Australian news, and some related international items

USA Department of Homeland Security to monitor journalists and bloggers

Homeland Security to Compile Database of Journalists, Bloggers  By Cary O’Reilly – Bloomberg Government April 5, 2018

  • Seeks contractor that can monitor 290,000 global news sources

• ‘Media influencer’ database to note `sentiment’ of coverage

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to monitor hundreds of thousands of news sources around the world and compile a database of journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top “media influencers.”

It’s seeking a contractor that can help it monitor traditional news sources as well as social media and identify “any and all” coverage related to the agency or a particular event, according to a request for information released April 3.

The data to be collected includes a publication’s “sentiment” as well as geographical spread, top posters, languages, momentum, and circulation. No value for the contract was disclosed.

“Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers,” according to the statement. DHS agencies have “a critical need to incorporate these functions into their programs in order to better reach federal, state, local, tribal, and private partners,” it said.

The DHS wants to track more than 290,000 global news sources, including online, print, broadcast, cable, and radio, as well as trade and industry publications, local, national and international outlets, and social media, according to the documents. It also wants the ability to track media coverage in more than 100 languages including Arabic, Chinese, and Russian, with instant translation of articles into English.

The request comes amid heightened concern about accuracy in media and the potential for foreigners to influence U.S. elections and policy through “fake news.” Nineteen lawmakers including Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month, asking whether Qatar-based Al Jazeera should register as a foreign agent because it “often directly undermines” U.S. interests with favorable coverage of Hamas, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria.

The DHS request says the selected vendor will set up an online “media influence database” giving users the ability to browse based on location, beat, and type of influence. For each influencer found, “present contact details and any other information that could be relevant, including publications this influencer writes for, and an overview of the previous coverage published by the media influencer.”

A department spokesman didn’t immediately return a phone call and email seeking comment.

Responses are due April 13. Seven companies, mainly minority- or women-owned small businesses, have already expressed interest in becoming a vendor for the contract, according to the FedBizOpps web site.

— With assistance from Daniel Snyder

To contact the reporter on this story: Cary O’Reilly in Washington

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Loren Duggan; Robin Meszoly at; Theresa Barry

April 8, 2018 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

‘Monash Forum’ should change its name says Frydenberg

He declared an “intellectually curious” Sir John Monash would have been more likely to support new technology. …..

April 8, 2018 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

The connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons

Deutsche Welle Expose Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons Link, Marianne Wildart, 8 Apr 18 

In this recent article the German News outlet  ‘Deutsche Welle’ expose the link between civil nuclear and nuclear weapons.  Nuclear ‘energy’ is a political choice.

Is the IEA underestimating renewables?……….A study by the Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) in Finland simulating the costs of the global transition to renewables and found that a 100-percent renewable energy system would be cheaper that what we have today.

The disposal of nuclear waste is still controversial, especially in the U.K.

Fell, meanwhile, has documented the explosion of nuclear powers costs, as well as the security concerns over new nuclear reactors.

Yet India, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UK remain committed to building new nuclear power plants. And Fell sees a motive for this that has nothing to do with securing an affordable energy supply. “The main driving force behind the new nuclear reactors are nuclear weapons, and the desire for nuclear weapons,” he told DW.

Scientists at the University of Sussex have come to a similar conclusion. In their study of British nuclear policy they attribute the construction of new reactors to cross-funding with military nuclear programs. They argue that maintaining nuclear power programs and expertise at the expense of electricity customers has the advantage of relieving the defense budget….


April 8, 2018 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

Corruption in uranium mining – no wonder that AREVA changed its name

Le Monde 7th April 2018, Acquisition of Uramin: the former director of the Areva mines indicted for
“corruption” The former director of the Areva mines has been indicted in Paris for “corruption” in the investigation of the acquisition of themining company Uramin in 2007. Areva, now Orano, had paid 1.8 billion euros
to acquire the Canadian Uramin , but the exploitation of the three deposits of the company in Namibia , South Africa and Central Africa had proved much
more difficult than expected. The operation had turned into a financial chasm and had forced Areva, at the end of 2011, to provision 1.5 billion euros.

April 8, 2018 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

What is needed? – Aboriginal empowerment and self-determination

Luke Pearson: The language of blame, responsibility and accountability
 Luke Pearson
Aboriginal people are over-represented in most of the negative statistics 
and under-represented in most of the positive ones.

‘This is the fundamental reality underpinning government programs like ‘Closing the Gap’.’

‘ … There is a clear interplay between the choices we make and the
policies and practices within the society we live.

‘Understanding this relationship is crucial to finding solutions for creating the kind of society we want to live in.
It is easy to say ‘do the crime, do the time’, but when people are ‘doing time’ for unpaid fines,
then there must also be some acknowledgement that we have effectively made poverty a crime.

‘Or when non-Aboriginal people are given less prison time (or none at all) for the death of Aboriginal people
than Aboriginal people are given for failure to pay fines, then we must
acknowledge that our system is fundamentally broken, and that
laying sole responsibility on the ‘choices’ of Aboriginal people
will do nothing to address these systemic problems. …

‘Why do we talk only of ‘Closing the Gap’ instead of Aboriginal empowerment or self-determination?’

