PLANS to bestow sainthood on one of the most influential Catholics in English history, Cardinal John Newman, have triggered an unholy row over claims that he was gay. (The Australian, 30 Aug)
Merry merry king of the bush is he!
This unsourced letter was on the Crikey email yesterday:
We have survived the worst week yet — no water since 12th of this month & still no water, power came on briefly on Sunday and then again yesterday morning, after being off for seven days. Associated with power-out is the lack of telephone. Now also total lack of food and money.
We are allowed to draw only 100 billion dollars per day from our bank accounts. This is currently worth less than 20 UK pence or 40 US cents or two South African Rand. It is a criminally cruel policy which is causing extreme suffering and costing huge unnecessary transport costs to get to the bank daily & then stand in the queue for hours.
This daily maximum withdrawal is not enough to buy even a single bread roll which this week cost 140 billion dollars. On Saturday 1kg of potatoes was 110 billion, 1kg of oranges 500 billion, so one cannot buy anything for the daily drawn-sum and then by the next day everything has again increased beyond one’s purse.
Supermarkets are empty. Vegetables available only from street vendors. Our telephone calls are 2.2 billion dollars per unit. We are desperate for relief. On Friday 25th exchange rate was 850 billion dollars to the US. Inflation was 150 quintillion percent (that is 150 plus 18 0′s ). We try to keep each other going but it is extremely difficult. It is incomprehensible that the world will not come to our aid.
The bank employees are helping themselves to client’s money and all municipal and state services have collapsed. There is no justice to be found anywhere.
My farming friends who had their larger farm expropriated now do not have enough grazing for their dairy herd. They were told to reduce their herd, but the shortage of milk is already so critical that most children never see milk. We are told that we are lucky to have enough water to drink!
These farmers are daily threatened by a police chief who wants to move into their remaining small farm. He has brought a contingent of police to squat on the farm to make sure that they do not remove anything from the farm. They are in terror for their lives and those of their workers but trying to hang on. There is no recourse to justice or help from any quarter. Common human decency has left us. These farmers supply me with two litres of milk and six eggs and sometimes vegetables each week. Without this food I would have nothing.
Last week we ran out of bread, having rationed ourselves to one thin slice per day to make it go further. The bread which we brought back from Johannesburg in April lasted us four months.
The sun still shines & birds are chirping in the garden & spring is coming. The warmer weather helps our mood.
Love to all …
Image above from eBay via Boing Boing
Today’s announcement that the Rudd government will end mandatory detention for asylum-seekers who are not deemed a threat to the community is a tremendous step forward and a symbolic end to a policy that was a defining point of the Howard government.
And it’s just the latest in a series of quietly made, decent and laudable actions by our immigration minister, Chris Evans.
This is the immigration minister who promised last year to “urgently deal with almost 250 cases of people wrongly detained” by the immigration department.
This is the immigration minister who said “he has too much power and feels uncomfortable about “playing God” on individual migration cases.”
This is the immigration minister who argued for changes to the Howard-era citizenship test because it required too high a level of English comprehension and focused too much on recalling dates and sporting trivia that most Australian-born citizens didn’t know.
This is the immigration minister who returned the power to decide immigration cases to the Immigration Review and Refugee Review Tribunals, declaring in the process his support for “independent, transparent and appealable decision making in the resolution of immigration matters.”
This is the immigration minister who put an end to the long-running sagas of Cornelia Rau, Robert Jovicic and Mohammed Haneef. Who put an end to the Howard government’s shameful ‘Pacific Solution’ which had cost $2500 a week per person, or $300 million a year. Who put an end to the utterly shameful imprisonment of 75 Sri Lankan asylum seekers in Nauru. Who rejected caps on specific immigrant groups despite a concerted campaign to stigmatise African refugees as criminals.
This is the first, and probably the last, time I’ve written a glowing reference for an Australian government minister. But in this case I think it’s deserved. Chris Evans is not perfect (of course) but so far he has not put a foot wrong.
