G is for GENDER


Wikipedia describes gender as such…

Gender is the range of physical, biological, mental and behavioral characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, masculinity and femininity Depending on the context, the term may refer to biological sex (i.e. the state of being male, female or intersex), sex-based social structures (including gender roles and other social roles), or gender identity.

The World Health Organisation defines sex and gender this way –

“Sex” refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women.

“Gender” refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.

Not every person is born with the distinct gender binary that our society promotes as normal.

The Intersex Society of North America estimates that if you ask experts at medical centers how often a child is born so noticeably atypical in terms of genitalia the number comes out to about 1 in 1500 to 1 in 2000 births.

However there are a lot more babies born with subtler sexual characteristics than that.

Statistics are available on their website.

What generally occurs when babies are born with ambiguous genitalia is that doctors and parents make the decision whether the baby is to be a boy or girl.

Being transgender means that one’s gender identity does not match the sex which you have been assigned – male or female.

In the case of some transgender individuals or intersex individuals, gender identity is not consistent with the assigned sex or sex of rearing.

It is not just in humans that gender differences exist gender differences are common through the animal and even possibly the plant world.

And because of pollution which gets concentrated at the Earth poles polar bears are increasingly being found to have both male and female sex organs.

The pollutants thought to be causing this are polychlorinated byphenyls (PCBs)

On The Anarchy Show 25 November we will discuss gender and play some excerpts from Against the Grain – http://www.againstthegrain.org/program/532/id/101154/mon-3-05-12-intersex-children-genital-surgery



Will we hunt dingoes to the brink like the Tasmanian tiger?

By Aaron Greenville, University of Sydney and Glenda Wardle, University of Sydney

The last Tasmanian tiger died a lonely death in the Hobart Zoo in 1936, just 59 days after new state laws aimed at protecting it from extinction were passed in parliament.

But the warning bells about its likely demise had been pealing for several decades before that protection came too late – and today we’re making many of the same deadly mistakes, only now it’s with dingoes.

Earlier this month the Queensland government announced it would make it easier for farmers to put out poison baits for “wild dogs”. In Victoria, similar measures have already been taken.

Lethal methods of control have lethal consequences. It is time to rethink our approach in how we manage our wild predators.

A deadly history lesson

Commonly known as Tasmanian tigers because of their striped backs, thylacines were hunted due to the species alleged damage they were doing to the sheep industry in the state. However, the thylacine’s actual impact on the industry was likely to have been small.

Instead, the species was made a scapegoat for poor management and the harshness of the Tasmanian environment, as early Europeans struggled implementing foreign farming practises to the new world.

The tiger [thylacine]… received a very bad character in the Assembly yesterday; in fact, there appeared not to be one redeeming point in this animal. It was described as cowardly, as stealing down on the sheep in the night and want only killing many more than it could eat… All sheep owners in the House agreed that “something should be done,” as it was asserted that the tigers have largely increased of late years.
– The Mercury, October 1886.

Grainy footage is all we have left of the thylacine.

More than a century later, and it’s now the dingo in the firing line.

Since 1990, the number of sheep shorn in Queensland has crashed 92 per cent, from over 21 million to less than 2 million. Although there have been rises and falls in the wool price and droughts have come and gone, it’s the dingoes that have been the last straw.
ABC Radio National, May 2013

An ancient predator vs modern farmers

Producing sheep is an incredibly tough business, with droughts, international competition and volatile markets for wool and meat – mostly factors that are well beyond the control of an individual farmer.

Dingoes are seen as one of the few threats to livelihood that producers can fight back against. As a result, the dingo has experienced a severe range contraction since European settlement and there is mounting pressure to remove the dingo from the wild, despite dingoes calling Australia home for 4000 years.

Dingoes are now rare or absent across half of Australia due to intense control measures. While they are more common in other areas, we have seen how species populations can collapse quickly. For example, bounty records from Tasmania showed the thylacine population suddenly crashed in 1904-1910 due to hunting pressure from humans.

Will the dingo’s demise be like that of the thylacine? We simply do not know, but the social conditions and a rapidly changing environment mirror the story of the thylacine.

It’s true that dingoes have an impact on livestock. Estimates from industry-funded reports range from A$40 million to A$60 million, which include damage to livestock and cost of control measures.

And the emotional cost to farmers should not be underestimated. As authors, one of us has sheep farmers in the family, and knows the pride people gain from having a happy and healthy flock.

The choice is whether we want to follow the old colonial attitude of trying to conquer our environment, or find new and cheaper methods to live with our environment.

