Saturday, 23 February 2013

My heart bleeds for the family of the young boy who died from lyssa virus today.  I am sure that his death was an awful situation, for him as well as the family.

Some media coverage here -

So what is lyssa virus you say?

It is a bat borne virus very similar to rabies in action, which can be caught by humans usually by a bite or scratch from a bat.  That happening is unusual in itself as they tend to avoid humans, and their radar system is operational, unless they are sick.  In this case the boy was bitten on the finger, inside the house.

It would appear that he was not treated as soon as possible.  The treatment is the same as if bitten by a rabid animal, using rabies treatment injections.

I was scratched on the head by a bat one evening at home myself, and made very definite efforts through vet colleagues to find out what was the best treatment options - which meant getting to casualty at the hospital, for immediate wound cleansing.  And the very next morning starting the anti rabies injection schedule. 

I had already had rabies injections as was working overseas in an area where rabies occurred reasonably regularly, so was aware of the need to do something in preparation, and knew post bite/ scratch treatment was needed when there.

Rabies / lyssa virus are NOT NICE, and inevitably kill if not treated quickly by vaccine injections.

There used to be a super dramatic black and white movie clip that AQIS used to show of a rabid person in Iran or Iraq, probably of imagery from the 1960s or so.  Have seen and never forgotten that.

RULE ONE - if suspect rabies or lyssa virus GET TREATMENT ASAP!!!!


[dogs, monkeys and other mammals typically show mad, out of character agressive behaviour]

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Cybersecurity and You

The news on this issue has been simmering for the past few days, although a lot has been written on the subject over the past few months here in Australia.  Small Australian busineses have been targetted, and information on computer systems destroyed and some have been subject to "ransomware" attacks, requiring a ransom to release control of the computers affected and data made available again.

This is serious stuff for small businesses, but a more insidious form of cyber attacks is occurring on large business.

There are a wide number of articles discussing this issue including a significant one published in the AFR some weeks ago by Christopher Joye.  It is publicly available - a notable issue in itself as the AFR has a user pay system.  It is important.

Today the Australian newpaper has several articles discussing the issue  See them here -

There are many more to be seen on the internet.  For example -

It is of concern that utilities and infrastructure are likely to be long term targets, not just trade secrets from commercial organisations.

Can you protect yourself? 

It might be difficult given the quality of organisations both government and large businesses targetted successfully.  But that said, keeping your firewalls and protection up to date is a start.  Be wary of things on line.  This sort of approach is not new and sound, but it might not be enough to efforts by a serious player.  That might be Chinese, or so is the inference in the various articles above. 

update on 22/2/2013 - another article in the Australian.  This will not go away.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Happy Monsoon Frog

A weather change is wonderful, and we have a monsoon!!

Late, yes and expected to be a short burst, but it is a monsoon.  For so long it has been hanging out north of the Australian coast and bringing unusual heavy rain to Singapore in January and February.

Even the infamous Edith River bridge might have been flooded, and no doubt there will be some water flowing out of the Mt Todd minesite downstream for a few days while the river is flowing strongly.

Around the Top End - rainfalls of 50 - 100mm have been recorded.

AND........the clouds are in, and the temperature a more bearable 28 - 30C, not the hot violent blast of bright sunshine and 34C.  What a difference a few degrees can make.

Bring it on.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Pope Pulls the Pin

The pope has resigned, pulled the pin! A shock to many, Catholic or not.  Popes die on the job don't they?  That is mostly true - last one to not do so was 600 years ago.

The commentariat has been active, and the material below is by someone a little closer to the scene and is somewhat more reasoned than most media reports.

What are your impressions of the article?


Ratzinger the reformer

by Crispin Rovere previously undertook academic research at the Vatican on Australia's political relations with the Holy See, and is now a PhD candidate at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU.

'Reforming progressive' is not a phrase frequently cited to describe Pope Benedict XVI. Repeated over and over are terms like 'conservative', 'hardliner' and 'enforcer'. These depictions were never accurate, though on balance it served Ratzinger's agenda to have these labels. On doctrinal issues he may have been genuinely conservative, but on the bureaucratic and political traditions of the Vatican, he couldn't have been more radical.

