Researchers warn climate change is likely to aggravate brain conditions

The source article:

Cripes! I was born and bred in the tropics as were all 4 of my grandparents. I must have been walking around amid a herd of morons!

More seriously, the writers had NO data on global warming and no global data of any kind. All they showed was that some illnesses are heat sensitive to an unspecified degree within an unspecified range on some occasions in some localities.

Their work was in fact a classic example of a Gish gallop. They also showed no awareness of the need for an experiment-wise error-rate approach to significance testing. Under something like a Bonferroni correction, ALL of their findings would be reduced to a nullity

Researchers warn climate change is likely to aggravate brain conditions

Climate change, and its effects on weather patterns and adverse weather events, is likely to negatively affect the health of people with brain conditions, researchers have warned.

The scientists argue that in order to preserve the health of people with neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s and stroke, there is an urgent need to understand how climate change affects them.

As an example, they say that higher temperatures through the night can disrupt sleep, which could have a negative effect on some brain conditions.

There is clear evidence for an impact of the climate on some brain conditions, especially stroke and infections of the nervous system

Following a review of 332 papers published across the world between 1968 and 2023, the team, led by Professor Sanjay Sisodiya of UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, said they expect the scale of the potential effects of climate change on neurological diseases to be substantial.

Professor Sisodiya, who is also director of genomics at the Epilepsy Society and a founding member of Epilepsy Climate Change, said: “There is clear evidence for an impact of the climate on some brain conditions, especially stroke and infections of the nervous system.

“The climatic variation that was shown to have an effect on brain diseases included extremes of temperature (both low and high), and greater temperature variation throughout the course of day – especially when these measures were seasonally unusual.

“Nighttime temperatures may be particularly important, as higher temperatures through the night can disrupt sleep.

“Poor sleep is known to aggravate a number of brain conditions.”

The researchers considered 19 different nervous system conditions, chosen on the basis of the Global Burden of Disease 2016 study, including stroke, migraine, Alzheimer’s, meningitis, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

They also analysed the impact of climate change on several serious but common psychiatric disorders including anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.

According to the findings, there was an increase in hospital admissions, disability or death as a result of a stroke in higher ambient temperatures or heatwaves.

The researchers also suggest that people with dementia are susceptible to harm from extremes of temperature and weather events such as flooding or wildfires, as their condition can impact their ability to adapt behaviour to environmental changes.

Writing in The Lancet Neurology, the researchers say: “Reduced awareness of risk is combined with a diminished capacity to seek help or to mitigate potential harm, such as by drinking more in hot weather or by adjusting clothing.

“This susceptibility is compounded by frailty, multimorbidity and psychotropic medications.

“Accordingly, greater temperature variation, hotter days and heatwaves lead to increased dementia-associated hospital admissions and mortality.”

The researchers say it is important to ensure that research is up to date and considers not only the present state of climate change but also the future.

Professor Sisodiya added: “The whole concept of climate anxiety is an added, potentially weighty, influence: many brain conditions are associated with higher risk of psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, and such multimorbidities can further complicate impacts of climate change and the adaptations necessary to preserve health.

“But there are actions we can and should take now.”

Funded by the Epilepsy Society and the National Brain Appeal Innovation Fund, the research is being published ahead of The Hot Brain 2: climate change and brain health event, which is led by Professor Sisodiya and jointly organised by UCL and The Lancet Neurology


More Wikipedia censorship

Wikipedia censorship of conservative information is now well-known. It ranges from being inaccurate to wiping whole topics out. Their latest action is that they have just deleted their page about Michael Darby, who has a long history as an activist in Australian conservative politics. Their grounds for deleting it is that he is not important enough, which is absurd

I have known Michael as a friend for many years and he has never ceased to make waves in politics. He also has an excellent sense of humour. I remember when he used to drive an old Dennis fire engine round Sydney as his personal transport. He has crammed a lot into his life.

Anyway, all is not lost. A biography site has preserved a full copy of his former Wikipedia entry
To be on the safe side, I have also put it up on my Alternative Wikipedia:
Michael's old blog site is still up and has sone historically interesting stuff
Among his many talents, Michael is also quite a good bush poet. I particularly like his poem "The Stranger". It is online here:
You have to click 44 in the sidebar to get to it. I believe it was based on an actual event

I think I first met Michael when he chaired a big meeting of the NSW Liberal party at which I gave a speech on criminology. The speech was very well received at the time. It is still online


I broke an 'unspoken rule' while ordering at a café and now my wife won't speak to me

It is not clear where this happened but I suspect Britain.  I have been eatng out for over 60 years and always order my drink and food together.  And I have never heard of this "rule".  But almost all my dining has been in Australia.  I in fact usually order my food first and as soon as the server  has taken that down, they ask: "and what do you want to drink?"

A husband has revealed the 'innocent' comment that got him in hot water with his wife - and she refused to speak to him for two days afterwards.

The couple went to a café for brunch but he never expected his request to order food and coffee at the same time would see him labelled 'arrogant' and 'selfish'.

'It wasn't an evening meal to sit back and enjoy the experience; it was a place to get some food, hang with my wife and catch up, then go to work. Nothing fancy,' he said on Reddit.

The man and his wife had already discussed what they wanted to eat, so he told the waitress they were ready to order food when she came up to them.

'The waitress hesitated and said that they were supposed to only take food orders after the drinks had been delivered. But I asked to order at the same time because I had to get to work and I knew what I wanted - I didn't even need a menu,' he said.

The waitress eventually took their orders and left, which caused the man to turn to his wife and share his thoughts on the bizarre policy. 

'I always order both at the same time and wait until the food comes to sip my drink. It's also a shorter time from arrival to leaving as I order as soon as I get there rather than being made to wait ten extra minutes.'

However, his wife saw red.

'My wife called me arrogant for [ordering coffee and breakfast at the same time]. She's a waitress and said what I did meant I was jumping the queue and making others wait for their food longer,' he said.

'I said I wasn't jumping any queue as if there were others who hadn't ordered yet, they weren't in line. I didn't demand my food be made before everyone else. I just wanted to be in and out of the café as fast as possible to get to work.

'My wife was furious I didn't see it the same way. I think I'm ordering my food and waiting for it, but saving myself ten unnecessary minutes.'

Still, the couple couldn't see eye-to-eye on the matter.


Fears ‘TeacherQuitTok’ social media trend ‘warping perception’ of profession for young teachers

This is a classic case of blame the messenger. If they want to stop teachers talking about quitting, they have to deal with the problems behind the dissatisfaction. And Leftst limits on what teachers can do to maintain order in the classroom are the biggest problem. There should be high-discipline schools for unruly pupils

Australian teachers are being inundated with videos of burnt-out peers breaking down as hashtags like ‘TeacherQuitTok’ go viral on social media, prompting fears the negative reinforcement could be pushing young educators out the door.

There have been nearly 17,000 contributions to the ‘TeacherQuitTok’ tag on TikTok, racking up four million views on the single most watched video, while similar tags like ‘TeacherBurnout’ have 12,000 posts under them.

In clips with thousands of likes, young Australian ex-teachers cited the “never-ending” juggle of different needs among their 30-student classrooms, including pupils with behavioural issues, and “lack of respect” from higher-ups and the general public as reasons to quit.

“Being a teacher is really emotionally draining,” a former Brisbane teacher said.

“You’re constantly juggling and being responsible for all these different personalities and different situations, and it’s relentless, it’s never-ending.”

“The access to you 24/7 (from parents) … sometimes it’s a lot,” another added.

Other popular videos under hashtags like ‘TeacherBurnout’ and ‘HowToQuitTeaching’ are even more extreme, with teachers in the US and UK filming themselves having emotional breakdowns in the break rooms and crying in their classrooms.

University of Newcastle Associate Professor Rachel Buchanan has been researching the rise of ‘QuitTok’, which predates the more recent, niche version of the trend for teachers, and is concerned about the impact of such videos flooding educators’ social media feeds.

Although social media allows educators who are feeling “powerless and unheard” to have a voice, Professor Buchanan said, the echo-chamber effect can also “normalise quitting”, especially for young teachers lacking support and mentorship.

“On TikTok it feels inescapable that everyone’s quitting, and everyone’s burnt out … and it can warp your perception of what’s really happening,” she said.

“#TeacherQuitTok also reinforces and validates the decision to leave the profession – hearing others’ stories and joining in feels like participation in a movement or a moment.”

Sydney-based after-school care manager Teneal Broccardo knows first-hand how damaging the exposure to the constant negativity can be, citing the viral content with making her reconsider training to be a primary school teacher.

“There’s this massive trend about how stressful is, and when I was studying I found it really disheartening,” she said.

“I saw all these people working themselves to the ground and I thought, do I want to do this to myself too?”

Already having experience working with children and with classroom management alleviated her fears, the 29-year-old said, but for others she imagined “it could be the last straw”.

“TikTok is very influential. If you’re seeing more positive things instead, like teachers decorating the classroom or explaining different techniques they use, you are going to be more motivated.”

