EDITORIAL: Maitland forum on amphetamine addiction

ONE of the biggest shifts in the Australian drug market over the past decade or so has been the rise of ice amphetamine.

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Old fears about addicts drifting into deathly overdoses on heroin have been replaced with the tales of ambulance workers and police having to wrestle down crazed amphetamine users who’ve gone two or three days without sleep.

The reasons behind the switch from heroin to amphetamine are complex and international. The shift may have started after 9-11, when theinvasion of Afghanistan cut supplies of raw opium, leadingcriminal syndicates to invest instead in amphetamine factories. Regardless of cause, ice is by farthe most popular and powerful powder drug on Australian streets, and its unpredictable impacts have put fear into the families of drug users, and created new problems for the agencies who have to deal with those under the influence.

To help those with concerns, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation is hosting its latest“Breaking The Ice” forum at East Maitland Bowling Club on Wednesday, October 26.

Organisers say the forum will provide expert information about ice by “cutting through rumours and misinformation about drugs”. Those taking part can have their “questions answered during a panel discussion where the audience will be encouraged to ask questions of our panelists”.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation website –adf杭州.au –contains helpful informationabout ice use. To counter the natural fear factor, the foundationnotes that despite an “enormous amount of attention” given to ice, “only a small number of people use ice regularly and only a small proportion of users will experience problems”.

That said, reliance onice amphetamine is a serious situation and one that will often have a dramatic impact on the family and friends of someone in the grip of addiction.

While some politicians still talk ofa“war on drugs”, such rhetoric carries little weight at an individual level. Unfortunately, as one drug and alcohol worker told theNewcastle Herald,there is no authorised replacement drugfor ice in the way that methadone is prescribed for heroin users.From this worker’s perspective, problems with ice abuse in the Hunter region are continuing to grow. Even so, amphetamine addiction can be beaten. Butas the foundation recognises, the person with the habit has to want to stopfor the treatment to succeed.

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YouTube recruits Dwayne Johnson for new sci-fi series Lifeline

Bankable: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, who starred in the high grossing San Andreas, earned $US64.5 million in the past year. Photo: Mario AnzuoniYouTube’s new weapon in their fight for a chunk of Netflix’s online streaming audience? It’s not cute kitties or viral pranksters, anymore – it’s the world’s highest paid actor, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.

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The website, which has recently made major moves towards creating original content for its YouTube Red subscription streaming service, overnight announced a handful of new programs slated to premiere on the service in 2017.

Among those is The Rock’s Lifeline, an eight-episode sci-fi action series centred on an insurance company that “sends its agents 33 days into the future to prevent the accidental deaths of its clients”.

Other big-name programs include Impulse, a sci-fi thriller from director Doug Liman (Bourne Identity, Edge Of Tomorrow) about a young girl uncovering her teleportation abilities, and a yet untitled comedy about professional gamers from Dan Harmon (Community, Rick & Morty).

Johnson, who was recently named the world’s highest paid actor by Forbes magazine following last year’s haul of $US64.5 million ($84.4 million), is also among YouTube’s most popular celebrities, with over 1.36 million subscribers, highlighting the site’s strategy to utilise its own biggest names to expand YouTube Red (the service costs $11.99 per month in Australia and New Zealand).

“Our thesis is simple: identify YouTube’s most engaging stars and top genres, and invest in the content that fans tell us they want. In other words, let our community drive our content,” YouTube’s global head of content Susanne Daniels said in a keynote address at industry conference Mipcom yesterday, in which she announced the slate of new programs. Cool news as @SevenBucksProd & @Studio71 are partnering up with @YouTube Red for our sci-fi action thriller series #Lifeline in 2017. pic.twitter杭州m/LYdMViXZXn— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) October 17, 2016

The news follows on from YouTube’s other already announced programs, which include a series based on the Step Up franchise, executive produced by its original stars Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan Tatum and also set to premiere in 2017.

Suspended rail line beneath Sydney Harbour Bridge ‘$400m costlier’ than tunnel

A suspended carriageway would have cost $400 million more than a tunnel. Photo: Sarah Keayes The carriageway would limit the ability for ships to pass beneath the bridge. Photo: Christopher Pearce

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The state government considered bolting on a carriageway beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge or building a viaduct above two lanes of traffic for a new metro rail line but eventually decided tunnelling under the harbour was the best option.

In laying out the justification for the second stage of the $20 billion-plus rail project, a truncated version of its business case reveals that a suspended carriageway or a viaduct would have cost at least $400 million more than tunnelling under the harbour.

The two options for running a new metro line on the bridge also had a “number of constraints”, such as posing a barrier to ships passing beneath or detracting from one of Australia’s most famous landmarks.

“These options would also have broader network impacts during construction and operation (particularly in terms of access to the Sydney CBD for other transport modes). Consequently, these options were not progressed further,” it said.

