Atlantic a sea of rubbish

PARIS: The North Atlantic looks like a rubbish tip, with plastic and polystyrene flotsam spreading far and wide, four French explorers just back from eight months at sea report.Once out of the Breton port of Trinite-sur-Mer in October, they typically spotted at least four to five pieces of rubbish a day – only to sail into a veritable floating dump in April in the Sargasso Sea around Bermuda.”In 15 minutes we saw more garbage than at any time during our journey,” the naval engineer, Yann Geffriaud, 27, said on Saturday a few hours after their return.”It was truly a shock, when in the middle of nowhere we came across 10 to 20 pieces of garbage every five minutes.”The Sargasso Sea, where currents between Florida and Bermuda converge, is named for a brown seaweed – sargassum – that proliferates on its surface, trapping any floating rubbish.”Ninety-five per cent of the stuff is plastics, from toothpaste tubes to aerosol containers and water bottles,” said Mr Geffriaud, the founder of Watch the Waste, a group that asks mariners to monitor rubbish.”Frankly speaking, we did not see a compact area of plastic, but a scattering.”The findings echoed those of the US seafarer and researcher Charles Moore who, two years ago, sailed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – an estimated 100 million tonnes of rubbish sprawled between Hawaii and Japan.Last February, the US-based Sea Education Association revealed the existence of another virtual island of plastic in the North Atlantic, spread over an area as big as France.Outside the Sargasso Sea, Mr Geffriaud said, the French expedition regularly saw garbage, much of which had been swept from dry land into the ocean by streams and rainfall.”But we saw five times more on the way back, between Bermuda and the Azores, than on the way out along a more southerly track from Cape Verde to Tobago.”Given that we can never clean up the sea, the most simple thing to do is to raise public awareness,” Mr Geffriaud and his team said.Agence France-Presse
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Sifting terrorist chips from Israel policy push

