Living in an area with high levels of air pollution can increase your risk of developing macular degeneration and going BLIND, study warns

This is a typical rubbishy study of PM2.5 air pollution. It relies on the area a person lives in to describe anything about him/her. That quite different people might be living in the same area is not acounted for. We might, for instance, ask whrether or not it is mostly poor people who get AMD. No answer to that is available. All we are told is whether the sufferer lived in a poor area, which could mean many things. Their measure of pollution exposure was similarly inexact. They examined only whether a person lived in a polluted area. They had no estimate of how much pollution each person actually experienced.

There is however one thing unusual about this study. They found that many things -- such as living in a poor area -- DID affect the incidence of AMD but I can find no mention of the authors controlling for all such extraneous influences on the correlation between a polluted area and AMD incidence. We are thus left with the possible conclusion that it was other factors -- not pollution -- that increased levels of AMD. Poverty is one of the most common predictors of disease so we are quite at liberty to conclude from their report that it was poverty that caused poor eye function, not pollution. What a useless study!

Your risk of developing macular degeneration and going blind is increased by living in an area with a high level of air pollution, a study has warned.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a progressive form of vision loss that is the leading cause of blindness among UK adults aged 50 and over.

Known risk factors for AMD — alongside increasing age — include certain genetic factors and being a smoker.

Researchers from the UK studied data on 15,954 people — each of whom was aged 40–69 at the start of the study and initially reported no vision issues.

They monitored them for the development of AMD — and compared outcomes with the average level of air pollution where they lived.

They found that greater concentrations of air pollution were associated with up to an 8 per cent increase in the likelihood of developing macular degeneration.

Data for the study was collected by the UK Biobank, a large-scale database containing detailed genetic and health information on half-a-million participants.

Of the participants, 52,602 had their eyes examined and assessed for the structural changes in the thickness and numbers of receptors in the retina which are indicative of age-related macular degeneration.

The study used estimates of the average annual levels of air pollution at each subject's home address, considering pollutants such as fine particles (or PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide and nitrogen oxides which mainly come from vehicle exhausts.

The researchers found that just over 1 per cent of the study cohort — 1,286 people — ended up being diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration.

Once factors such as lifestyle and underlying health conditions were taken into account, the team found that participants exposed to higher concentrations of PM2.5 were 8 per cent more likely to develop AMD.

Exposure to PM2.5 and other pollutants was also found to be associated with changes in the structure of the subjects' retinas.

However, the team noted, the study was an observational one which did not intervene with people's lives and could not prove that pollution caused sight loss.

But it echoes previous findings, they said, which have suggested that higher exposure to air pollution may make retinal cells more vulnerable and thereby increase one's risk of AMD.

'Overall, our findings suggest that ambient air pollution, especially fine (particulate matter) or those of combustion-related particles, may affect AMD risk,' the researchers said.

'Our findings add to the growing evidence of the damaging effects of ambient air pollution, even in the setting of relative low exposure.'

Molecular ophthalmologist Chris Inglehearn of the University of Leeds, who was not involved in the present study, said that the paper — and another from Taiwan — have both shown a link between air pollution and age-related macular degeneration.

While the studies have not proven that pollution is causing AMD, he said, 'the fact that these two independent studies reach similar conclusions gives greater confidence that the link they make is real.'

'These studies provide further evidence that links air pollution with detrimental impacts on human health,' he concluded.

'Age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of sight loss in the developed world and so this finding is significant,' added Robert MacLaren, an ophthalmology expert from the University of Oxford.

'Participants in the study had an average age of around 60 and this small increase risk of 8 per cent is likely to be compounded further over ensuing decades.'

The full findings of the study were published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

The journal Abstract:

Association of ambient air pollution with age-related macular degeneration and retinal thickness in UK Biobank

By Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all


Aim: To examine the associations of air pollution with both self-reported age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and in vivo measures of retinal sublayer thicknesses.

Methods: We included 115 954 UK Biobank participants aged 40–69 years old in this cross-sectional study. Ambient air pollution measures included particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Participants with self-reported ocular conditions, high refractive error (< −6 or > +6 diopters) and poor spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) image were excluded. Self-reported AMD was used to identify overt disease. SD-OCT imaging derived photoreceptor sublayer thickness and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) layer thickness were used as structural biomarkers of AMD for 52 602 participants. We examined the associations of ambient air pollution with self-reported AMD and both photoreceptor sublayers and RPE layer thicknesses.

Results: After adjusting for covariates, people who were exposed to higher fine ambient particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter <2.5 µm (PM2.5, per IQR increase) had higher odds of self-reported AMD (OR=1.08, p=0.036), thinner photoreceptor synaptic region (β=−0.16 µm, p=2.0 × 10−5), thicker photoreceptor inner segment layer (β=0.04 µm, p=0.001) and thinner RPE (β=−0.13 µm, p=0.002). Higher levels of PM2.5 absorbance and NO2 were associated with thicker photoreceptor inner and outer segment layers, and a thinner RPE layer. Higher levels of PM10 (PM with an aerodynamic diameter <10 µm) was associated with thicker photoreceptor outer segment and thinner RPE, while higher exposure to NOx was associated with thinner photoreceptor synaptic region.

Conclusion: Greater exposure to PM2.5 was associated with self-reported AMD, while PM2.5, PM2.5 absorbance, PM10, NO2 and NOx were all associated with differences in retinal layer thickness.

‘Bad theology kills’: Senior cleric returns honour over Margaret Court decision

In its new guise as the Uniting church, the Methodists have undergone a rapid falling away from their traditional devotion to Bible teachings.  The guy quoted below reflects that

It's hugely perverse that he calls a devotion to Bible teachings "bad theology".  Surely the bad theology is anything leads you away from faith in God and his clear teachings.  Consult Romans 1:27; Jude 1:7; 1 Timothy 1:8-11; Mark 10:6-9; Matthew 19: 4-16; 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11; 1 Corinthians 7:2; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Genesis 19:4-8 if you want to read good theology.  The Bible repeatedly makes clear that homosexuality  is a defiance of God.  Real Christians accept that

All sexual acts are voluntary.  Everybody has the choice to engage in them or not

A church leader says Margaret Court’s “bad theology” is his reason for joining the growing list of Order of Australia members who are returning their awards in protest against her elevation to the country’s highest civilian honour.

A number of recipients, including retired broadcaster Kerry O’Brien and acclaimed artist Peter Kingston, have either returned or refused awards and others say theirs have been tarnished.

In this week’s Australia Day awards, Court was elevated from an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) to a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for her sporting success.

As a tennis player, she won 24 grand slam women’s singles titles, but as a Pentecostal pastor she has preached against LGBTQ rights, opposed same-sex marriage and, in 2017, compared homosexuality with Hitler and “the devil”.

The Reverend Alistair Macrae, a former president of the Uniting Church in Australia who was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for his contributions to the church and the community, said on Wednesday that he would be handing back his award.

“As a minister and theologian, I am aware that bad theology kills people,” Mr Macrae wrote in an opinion piece for The Age.

“Bad theology underpinned the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. Bad theology supported Hitler’s racist ideology and the evil it produced. Bad theology underpinned or failed to recognise the racist assumptions behind the destructive program of colonisation not least in this land. Bad theology continues to alienate and oppress sexual minorities.”

Court has stated that her religious views are separate from her sporting career, comments which Mr Macrae argued were disingenuous for a public figure.

He pointed to high suicide rates in the LGBTQ community and stressed that Court’s views were not shared by all Christians.“If it harms people, from my perspective, it’s not from God,” he said.

Caller on a prime time NZ radio show claimed Maori men are 'genetically predisposed to crime' and naturally do badly in school

Nobody seems to care whether the comments were true or not.  The fact that Maori are greatly over-represented in NZ jails, the fact that most Maori carry the violence gene monoamine oxidase (specifically the  AGCCG haplotype, coupled  with  the  3-repeat  allele  of MAO-A30bp-rpt) and that the average Maori IQ is 94, are all ignored. But not offending people is the overarching aim these days.  

That such an aim is a disastrous dead-end is shown by the American experience.  Mention of the low average African IQ has long been verboten there.  So what is the outcome?  Has the expected racial harmony happened?  Far from it. It has just left lots of angry blacks wondering why they do so badly in all sorts of ways. Because they are not told the truth of the matter they believe false explanations which say that their disadvantage is all due to invisible white racism.  And they express their anger about that by repeated rioting and widespread destruction in major American cities. Avoiding the truth is a recipe for long-term disaster, nothing else

A major radio network is facing a huge backlash after broadcasting profoundly racist views during a live talk-back show.

