OPINION: When will we stop violence against women

Written by admin on 27/07/2018 Categories: 南京夜网

A WOMAN is killed almost every week in Australia by a male partner or ex-partner.
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Violence against women isn’t something that happens in isolation in developing countries, and more work needs to be done to protect females locally and internationally from sexual harassment and domestic violence.

In neighbouring countries such as Kiribati, Samoa and Papua New Guinea the instance of violence against women is at near-pandemic levels, yet the statistics are also frightening in Australia.

Nearly 20per cent of women have experienced sexual violence after the age of 15.

Aboriginal women in remote and rural communities are 45 times more likely to experience rates of family violence than non-Aboriginal women.

In NSW, 19 out of the top 20 local government areas for domestic assault are rural or regional.

That’s our backyard.

For those of us who have wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, nieces and female friends, this is a dismal reality.

Last week, the Newcastle Herald reported an aggravated sexual assault on a young unsuspecting woman out jogging in Warabrook in the early evening. This is simply too close to home to ignore.

The police caution women against walking alone in the early evening as a strategy to protect them from similar attacks.

We must be careful not to shift the blame for any assault from the perpetrator to the victim.

Hopefully, the police will identify and charge the offender, however it is abhorrent to suggest this young woman put herself at risk.

Recently we have seen the widespread reporting of violence against women, prompting open conversations about how it occurs and what can be done to end it.

The outpouring of emotion for Jill Meagher, raped and murdered in Melbourne last year, is an example of a necessary shift in attitude.

This is also evident globally, in the fallout from the gang rape and subsequent death of a 23-year-old Indian woman in December last year.

There have been strong and sustained calls in India – where roughly half the female population think it’s justified for a man to beat his wife – for societal change so more women are not assaulted, harassed and mistreated based on their gender.

In order to break the cycle of domestic violence against women in our community, there needs to be a commitment to providing sustainable, effective assistance and support services to victims.

Assistance includes immediate and ongoing support for women who experience domestic violence, education programs for school children as well as adults and specialised training for police officers on how to respond to incidents of domestic violence.

Assistance costs money, and our government has supported many initiatives to help end violence against women. But the community must play a role as well.

March 8 is International Women’s Day and the global theme for 2013 is Ending Violence Against Women.

Money raised from official events will go directly to the Critical Services Initiative that funds projects in countries, including Australia, that need assistance in providing these important support services.

Attending these events is also an opportunity to learn more about the work being done all over the globe by organisations such as UN Women to bring about legislative and attitudinal change to gender equity, pay equity and domestic violence.

The Hunter’s official event is being held on March 8 at Wests Leagues Club New Lambton, and will feature guest speakers Terry Lawler and Helen Cummings.

Ms Cummings, herself a survivor of domestic violence and author of the bestselling e-book Blood Vows will share her story in a bid to make a difference.

For more information, go to www.unwomen.org.au

Belinda Smith is the chair of the Hunter Chapter of UN Women Australia

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OPINION: Reckless gambles threaten our future

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MINING has been part of this country from the ochre pits of the Aboriginals, the first coalmine at the mouth of the Hunter, the gold shafts at Hill End and on to the wealth coming from Cadia gold and copper mine, near Orange.
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It has made an enormous economic contribution to this nation.

As a specialist engineer I have spent most of my 40-year career working for major construction and mining companies on underground and open-cut mines, and in the disposal of the waste products of those mines.

I have worked, and continue to work, for most of the major mining companies and for the big construction companies in Australia and south-east Asia.

Until a few decades ago, mining in this country tended to be confined to relatively small areas.

So even if some mines had adverse impacts on land, water systems, and important environments – take the massive landslides in the Burragorang Valley and at Katoomba, the cracking of the Cataract River, and the draining of swamps on the Newnes Plateau – most impacts from these mines covered limited areas.

But with coal seam gas (CSG) extraction we are dealing with a new animal.

CSG extraction is a relatively new industry and a form of mining that covers very large areas very quickly. It has the potential to adversely affect groundwater systems over large parts of this state.

In order to extract coal seam gas, one first has to depressurise the groundwater in the coal seams and move it to the surface.

So the coal seams are, in effect, groundwater voids – the same as coalmines. But we are no longer talking about relatively localised effects. We are talking huge areas.

The enormous expansion of CSG mining has occurred in a poorly controlled manner over a very short period.

Large areas of our state will be affected by a relatively new industry where the science behind these impacts and the key hydrogeological parameters are poorly understood.

We have very little empirical information about long-term impacts from CSG operations because the industry is so young.