The immigration portfolio is probably unique in the degree to which the minister hold in his or her hands the lives and aspirations of individuals – real people. With a stroke of the ministerial pen, the immigration minister has the power to break the spirits and crust the souls of ordinary human beings whose only hope is the chance of a life in a new country where opportunity, not oppression, is the norm. That’s what Evans was referring to when he spoke of “playing God”.
Maybe my judgement is clouded by the fact that my husband and I went though a lengthy and stressful legal case to have his right to stay in this country confirmed (he’s a citizen now, so unlike Robert Jovicic he can never be deported, nya nya nya). Maybe it’s just because the previous three ministers for immigration, Kevin Andrews, Amanda Vanstone and Phillip Ruddock will go down in history as a trio of soulless dolts who were responsible for the worst chapter in Australian immigration policy since White Australia. Maybe it’s because I think we need a reason to continue to believe that last years change of government represented a real change and not just a change of faces, but I think Minister Evans deserves our applause.
There is a real difference between the Rudd government and the Howard government. It is not absolute – this is politics, not the garden of good an evil – but it is real. Amanda Vanstone is in Rome, forced to invite Tim Fischer to every cocktail party she hosts.Phillip Ruddock is in the deepest circle of Hell, gnawing on the skulls of his enemies (Hi Brian). Kevin Andrews is whiling away his time on the backbench, praying to Jesus the they don’t make him ambassador to Sudan.
And, after twelve long years, we finally have a living, breathing, decent human being in the immigration portfolio.
Let’s just hope he doesn’t fuck it up.
From the Starbucks website:
Starbucks Coffee International, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Starbucks Coffee Company today announced plans to restructure its business in Australia through a geographical refocus on three core cities and surrounding areas: Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. This decision will result in the closure of 61 locations throughout the country by August 3, 2008.
This announcement comes as no great surprise, given that the company has already announced plans to close 600 US stores, and given that Starbucks never really took off here (Australian coffee drinkers know what real coffee tastes like, and they know the stuff you get for $5 a cup in Starbucks doesn’t count).
The announcement comes eight years after I posted this rant complaining about the opening of the US coffee chain’s first Australian store.
Good riddance to Starbucks. I hope their Australian staff find new, better, jobs.
The western Canadian province of British Columbia will implement a new, aggressive strategy to expand antiretroviral coverage in order to curb new HIV infections, B.C.â€™s health minister, George Abbott, announced today. The new policy is based on a mathematical model from the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, published in the July 1st edition of the Journal of Infectious Diseases, and when implemented as early as this autumn, will be the first time that anti-HIV treatment has officially been used as an HIV prevention tool.
This will be a keenly-watched experiment. Coming on top of the Swiss Statement I’ve been writing and speaking about, the decision of the BC government to try to increase antiretroviral uptake represents a gradual but significant shift in our understanding of the relationship between HIV treatment, testing and prevention.
According to the Aidsmap story, BC is thought to have about 15,000 people living with HIV, of whom 27% are thought to be unaware of their infection, and just 4379 people are on treatment. That means the success of this strategy will depend somewhat on getting people tested, diagnosed and on treatment. This will be a significant challenge and will require some tough decisions, but it’s a worthwhile exercise and, if Julio Montagner’s mathematical model (which predicts that the HIV epidemic in BC would be ‘wiped out’ within 30-50 years if treatment uptake were maximised) is right, this could represent a major turning point in the response to HIV.
It’s worth stressing that the proposed approach is to offer antiretroviral treatment to all positive people with a CD4 count of 350 or below — the ‘standard’ approach to HIV treatment in western countries — and no-one will b obligated to start treatment if they don’t want to. There will need to be some serious work done on providing social, emotional and mental health support for many of the affected people, which I suppose would include a higher-than-normal proportion of drug users, indigenous people and other marginalised groups. Apparently there is talk of “paying [some] individuals to take their treatment as prescribed” — I suppose that’s a reasonable strategy but I hope they’ll also be offered the education, support and assistance they need, not just a bribe.
Above: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom officiates at the marriage of Del Martin, 87, and Phyllis Lyon, 83, who have been together 56 years but are legally married only today.
Some moments speak for themselves. Anything I could say in commentary would only be fluff. And anyway, I have tears in my eyes.