A Magic Talk Radio caller in New Zealand described Maori people as 'genetically predisposed to crime, alcohol and under performance educationally' as well as being 'stone-age people' in a highly offensive on-air rant.

Magic Talk presenter John Banks, a former Auckland mayor and MP, didn't stop the rant on Tuesday.

Instead, Banks thanked the man for his call, before saying 'if their (Maori) stone-age culture doesn't change, these people will come through your bathroom window'.

The exchange was posted on social media site TikTok by a horrified listener, before quickly spreading to other social media platforms.

By Wednesday, outraged social media users were petitioning Magic Talk advertisers to pull their support of the station.

Telecommunications giant Vodafone and TradeMe, a major online sales website, responded by saying they would boycott the station.

Magic Talk holds the rights to broadcast Black Caps matches, and New Zealand Cricket also said they were 'disgusted and appalled by an indefensibly racist' exchange.

NZC suggested it could walk away from its ongoing broadcast deal, saying 'should strong action not be taken NZC reserves its right to review its relationship with Magic Talk'. 

A third major sponsor, Kiwibank, said it was 'removing our ads from the Magic Talk website and we'll be talking directly with (station owner) MediaWorks on how they could better encourage a diverse and inclusive NZ'.

Following a 30-year political career including two stints as a cabinet minister, Banks is well known in New Zealand for his right-wing views.

Banks, 74, later said he 'wasn't racist' in a grovelling on-air apology, before admitting his views 'could have been misconstrued as racist'.

'I didn't pick it up at the time, here when you're broadcasting, you're talking to producers, you're talking to bosses,' Banks said.

'I spoke to people later in the show who disagreed with the man and I picked it up then, however this wasn't enough to demonstrate that his comments were wrong and racist.'

Magic Talk announced on Wednesday they had since dumped Banks as an on-air presenter.

The show had been discussing Orange Tamariki, New Zealand's Ministry for Children, and its new all-Maori board of advisors.

'The talkback environment can be robust and opinionated, however we recognise comments broadcast yesterday during a call discussing the departure of Oranga Tamariki’s CEO were hurtful,' Magic Talk wrote on Twitter.

Australia Day

I celebrated Australia day in the traditional manner -- with a family BBQ. My brother joined us. We had lamb chops, sausages, salad, various cheeses and Tasmanian Pate. So the food was good.

We had most of the lunch under shade in the garden at Lindwall St. but adjourned to air conditioning for our Pavlova dessert

We discussed the ever-growing "Invasion Day" movement and wondered why they cannot have their day while we had ours. Each to his own, we said

But the motivation for the protests is actually clear. They smell money in it. It's an ever louder call for "reparations". They seem to think that can get yet more money from the government for people with any Aboriginal ancestry.

The fact that the government already gives them various types of support that are not available to other Australians is ignored. Gratitude? You'd be joking. The existing payments have simply made them greedy for more.

They think that more noise will produce more money. But that is unlikely to happen. Whatever they got they would want more and that should be obvious to anyone. One of the reports below asked for a million dollars for each aborigine. The whole thing is just contemptible money grubbing -- JR

Heatwaves may mean Sydney is too hot for people to live in 'within decades'

This is a heap of nonsense.  I grew up in Far North Queensland where temperatures that would flatten some Southerners were normal. According to the BOM, Sydney has a December mean  maximum temperature of 25.2 while in Cairns it is 31.5. So many days were over 30 degrees Celsius in Cairns while such days were rare in Sydney.  We just accepted such days as normal and went about our business in Cairns.  Life went on as usual.  It wasn't too hot to live in.

It is true that Sydney has always had some very hot days. Back in 1790 it was so hot that bats were falling out of the trees.  But life has gone on in Sydney ever since and it will continue to do so.  It is no drama

Parts of Victoria and NSW are sweating through an extreme heatwave that started sweeping across Australia's southeast on Saturday.

This may seem like just a good excuse to go to the beach, but as the planet warms and summers become longer and less bearable, heatwaves are coming to represent an existential threat to Australian suburbs.

Already, heat kills more people in Australia than any other natural disaster, including floods, cyclones and bushfires.

Now, faced with the prospect of 50-degree-plus summers, experts say highly urbanised parts of Australia may become unliveable within decades.

The race is on to re-imagine, redesign and rebuild the Australian suburb. Car parks may be ripped up and planted with trees and greenery, houses retro-fitted with insulation, roads painted to reflect rather than absorb heat, and supermarkets and even whole suburbs built underground to reduce cooling costs.

One centre of these efforts is Western Sydney, home to more than 2.5 million people. In this floodplain of closely packed houses, heat pools on islands of black bitumen and collects on sun-baked concrete.

The mercury gets close to 50 degrees Celsius here in summer — and that's just the ambient air temperature. The radiant heat from bitumen carparks can push 80C. The surface temperature of playground equipment has been measured at 100C.

Since 2019, all 33 Sydney councils have been funding a climate adaptation program that has identified heat as the number-one climate threat to Sydneysiders.

"We are not yet building a city that's really equipping our people to survive and adapt extreme heat," says Beck Dawson, who heads the Resilience Sydney program.

"If the community doesn't have access to things to make themselves cool we effectively have a very large oven occurring across the Western Sydney plains.

"The scale of the emerging threat is different to anything we've faced before."

Google, Facebook think they are above Australian law

The editorial below is rather over the top.  No matter how big it gets, a private company has little power over a sovereign state.  And in this case the media companies' response to the threatened Australian legislation is mostly bluff. There are many alternatives to social media companies and the idea that anybody has to rely on Google <i>et al.</i> for their news is laughable.  There are more news sites around the world than you could poke a stick at.  Russian news site RT in particular delights in putting up stories that are little covered in the West.

And even search is far from a monopolized function.  Bing, Duckduckgo and Yahoo are well established alternatives.  Anybody who finds the offering of a major media company suddenly missing will quickly learn to log on to an alternative site.

And precisely that will cause Google <i>et al.</i> to back down. They would be very allergic to a loss of business to their competitors

The threats and bullyboy behaviour of Google and Facebook yesterday tore away any last facade hiding the tech titans’ true nature as virtual rogue states who consider themselves immune to fair law or regulation.

Both companies’ appalling tactics will be of deep concern to thinking Australians – who are the ultimate victims.

Over several years the several million Australians who use these platforms have become increasingly suspicious and disturbed at the way tech giants wield their power without any responsibility; from allowing the publication and distribution of extremist and harmful content and the proliferation of fake news, failing to cooperate with law enforcement authorities, and manipulating audiences at the end of their algorithms.

Yesterday both companies proved once and for all they believe they should not be answerable to the rule of law.

Before a Senate hearing examining a proposed code of conduct which will for the first time make the digital behemoths pay news organisations for the content which helps drive their superprofits, Google threatened to remove its search engine from Australia in retaliation.

It’s a crucial moment in time: Australia wants to apply a simple – and small – set of reins but both tech giants want to gallop away, unfettered by regulation or scrutiny.

The threat to withdraw Google Search follows on from Google’s decision a few weeks ago to hide some Australian news sites from its search results – a move interpreted in several quarters as another retaliation against an Australian government backing the payment proposal.

Google is now the third technology company behind Apple and Microsoft to exceed a value of One Trillion US dollars, putting it ahead of a few successful western countries when compared to their wealth as measured in GDP.

Independent Senator Rex Patrick has compared the company, which in a burst of idealism once incorporated into its mission statement the phrase, “don’t be evil,’’ to the oppressive leadership of China.

“Google’s behaviour is straight out of the Chinese Communist Party’s playbook, and it’s not appreciated,” Senator Patrick said.

Senator Patrick, who along with five other upper house colleagues was examining the merits of the proposed legislation, said he and his Senate colleagues took a dim view of Google’s threat to remove itself from the Australian market.

Senator Patrick, quite rightly, pointed out that Google was threatening to withdraw its service from the market place just as countries around the world were examining ways of sustaining public interest journalism.

Liberal senator Andrew Bragg, also a member of the Senate committee at yesterday’s hearing, warned of the dangers of big companies amassing the sort of global power which he compared to the oil companies of the last century.