Read more of Luke Pearson‘s insightful, relevant, important & comprehensive discussion:

April 8, 2018 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL | Leave a comment

South Australia’s record prolonged heat wave

Prolonged SA heat could break records, Herald Sun Caitlin Guilfoyle, Australian Associated Press, April 7, 2018 

April 8, 2018 Posted by | climate change - global warming, South Australia | Leave a comment

Cumbria Trust gives advice on Community Consultation regarding nuclear waste dumping

There is a risk that this method of funding will act to ensure that deprived areas, rather than geologically suitable areas, are more likely to volunteer.
Communities should have access to a truly independent scientific body such as MKG in Sweden
 what is described as an open and transparent process, could be a long way from that.

there needs to be more honesty and openness about the negative aspects.

“Working With Communities” – Guidance notes for your own response to the consultation. April 8, 2018 

The Working With Communities consultation document can be found here.  Cumbria Trust has submitted its response to the consultation here .  The final date for responses is the 19th April 2018.

You can respond online here and you may wish to include some of the following points in your response to the consultation:

CONSULTATION QUESTION 1: Do you agree with this approach of identifying communities? Do you have any other suggestions that we should consider?

The geological screening report appears to be little more than a broad overview, which is a missed opportunity.  A lesson from the previous MRWS process was that early information on geology would help communities to make a decision on volunteering.

There needs to be a test of public support before a community joins the process.  It is a long term commitment which could cause significant blight.

Neighbouring local authorities should also have a say in the process.  4.21 suggests that they will be excluded from any test of public support even if a GDF could be close to their boundary. Continue reading

April 8, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

China’s toxic history of rare earths mining

Rare-earth mining in China comes at a heavy cost for local villages Pollution is poisoning the farms and villages of the region that processes the precious minerals, Guardian,  Cécile Bontron, 7 Apr 18,

From the air it looks like a huge lake, fed by many tributaries, but on the ground it turns out to be a murky expanse of water, in which no fish or algae can survive. The shore is coated with a black crust, so thick you can walk on it. Into this huge, 10 sq km tailings pond nearby factories discharge water loaded with chemicals used to process the 17 most sought after minerals in the world, collectively known as rare earths.

The town of Baotou, in Inner Mongolia, is the largest Chinese source of these strategic elements, essential to advanced technology, from smartphones to GPS receivers, but also to wind farms and, above all, electric cars. The minerals are mined at Bayan Obo, 120km farther north, then brought to Baotou for processing.

The concentration of rare earths in the ore is very low, so they must be separated and purified, using hydro-metallurgical techniques and acid baths. Chinaaccounts for 97% of global output of these precious substances, with two-thirds produced in Baotou.

The foul waters of the tailings pond contain all sorts of toxic chemicals, but also radioactive elements such as thorium which, if ingested, cause cancers of the pancreas and lungs, and leukaemia. “Before the factories were built, there were just fields here as far as the eye can see. In the place of this radioactive sludge, there were watermelons, aubergines and tomatoes,” says Li Guirong with a sigh.

It was in 1958 – when he was 10 – that a state-owned concern, the Baotou Iron and Steel company (Baogang), started producing rare-earth minerals. The lake appeared at that time. “To begin with we didn’t notice the pollution it was causing. How could we have known?” As secretary general of the local branch of the Communist party, he is one of the few residents who dares to speak out.

Towards the end of the 1980s, Li explains, crops in nearby villages started to fail: “Plants grew badly. They would flower all right, but sometimes there was no fruit or they were small or smelt awful.” Ten years later the villagers had to accept that vegetables simply would not grow any longer. In the village of Xinguang Sancun – much as in all those near the Baotou factories – farmers let some fields run wild and stopped planting anything but wheat and corn.

A study by the municipal environmental protection agency showed that rare-earth minerals were the source of their problems. The minerals themselves caused pollution, but also the dozens of new factories that had sprung up around the processing facilities and a fossil-fuel power station feeding Baotou’s new industrial fabric. Residents of what was now known as the “rare-earth capital of the world” were inhaling solvent vapour, particularly sulphuric acid, as well as coal dust, clearly visible in the air between houses.

Now the soil and groundwater are saturated with toxic substances. Five years ago Li had to get rid of his sick pigs, the last survivors of a collection of cows, horses, chickens and goats, killed off by the toxins.

The farmers have moved away. Most of the small brick houses in Xinguang Sancun, huddling close to one another, are going to rack and ruin. In just 10 years the population has dropped from 2,000 to 300 people.

Lu Yongqing, 56, was one of the first to go. “I couldn’t feed my family any longer,” he says. He tried his luck at Baotou, working as a mason, then carrying bricks in a factory, finally resorting to selling vegetables at local markets, with odd jobs on the side. Registered as farmers in their identity papers, the refugees from Xinguang Sancun are treated as second-class citizens and mercilessly exploited.

The farmers who have stayed on tend to gather near the mahjong hall. “I have aching legs, like many of the villagers. There’s a lot of diabetes, osteoporosis and chest problems. All the families are affected by illness,” says He Guixiang, 60. “I’ve been knocking on government doors for nearly 20 years,” she says. “To begin with I’d go every day, except Sundays.”

By maintaining the pressure, the villagers have obtained the promise of financial compensation, as yet only partly fulfilled. There has been talk of new housing, too. Neatly arranged tower blocks have gone up a few kilometres west of their homes. They were funded by compensation paid by Baogang to the local government.

But the buildings stand empty. The government is demanding that the villagers buy the right to occupy their flat, but they will not be able to pass it on to their children.

Some tried to sell waste from the pond, which still has a high rare-earth content, to reprocessing plants. The sludge fetched about $300 a tonne.

But the central government has recently deprived them of even this resource. One of their number is on trial and may incur a 10-year prison sentence.

This article originally appeared in Le Monde

April 8, 2018 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment