Doctor and activist


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Category: Accountability

Climate Change- a Depressing Update

23 November 2023

In Australia the Labor government struggles mightily to get legislation through to allow Woodside to pipe carbon dioxide to East Timor’s territorial waters for supposed CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) to allow them to develop a new gas field. East Timor is not a signatory to the Paris Accord- convenient eh?  Supposedly the carbon dioxide will be pumped into a reservoir that used to have gas, but Woodside has a track record of not meeting its CCS targets; if you think CCS is a real thing and not a cop-out farce.

 

Evidence suggests that the world is on target for a 3 degrees temperature rise, which may make human life unsustainable in its present form.  Petrostates are installing lights at beaches so that people can go for a night swim to cool off because it is too hot in the daytime!

 

The graphs below show world energy consumption tripling since 2000 and continuing that upward trajectory.  If one considers that the production of energy by a human is about a kilowatt a day, one realises that the amount of energy consumed now per person is many times that, and far higher in developed countries, the situation is unsustainable. The invention of the steam engine in 1690 and the internal combustion engine in 1872 and the use of fossil fuels, which has resulted in the energy and carbon dioxide stored as carbon over tens of thousands of years being released in a century.  It is ridiculous to think that reforestation can capture this amount of carbon as the total area of forests in the world is still declining.

 

COP28 (the 28th Conference of the Parties) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), will start on 30 November in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), chaired by Sultan Al Jaber, the CEO of the UAE state oil company ADNOC. How much good is this likely to do?

 

COP-out: Why the petrostate-hosted climate talkfest will fail

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Myanmar- some hope in Rebel Victories.

23 November 2023

Three groups in northern Myanmar have joined together in Operation 1027,  after the day they launched their offensive (27 October). They have been very successful against the hated military dictatorship.  The question is whether this will be the beginning of the end for the junta, who have been helped a great deal by the Chinese, presumably for economic concessions.  But the Chinese may not be happy with the regime, as it has tolerated a ‘scam industry’ near the Chinese border, and it may also be that the Chinese are not sure that the junta have enough control of the country to allow a rail line to be built to a port on the Myanmar coast, which the Chinese want to use to export via the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean without needing to go around the Malay peninsula.

 

It is speculated that the Chinese have given tacit support to the rebels, and if this is the case the junta will have more trouble.

 

I visited Myanmar in 2017 when Aung San Suu Kyi was theoretically in power, but with the unpopular military junta still really in control. (There are a number of posts on my website, chesterfieldevans.com if you search ‘Myanmar’).

 

There was a coup in 2021 and Aung Sang Su Kyi was forced from her figurehead power and charged with treason because she had a few walkie talkies to talk to her staff, which were made ‘illegal’ because the junta could not eavesdrop on them.  There was some  resistance to the coup and unarmed people were shot, but it has led to more organised resistance.

 

Myanmar is a very divided country so there are different ethnic groups and armies resisting with varying success in different parts of the country. Not much news of this has been  in the mainstream media here, until this rebel success.  The military are universally feared and hated, which was evident even to the most casual tourist. They are not done yet, but if they lose Chinese support and the people believe that they can be overthrown, they will be.

 

https://thediplomat.com/2023/10/operation-1027-a-turning-point-for-myanmars-resistance-struggle/

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Israel is Developing East Mediterranean Gas fields without Palestinian ownership

18 November 2023

One of the interesting stories that has had little attention is that Israel is developing a major new gas field in the Eastern Mediterranean and selling the gas to Egypt.  Naturally, this is off the coast of Gaza, but as Gaza is technically part of Israel and Palestine still does not technically exist as a country, it is not sharing the wealth with the Palestinians.

