Opinion Australia

One man’s view of how the world might be.

Mohamed al Fayed – a real reason for complaint?

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You really have to ask yourself if there is something to the continuing complaints of Mohamed al Fayed (the owner of Harrod’s) that the ‘powers-that-be’ (including Secret Service, the Royal Family, and the police) in the UK are conducting a conspiracy intended to ruin him… in other words… people are out to get him… and have been for a very long time!!

This time the police have spent months investigating claims he groped a 15 year old girl in his office.

Somehow the claims reached the media, and despite him being able to prove he was elsewhere at the time the offences were said to have occured, the police nevertheless took several months to clear his name… whilst leak after leak managed to find its way into the media.

Sometimes you just have to ask yourself if his apparant paranoia really does have some basis in fact!

Source: Furious-Fayed attacks police cleared alleged sexual assault girl 15.

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Written by welshdog

February 18, 2009 at 9:51 am

From bad to worse.

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The fires are not yet out… the death toll not finalised… and Melbourne suffers another blow as projections of some of the long term issues become clearer.

This time the problem is water supply. Rainfall in the catchment area for Melbourne is already at its lowest on record, and the dams are currently only at 30% capacity. Now, with much of the catchment burned and blanketed in ash, when the rains come it’s likely that the water collected will be far too dirty for use. Eventually it will clear of course as sediment settles, but it might take years in order for that to happen because each time it rains… if it rains… the dams will be again polluted by turgid ash filled water.

Despite the problems this will cause, it is nonetheless a short term problem and can be fixed. The issue is far more serious than that and projections have been mooted that suggest the *minimum* period affected will be fifty years, and the situation may not revert to ‘normal’ for up to 300 years!! 

So what *is* this problem that is so serious? Basically it’s the possible, actually probable death of hundreds of thousands of Mountain Ash trees. The Mountain Ash is the dominant species throughout the affected catchment area and there are grave fears that the crowns of these trees have been destroyed by the intense heat of the fires.

Whilst it is a Eucalyptus, the evolution of the tree has produced one that *requires* fire in order for seeds to sprout. It is of course, no more fire resistant than others, and these fires were so severe they may not have survived over immense areas. What’s worse is that this variety they won’t shoot new growth from the sides, or the base of the tree. These trees regenerate from seed alone.

This may not sound that serious… until you learn that new growth can use up to 50% more water than a mature tree, and as the growth period of these trees is very extended, the total water supply from the catchment could drop by that amount for the foreseeable future.

What sort of effect this massively reduced water supply will have on Melbourne in the short and long terms is open to discussion, but serious questions are already being asked about the city’s ability to function with water supply so critically threatened. Something will obviously have to be done… the question is, just *what*.

One thing is certain however, the decision of ex-NSW Premier Morris Iemma to push through the building of our desalination plant may well turn out to be a life-saver for Sydney. If similar disastrous fires were to scour the Blue Mountains our water supply, already a bit shaky, would be stretched to the limits and beyond. If that happened, then the plant could be put quickly into full production.

Written by welshdog

February 18, 2009 at 9:31 am

Insanity in the UK.

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The level of bizarre behaviour of institutions in the UK is getting out of hand. Soon they’ll be on a par with the lunatics in the USA.

Current in the list of oddities is the case of two grandparents who were told that they were too old to look after their grandchildren… and were then told that because they had complained to the media that their kids were instead being adopted by a gay couple they would no longer be allowed any contact with them. This of course is despite them having already adopted the youngest child, the childrens repeated insistence that they be placed with their grandparents *and* the youngest girls known and recognised fear of men! More lives ruined in the name of political correctness.

Then there is the man who has been jailed because he confronted a heroin dealer and flushed 5 bags of the drug down the toilet. It’s good to know that drug dealers can rely on the full weight of the law being imposed on people trying to do the job the police can’t or won’t do. Just for added measure he was imprisoned for two months for defending law and order whilst a Portuguese lorry driver who wiped out the lives of six people gets 3 months per life! What an indictment of the justice system??

And lastly… for today… we have Virgin Rail telling its customers they can’t give each other a goodbye kiss when they drop them off at the rail stations.

The country is going to the dogs.

Written by welshdog

February 17, 2009 at 9:02 am

Posted in General Ramblings

So much for that

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I must have fallen out of the habit of daily blogging suring the ‘enforced’ break over the holidays. Yesterday for example, the site hardly entered my thoughts except at the beginning of the day when I realised I had no time to cough let alone write.

Yet despite having my little netbook at hand all day, I managed to watch most of a film, visit the doctor, pick up one of the kids, and spend the evening at ice-skating (where I even had a *free* free wi-fi connection at Maccas where I was sitting), without considering for a second I could be wittering on about ‘stuff’.

Still it could be worse. I was reading a ‘New York Times‘ article pointed out to me by The Phantom on his blog about ‘slow blogging‘ which is supposed to reflect the new blogging process involving deeper thinking and a more laid back attitude to it all.

I think I was a leader in the field of slow blogging… tho it must be said my attitude isn’t so much a ‘laid back’ one… it’s more ‘laid down’.

Written by welshdog

February 17, 2009 at 6:34 am

Posted in General Ramblings

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Death toll etc.

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The death toll currently still stands at 181 but there are areas yet to be accessed by police and there are known dead waiting to be moved and counted amongst those lost. The end total is still estimated at ‘300’ but it will be some time before anything like a final ‘exact official figure’ can be issued.

There are still 120 people unaccounted for and there is still the possibile loss of tourists and the like who are as yet included in the total who might (or may never) be included in the total.

The damage bill is estimated at @ billion, over 1800 homes have been destroyed with 7,500 made homeless. 

Donations and pledges are now running close to $100 million but this is clearly nowhere near the amount needed to help those who can, rebuild their lives.