First, one cannot separate Benedict XVI's legacy from the manner of his departure; he will go down in history as 'the Pope who retired'. Six hundred years ago in the midst of crises involving multiple claimants, Gregory XII resigned and effectively became the exception that proves the rule. And the rule is: popes die in office, or at worst are forced out by some calamity; they never just 'retire'. Ratzinger is all too aware of the gravity of this decision, something he made clear during his resignation address. This is Ratzinger's radical way of saying 'the Church has to change.'

Most immediate is the need to convene a papal conclave to elect the new pope. There is some speculation that the next pope may come from an emerging country outside Europe. Without completely discounting it as a possibility, on this occasion I find it unlikely. Of the 118 or so cardinals eligible to vote in this conclave, most are still European. The Vatican remains concerned about declining religiosity in Europe, so electing a pope who can grapple with this issue will be highly prized.

Given that, up to now, popes always died in office, few cardinals vote for candidates younger than themselves, as it reduces the probability of participating in future elections. As most cardinals from emerging countries have been raised comparatively recently, there aren't many from these nations in the field of likely candidates.

It is often asked why the Catholic Church is not more responsive to change. The truth is there is quite vibrant debate within the College of Cardinals on a whole range of issues, from contraception and abortion to the ordination of women priests, priesthood celibacy and same-sex marriage.

Yet what keeps everything in check is the perpetual and collective fear of the 'schism'. Two main schisms have shaped world history and left a permanent scar on the Church's power and memory: the permanent split between Rome and Constantinople of 1054, and the Protestant Reformation sparked by Martin Luther's ninety-five theses of 1517. The Vatican will go to any lengths to avoid a third, and this creates a strong gravitational pull toward liturgical orthodoxy. Ratzinger, like most others in the Curia across the traditionalist-reformist divide, are more fearful of division than irrelevancy.

It is not hard to see why. There is a general belief in Western Europe and Australia that the influence of the Catholic Church is waning. This is a serious error. While church attendance is low in these places, in the developing world the numbers of devout Catholics are exploding. In most of the emerging economies in South America, for instance, those who identify as 'Catholic' sit at around 80-90% or more. Across Africa, the number of those converting to Catholicism is growing faster than even Africa's rapidly growing population.

Moreover, coming from parts of the world where the supernatural is more readily accepted, African converts tend to be much more conservative than their European counterparts — doctrines regarding sin and hellfire are taken literally. Rapid movement toward social reform by the Vatican is therefore thought to be risky, potentially leading to another great schism, this time along geographical and ethnic lines. 

In Asia, on the other hand, far from being associated with conservatism, Christianity as a whole is viewed as a symbol of modernity, progressiveness and social mobility. This is largely due to the spectacular success of evangelical forms of Christianity exported from the US. In China, for example, there are now more Christians than members of the Communist Party.

Indeed, Ratzinger's greatest foreign policy initiative as pope was the abortive attempt to secure a rapprochement with China. Faced with the viral spread of underground conversion, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) grew concerned about the potentially subversive nature of these groups. Some Chinese leaders felt that giving a traditionalist and hierarchical Catholic Church preferential treatment may help to curtail this phenomenon, and support rather than undermine the legitimacy of the CCP.

Quiet diplomacy on both sides almost resulted in a major deal: the Holy See would move its embassy from Taiwan to Beijing, avoid embroiling itself in domestic political matters and cooperate broadly with the CCP. In exchange, the Catholic Church would be assisted by the Chinese state in connecting with Chinese Christians.

The details ultimately cooled the relationship to a point where a deal could not be finalised. China's leaders insisted on being able to veto bishops appointed by the pope, something completely unacceptable to the Vatican. The Vatican, for its part, wanted the Chinese Government to end the one-child policy and be able to lobby openly on social issues such as abortion, a bridge too far for the Chinese leadership. Still, the hallmarks of a grand bargain now exist, and future leaders on both sides may in the future implement it.

The other major political legacy of Pope Benedict XVI is possibly accidental: the increasingly strained relations with the Muslim world, particularly in contrast to his predecessor, John Paul II. As part of a lecture delivered at the University of Regensburg in Germany, Benedict quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor who saw Islam as 'evil and inhuman', and this was interpreted by some to reflect his personal views. Violent reprisals against Catholics in some areas ensued, and this helped to polarise views between Christians and Muslims, especially in the West.

