May 28

Freedom bloggers, Hope and Faith, 3 of Time’s 100 most influential people

This month’s BLOG will NOT focus on the forthcoming election or Australian politics.  I reviewed so much stuff this month but the articles and work that really stood out belonged to bloggers, advocates and artists.  Time magazine’s most influential people – in this case, those little known. Enjoy…

CONTENT –  Freedom to Connect  II  ‘the Voice of Freedom’ II Different Strokes II Hope & Faith II Most influential people – Time magazine

FREEDOM TO CONNECT

rememberaaronsw.com

Aaron Swartz – blogger, celebrated activist, talented programmer

Aaron Swartz – blogger, celebrated activist, talented programmer – think Creative Commons and  Wikipedia.  Aaron Swartz’ blogs have been published posthumously.  “At the time of his death in 2013 (aged 26), Aaron was facing federal prosecution for data theft having downloaded the archives of the digital library JSTOR which he believed should be accessible by everyone not just academic elites.  Facing jail time and financial ruin, he hung himself.  After his death the charges were dropped.”  Source: Emily Gould, The Guardian Weekly 01.04.16 p35.   

You can nominate someone for the Aaron Swartz Award – Aaron Swartz had a unique ability to use technology to empower people, democratize access to information, and organise movements. 

More on Bloggers…THE VOICE OF FREEDOM

Raif Badawi is described as ‘The Voice of freedom” by his wife Ensaf Haidar.  Ensaf Haidar is a member of an affluent Saudi family.  Her new book briefly reviewed in The Times (April) by Catherine Philp, explains her background and the plight of her imprisoned husband, blogger Raif Badawi.

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Apr 30

Morrison’s nightmare budget II Congrats new councillors

CONTENTS:  Budget and Gender Balance

It seems the political climate couldn’t get much worse for Turnbull and co., with its first budget due on Tuesday 3rd May.  This week PNG demanded that the Government act in closing down Manus Island detention centre and there’s no back up plan.  Yesterday Opposition leader Bill Shorten announced an ambitious carbon emissions policy identifying a 45% reduction target similar to that of the UK and Germany. Labour’s model is based on an emissions trading scheme.  ‘Just another tax’ says the Government.  Its policy is based on a 26-28% reduction in emissions underpinned by the Emissions Reduction Fund set up after the carbon tax was repealed,  this fund pays polluters incentives to reduce emissions.

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Coral bleaching – Heron Island Great Barrier Reef February 2016

The day before in Cairns, Environment Minister Greg Hunt committed $50 million to local Natural Resource Management organisations to further assist farmers with ‘run-off’ after it was reported that 93% of the northern section of the Reef was suffering severe coral bleaching as a result of climate change and high water temperatures.    Call me dumb but I don’t know why the money isn’t going to help the scientists move established colourful unaffected coral bommies into the decimated areas once water temperatures fall.  This they did around Green Island years ago after a severe coral bleaching event.

In early April at the COAG meeting,  we had the bizarre idea that State governments set up their own tax revenue streams and take over the responsibility for health and education.  That thought bubble fell like a lead balloon.  Previously in February Labour had tagged changes to negative gearing – only now to be made available on newly constructed homes and the capital gains subsidy was to be reduced from 50% down to 25%.  Negative gearing occurs when the cost of owning a rental property outweighs the income it generates each year.  this creates a taxable loss, which can normally be offset against other income.  The RBA confirmed negative gearing is used overwhelmingly by wealthier, older Australians.  Mr Turnbull slated Labour’s policy saying it would “significantly reduce investor demand and house values.”

There was the Royal Commission into the CFMEU which found fault on both sides – the union and the building companies. This was used to justify the return of the Australian Building and Construction commission which would have required the repeal of the Fair Work Act 2012 and amendments – it didn’t get through the Senate. Threats of a double dissolution by the PM then resulted in July 2 being named as a potential polling day. Labour then sought to introduce the need for a Royal Commission into the banking sector.   A subsequent bill to reform senate voting was approved, meaning we all mark above or below the line. Senator David Leyonhjelm says the governments changes to Senate voting will make it almost impossible for small parties to win a seat.  We shall see.   Continue reading

Mar 31

Online tutoring II Headlines of Impact II Innovation

Contents :

Online tutoring – new service

Headlines of Impact – UK rejects Sunday trading/ Green light for China’s port cities/ Sydney Grammar bans laptops in classroom / Jobs facing disruption

Innovation – TOMS & ATLASSIAN

Previously I have never taken advantage of my monthly blog to promote my business, this blog is an exception.  Research1M9169687-english-around-usedia’s new online tutoring service is targeted to largely, international students with NESB (non-English speaking backgrounds).

Australia wide, university funding has been cut,  an overhaul of the training sector is imminent and needed, and globalisation is producing growth in international student numbers in both Australia and overseas.  This is particularly so if the study combines paid work and/or the opportunity to obtain residency.  Learning beyond Grade 12 is now big business with all the inherent concerns of quality and bias.  Education is now Australia’s third largest export adding more than $19 billion to the economy last year (Sam Buckingham Jones,  The Australian 29 Mar 2016).

While R1M previously focused on community development and community capacity building largely linked to welfare and the promotion of linked government policy, the focus of the business has now changed to education.  Online tutoring as a form of learning, gained pace at local universities as early as 1995, some twenty years ago.  Now it is firmly ensconced in all degree subjects.  On the new webpage Online tutoring there is more detail with hourly rates for both undergraduate and postgraduate students.  Feel free to browse.

Headlines of Impact 

Dr John Vallance, Principal Sydney Grammar

Dr John Vallance, Principal Sydney Grammar

Sydney Grammar School Principal John Vallance has banned students from bringing laptops to school.  Up to year 10 students must submit their assignments and essays handwritten.   Academically Sydney Grammar rates among Australia’s top performing schools, among its alumni is the current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.  Dr Vallance also criticised as ‘crazy’ plans by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority to computerise the National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy tests next year.  Students won’t be able to write by hand… they will lose this capacity.  Source Image: Brad Hunter, The Weekend Australian March 26-27 Continue reading

Feb 29

Out of ammo… powdered milk II Brexit II the new Tobruk Pool

“Out of ammo?” It’s hardly a phrase one would want attributed to the World Economy,  but there it was, a high impact headline on the front page of The Economist (Feb 20,  2016).

I was thinking I would have preferred to do this month’s Blog on Brexit but …way too complicated. Then the Weekend Post journo, Susie O’Brien drew my attention to powdered milk and foreign ownership. In Tasmania,  The Van Diemen’s Land company is being purchased by a Chinese billionaire for $280 million.  The company is the nations largest dairy.  “In Victoria between 40 and 50 dairy farms are being purchased by Chinese backed interests,” said O’Brien, and there has been a shortage of milk powder (baby formula) in Australia.

…Now we know why 80% of Australians are opposed to foreign ownership of agricultural land (Lowy Institute).

A priceless quote from the EU finance commissioner, Pierre Moscovici,  “There is no plan B.  It doesn’t help us to envisage disaster scenarios.” Let’s hope GB stays in the EU.

Locally Tobruk Pool is scheduled to open mid year.  Couldn’t be soon enough for me. Animated skywalk

And now back to my subject for this Blog.  As jobs go the global economy falters (The Australian,  Friday Feb 26 2016, Front Page).  David Uren, Economics Editor refers to The International Monetary Fund advice “The global economy needs bold multilateral actions to boost growth and contain risk.”  The IMF is calling for structural reforms PLUS infrastructure funding.   Australia is going on a spending spree – $ 195 billion to be precise.  Defence spending will rise from 7% of government spending to 8%.      That’s not so bad I guess.

Scott Morriso586300-turnbulln will be applauded at the G20 meeting in Shanghai for  ‘stimulus spending’. Behind the reigns is the the PM.

A few economic indicators possibly of interest  (The Economist, p76 Feb 20-26, 2016).

 

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Nov 25

Epic journey I Headlines of Impact I Education & Employment

Seriously I cannot believe it’s four weeks to go to Christmas.  This past year has seen me visiting the local hospital more times than I wish to remember with family.  Fortunately all’s well now.

Monty, Neddy & Becket

Monty, Neddy and Becket in Almunecar, Spain 2004 – so cute and so naughty … grandchildren

On 27 December I embark on an epic journey.  The last time I saw my brothers and sisters in the UK was in 2004,  it was a hurried trip and my son Ben (then 23 yrs old) was also there, then onto Spain.

This coming trip means I re-engage after eleven years.  Ours is a large family, five brothers and three sisters in the UK and two sisters in Brisbane.  I am the eldest.  Apart from meeting up with my various nieces and nephews (some of whom I have never seen) and their children who will be grandchildren,  it will be a time to share my own son’s journey with them.

London is like a second home to me,  I lived and worked there from 1962 – 1979, the end of the swinging sixties and the very beginning of the word ‘unemployment’ !  Always on flying into Heathrow I get emotional.  Lots of memories,  it was a mainly happy and very exciting time.

Enroute I will be spending time in Hong Kong – Kowloon and enjoying the vibrant harbour and skyscraper sunsets.  Big cities fascinate me but now as I get older,  I don’t want to live in them.  Life is too frantic and people communicate more with technology that they do with each other.

Headlines of Impact

Which brings me to my second blog topic – Teaching kids the language of the future (Inquirer, Weekend Australian,  Nov 7-8, 2015,  correspondent Natasha Bita).   “Toddlers click together wooden blocks embedded with computer chips to drive a toy cart.”  This is happening in daycare centres.  The new national curriculum starting in 2016, will see coding introduced at primary school level.  This training is the language of the future between computers.  Programming is coding … the Australian economy is transitioning from mining to mind industries.

children-and-tech-3

“In the knowledge economy, children need to learn how to think” says Kate Highfield,  a lecturer at Macquarie University’s Institute of Early Childhood…”only 1% of apps on the market are ‘open-ended’ meaning they enable children to think for themselves and fail or find solutions.”  Without programming/coding skills young people will have difficulty getting employed.  Australia currently relies on 10,000 foreign ICT jobs (per year).

GE (the industrial giant previously in electrical manufacturing), now employs 15,000 software engineers.  It supplies fibre optics, photonics (whatever that is !!) for chips, bioscience and data crunching.  The company has developed a “Coding for Kids’ course for Australian primary students.  “STEM subjects can’t wait until High School,” says GE’s chief information officer Mark Sheppard. Programmable devices like Bee-bot robot and Scratch are recommended for early stage learning.  Coding has its own nouns, verbs, adjectives and sentences.  Kids who code.. Continue reading

Nov 01

An Unholy War l Connections – family and travel

New York: Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President barack Obama met on 28 Sept to discuss Syria.www.iindiawrites.org

New York: Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama met on 28 Sept to discuss Syria.www.iindiawrites.org

An Unholy War l Connections – family and travel 

My October Blog focuses on Syria (and Europe), while most may want to switch off – I believe this crisis is going to affect all of us.  Europe will be changed by this human exodus,  please read on.

Russian intervention  

A month ago, Russian President Putin arrived in the US to inform the US President and the UN that he was about to bomb targets in Syria and aid the Assad regime.  Talks about how to end this unholy war which has displaced four million people, were held in Vienna yesterday. While the Internet provides 24/7 updates it does seem that the catastrophic situations in Syria, Iraq and Libya have been fuelled by western democratic aspirations.   There has been no planned alternative leadership.  Who in Syria,  would be able to hold power, let alone govern the country? Perhaps Russia is in the right place at the right time.

I started to research the origins of the civil war in Syria for this blog some six week ago. I had bought my air ticket via QATAR and was watching  the first migrants arrive in Munich by train,  the Germans had welcomed them,  but now they come – 11,000 per day. The majority of these migrants are young men (65%) many unskilled.   Their countries of origin include Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kosova and Albania,…  53% come from Syria.

In mid October the EU member states voted to provide $4.7 billion (Australian) to assist Turkey to provide humanitarian aid and control the boats, inflatable dinghies worth about 100 euros.  Those seeking to make the journey pay approximately $1200 to people smugglers,  the journey can be between four to ten kilometres by sea, many have died including little children.

Grim image untitled

Image: theguardian, Australian edition, Turkish police officer stands next to the body of a young boy – Photograph, Reuters/theguardian.

More than 710,000 migrants have arrived in Europe this year.  Australia’s boat people migration pales by comparison.  At its height in 2012/13,  578 boats arrived with nearly 38,000 people onboard (Monthly Statistical Bulletins www.aph.gov.au).  Most were from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Sri Lanka.

Human Exodus from Syria

The BBC reported that  9000 migrants arrived in Greece every day last week.  According to the Sydney Morning Herald (Oct 5, 2015), Germany expects 1.5million asylum seekers.  Turkey is currently sheltering nearly two million refugees. As winter approaches, countries have run out of room to house refugees. Those lucky enough to make it to Sweden and Germany are being housed in tents.   It seems the EU is at capacity.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking to organise a quota system with all countries held to the Schengen area plus the UK and Ireland.   However Shengen is unravelling as Hungary, Serbia and now Croatia, seal their borders in an attempt to stem the flow.  And Germany and Austria are now strengthening border controls.  Frontex, the EU border Agency have been told to strengthen the borders in Greece and Croatia.

Continue reading

Sep 29

‘Dumbing Down’

SEPTEMBER BLOG

Contents : Dumbing down l Tim Winton l Dredging l Cairns Youth l Breaking News

It’s Sunday and Tim Winton’s piece in The Weekend Australian’s Magazine (19-20 Sept) excites the soul ; cultic, islets, indigenes, describing how we as Australians view our land and seascapes now “at its heart [environmentalism], is a reasonable response to lived experience, disciplined study and hard won data.” 9781926428741 - Tim Winton's latest novel 'Island Home' 290915      mc_tim_winton_portrait_800x600_7465

I was saddened to find a Letter to the Editor, indeed even the CP editor herself, espousing dredging in Trinity Inlet. Walking along Holloways Beach less than a month ago in the distance appeared a rock formation I hadn’t seen before. As I approached the estuary was clogged with mud and sand.  Thomatis Creek no longer enters the ocean. And the rock formation was unmistakenly dredge spoil, purple and red streaks of mud that you could slice like a heavy cake revealing its carcinogenic origin.

Our tourism industry, the main driver of the Cairns economy, will be dramatically affected if the dredging increases in any manner or form.  All dredge spoil would best be treated and used as land fill.

I consider I live in paradise, I moved here from London in 1985 sick of Thatcherism, the film industry had collapsed with funding withdrawn on a colossal scale. My friends went to LA and Florida, I came back to Australia and we made documentaries, funded largely from our own meagre resources.

A month ago, my Aunt mentioned she was reading Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ and felt as if the author was in the room, it was a momentous journey. First published in 1869 it is an epic and considered one of the central works of world literature. We both agreed that the whole education system indeed the newspapers we read, current best selling novels and the political banter we are exposed to, have all led to a significant ‘dumbing down’ of the population.

Add the monosyllabic chantra on Twitter, the insane idiocy of young girls and boys exposing themselves on Instagram and who gives a dam about what coffee you’re drinking, and what café has a new menu, I am bored with the trivia of social media. Continue reading

Jul 20

Away from Politics

Christmas Mango - Cairns

Christmas Mango – Cairns

Climbing beans May 2015

Climbinb beans

Found the ongoing Bronwyn, ISIS, Grexit, and gay marriage debates were intensifying my boredom levels…where are the updates on the National Disability Insurance Scheme and a sensible plan to reduce debt and deal with high youth unemployment.    Zilch…

Green crisp capsicum

Green crisp capsicum

So I decided to lose myself in plants and permaculture…community stuff and planning for travel. Finding unread books on the book shelves is also sheer delight. Joining the U3A, University of the Third Age also meant Yoga for $3.00 and Computer Ancestry classes to guide me through my research – a godsend.

Having made 7 jars of cumquat marmalade I watched the white cockatoos feast on my second crop early this morning.

I don’t know how other residents feel about Cairns at the moment,  but it seems to me like a ghost town.  Rusty’s markets lifts trade at the weekends, but generally,  I’m told –  it’s quiet.  Even those businesses which have been operating for up to 20/30 years say the same thing – it’s quiet.   Everyone is waiting, waiting, waiting …. anyone got a bright idea?

What about an economic free trade zone? According to the Economst, 4 April 2015,  “Special economic zones (SEZs) are all the rage among governments hoping to pep up their trade and investment numbers…Any country that didn’t have [an SEZ] ten years ago either does now or seems to be planning one,” says Thomas Farole of the World Bank.

Could the Cairns region explore such an investment vehicle for Cairns?   What do the most successful of these zones produce? Surely researchers at the Cairns Institute could briefly investigate such a proposition ?   Think out of the box…  Free Trade Zones – what are they? 

And there’s more – the world’s first Free Trade Zone was established in Shannon, Ireland (Shannon Free Zone). This was an attempt by the Irish Government to promote employment within a rural area, make use of a small regional airport and generate revenue for the Irish economy. It was hugely successful, and is still in operation today.

Researcher & Writer: Evelyne Lewiston

Jun 13

Fairness and equality – naive

June 2015 – Even using these two words in conversation seems naieve today.  Fairness doesn’t exist anymore, and I find it impossible to see how global economics will address inequality.

According to Oxfam (January 2014) the rapidly growing inequality is worsening poverty around the world.  Working for the Few shows that the wealth of the world is divided in two: almost half going to the richests one percent; the other half to the remaining 99 per cent.  “Widening inequality is helping the richest undermine democratic proceses and drive policies that promote their own interests.”

Back to fairness and equality – closer to home

This face tells a story – it seems the senses of this girl have been dulled by permanent shock: horrors at sea, violence, people killing each other, corpses overboard, no food or water. The Rohingya and Burmese boat people had an epic struggle with governments refusing them entry across SE Asia.

Boat people 100615 003

a young girl numbed by horror (Getty)

It was Acehnese fishermen who finally showed compassion and rescued them.  Now there is hope with the Philippines signalling they could take in migrants and (under pressure from the UN) Malaysia and Indonesia agreeing to offer shelter to 7000 refugees and migrants.  Not a lot of fairness and equality in this event but there is hope.

Fairness and equality

In late May this year, the Guardian’s front page headline stated ISIS had taken full control of Ramadi, Iraq.  Ramadi is a mere 130 kilometres from Iraq’s capital Baghdad, with direct links to both the Jordanian and Syrian borders.

Brief background – ISIS (it is suggested) was borne out of the Damascas Spring (2000-2001). After the death of his father in 2000, Assad initially released hundreds of political prisoners (November 2000) but his actions became repressive a year later with forced closure of the political forums in the country and imprisonment, followed by the assassination in 2005 of Lebanon’s Rafic Hariri, former Prime Minister of Lebanon who opposed Syria’s invasion.  Syria’s Assad was implicated.  Syria was forced to announce its full withdrawal from Lebanon on April 30, 2005. Lebanon is currently dealing with over 1 million Syrian refugees.

bashar-al-assad-426240
Bashar-al-Assad

The Arab Spring in December 2010/2011,  saw both Tunisia and Egypt’s leaders removed by popular revolution.  It spread to much of the Arab world.  Demonstrations, political unrest and social upheaval followed.  Assad is Commander and Chief of Syria’s armed forces, his regime is said to exploit ethnic and sectarian tensions to remain in power. ISS is intent on toppling the Syrian Government and Assad has cause to be afraid.

Fairness and equality

d23f50a5-1985-4778-a2ff-de1033b062dc_giant cross

the Giant Cross for protection (AP Shakil Adil May 31, 2015)

In all this madness,  a 43 metre tall cross is nearing completion in Karahi, Pakistan. Financed and built by businessman Parvex Henry Gill,  it seeks to protect the minority Christians living in fear of violence and abuse.   I am so glad I live in Australia,  an island continent in the southern hemisphere.  Australia is not fair,  nor is there equality… but there is a strong sense of place, nature and country.

Economic rationalism/globalisation whatever you wish to name the current economic system, it is not working.  It has increased inequality and as for fairness,  there is none.   The current economic system is broken,  now nothing more than dogma,  a set of principles way past their ‘use by’ date – yes globalisation has hit a wall. What now?

Author: Evelyne Lewiston © R1M  (www.research1media.com)

Sources: Guardian Weekly vol 192, No 24 dated 22.05.15  Journalists – Beh Lih Yi, Jakarta,  Kate Lamb, Langsa, Indonesia, Martin Chulow Middle East Correspondent www.theguardian.com/profile/martin-chulov Guardian Weekly vol 192, No 25 dated 04.06.15Journalists: Heather Stewart, Ann Pettifor (Prime Economics)

Apr 27

Dredging Trinity Inlet

Good news from diplomats at UNESCO who are suggesting protection of the Fitzroy delta and the veto on dredge spoil dumping in and near the Reef,  could see the “In danger” listing removed from the Great Barrier Reef’s World Heritage area.

It was 15 years ago in October 1990 that Russell Francis, then photographer for the Cairns Post, took this shot and the Mud Factory gained international press and television coverage.  Continue reading