“Their power and market reach is such that there needs to be intervention to redress the imbalance.’’

Google and fellow travellers in the tech world such as Facebook have grown enormously rich in the past two decades partly because they can harvest data valuable to the world of marketing.

But what began in 1996 as a Stanford University research project has become such a corporate juggernaut that it is beginning to become apparent that Google believes it can dictate terms, and decide the rules, of a game which it believes it controls totally.

Executive director for Reset Australia, Chris Cooper, gave a wonderfully illustrative quote on how the company’s corporate maturity may not have kept pace with its financial growth.

“Today’s egregious threats show Google has the body of a behemoth, but the brain of brat,’’ he said. “When a private corporation tries to use its monopoly power to threaten and bully a sovereign nation, it’s a sure-fire sign that regulation is long overdue.’’

While slightly more restrained, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had a blunt view of the latest development, clearly indicating he would not be intimidated by Google’s threat to limit the nation’s access to Google Search.

“Australia makes our rules for things you can do in Australia,” the Prime Minister said. “And people who want to work with that in Australia – you’re very welcome. But we don’t respond to threats.”

This case has implications that go far beyond our shores.  It is a true test of whether these global tech titans can be brought to heal or whether they are above the law and unanswerable to the people of Australia.

Man who strained his back picking up company car keys will receive workers compensation

How on earth is the employer responsible for this? Is the employer responsible for damage that he does to himself while he performs an everyday task? If he was acting on the instructions of his employer it would make sense. But he clearly was not. He was making a private decision about a private matter

It's all an instance of the courts assisting people to target those who have deep pockets. If some one suffers in some way, lawyers look around for someone who is even tangentially involved and puts the reponsibility on him if he has significant resources. And judges allow that.

Liability is not dermined by guilt or responsibility but by ability to pay

A tribunal found the link between his work and his journey to work meant his injury was compensable

The South Australian Employment Tribunal has ruled that Robert Thelan, a works coordinator for SA Power Networks, must be compensated for the injury.

Mr Thelan was on call at home, on September 9, 2019, when he received a text message asking him to attend a job to fix a power line.

He got dressed for work and went out to the company Ford Ranger in his driveway, and sat down in the drivers' seat.

Mr Thelan accidentally dropped the keys to the four-wheel-drive ute onto the driveway, according to the judgment of Deputy President Judge Miles Crawley.

Staying in the seat, 90 centimetres above the ground, he leaned out the driver's side door to pick them up, straining his back in the process.

He drove to the Port Pirie SA Power Networks depot and reported the injury, and was taken to hospital soon after.

He was subsequently unable to work and incurred medical expenses, but SA Power Networks rejected his compensation claim.

The company, which builds and maintains the state's electricity infrastructure, argued that the injury "did not arise from employment and employment was not a significant contributing cause of the injury".

SA Power Networks said Mr Thelan was "merely undertaking activity preparatory to undertaking duties of employment".

But he submitted that his injury did occur when he was carrying out his duties of employment, and that he therefore deserved compensation.

Under his employment agreement, he started getting paid when he began his journey to a job, and he was required to use a company vehicle to get there.

In 2019, another judge had found that there needed to be a "real and substantial connection between the employment and the accident" as well as "a real and substantial connection between the employment and the journey" for an injury to be compensable.

But in this week's case, Judge Crawley said Judge Brian Gilchrist was wrong in his decision.

"I find that it is not a prerequisite to compensability that there be a real and substantial connection between the accident and the employment," the judgement reads.

SA Power Networks declined to comment.

The Left-led destruction of standards in the schools

We will MAKE you equal, they implicitly say -- even if we can do that only by dumbing everybody down to a low common denominator.  Their "all men are equal" gospel is truly pernicious but is part of their general disconnect from reality.  

Reality is unimportant to them.  They see only what they want to see.  And what they want is to see everyone as miserable as they are.  As Gore Vidal once said: "Whenever a Friend Succeeds, a Little Something in Me Dies"

In my university teaching career I saw several instances of the sort of thing mentioned below.  I was in a very Leftist Sociology department and I saw student marks upgraded on all sorts of flimsy grounds

A friend of mine walked away from his job as a teacher recently, turning his back on career spanning over three decades.

He told me he was leaving because he was tired of being forced to give good marks to indifferent students, as there existed an unwritten but understood direction that no one was allowed to fail.

He said he was tired of coaching sporting teams to take part in competitions in which there was no scoring, so that everybody was a winner and no one suffered the ignominy of coming second.

If everyone passes and nobody loses, then the students are happy and parents are happy and the headmasters and education bureaucrats are happy.

Little Johnny never acquires the discipline inherent in study, but sails through high school without raising a sweat because the system says he must. He also thinks he’s great at sport as his team never lost.

His lack of commitment to learning doesn’t matter, because as long as he can sign his name and apply for a student HECS loan, universities will welcome him into their folds.

He spends three lovely years watching online lectures in between playing video games, going to the beach and hanging out with his mates.

His tutors give his barely comprehensible assignments a pass mark because they know that their superiors expect everyone to pass.

Tutors know that if they fail students, particularly those from overseas, they will be accused of having a bias against a particular group.

It doesn’t matter that these groups have poor written and spoken English language skills, and engage in wholesale cheating.

It’s much better to give everyone a tick and move on, rather than risk a career-threatening confrontation.

Three years and $30,000-plus later, Johnny emerges from the sun-drenched halls of academia with a degree and zero skills.

He has been in the education system for 15 years and learnt absolutely nothing because no one forced him to pursue goals and strive for excellence.

He eventually gets a job in retail or a call centre, and looks at the degree hanging on his bedroom wall and gets angry because he feels the system has failed him.

What happened to that high-paying job to which his degree entitles him?

He’s right, of course. The system did fail him. It thought it was doing him a favour by protecting him from the emotional damage he might suffer if he was told that if what he was offering up was his best, it wasn’t good enough and he would have to go back and give it another shot.

He never learnt that there are winners and losers in life, and that the difference between the two is that winners try harder.

We know the system is failing these kids because it’s evident in the studies that compare the performance of our students with those in other countries.

This evidence is incontrovertible, but no one seems particularly interested in changing anything.

In 2019 almost one in every 10 student teacher university graduates failed an online literacy and numeracy test.

How difficult is the test? Here are two sample questions.

* This year a teacher spent $383.30 on stationery. Last year the teacher spent $257.85 on stationery. How much more did the teacher spend this year than last year?

* A surf shop has surfboards for hire at $15 an hour up to a maximum of $60 a day. What is the cost of hiring a surfboard from 9.30am to midday?

Challenging? I don’t think so.

Surely a system that produces high school graduates who then progress through a degree at the completion of which they are unable to perform simple intellectual tasks is flawed.

They then go on to teach others and the process is perpetuated.

Many teachers do great work and it could be, I imagine, the most demanding of professions but that is not the point.

The concern is that far too many of our kids are completing their high school education ill-equipped to make their way in the world, and then drift into meaningless degree courses that qualify them for Centrelink payments and little else.

In a few weeks, thousands of Queensland children will part company with their tearful mothers and pass through the school gates for the first time.

We want these kids – all of our kids – to be winners in every sense of the word, but it falls to parents to instil the understanding that success is hard won because a system that seeks to please all and disappoint none will never do it.

A careful look at the Swedish death statistics

There is here a long and very academic recent article on Covid deaths in Sweden,  The author looks at all sorts of confounding factors before we can make a judgment about whether the Swedish death-rate is high by historical standards.

For me, the most interesting point to emerge was that the death rate in 2019 was unusually LOW, so you would expect some rebound from that on regression to the mean alone. He calls that the "Dry tinder effect". So we could expect the 2020 figures to be above average on that ground alone. And, sure enough, when you combine the 2019 and 2020 years you have two fairly average years. So the claim that Covid caused a high death rate in Sweden falls rather flat.

Let me quote his final conclusions:

My personal take on Covid 2020 in Sweden is as follows:

Yes, Covid 2020 was real (and continues to be real at least until spring 2021, as all seasonal viruses). The number of deaths 2020 was higher than it should have been, which ever way we define “Excess”. Not exceptionally higher, and far from all the disaster scenarios painted by media, politicians and failed scientists.

