause. He said he was surprised by the findings. “We were not expecting this, but as scientists, it is our duty to let the evidence change our minds,” he said.
Have you changed your mind about anything recently? Discuss here, or chat about anything else that gets you hot and bothered.
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