There have been demonstrations in Jordan, but the Western media has not even mentioned the gas field as far as I have seen.

www.newarab.com/analysis/palestinians-denied-drilling-rights-mediterranean-gas-fields?fbclid=IwAR28q511gNLgvm02ScTZcMRlRNH3eciM2BS7_ProcX8b7sKdUMQ1vm4aGM8

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FB Post to School Students 4 Climate

17 November 2023

School students had a strike today and marched to Tanya Plibersek’s office to demand more action on climate.  I posted this to their Facebook page ‘School Students 4 Climate’

I note your slogan ‘Take back the power’. This is good and very important.. While 2 political parties can both be bought by vested interests we will never have the power. The Swiss constitution has citizens able to get a petition and overturn any government decision at quarterly referenda. They have 3 levels of government like us, but any level can be overturned. Politicians are part-time and limited to 2 terms so they cannot climb at party hierarchy, and they keep their original jobs while they are in Parliament and go back to them when their term expires. They also have a number of political parties so the government never has an absolute majority and has to debate and negotiate over every bill. The Swiss model was suggested in 1898, but Aust. went with the US/UK model. The Swiss model gives power to the people. We should work towards it as a better model. When Winston Churchill wrote the German constitution after WW2 he made certain that no single political party could ever have an absolute majority. Look at how polarised the US and UK are and we are going the same way. We must get power back to the people, not the political parties. To get the power back we need a change to the Australian Constitution. It is a long-term project. Can the schoolkids do it?

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Loneliness is a Major Public Health Issue

17 November 2023

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared that loneliness is a major public health issue.  The COVID isolation worsened the situation, but at least drew attention to it.  Declining family size, the stress on the individual, and the ability to live alone have worsened the long-term trend to loneliness.

The Japanese have recognised this for some time, but have not mastered the problem.  In Australia it seems only to get attention when some old person is discovered dead for months when the smell emanates from their flat or their electricity is cut off.  In the younger age groups, suicide may be the first  and last sign.

From a medical point of view, I have quite a lot of patients that have long-term painful problems that cannot be resolved and render  them unable to work.  They are often financially embarrassed also, a fact that they often try to hide.  They are recognised as depressed but people are reluctant to acknowledge that medications do not help much.  This week I had a patient who asked if the insurer would pay for a companion dog, as he could not really afford to feed it.  We discussed dog sources and sizes.  My guess is that workers compensation insurers will be willing to pay for tablets that don’t work as they are a ‘medical expense’, but not a little dog that may be a more practical solution.

An article in the Guardian surprised me that loneliness is a bigger problem in Africa than in Western countries.  I had assumed that the strong family ties and interdependency would make it a worse problem in Western rather than African societies.

What is needed is governments to recognise that there is a value in the relationships between people.  It used to be called ‘social capital’, but the term seems to have fallen out of favour. We could encourage ‘Meet Your  Neighbour Day’, street Christmas parties and other activities that encourage interpersonal contact beyond the social media apps.  Both civic and domestic architecture could give more thought to encouraging human to human contact.

www.theguardian.com/global-development/2023/nov/16/who-declares-loneliness-a-global-public-health-concern

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A Legal Test Case on Freedom of Speech

10 November 2023

 

Freedom of speech is much-praised, but with the rise of social media, which allows unusual or non-mainstream opinion holders to meet and amplify their voices, there have been discussions of the need for censorship of opinions likely to be detrimental to society as a whole.

 

This censorship voice was amplified by some significant events:

 

The FBI alleges that the Russians interfered in the 2016 US election via social media to sabotage Hilary Clinton and helped Donald Trump to win.

 

The myth that the 2020 US election was stolen and that Trump won was perpetuated by some, even by Fox News, which was scared of losing its audience (and the ad revenue it derived from them) if it did not give credence to the theory. This helped the assault on the Capitol, which made the US look like a tin-pot dictatorship.

 

The COVID epidemic, which initially had no cure, led to a number of conspiracy theories, largely spread by social media which significantly reduced acceptance of the vaccines, particularly in the USA.

 

This has led to calls for social media to be responsible for the posts that they transmit.  Algorithms were devised to shut down certain opinions and there are groups tasked to do this.  One such group is Newsguard, which tried to stop articles on Ukraine from a left-oriented alternative news site, Consortium News. If a news organisation is classified as fake news, its credibility is undermined and it is not transmitted by media platforms. Its circulation and revenue suffers accordingly.

 

Consortium News is small and its chief editor is a very experienced ex-Wall St News journalist, Joe Lauria. They sued Newsguard for defamation, then discovered that Newsguard had a contract with the US government to shut down sites that were not conducive to its interest. Effectively the US government had a privatised censorship agent working for it.

 

Ironically it is the US Democrats who are mainly in favour of censorship, largely because of the events described above, whereas the right-wing Republicans are more for freedom of speech, never mind the consequences.  So most of the support for the left-wing Consortium News is coming from the right-wing Republicans.  There is quite a lot of interest in the case, as it will determine how censorship is done.