We’ve been very lucky in the Sydney basin not to have had something similar happen… so I’m hoping lessons are being learned that will prevent *us* from becoming statistics in the future.

Written by welshdog

February 14, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Posted in Environment

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The first arrest.

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Police have arrested a 39 year old man in connection with the blaze that killed 21 people and wiped out 36,000 hectares of South Gippsland. The man’s solicitor said his client was “in a fragile state” and needed immediate psychological support.

Police consider the cause of fires started at Marysville, Murrindindi, Buxton and Narbethong to be ‘suspicious’. If convicted of arson, he faces up to 25 years in jail. If convicted of the bushfire charge, he could face 15 years. 

There have been calls for calm from authorities concerned people might try to take revenge on people accused of starting the fires.

Written by welshdog

February 14, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Posted in Environment

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Firebugs or Natural Disasters or… ?

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Theories are beginning to be mooted about the causes of the Victorian Bushfire Disaster, and whilst they are many and varied it appears nearly all contain an element of ‘truth’ about them that could explain just what went so horribly wrong.

To make it a little simplet. it’s useful to look at the situation in several section; what started the fires; what fed the fires; what allowed them to grown out of control; and why did so many people die?

To begin with, there had been a warning of desperately hot weather for a week before the fires started. The eventual temperature rose to 46.6ºC – the hottest day in Melbourne on record. We’ve heared reports of ‘static electricity storms’ with strikes that might have started spot fires. There were claims that abandoned and broken glass bottles might have started one or more. Also that cigarette butts were involved. The rapid spread of the fies in the area surrounding Maryville and elsewhere suggested deliberate arson.

So far there is no confirmation of any of those theories. One man has been arrested on suspicion of causing the fires surrounding Maryville, but until we hear full details nobody can be sure what happened. He has been moved out of state to protect him until he is brought to trial.

Regardless of how the fires started, once lit there was a chain of events that made the resultant disaster inevitable.

Australian trees such as Eucalypts are oily by nature. The reason the Blue Mountains were given their name was because of the faint haze the oil produces in the sky as it evaporates. In the USA they are known as ‘Gasoline Trees’ because of the way they ‘explode’  when alight. This oily nature ensures that despite being ‘evergreen’, when their leaves drop as they do periodically they don’t immediately rot as happens with deciduous trees. As with pine trees, they form a thick layer around the base of the trees which serves to prevent any other tree growing in competition. In addition they normally grow by shedding their outer layer of bark. The result is that a thick volatile layer builds up rapidy under the trees.

That this is a ready source of fuel for fires has been well known for a long time and disaster mitigation programs established that a maximum ‘safe’ level of this type of litter is roughly 3 – 5 tonnes per acre. Ideally, in order to control the increase, regular ‘back-burning’ of forest areas is carried out under controlled conditions.

In Victoria, the ‘Green Lobby’ has successfully managed to control the agenda regarding ‘backburing in and around state forests such that the activity has been drastically curtailed. The result was that litter in those areas increased from a ‘moderate’ 3 – 5 tonnes per acre… to 20 – 30 tonnes per acre!!

Now add other environmental ‘lifestyle policies’ that serve to prohibit housholders from removing trees further away from their homes than 6 metres… whereas 150 metres in considered to be ‘reasonable in other states… and imagine houses sitting *under* eucalypts, which as we’ve already can be virtual timebombs waiting to go off.  Now add to this the Australian penchant for growing large eucalypts along the edges of roads in order to help shield pedestrians from sunburn, and drivers et al from the sun’s glare.

Finally, there were gale force winds blowing through the area. The wind was obviously to be a large factor in spreading the flames, embers and the thick black choking smoke.

The scene is set. All that was needed was for the sparks to be set and hell exploded.

Regardless how the fires started their spread, once alight, was irresistable. The heat had dried out the litter to tinder and thousands of tonnes of this tinder dry inflammable material began to be devoured.

Initially this seemed no worse than any other bush fire, bad yes, possibly dangerous… but there was no suggestion it might have been worse for the loss of human life than any ‘normal’ year. Instructions were sent out to the residents of the area telling them to follow ‘normal procedure’ for bushfires, i.e. to stay home, prepare for the fire to arrive, ‘flare over them, and move on leaving them with the task of rushing back out with houses, mops and buckets to douse any spot fires thus saving their peroprty from destruction.

However the conditions these fires began under was *not* normal. People who took every precaution suggested were still overwhelmed and died in their homes. Those who realised the scale of the impending disaster and fled found smoke filled roads littered with burning trees blocking their escape. Fires raging with temperatures in excess of 2000ºC overtook them at speeds above 150 kph and there was no escape.

People died in their homes, people died on foot trying to run to safety, people died in cars, in dams, in water filled baths… there was nothing anyone could do in the face of a fire of this magnitude. Whole towns were burned to the ground taking with them the residents who had bravely stayed to fight the blaze.

With the scale of the death and destruction still being assessed the reality still overawes. Day by day stories are emerging of the horrors some people went through. In one home nine people were found huddled over the body of a baby. All had died in their futile attempt to save its life. 

I think the point of this post was to explain that the reasons for the disaster were many and varied… but simply blaming ‘a firebug’, or ‘ alightening strike’ or ‘green policies’ is too simplistic. It was perhaps a combination of all these factors that resulted in the worst known peacetime disaster ever to hit Australia but it probably brings home once and for all that we are going to have to face a decision between life… and lifestyle. We simply *cannot* ‘trust’ the bush and as global warming takes a firmer hold, conditions can only worsen. Decision need to be taken now to encourage people to clear far more trees from around their properties and forgo the pleasure inherent in living close to nature.

Written by welshdog

February 14, 2009 at 4:43 pm