Today is the second anniversary of the Fukushima disaster and it promises to be another silly-season for Australia’s nuclear apologists.
They have form. While the crisis was unfolding in March 2011, Ziggy Switkowski advised that “the best place to be whenever there’s an earthquake is at the perimeter of a nuclear plant because they are designed so well.” Even after the multiple explosions and nuclear meltdowns, Adelaide-based nuclear advocate Geoff Russell advised: “If you are in a quake zone and have time to seek shelter, forget hiding under door jambs and tables, find a nuke.”
Even as nuclear fuel meltdown was in full swing at Fukushima, Adelaide University’s Prof. Barry Brook reassured us that: “There is no credible risk of a serious accident… Those spreading FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt] at the moment will be the ones left with egg on their faces. I am happy to be quoted forever after on the above if I am wrong ... but I won’t be.” Eggs, anyone?
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HERE’S what should have happened on the Sydney bus this morning when ABC journalist Jeremy Fernandez was subject to a torrent of racist and ugly abuse from a fellow passenger.
Someone should have stood up. They should have made a beeline for the gutter mouth and stood between them.
“Hey,” they should have said, “Cut that crap out,” before turning to Fernandez and his two year old daughter and checking if they were alright.
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So the other night I did something most of you would consider very, very dumb. In fact half way through doing it, I myself thought I was an idiot. In short, I stopped and gave a man a lift.
I was driving around Whitmore Square in Adelaide around 9:30 at night – probably not known as the friendliest of places after dark – and as I turned down my street I saw an older gentlemen pulling one of those rolling overnight cases and clearly asking someone else for directions.
I’m not sure what happened, but the next thing I know, I’ve U-turned, pulled over and yelled out to him as he was making his way across the Square and asked him if he needed a lift.
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I felt an overwhelming sadness looking at the beautiful face of Sarah Cafferkey. Bearing an uncanny resemblance, in its light, beauty and openness, to the other young Melbourne woman, Jill Meagher, who also lost her life as a result of a senseless and thuggish attack. Can anybody tell me why?
Sarah Cafferkey was all of 22 years of age. She’ll never even know how it feels to celebrate her 30th birthday. As her mother, Noelle Dickson said in a statement this morning.
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The tragic and horrific rape and murder of Jill Meagher as she made the short walk to her Brunswick home, stirred up an unprecedented, emotional gut reaction in many of us. Some of us felt angry, others felt sadness, shock, bewilderment.
Many of us also felt fear. Fear as we watched our worst nightmare, the stuff of Wednesday night crime shows, became a reality for a woman we didn’t know, but felt a deep, unexpected empathy for. Empathy spurred by the knowledge that it could have been any one of us. Jill was simply the unlucky one that night.
She wasn’t doing anything extraordinary. She’d attended a work function, had a few drinks and was walking home. It was during that short, five-minute journey that Jill became the innocent victim of an opportunistic predator.
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Many people will be familiar with the recent “Aboriginal memes” page on a popular social media site, in which images of Aboriginal people were published with highly derogatory captions.
At the Race Discrimination Commission we heard from many outraged Australians who found the images appalling and who recognised the harm and the hurt they caused a group of people on the basis of their race.
A question I have been asked in my capacity as Commissioner is ‘where do you draw the line’ and make such behaviour unlawful, as opposed to simply treating it as in extremely poor taste?
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Confession: I’m a nanna driver. I hunch over that wheel as though it’s a Zimmer frame, bent forward with my shoulders around my ears. I actually LIKE getting stuck behind slow trucks because it means there’s no pressure to put the foot down.
Thing is, I live in the Hills. Lovely lazy winding roads with nowhere to pull over or overtake.
Upshot is I get tailgated. A lot. In a way I can’t blame people. I’m in the way. They’ve planned on getting somewhere at a certain time and I’m foiling their plans. As a punctual person, I understand their frustration.
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Max, a young and handsome American pit bull, sits on death row in Miami-Dade County’s Animal Services, a victim of possibly the world’s toughest breed-specific dog laws.
The paperwork on his cage labels him “aggressive”, but it’s more out of caution. He’s never bitten anyone.