Another option to run the metro line along lanes seven and eight on the bridge would have required connections at either end of the bridge to tunnels for the metro line.

“Unlike the tunnel option [beneath the harbour], use of the Sydney Harbour Bridge would require the use of existing suburban rail stations and platforms at North Sydney and Wynyard,” the business case summary said.

“The use of existing infrastructure for the project would largely result in replication of the existing T1 North Shore Line and would not provide additional rail services to new areas.”

The government eventually opted for the second stage of the metro line to run under the harbour from Chatswood to Sydney’s CBD, and on to Sydenham and Bankstown.

It has put a price tag of between $10.5 billion and $11.5 billion on the second stage, while the cost of the first section from Sydney’s north west to Chatswood is $8.3 billion. The latter is due to open in 2019.

The business case summary also shows that the government considered a conversion of the existing Bankstown Line to allow it to carry metro trains to be one of the “less complex options” when it weighed up the route for Australia’s largest rail project.

The Bankstown Line needed less infrastructure work to convert to a metro service when compared with other lines such as the South or Illawarra. The latter would have required extra tunnels and tracks, and “significant enabling works such as alternative freight routes”, it said.

The conversion of 13.5 kilometres of track between Bankstown and Sydenham will be one of the most disruptive parts of the project. Tens of thousands of commuters will be forced to catch buses for more than six months during construction.

Critics have questioned the rationale for spending hundreds of millions of dollars on converting a line that is under-used by commuters.

They have also criticised plans for an extra 36,000 dwellings to be built along the Bankstown-Sydenham corridor over the next two decades.

But the business case summary, released on Tuesday, said converting the Bankstown Line between Sydenham and Bankstown would “improve network reliability by reducing the number of rail lines sharing the same existing tracks”.

It would also “unlock capacity” at Central Station – the city’s busiest – and “significantly reduce platform and train crowding”.

“The T3 Bankstown Line does not share operations with other lines or rail freight. It would therefore be less complex to convert and segregate from the existing rail network when compared with other lines.”

Labor transport spokeswoman Jodi McKay accused the Baird government of drip-feeding information about the multibillion-dollar project and called on it to release the full business case “which they have been sitting on for six months”.

“”It is clear the government has failed to learn the lesson from WestConnex, which has operated in secrecy,” she said.

“It needs to come clean on how much fare revenue it will get; how it will be paid for, including how much will be raised by high-rise development above stations; and the level of disruption it will cause to residents along the Bankstown Line.”

Malcolm Turnbull will finally introduce electronic voting. Wait…for the Parliament?

MPs cross the floor during a division at Parliament House. Photo: Andrew Meares Coalition frontbenchers during a division in the House of Representatives in March, 2015. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

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The division on the second reading of the Omnibus Bill at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday 14 September 2016. Photo: Andrew Meares Photo: Andrew Meares

MPs could soon be able to vote in Canberra without leaving their green leather seats. Just by swiping a smart card. How marvellous.

No counting off votes by whips. Perhaps even no damning or humiliating pictures of the nation’s privileged representatives being seen to line up like sheep on an issue, and being accountable to constituents and/or colleagues for their actions.

Nup. Swipe a card, press a button. Matter dispatched. Problem resolved.

That’s right, with all the challenges facing this country from entrenched poverty, to national security, from homelessness, to runaway pharmaceutical costs, species loss, and aged care, the Turnbull cabinet has put “The Fixer” on to the pressing urgency of establishing electronic voting in the House of Representatives.

Perhaps Christopher Pyne will go further and propose the extension of electronic voting facilities on bills from the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge at Canberra’s schmick new airport. At least that way he could gather up those pesky WA MPs running for the last plane out on a Thursday.

Pyne has been handed the job of constructing a cabinet submission on the best way to introduce electronic House voting procedures.

To what end you may well ask?

What’s the problem really?

Clearly, if there is a problem of major logistical dimensions associated with voting in Australia, it ain’t the tiny matter of a few overpaid MPs being into a formal division.

It’s voting itself – in general elections.

As we saw again in the recent post-election debacle, the result was not known on the night. Indeed, it took weeks to determine the outcome in some seats.

The overwhelming problem in Australia is not parliament but the antiquated pencil-and-paper voting system for the selection of MPs.

This is a process in which imprecision, ambiguity, and the potential for both administrative error and malfeasance are rife.

Malcolm Turnbull is to be congratulated for his willingness to embrace technology where the opportunity provides.

But presenting solutions, especially expensive and time-consuming ones, to problems that have never been laid out, and may not even exist, is a classic error of politics.

Updating voting procedures in the chambers is a 20th-order issue, whereas fixing the electoral system is right up the top.

Perhaps the only public interest argument in favour of electronic voting is that it might, “might” that is, facilitate some MPs voting more often according to their own judgment, if freed from the peer pressure of having to physically cross the floor from colleagues.