Was Covid 2020 our generation’s “Spanish Flu” ? No. Far from it, as can be seen in the graph showing 1918 above, and by comparing mortality rates, where non-age-adjusted mortality 2020 is on par with that of 2012, and age adjusted mortality 2020 on par with 2013.

Was the Swedish Government’s response adequate ? To a large extent yes. Until they panicked and lost their mind in November 2020, and introduced “The Swedish Enabling Act“, a form of legislation that is a disgrace to any nation pretending to be democratic.

Where “The Strategy” failed was in protecting the frail and elderly, particularly in the care homes. The strategy also failed in overall crisis & contingency planning & management, where various governments since the early 90:ies have radically reduced investments and capacity in health care, care of elderly as well as many other vital parts of the societal safety net. So, the frequently repeated “Isolate, or our hospitals will be overwhelmed!” mantra was primarily caused by several decades of catastrophic political decisions and priorities regarding medical care and other critical societal function investments and resources, as much as by the virus itself.

What the future brings will be seen by those who survive. Myself, I’m afraid that more doom & gloom will follow for a long time in the tracks of the “2020 Covid Experience”, even if we should manage to eliminate the virus, e.g. by vaccine, during 2021. The psychological effect on populations having spent a year or more in Lockdown, thus missing most of what makes life and living worthwhile, will be interesting to observe, as will be whether social interaction patterns and behaviors eventually return to normal, or whether our future social interactions will be so deeply ingrained by Anno Covidis that we will, similar to Pavlov’s dogs, continue regarding fellow human beings as potentially deadly virus vectors.

Similarly, as this recent article (Swedish) shows – 90000 (!) medical treatments cancelled during 2020 – we will also have to expect further “Excess Deaths” down the road, where these deaths are only indirectly caused by Covid.

Statistical politics: Prof. Mike Hulme on ‘politically charged’ climate baseline changes from 1961-1990 to 1991-2020

I had to laugh as soon as I read this. It changes nothing of course but it is going to look like it does. And Greenies will certainly pretend it does. It is just a statistical trick. Comments from distinguished meteorologists that appeared in my email summarize the matter well:

"The only temperature plot that isn't a slave to baseline choices is absolute temperature. Anomaly based temperature is a statistical construct relying on the assumptions and choices of the statistician."

"Trends in fact don't change with changes in baseline, but any time there is a step up, it will be used for political and propaganda purposes without ever acknowledging that it is a statistical up-tick, and not real."

"It doesn't change temperature trends over ANY time period. What it will do is make temperature anomalies cooler, since the new 30 year baseline is warmer than the old."

Hulme: "January 1, 2021, a new World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) climatological standard normal came into effect. The ‘present-day’ climate will now formally be
represented by the meteorological statistics of the period 1991-2020, replacing those from 1961-1990.

National Meteorological Agencies in member states are instructed to issue new standard normals for observing stations and for associated climatological products. Climate will ‘change’, one might say, in an instant; today, the world’s climate has ‘suddenly’ become nearly 0.5°C warmer. It is somewhat equivalent to re-setting Universal Time or adjusting the exact definition of a metre." ...

"So, what is the significance of the move to a new 1991-2020 WMO normal in January 2021? On the one hand, it is a pragmatic move to redefine ‘present-day’ climate for operational applications to that of the most recent 30-year period. On the other hand, it puts into play a third climatic baseline. Already existing is the ‘pre-industrial’ climate of the late nineteenth century and the ‘historic’ climate’ of 1961-1990, the latter about 0.3°C warmer than the former. And now there is the new ‘present-day’ climate of 1991-2020, in turn about 0.5°C warmer than the ‘historic climate’ of 1961-1990." ...

"Combining a climatic tolerance of 2°C—or indeed 1.5°C—with a pre-industrial baseline yields a very different climate target than, say, using a 1986-2005 baseline, the period widely adopted by IPCC AR5 Working Group I as their analytical baseline. The choices of both baseline and tolerance are politically charged. They carry significant implications for historic liability for emissions (La Rovere et al., 2002), for policy design (Millar et al., 2017) and for possible reparations (Roberts & Huq, 2015)."

Remembering the past

The author below moans that we rarely remember the mistakes of our ancestors or the social and economic plight of minorities, two things that he asserts are interwoven. That the most persecuted minority of all -- Jews -- flourish mightily in social and economic  matters, he does not take into account

He notes that we do occasionally remember the war dead of our communities and wonders why we don't remember the past deaths and suffering of minorities too.  He asserts that we have actively suppressed our memories of the latter.

I have a much simpler and less conspiratorial explanation for him:  indifference.  Most of us spend some time thinking about our own past but the past of people unrelated to us rarely gets a thought.  We all have our day-to-day concerns -- with relationships, work etc -- and that is where our mental energies are directed.  Even when we do take note of community history, it only happens as a formal ceremony lasting a few minutes a year.  We have to be MADE to think about the pasts of others

The author below has an obsession with the past but I think he will have to come to terms with the fact that few others share his concerns.  The plight of some minorities is no doubt a worthy cause but I can't generate any personal concern about it.  As Jesus said: "Let the dead bury their dead" (Luke 9:60).  Let minorities make the effort to uplift themselves.  Most minorities in our countries do: Jews, Chinese, Japanese, Indians etc.  Those four groups are in fact high income earners on average.

So why is the author below so concerned about the less successful minorities?  That's easy.  Its just part of the guilt trip that the Left are always trying to inflict on us.  They are themselves hate-filled and want others to hate along with them.  They are anti-patriots -- unhappy people who resent the success of others and the general flourishing of their countries  They want other people to hate their country the way they do and plague us with tales about our evil past to that effect.  It's a sad obsession

A bell rings, and the playground falls silent. Some of my classmates clasp their hands behind their backs in earnest attempts at commemoration; others glance around furtively. I stand like a toy soldier, crumpled cardboard poppy pinned to my lapel, trying to conjure memories of trenches in which I have never stood.

It’s the 11th of November—Remembrance Day in the U.K., Armistice Day in France and Belgium, and Independence Day in Poland. I’m only seven years old, but the nation in which I live wants me to remember the 20 million people, including over one million Britons, who died in the First World War.

Compared to this riot of remembrance, Europe is conspicuously silent about its colonial past. In the U.K., the dark history of the British Empire is overlooked in schools. There is no day of remembrance for those who died as a result of British colonialism. When Black Lives Matter protesters argue that “Silence is Violence,” this is what they mean: national memory, curated by the state, is tight-lipped about colonial atrocities—despite European colonialism claiming 50 million lives in the 20th century alone.

“There’s clearly a big gap in memory,” says Aline Sierp, Associate Professor of European Studies at Maastricht University, and co-founder of the Memory Studies Association. “And there’s this big problem of amnesia when it comes to the role European states and European people played in colonialism.”

“In World War I, it was clear who were the victims and the perpetrators. It’s the same with colonialism, but European states aren’t used to seeing themselves exclusively as perpetrators. We still don’t remember the colonial project as something inherently European, which came with blatant human rights violations.”

The scale of those violations is difficult to comprehend. Ten million dead in the Belgian Congo; 35 million in British India. The Spanish conquest of South America resulted in an estimated 56 million deaths, including several million from European diseases brought to its shores. Such suffering merits remembrance for the same reason we remember war: to ensure it never happens again.

So why does Europe remember casualties of war while forgetting deaths in its ex-col­onies? Professor Santanu Das, author of India, Empire, and First World War Culture, is a leading voice in First World War studies, specialising in the memory of colonial troops. He believes it’s not possible to commemorate colonial deaths as we do for the war.

“Even though we accept the horrors of the war and the unprecedented loss of lives, the stories of camaraderie and endurance nonetheless have the power to inspire us— and so the images of the doomed generation come to us today with a sort of romantic glow,” he says.

“There is nothing of the sort in memories of colonialism. What we have are images of exploitation, and ideologies based on racist discrimination—and this retrospective embarrassment, awkwardness and anger.” If Europeans wish to commemorate colonial victims, the Remembrance Day framework of poetry, poppies and pan-European romance won’t work.