What we do know is that the impacts will develop over many years – and that, if the impacts are substantial, they will be almost impossible to reverse.

The current NSW government listing of exploration licences for CSG totals 189,567 square kilometres, almost 19million hectares.

To this we must add 24,000 hectares in production leases for CSG and all the coalmining areas.

Together this comprises much of our populated area, our forested wilderness, our wetlands and rivers, and our productive agricultural land.

What we do with our water matters.

Rainfall is our primary water source and is subject to huge swings.

In times of plenty, our rivers flow, our dams fill, but most importantly our groundwater systems replenish.

Huge quantities seep into the Great Artesian Basin from the recharge zone along the east coast, into the porous and fractured rocks in the Sydney-Gunnedah geological basin that extends from Sutton Forest to Narrabri, and also into the older rocks west of the divide.

Apart from feeding bores, groundwater sustains the baseflows of our creeks and rivers, and our wetland systems.

Diminish those groundwater systems and you create a tendril effect of damage that extends from an individual vegetable farmer at Picton to a complete river system in the Yarramalong Valley, or at Gloucester.

CSG mining puts our groundwater under enormous pressure.

It is simply a matter of physics, not of opinion, that this depressurisation from CSG mining will adversely affect the whole groundwater system, because like the apple that fell on Isaac Newton’s head, groundwater is controlled by gravity and flows from zones of high elevation to zones of lower potential energy.

How long will it take for the changes to our groundwater to be substantial?

We don’t know.

How extensive will they be?

We don’t know.

One thing we do know is encapsulated by Dr Richard Evans, principal hydrogeologist of Sinclair Knight Merz

‘‘There is no free lunch here – every litre of water you pump out of the ground reduces river flow by the same amount.’’

I don’t believe as a society we should just let this process run helter skelter – a process whose consequences on our environment are not yet fully understood by scientists and engineers.

And we cannot rely on what is called “adaptive management”, because if monitoring of CSG does show significant impacts on water systems, there is very little that can be done to reverse the process once the damage is done.

Wisdom demands that the whole process of CSG extraction in this state be urgently wound back.

That may allow the science to catch up with the present rapacious desire to exploit a resource.

To allow CSG mining to proceed before more is done to understand its impact is a reckless gamble with our future.

Perhaps we can learn from past lessons involving asbestos, tobacco, thalidomide and Agent Orange.

Damage may be done that cannot be repaired.

Dr Philip Pells is a civil engineer who has spent four decades in geotechnical and groundwater engineering.

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Travel flies in the face of retail gloom

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We are all familiar with the depressed level of retail spending in Australia. From fridges to fashion, and televisions to toys, the picture of the typical consumer is one of short arms and long pockets.
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But even this sobering data has been distorted. Because these broad spending trends ignore the fact that Australians have been spending on travel – in particular overseas air travel.

The bad news is that once that is accounted for, it makes the other areas that make up retail sales look even worse.

When it comes to discretionary spending we are more inclined to take a holiday overseas than buy a flat screen TV – and here is another misconception – it is not all about the strength of the Australian dollar.

That’s part of it, but not the whole story. If it was all about the currency, the outbound travel market would be strong and the inbound markets weak. Both these segments are experiencing solid growth.

So why is this demand for travel not strongly reflected in the earnings from our major airlines, Qantas and Virgin?

In the first instance we are not only using these carriers. The liberalisation of bilateral agreements between governments has allowed more international carriers into Australia.

And secondly, while our local airlines are carrying more people, they are offering discounted fares, and thus are not getting the boost in their bottom line profits. Their market share of overseas travel (and this particularly applies to Qantas) is being eroded and so are the margins.

And it’s even a bit more complicated than this. There is the domestic travel side, which includes business and leisure (or holiday) markets, and then there is the international side.

There has been massive increase in capacity in domestic travel, which is the main reason both Qantas and Virgin reported weaker earnings over the past week.

Then there is international travel, which is particularly interesting. Over the long-term the cost of overseas travel has been coming down and becoming more affordable. This is part of a structural shift in the market. Overseas travel long ago moved to the middle-class market and away from the domain of the wealthy.

If you ignore the business market (which travels because it needs to and is less sensitive to price) the factors that influence overseas travel are just the same as any other purchase decision – price and therefore value.

In the immediate aftermath of the global financial crisis the Australian dollar rapidly appreciated, making offshore travel a far better value proposition.

We are now pretty accustomed to this and despite a number of fundamental reasons, economists said it would fall, but our currency has remained stubbornly high. This might explain some of our reasons for offshore travel. But it doesn’t account for why incoming travel to Australia is also pretty strong.