But even for this argument to hold water is a pretty poor commentary on the courage and independence of our federal representatives.

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Super typhoons and a soaking for Australia: weird weather explained

Typhoon Haima is expected to reach category 5 strength by Wednesday. Photo: The Weather Channel Haitians, hard hit by Hurricane Matthew, await aid from a US helicopter earlier this month. Photo: Rebecca Blackwell

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As the Philippines braces for its second major typhoon in just five days, a Canadian glacier spawns a giant iceberg and eastern Australia mops up from a record wet spell, climate scientists can pick from a world of weird weather to highlight evidence of global warming under way.

Just days after nations agreed to curb production of greenhouse gases 10,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide and a fortnight before the Paris climate agreement comes into force on November 4, many regions are experiencing bizarre conditions.

September continued the run of exceptional global warmth, with last month narrowly edging last year as the hottest September on record, NASA, the US space agency, said overnight.

After data adjustments, NASA said 11 of the past 12 months had set monthly high-temperature records. (See chart below). This year is on course to smash previous records for annual heat set in 2015 and in the year before that.

Climate scientists, such as NASA’s Gavin Schmidt, emphasise that while individual weather events and even monthly rankings may be newsworthy, “they are not nearly as important as long-term trends”.

Here, though, there are many worrying pointers.

The Philippines is facing the potential for a category 5-strength typhoon Haima just days after typhoon Sarika blew through, leaving a trial of death and destruction that has now extended to neighbours Vietnam and China.

Recent research indicates the western Pacific is experiencing stronger cyclones with the frequency increasing as much as four-fold. Porcupine spike

In Canada, the Porcupine Glacier in British Columbia retreated more than two kilometres “in one leap”, when a major iceberg broke off during the summer, The Globe and Mail reported recently. (See their chart below:)

Mauri Pelto, professor of environmental science at Nichols College in Massachusetts, said he couldn’t identify a bigger iceberg carved from a Canadian glacier in a quarter century of work.

“It’s just a highlight example of what’s happening [from climate change],” Dr. Pelto was quoted as saying. “I have worked on over 200 glaciers just in that area, and all but one have been retreating.”

The behaviour of ice of a different kind caught the attention of  Andy Pitman, director of the ARC Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of NSW.

After rivalling previously lows in 2007 and 2012, this year’s recovery of Arctic sea ice as winter approaches has slowed sharply, placing it again at record low levels. (See chart below, supplied via Zack Labe, from the University of California, Irvine.)

With less sea ice, more of the sun’s energy is absorbed by the Arctic seas rather than reflected back to space, accelerating the pace of warming in an area that’s warming faster than almost anywhere else.

“It’s moving outside it’s normal operating range,” Professor Pitman said of the sea ice trend. “Climate extremes are emerging much faster than climate scientists thought.” Rain extremes

While major weather events can’t all be attributed to climate change rather than natural variability, a warming world makes them more likely.

Scientists, for instance, estimate that the atmosphere can hold 7 per cent more moisture for each degree of warming – and we’ve had at least that since the Industrial Revolution triggered a rapid increase in greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels and land-clearing for agriculture.

Hurricane Matthew, which scrapped along the east coast of the US earlier this month, is estimated to have dumped as much 52 trillion litres on the US, triggering widespread flooding, according to Ryan Maue, a US-based meteorologist.

Typhoon Sarika, which left at least 25 dead in the Philippines last week, is now expected to bring flooding rains to south-east China.

Behind Sarika, though, looms a more powerful storm, super typhoon Haima, which is likely to generate peak gusts of more than 300 km/h by Wednesday as it nears the northern Philippine island of Luzon.

“[A]long with the dangers of storm surge flooding and damaging winds, rainfall flooding and landslides would also be major threats in Luzon, given saturated ground from Sarika,” the weather杭州m website said in a report. “More than a foot of rain could fall over northern portions of Luzon as Haima moves through.”

Much of eastern Australia has copped its drenching in recent weeks, although the rains have fortunately been more spread out.

As the Bureau of Meteorology said in a special climate statement last week, the Murray Darling Basin had its wettest September on record, continuing a string of wet months.

“The May to September period was Australia’s wettest on record, with each of the five individual months ranking in the 10 wettest in the last 117 years,” the report said. ‘Off the charts’

“You’re seeing more extreme events and in most of the parts of climate that affect people,” Professor Pitman said.

Heatwaves, for instance, that used to last typically three days, might be stretching in some places out to 10 days.

“It’s like Usain Bolt doing a 4-second,100-metre run,” he said. “It’s completely off the charts.”

Professor Pitman’s centre will shift more of its focus to the study of climate extremes after securing funds from the Australian Research Council last month.

“There is some emerging evidence that the system is redefining itself,” Professor Pitman said.

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