Young woman appears in court after allegedly obstructing police and breaching bail

What gives these people the right to disrupt other people's lives?  There is no such right but you would never know that from the decisions of the courts

The affinity between Leftists and environmentalists was well on display here. From Napoleon and the Socialist Hitler onwards, both groups cheerfully disregard the rights of others in pursuit of their own interests. Many completely innocent people were greatly put out by the traffic holdups but did the demonstrators care about that?  Not as far as one can see.  Obtaining their own goal -- personal publicity -- ruled supreme

That personal publicity was the aim  can be seen from the pointlessness of their "cause".  The people they were championing were NOT refugees.  They were people who claimed to be refugees but whom the authorities and the courts had ruled NOT to be refugees.  They had already had full attention to their fraudulent claims

A refugees rights activist charged after a protest in Brisbane has been bailed following a night in custody. Emma Jade Dorge, 24, appeared in Brisbane Magistrates Court charged with obstruct police and a breach of bail condition.

About a 100 protesters marched in the streets of Kangaroo Point yesterday blocking peak hour traffic as the Gabba Test finished.

The protest began about 5pm at the Kangaroo Point Central Hotel where scores of immigration detainees have been warehoused since last year. The protesters headed down Main St chanting “we won’t stop until we free the refugees”.

A Queensland Police spokeswoman said there was no permit issued for the demonstration and it was “an unauthorised protest”.

Dorge was the only person charged following the incident.

Representing herself in court this morning Dorge indicated during a bail application that she was likely to plead not guilty to the charges.

If refused bail today she would spend months in custody for offences that are likely to only attract a fine if found guilty, she told the court.

“All of my alleged offences and history are for peaceful protesting. I don’t pose a risk to the community in being let out on bail,” she said.

Magistrate Annette Hennessy granted bail stating she did not consider Dorge an “unacceptable risk”in the community.

Queensland judge allows mother to consent to autistic child’s transgender treatment

This case was obviously decided on the facts rather than on any principle so should not be regarded as any precedent.  The kid was mentally abnormal and distressed while the father had effectively renounced his parental rights so this was not in any way a paradigm case.

One wonders, however, whether the mother might have encouraged the inappropriate gender role.  From what we are told, it seems not.  If that were the case it would be a matter of considerable concern

It is reassuring that nothing irreversible will be done at this stage.

A 13-YEAR-OLD child, born as a boy but living as a girl, has been given urgent permission to have male puberty bocking drugs without the father’s consent in an extraordinary Queensland first.

The landmark legal case is the first of its kind to be heard in the Supreme Court, with decisions regarding consent for treatment for children with gender dysphoria having previously only been made in the Family Court.

The child, “A”, has been living as a girl for several years and is terrified of her voice deepening and her male genitalia getting bigger, the judge was told.

The mother applied for an urgent order for her to be able to consent to stage one male puberty blocking treatment for her child, without the father’s consent.

“From the age of four, A would declare that she was something other than her male gender and began to declare she was a girl and not a boy and had been born in the wrong body,’’ Justice Ann Lyons said.

“She is uncomfortable wearing boys’ clothes and prefers girls’ clothes, preferably in the colour pink.’’

The mother and child have not seen the father for more than three years, with the mother claiming he had a criminal history for drug and weapons offences and was violent.

She and the child moved to regional Queensland to escape the father, whom she claimed was emotionally, verbally and physically abusive towards both of them.

He did not support the child’s desire to be female, the court heard.

In a recent Family Court decision, a judge said doctors had to seek consent from both parents before a child could be given stage one, two or three treatment for gender dysphoria.

The Supreme Court heard the mother did not know the father’s whereabouts and there were concerns that if the application was made in the Family Court there could be long delays.

The girl is being home schooled, but while she attended a supportive State school she had worn a female uniform and chosen a female name on the school roll and on her bus pass.

A treating team recommended A receive reversible treatment that would block her puberty as a male.

The child, who has autism spectrum disorder, had a history of self-mutilation because of her distress about her genitalia and had previously had suicidal thoughts, a psychiatrist said.

The child recently became upset when experiencing erections.

The doctor said he was concerned if she did not get treatment the child would be at significant risk of depression, anxiety, social isolation, suicide or self-harming of her genitalia.

Justice Lyons heard the application on December 18, two days before the child turned 13.

The judge said the application was brought in the “parens patriae’’ jurisdiction, in which the court acted as a parent to protect children who are unable to look after their own interests.

It allowed the court to make orders contrary to the wishes of a child’s parent, if satisfied it was in the best interests of the child.

Justice Lyons said she was satisfied that A had gender dysphoria, that she and her mother consented to the puberty blocking treatment and the treating team considered it was in the child’s best interest that it not be delayed.

She said considerably delaying treatment to obtain the father’s consent was not in the child’s best interest.

Justice Lyons allowed the mother to consent to the puberty blocking drug treatment without the father’s consent, because of the time of year and concerns about delay.

However, the judge said any future applications for stage two treatment should go before the Family Court of Australia, given its expertise in such matters.

Australian Transgender Support Association of Queensland president Gina Mather applauded the decision of Supreme Court Justice Lyons, which she said was for the betterment of the child.

“We understand the heartache and desperation of trying to contact an absent parent regarding medical assistance for a child,” Ms Mather said.

“The Supreme Court judge should be commended for acting quickly to make this urgently-needed decision,.

“Family law is too slow regarding children under the age of 16 whose parents are of differing opinions with regards to gender dysphoria and puberty blockers.

“This medication is reversible and allows breathing space for everyone, the child, the parents and so on.’’

Conservative Commentator Says AIG Canceled His Insurance Over His Social Media Posts

The more this sort of thing goes on, the more conservatives will set up their own alternatives to restricted services. That is already happening with alternatives to mainstream social media. There are already several alternatives to Twitter and Facebook available.

The Left are not content to let that happen of course. They have already shut down Parler, a conservative-oriented alternative to Twitter but it seems unlikely that they will be able to shut down all the alternatives., in particular now seems to have its own servers.

And business generally will in time provide alternatives to other services. In the case at issue below, there will undoubtedly be other insurers willing to give cover to customers rejected by AIG

If the Left go full Fascist however and manage to shut down all alternatives to sites that they control, that will be a real red rag. It will invite retaliation that could be violent. Many Trump supporters are military or ex-military men. And as such they are usually trained marksmen. So if the Left are authoritarian enough, some of the oppressed may see that the gun is the only alternative left to them. Sniper attacks on major Leftist targets could be expected. Would anyone working at the NYT be safe?

At an extreme, a real-life dystopia could emerge, whereby all Democrat officials had to drive around in armoured cars for their own safety. And that is not as improbable as it sounds. One should not forget that, during the Obama years, it was guns that restrained the law enforcement response to Cliven Bundy's protest against loss of his traditional rights.

Conservative commentator and former baseball star Curt Schilling says that AIG canceled his insurance policy over his “social media profile,” a new level of deplatforming not yet seen.

“We will be just fine, but wanted to let Americans know that @AIGinsurance canceled our insurance due to my “Social Media profile,” tweeted Schilling.

“The agent told us it was a decision made by and with their PR department in conjunction with management,” he added.

While innumerable Trump supporters have lost their Twitter and Facebook accounts due to social media censorship and cancel culture, cases of individuals being cut off by banks and other financial services are now growing too.

The purge has gone beyond the realm of simply silencing people on major platforms for their opinions, but punishing them for expressing them by trying to make their lives unlivable.

Numerous respondents pointed out the obvious – that without insurance it’s impossible to mortgage a home or register a vehicle.

However, other leftists applauded the move and said that Schilling deserved it for his support of Trump. “You’ve definitely earned it,” remarked one.

“I mean…. capitalism right? They calculated the risk and decided your premiums weren’t worth the long term exposure?” added another.

Did Trump incite a violent demonstration at the Capitol?

He did not. Just one line of his January 6 speech scotches that claim:

"I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard. "

So he did incite a demonstration but he wanted it to be peaceful. And it mostly was. It was just a few hotheads and hangers-on who messed up.

Below is the best than the Left can do to make something different out of Trump's speech. I have inserted some comments in italics to counter the false accusations

New York Times best-selling author, journalist and lawyer Seth Abramson dissected the President’s speech on January 6 and found numerous examples of incitement — some subtle, and others far more direct.

Abramson says Trump almost immediately hints at what is to come.

“Seconds into his speech, Trump says, ‘These people are not going to take it any longer. They’re not going to take it any longer … They came from all over our country. I just really want to see what they do’. It’s an astonishing admission he thinks something is going to happen,” Abramson writes.