Of course, Ratzinger's lecture is just one page in a much larger post-911 story, and he cannot be held personally responsible for the broader trend. Nevertheless, Ratzinger has conveyed the impression that, while he wanted good relations with peoples of other faiths, he himself is a champion of a form of Christianity that is essentially exclusive.

On the critical issue of child sex abuse, Ratzinger was highly controversial within the Church, not because he was resistant to reform but because he was so aggressively radical.

In late 2002 then-Cardinal Ratzinger threw his full weight behind the 'zero tolerance' policy, a reform that was hotly contested. Since then, horrific details have emerged whereby protection of the accused resulted in priests being moved from parish to parish to escape justice entirely. This has resulted in a Royal Commission being launched here in Australia, and is a clear demonstration for the need for a zero tolerance approach. Victims of abuse have so far given mixed verdicts on Ratzinger's legacy, with some commentators holding him responsible for the culture of secrecy that has so infuriatingly obstructed justice. This charge cannot be sustained by the facts and history will judge him far more kindly.

Nevertheless, Ratzinger's inability to restore the Church as a source of moral authority, particularly in the Western world, has no doubt led him to conclude that major changes are required, beginning with his own historic resignation.

Photo by Flickr user Catholic Church (England and Wales).

From the Interpreter - Lowy Institute.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Doping in Australian Professional Sport - New Evidence

I suppose it was inevitable, particularly given the material over the past few days involving Essendon AFL club and what appears to have been some dodgy supplement use. it is all over the local media about drugs and possible matchfixing in at least one  [ yet unnamed] football code.

Both rugby league and AFL seemed to be getting mentioned in the media earlier in the week, but there is no hint of which sport is involved in the material today, but possibly many.  And there are comments from many different professional sports.

Read some of the main media reports here:

and here

This is a rapidly evolving story today with more details expected.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Match Fixing in Soccer - Singapore Based

While this story has been on major media coverage over the past few days - including mainstream news as well as sport news, it has hardly rated a mention in the Singapore press.  How curious!

Neither the online morning news summary from the Straits Times, nor headlines have mentioned this article.  Yet, the criminal gang involved is reputed to be Singapore based.

This matches a previous issue in which a Singapore national is now in jail in Finland over matchfixing and bribery activities related to soccer, plus the long festering sore over alleged matchfixing and bribery in soccer in both Malaysia and Singapore.

IT IS NEWS.........whether positive or negative, and a decent free press would be reporting it.

The story has major implications for the world game..........everywhere.  And making the public aware of the issues is important.

In Australia it is certainly causing those invoved with soccer to increase vigilance about the probity of games, with FFA chief executive David Gallop admitting match-fixing "has the potential to cause serious damage to the integrity and image of any sport".

"While our national code of conduct contains strong provisions relating to betting and match-fixing, as a governing body we have put significant processes in place to try and safeguard against betting and match-fixing-related issues," Gallop said.

"We have also taken steps to enter into product fee and integrity agreements with a number of betting operators in Australia and, most recently, we've commenced a partnership with Sportradar (which has expertise in monitoring football matches).

"We are determined in our efforts to eliminate the potential of match-fixing from football."

FFA signed with Sportradar in December. The company's list of clients includes UEFA, the English, German, French and Scottish FAs and the Italian Lega Pro.

So be it...........  

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Cultured People - Eight Characteristics

What Anton Chekhov believed were eight characterisitcs of cultured people.

Does it resonate today?  How do the Twitter and Facebook trolls rate? 

Anton Chekhov on the 8 Qualities of Cultured People

"In order to feel comfortable among educated people, to be at home and happy with them, one must be cultured to a certain extent."

What does it mean to be "cultured"? Is it about being a good reader, or knowing how to talk about books you haven't read, or having a general disposition of intellectual elegance? That's precisely the question beloved Russian author Anton Chekhov, born on this day in 1860, considers in a letter to his older brother Nikolai, an artist. The missive, written when Anton was 26 and Nikolai 28 and found in Letters of Anton Chekhov to his Family and Friends (public domain; public library), dispenses a hearty dose of tough love and outlines the eight qualities of cultured people – including honesty, altruism, and good habits:

MOSCOW, 1886.

You have often complained to me that people "don't understand you"! Goethe and Newton did not complain of that…. Only Christ complained of it, but He was speaking of His doctrine and not of Himself…. People understand you perfectly well. And if you do not understand yourself, it is not their fault.