AMMAN: Pallet loads of potato chips are hardly an answer to the plight of Palestinians, now in the fourth year of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. Likewise, a continued ban on shipments of coriander to the impoverished enclave cannot be seen as a serious plank in Israel’s national security blueprint.Since the blockade began in 2007, world opinion has chosen to ignore its impact on daily life in Gaza. But Israel’s gross over-reaction in killing nine protesters as its forces commandeered a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla two weeks ago has finally focused attention on the cruelty of a blockade justified by Israel as essential to preventing the smuggling of weapons to Hamas.Under a barrage of international criticism, Israel is easing some of the restrictions – but in identifying the products that seemingly no longer constitute a security risk the Netanyahu government has exposed the blockade as an exercise in collective punishment of a civilian population.Along with chips, Israeli authorities have decreed that the likes of jam, halva and razor blades have ceased to be a security risk and will be allowed into Gaza. Coriander and cardamom, and possibly even cookies, might soon be cleared for shipment too.The gesture prompted a withering response from Gisha, an Israeli non-governmental organisation that monitors the detailed management of the blockade. “Gisha is pleased to learn that coriander no longer presents a threat to Israeli security,” its website says.In anticipation of permission for cookies to go to Gaza, however, Gisha lights on the blockade as economic warfare, saying: “It is not enough to permit Gaza residents to purchase Israeli-made cookies. Israel should stop banning raw materials such as industrial margarine and glucose, so that Gaza residents can produce their own cookies and restart the economy that has been paralysed for three years.”The list of prohibited goods still includes building materials – which Israel says will be hijacked by Hamas, a designated terrorist organisation. But it also lists the essentials for two industries by which a people dependent on food donations might work to feed themselves – fishing and market gardening.Gisha says they are still denied fishing rods and nets; nets for greenhouses and tractor spare parts; irrigation pipes and planters for saplings; and heaters for chicken farms.If only in this humanitarian dimension, there is something grotesque about Israel’s insistence on a policy that has demonstrably failed – Hamas survives and is getting stronger in Gaza. And that the world has acquiesced amid so much civilian suffering and privation in Gaza is equally disturbing.The global outcry in the aftermath of the botched Israeli attack on the Free Gaza Flotilla signals a move for change. But just what can be achieved remains to be seen.As with every crisis point in the 62 years of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an international consensus that ”something” has to be done to ease Palestinian suffering can bog down in endless negotiation, winning just minimal change as world attention shifts to other issues.Such an outcome was evident in the reported remarks late last week of unnamed Israeli officials who told the Associated Press that the easing of the blockade was more about defusing pressure for an international investigation into the attack on the flotilla than on relieving Palestinian suffering.There was further muddying of the issues with an Israeli claim that the blockade would not be lifted unless Hamas agreed to Red Cross visits to Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured by Hamas in 2006 – an issue that is already the subject of Egyptian-mediated negotiations between Israel and Hamas.George Mitchell, Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy, told reporters in the aftermath of the attack that Washington was working ”aggressively” to make sure that Gazans received adequate supplies.Writing in the International Herald Tribune on Friday, the foreign ministers of France, Italy and Spain condemned Israel’s “unbending determination to force compliance with the blockade … [and] a logic that must now be abandoned”. They used the word du jour for describing the blockade – “unsustainable”.Just as there is a new argument in the US that Israel’s national security and settling the country’s conflict with the Palestinians are separate issues of American national security, there is a new global embrace of the separateness of Israel’s strategic need to deny Hamas weapons and the economic and humanitarian needs of Gaza’s 1.5 million people.Moves are afoot to have European Union monitors – instead of Israeli troops – examine the freight depots that serve Gaza. The ministerial trio also proposes that the Gaza port be reopened to cargo ships that would come under international inspection – to intercept smuggled weapons.Whatever the fate of the blockade, there is an expectant sense in the region that the emergence of non-Arab Turkey as a new and powerful champion of the Palestinian people has set the scene for dramatic changes in the management of the crisis.Likening Arab governments to lemons squeezed of their juice, because of their lost credibility for failing to extract concessions for the Palestinians, a former adviser to the late King Hussein of Jordan observed to the Herald: “It’s going to be a hot summer.”He was not discussing the weather.
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The forgotten community fighting for pride