A Deloitte Access Economics report shows international visitor arrivals during the second half of 2012 accelerated strongly. International arrivals were up 5.8 per cent in December and 4.6 per up on the year. And it is expecting growth to continue at this annual rate over the next three years.

What is particularly interesting about these numbers is that the geographic source of visitors is also changing. It’s no longer about Europe and the UK – growth in international passengers is coming out of Asia. The trend is backed up by financial statements from Sydney Airport, which showed strong growth in passenger numbers.

Again it’s about supply and demand combined with geopolitical change and technology.

Put simply, there are more flights coming into Australia particularly from the emerging middle class areas of Asia. So on the supply side there has been some substantial expansion, which in the past year alone has included two budget airlines entering the Australian market, Scoot out of Singapore and AsiaAir X out of Malaysia.

The existing airlines are also adding capacity (rather than flights) by using larger planes, which are also more fuel and environmentally efficient.

On top of that the Chinese and the Indians are boosting the numbers of inbound passengers. There has also been some revival in traditional markets – including the US and Japan. Outbound travel that experienced a boost when the Australian dollar started its post-GFC rise is only now showing some signs of tapering off in terms of growth rates.

We are still growing outbound travel but the double-digit growth rates have eased, according to Deloitte. Air fares are still coming down but the adrenalin hit from the exchange rate is not as potent, as we have become more accustomed to a high dollar.

Deloitte suggests that this will continue to lose momentum as they expect the currency will depreciate over time. That remains to be seen.

In the meantime, the domestic leisure market remains subdued despite the fact that increased capacity has pushed down airfares. The area of increased activity on this front is derived from visits to family and friends rather than holiday travel.

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Brethren behind the scenes

Written by admin on 29/07/2019 Categories: 南京夜网

Freemasons aims to show that there is more to the organisation than arcane rituals.IN A bold move to embrace the modern age – and a desperate bid to avoid extinction due to dwindling membership – Freemasons Victoria is breaking with a 300-year-old tradition of secrecy and humility to launch a promotional series on community network C31.
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According to host Wes Turnbull, a Freemason since the age of 19 and a regular on Melbourne radio station 3AW, even the acknowledgment of philanthropic activities goes against the organisation’s strict moral code.

”It was felt that charity that you go telling other people about is less meaningful, perhaps less sincere,” he says. ”Now, if you don’t tell people what you’re doing, not only will they not know, but they’ll possibly be a bit suspicious about what’s going on.”

In an effort to address centuries of bad to non-existent PR, the program promises to reveal throughout 26 half-hour episodes, the historical meanings of the strange symbols and bizarre rituals, and some of what goes on between the men who meet behind firmly closed doors. It should come as no surprise that this ”inside story” produced in-house focuses on the positive aspects of modern Masonry, with stories about Black Saturday fund-raisers and interviews with new members extolling the virtues of what they describe as a men’s support group. If the first episode is any indication, the myth-debunking is likely to be limited to architecture and paraphernalia, rather than the more sinister public perception of the organisation as a silent but influential force at work in government.

Grand Master Bob Jones, the self-professed ”judge and jury” of the editing suite, says a regular vox-pop segment by the membership manager of Freemasons Victoria, Lena Way, one of several women permitted to join the organisation in supporting roles, is designed to air such issues.

As an orphaned 19-year-old ”crazy ratbag” from Melbourne’s western suburbs, Jones found in the sacred men’s space the sort of anchor he believes every young man should have.

”We find that what’s bringing young men to Freemasonry now is that tradition that young people are seeking,” Jones says. ”They see a moral void in the world. Within Freemasonry, you know you’ve got good men, men who like to do things for the community.”

While membership was once attained only through personal introductions, aspiring members can now apply online – provided, of course, that they are male and believe in a supreme being. While traditionally comprised of Jewish and Christian men, Jones says the brethren have expanded to include Muslims.

On the subject of diversity of sexuality, Jones and Turnbull allude to a culture of ”don’t ask, don’t tell”, although Jones says he knows of one openly gay Freemason.

Turnbull says: ”There’s something about an organisation when men of all faiths in this day and age can come together in a lodge meeting and simply share the ideals of improving themselves and doing good for other people regardless of their religion.”

Apart from, of course, continuing to exclude women, who Turnbull insists are not missing out on the ”trivial” private aspects of Freemasonry.

”The main point of the secrets of Freemasonry is a test of integrity,” Turnbull says.

Needless to say, there will be no demonstrations of secret handshakes on the show.

”If you really want to know what the handshake is,” Jones says, ”Google it.”

Freemasons: The Inside Story starts on Monday at 8.30pm on Channel 31.

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American dreams gone with the wind

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Hopes of prosperity on the land were shattered by never-ending drought and ferocious winds that ravaged the US in the 1930s.Show of the week: The Dust Bowl, Friday, SBS One, 8.35pm
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FROM the opening frames, we know where we are. There are the sepia photographs of arresting and haunting beauty, the wistful sounds of a fiddle, the unadorned voices and the weathered faces to which they belong recounting poignant stories of endurance and tribulation.

Ken Burns (The Civil War, Baseball) is a master of long-form documentaries that have chronicled largely untold and alternative social histories of the US. He forages through archives to find photos and footage, fragments of letters and discarded mementoes to illustrate his topics. His accounts of the US’s past are grounded in meticulous research and the perspectives of common people, but what we’re most likely to take away from them are romantic visions of hope, resilience, loss and transcendence.

The Dust Bowl, the latest Burns opus to arrive on local screens, is no exception, though its underlying theme of human agency in an environmental catastrophe also makes it prophetically timely for Australian viewers today.

The four-part series, to quote the voice-over narration read by actor Peter Coyote, is ”about the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history, when the irresistible promise of easy money and the heedless actions of thousands of farmers, encouraged by their government, resulted in a collective tragedy that nearly swept away the bread basket of the nation”.

The disaster is the decade-long drought and furious dust storms of the 1930s that destroyed the Great Plains – pull out an atlas and find the region where Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma meet – the seeds of which were planted decades earlier when migrants settled in what was considered uninhabitable land.

The native Indians understood this patch of land. Despite the paucity of rain – less than 50 centimetres a year – the natural prairie grasses held moisture and could support herds of buffalo. After the Indians had been resettled into reserves, homesteaders moved in and began ploughing the land. Congress expanded the land earmarked for farming, triggering real estate syndicates, railroads and even ”fake science” reports arguing that the removal of prairie grass would allow more rain to penetrate the soil.

The great plough-up of the 1920s, as it was called, led to homesteads being turned into vast tracts of wheat fields, and the emergence of ”suitcase farmers”, ”which no longer represents the idea of homes at all, but just parts of a potential factory for the low-cost production of wheat”.

But whatever damage the various boom-and-bust cycles of wheat prices did to the farmers was mild compared with the furious dust storms – evidenced here via photos and newsreels, the very sight of which leaves one gagging for oxygen – that swept through the region in the 1930s.

The wind picked up the loose soil and moved it; the locals could tell where the dust came from by its colour.

The Dust Bowl is a cautionary tale of economic bubbles and the consequences of mankind pushing against nature, descriptions that unfairly paint it as an exercise in revisionist dogma, which it clearly isn’t.

The old-timers (not all survived the many years it took Burns to make his crafted film, we learn at the end) who share their own and their families’ experiences of living in the Great Plains here are clearly not ideologues who have been awakened by Al Gore or the Occupy Wall Street protesters.

Salt-of-the-earth farmers who represent cherished American values of self-sufficiency and resilience in the face of unimaginable hardship, their memories speak to universal traits of endurance and hope.

”If it rains” and ”things will change” was their mantra. It didn’t rain and only occasionally did things change.

We learnt slowly, we tried harder with the same things that did not work, says one of the witnesses to the drought and depression, words that resonate for farmers in another part of the world in a different era.

There is a happy ending of sorts to the series. Three-quarters of the population stayed and would eventually benefit from New Deal programs and new methods of farming.

This time around, Burns has a wealth of material to work with. As well as the survivors, there’s frontier woman Caroline Henderson, whose articles in The Atlantic Monthly are eloquent portraits of life on the plains, and the iconic photographs taken in the ’30s by Walker Evans, Russell Lee, Marion Post Wolcott and Dorothea Lange, who were hired by a government agency to demonstrate its efforts to fix the nation’s problems.

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Abbott pledge to free up unis

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OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott will pledge to reduce the regulatory burden on Australia’s universities if elected and will encourage them to push further into the provision of virtual education.
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The promises are part of a seven-point plan to be unveiled on Thursday at a higher education conference in Canberra.

Speech notes obtained ahead of the address suggest an Abbott-led Coalition government would also emphasise stability in government policy and incentives to ensure universities maintained their academic standing to protect the status of degrees obtained by students.

”First and most important, we will be a stable and consultative government … we understand that stability and certainty are important to everyone, including universities,” he will say.

”We will encourage universities and institutes to ensure that their research work is world-class, effectively delivered and well targeted.”