Max has got 24 hours for a reprieve. His owner is a soldier on duty in Afghanistan who left the dog with his family. They became panicked that they would be fined for harbouring an outlawed breed and handed him to the Animal Services pound.
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It was a performance worthy of a Guinness World Record. Barreling along Sydney Road Fairlight, the truck driver was texting on one mobile phone while speaking on another, steering the rig with his knees.
I hit the horn and indicated – in no uncertain terms – he should stop before he kills someone. Still clutching the phones he slowly and deliberately raised his middle finger.
If only he’d read the story of 21-year-old Sarah Page, a serial texter from New Zealand. “It’s fine Mum, I do it all the time!” she’d protest. Until she wrapped her car around a pole in 2009.
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Last week I was standing at a pedestrian crossing at the Adelaide Airport with my two kids, aged five and eight. There was a car coming towards us, moving fairly slowly and appearing to slow down. In one of those split-second moments which people without kids will pontificate about, but which parents understand, we started to step onto the crossing.
The driver didn’t stop. He went straight through, missing us by inches. I shouted at him, as did a bystander, but he kept meandering along the road for about another 30m. He stopped his car smack-bang in the middle of the road, right on the white line between two lanes, where a security guard approached him to inquire as to what the hell he was doing.
The driver was so old that he possibly didn’t even know he was in a car at all. He looked like he was 90 in the shade. At least.
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To fly, or not to fly, that is the question/Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of disgruntled travellers/Or to take flight against a sky of troubles/And by opposing, end them?
Like Hamlet, airlines face a lose-lose situation. Do they cancel flights at the expense of customer good will or risk planes falling out of the sky from catastrophic engine failure? Because, let’s be honest here, there are no good plane crashes.
In June 1982, Capt Eric Moody and his crew were flying from Kuala Lumpur to Perth when all four engines on their British Airways jumbo jet failed. Without knowing it, they’d flown into a volcanic ash cloud. For the next 13 minutes, the lives of the 248 passengers and 15 crew were in the balance. Without engines, they were ditching into the sea. That they restarted the engines and saved 268 lives is well known and dramatised on TV shows. But what if the outcome was different?
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If you’re a science or nuclear energy buff, you’ll have to excuse us for starting pretty much at the bottom of the knowledge tree here. First of all, let’s define a meltdown: basically it’s when the core of a nuclear reactor is unable to cool, because of some kind of system failure like, oh, a 10 metre wall of sea water crashing into a nuclear power plant. Radiation can then be released, and that’s when things get really dangerous. So is it happening in Japan? Latest reports say no, not yet and hopefully not at all.
Click this link for an incredible series of graphics on the internal workings of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, pictured above. This really is some amazing work the New York Times has done at short notice. There’s another really helpful infographic here:
Despite what appears to be an easing - or at least a temporary containment - of the threat of a major radiation leak, let’s dwell briefly on the worst case scenario. Could we be facing another Three Mile Island or Chernobyl? The answer, according to the Science Media Centre of Japan, is almost certainly no. Read a full Q&A at the SMCJ website here. Highly informative, yet accessible, material. Well done them.
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Roadkill is a reality of Australian life.
Drivers should slow down, be aware, and avoid killing native animals without putting their own lives in danger. Other animals, though, may not deserve so much care.
You shouldn’t run down kangaroos, for example - but cats could be another matter.
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Across Australia today a familiar push and shove is taking place as cyclists vie for space with the ever increasing numbers of cars on our roads. It is a pattern that is repeated throughout our towns and cities; a symptom of our car loving culture and sense of road entitlement from drivers and cyclists alike.
Drivers resent the packs of Lycra warriors when they take up entire lanes and invent their own road rules, and cyclists understandably fear cars which are often wielded like 100 tonnes of road clearing debris.
Neither party is blameless in this dangerous game of chicken, but it is up to state governments to appreciate the differing needs of commuters and adjust their infrastructure accordingly.
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The key take out that everyone in Australia got from the recent Qantas incident in Singapore is that pilot experience is critically important.
As more and more information filters about just how serious the situation was with QF32, pilot training and experience are being widely acknowledged, from the CEO of Qantas down, as having arguably made the difference.
Given the travails of Qantas over recent weeks, you would think that Jetstar would think twice about its absurd plans to put less and less experienced pilots in the cockpit of its aircraft.
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Imagine heading off to Christmas lunch in a few weeks, having a few soft drinks and a big chunk of brandy-soaked Christmas pudding, only to have to get a taxi home because you’re over the drink driving limit.
Sounds a little stupid but that could be the reality considering the new drink-driving discussion points from the Australian Transport Council. And if you’ve been taking cough medicine at the same time then you’re really in trouble.
In the new National Road Safety Strategy it’s suggested that the legal limit for alcohol in drivers be reduced to either 0.02 or even zero. Not that there’s really any difference between the two.
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Fact: You are more likely to be bitten by a New Yorker than by a shark.
Summer is a matter of weeks away, and almost on cue, sharks are being sighted, and a media frenzy is beginning.
A frenzy not one unlike the shark one they would have us believe is approaching.
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My kids love playing in parks – I think every kid does.
Swings, slides and see-saws can sometimes be a God-send for parents who need a break.
Tell the kids to go off and play and if you’re lucky, there could be five minutes of freedom in it for you too.
You don’t grow up in Brisbane with a name like Thornton and not know who Merle Thornton is.
For those of you who did not grow up in Brisbane and who don’t have the Thornton surname, Merle Thornton chained herself to the foot rail in the public bar of the Regatta Hotel at Toowong in 1965 to protest the drinking laws in Queensland.
Rosalie Bogner was her gal-pal at the time. I suspect there are people with the surname Bogner out there who do know she was with Merle at the time, or maybe she’s the Buzz Aldren of the Brisbane women’s movement.
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YOU’RE standing at a city pedestrian crossing, with cars backed up on either side of the lights. Your “walk” light goes green and you step off the kerb.
Suddenly a blurred object zaps past you, missing you by millimetres. As it dissolves into the traffic, leaving you shaken and furious, you get a vague impression of two wheels and a figure wearing a helmet.
And there isn’t a thing you can do about it, other than shake your fist and shout redundant expletives at the long-vanished perpetrator.
It’s the deadly season of drownings. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? The bad news is that it’s going to get worse this summer. There will be umpteen drownings across Australia.
I feel sick every time I read - or worse, report - about a child drowning. I know they are always accidents but I also know that the parents are not at arms’ length from the child.
It’s common knowledge that people drown if they put themselves in a risky situation. The simple ways to prevent a drowning are:
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As I write this piece, news has just filtered through that Victorian Water Minister Tim Holding has been found alive on Mt Feathertop, in the Victorian Alps. Thank God.
I don’t yet know many details of his bungled trip, but I do know this: Holding is just the latest in a series of backcountry adventurers who’ve failed to pay the Australian Alps the respect they deserve.
For nine months of the year, the Australian Alps are a benign bunch of hillocks which are scarcely fit to be called mountains. Our highest peak, 2228m Mt Kosciuszko, is so rounded that tourist buses were once permitted to drive all the way to the summit.
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The fastest crash I had was in Italy, in 2002. I was testing tyres for Pirelli. We were trying different types and, naturally, sometimes they’re good. Other times, they’re not quite what you need.
It happened on a very fast left-hand corner – I was probably doing around 250 or 260km/h, and the rear tyre started to slide. Then it bit the road again and the bike suddenly snapped up straight again.
It’s what we call a high-side. I got thrown off the bike and into the air.
The best thing about it was – this might sound funny, but it’s true – I landed on my head and got knocked out.
The next thing I knew I woke up in a hospital room.
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There’s a favourite pastime in Sydney aside from complaining about Generation Y and no longer talking about the value of your house – it’s whingeing about speed cameras and how close you are to losing your licence because of a string of minor offences.
Thousands of people a year cry foul when they rack up so many demerits the Roads and Traffic Authority cuts them off. They get no sympathy from me. If you go over the speed limit you risk getting caught. If you get caught enough times you risk losing your licence.
But now the NSW Government is considering mechanically speed limiting all new cars and is on the hunt for 100 vehicles to take part in a trial.
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