A 2022 Monash University study found only three in every 10 teachers surveyed on staying in the profession for the long-term, and their concerns are regularly reflected in ‘TeacherQuitTok’ content, lead author Dr Fiona Longmuir said.

“It’s the conditions that are making it challenging (to stay) more so than what they’re seeing on social media,” she said.

“There’s a big public discourse saying that teaching is tough, but that’s because it is tough.

“We don’t have a teacher shortage in Australia, but we do have a shortage of teachers who want to work in our classrooms.”

NSW Education Minister Prue Car said a pay rise, more permanent contracts and ban on mobile phones are among the ways the state is trying to “turn the tide on the teacher shortage”.

“Teachers do an incredibly important job in our community and they should be proud of their work. They deserve to be respected and valued,” she said.

“We are starting to see positive signs in terms of teacher vacancies, but we know there is more to do and we continue to look at ways to reduce workload and restore morale.”


The post-Yugoslavia wars

Since my girlfriend is a fierce Serb patriot, I have been trying to get a grip on the wars in that general area after Yugoslavia broke up. Below is what I make of it:

The main conflict immediately after the breakup was between the Serbs and the Croats, which exist basically side by side geographically

in 1991 the Serb population in eastern Croatia (Slavonia) tried to secede from Croatia

The Serb army was however mainly aiming at capturing Dalmatia, under Croatian control. So they were busy in the South, trying to capture Dalmatian Dubrovnik from the Croats. But in the end, the Serbs failed to rip anything off Croatia, both in the South and in the North.

The Serbs in Bosnia however set up an independence movement in 1992. With the assistance of the Serb army, they prevailed and two big chunks of Bosnia were split off under Serb rule, to form a new territory called Republika Srpska which was formally recognized by the UN in 1995

Serbs had the best hats

It was part of the Bosnian war when a lot of Muslim civilians were killed at Srebrenitsa, while Dutch troops who were supposed to be there protecting them did nothing

It was also in that war that the long-lasting siege of Sarajevo took place, in which forces of the Republika Srpska blockaded the Bosnian capital. It was primarily to end that siege that the U.N. granted official recognition to the Republika Srpska

A soldier of the Republika Srpska in dress uniform -- holding her Serbian-made Zastava assault rifle. At its peak, the armed forces of the Republika Srpska numbered over 80,000.

My little Cetnik emigrated to N.Z. in 1995, foreseeing future trouble from Kosovo

So Serbs lost out in their wars with Croatia but had a big gain in Bosnia. Serbs now control roughly half of Bosnia. The Bosnian Serbs were not however allowed to unite with Serbia. They remained an independent State. So there are now two Serb political entities: The Republic of Serbia and the Serbian Republic -- not to be confused! Nothing in the Balkans has ever been simple

But just when eveything had settled down, in 1997 the Kosovars (Ethnic Albanian Muslims) in Southern Serbia rebelled, demanding independence

The Serbs however did not want to lose control of their South so tried to suppress the Kosovars militarily. That attracted a lot of international attention and support for Kosovo independence.

So NATO got involved to help the Kosovars, bombing the Serbs to make them retreat from Kosovo. So the USA under Clinton bombed Christian Serbia to help Muslim Kosovars! The Serbs more or less gave up after the bombing and all is mostly peaceful there now.

There were atrocities committed by all sides in the wars of the 1990s, causing most people living as minorities to flee to the heartland of their respective nations. So most Croatians now live in Croatia, most Bosniaks now live in central Bosnia and most Serbs now live in one of the Serbias. That is probably conducive to future peace. There are however some Serbs still living in Northern Kosovo so that has led to some unrest

An odd footnote. Immediately after the U.N. recognition of the Republika Srpska, its first President was a "Mrs Plavšic". Suprisingly feminist.

Although she never killed anyone, Biljana Plavšić was later convicted as a war criminal. She was in fact a distinguished academic. After serving an 11-year prison sentence in Sweden, she returned to Belgrade in 2009 where she has been living ever since. She is now in her 90s, having survived Covid-19

Punishing students because their parents are too successful is unfair and unwise

Leftist discriminatory practices are truly odious and usually futile. An interesting example is preferential admissions of underqualified blacks to medical schools, where they often drop out anyway. But those who stay the distance graduate regardless of any performance criteria. And other blacks know that -- resulting in some blacks refusing to be seen by a black doctor

If you are a strong student at UC San Diego with middle-class college-educated parents and wish to transfer to a “selective major” (engineering, data science, public health), the university isn’t interested in you. A new directive gives one point each for California residency, first-generation college-student status, low income, and a GPA above 3.0—a low bar for “selective” admissions. This is the latest instance of exclusionary practices in the name of “equity.” Merit takes a back seat to socioeconomic status. Your family tree matters more than your academic performance. California has taken a page from the population-classification schemes of now-defunct Marxist regimes.

Proposition 209 bars California universities from explicitly using race as a criterion, but they have spent 30 years engineering their results through holistic admission criteria, the elimination of SATs, and socioeconomic-class proxies.

But California is not alone. Other states and the federal government responded to earlier court challenges by including class in programs that target underrepresented minorities. The federal McNair program offers funding to minority graduate students and non-minority first-generation low-income students. The GPA requirement is as low as 2.50. Low GPA thresholds are needed to reach a significant number of African-American and Hispanic students, whose high–school GPA averages are 2.68 and 2.83, respectively. Asian and white students have GPA averages well above 3.0.

Some observers interpret the addition of class-based preferences as a response to the Supreme Court’s 2023 decision striking down race-based affirmative action. Yet calls for class-based measures date back to the civil-rights era. In 1964 President Lyndon Johnson signed the explicitly color-blind Civil Rights Act into law. That same year Martin Luther King Jr. proposed a “Bill of Rights for the Disadvantaged,“ which included the “forgotten white poor.” This was a path not taken. Federal agencies soon threatened colleges and employers with legal action and denial of federal funding if they did not produce racially proportionate outcomes. Corporations and colleges got the message and introduced racial preferences. With some exceptions, the courts upheld this bias until last year’s decision signaled a sharp turn to colorblind law.

Is class-based affirmative action better than race preferences? “Affirmative action prophet” Richard Kahlenberg has long agitated for class not race criteria in college admissions. After the Supreme Court struck down race-based admissions, he took to the New York Times and other liberal venues to advocate admitting more lower-income students from poor and crime-ridden neighborhoods as exemplars who “overcame obstacles.”

Kahlenberg is right that most minorities admitted to elite colleges—like their white classmates—are well-off. Many are the children of immigrants whose families experienced no history of discrimination in America. Swapping class for race would make elite colleges more economically diverse. He’s also right that class-based affirmative action is safer from legal challenge. The courts have accepted class-based policies for more than a century based, for example, on income or the employer’s size.

Yet class-based affirmative action is an illusion. If America had pursued King’s approach we might have avoided six decades of affirmative-action debate. But current practices and an institutional mindset are ingrained and defended vigorously. There’s a reason why Kahlenberg’s quixotic pleas went unheard.

By prioritizing class over academic performance, the practice is a further assault on the social norm that we ought to treat individuals according to their merit and the “content of their character,” not their skin color or parental status. Kenny Xu makes this case in his passionately argued An Inconvenient Minority: The Harvard Admissions Case and the Attack on Asian American Excellence (2022). The assault on excellence affects all of us and weakens America in its competition with nations that don’t hamper the academically gifted.

The law should protect all individuals regardless of their status. Racial discrimination is odious because we can’t change our skin color and it violates our dignity as individuals. Likewise, we cannot change our parents. It is one thing to tax wealthy Americans more heavily than those with lower incomes, but it is another to exclude their 18-year-old children from high-demand majors because their parents are “too successful.” It is unfair and unwise to disadvantage young people simply because they chose the wrong parents.


No, Demonstrations Today Aren’t Like the 1960s

The current demonstrations on college campuses against Israel remind some of the unrest on college campuses during the 1960s.

But the comparison is not a good one.

The unrest of the 1960s was defined by the war in Vietnam and by the Civil Rights Movement. Both had practical, personal impact on young Americans in their own country.

American soldiers were fighting and dying in Vietnam. There was real, life-and-death impact on all Americans, and certainly on young Americans.

The military draft was still operative then. Despite various deferments, including for university attendance, the draft was still a reality and was a looming presence for all college-age Americans. They knew they could be drafted and had friends and friends of friends who were.

The official number of American soldiers killed in Vietnam stands at 58,220.

Although there were legitimate moral concerns about American involvement in this war, the moral concerns were accompanied by young Americans having real skin in this game.

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s also had real personal moral impact on all Americans. And youth are always highly sensitive to the moral failings around them.

The reality of segregation and Jim Crow started getting national attention with the Civil Rights Movement, the activism of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and other, sometimes violent groups.

In contrast to the woke activism of today, which is totally political in character, the movement was led by a charismatic and articulate black pastor and had a religious, moral tone rooted in the Christian church.

Anyone that questions this should read, or reread, King’s “I Have a Dream” speech from 1963.

But King’s moral appeal was to an America very different than today.

In 1965, per Gallup, 70% of Americans said religion was personally “very important” to them. In 2023, by contrast, only 45% of Americans say religion is “very important.”

In 1962, per Gallup, 46% of Americans said they attended religious services over the last seven days. In 2023, this was down to 32%.

During this period there were two major wars involving Israel and the surrounding Arab states.

In 1967, Israel prevailed in the Six-Day War, which began with preemptive action by Israel against the Egyptian army mobilized for attack, and subsequent aggression by Syria in the North and Jordan in the East. In 1973, Israel again prevailed against attacks on these same fronts.

In 1967, per Gallup, 45% of Americans supported Israel against 4% who supported the Arab states, with 26% with no opinion. In 1973, 48% of Americans expressed support for Israel versus 6% expressing support for the Arab states and 24% with no opinion.

Support for Israel among Americans during this period was one-sided and clear.

But, again, America today is very, very different.

Our young people in the 1960s understood what personal responsibility is about.

On a national level, in the 1960s, all young Americans faced the reality of military conscription. Today, regarding national obligation and service, there are virtually no demands on our youth.

Now President Joe Biden is even erasing their student loan obligations.

On a religious, moral level, religion then had a much stronger hold on the nation. Religion teaches and inspires a culture where individuals have a sense they belong to and have obligation to something beyond their own egotistical inclinations.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and as religion has weakened and disappeared from our culture, it has been replaced by politics and the welfare state.

The end of it all is we now have a generation of youth insulated from all sense of national and religious and moral personal responsibility.

So now they demonstrate in support of terrorists and against the only free country in the Middle East that shares the very values that made our own country great.


Where are the university vice chancellors?

"Vice Chancellor" is the Australian term for a university CEO. They appear to have no principles other than their own survival in their jobs. They are utter cowards. JANET ALBRECHTSEN below outlines what men of principle would be saying

Australian vice-chancellors have been speaking in platitudes, desperate not to upset anyone. Here is a speech they should give.

We, vice-chancellors who are now trying to manage the pro-Palestinian protests on our university campuses, had this coming. For many years, when it mattered, we squibbed the importance of free speech.

Now, when students side with Hamas, when little children are encouraged and orchestrated to shout “intifada” and “From the river to sea”– both phrases used by terrorists to signal the destruction of the state of Israel – when Jewish students no longer feel safe on campus, we talk a lot about free speech. The chickens are coming home to roost. Chickens is the operative word.

We haven’t taken free speech seriously in the past. We’ve shut down events for apparently controversial speakers for “safety” reasons. Peter Ridd, a celebrated marine biologist, was famously sacked for breaching a code of conduct after he publicly challenged the work of colleagues. Free speech, academic freedom? They didn’t get a look-in then.

Even Malcolm Turnbull couldn’t get through a speech at a university without it being shut down by shouty protesters. We ramble under our breath about free speech when it suits, instead of giving this foundational principle of democracy the full-throttled defence it deserves.

Students who want to be educated, not to mention parents who pay for their kids to get educated at our universities, and taxpayers who fund us, expect us to take free speech seriously always – not just now when we university leaders find ourselves in a bind.

As a vice-chancellor at an Australian university, I am inspired to speak out after reading the weekend address by University of Florida president Ben Sasse. I make no apologies for quoting from his address. When a university leader stands out, it emboldens others to do the same. We need now to speak up for the sake of students who come to university to learn, not to use campus lawns as a platform for performance art.

The more violent American experience is not yet here. Before things get worse, I want our students to understand a few salient points about university life.

But first, I say to other university vice-chancellors, the reason Australians can and do lump Australia’s biggest universities together is that together we have turned our great sandstone universities into homogenous, anti-intellectual blobs. When things have gone wrong, and they have, it’s treated, rightly, as failure across the board.

The University of Sydney is no different to the University of Melbourne. The Australian National University is indistinguishable from the University of NSW. The University of Western Australia is a carbon copy of the University of Adelaide. No university leader of the so-called Group of Eight has had the courage to speak up about the ignorance that has flourished on our campuses, right under our noses.

We won’t fall into the trap of using slogans for either side. We won’t tar all student protesters with the same brush by describing these as encampments of hatred.

To be sure, there is extremism and hatred, in pockets, but the deeper problem is the ignorance that we, as CEOs charged with running these once great institutions, have allowed to flourish.

We have stood silent for years while our lecture rooms became breeding grounds for teaching kids – and they are just kids, with minds not yet fully formed – that the whole world must be divided into two camps: Oppressors and The Oppressed. I have used capital letters deliberately.These categories are now fully formed political projects. No nuance is welcome when considering who are the oppressed and who are oppressors. Whether you call this postmodernism, critical race theory, Marxist class struggle or some variant, our universities have become infested, and infected, by academics and students who view the world through prisms of power relationships.

For some the world is a giant mass of racist power structures. Others say the world can be understood only as organised male oppression. Others point to colonialism as the root of all evil.

There is much overlap. And adherents of this share the common belief that shutting down their opponents is an end that justifies more or less any means. They also believe that once you have identified your oppressed group of choice, you can ignore logic and reason in pursuit of their liberation.

You want evidence? Pro-Palestinian protesters on campus have every right to protest against a brutal war in Gaza. But if facts matter, they should also be the biggest critics of Hamas. This terrorist organisation understood, indeed intended, that invading Israel, killing innocent civilians, raping women at a music festival and beheading babies, would lead to a war in Gaza where innocent Palestinians would die, as innocent civilians have done in every war. Hamas uses its own people as human shields. Hamas steals foreign aid intended for Palestinians to enrich its leaders. Hamas keeps its people in a state of poverty as part of its project to call for the destruction of Israel. If students can’t identify Hamas as terrorists, then something has gone terribly wrong with their education – under our watch.

And ask yourself how those who believe in the equality of women, or the rights of LGBTQ people, can demonstrate in support of Hamas? Living in a tent on the university lawn may address the rental crisis temporarily, but what will it do for the poor Palestinians, let alone the Israelis who live with terrorists on their doorstep?

Instead, too many of our students have been trained in ignorance. Those copying Gaza Solidarity encampments on US campuses should be reading what we are reading: students are being manipulated by extremists who are sharing instruction manuals encouraging militancy and violence. At New York universities last week, almost half of those arrested by the NYPD were not university students.

I want our students to think for themselves, to test what they have heard, what they have read, what they think they believe, to read widely and to listen to people they think they disagree with. If academics at our university don’t encourage students to do that, these teachers need to find another job.

Living in a democracy means rights come with responsibilities. The American student, draped in a keffiyeh for cameras, who demanded food and water for protesters who had taken over a building at Columbia University clearly has not studied history. If you are going to be a revolutionary, remember to pack your lunch. We will not facilitate criminal behaviour by sending in Uber Eats.

Members of the Australian Palestinian community shout slogans at the Palestinian Protest Campsite at University of Sydney.
Members of the Australian Palestinian community shout slogans at the Palestinian Protest Campsite at University of Sydney.
While curing the disease of illiberalism infecting our universities will take time, we will start by treating the symptoms. We have spent too much time worrying about gendered language and other slight offences, and lost sight of what really matters.

As Sasse said, “We’re a university, not a daycare. We don’t coddle emotions, we wrestle with ideas.” As adults, you shouldn’t need written codes of conduct to govern your behaviour on campus. You must now weigh the costs of your decisions and own the consequences. We will defend your rights to free speech and free assembly – but if you cross the line, damage property, hijack buildings or take part in any other prohibited activities, you will be suspended. Those who incite violence will be reported to the police, immediately. We will not tolerate mob rule.

We say this to be clear with you. We mean it. We will hold you responsible for your actions.

We shouldn’t need a written code to explain that a university is committed to free speech and to academic freedom. Yet we do because that’s how far we have lost our way. Students of all backgrounds, cultures and religions should expect to hear things at university that may make them uncomfortable. We must equip students for the real world, where slogans and tent protests won’t get you very far. We need to teach students how to listen, reason, challenge and persuade. These skills will enrich them and the society they step into with their degrees and doctorates. Otherwise, what is the purpose of university?




Anti-Semitic mobs thrive on old campus hatreds

There is much truth in what Greg Sheridan says below. Where he goes wrong is his attribution of problems to "our society". It is nothing of the sort. "Society" is not uniform or homogeneous. The Left is seriously sick with hatred of everything normal but that does not mean everybody else is.

The Left will eventually mismanage its way out of power, perhaps at the hands of Donald Trump, and the pendulum will swing back, erasing the worst atrocities of Leftism

From Marx onward, the Left have always hated success in others and Israel is a shining example of success -- so hatred of it has long been festering on the left waiting only for even a slight excuse to burst into the open.

The absurdity that the Islamic extremists of Gaza represent "Palestine" has become excuse enough for Leftist hate to burst out. Most Palestinians live at peace with Israel -- in Jordan, in the West Bank and in Israel itself

The widespread intellectual and moral corruption of our universities is one of the most alarming signs of deep sickness in our society.

The universities contribute institutionally to the current madness in several ways. Their leaders are institutionally cowardly. These institutions will throw you on to the street for contesting elements of climate change alarmism, send you on a re-education course if you use the wrong pronoun for someone, get you into mighty trouble if you express the view that a racially segregated study space is not the best way to fight racism.