Yes. He wanted to see them demonstrate but he said it would be their decision about what they did. It was not under his direction

He says Trump is very deliberate with his use of verb tenses. He stresses the urgency that the election is being “stolen”, not in general terms but very specifically by those counting ballots for the Georgia run-off at the US Capitol.

“So when Trump speaks in the present tense of the election being ‘stolen’ by Democrats and the media — it’s ‘what they’re doing’ — he means it literally: he’s telling the Save America March that he and they are imminently facing a ‘stolen election’ due to events at the Capitol.”

They were

Abramson argues that Trump “clearly sees the crowd as an army”.

“He crows about the size of the crowd, claiming it is ‘hundreds of thousands’ strong. That’s important for his ‘mens rea’ (mental state) as a criminal actor: he believes he’s commanding the actions of a massive force near the Capitol.

“The action Trump is demanding isn’t a protest-type action. It’s not a let-your-voice-be-heard action. It is explicitly an intervention — the ‘steal’ will be ‘stopped’ by the assembled army marching on the Capitol as Trump will shortly direct them. There’s no fuzz on this.”

He simply wanted a really big demonstration

The Harvard Law School graduate and author of Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America says the “strangest line in (Trump’s) speech) involves a call for “military, Secret Service, police, law enforcement” to “come up please”.

Trump says: “If those tens of thousands of people would be allowed — the military, the Secret Service, the police, law enforcement, you’re doing a great job — but I’d love it if they could be allowed to come up here with us. Is that possible? Can you just let them come up please?”

Abramson says the line is “beyond a doubt the strangest line in the speech”.

“When he says ‘come up here with us’ he couldn’t be referring to the stage he’s standing on, as he says he’s referring to ‘tens of thousands’ of military people and cops. So where does he want them to ‘come up’ to?

“The obvious answer — indeed, the only answer — is that, as he’s about to reveal, he is well aware (and was pre-speech) that the Save America March he paid for is a march on the Capitol to ‘stop’ the certification, and that ‘we’/‘us’ will be making that march. And therefore he is asking ‘the military, the Secret Service, the police, [and] law enforcement’ (his words) to march with ‘us’ to the Capitol.”

Rubbish. If you read the speech carefully, you will see that Trump was referring to the big crowd in front of him, including many law-enforcement personnel. He was asking them to come up towards the front of the crowd

Abramson’s analysis ends with this: “America must know what this man did/said. He incited insurrection. Just as the article of impeachment says.”

Trump, of course, denies he did anything of the sort. He distanced himself from such accusations in a statement through his spokeswoman, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

“Donald Trump condemns in the strongest possible terms” the violence, she said Thursday.

“Let me be clear: The violence we saw yesterday at our nation’s Capitol was appalling, reprehensible and antithetical to the American way.

“We condemn it — the president and this administration — in the strongest possible terms.”

The Babylon Bee has a good satirical comment on the false accusations

The Western mind is different

Henrich is at his usual barrow below but his explanations are dubious.  His central claim that the Catholic church disrupted traditional family relationships with its sexual restrictions seems implausible.  It is true that the church restricted cousin marriage but restrictions on cousin marriage are ancient and and the church would seem to be about average in the degree of consanguinuity it allowed.

Cousin marriage is certainly endemic among Muslim populations but that is a consequence of the ease of divorce under Sharia law.  There is nothing comparable elsewhere

So is there another explanation for the unusual Western mind?  There is but it wades into politically dangerous waters these days.  But let me go wading.

The plain fact is that the breakout of modern civilization that was produced by Western minds was not exactly Western.  It would more accurately be described as a creation of German or Germanic minds.  The seminal innovations -- from the printing press to the steam train were the product of minds in two Germanic nations  -- Germany and Britain.  In about 500AD Roman Britannia was conquered and subdued by Germans mainly from the West Baltic area and their genes are predominant in Britain to this day.

And the influence of both countries on nearby countries was great.  To some extent German thinking was transmitted along with German technological innovations.

  So why was German thinking different? I have written at some length on that elsewhere

The database that dominates our understanding of human psychology derives primarily – approximately 95% of it in fact – from populations that are Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic (Weird), and these Weird populations turn out to be distinct in many ways.

Unlike much of the world today – and most people who have ever lived – Weird people are highly individualistic, self-obsessed, guilt-ridden and analytical in their thinking style. They focus on themselves – their attributes, accomplishments and aspirations – over relationships and roles. When reasoning, Weird people tend to look for abstract categories with which to organise the world. They simplify complex phenomena by breaking them down into discrete elements and assigning properties – whether by imagining types of particles, pathogens or personalities.

Despite their seeming self-obsession, Weird people tend to stick to impartial rules and can be quite trusting, fair and cooperative toward strangers. Emotionally, Weird people are relatively shameless, less constrained by the eyes of others, but often wracked by guilt as they fail to live up to their own self-imposed standards.

Where did these psychological differences come from and why are European populations, along with their cultural descendants in places like North America, at the extreme end of these global distributions?

A growing body of research traces these psychological differences to the structure of families – what anthropologists call kin-based institutions. This work suggests that our minds calibrate and adapt to the social worlds we encounter while growing up. Until recently, most societies have been undergirded by intensive kin-based institutions built around large extended families, clans, cousin marriage, polygamy and many other kinship norms that regulate and tighten social life. These institutions persist in many parts of the world today, especially in rural areas.

By contrast, many European populations have been dominated by monogamous nuclear families – a pattern labeled the “European Marriage Pattern” by historians – since at least the end of the Middle Ages.

Testing this idea, analyses reveal that people from societies rooted in more intensive kin-based institutions show greater conformity, less individualism, more holistic thinking, fewer guilty experiences and less willingness to trust strangers. These patterns emerge whether we compare countries, regions within countries or second-generation immigrants from different backgrounds living in the same place. As the first and often the most important institution we humans encounter upon entering the world, the structure of our family networks plays a central role in explaining global psychological diversity.

But why do families organise themselves in such different ways across societies, and why were European families already peculiar by the end of the Middle Ages?

While the diversity of kin-based institutions found around the world has been influenced by many factors, the European Marriage Pattern traces primarily to a religious mutation. Beginning in late antiquity, the branch of Christianity that evolved into the Roman Catholic Church began to gradually promulgate a set of prohibitions and prescriptions related to marriage and the family. The Church, for example, banned cousin marriage, arranged marriage and polygamous marriage. Unlike other Christian sects, the Church slowly expanded the circle of “incestuous” relationships out to sixth cousins by the 11th Century.

Despite often facing stout resistance, this enterprise slowly dissolved the complex kin-based institutions of tribal Europe, leaving independent nuclear households as a cultural ideal and common pattern.

To test the idea that the medieval Church has shaped contemporary psychological variation, it is possible to exploit the unevenness of this historical process by tracking the diffusion of bishoprics across Europe from AD 500 to 1500. Analyses show that Europeans from regions that spent more centuries under the influence of the Church are today less inclined to conform, more individualistic and show greater trust and fairness towards strangers.

Globally, national populations with longer historical exposures to the Church not only show weaker kin-based institutions, but are psychologically “Weirder” today.

Most of us might prefer to think of ourselves as independent, rational thinkers. But how we think, feel and reason – including our inclinations toward conformity and preferences for analytical explanations – has been shaped by historical events, cultural heritages and incest taboos that stretch back centuries or even millennia.

Understanding how history has shaped our minds is part of exploring and embracing our diversity.

Psychologist reveals why boys and girls SHOULD be raised differently

This lady sounds a bit mixed up to me.  She is rejecting the now rather old idea that males and females should be the same.  But what she is advocating seems little different from that. She "believes both sexes must be taught to embrace masculinity and femininity"

A more traditional view is that men should be men and women will be glad of it.  When one looks at media reports of romances between public figures such as sportsmen and movie stars it is very noticeable that attractive and very feminine women regularly team up with big, well-built and fit men -- often sportsmen -- who give no signs of anything feminine.  The partners concerned could be almost a parody of traditional sex roles.  Women with choices like real men, not wimps. A big fit body attracts and all the rest is incidental.

Some years back, I actually did some survey research into the androgyny hypothesis -- that it is healthiest for people to be big on both male and female traits.  I found the opposite.  The healthiest were those who rejected both male and female traits.  They rejected stereotyped ways of behaving in favour of what they individually were

So boys should NOT be told to embrace femininity.  They should be set free to become whatever is right for them.  They should be given freedom to become themselves

A psychologist has revealed why 'boys and girls should be raised differently' in an era where calls for the two to be treated equally steadily grow louder.