There will also be an emphasis on ”reducing their regulatory and compliance burden”. ”Outside officials shouldn’t be trying to micro-manage universities or bury them in reporting requirements,” he will say.

But it is in the area of online learning that Mr Abbott wants universities to move more aggressively, such as their development of the increasingly popular Massive Open Online Courses or ”MOOCs”.

MOOCs are large-scale university courses in which vast numbers of people from around the world can participate.

They usually have different assessment methods from traditional university courses but can be useful in promoting the prestige of the university offering them.

”These have obvious potential to make higher education more widely available but, equally obviously, also pose a challenge to established methods and institutions,” Mr Abbott will tell the sector.

■Foreign Minister Bob Carr has called for an overhaul of state-federal relations, saying the states should be given more power and that the Council of Australian Governments should be radically changed.

”Let’s get serious, let’s strip the COAG agenda right back,” he said. ”Let’s focus on six things. Let’s give the states something meaningful to do.”

Senator Carr’s suggestion would be a significant overhaul as COAG has more than 60 items on its agenda.

Senator Carr made similar comments when he was premier of New South Wales. They echo statements made earlier this week by another former NSW premier, Nick Greiner. Mr Greiner said COAG was ”grossly overburdened” and needed to focus on fewer issues if it wanted to achieve meaningful reform.

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Winners don’t care what they wear

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The advent of coloured outfits and the display of sponsor logos upset many cricket purists.Newspapers disregard sport at their own peril, particularly in Australia, the most “sport mad” nation in the world.
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This was the considered opinion of the respected journalist-editor and author Rohan Rivett, and he was prepared to compare reader news values in Australia against other nations.

In America, he said, crime came first, followed by sex and then sport. In Britain, the Fleet Street newspapers were expected to put sex first, followed by crime and sport. But in Australia, he believed the order was sport, then crime with sex last.

No matter that he was speaking 70 years ago as the editor of an afternoon newspaper in Adelaide – today there would be little argument that most Australians would place sport above the other two categories, and probably a few more of the “serious” ones.

Sport has been covered in the Herald since its birth in 1831, but not always with the prominence it got from 1977 when a redesign gave it a home of its own on the back of the second section of the paper. From next week, in the new weekday compact format, its stocks will go up even further when it moves to the back of the one-book production.

Today’s page includes a Test cricket photograph produced from a glass negative. It was taken in Melbourne in 1937 by Herald photographer Herbert Fishwick who, tired of taking pictures of dots in the distance, had special lenses ground for a barrel-like extension on his camera. He shot from high in the stands to remove background clutter, and the results caused a sensation in other newspapers. His emulators, with their cannon-like lenses, have become a regular sight at all big sporting events. The marks on the photograph are his suggestion for the most effective crop for publication.

Herald sport photographers down the years have won international and national awards. At least two of the photographs have reached iconic status: Russell McPhedran’s exclusive shot of a hooded terrorist during an attack on athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and John O’Gready’s picture of mud-covered opponents, Norm Provan and Arthur Summons, coming together at the end of the 1963 rugby league grand final.

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Contract spending up as state jobs go

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Despite describing it as “frivolous spending”, the NSW government has increased the amount it pays contractors at the same time that it sheds up to 15,000 public servant jobs.
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The government has increased the amount it spends on labour hire in the public sector from $468,057,260 in 2010-2011 to $492,270,285 in 2011-2012.

The Department of Transport is the biggest spending agency, having paid $100,506,398 for contract workers in the 2011-2012 financial year.

Information obtained by the Public Service Association under freedom-of-information laws shows the number of contract staff has increased from 11,976 in 2010-2011 to 15,943 in 2011-2012.

However, the number of hours worked has decreased from about 7million in 2010-2011 to 6.8million in 2011-12.

The increased spending comes at the same time the state government is shedding 15,000 public servants.

When asked in January last year about the money being spent on temporary staff, the Minister for Finance and Services, Greg Pearce, said it was “yet another display of frivolous spending under the previous Labor government with no net benefit to taxpayers”.

“The NSW government will ensure where any savings can be achieved that we actively do so to rein in the former government’s 16 years of fiscally irresponsible governance,” he said.

The general secretary of the Public Service Association, Anne Gardiner, said the union was concerned that “extravagant use of labour hire and short-term contract workers in the NSW public sector is continuing to grow”.

“At the same time the NSW government is announcing cutbacks of 15,000 public sector workers, it is engaging 16,000 contract staff each financial year,” she said.

“The NSW government is the biggest employer in the state. It is doing the wrong thing by employees, putting them out of permanent work, and the wrong thing by taxpayers, hitting them with the cost burden of expensive private sector contracts.”

Mr Pearce said the government contract figures “are remnants of the process developed under the previous Labor government”.

He said that under Labor’s scheme, firms went through a costly tender process that could take up to 18 months.

“After wading through hundreds of pages of documents, there was no guarantee of any work. Some requirements included exorbitant professional indemnity and public liability insurance costs,” he said.

The government introduced last month a new approach to hiring temporary workers that would achieve savings, he said. It would simplify contract terms and conditions. The changes would reduce professional indemnity and public liability insurance costs and open the scheme to new suppliers.

Suppliers would no longer be charged the management fee imposed under the Labor government, saving millions of dollars, he said.

However, Ms Gardiner said the new system was less transparent than the previous one.

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Mapping edges of human experience

Written by admin on 29/06/2019 Categories: 南京夜网

THERE is a moment of confrontation in Cloud Atlas when Jim Sturgess, playing the role of a 19th-century British lawyer, returns from an arduous voyage to the South Pacific to tell his pompous father-in-law (Hugo Weaving) that, having seen slavery in action, he is joining the Abolitionists.
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The older man is both furious and curdled with contempt. Nothing this young upstart does will make a blind bit of difference, he says, adding, ”You are just a drop in a limitless ocean!” Sturgess pauses. ”Yes,” he replies, ”but what is an ocean but a multitude of drops?”

This is possibly the key line in Cloud Atlas, an epic that mingles six stories ranging from the 1849 shipboard drama to an end-of-days adventure set on a devastated Earth in 2346. From one era to the next, characters struggle towards finding truths or freeing themselves from oppression.

”It is a beautiful thought,” says co-director Tom Tykwer, ”that decisions we take and actions we do have consequences. But we are not in a position to judge how big or small those consequences are, which gives our deeds more gravitas and more relevance. We have a responsibility with everything we do.”

Cloud Atlas is based on the Booker-nominated novel by David Mitchell, who adapted it with the three directors, Andy and Lana Wachowski – directors of the Matrix films – and the German director Tykwer, whose earlier films include Run, Lola, Run and Heaven. Tykwer took on the film’s more naturalistic stories: a young gay composer working for a mentor in 1936, a crusading journalist fighting plans for a nuclear reactor in 1973 and the comic story of an ageing London publisher monstered by a thuggish author in 2012. The Wachowskis handled the voyage, the 24th-century Armageddon and, playing to their strengths as sci-fi supremos, an extraordinary view of 22nd-century dystopia called Neo-Seoul, where service roles are filled by pneumatic clones.

These stories are told sequentially in the novel. The film cuts them all together. Some scenes run only for a few seconds before they shift to another place and time, the idea being that the viewer’s brain will sort out these small gems to create a vast mosaic in which, inevitably, every story echoes inside everything else.

This interweaving of character and theme is further underlined by the redeployment of the film’s starry cast – which includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving and Hugh Grant – in different guises, usually still recognisable but clearly living another life altogether. It is up to the viewer whether to treat their reappearances as evidence of the transmigration of souls, as a twist on modern genetics or merely as metaphor.

Tykwer certainly isn’t a reincarnation man, but he is sure that each of us presents something remarkable. ”I had a son born a few years ago,” he muses. ”I looked at him coming out and he looked at me and I knew there was somebody already there; I could really see a character and it was proven right: he is that character now.” He has no idea where that character was formed; perhaps it was in some parallel life, as Cloud Atlas might suggest. ”But one of the beautiful things about the novel is that you can both read it as a spiritual or secular tale,” Tykwer continues. ”It allows every perspective on it. Some actors I would ask, because it seemed appropriate, ‘Where are we now in your soul’s development?’ Other days you would say, ‘Inside your genetic string, what is your situation?’

”The movie in a way is an investigation of progress as a subject in general related to humanity,” Tykwer says. ”Is progress happening? Is it even a possibility? We are so talented and so gifted … we can build the most incredible bomb imaginable, but then in the end we can’t resist throwing it at ourselves. No other species would ever do that.”

But no other species can imagine itself, either. In that sense, the wild, tumbling fantasy of Cloud Atlas is absolutely human.

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Mussel inspiration for sticky problem

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Sticky solution … reseachers have development a surgical glue based on the mussel’s ability to grip on wet, slippery rocks.WHEN it comes to hanging on tight, the lowly mussel has few rivals in nature. Researchers have sought the secrets behind the bivalve’s steadfast grip on wet, slippery rock. Now they have used the mollusc’s tricks to develop medical applications. These include a biocompatible glue that could one day seal foetal membranes, allowing prenatal surgeons to repair birth defects without triggering dangerous premature labour.
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To hold fast beneath the surging waves, mussels secrete liquid proteins that harden into a solid, water-resistant glue. What’s easy for the animals, however, has been hard for human engineers. Not even Super Glue will stick in a fish aquarium because a layer of water forms that keeps the two surfaces from bonding. But mussels somehow elbow the water aside, Herbert Waite, a biologist at University of California, Santa Barbara, says.

Over 30 years, Waite’s team has uncovered the basis of this remarkable ability. Each of the 15 proteins that make up the molluscs’ holdfasts – thread-like structures that help attach the mussel to a hard substrate – contains an abundance of an amino acid called dihydroxyphenylalanine, or DOPA. This is particularly abundant in parts of the proteins that face out towards the hard surface. It enables liquid holdfast proteins to solidify rapidly and stick flawlessly to wet and salty surfaces.

“If I were to list the desired properties for medical adhesives, they would look exactly the same,” Phillip Messersmith, a materials scientist at Northwestern University in Illinois, says. He and his colleagues have created a synthetic, thread-like polymer called polyethylene glycol that mimics the mussel protein, and they have attached a synthetic form of DOPA to the thread’s tips.

To see if the compound worked in live animals, a veterinary surgeon collaborating with Messersmith’s team made a 2.5-centimetre incision in the carotid artery of a dog and placed four stitches along the length of that incision to hold it in place. With the stitches alone, the incision bled when the surgeon pressed it. But just 20 seconds after the mussel-based glue was applied, the artery was sealed and did not bleed.

More recently, Messersmith’s team began testing its glue on foetal membranes. For the past few decades, surgeons have begun surgically repairing birth defects such as spina bifida while a foetus is still in the uterus. But the process is risky because the surgery risks rupturing the foetal membrane prematurely, sending the mother into premature labour.

There are no good adhesives on the market for surgeons to repair such foetal-membrane tears. But in recent, unpublished experiments in rabbits, Messersmith’s team found that after a veterinary surgeon poked a 3.5-millimetre hole in the foetal membrane, the new, mussel-inspired glue readily sealed up the puncture.

ScienceNow

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Review: Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens

Written by admin on  Categories: 南京夜网

Price: $550A winner.
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THE LOW-DOWN

This is the latest addition to the Olympus range of premium prime lenses for the micro Four Thirds system cameras. It can be used on either Olympus or Panasonic cameras. The new lens is not to be confused with an older 17-millimetre f2.8 unit. The new optic is faster, sharper and has quicker autofocus. Switching between auto and manual focus can be done in-camera – in which case you get the focus-assist enlargement of the LCD image – or by sliding a clutch ring on the barrel. That way there is no enlargement of the LCD image but the smooth focus ring has stops at each end of the focus range, which is preferable to having the ring go around endlessly, as it does when the in-camera manual focus is selected.

LIKE

Optically and mechanically this lens is outstanding. There is very slight barrel distortion, which is to be expected in a 34-millimetre equivalent medium-wide angle. From f5.6 we were satisfied with the overall sharpness of the image. The compact dimensions and its lightness, combined with the superior construction materials, make this an ideal walk-around lens.

DISLIKE

It is a shame to have to trade off the lovely action you get when the manual focus is selected on the lens with the loss of the manual focus assist.

VERDICT

For anyone who has owned and loved an Olympus OM camera, this lens (and its companions in the M.Zuiko premium range) is a return to the good old days of brilliant, beautifully made prime lenses. And now we have the added benefit of lightning-fast autofocus. What more could we ask for?

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Make a note of it

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IT WASN’T until the Evernote note-taking and archiving application launched its business service in Australia at the beginning of February that Bleeding Edge realised the extent to which it had captivated the memory-challenged and/or mildly obsessive record keepers of the world.
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In the not quite five years since Russian and American entrepreneurs Stepan Pachikov and Phil Libin combined to launch a Windows beta web application in 2008, Evernote has lured about 50 million users – 800,000 of them in Australia.

Along the way it has gained versions for OS X, iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows 8 and changed the concept of the note.

The conventional idea of ”a brief record of facts, topics or thoughts” now includes mobile phone images – which, in the case of a snap of a whiteboard, for instance, may be converted to text and uploaded to one’s electronic notebook – voice memos, clips of marked sections or entire web pages, tweets and email dispatches etc.

Evernote Business formalises and extends to users the process of sharing notebooks that have been beneficial for virtual teams and knowledge sharing.

In Melbourne, frustrated by challenges of cataloguing details of damaged vehicles, a panel-beating company uploads 400 images of damaged vehicles every day for easy references and exchanges with employees, owners and insurance companies; a teacher shares a notebook with her students; a landscape architect shares plans, photos and sketches; a magazine editor runs her publishing schedule via Evernote.

Evernote is a suite of tools and services that includes Evernote Hello, which allows users to create new contacts by scanning business cards; the Skitch image-creation and annotation tool; and the Penultimate handwriting app for the iPad that syncs to Evernote.

Evernote Clearly cleans up blog posts, articles and web pages for easier reading in a browser – although it’s a good idea to check whether its judgment of ”inessential” text matches your requirements. The Evernote Web Clipper browser extension provides a simple way to capture a permanent snapshot of web pages.

There’s increasing integration of hardware devices with Evernote. The Livescribe smart pen, which synchronises handwritten notes with audio for a record of interviews, presentations and meetings, wirelessly transfers its files to Evernote.

The iHealth Labs function has a blood pressure monitor, wrist blood pressure monitor and a digital body analysis scale that uploads records to the company’s MyVitals iOS app, which integrates seamlessly with Evernote.

There’s even a clever cross-over from analog to digital note-taking via the Moleskine Evernote notebook, which works with Evernote’s Page Camera app for iOS and Android devices to capture and recognise written text and upload it to Evernote.

Having observed that many of its users store clips from foodie blogs and recipes, Evernote has a recently updated Evernote Food app for iOS and Android that allows users to record recipes, images of meals, restaurant details etc.

Perhaps the most promising aspect of Evernote is that it provides a great model for the software development industry in terms of its communication with users and response to and, in some cases, anticipation of their demands.

It has a forum for users’ questions, four blogs that include tips and guides and exchanges between designers and users. Its appointment in 2012 of former CNET journalist Rafe Needleman as ”platform advocate” enhanced its efforts considerably. His Opportunity Notes blog is worth a regular read.

Working on the ”freemium” model, Evernote offers a free, highly useful, ad-supported version, which allows users to upload 60MB of data a month. Its utility expands considerably, however, with the $US45-a-year ($43) premium version.

That increases the monthly upload limit to 1GB, allows larger notes and files, makes scanned PDFs searchable, processes images with printed or handwritten text faster, and allows iOS and Android users offline access to notebooks.

Evernote Business adds sharable business notebooks, a business library and improved sharing features including simple setting of permissions to the basic product. It costs $US11 a user a month but increases the upload limit to 2GB a month.

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Heads in the cloud

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WHEN Adobe chief executive Shantanu Narayen was in Australia a couple of weeks ago he was asked at a press conference why his products cost so much more here than they do in the US. As one pesky journalist pointed out, you can fly to the US, buy the Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection, have a nice time and fly back to Oz and still save hundreds of dollars.
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Like a good capitalist, Narayen simply refused to answer. He kept referring to a recent drop in the price of Adobe’s cloud subscription service. Every attempt to get him to reply to the specific question about the disparity in software prices was sidestepped or ignored. It would be nice to think the parliamentary inquiry into software pricing by Adobe, Microsoft and Apple will result in some changes.

Flying pigs, anyone?

Photoshop 6 is so expensive here that only professionals and well-heeled amateurs can afford the latest version. Presumably that is a large enough customer base to keep Narayen happy, but it leaves a lot of photographers discontented with their ancient versions of the industry-standard photo-editing tool.

Although we’re reluctant to put business Adobe’s way while it sticks with its present pricing policies, we know there is no point in cutting off the nose to spite the face. There is an alternative to the ruinously expensive Photoshop – the $185 Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4. We still pay a whopping 50 per cent more than Americans, but the difference between $120 and $185 won’t buy a return plane ticket to the US.

Lightroom is a file-management system and photo editor and, as such, demands a rethink of how we import photos and store them. The process with this program is incredibly complex and you won’t work it out without help.

Similarly, the Print module in Lightroom is excellent but not intuitive. A guide is needed, so it is advisable to risk a few more dollars for Scott Kelby’s book The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book for Digital Photographers (paper, e-book or PDF). Mr K has a juvenile style but he knows the application and is a good guide through its intricacies.

The web module is a straightforward web-gallery creator and file-transfer set-up that is easy to use, and we like it and use it. The downside is that the gallery templates are not exciting and you can’t use the animated Flash-enabled ones if you want people to see your gallery on an iPad.

Because Lightroom is, at its core, a RAW converter, the company sends out regular online updates to cover the newest cameras.

All in all, we would rate Adobe Photoshop Lightroom as great value for money and it almost makes Photoshop itself redundant. Pity it doesn’t cost $60 less.

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