They will offer students trigger warnings lest they be upset by the prose of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird or even Jane Austen.

But shouting demonstrators harassing Jewish students; screaming for intifada that has meant murderous campaigns against Jewish people, not only in Israel; declaring that Israel is a terror state; calling for Palestine to be free “from the river to the sea”, which can only mean the destruction of the Jewish state; even staff and students supporting Hamas itself, an outfit proscribed as a terrorist organisation under Australian law – that’s all fine because these lions of campus administration have suddenly discovered that, when faced with a violent enemy, they believe in free speech after all.

The great anti-communist academic Frank Knopfelmacher, a collection of whose writings has just been published, once told me the collective noun for vice-chancellors was “a lack of principles”.

In the US, college administrators have been shamed into requesting police action to end pro-Palestinian encampments with their blatantly anti-Semitic overtones. This may have something to do with how badly these demonstrations are affecting Joe Biden politically and contributing to the possibility of Donald Trump winning the presidency in November. Biden changes his positions entirely according to political convenience. He and Kamala Harris gave a degree of support to the defund the police movement and demonstrations in 2020. They were able to portray much of the civic violence of that period as chaos caused by Trump.

But, combined with his failure on illegal immigration, Biden will suffer tremendously if this campus disorder continues. Middle America hates it. At the same time the hard left, and especially the profoundly ill-educated young people who wouldn’t know which river and which sea they were chanting about but love the idea and romance of faux social revolution, can’t bear Biden’s qualified support for Israel nor his qualified support for law and order.

On this occasion Biden could lose support on both his left and right.

But universities have contributed to this crisis in a much more direct and profound way. And that is through allowing, over decades now, many of their humanities courses to be invaded by critical theory, neo-Marxism and toxic identity politics.

For a long time, Western universities, including Australian universities, have been teaching that our societies are essentially and uniquely evil, that we are colonial, racist, sexist etc.

I was an undergraduate at Sydney University in the mid-1970s and came to the considered conclusion that the courses I was taking were junk. In a human geography class a lecturer informed us that the shining example of “praxis” was China’s Chairman Mao. Even then I knew that Mao Zedong was directly responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of innocent Chinese. How could he be lauded by this lecturer?

In economics, I got to choose between political economy and mainstream economics. Political economy was dominated by pretty crude Marxism. I took classes there because they required no work. As long as in essays you proclaimed how unjust society was, you’d get at least a credit. It was easy but a complete waste of time. Mainstream economics had taken refuge from Marxism in almost pure mathematics. That’s not as objectionable as Marxism but it doesn’t describe reality very well either.

The only possible use of such a university education was to get a credential. Educationally, intellectually, morally, it was utterly worthless.

Many, perhaps most, university humanities and social sciences subjects have been captured by critical theory. Critical theory reduces everything to a shoddy analysis of power structures. It has destroyed much of the joy of studying literature. A friend, a little younger than me, told me he switched from literature, his first love, to philosophy. In literature it didn’t matter whether he was studying Austen or a restaurant menu, it was the same old fifth-rate power analysis, analysis of the allegedly hidden power structure behind the text.

Universities in many cases have thus abandoned the substance and truth of the subjects they allegedly teach. Critical theory is frequently festooned with Marxoid scripturalism and endless self-referential footnoting. But it’s not a complicated intellectual discipline. Really it’s a simplistic conspiracy theory that absolves universities from the hard but rewarding work of exploring human culture in all its richness.

Instead, like all conspiracy theories, it reduces human experience to a simple formula that assigns heroes and villains, in this case on an identity politics basis.

Our moral outrage students and academics are aquiver with hatred of the world’s only Jewish state. Their universities take money from Arab states that outlaw gay relationships, host Confucius Institutes financed by a government that tolerates no dissent at all. But in critical theory, Chinese and Arabs aren’t villains.

Critical theory, this monstrous engine of hatred, is profoundly anti-intellectual, which is perhaps why it thrives at contemporary Western universities, including ours.


Art gallery heads to Supreme Court in fight to keep Ladies Lounge for women

Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art has lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court of Tasmania in its fight to keep its women-only Ladies Lounge open.

Last month, Mona was ordered to close the lounge after a man launched an anti-discrimination case against the museum, as he objected to being refused admission to the space.

The NSW man, Jason Lau, won his case in the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal and Mona was given 28 days to stop refusing entry to men. That deadline ended today (Tuesday) and the Ladies Lounge will be closed until further notice.

But the lounge’s creator, artist Kirsha Kaechele, who is married to Mona founder David Walsh, is not giving up on the lounge’s right to exist and lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court of Tasmania on Tuesday. Her motives go beyond the lounge itself – she wants to challenge the law’s very relationship to and understanding of the arts.

“I think it’s worth exercising the argument, not only for Ladies Lounge, but for the good of art, and the law,” Kaechele said.

“We need to challenge the law to consider a broader reading of its definitions as they apply to art and the impact it has on the world, as well as the right for conceptual art to make some people (men) uncomfortable.

“Ladies love the lounge – a space away from men – and given what we have been through for the last several millennia, we need it! We deserve both equal rights and reparations, in the form of unequal rights, or chivalry – for at least 300 years.”

Secluded behind green silk curtains, and featuring art by Sidney Nolan and Pablo Picasso, the opulent Ladies Lounge has welcomed about 425,000 visitors since it opened on Boxing Day in 2020.

The hearing at Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal last month was a highly theatrical event with Kaechele arriving with some 20 supporters, uniformly dressed in officious navy suits, hair pulled back, and donning red lipstick, a la 1988 Robert Palmer music video Simply Irresistible.

Inside the hearing room, the group performed a silent choreography and read feminist texts – behaviour that the tribunal member overseeing the case, Richard Grueber, later described as bordering on contempt.

In defending its case at tribunal, Mona’s counsel Catherine Scott argued that the Ladies Lounge provided equal opportunity to a group of people – women – who had been historically discriminated against and excluded from many spaces.

Scott relied on the exception provided by Section 26 of the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act 1998, which states: “A person may discriminate against another person in any program, plan or arrangement designed to promote equal opportunity for a group of people who are disadvantaged or have a special need because of a prescribed attribute.”

But the argument did not fly with Grueber, who ruled that while the Ladies Lounge “may have a valid or ethical or pedagogical purpose … it cannot reasonably be intended to promote equal opportunity”.

Mona’s appeal will be lodged on the grounds that the tribunal took too narrow a view of women’s historical and ongoing societal disadvantage and did not recognise how the experience of the Ladies Lounge could promote equal opportunity.

In typically mischievous fashion, Kaechele added: “I am grateful to have received so many wonderful ideas for the future of the Ladies Lounge, and possibilities for its reformation. This encouragement has reassured me that I am indeed appealing.”

A sign saying “closed for reform” now sits at the reception desk of the lounge.


Tasmanian Catholics rebel against religious freedom changes

Religious freedom versus enforced equality for sexual minorities is now an old debate, unlikely to end soon. It is Christianity against the Leftist religion

Asking Catholic schools to let into their midst something that is an "abomination" to God (Leviticus 18:22) is asking a lot

Catholic Education Tasmania has written to Anthony Albanese urging him not to “enact laws that will divide us over religion” in the latest sign faith-based educators are uniting against new protections for religious institutions on grounds they will do more harm than good.

In a letter sent on Monday to the Prime Minister, the executive director of Catholic Education Tasmania, Gerard Gaskin, and the leaders of 24 Tasmanian Catholic schools, expressed concern that contentious changes being proposed by Labor would undermine the religious ethos of faith-based schools.

“Your proposed legislation will severely impact the Catholic school’s ability to remain Catholic,” the letter said. “Schools would not be able to hire for mission, nor require staff to uphold Catholic belief and practice.”

“Please do not enact laws that will divide us over religion. Even today, religion matters to many Australians. Every fair-minded Australian values free speech. We are not asking for favour or preference.

“We ask only for the rights and freedoms that every Australian values: freedoms that have been honoured by governments since the founding of our nation.”

The letter said that Catholic schools in Tasmania had been “contributing to the common good of society since the 1820s” by educating hundreds of thousands of students across a diversity of backgrounds including migrants, refugees, Indigenous Australians and those with disabilities or special needs.

“A very large number of Australian parents choose religious schools which conform with their faith, or whose broad ethos they support. One in five Australian students attends a Catholic school,” the letter said.

The Australian has previously revealed that Mr Albanese’s draft legislation has proposed removing section 38 from the Sex Discrimination Act in a move that has ignited a fierce fight from religious schools and the Coalition.

The exemptions at section 38 of the SDA allow faith-based educators to insist on staff and students adhering to the doctrines, tenets, beliefs and teachings of the religious school. They also allow schools to preference teachers when hiring on the basis of faith.

While Labor’s changes would remove these exemptions, the government has produced a separate draft Religious Discrimination Act which would seek to replicate these protections and preserve the ability of schools to hire on the basis of faith.