Mother-of-two Megan de Beyer believes both sexes must be taught to embrace masculinity and femininity beyond the socially constructed roles they are conditioned to identify with.

The South African author, who in February published 'How to Raise a Man: The modern mother's guide to parenting her teenage son', says a healthy balance of the two traits is essential for developing independence and emotional intelligence.

Parenting should change at the age of 11, Ms de Beyer reveals, right before adolescence when the bulk of emotional maturing and the 'unfolding of masculinity' occurs.

'We need to become more conscious with our parenting and recognise the subtle but complex difference between socially constructed identities of boys and girls,' Ms de Beyer told Daily Mail Australia from her farm on the outskirts of Cape Town.

Her argument contrasts with the iconic activist slogan 'raise boys and girls the same way', widely used in the '#metoo' movement to discourage cultures of toxic masculinity and the wrongful protection of powerful perpetrators of sexual abuse.

The phrase - which has become synonymous with gender equality campaigns and is often emblazoned on T-shirts, posters and bumper stickers - calls for children of all sexes and orientations to be treated equally.

But Ms de Beyer believes instilling values typically associated with the opposite sex is the key to creating a more compassionate society that supports men and women in achieving their goals, whatever they may be.

Parents subconsciously raise boys to be strong, independent and less expressive of their emotions, Ms de Beyer says, which can leave them feeling 'disconnected and isolated' and prone to mental health issues.

In 2017 roughly 75 percent of Australians who died by suicide were men, according to figures from the Black Dog Institute.

Meanwhile Ms de Beyer said girls are instinctively brought up to be accommodating, understanding and less assertive, which can lead to insecurity and a lack of confidence in adulthood.

How to raise boys to be more in touch with their emotions 

1. Self-awareness: Mothers must be clear in their own definition of masculinity.

They must understand the complex and multi-faceted nature of being a man, which involves softness and vulnerability as well as strength and leadership, if she wants to raise an emotionally mature son.

2. Let go of personal experience: Mothers must be aware of their personal experience with men and the situations they have faced during their lifetime. 

3. Focus on humanisation, not emasculation: Mothers must strike a balance between the two to promote emotional intelligence and traditional male traits. 

Ms de Beyer said parents - mothers in particular - must be clear in their own definitions of masculinity.

She believes mums must understand the complex and multi-faceted nature of being a man, which involves softness and vulnerability as well as strength and leadership, if they want to raise a son who is empathetic and emotionally mature.

'There are many ways to be a man, and we need to welcome all of them back,' the holistic parenting expert said. 

Ms de Beyer insists mothers must be aware of their personal experience with men and the situations they have faced during their lifetime.

They should reflect on these to work through difficult emotions they may have faced in relation to domination, broken relationships and poor communication so they can teach their sons to be well-rounded individuals.

'Mums must heal their own wounds around masculinity so they don't bring that into their relationship with their sons,' Ms de Beyer added.

She said mothers with 'masculine wounds' can often overreact to displays of masculinity - such as aggression, territoriality and arrogance common in adolescence - in a bid to protect themselves from 'toxic masculinity'.

But Ms de Beyer admitted there is a 'fine balance' between emasculating boys and humanising them that is not always easy to strike.

'We need to make room for their emotional lives to let their inner voices shine through so they can reach their full potential,' she said. 

Raising girls with healthy masculinity

Ms de Beyer believes parents must be clear with language and communication in order to encourage a healthy dose of masculinity in their daughters.

She recommends using phrases like 'do things that make you feel proud of yourself' and 'I love how independent you've become' to show young girls it is good for them to be strong and stand on their own two feet - traits historically applauded in boys.

Other statements that reinforce positive masculinity for girls include 'it's brave to do that' and 'you are behaving very honourably'.

Ms de Beyer believes use of this language will encourage girls to embrace their masculine side while they develop the classic - and equally important - feminine characteristics of collaboration, kindness, care and compassion.

She said it's vital to create a 'blend of the two'. 'Don't stop either, with boys or with girls,' she added.

Origin and Neoen plan $1bn batteries for NSW power plants

What use is a power source that lasts only for a few hours? What happens when the battery runs flat? Nights can last for 12 hours so when the wind is not blowing get ready for blackouts after 10pm or thereabouts.

And cloudy days could be a problem too. There are many days that are overcast all day, which greatly reduces solar panel output.

Clearly, gas-fired generators are essential. And if you have got them, why the battery?

Two of the world’s biggest batteries, worth a combined $1bn, will be built at the sites of NSW coal plants in a move to ease strains in the power grid and provide back-up for renewable energy generation.

Origin Energy plans to develop a giant 700 megawatt battery at Eraring, Australia’s largest coal-fired power station, while France’s Neoen is preparing a 500MW battery stack dubbed the Great Western Battery Project at Wallerawang, home to the former EnergyAustralia coal station, which has now been decommissioned.

The two batteries would rank as the largest storage devices in the world and over four times larger than the Tesla world-beating battery in South Australia, which is also operated by Neoen.

The rollout of the big batteries shows the willingness of investors to ensure enough supply is in place when coal plants retire over the next two decades. It also boosts the flexibility of running Eraring, which supplies a quarter of the state’s energy needs, during peak demand until its scheduled retirement in 2032.

Origin’s 700MW battery, which can send power into the grid for up to four hours, will be developed in three phases, with the initial capacity expected online by late 2022. An expression of interest for its supply and installation was issued to industry players on Monday. The battery is the largest under consideration in Australia and will require sign-off from Origin’s board.

“The deployment of this battery at Eraring will support Origin’s orderly transition away from coal-fired generation by 2032, while complementing the policy objectives of the NSW energy road map,” said Greg Jarvis, Origin’s executive general manager for energy supply and operations.

“We recognise we have an important role to play in positioning Origin’s electricity generation portfolio to support Australia’s rapid transition to renewables,” Mr Jarvis said. “A large-scale battery at Eraring will help us better support renewable energy and maintain reliable supply for customers, by having long-duration storage ready to dispatch into the grid at times when renewable sources are not available.”

Neoen, which in November teamed up again with Tesla for a “humungous” 300MW battery installation near Geelong in Victoria, will spend up to $400m on the NSW facility, with a generation capacity of 500MW and up to 1000 megawatt hours.

The battery installation will be close to the former Wallerawang plant and connect to a substation that was used for the coal development, documents lodged with the NSW Department of Planning show.

Neoen has so far committed $3bn of investment on 1600MW of renewable generation in Australia and plans to double spending to $6bn by 2022, representing 3000MW of power supply.

“The large-scale battery system would reduce the possibility of load-shedding and blackout events in the state, especially considering the multiple existing coal-fired power plants that are planned to retire in the next decade,” Neoen said in its planning documents.

A breakdown at AGL Energy’s Liddell coal plant in December has increased the potential for power blackouts during heatwaves this summer and forced the nation’s biggest aluminium smelter to cut production.

The batteries back up a key plank of the NSW government’s ambitious plan to attract $32bn in private investment over the next decade focused on 12 gigawatts of renewable generation and 2GW of long duration storage.

Big energy producers and users had previously raised fears over a plan by the NSW government to underwrite investment in renewable and storage generation.

It may also ease tensions between industry and the federal government after Scott Morrison gave companies until April to commit building 1000MW of new power capacity to ensure there was a like-for-like replacement for the Liddell coal plant which will close in the 2022-23 summer.

Coal, which currently provides 70 per cent of electricity, will contribute less than a third of supply by 2040 and could be forced out earlier than planned retirement dates as competition from renewables and carbon constraints render plants uneconomic, Australian Energy Market Operator forecasts show.

By 2035 nearly 90 per cent of power demand could be met by renewable generation during periods through the day. However, that will require up to 50GW of large-scale solar and wind to be added under the most aggressive plan to cut emissions, representing nearly all the current capacity of the market to be built in just two decades.

Up to 19GW of “firmed” dispatchable resources such as gas, pumped hydro and batteries will be required in the next two decades to back up renewables.

Big coal plants like Eraring have been forced to dial down capacity close to minimum levels more frequently due to low wholesale spot prices and the solar “duck curve” phenomenon, where renewables beat coal on price during the day.

