Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Notes: Saturday-Wednesday, December 25-29, 2010

1. "[A]mong lesbian couples, generally both women take on a mothering role"

As one would expect. But who takes on the fathering role?

2. "Two of Russia's biggest spy agencies are at war with one another as attempts are made to merge them and create an intelligence service modelled on the Soviet-era KGB, according to a Russian intelligence expert"

3. Two letters from yesterday's Herald: One on defamation law in Australia, the other on traditional Christmas decorating

The former:

Facts on truth

Wayne Lawson (Letters, December 27) is correct that freedom of speech is not enshrined in the constitution, but substantial truth has been an absolute defence in defamation law since January 2006.

Geoff Holland Faculty of Law, University of Technology, Sydney

The latter:

Undeck the halls

Commercial interests have completely distorted the dates and extent of the Christmas season for their own purpose, which is to encourage increased spending. No wonder the public is confused, and I don't doubt that some no longer remember that, properly speaking, the season runs from
Christmas Day to Epiphany, January 6 - 12 days, no more.

Decorations should be put up on Christmas Eve and taken down on January 7. Ignore what the shops do; if householders want to do it, we can at least get it right.

Mona Finley Darlington Point


4. Mr. Katter on his ancestry:

''[His grandparents] were very religious people - there wouldn't have been too much playing up - my grandfather's uncle was head of the Maronite Church - that's almost equivalent to the pope.''

5. Dr. Daintree on, among other things, references to Christianity and religion in the draft national curriculum for history:

Yet the compilers of the draft curriculum have chosen the simplest strategy of all: deliberate, pointed, tendentious and outrageous silence. In its 20 pages, the draft ancient history curriculum mentions religion twice. There is no reference to Christianity anywhere in the document.

The draft modern history curriculum is 30 pages long. Christianity is simply never mentioned, at least not explicitly. The word religion appears twice, the first occurrence in the context of Indian history, the second in the context of Asian and African decolonisation. However the precise phrase in which it is found discloses the agenda of the compilers: "The effect of racism, religion and European cultures."

This, surely, is an oblique mention of Christianity and a judgment upon it at the same time.


6. R.I.P. The Lord Bishop of Sandhurst

7. "Watch out for Russian wild card in Asia-Pacific"

8. "Church free to ban gay foster parents after NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal ruling"

This is, in several respects, and interesting article:

CHURCH groups are free to discriminate against homosexuals after a landmark judgment in which a tribunal ruled religious charities are allowed to ban gay foster parents.

The ruling, made in the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal, has been hailed by the Catholic Church but has outraged civil libertarians, who are demanding religions no longer be exempt from anti-discrimination laws if they receive public money.

[...] Even the tribunal itself, whose judgment came down in favour of the ban, said it was effectively bound to reach the decision because of the very broad exemptions in the Anti-Discrimination Act relating to religious groups.

And, it went as far as suggesting that Parliament may wish to revise those laws.

The decision marks the end of a seven-year legal battle for a gay couple who attempted to become foster carers through Wesley Mission Australia but were knocked back because their lifestyle was not in keeping with the beliefs and values of Wesleyanism, a Methodist order of the Uniting Church.

The ADT initially awarded the couple $10,000 and ordered the charity to change its practices so it did not discriminate but an appeals panel set aside that decision and ordered the tribunal to reconsider the matter.

The tribunal then said it had little choice but to find that the discrimination was "in conformity" with the church's doctrine because the test in the law "is singularly undemanding". [...]

[bold type in the original,]

Unless the N.S.W. Government has already exempted religious adoption agencies from having to offer their services to same-sex couples (I can't remember whether it has or not), this ruling could have (favourable) implications for the Government deciding whether or not to grant such an exemption. For more on this, see here.

For The Australian's editorial on the ruling, see here.

9. This generation of youngsters to have a lower average I.Q. than previous generations?

I was interested to read the following in the Sydney Daily Telegraph the other day:

Royal Australasian College of Surgeons trauma committee deputy chair Professor Danny Cass said the level of heavy drinking in society would lead to brain damage among this generation.

"There's going to be a group from this generation who will have lower IQs," Professor Cass said.

"They are lowering their IQ by drinking at a young age, when their brains are still developing."


But then, most generations have probably had such a group. As one commenter says in that article's combox,

Steve R of Sydney Posted at 7:44 AM December 27, 2010

Its always been the same. Just more media coverage these days.

Comment 4 of 33

10. Of Foucault pendulums

An interesting item from the other day's edition of the Herald's "Column 8" section:

Here's a concoction of science and dark deeds to mull over. ''During the 1954 solar eclipse Maurice Allais reported unusual motion of a Foucault pendulum (a device that demonstrates the rotation of the Earth),'' we are told by Joe Wolfe, of the University of NSW School of Physics. ''Since then, a number of different or null effects have been reported for Foucault pendulums at eclipses. One possible explanation is that, during an eclipse, physicists are usually outside observing it rather than indoors watching to see whether anyone tampers with a pendulum. The University of NSW School of Physics has a Foucault pendulum in the foyer. On the day of the lunar eclipse last Tuesday this pendulum suffered unusual motion: it vanished, leaving a suspending wire that appears to have been cut. So, if your Christmas stocking contained a 60cm varnished sphere of jarrah wood, please alert the school of physics. We would like it back.''

Reginaldvs Cantvar
Feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury, Bishop, Martyr, A.D. 2010

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