However, the changes have been kept top secret. Labor has not publicly released its draft legislation and has only shared its changes with Peter Dutton and opposition legal affairs spokeswoman Michaelia Cash. Faith-based groups consulted on the shake-up were encouraged to keep the details confidential.

In their letter to the Prime Minister, the Tasmanian Catholic schools said that freedom of religion was the “fundamental bedrock of any democratic, pluralist society” and was enshrined in section 116 of the Australian constitution.
The letter also said Australia was a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which states that parents have the right to “to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in accordance with their own convictions”.

Signatories to the letter urged the government to “enact a Religious Freedom Law as soon as possible to codify and preserve these rights and freedoms.”

Mr Albanese has previously said that he only wanted to pass the changes to religious freedoms if they won support from the Coalition. But he later said the government was open to dealing with the Greens if the minor party was willing to support the rights people to practice their faith.


A government in bed with the unions is going to hurt a lot of people

Before the calendar year is over Michele Bullock and her Reserve Bank board will need to incorporate into their decision making the lower productivity and higher costs that have been inflicted on the Australian business community by Albanese/Burke industrial relations legislation.

And when they do, we will see central bank strategies and government actions (as opposed to words) heading in totally different directions. These are dangerous times for any nation.

As was envisaged by the Prime Minister and his Employment minister, the first stage of the plan – the expected big rises in construction costs – is already starting to erupt in commercial, high rise towers and infrastructure.

The next stage is to explode home building costs.

From there we go to the sensitive areas of the public service with the big trigger date, August 26 when the 700-plus page government industrial relations blue print comes into full operation.

Let me show you the Albanese/Burke systems in action.

Commercial builders, recognising that the unions are totally supported by the government, are handing out 20 per cent-plus wage rises, over three years sometimes, accompanied by lower productivity.

The Master Builders Association estimates that overall building costs have risen over 40 per cent since pre-Covid years. But in the commercial and CFMEU-dominated areas of the industry the rises have been even greater.

The CFMEU are now working to migrate the much higher commercial building costs into the housing industry.

In the past, cottages and residential accommodation up to three storeys have been insulated from the higher commercial building costs by a network of small contractors who didn’t actually want to work under CFMEU rules.

But, the under the Albanese/Burke rules the combination of much greater union power via the appointment of CFMEU-trained union delegates to all contractors; the “same work same pay” rules; industry awards, and the uncertain status of independent contractors is enabling the unions to put pressure on housing contractors.

And in what is perhaps a surprise twist, the enormous failure rate among home builders has forced many workers into infrastructure and commercial areas.

They are now being paid far greater sums of money. To attract those people back to residential construction will require commercial rates of pay and high-cost work practices. The CFMEU is urging many small contractors to do a deal and “play the game”.

The home builders who survived the crunch can see much higher costs coming so are very wary of making fixed priced tenders for fear of being caught in another wave of bankruptcies.

Banks will rarely lend on flexible price contracts especially as they can also see construction costs rises exceeding 20 per cent in the next couple of years. The lending rules are imposing a credit squeeze on individuals trying to own their own home.

The sensitive government employees like ambulance and train drivers, childcare workers and medical people can see the enormous rises in the construction sector and have their hands up for similar pay rises. That will quickly spread to other sectors.

So long as the debt rating agencies continue to use Enron-style, dubious credit rating criteria the states, particularly Victoria, will hand out the money.

In due course, there will be a national wage increase where Fair Work will be under great pressure to keep up the momentum.

The view of the government and the unions is that these wage rises will not affect the rate of inflation.

As I pointed out last week, there are cost pressures already building up that have not been passed on. Significant wage rises will therefore boost inflation.

That makes it very difficult for interest rates to be reduced and there remains the possibility that they will be increased.

To some extent interest rates are a side issue. What we are looking at is a fundamental change in our society where the higher paid workers will be in the construction sector and, at least in some areas, government employment.

Young people who have large HECS debts – thankfully reduced by the current government but still high – are shaking their heads at their stupidity.

While they incurred HECS debts, their mates were paid during their apprenticeship and are now enjoying far higher levels of remuneration than many who paid big money for university degrees.

When you add in the fact that universities have become hot beds of racial hatred, life on building sites and even government bodies looks a lot more attractive.

Of course, the great danger for tradies is that eventually the rating agencies will do their job and curb the rampant state borrowing. Infrastructure will be slowed, and we are seeing a whiff of that in Queensland’s reduction in its Olympic plans and the Victorian budget.

If continued, these developments will slow down the rate of building and make nonsense of the crazy targets governments have set themselves to overcome the housing shortage.

The renters are the victims.

In classic economic terms that slowdown causes a surplus of labour which stops the big pay rises. But that is not the way it may happen because the industrial relations laws lock in the power of unions to prevent classic economic theory unfolding. That’s a recipe for stagnant inflation or stagflation.

We are going to need very innovative policies from the Coalition which would almost certainly be opposed by the ALP plus the Greens, and in some cases the Teals.

The irony is that the younger generation, who are the main sufferers from the strategies to lift construction costs and keep interest rates high, are the biggest supporters of the parties that embrace these strategies.

Democracy is not supposed to work that way.




MAGA voters are moving to Russia 'because it feels like America during the 1950s and 20% of local women look like supermodels'

I too once had a positive view of Putin but his decision to invade Ukraine was clearly a disastrous overreach and I no longer feel any support for him.

The Americans who commented on the good looks of Russian women are right. I particularly admire Polish women but all Slavic women are at an advantage. My girlfriend is Slavic and I think she is unusually good-looking for her age

MAGA voters have explained why they turned their backs on the US for a new life in Russia, claiming the former communist state is a 'positive vision of 1950s America'.

Conservative men have cited the country's Christian values, beautiful women and stunning scenery as the reasons behind their move.

After losing faith in their hero Donald Trump, some have moved as far east as Siberia, unfazed by the prospect of being led by an autocratic dictator.

They have even expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin, choosing to believe his narrative about his decision to invade Ukraine.

'I think he's a good man,' ex-pat Peter Frohwein, 62, told the Free Press. 'This lie that he's somehow a dictator — just because he was in the KGB doesn't mean he's ever killed anybody.'

Frohwein is divorced with no kids, but has hopes of starting up a family. He moved from Atlanta to Yalta in the Crimea in July 2023.

'Twenty percent of the women could be supermodels,' he said, explaining he anticipates his children would speak three languages: English, Russian and Mandarin.

'I wouldn't seriously consider starting a family in the U.S. today,' he added. 'The U.S. is a political mess. Socially, things are a mess. Spiritually, things are a mess.'

Bernd Ratsch, 56, agrees with this assessment of US politics and moved to Moscow from Texas in 2019.

'Is Trump better than Biden? Of course. But do I want him? Would I vote for him again? No. It's just, "Boy, shut your mouth for a while,"' he explained.

Meanwhile, family man Joseph Rose has managed to carve out a career with his YouTube channel documenting his new life in Moscow.

'I would say that Russia is becoming a bastion of Christianity and that America is becoming the opposite of this,' Rose explained.

'I do think it was God leading me to where I needed to be right now. I was put in a spot where I could be used.'

Rose, 49, relocated to Russia from Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife and children and has not looked back since.

'I often say it feels like our positive vision of 1950s America,' he explained.

One program manager from Texas, who wished to remain anonymous, suggested Russia offered a simpler way of life.

'People are running around in America wondering why we have so many problems with suicide and depression, and they’ll virtue signal and talk about the phones, and it’s this and that, and the reality is children are not allowed to be children,' the father-of-six said.


How your cooking could cause the same lung damage as pollution, study claims

This puts Greenie scares about pollution into perspective. If we want to eliminate air polluion we would have to eliminate cooking too. The fact of the matter is that cooking fires have long ago accustomed us to air pollution. We mostly just spit it up

Breakfasts featuring fried eggs, sausages and bacon aren't just bad for your heart. They could spell serious problems for your lungs too - especially if you're cooking them, a new study suggests.

Researchers have found that frying certain foods triggers the release of similar pollutants that flood the outdoor air in built-up cities, and are known to increase the risk of lung disease.

Previous studies involving chefs have shown exposure to cooking emissions is associated with chronic diseases in chefs.

But the new experiment, by experts at the University of British Columbia, is the first in which researchers revealed certain compounds can form in domestic kitchens.

The study analyzed the emissions and chemicals produced when cooking common meals using a frying pan - including pancakes, pan-fried brussel sprouts and vegetable stir fries.

To measure the amount of of pollutants produced by frying the meals, researchers set out to capture the smoke and emissions let off by cooking using a tool called an impinger, a small bottle mean to collect airborne chemicals.

After analyzing the emissions, scientists found the cooking produced carbon aerosols, small particles or liquid droplets in the air, called BrCOA.

The team then exposed these aerosols to overhead lighting in typical houses and natural sunlight.

They found all the meals released the same amount of carbon aerosols that then subsequently produced a harmful compound called singlet oxygen when exposed to light.

Singlet oxygen is a highly reactive compound that can cause lung damage and contribute to the development of cancer, diabetes and heart disease, previous studies have shown.

