• 21 FEB 14

    Electricity privatisation in Australia: A record of failure

    Press release from the New South Wales Electrical Trade Union (ETU):

    New report lays bare electricity privatisation’s “record of failure”

    Posted on 20-2-2014

    Prominent Australian economist Professor John Quiggin has launched a scathing attack on energy sector privatisation, concluding that it has failed to deliver promised benefits for consumers. Professor Quiggin examined 20 years of pro-privatisation reform in his report, “Electricity Privatisation in Australia: A Record of Failure”, which included a detailed economic examination of the outcomes of power sales in Victoria and South Australia.His research has revealed that many of the claimed benefits of privatisation have not been supported, with key findings including:

    * price rises have been highest in States with privatised electricity networks;
    * customer dissatisfaction jumped, with complaints to the energy ombudsman in privatised States leaping from 500 to over 50,000 per annum;
    * resources have been diverted away from operational functions to management and marketing, resulting in higher costs and poorer service;
    * reliability has declined across a wide range of measures in Victoria;
    * promised increases to investment efficiency have not occurred;
    * real labour productivity has reduced as employment and training of tradespeople was gutted and numbers of managerial and sales staff exploded;
    * private owners are receiving unjustifiably high rates of return based on the low investment risk; and
    * consumers in privatised states bear the cost of approximately 10 per cent per annum interest on private owners’ debt, compared to substantially lower government borrowing
    costs of three per cent.


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    • 11 FEB 14

    Conference: A Matter of Design. Making Society through Science and Technology

    A very interesting conference on the societal impacts of new technologies. Note mention of the Internet of Things which encompasses smart grids and smart meters. The huge controversy over heath impacts of wireless technology should be an essential topic for discussion at this meeting but deadline for submissions is 15 Feb. I see in the link provided mention is made of the need “for the identification of potential consequences of future developments.”
    Well worth keeping track of this conference, especially Sheila Jasanoff’s presentation…..

    Emerging ICT and Citizens’ Values: Anticipating and Responding to Challenges

    In this session, we consider the relationship between citizens’ values and emerging information and communication technologies (ICT). In particular, we consider how we can anticipate problems and proactively design social, technical and regulatory responses to them. Technologies such as wearable sensors, internet of things, social media, bio-banking and autonomous systems present several moments of design. The values that are intentionally and unintentionally ‘designed in’ to technologies achieve greater longevity and reach. As our lives are increasingly mediated by digital artefacts – to the extent that we live in a digital society and experience a digital culture – certain values, such as openness, can be amplified at the expense of others, such as privacy. Those technologies that achieve massive proliferation and normalisation profoundly affect the experience of contemporary life, for example by exaggerating our capacity to measure and remember events and adjusting the norms of our relationships with others over time and space. This capacity to transform the way we live, often in unpredictable ways, has been met with both delight and caution.

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    • 01 FEB 14

    The Baffling Brain Disorder That Now Plagues 1 in 10

    From Dr. Mercola’s website

    The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum


    When I was in medical school, more than 30 years ago, the incidence of autism was one in 100,000. Today, the incidence has climbed to 1 in 50, according to CDC statistics. This is a startling increase from 2008 data,2 which showed one in 88 children had the condition. Some experts believe that if you consider the full range of neurological disorders that could fall under the wider umbrella of “Autism Spectrum Disorder,” the incidence may be as high as one in 10! The video above features Dr. Temple Grandin, author of The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum. In it, she discusses the transformation that has occurred since autism first became recognized. Originally, the study of autism was primarily confined to the fields of psychology, and then genetics. Today, much of the research has moved into neurology, and Dr. Grandin shares some of the more exciting discoveries, including the use of neuroimaging. This echoes the comments of Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist specializing in the use of SPECT imaging, which can be of profound use when trying to diagnose a wide variety of neurological disorders, whom I previously interviewed. For example, Dr. Amen’s work shows that most cases of depression and anxiety are really symptoms of underlying brain dysfunction, commonly caused by toxic exposures, and/or a combination of poor lifestyle habits such as a poor diet and lack of exercise.


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    • 31 JAN 14

    Will corporations gain the right to control what we all see on the Internet?

    From AVAAZ on Internet freedom . Get it back or lose it!

    The US and the EU are on the verge of giving rich corporations the right to control what we all see on the Internet. But free speech advocates and web companies are fighting back. The richest 1% could now control what we all see on the Internet forever. It’s the apocalypse of the Internet as we know it, and will erase the democratic promise of an information highway for everyone the founders of the world wide web imagined.

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    • 22 JAN 14

    Are you opposed to fracking? Then you might just be a terrorist

    From North America to Europe, the ‘national security’ apparatus is being bought off by Big Oil to rout peaceful activism


    Over the last year, a mass of shocking evidence has emerged on the close ties between Western government spy agencies and giant energy companies, and their mutual interests in criminalising anti-fracking activists.
    Activists tarred with the same brush

    In late 2013, official documents obtained under freedom of information showed that Canada’s domestic spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), had ramped up its surveillance of activists opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline project on ‘national security’ grounds. The CSIS also routinely passed information about such groups to the project’s corporate architect, Calgary-based energy company, Enbridge.

    The Northern Gateway is an $8 billion project to transport oil from the Alberta tar sands to the British Columbia coast, where it can be shipped to global markets. According to the documents a Canadian federal agency, the National Energy Board, worked with CSIS and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to coordinate with Enbridge, TransCanada, and other energy corporations in gathering intelligence on anti-fracking activists – despite senior police privately admitting they “could not detect a direct or specific criminal threat.”

    Now it has emerged that former cabinet minister Chuck Strahl – the man appointed by Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper to head up the CSIS’ civilian oversight panel, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) – has been lobbying for Enbridge since 2011.

    But that’s not all. According to CBC News, only one member of Strahl’s spy watchdog committee “has no ties to either the current government or the oil industry.” For instance, SIRC member Denis Losier sits on the board of directors of Enbridge-subsidiary, Enbridge NB, while Yves Fortier, is a former board member of TransCanada, the company behind the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.


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    • 21 JAN 14

    World’s richest threaten democracy says Oxfam

    From SBS Australia:

    The world’s elite have rigged laws in their own favour undermining democracy and creating a chasm of inequality across the globe, charity Oxfam said in advance of the annual get-together of the world’s most powerful at Davos. Inequality has run so out of control, that the 85 richest people on the planet “own the wealth of half the world’s population,” Oxfam said in an introduction to a new report on widening disparities between the rich and poor. The report exposes the “pernicious impact” of growing inequality that helps “the richest undermine democratic processes and drive policies that promote their interests at the expense of everyone else”, the statement said. Inequality has recently emerged as a major concern in countries around the world, with US President Obama prioritising a push to narrow the wealth gap in his second term. In China, the new government there has cracked down on the elite perks and privileges and Germany seems set to adopt a minimum wage.

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    • 14 JAN 14

    Silence of the Labs by the Fifth Estate

    From Robert Reidlinger

    Silence of the Labs


    Science and Scientists decimated by a transformation in political priorities, obliteratingn yers of talent and experience.

    This is the story of the bitter conflict between ideology and knowledge. What can happen when factual discoveries raise inconvenient questions for politicioans. It is a conflict that has transformed environmental law in Canada and shaken the foundations of public institutions and has damaged the reputation of Canade amongst scientists and scholars around the world.


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    • 09 JAN 14

    Further to last message re. conflict of interest at the ACCC

    An expanded pdf version of the last message has been added to my website. the url is: http://www.emfacts.com/download/ACCC_conflict_of_interest_.pdf

    Title: Conflict of interest in the ACCC and its possible affect on Tasmania’s energy future


    The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is the independent Commonwealth statutory authority whose role is to enforce the Competition and Consumer Act of 2010 and a range of additional legislation, promoting competition, fair trading and regulating national infrastructure for the benefit of all Australians. The ACCC is closely allied with the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), Australia’s national energy market regulator with the AER’s staff, resources and facilities are provided by the ACCC. Besides recently recommending the privatization of Australia Post, Rod Sims, chairman of the ACCC has recommended the sell-off of all state-owned energy companies. As for the justification of a wide ranging government sale of assets Sims claimed it “ensures productivity and the greatest benefit”.

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    • 08 JAN 14

    A potential conflict of interest at the ACCC?


    January 8, 2014

    ACCC Chairman recommends that Australia sell off its government owned assets – including energy

    The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is an independent Commonwealth statutory authority whose role is to enforce the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and a range of additional legislation, promoting competition, fair trading and regulating national infrastructure for the benefit of all Australians. The ACCC is closely allied with the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), Australia’s national energy market regulator with the AER’s staff, resources and facilities are provided by the ACCC. Besides recommending the privatization of Australia Post, Rod Sims, chairman of the ACCC is also pushing for the sell-off of all state-owned energy companies. As for the justification of a wide ranging government sale of assets Sims claims it “ensures productivity and the greatest benefit”. Greatest benefit to whom I wonder?


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    • 06 JAN 14

    CES 2014: Consumer electronics show to feature ‘Internet of things’

    The so-called Internet of things, in which even the most mundane devices can communicate with a PC, tablet or smartphone, is the next trend.

    By Chris O’Brien

    January 4, 2014, 6:56 p.m.

    To glimpse the future of consumer electronics, get a grip on the world’s first Internet-connected tennis racket. With tiny sensors embedded in the handle, the racket measures a player’s strokes, topspin and just about everything else that happens when the ball is struck. All that information is instantly relayed via a wireless Bluetooth connection to a smartphone app. The player can later view and analyze it on the Web. “It’s going to be a huge change for the tennis player,” said Thomas Otton, director of communications for Babolat, the French tennis company that invented the original cow-gut racket strings 140 years ago. “They are going to have access to all kinds of information and data that will help them progress much faster and have more fun. It’s a true revolution.”

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    • 05 JAN 14

    Google’s latest loony idea: A global WiFi balloon network.

    From The Australian Business section, January 3, 2014, page 1

    Google looks to tap Australian telcos for its global balloon WiFi revolution

    The Australian
    January 03, 2014 12:00AM


    TELSTRA is among a group of telcos that have held high-level talks with Google about working together on a revolutionary project to beam wireless internet signals from stratospheric balloons into hard-to-reach and underserved rural and regional areas. Called Project Loon, the ambitious plan uses high-altitude balloons equipped with antennas to beam WiFi signals capable of delivering 3G-like internet speeds to homes and businesses down below. Tests of Project Loon are under way in New Zealand and will be extended to Tasmania by mid-year, but the internet giant needs regulatory approvals and help from local telecommunication companies to get the project off the ground.


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    • 15 DEC 13

    A really dumb smart idea: 4G Smart Trench Coat Tells You When It’s Raining

    Progress in technical fields has been enormous and we’ve come to rely on it in our day-to-day lives, so much so that we apparently need technology to tell us it’s raining outside. Techies have developed a coat that comes laden with a built-in 4G data connection, smart phone charger and a weather app that tells us it’s raining outside.

    The folks at Motiif have designed this sleek, waterproof coat and advertised it as the “Smart Trench Coat”. They call the complex coat simply, “M.”

    The data connection to the coat will come through Karma’s pay-as-you-go network. It comes with 1GB of free data per month for the first three months. But after three months, your coat will require a $14 monthly subscription to keep giving you 1GB of data. (For the really dumb consumer it even comes with a weather app that tells the wearer when it’s raining !)

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    • 07 DEC 13

    Scientists pledge to boycott Elsevier

    ISIS – Institute of Science in Society

    5th December 2013

    Following the retraction of the Seralini et al scientific paper which found health damage to rats fed on GM corn, over 100 scientists have pledged in this Open Letter to boycott Elsevier, publisher of the Journal responsible.

    To: Wallace Hayes, Editor in Chief, Food and Chemical Toxicology; Elsevier

    Re: “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize”, by G E Séralini et al, published in Food and Chemical Toxicology 2012, 50(11), 4221-31.

    Your decision to retract the paper is in clear violation of the international ethical norms as laid down by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), of which FCT is a member. According to COPE, the only grounds for retraction are clear evidence that the findings are unreliable due to misconduct or honest error,plagiarism or redundant publication, or unethical research.

    You have already acknowledged that the paper of Séralini et al (2012) contains none of those faults.

    This arbitrary, groundless retraction of a published, thoroughly peer-reviewed paper is without precedent in the history of scientific publishing, and raises grave concerns over the integrity and impartiality of science. These concerns are heightened by a sequence of events surrounding the retraction:

    * the appointment of ex-Monsanto employee Richard Goodman to the newly created post of associate editor for biotechnology at FCT
    * the retraction of another study finding potentially harmful effects from GMOs (which almost immediately appeared in another journal)
    * the failure to retract a paper published by Monsanto scientists in the same journal in 2004, for which a gross error has been identified.

    The retraction is erasing from the public record results that are potentially of very great importance for public health. It is censorship of scientific research, knowledge, and understanding, an abuse of science striking at the very heart of science and democracy, and science for the public good.

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    • 05 DEC 13

    Australia vs Big Tobacco: The Trans-Pacific Partnership

    From Oliver MacColl – Avaaz.org

    Dear friends across Australia,

    Australia has the strongest anti-smoking laws in the world. They’re so successful that other countries want to do the same. But Big Tobacco isn’t happy about this — and the Australian government is about to agree to a deal that lets them trample all over us whenever they want.

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a US-driven trade pact that that could let companies sue us to get rid of whichever of our hard-fought protections they don’t like. The whole deal is being negotiated in secret, and this weekend Trade Minister Robb is set to agree to rules none of us had a say in.

    But opposition is building in Australia and other countries. The ALP and The Greens have just joined together to demand transparency. Abbott’s team is on the ropes from the Indonesian spying scandal, let’s use this crucial opportunity to stall the talks and stand up for our health…


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    • 11 JUN 13

    What does an electronic countermeasures (ECM) backpack look like?

    In response to the Channel 10 News report (last two messages) the Australian military has requested that Channel 10 refrain from focussing on individual systems, meaning the EMC backpacks. To quote in part:

    “For operational security reasons, defence cannot provide details on the configuration, operation or employment of these systems. This approach limits our adversaries’ ability to access information which may enhance their efforts to attack our personnel. Similarly, Defense will not provide focused imagery of these essential items because to do so may assist our adversary to defeat the protection they offer. For this reason we ask that Channel 10 does not specifically focus on the employment of individual systems.”

    However Sam Milham, risking violating someone’s official secrets act and upsetting the NSA, has sent in a link to such an item, manufactured by a firm in India.

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    • 11 JUN 13

    Channel 10 news on the military ECM cancer issue (last message)

    Further to the last message, to view the Channel 10 News story on the Australian soldier who died of cancer (last message) go to the website and scroll through the video menu for: “Combat cancer?” and the predictable “Defence statement on cancer” http://ten.com.au/news.htm

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    • 10 JUN 13

    Did Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) kill Australian soldier Kevin Dillion?

    Just aired tonight on Australian Channel 10 News is a breaking story of Australian soldier Kevin DIllon who died in his late 20’s from cancer. The story did not elaborate on what type of cancer but his family believes it was caused by the high power electronic counter measures (ECM) backpack that he carried on patrol in Afghanistan.The Australian Medical Association and Rear Admiral Robyn Walker has publicly indicated they are willing to look into this.

    An important case but watch the spin merchants try to cover this one up. Like what they did with the unfortunate civilian workers who were zapped doing a radar upgrade of the PC3 Hawker de Haviland Orions at the RAAF base in South Australia in the late 1990’s. But that’s another story…..

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    • 29 MAY 13

    The Impact Of Screen Media On Children: A Eurovision For Parliament

    by Dr Aric Sigman
    Health Education Lecturer, Fellow of the Society of Biology, Associate Fellow of the British
    Psychological Society.

    The EU discusses many aspects of its citizens’ lives. Yet the main waking activity of Europeans – watching screen media – has never been thought of as an issue requiring parliamentary consideration. Over the course of childhood, children spend more time watching TV than they do in school (Zimmerman et al 2007a). The average seven-year-old will have already watched screen media for more than one full year of 24-hour days. By age 18 the average European young person will have spent a full 4 years of 24-hour days in front of a screen. But screen time is no longer merely a cultural issue about how children spend their leisure time. Screen time has now become a medical issue. Research published in the world’s most reputable medical and scientific journals shows that the sheer amount of time children spend watching TV, DVDs, computers and the internet is linked with significant measurable biological changes in their bodies and brains that may have significant medical consequences.Given that children undergoing key stages of development are spending increasingly large parts of their lives watching screen media, the EU must take a serious interest and establish a view on the matter. The following will provide the reasons why.

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    • 26 MAY 13

    Neurosurgeon Vini Khurana on brain tumour incidence

    Statement from Australian neurosurgeon Gautam (Vini) Khurana:

    “I believe that in the present decade, a significant increase in primary brain tumor incidence will be detected internationally. The first indication of this phenomenon may be the plethora of high-profile individuals diagnosed with primary brain tumors in the last few to several years: Senator Ted Kennedy, professional golfer Seve Ballesteros, Cable television host Eleanor Mondale, director and producer Dan Curtis, broadcaster Stan Zemanek, high profile attorney Johnnie Cochran, celebrated pilot Dennis E. Fitch, inventor Robert Moog, political pundit Robert Novak, US Senator Arlen Specter, renowned cancer surgeon Professor Chris O’Brien, baseball pro Gary Carter, journalist David Shaw, Stock broker Rene Rivkin, actress Elizabeth Taylor, actor Mark Ruffalo, actor and musician Martin Kemp, singer Sheryl Crow, rock star Doc Neeson, corporate leader Holly Ann Norwick (partner of Chris Gardner, who was played by Will Smith in film The Pursuit of Happyness), actor / model Rona Newton-John (sister of singer and Grease star Olivia Newton-John), actress Valerie Harper (star of the Mary Tyler Moore Show),…

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    • 18 MAY 13

    Interesting and new and innovative science with plants

    A group of 5 girls have carried out a science experiment at Hjallerup School in North Jutland, Denmark that saw garden cress seeds placed in 12 tubs and split into two batches. Both batches were placed in different rooms that remained the same temperature, and were given the same amount of water and sunlight over the course of 12 days. …. The girls’ experiment was geared towards testing the potential impact of phone radiation on surrounding objects. They didn’t have phones to use though, so decided the routers were a good alternative.

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