It is cold and wet in Wilcannia. Wind is blowing through town as about 20 locals gather around a park bench on the Barrier Highway to sign time sheets proving they have worked the hours to earn a government allowance.The Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) program manager requested a shed from the federal government seven months ago from which to run the scheme.But work-for-the-dole participants are still meeting in 48-degree summer heat or the biting autumn wind that characterise the weather extremes on NSW’s flat, far-western plains.It is National Sorry Day, 2010, and Wilcannia, with a population of about 700 – two-thirds of which is Aboriginal – is a town broken.At its peak in the late 1800s, it was home to 3000 people and a busy inland port.More than a century later – notwithstanding the recent welcome rains and flowing Darling River – shops are barred and boarded up, the only employers to speak of are government departments, and the town centre is bookended by two poverty-stricken Aboriginal communities, the Mission and the Mallee.About five years ago 28 government houses, designed to be energy-efficient, were built. The residents have complained of being cooked in the sauna of their own crumbling homes ever since.The median income across the vast Central Darling Shire is just $310 a week. In Wilcannia, unemployment is estimated at more than 60 per cent.But immense resources are thrown at the town. The council has counted more than 50 government and non-government agencies that service its barely 15 streets and their residents.Access to fresh fruit and vegetables is cited by the Central Darling Shire Council as a big problem, but alcohol and marijuana dependence, as well as an historical paucity of activities and jobs are others.”They’ve really had no purpose the last 30 years,” the Darling Shire community and economic development manager, Kym Fuller, said.In the first week of June, Wilcannia lost four of its residents to drug and alcohol-related disease and organ failure, he said. They were all aged under 45.”There are cars stolen to get to funerals,” Mr Fuller said. ”People are putting their hands out for petrol so they can squeeze 10 people into the car.”But just before Christmas, something close to a miracle happened. Five members of the Wilcannia CDEP committee entered their council building – some for their first time in their lives – and sat down on the”flash, cushion chairs” to reach agreement on constructing a drive-through art gallery at Reconciliation Park opposite the hospital.”Before, they were told what to do. Now they’re asked what to do,” the CDEP manager, Trevor Johnstone, said. ”We’re supposed to be dumb blacks. They think we’re dumb blacks.”Their victory over a few business owners concerned, among other things, that the view to the golf course would be blocked by the open-air gallery, has given locals a sense of pride and community ownership they haven’t known for decades, Mr Johnstone said. ”There’s been a lot more pride up here because they’ve been treated with respect.”Mr Johnstone sees hope for Wilcannia in spite of years of setbacks. ”You’ve got to treat them like people,” he said.Each week, more than 30 CDEP workers meet in town to help fashion the drive-through gallery. Among them are recognised artists, 10 of whom will paint one wall each to contribute to the rest area, where it is hoped tourists will stop to break the drive to or from Broken Hill, which is 200 kilometres west.The project is a far cry from the not-too-distant past when, it is rumoured, business owners would buy paintings from locals with a case of beer and then sell their works to visitors for $200 apiece.Woddy Harris, who lives on the edge of town in a shed, spends his days carving didgeridoos, clapping sticks and bowls out of mallee, river red gum and leopardwood. He is passionate about returning the younger Aboriginal generation to the ways of old. ”There’s a spirit, whether you believe in it or you don’t believe in it. It’s still there,” he said. ”I learned [to carve] by my vision of the old people. You create life for yourself.”The revival of the town’s rugby league team, the Wilcannia Boomerangs, has also raised the chins of locals. ”Last year, they won every grade in the [Outback] Rugby League, from seniors through to juniors,” Mr Fuller said. ”They bloody did too, the bastards,” Mr Johnstone, who lives on Menindee Yabbies turf 150 kilometres away, said with a grin.There are other plans afoot to boost the town. Nobody quite believes it will happen, but a Sydney couple have bought a huge property on the outskirts of town with 15 kilometre of river frontage and plans to develop a luxury eco-resort there.Jim Sammon, who is originally from Ireland but has lived in Wilcannia for 20 years, owns the mining camp-style accommodation at ”The Shannon” next door to the proposed resort. He said life had been worse in his adopted home town in the past: ”It used to be a pretty rough sort of a place, but it’s good now.”
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FFA denies player rift with Verbeek

Pim VerbeekAS BORED journalists fire up the predictable rumours of a split in the Socceroos’ camp, midfield enforcer Vince Grella has a typically forthright message to his teammates on how to deal with the tension: ”Be a man about it.”
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After being routed and humiliated by Germany in Durban, Australia’s World Cup hopes – not to mention the reputations of coach Pim Verbeek and his players – go on the line against Ghana in Rustenburg on Saturday night. Anything less than a win and the Socceroos will be heading home into a firestorm of recriminations.

Fact is, there is no split in the camp – only a coach looking into the mirror for the first time, and a group of players dealing with bruised egos. But there’s little doubt the team is under pressure, and it’s how they deal with it that matters.

Be a man … midfielder Vince Grella attempts to tackle Germany’s Thomas Muller in Durban. Photo: Steve Christo

Reports on Wednesday indicated there was a rift between Verbeek and a group of players, including Harry Kewell, Mark Bresciano and Grella. The players had allegedly complained to FFA about Verbeek’s selections and tactics. But the FFA has denied the rumours and said Kewell in particular was upset at the reports.

Grella, hooked at half-time against the Germans as Verbeek essentially admitted he had got his tactics wrong, has never been one to hide from responsibility.

”We’ve all got to be men about it, forget the bullshit and get on with it,” he said. ”Of course we can turn it around. That’s the beauty of football, and that’s what we’ve got to look to do. We have to fix the wounds and play a massive game against Ghana. If your maths is as good as mine, we can still get six points, and then we go through. Simple.”

Pressed on Verbeek’s surprise tactical switch against Germany, Grella replied: ”Hindsight is an easy thing. Whether the players were OK with it or not, it’s the manager’s call. We follow the game plan the coach’s put out there, and we have to respect his decision.”

While Verbeek hasn’t conceded he got his tactics wrong against the Germans – it was the first time he had started with a 4-4-2 structure since his first game in charge 2½⁄ years ago – there’s little doubt he will revert to his usual 4-2-3-1 against Ghana.

But while the formation will be familiar, the personnel might not be. Grella is one of several senior players under scrutiny, and for the first time the shadow players are applying genuine selection pressure.

Three regular starters unused against Germany – Josh Kennedy, Mark Bresciano and Harry Kewell – are also clamouring for a recall but it’s the so-called ”second-tier” players, among them Brett Holman, Mark Milligan and Mile Jedinak, who are leading the charge. With no margin for error, the media tasting blood and disillusioned fans agitating behind the scenes, the heat is on Verbeek to get it right.

Defender Luke Wilkshire, one of the few to emerge with any credit in Durban, is convinced the team can turn it around.

”We’ve definitely got the character in the team and the spirit,” he said. ”We know that we can do better. We know there’s a possibility there, and we’re going to be fighting to the end.”

Midfielder Brett Emerton, who also had a good game, added: ”I still feel we’ve got a good team but for some reason against Germany we weren’t at it. That’s football. The best thing we can do is try and forget about it, learn from our mistakes and try to improve on that next time.”

Cranky Harry slams media

A livid Harry Kewell hoped to confront Michael Cockerill at Socceroos training following an article the Fairfax football writer wrote criticising the striker’s commitment.
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Socceroo Harry Kewell slammed media criticism of his role in the team, lashing critics who have questioned his fitness and recent performances and claiming that suggestions of a rift between Australia’s star player and coach Pim Verbeek were a fabrication.

Kewell was in a combative mood as he arrived for training last night, demanding that Fairfax football writer Mike Cockerill – who was not present – show himself.

Cockerill had written a column questioning Kewell’s fitness and commitment and the Galatasaray player – who has been recovering from a groin injury and did not play in the humiliating loss to Germany last Sunday – was desperate to fire back.

“Why isn’t he here?” Kewell said. “He’s the one making all these accusations. I want him to know about it. I want to know why is he doing it?”

“Does anyone have any answers for me?”

The Socceroos looked dangerously like a team under siege. Football Federation Australia chief executive Ben Buckley had earlier called a press conference to deny rumours of a rift between senior players Kewell and Mark Bresciano and the coach. An open training session at Ruimsig Stadium was abruptly changed to a closed one.

Neither Kewell nor Bresciano played a single minute in Durban as the team chosen by Verbeek was humbled by Germany.

Kewell also denied any rift between players and coach but admitted he had been disappointed not to at least be given minutes off the bench against Germany.

“Of course I was disappointed,” he said. “But that’s the manager’s choice. He had a plan and stuck with it. We all agreed to it. And it’s unfortunate that we lost.”

Kewell said he was fit and ready to play on Saturday against Ghana and accused reporters of “slagging off” himself and the team’s medical staff who have battled to get him fit for World Cup duty.

“It’s a shame,” he said. “Youse are all supposed to be on our team and it’s a shame that youse are all having a go at us.”

Asked if he felt he was under attack, Kewell continued his tirade.

“I think there are people that are just making things up,” he said. “They are just trying to get scoops.”

Kewell has been criticised for not warming up with the rest of the Australian team in Durban, with the suggestion being he could not possibly have been fit to play but incapable of warming up.

“I was told by my physio not to do it, to do my own preparation,” he said. “Again there’s speculation that there is a rift, there is no rift. We are all disappointed in the game… we take it on the chin and we go prove it in the game against Ghana.”

Kewell said he fully supported Verbeek and would live “by his rules”. He said it was not up to him to demand that he play against Ghana in a must-win clash for the Socceroos.