While all the meals produced singlet oxygen at around the same concentration, the highest amounts were detected when the fumes were exposed to sunlight - meaning kitchens with natural sunlight streaming in through windows could have the most compounds in the air.

Not only do these compounds form while cooking, but the scientists said they can linger in the air long after you've eaten, leading to the persistent degradation of your household air quality.

The study found the amount of singlet oxygen produced by cooking was present at similar levels to environmental pollution measured outdoors, but could be more dangerous indoors because it is a confined space with less ventilation.

While singlet oxygen compounds can be useful - sometimes used as a cancer therapy to cause cancer death - they have also been associated with damage to the body's cells.

Research has shown the chemical can also cause DNA and tissue damage, particularly of the skin and eyes and can cause swelling, blistering and scarring.

Because this is the first study of its kind, the scientists said more research is needed to fully understand cooking-related singlet oxygen and other cooking emissions.

Dr Nadine Borduas-Dedekind, UBC chemistry assistant professor and lead author of the study, said: 'Our next steps include determining just how this oxidant might affect humans and how much we’re breathing in when we cook. Could it play a role in some cooking-related diseases?'

In an effort to reduce the amount of this chemical, researchers recommend turning on kitchen venting fans, opening windows for fresh air and using an air filter in the kitchen.

Cooking with an oil with a high smoke point, such as avocado oil, can also help mitigate indoor pollution.

The study was published in the journal Environmental Science: Atmospheres.


Fresh health warning over ultra-processed foods as 30-year study warns they marginally raise your risk of an early death

The academic source of this article is:

Its conclusions are utter rubbish,  reflecting the biases of the authors rather than what their data shows.  It is an extreme quartile study -- meaning that they had to throw away half of their data before they could show any correlations. And even then only very weak associations were shown in only some cases. 

 And given the large number of possible correlations examined, an experiment-wise error-rate approach to significance testing should have been used, as in a Bonferroni correction, which would have reduced ALL relationships in this study to a nullity.  

  The study is good evidence therefore that ultra-processed foods are NOT harmful to you. Pathetic!

Conservatives are used to Leftists ignoring facts in favour of their theories and epidemiologists are much the same. Both groups show a common human tendency to adopt simple generalizations to explain their world. Sadly for us all, reality is complex and unforgiving so simple theories can lead to conclusions that are radically contrary to the truth -- e.g. Affirmative action has not removed black failure and simple foods are not safer than complex ones

Eating too many ultra-processed foods (UPFs) may send you to an early grave, a study suggests.

Ready meals, fizzy drinks and ice creams appear to pose the greatest danger to human health.

Harvard University researchers tracked 115,000 healthy US adults over the course of three decades.

Four per cent more deaths occurred among participants who ate around seven servings of junk a day, compared against a group who ate half as much.

While the risk was only small, the team argued their findings echoed calls to limit certain types of UPFs. 

The umbrella term is used to cover anything edible made with colourings, sweeteners and preservatives that extend shelf life. 

Ready meals, ice cream and tomato ketchup are some of the best-loved examples of products that fall under the umbrella UPF term, now synonymous with foods offering little nutritional value.

They are different to processed foods, which are tinkered to make them last longer or enhance their taste, such as cured meat, cheese and fresh bread.

Yet dietitians argue this sweeping judgement wrongly fingers 'healthy' options like fish fingers and baked beans.

Ultra-processed foods, such as sausages, cereals, biscuits and fizzy drinks, are formulations made mostly or entirely from substances derived from foods and additives.

They contain little or no unprocessed or minimally processed foods, such as fruit, vegetables, seeds and eggs.

The foods are usually packed with sugars, oils, fats and salt, as well as  additives, such as preservatives, antioxidants and stabilisers.

Ultra-processed foods are often presented as ready-to-consume, taste good and are cheap.

The new paper adds to growing evidence illustrating the health risks of UPFs, which have been vilified for decades over their observed links to cancer and dementia.

Over the 34-year follow-up period, the researchers recorded 48,193 deaths, including more than 13,000 due to cancer and just over 11,000 attributed to cardiovascular diseases.

However, no specific relationship between total UPF consumption and cancer or heart disease deaths was observed.

Instead, the elevated risk — amounting to an extra 64 deaths per every 100,000 person-years — was only seen for deaths from all causes.

They also found no link between premature death and condiments, sauces and savoury snacks. 

Even with sugary drinks and ready meals, the risk was less pronounced after researchers factored in the overall diet quality of the participants, who were quizzed about their eating habits every four years.

The risk was up to 13 per cent for some UPFs. 

Writing in the British Medical Journal, the scientists said: 'The findings provide support for limiting consumption of certain types of ultra-processed food for long term health.'

But experts today criticised the research. 

Sir David Spiegelhalter, emeritus professor of statistics at the University of Cambridge, said: 'This study shows weak associations of ultra-processed foods with overall mortality.'

Dietitian Dr Duane Mellor, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, said: 'It is also noticeable that those who consumed most ultra-processed foods tended to eat few vegetables, fruit, legumes and wholegrain.

'It might not be as simple as that those who ate more ultra-processed foods are more likely to die earlier — it is quite possible that these foods might displace healthier foods from the diet.'

He added: 'Not all groups of UPFs are associated with the same health risks, with sugar and artificially sweetened drinks and processed meats being most clearly associated with risk of an early death.'

Professor Gunter Kuhnle, an expert in nutrition and food science at the University of Reading, said it was 'impossible to know how reliable the results are' because of how the study was carried out.

He said: 'Results, therefore, should be treated with a lot of caution. 'I don't think this study provides evidence suggesting limiting certain foods just because of their level of processing.

'Public health policy should be informed by evidence, and there is very good evidence about the health effects of foods based on their composition — which is largely confirmed by this study.

'In contrast, there is still virtually no robust evidence for an effect of 'ultra-processing' specifically on health.'

The UK is the worst in Europe for eating UPFs, which make up an estimated 57 per cent of the national diet.

They are thought to be a key driver of obesity, which costs the NHS around £6.5billion a year.

Often containing colours, emulsifiers, flavours, and other additives, they typically undergo multiple industrial processes which research has found degrades the physical structure of foods, making it rapid to absorb.

This in turn increases blood sugar, reduces satiety and damages the microbiome - the community of 'friendly' bacteria that live inside us and which we depend for good health.


Salt may increase risk of stomach cancer by 40%, study suggests

Groan! Another witless attack on salt below. The journal article is here:
I have written previously on the salt phobia here:
And here:
And here:
And for what it is worth, I have always been a keen salt user but I had a gastroscopy recently which showed my stomach to be completely notmal, which is pretty good for an 80-year-old guy.

OK. On to the latest bit of nonsense. Once again it was an extreme-groups analysis in which they had to throw away half of their data to find something to talk about. So it seems probable that there was in fact NO significant linear relationship between illness and salt consupption.

And it's almost amusing that they found the association only with REPORTS of salt usage not with an estimate of actual salt usage. Bleah!

The one undisputable finding of salt research is that LOW salt can kill you. There is even a name for that: Hyponatremia

A new study might make you think twice before reaching for the salt shaker at your next meal.

Nutritionists from the Center for Public Health at the University of Vienna discovered that people from the UK who added salt to most of their meals were 41 percent more likely to develop stomach cancer than those who used the topping sparingly.

Previous studies in China, Japan and Korea have linked a salty diet to stomach cancer - but this is one of the first to show the link in Westerners.

Though the Austrian study was merely observational, older studies have suggested that excess salt might erode the protective coating on the stomach, causing damage to the tissue there and leading to cancerous mutations.

Not in my name or His: The wilful damage all in the name of faith

This is an old, old fallacy:  Judging Christiaity by people who DON'T follow it.  We all "fake good" to some extent and in our society that often takes the form of of a pretense to Christianity.  In Japan alleged followers of the peaceful Buddha committed atrocities during WWII.  And despite the very first  chapter  of the Bhagavad Gita, Hindus often attack Muslims. 

Most people will do what they will regardless of their religion.  The sad  part is that those who do evil are often excused and justified by their priests and elders

In her poem Magdalene on Gethsemane, Marie Howe narrates an imagined interaction between Mary Magdalene and Jesus of Nazareth in the Garden of Gethsemane.

From Jesus’ agony on the night before his crucifixion, in the voice of the Magdalene, Howe writes:

“When he was in the garden the night beforeAnd fell with his face to the groundwhat he imagined was not his torture, not his own deathThat’s what the story says, but that’s not what he told me.”

The three lines that follow burn the reader. They resonate deeply with the un-power and non-violence of Jesus. The poet invokes Jesus’ anguish, claiming:

“He said he saw the others, the countless in his nameraped, burned, lynched, stoned, bombed, beheaded, shot, gassed,gutted and raped again.”

It is hard not to turn away from the ghastly list of verbs. The poet encapsulates the horror of what continues to happen “in his name” and other names by which the Holy One is known.

But in the telling of the poem, there is an implied witness to these atrocities – the suffering is seen. The term “the countless” freights blatant injustices repeated mercilessly. The three words “in his name” carry the weaponising of belief.