Traditionally the country’s big coal generators run around the clock, reflecting both market demand for the fuel but also the difficulty in tweaking output from huge pieces of machinery that can take hours to properly synchronise with the grid.

But the relentless surge of cheap and plentiful renewables — solar, wind, hydro and battery storage — is sparking a shift among the big baseload coal producers that supply 70 per cent of the grid’s needs.

Whereas once Origin may have run the plant through the day and night, the ability of solar to cut wholesale prices in the day means Eraring may make a better return ramping its output up and down to meet peak demand.

Cops not charged over shooting of dysfunctional black in Wisconsin

I cannot see how shooting someone in the back is self-defence.  So the verdict is very stretched. But why was it stretched?

The cops clearly fired to prevent an escape by a known villain. But shooting to prevent an escape is against the law. Preventing escape is not an allowable reason for firing potentially fatal shots at anyone.

But the offender in this case was weilding a knife  so any attempt to lay hands on him would have risked the life of a cop.  They had already used a taser so firing was the only option left.  And bringing to book an obnoxious offender was clearly in the public interest.

So in recognition of that the cops were exonerated via a legal fiction.  What this all shows is that the law should be amended to allow shooting at a fleeing offender in at least some cases

US prosecutors have cleared a white police officer over last year's shooting of Black man Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during an incident that prompted street protests and inflamed racial tensions in the United States.

Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley found police officer Rusten Sheskey acted in self defence, and said he would not issue any charges in connection with the incident.

The decision not to prosecute Mr Sheskey or the two other officers on the scene could incite more demonstrations, which have frequently broken out in the United States in recent years after police have been cleared of wrongdoing in shootings of African Americans.

During a police intervention in a domestic dispute that was captured on a phone video, Mr Sheskey shot at Mr Blake's back seven times from close range as Mr Blake opened the door of his car.

The bullets struck him four times and paralysed him from the waist down.

Officials said Mr Blake was armed with a knife and refused police commands to drop it, which Mr Graveley said gave Mr Sheskey the right to self defence.

"It is absolutely incontrovertible that Jacob Blake was armed with a knife during this encounter," Mr Graveley said, adding that Mr Blake admitted several times to investigators he had the knife.

The police who were called to the scene had been told there was a felony arrest warrant against Mr Blake for domestic abuse and sexual assault, Mr Graveley said.

The officers attempted to detain Mr Blake and stop him with a taser multiple times, but Mr Blake withstood the use of force to avoid arrest, he added.

The knife was not clearly visible in the video, which also began after the previous attempts to arrest Mr Blake, Mr Graveley said.

Man files human rights complaint against Scrabble over racist slurs in game dictionary

A Northern Territory man has filed a formal complaint against the owners of popular board game Scrabble for including racist slurs against Aboriginal people in the game’s dictionary of playable words.

Aboriginal activist Stephen Hagan – formerly of Queensland, who last year forced Coon cheese to change its name – lodged the complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission against international toymaker Mattel for allowing the words “abo”, “coon” and “boong” to be played.

He said he was “absolutely flabbergasted” the company permitted the use of such offensive words.

Although the word coon can be misused, it has legitimate uses as well so does belong in the dictionary. "Coon" is short for "raccoon" 

"Abo" is simply an abbreviation.  Australians are great abbreviators

"Boong" is always derogatory these days but it was originally simply the name of an Aboriginal tribe, no more offensive than "Boori","Murri", "Koori" etc.  So it has legitimate historical uses.

China's plan to produce its own wine and agriculture instead of buying it from Australia and switching from coal to green energy could blow a $150billion hole in our economy

It could theoretically.  But the claim that China will shift to "green" electricity in replacement for coal is a bit of a laugh.  Only a Western Greenie would believe that of China.  They have been very enthusiastic builders of coal-fired generators.

And China's limits on Australian wine need to be seen in conjunction with the fact that China already produces quite a lot of its own wine.  But tastes in wine are very individual so it is clear that many Chinese prefer Australian wines.  So the non-availablity of Australian wines will be felt in China

And the block on Australian coal is already being felt. Chinese power stations are already running out, causing blackouts. Coal is a very common mineral worldwide so Australian coal could theoretically be replaced.  But that would incur a penalty in both quality and price

China's long-term plan to be more economically self-sufficient could harm Australia's major exporters, including those in the once unassailable resources sector.

The Communist power is Australia's biggest trading partner buying 35 per cent of exports worth $150billion during the last financial year.

Iron ore, the commodity used to make steel, is by far the most valuable good sent to China, but thermal coal, agricultural and service exports would be under threat if China aimed to be less reliant on imports and more focused on renewable energy. 

Associate Professor Jane Golley, the director of the Australian Centre on China in the World at Canberra's Australian National University, said local exporters would be vulnerable under President Xi Jinping's plan to be more self-sufficient and generate more economic growth to legitimise Communist Party rule.

'If the Chinese government succeeds in making the Chinese economy more reliant on domestic production and consumption, that doesn't sound like a great idea for the Australian export market broadly,' she told the ABC's 7.30 program.

China in 2019-20 bought $18billion worth of Australian coal.  That component included about $8billion worth of thermal coal, used for electricity generation.

China is aiming to produce net zero carbon emissions by 2060 which threatens Australia's lucrative coal exports. 'For example, they will continue to shift out of coal and towards renewable energies,' Dr Golley said.

'They're also going to open up for capital investors to come in from abroad to support that green growth and so there will be opportunities for Australians in certain markets but I don't think it will be quite as universal as it has been in the past.'

Judge says it makes Australia look bad internationally if we return criminal immigrants to their own country

Judge says he is a better judge of Australia's national interest than our elected representatives are

Under international human rights law, the principle of non-refoulement guarantees that no one should be re-turned to a country where they would face torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and other irreparable harm

But breaches of international law are common and this particular one would be unlikely to generate much angst anywhere

In any case the application of any law will be decided in conjunction with the particulars of the case so the outcome is never automatic

The Morrison government has been warned it must consider the impact on Australia’s national interest of sending refugees back to their country of persecution after losing its bid to deport a convicted child sex offender.

Last year the then-acting immigration minister, Alan Tudge, refused an Afghan man a safe haven enterprise visa on character grounds, despite acknowledging the risk he could be killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

But the federal court has set aside Tudge’s decision, ruling he failed to take into account the full ramifications of Australia breaching its international nonrefoulement obligations.

As immigration minister seeking expanded powers to deport visa holders who committed crimes, Scott Morrison told parliament in 2014 that Australia was not seeking to avoid international law and that refugees would “not be removed in breach of any nonrefoulement obligations”.

According to Justice John Griffiths’ decision, handed down on 23 December, Tudge was aware of Australia’s obligation but believed the issue was not relevant to the question of national interest.

“The acting minister undoubtedly recognised that, in this particular case, the exercise of his power under … would put Australia in breach of its international non-refoulement obligations,” the judge said.

“[Tudge] considered that this was outweighed by other considerations which favoured the decision to refuse to grant the applicant the visa.”

The visa applicant, who has spent more than five years in immigration detention, failed the character test after being convicted in 2014 of two counts of assault with acts of indecency and five counts of indecent assault of a person under 16.

Justice Griffiths noted the case was “not the first” in which a minister has cancelled or refused a visa with the consequence the person “would be removed from Australia to their country of origin” in breach of international law.

He warned it was “important to bear in mind that Australia’s nonrefoulement obligations are owed not to the visa holder or visa applicant, but to the international community”.

Tudge had argued that it was merely “speculation” that breaching international law would harm Australia’s national interest.

But Justice Griffiths said the “very serious consequence” of breaching Australia’s obligations “had to be confronted” more directly in circumstances where there was an “accepted risk” the man could be killed.

“The minister erroneously confined his assessment of the national interest by simply focusing upon the seriousness of the applicant’s criminal conduct, the sentence he received, the risk of him reoffending and the harm to the Australian community if such a risk eventuated.

“In my view, the acting minister fell into jurisdictional error by assessing the question of the national interest on an erroneously narrow basis.”

Despite the Australian government’s loss in the case, the judge acknowledged the court “cannot generally review the merits” of an assessment of the national interest, meaning immigration laws properly applied will still allow refugees to be sent back to their country of persecution.

A home affairs spokesperson said the department was considering the decision but as the appeal timeframe had not ended it was “inappropriate to comment further”.