“I don’t think any footballer would ever go up to a manager and say ‘put me on’,” he said. “You can’t do that. It’s his rules and his way. You accept that.”

Livid Kewell demands Fairfax football writer shows himself

A livid Harry Kewell hoped to confront Michael Cockerill at Socceroos training following an article the Fairfax football writer wrote criticising the striker’s commitment.
Nanjing Night Net

Socceroo Harry Kewell slammed media criticism of his role in the team, lashing critics who have questioned his fitness and recent performances and claiming that suggestions of a rift between Australia’s star player and coach Pim Verbeek were a fabrication.

Kewell was in a combative mood as he arrived for training last night, demanding that Fairfax football writer Mike Cockerill – who was not present – show himself.

Cockerill had written a column questioning Kewell’s fitness and commitment and the Galatasaray player – who has been recovering from a groin injury and did not play in the humiliating loss to Germany last Sunday – was desperate to fire back.

“Why isn’t he here?” Kewell said. “He’s the one making all these accusations. I want him to know about it. I want to know why is he doing it?”

“Does anyone have any answers for me?”

The Socceroos looked dangerously like a team under siege. Football Federation Australia chief executive Ben Buckley had earlier called a press conference to deny rumours of a rift between senior players Kewell and Mark Bresciano and the coach. An open training session at Ruimsig Stadium was abruptly changed to a closed one.

Neither Kewell nor Bresciano played a single minute in Durban as the team chosen by Verbeek was humbled by Germany.

Kewell also denied any rift between players and coach but admitted he had been disappointed not to at least be given minutes off the bench against Germany.

“Of course I was disappointed,” he said. “But that’s the manager’s choice. He had a plan and stuck with it. We all agreed to it. And it’s unfortunate that we lost.”

Kewell said he was fit and ready to play on Saturday against Ghana and accused reporters of “slagging off” himself and the team’s medical staff who have battled to get him fit for World Cup duty.

“It’s a shame,” he said. “Youse are all supposed to be on our team and it’s a shame that youse are all having a go at us.”

Asked if he felt he was under attack, Kewell continued his tirade.

“I think there are people that are just making things up,” he said. “They are just trying to get scoops.”

Kewell has been criticised for not warming up with the rest of the Australian team in Durban, with the suggestion being he could not possibly have been fit to play but incapable of warming up.

“I was told by my physio not to do it, to do my own preparation,” he said. “Again there’s speculation that there is a rift, there is no rift. We are all disappointed in the game… we take it on the chin and we go prove it in the game against Ghana.”

Kewell said he fully supported Verbeek and would live “by his rules”. He said it was not up to him to demand that he play against Ghana in a must-win clash for the Socceroos.

“I don’t think any footballer would ever go up to a manager and say ‘put me on’,” he said. “You can’t do that. It’s his rules and his way. You accept that.”

No fuel but it’s plain sailing for solar spacecraft

IT HAS been a busy week for JAXA, the Japanese space agency. While most eyes were on the spectacular return of the Hayabusa asteroid sample probe, which parachuted into the Woomera rocket range on Sunday after the second fastest re-entry in history, another craft was ever-so-slowly picking up speed in the void between Earth and Venus.The experimental spacecraft Ikaros, after many weeks of delicate maneuvering, has successfully deployed the first solar sail. For researchers interested in sending missions into the far reaches of the solar system, Ikaros is a dream come true – a spaceship that doesn’t need fuel to generate thrust.If all goes according to plan, all the heavy work will be done millions of kilometres away, on the sun. All previous spacecraft have had to carry enormous amounts of fuel – the overwhelming bulk on NASA missions to the outer solar system was simply the gas tank and the booster engines, all of which were thrown away once the probes were up to speed, an expensive and inherently wasteful way of getting about.Ikaros needed chemical rockets to escape the Earth’s gravity (it actually piggybacked a ride on the Akatsuki mission, now on its way to study the atmosphere of Venus), but now the sail has been unfurled it will be pushed along by the light of the sun.This is a fragile machine. ”Ikaros has a square sail approximately 14 metres long on each side,” explains Osamu Mori, the project’s leader. ”The sail, and the solar collectors that will generate electricity, are only 7.5 micrometres thick. Human hair is 100 micrometres thick, so you can imaging how thin this is.”Consequently, the unfurling of a sail packed into the confines of a small spacecraft is undertaken with great care. Two previous American attempts, in 2001 and 2005, have failed at this crucial hurdle.The Japanese had the idea of a square sail with a small weight on each corner which was set spinning – very slowly – on a turntable which forms the centre of the vehicle. Eventually centrifugal force stretches the sail into its desired configuration, and the latest word is so far, so good – the sail reached full extension last weekend.Now to the business end – learning how to sail a yacht, millions of kilometres away, using sunlight. How, for instance, do you steer such a vessel? Ikaros incorporates some very clever technology to control direction and speed.”The solar-powered attitude control system uses technology that controls the reflectivity of the sail,” said Mr Mori. ”It works just like frosted glass: normally the entire area of the sail will reflect sunlight, but by ‘frosting’ part of the film, we can reduce the reflectivity of that area. When the reflectivity is reduced, that part of the sail generates less power. So by changing the reflectivity of the sail, we can control its attitude.”So, assuming these subtle changes in reflectivity work as intended, where is Ikaros headed?At first it will travel side by side with the Venus mission, and then head off on its own.”Akatsuki will decelerate to enter Venus’s orbit,” said Mr Mori, ”but Ikaros will pass by Venus and navigate around the sun. Where it heads will really depend on how the solar sail’s orbit control function performs.”Ikaros does not have a destination – as an experimental craft its major objective is is to establish whether solar sailing is feasible at all. But the implications of a successful flight are profound. While sunlight transfers very little propulsion to Ikaros, it never stops doing so, and over time solar sails can, in principle, build up enormous speeds.So if you’re not in a hurry, and want to go a long way without spending a fortune at the bowser, they might be just the ticket. Osamu Mori and his team at JAXA certainly hope so.
Nanjing Night Net

Mexican cash control

CULIACAN, Mexico: In an attempt to thwart money-laundering by drug cartels, the Mexican government has announced strict limits on the deposit and exchange of US dollars in banks.The money helps traffickers buy military-grade weapons used to kill tens of thousands of people and recruit small armies who battle rival gangs and government forces around the country.Failure to intercept the money has long been singled out as a serious flaw in the military-led offensive against the cartels.In response, the government announced it would limit individual bank account holders to deposits of $US4000 ($4650) monthly, while others without accounts would be allowed to exchange up to $US1500.Drug traffickers have long taken advantage of lax rules and the preponderance of cash transactions in Mexico to launder multibillion-dollar annual profits in banks and currency exchange houses. It is routine to see all-cash purchases of real estate, aircraft, farms and art.The new measures were announced by the Finance Minister, Ernesto Cordero, who said they were designed to reduce laundering by ”closing the path to illicit resources” funnelled into Mexican banks. He said about $US10 billion in surplus – and probably illicit – money has been detected annually in the banking system.A recent US-Mexican government report estimated traffickers send between $US19 billion and $US29 billion a year from the US to Mexico, slightly under half via banks. The rest stays in the cash economy; about 75 per cent of all transactions in Mexico are in cash.The measures do not apply to electronic transfers and are not likely to have an effect on average Mexicans, Mr Cordero said, because the monthly limit on dollar transactions is far above the earnings of 98 per cent of Mexican households.Los Angeles Times
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Court will decide if sailor, 14, is too young

WELLINGTON: A 14-year-old girl fighting Dutch authorities over her desire to sail around the world solo wants to move to New Zealand to continue her dream.A Dutch court will decide today whether to allow New Zealand-born Laura Dekker to become the youngest person to attempt to sail solo around the world.Child protection services are seeking to prolong her court-ordered official supervision.She needs to complete the trip – which she expects to take two years – before she turns 17 on September 20, 2012, to set the record.Child welfare experts have previously raised concerns about her being cut off from parents and peers and other social stimulus or interaction.Last year she raised plans for the voyage to start when she turned 14, and the District Court in Utrecht granted temporary custody of her to the Dutch Council for Child Protection.She asked her municipality to deregister her as a resident so that she could move to New Zealand, where she was born on a yacht while her parents were sailing round the world.”I was born in Whangarei,” she said. ”And of course I have a New Zealand passport.”In December she breached the court order, running away to the Dutch Caribbean island territory of Saint Martin. Police had to escort her back home.An appeals court in May, citing ”great and unacceptable risks”, upheld the first ruling that barred her from setting sail until at least July 1, when the school year ends, and ordered her to remain under supervision.The court said her father ”has a limited appreciation of the risks involved and ”overestimates” her abilities.In a closed hearing on Monday, child authorities asked the Middelburg District Court to extend the supervision by another two months.An Australian, Jessica Watson, completed the voyage in May, arriving in Sydney days before her 17th birthday.Abby Sunderland, 16, an American, was rescued in the Indian Ocean last week after her yacht was dismasted.Agencies
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Genes help but you still need to have a good diet

TWO groups of genes influence longevity. The first are those associated with serious diseases, which centenarians are less likely to have. The second group are longevity enabling genes, which are more likely to be present in centenarians and to influence the rate of ageing.Dr Bradley Willcox is co-principal investigator of the Okinawa Centenarian Study and professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Hawaii. “There are two [longevity gene] superstars: ApoE and FOXO3A,” he says.His team, including twin brother Dr Craig Willcox, has found that a genetic variation (or allele) in the FOXO3A gene is strongly associated with longevity. “About half of centenarians have at least one copy of the protective allele of FOXO3A. If you have two protective alleles of FOXO3A you are 300 per cent more likely to live to be 100.”It is not known precisely how FOXO3A increases longevity. “It mainly acts as a protector against physiological stress. [It] reduces free radical damage, enhances DNA repair, makes the body more energy efficient, helps the body recognise and kill off cancer and other aberrant cells,” says Brad Willcox.A variation in the ApoE gene, which has an impact on cardiovascular disease and dementia, is the only other variant that has also been sufficiently replicated in studies to show that it appears less frequently with advancing age.”There are going to be probably in the order of 100 genes that contribute to longevity. They’ll all have a small effect, and they’ll have different effects in different people,” says Brian Morris, professor of molecular medical sciences at the University of Sydney and Bosch Institute.”But one of the very important findings that has come out of all the research is that someone who has the good genes for long life yet has a bad diet and lifestyle can reduce their chances of living to an old age substantially.”
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Court victory for two Waterfall policemen

TWO former policemen who rescued survivors of the Waterfall train disaster have won a significant High Court victory as they battle for compensation.Senior constables David Wicks and Phil Sheehan were among the first at the site of the 2003 derailment, which killed seven people.They were confronted by horrific scenes, including dismembered bodies, and helped the distressed and injured to safety. Both were medically discharged from the police in 2004.The pair sued the State Rail Authority, claiming they suffered psychiatric injuries due to its negligence. But the NSW Court of Appeal last year upheld an earlier ruling that they could not be compensated because the Civil Liability Act restricts damages for mental harm to close relatives of a victim or those who saw someone “being killed, injured or put in peril”.This did not extend to those who came across the scene after the incident in which people were killed, injured or imperilled, the Court of Appeal found.That ruling was overturned yesterday in a unanimous High Court decision after an appeal by Mr Wicks and Mr Sheehan.The court found it was wrong to assume all cases of death, injury or being in peril were events that ”begin and end in an instant” or last only minutes.Survivors injured in the derailment could have suffered psychiatric injury at the scene or been further harmed as they were extricated from the wreckage.”The process of their suffering such an injury was not over when Mr Wicks and Mr Sheehan arrived … [The survivors] remained in peril until they had been rescued by being taken to a place of safety,” the ruling said.Barbara McDonald, a professor of law at Sydney University, said it was a significant judgment which ”brings down a hurdle” for all rescuers who suffered mental harm.The High Court took an ”absolute commonsense” approach to legislation which had prevented rescue workers or members of the public who encountered the aftermath of an accident from recovering damages for psychological injury, she said.”We’re all dependent on professional rescuers to come to our assistance … so it’s right that they should be looked after if they suffer as a result.”The High Court remitted the case to the Court of Appeal to consider issues of negligence and duty of care, but Mr Wicks said he was ”over the moon” about the judgment. Mr Sheehan described it as ”groundbreaking”, adding: ”There’s some light at the end of the tunnel.”The president of the NSW Police Association, Scott Weber, said the decision ”makes it clear that all emergency service workers, rescuers and volunteers present at a disaster should be given the option to pursue compensation”.
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Nice shelves, pity no books