I assure you as a brother and as a friend I understand you and feel for you with all my heart. I know your good qualities as I know my five fingers; I value and deeply respect them. If you like, to prove that I understand you, I can enumerate those qualities. I think you are kind to the point of softness, magnanimous, unselfish, ready to share your last farthing; you have no envy nor hatred; you are simple-hearted, you pity men and beasts; you are trustful, without spite or guile, and do not remember evil…. You have a gift from above such as other people have not: you have talent. This talent places you above millions of men, for on earth only one out of two millions is an artist. Your talent sets you apart: if you were a toad or a tarantula, even then, people would respect you, for to talent all things are forgiven.

You have only one failing, and the falseness of your position, and your unhappiness and your catarrh of the bowels are all due to it. That is your utter lack of culture. Forgive me, please, but veritas magis amicitiae…. You see, life has its conditions. In order to feel comfortable among educated people, to be at home and happy with them, one must be cultured to a certain extent. Talent has brought you into such a circle, you belong to it, but … you are drawn away from it, and you vacillate between cultured people and the lodgers vis-a-vis.

Cultured people must, in my opinion, satisfy the following conditions:

  1. They respect human personality, and therefore they are always kind, gentle, polite, and ready to give in to others. They do not make a row because of a hammer or a lost piece of india-rubber; if they live with anyone they do not regard it as a favour and, going away, they do not say "nobody can live with you." They forgive noise and cold and dried-up meat and witticisms and the presence of strangers in their homes.
  2. They have sympathy not for beggars and cats alone. Their heart aches for what the eye does not see…. They sit up at night in order to help P…., to pay for brothers at the University, and to buy clothes for their mother.
  3. They respect the property of others, and therefor pay their debts.
  4. They are sincere, and dread lying like fire. They don't lie even in small things. A lie is insulting to the listener and puts him in a lower position in the eyes of the speaker. They do not pose, they behave in the street as they do at home, they do not show off before their humbler comrades. They are not given to babbling and forcing their uninvited confidences on others. Out of respect for other people's ears they more often keep silent than talk.
  5. They do not disparage themselves to rouse compassion. They do not play on the strings of other people's hearts so that they may sigh and make much of them. They do not say "I am misunderstood," or "I have become second-rate," because all this is striving after cheap effect, is vulgar, stale, false….
  6. They have no shallow vanity. They do not care for such false diamonds as knowing celebrities, shaking hands with the drunken P., [Translator's Note: Probably Palmin, a minor poet.] listening to the raptures of a stray spectator in a picture show, being renowned in the taverns…. If they do a pennyworth they do not strut about as though they had done a hundred roubles' worth, and do not brag of having the entry where others are not admitted…. The truly talented always keep in obscurity among the crowd, as far as possible from advertisement…. Even Krylov has said that an empty barrel echoes more loudly than a full one.
  7. If they have a talent they respect it. They sacrifice to it rest, women, wine, vanity…. They are proud of their talent…. Besides, they are fastidious.
  8. They develop the aesthetic feeling in themselves. They cannot go to sleep in their clothes, see cracks full of bugs on the walls, breathe bad air, walk on a floor that has been spat upon, cook their meals over an oil stove. They seek as far as possible to restrain and ennoble the sexual instinct…. What they want in a woman is not a bed-fellow … They do not ask for the cleverness which shows itself in continual lying. They want especially, if they are artists, freshness, elegance, humanity, the capacity for motherhood…. They do not swill vodka at all hours of the day and night, do not sniff at cupboards, for they are not pigs and know they are not. They drink only when they are free, on occasion…. For they want mens sana in corpore sano [a healthy mind in a healthy body].

And so on. This is what cultured people are like. In order to be cultured and not to stand below the level of your surroundings it is not enough to have read "The Pickwick Papers" and learnt a monologue from "Faust." …

What is needed is constant work, day and night, constant reading, study, will…. Every hour is precious for it…. Come to us, smash the vodka bottle, lie down and read…. Turgenev, if you like, whom you have not read.

You must drop your vanity, you are not a child … you will soon be thirty. It is time! I expect you…. We all expect you.

A. P. Chekhov (left) with Nikolai Chekhov (right), 1882

For more epistolary notes on the building of character, complement with history's finest letters of fatherly advice.