 

It might be noted that Newsguard also put a warning label on Wikileaks.

 

Consortium News Sues NewsGuard, US Government For Alleged Defamation

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Is Expulsion of the Palestinians the Israeli End-Game?

10 November 2023

 

It has been said that Israel has no long-term strategy to deal with the Palestinians within Israel. But Netanyahu had spoken about a ‘regional solution’.  The ‘Two State’ solution, where Palestinians were given the West Bank, has been systematically undermined by Israel, which has been settling Jews in a strategic pattern on land that was largely Palestinian occupied for many years. (The Palestinians were not said to own it because all land title prior to the declaration of Israel in 1948 was declared null and void. But in all reasonable assessments they should own the land that they had occupied).

 

Gaza has been termed a prison.  With every aspect of its life determined by Israel including trade, and with a very high unemployment rate this was not an unfair description. Now that it is a flattened and uninhabitable mess, is it not possible that Israel wants to push the Palestinians into the Sinai desert, give the whole problem to the UN as a refugee issue, then offer to buy some land and resettle the Palestinians?  There was not much going for Gaza before and there will be less now. Israel is already an international pariah, so what does it have to lose? It is likely to be easier to manage a hostile external force than a hostile internal one.  If the Palestinians find jobs and make lives in Egypt all these things may be forgotten in a generation or two?

 

Here is evidence for the proposition that Israel simply wants to expel the Palestinians:

 

New Document Leak on Plan to Expel Gaza Population

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The Hamas Perspective on the 7 October attack on Israel

10 November 2023

Terrorism is a word that is often ill-defined.  To call someone a terrorist is to assume that they are sub-human, cannot be negotiated with and must be destroyed at all costs or by all methods.

 

It is forgotten that the US is credited with inventing guerilla warfare during their war of independence aka revolution against Britain. It is also forgotten that when large numbers of Jews wanted to return to Palestine after WW2 the Irgun, their militant group, placed a terrorist bomb in the King David Hotel, the military and civil headquarters of the British Mandate in Jerusalem in 1946.  The war-weary British allowed increasing numbers of Jewish refugees into Palestine, and Ben Gurion declared the State of Israel  in 1948.

 

Terrorism is the use of violent action to achieve a political result.  It is a tactic usually deployed by the weaker side, as they cannot win a military or political struggle.  It naturally strikes fear into the civilian population as they recognise that any one of them could be a random victim; hence the emotive force of the word ‘terrorist’.

 

But those who use terrorism usually do so in a calculated way, and if progress is to be made in resolving the issue, there must be rational calculation in the response to it and dialogue if possible.  An emotive or irrational response is likely to worsen the situation, and Israel’s carpet bombing of Gaza would have to be in this category.  Unless all Palestinians can be removed from Israel, there is likely to be strife  in Israel as long as the Palestinains survive, and if they are removed from Israel, there will be a nidus of hate outside Israel.

 

Here is the Hamas perspective which needs a response:

https://fb.watch/odoTimrgOg/

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Burma/Myanmar Sportswashing

9 November 2023

I visited Myanmar (Burma) in December 2017.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace prize winning daughter of the founder of modern Burma, who was immensely popular with the people had been elected in a landslide in 2015. She and her party had boycotted the 2010 elections as farcical, but the military dictatorship had allowed her to stand in 2015, where she had won with 86% of the parliamentary seats.

Despite this win, the military junta still refused to yield power and kept the critical portfolios in the Cabinet, so she was nominally in charge and trying to change the system but her hands were largely tied. It was hard to get anyone to talk about politics, and few spoke English, but I had enough contacts to let me in on the situation.

It was a third world country trying to develop tourism. It had some relatively modern tourist buses but few hotels of a reasonable standard. (This did not bother me as a lifetime backpacker). Most cars were old, but there were a significant number of modern ones. The only feature of these was that they were right hand drive in a country that drives on the right, so the drivers were on the wrong side when it came to overtaking. It was because Japan had made a number of recent model second hand cars available and these had been snapped up.

Yangon, the biggest city and historical capital had a building that should have been the Parliament and it was in quite good condition but mothballed and currently not used for anything. The city was third world, crowded and prone to blackouts, so many buildings had diesel generators in the street outside, which were turned on when the blackouts came, making pretty bad pollution worse.