Often when I name myself as Christian, I recoil from the wilful damage caused by practitioners of my faith. And not just my faith tradition, others as well. So many things are not OK, are deeply wrong, are horrors in themselves. These violations occur under the watch of religions that espouse values of peace and human dignity in the name of the divine.

Theologian Gordon Kaufman suggested the most ethical thing a person can say is “I might be wrong”. When we are too sure that we are on the side of right, that we know the mind of God, there is a diminishing and hardening of hearts.

In his life and teaching, Jesus was far more interested in how people treated each other than in setting up institutional loyalty. Before his state-sanctioned murder he repeatedly feasted with, and offered healing to, people whom no one else valued. He ticked off the disciples when they tried to become influencers.

In the telling of the poem, there is an implied witness to these atrocities – the suffering is seen.

In Australia, periodically we hear voices of indignation championing Christianity as if defending a brand. This defensiveness is not necessarily a witness to faith, often it looks like posturing.

The life, death and risen life of Jesus of Nazareth were and are subversive. The task of re-imagining and understanding anew how the biblical stories can resonate allows an ongoing dialogue with them.

In Magdalene on Gethsemane, Marie Howe suggests a new possibility, that Jesus’ agony was on account of what would follow, “in his name”.


Yarra Valley Grammar School students suspended over disturbing list rating female classmates

This is hysteria over nothing. We all evalute other people's appearance all the time. Why not discuss it? The behaviour described is not uncommon. It is simply adolescents enlisting their friends in at attempt to get an understanding of females, a common puzzle for males of all ages. And the sense of humour in it has been missed. There is nothing abnormal or dangerous about it.

Four boys from a Melbourne private school have been suspended after a list was posted to social media rating their female classmates.

The shocking list was posted by Year 11 students from Yarra Valley Grammar School in Ringwood onto the platform Discord and was discovered by the school last Wednesday.

It featured photos of female students and ranked them from best to worst as 'wifeys', 'cuties', 'mid', 'object', 'get out' and 'unrapeable'.

The students were suspended on Friday pending further investigation, Nine reports.

Yarra Valley Grammar principal Dr Mark Merry spoke to Nine on Sunday and described the post as 'disgraceful'.

'Respect for each other is in the DNA of this school, and so this was a shock not only to us … but it was a shock to the year level and the boys in the year level that see this as way, way out of line,' he said.

He said he was offended by the final category, and has since reported the matter to police to ensure the list wasn't linked to any criminal offence.

'As a father, I find it absolutely outrageous, disgraceful, offensive. As a principal, I need to make some decisions [about] what we do about all of this,' he said.

'My first impulse and concern is about the wellbeing of the girls concerned. I want to make sure they feel assured and supported by the school.'

'We are going to be consulting the police because the language used could be an inferred threat.'

'I don't think it was, but we need to get further advice on that…I'm hoping it was an appalling lapse in judgment.'

It costs around $30,000 a year to send a student to the elite Ringwood private school, and Dr Merry said the school prides itself on teaching 'respectful relationships'.

'We are well aware of the broader issues in relation to respecting women…we need to really do our best to ensure that young men understand their responsibilities and their boundaries of how they should behave,' he said.


The causes and cures of lethal male domestic violence

Ms Van Badham below recognizes that lethal male domestic violence has increased in recent years but has only vague generalizations and a call for more talking about it to offer as a solution.

She ignores the fact that the broadly feminist value-set that she promotes has never been more widespread and accepted than it is now . To put it crudely, more feminism has been accompanied by more domestic violence. That is the correlation that is being ignored. Correlation is not always causation but correlation is always a feature of causation, as David Hume long ago pointed out.

So it should be a working hypothesis that the increased dominance of feminist values is at least partly to blame for the increase in DV.

And why that night be so is not hard to see. Waleed Aly rightly sees that the major influence on DV is a feeling among men that they are being shamed: "the desire to hurt women actually comes from attackers feeling shamed and humiliated"
Aly is talking about men being shamed and humiliated by their women partners but being shamed by their culture is an obvious extension of that. Being shamed and humiliated in general is likely to be resented.

And there is a huge theme in public discussions to the effect that men and masculinity is "toxic". How are men expected to feel about such a drumbeat of abuse aimed at them? That part of the response might be rage is pretty obvious and that an outlet for that rage might be one of the supposedly superior beings in their presence is hardly surprising

So the supposed remedy for DV -- more feminist values -- might in fact be part of its cause. That possibilty will not be confronted any time soon -- sadly for endangered women. But a broad recognition that extreme feminism is "toxic" would help

In the wake of more, more, more reports of lethal male violence against women in Australia – and the protests demanding actions that have followed them – Michael Salter’s analysis of the problem is refreshingly clear. “Education and public awareness are important but they are not, in themselves, a cure,” the academic wrote last week. “We need a strategic, coordinated, practical approach that integrates many different responses and listens closely to frontline workers and community members.”

Australia’s public conversation about male violence has never been so loud. We’ve arrived at a moment when the community is screaming for action. Even Sky News reports that Australians “want immediate change to combat the domestic violence crisis”.

It’s a long way from 1953’s reader suggestions published in the Adelaide papers: “I’ve found if I take a strap to my wife occasionally, she’s all the better for it. She admits I’ve been a good husband to her.” Back then, papers framed “Can wife beating ever be justified?” as an open question.

That these attitudes remain in the memory of living generations, is, of course, one of the reasons that perpetrators still exist. Research 10 years ago explained that male sex offenders are “more likely to commit sexual violence in communities where sexual violence goes unpunished” and the influence of sexist traditions informs a male rapist’s worldview. Yet decades of public grief, horror and condemnation – as well as feminist activism delivering legal and institutional reform – have upended this traditional majority sanction of male violence and transformed public values. The 30% rise in the rate of Australian women murdered by intimate partners in the last year after three decades of a downwards trend comes, therefore, as a shock.

A bleak national realisation is dawning: while politics does flow downstream from culture, politics still has to solve the problem that culture identifies. Government works most efficiently when reform can be broad-based and structural – and Salter’s point is that the problem is messy and difficult, with unstable patterns, individual cases and no universal solutions. Ending violence against women requires not just sentiment but government, and other institutions, as well every kind of community – from cultural groups to sporting teams to the family – addressing different, variable and changing circumstances and responsibilities.

This week the Albanese government summoned the national cabinet to announce a $925m investment in counter-violence strategies. These include support payments for women fleeing violent relationships, increased funding for services to help those women and resources for action against deepfake pornography and other kinds of online abuse. The prime minister is not making the impossible promise that the policy suite is an immediate end to violence, but “a further step forward”.

The package is couched in terms of pilots and trials and monitoring because what will and won’t work is up against a community of perpetrators relentless in their cruel creativity. The challenges are complex when everything from urban planning to superannuation to care relationship settings can pose risks to women’s safety. I have survived a violent relationship, harassment, stalking and a hospitalisation from sexual assault … yet even I was stunned at the revelation of men using smart fridges to threaten women. Effective responses meet conflicts and contradictions. Note, for example, demands from anti-violence campaigners to revoke reforms to bail laws in Victoria … that were introduced to redress harms imposed by them on Indigenous communities, young people and people with disabilities.

The frustration of handing the policy response over to politicians is, perhaps, that it feels like an admission of powerlessness. But while government pilots start and public resources shift, there remain open fronts for cultural action that we may finally be ready to face.

Incest and other family violence survivors will remind you that the family home remains the most dangerous place for women and children, while 51% of children from abusive homes are abused as adults. In a world that still insists to women and girls that romantic partnership and family should dominate their aspirations and trajectories, the narrative we can, should, must lead is for genuinely empowering alternatives; economic interdependence, sisterhood, friendship, community – especially in the context of a resurgent western far right so active in promoting tradwives and reproductive unfreedom.

Not as culture war for culture war’s sake – but for survival.


Understanding the empathy deficit

The article below by VIRGINIA TAPSCOTT is a long one but overlooks an important issue: Lack of care for the feelings of others is a feature of both autism and psychopathy. But the two syndromes are very different in other ways and the difference is important. I have argued that the difference is that the psychopath is aware of other people's feelings but doesn't care about them whereas the autistic is simply unaware of other peoples feelings. There may be more than one reason for an apparent "empathy deficit"
And muddling those two very different syndromes, as she appears to do below, renders her conclusions very dubious. She needs to re-work her thinking from the beginning, I suspect.

But taking the research she presents into account does suggest that she is talking about psychopaths only, not autistics. Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen's submission that we should stop talking about autism and refer instead to the syndrome as "non-neurotypical" has generally been enthusiastically embraced both by the people concerned and by health professionals.
But the implication of that view is that non-neurotypical people are born that way. And there are certain features of such people that support that conclusion. An unusually large cerebral cortex, for instance. I hear that autistics tend to take big hats!

Ms TAPSCOTT, in contrast, is talking about an acquired condition, not an inborn one.