SCHOOLS will be unable to get full value from billions of dollars worth of new libraries because of long-running declines in staffing and book budgets, teachers and librarians warn.Across the country, 3472 libraries have been funded under the federal government’s Building the Education Revolution program, with a combined value of almost $4 billion.But submissions to a federal parliamentary inquiry on school libraries and teacher librarians warn that the potential benefits of the spending will not be realised unless schools are given extra funding to employ staff and update their collections.”The severe decline in the number of qualified teacher librarians staffing libraries … [and] in school library funding … over the last several decades means that despite the welcome injection of federal funds to library buildings, many new BER libraries will have no qualified librarian and no new books,” the Australian Education Union’s submission says.The Children’s Book Council of Australia echoes this view: ”The billions spent by the federal government on library buildings will not translate into improvements in learning outcomes, unless that funding is accompanied by adequate resourcing, staffing, management and administrative support for those libraries.”The school building program, begun in February last year to create jobs during the economic slowdown, has been dogged by allegations of mismanagement and profiteering by contractors.Yesterday the Herald revealed that a contractor had charged 10 NSW schools an identical amount – $1,303,505.22 – for a prefabricated library, even though they were costed at $850,000.Officials from the federal Education Department will give evidence to the inquiry today.A spokesman for the federal Education Minister, Julia Gillard, said that while the government provided funding for schools, the states were responsible for their day-to-day management and staff allocation.
Nanjing Night Net

Crean seeks insurance against Prime Minister

THE Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, has told his senior public servants to improve their connections with other public servants to help him avoid being ”surprised” by his government’s policies.The former Labor leader addressed an ”away day” for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s senior executive service at a Canberra hotel on May 10, eight days after the government revealed its controversial resource super profits tax.He told the 100 or so officials he would have preferred not to have learnt about the contents of the Henry review and the decision to delay the emissions trading scheme from newspapers, sources at the meeting said.They said Mr Crean urged them to establish better connections with officials in other departments so that as their minister, he did not have any more such ”surprises”.The sources said Mr Crean urged the officials to play a bigger role in a broader range of policies with an impact on international economics or trade, to ”play itself in” to policymaking.He said he wanted the department to strengthen its economic and trade analysis and to work more closely with his office.There has been serious disquiet in the cabinet from ministers shut out of crucial decisions by the so-called kitchen cabinet, or strategic budget and priorities committee. These included the decisions to delay the emissions scheme and to adopt the super profits tax.Some ministers have told the Herald the cabinet has been consulted more in recent weeks and that the government has set up a larger cabinet committee to develop policies for the election this year.But many blame the narrowness of the advice – from the committee and the Prime Minister’s office – for many decisions that have backfired and contributed to Labor’s slide in the opinion polls.Last week Mr Crean conceded on Perth radio that the government should have consulted more widely before announcing the new tax.Asked whether consultation should have happened, he said: ”Of course, it should. But it didn’t take place. What we’re now saying is let’s fix it. We will have the consultation. We’ve signalled that, and what we want to do is to get an outcome – to get a result.”Mr Crean declined to comment on the address yesterday.
Nanjing Night Net