The people were friendly and courteous, and keen to develop the new tourism industry that had opened up under the same pressure on the military government that had led to the elections. There was a palpable tension between the population and the military, who moved around with surly expressions as if they knew that they were hated, but were not going to give ground.

This was very evident in Mandalay, the second largest city, which has an old palace in a large fortified area, complete with a moat. The military have taken control of all but the central palace with signs forbidding anyone walking in the extensive (neglected) gardens. They have a large depot within the grounds and a surly military guard post at the gate that inspects passports.

The other major expression of this separateness was in Naypyidaw, the capital. This city was recently built with Chinese money and is in the mountains about 3 hours drive from Yangon, presumably to make it less vulnerable to possible revolution. It is very modern with 8 lane highways with absolutely minimal traffic. The foreigners were in a cluster of large modern hotels, again Chinese-built. The hotels were remarkably cheap for their standard, but I noted that at 9pm there were almost no lights on in any of the rooms and there were only about 20 people for breakfast in our large international-standard hotel. The foreign hotel area was a bus ride from where the people lived, and that was not a large area. The National library was a modern air-conditioned building, not partially large. We were about the only people in it apart from the staff. It was on a bus route, but nowhere near any population centre.

Four years later, in February 2021, there was a military coup and Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested on a number of charges related to national security. She has been in prison ever since on charges that the western countries have called politically motivated. It seems that her major crime was to use a two-way radio phone network that was not accessible to the military junta. Her economic advisor, Australian Professor Sean Turnell was also tried without an interpreter and gaoled. He was released in November 2022 after 21 months in detention and representations from the Australian government. There was some resistance to the coup and some people were killed. Resistance is ongoing and almost certainly widely supported, but it has had minimal publicity in the western or Australian media since Prof Turnell’s release.

The reason for this post is that a soccer team from Myanmar with strong junta connections is to play Macarthur FC in Sydney shortly. This looks like a sportswashing exercise to legitimise the government and lessen its isolation.

I suggest that you write to Penny Wong and ask that they not be given visas www.pennywong.com.au/contact/, and to Macarthur FC and ask that they not play them, email: admin@macarthurfc.com.au. Here is the request from the Australian Coalition for Democracy in Burma:

https://scontent.fsyd3-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t1.15752-9/384547058_856337555857136_1438592052866809960_n.jpg?_nc_cat=106&ccb=1-7&_nc_sid=8cd0a2&_nc_ohc=d416jFlBrW8AX8aY4cQ&_nc_ht=scontent.fsyd3-1.fna&oh=03_AdQLV1CGyViy42LJ37Vj04hsMufoe42jxyxxt5uM6PUNPg&oe=6573B503

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Advocacy to Delay the Silica Benchtops Ban

18 October 2023

I wondered why the NSW Government was delaying the ban on silica-containing benchtops until July 2024.  Infectious diseases have no political friends, but industrial diseases do. Below is a full page ad in today’s Sydney Morning Herald advocating a delay on the ban and some regulations about how to cut the benchtops with no dust.  They also point out correctly that other benchtop materials have some hazards, and there are a lot of other products that produce silica dust when cut or dug. And they point out that a lot of people are involved in installing benchtops.

 

It is true about other products being harmful. But it is also true that there are readily available non-toxic alternatives that could be used. It is a bit rich for an industry that did precious little to stop the development of silicosis now to ask to be regulated.  The obvious solution is to minimise the harm from all sources of silica including cutting concrete and digging sandstone foundations.  That requires regulations that often actually exist, but Safework does few site inspections and relies on ‘self regulation’ and a ‘notify us’ system of light regulation, based on a fundamental contempt for OHS as soon as it inconveniences business.

 

The government must be forced by publix pressure to ban silica benchtops, which are basically all silica except for a bit of binder chemical, and to enforce other regulations with filtered air and barriers with PPE (personal protective equipment) as a last resort. Concrete or sandstone must be cut with water on the saw so that there is minimal dust.

 

It is depressing, but not surprising that those who have created so much of a problem by setting up an import system for this toxic product now have the gall to lobby against effective government action.

C:\Users\chest\OneDrive\Pictures\SMH Silicosis Ad 231018.jpg

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