But do the findings she describes even fit psychopaths? Her implication is that non-empathetics are both unaware of how other people work psychologically and uncaring about any hardships that they inflict on others. But psychopaths are often very clever people manipulators. To be good at that they surely have to have a very good awareness of how other people work psychologically. So we are left with the claim that psychopaths are not empathetic but are nonetheless somehow very good at understanding and manipulating other people's feelings! That is probably not impossible but seems very unlikely.

So who is Ms Tapcott talking about? It seems that the non-empathetic people she describes don't fit neatly into any established psychiatric category. They are a new category of persons all of its own. A best fit to what she describes would probably be to say that egregious harm to others can emanate from more than one person type -- the non-empathic people she describes and classical psychopaths

An additional level of complexity may follow from my previous article on the subject referenced above. I am clearly a high functioning autistic but I noted that I have very little emotional response to reports of suffering in others. But as I have recently also pointed out, I have a not-insubstantial claim to being a philanthropist!
So, in autistics a non-empathic response can even go with pro-social behaviour! Autistics are confused and shut out but are not malevolent. Who said that people have to be simple?

Rapists, murderers, religious extremists and even your garden variety nasty colleague have one thing in common: an empathy deficit. The part of their brain that imagines how others think and feel is anywhere from stunted to easily ignored. This allows them to dehumanise others to varying extents and prioritise their own gratification or agenda above all else, regardless of the pain this may cause those around them. They can be all charm one minute and conveniently deaf and blind to the suffering of another the next.

We all exist somewhere along the empathy spectrum from slightly selfish to complete psychopath. Harmful belief systems about women embedded in our culture can be tempered by healthy empathy function or become unbridled by an empathy deficit.

Empathy isn’t some vague feel-good notion of kindness; it is a specific part of our brain architecture. Neuroscientists understand in detail its place in our emotional brain circuits, how we come to develop empathy and to what extent.

A review of neurobiological research published in The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences in 2016 traced the emergence of empathy deficits in detail from birth right up to violent adult offending, specifically intimate partner violence. The authors describe how empathy development starts at birth, when newborns will do whatever it takes to engage a caregiver. They mimic movements, search for faces, reach for skin and cry as a last resort. They have mirror neurons that enable them to tune into caregivers’ behaviours as early as 72 hours old.

A baby’s earliest attempts to engage another normally elicits a positive response from the caregiver that results in the baby being held or fed and flooded with relaxing, feel-good hormones. The baby repeats the process of engaging a carer, building increasingly complex and well-trodden empathic neural pathways. It is from this biochemistry and brain architecture that they develop pro-social behaviours, emotional regulation and an intuitive understanding of how to relate to another.

Where things go wrong is if an infant’s attempts to engage are not rewarded and empathic neural pathways become underdeveloped. If your parents or carers don’t love you or have difficulty showing it you will have a hard time developing empathic abilities.

The neurobiology review analysed almost 200 of the most significant sources establishing a link between empathy deficit or dysfunction and violence. The authors argued the empathy patterns in offen­ders explained why far fewer women, with neurobiology that predisposes them to increased empathy, were perpetrators of viol­ence.

Research in empathy development surged in 2001 when Yale University researchers worked out how to scan healthy infants and toddlers in magnetic resonance imaging machines that required them to be still. Instead of using sedation, which blunted brain activity and posed ethical problems, researchers scanned babies in natural sleep and flung open the doors on a whole field of unexplored territory.

While researchers had been using neuroimaging for decades to unravel the mysteries of adult brains, it is only in recent years that infant brains have come under the microscope and only since the 2000s that we began studying longitudinal cohorts. Perhaps the most striking finding has been that the emotional brain circuitry of infants is far more advanced and sensitive than initially thought.

“We know that brain circuits for mood, depression, anxiety, addiction and resilience are all built between conception and age three and last for life,” Canadian neuroscientist Greer Kirshenbaum writes in her book The Nurture Revolution. “After three years of age the most frequently used brain circuits are covered in protective cells and the circuits that were not used frequently are eliminated by pruning.”

As neuroimaging was applied in the fields of neurobiology, genetics and behavioural science, the lasting effects of early life stress became undeniable. While our emotional brain is influenced by genetics and continues to develop into early adulthood, the foundations of emotional health are laid by our earliest experiences and relationships. We know in chronic states of prenatal and infancy stress the brain develops abnormally. In 2019, researchers from the Infant Brain Imaging Study Network demonstrated that the amygdala, the part of the brain that identifies threats and controls emotional processes, had started to overgrow at six months of age in children who later would be diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders. It has been shown that environmental stress combined with a genetic vulnerability to stress can increase the risk of developing autism.

While we have not yet discovered genes for any specific mental illness, in the 1990s researchers began uncovering the relationship between genes that determine our dopamine receptivity, how much of the feel-good hormone we can access, and children characterised as ultrasensitive or resilient.

University of California, San Francisco pediatrics and psychiatry professor Thomas Boyce brought into the mainstream the theory that about four-fifths of all children were born “dandelions” with genes that increased dopamine receptivity and made them more resilient to stress.

Boyce found the remaining children carried a gene morphism that rendered them less receptive to dopamine and categorised them as “orchids” for their ultrasensitivity to growing conditions. Orchids can flourish in ideal conditions or be affected by poor conditions.

High-quality care and reliable early relationships have been found to mitigate the orchid and dandelion effect. Kirshenbaum explains nurturing care as a crucial way of “turning the volume down” on genes less favourable to psychological resilience. Nonetheless, orchid children are more sensitive to stress in infancy and face a greater likelihood of their brain being hypersensitive to stress later in life.

Stress is at the seat of the development of all mental illnesses because it interferes with normal brain development and the naturally resilient emotional circuits that come with it. If stress is shaping the brain from infancy, the makings of a narcissist, schizophrenic, addict or psychopath are well under way in the cradle.

Unthinkable acts such as those we have witnessed in recent weeks are undeniably rooted in terrible brain architecture and resulting poor moral formation. Emotional deficits impede moral formation, which usually develops through an intuitive understanding of our actions in relation to others. Being able to share or imagine the feelings of another is a deterrent for treating them horribly. A brain imaging study in The Netherlands in 2013 found psychopathic criminals lacked automatic empathic processes. The line between right and wrong becomes blurred if we lack an intuitive sense of how another may feel or to share the feeling.

In this way, empathy is a crucial moderator of our behaviour in real time but also shapes our humanity. It is a kind of panacea to societal ills. External moderators of behaviour such as judicial and governance guardrails can get us only so far before internal motivation to do the right thing must take over.

Empathic dysfunction is the breeding ground for a raft of mental disorders because our ability to connect with others is our lifelong emotional mooring. Without empathy and the relationships that spring from it the world becomes disorienting and meaningless. Without a web of healthy connection around us, people who can act as a sounding board or offer different perspectives, we also become more vulnerable to radicalisation and conspiracy theories. We fill the void created by lack of interpersonal relations with consumerism, extreme interpretations of religion and political outrage.

Empathy deficits are clearly an enabler when it comes to men being able to dehumanise women and subjecting them to shocking violence. We cannot hope to reduce violence against women without interrogating the formative experiences of perpetrators. This is not an excuse for the behaviour, this is cut-and-dried science. We must go back to the beginning.

The good news is empathy deficits are preventable. If we are raised in nurturing and responsive environments where empathy is modelled to us we are likely to develop healthy levels of empathy. Known inhibitors of empathy development include reduced face-to-face human interaction, care­givers who lack empathy and toxic stress. We have to feel safe and connected most of the time to be able to adopt empathic behaviours.

The bad news is empathy is difficult to teach later in life and deficits are difficult to reverse. We can train our empathy “muscles” later in life, but it is far less effective than having it in the first place. It may never be automatic or intuitive. It is unclear whether former prime minister Scott Morrison’s empathy consultant employed in 2019 had any lasting influence.

The availability of empathy training courses has accelerated in response to a well-documented decline in empathy levels across the board. A study of American students published in the Personality and Social Psychology Review found levels of empathy fell by 48 per cent between 1979 and 2009. It seems unlikely a one-hour online minicourse in empathy will do much to counter the broader trend.

Short-term emergency responses to public outcries about violence is warranted, but we are also missing the point. Prevention is much more effective. Our outrage should be equally, if not more so, directed at the way we deny children the basic conditions for healthy emotional development: social interaction, proper food and the presence of invested, loving and consistent caregivers.

Parents are often time poor and stressed, which means they lack the emotional resources to respond to their children. They increasingly rely on screens to regulate themselves and their children. You don’t have to be a behavioural scientist to see this is a chronically stressful arrangement.

Adult mental illness and resulting behaviours become a complex question when we consider that as a baby that offender was exposed to conditions they had no control over. We don’t get to choose our parents or circumstances. Our individual responsibility is to come to understand our emotional circuitry and manage it, but we will continue to contend with limitations posed by the brain circuitry laid in our earliest years. Some will be more disadvantaged by this than others. Some will be rendered incapable of helping themselves.

Without a complete overhaul in our cultural and policy approach to the early years we cannot hope to address mental illness effectively. If more people understood the significance of support to ensure the healthy development of babies and children we could transform society as we know it. We underestimate the importance of this at our peril.