Dingoes and wild dogs

The issue of how to manage one of the few remaining mammalian top predators in Australia is further complicated by the suggestion that dingoes are not distinct from “wild dogs” due to interbreeding.

In eastern Australia dingo purity is low, but it is still high in many regions, such as central Australia.

But whether you call them dingoes or wild dogs, these predators work as unpaid pest species manager that works around the clock, effectively controlling feral cat and red fox numbers.

Even in eastern Australia, there is evidence that dingoes are fulfilling this role by reducing fox numbers.

Dingoes can also control kangaroo numbers, reducing grazing pressure. Reducing pests and grazing pressure are a win for farmers and conservation alike.

Learning to live with dingoes

As CSIRO researchers suggested a decade ago, we need to get better at dealing with genetically ambiguous animals, such as those that could be classified as dingoes or wild dogs. Instead, they argued that better approach to conservation decisions would involve protecting animals based on their role in the environment, as well as their cultural value.

Traditionally, barrier fences and lethal control (such as poisoning) have been used as methods to reduce livestock losses from dingoes.

However, the costs of removing the dingo as our free pest species manager, and the impact of fences as barriers to other wildlife, need to be taken into account when assessing the true cost of maintaining these approaches.

Alternatives to lethal control do exist. Guardian dogs can protect stock from dog attack and have a return on investment between one to three years. Such cost-effective strategies can allow both the dingo and grazing to co-exist.

Over thousands of years, dingoes have played a functional role in the Australian landscape and can provide benefits for farmers, traditional Indigenous owners and to the conservation of native wildlife.

It is time to learn how to live with the dingo. If not, we risk eventually driving dingoes out of the wild and into lonely zoo enclosures, just like the thylacine.

Aaron Greenville receives funding from Australian Postgraduate Award and Paddy Pallin Science Grant funded by Humane Society International, Royal Zoological Society of NSW.

Glenda Wardle receives funding from the Australian Research Council

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Abbott’s New World Order

Republished from the Sydney Morning Herald

Since Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison took office, workers in offshore detention centres say asylum seekers have never had it so bad.

This story comes with a warning: readers may be overcome with a condition the Australian government is counting on most of us already having or about to develop – asylum seeker compassion fatigue. Letters like the one below, obtained during a Fairfax Media investigation into offshore detention and written by 32-year-old Ali, an Iranian asylum seeker, sorely test the government’s mass immunisation plan.

“As time goes by the men are getting more desperate and more sick.”- Manus Island case worker

”The immigration told us that they are going to send my wife to the mainland, like Darwin 2 months before delivering the baby and she is going to deliver the baby there without me being next to her,” Ali writes.

His pleas to immigration authorities to allow him accompany her have got him nowhere. The only option he has been given, he says, is for he and his wife to go back to Iran.

”I have requested from the immigration officers to discuss my situation however they keep telling me to go back home if you want to be next to your wife during delivering the baby. My wife is having lots of stresses and usually wakes up at the middle of the night because of having bad nightmares. I would like to request you to help us in this matter and don’t let them separate us from each other at this very important stage of our marriage life.”

It is not a whinge but a plea to someone, anyone, who might be able to help him and his four-months pregnant wife from being separated when she gives birth. To set the scene, they have been on Christmas Island for 3½ months and according to Ali, they are suffering ”a very bad condition … physically or mentally”.

The weapon of choice being aimed at Ali and his wife by immigration officials on Christmas Island, and which is at the core of the Abbott government’s Operation Sovereign Borders policy, is deterrence.

It is a word that comes up often when speaking with people working in Australia’s offshore detention system, who agreed to speak to Fairfax Media on the condition of anonymity because they have signed confidentiality agreements with their employers – the charities Save The Children and the Salvation Army, and the Department of Immigration and Border Security.

They all say the same thing; under the new world order of asylum seeker policy, the practice on the ground has shifted significantly. The pugnacious and unapologetically secretive Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, has essentially said to the Australian public ”there’s nothing more to see here, now move along”.

A group of asylum seekers arrive on Christmas Island.A group of asylum seekers arrive on Christmas Island. Photo: Sharon Tisdale

And as those who agreed to speak to Fairfax Media for this story claimed repeatedly, nowhere is this policy easier to put into practice than on the impoverished Pacific islands of Nauru and Papua New Guinea – home once again to Australia’s ”illegal” boat people in the Australian-run and funded detention centres.

For those who work on Nauru, life for asylum seekers is divided into before the riots and after the riots. Everything changed after July 19 when asylum seekers burnt the centre down, causing an estimated $60 million worth of damage.

At first, 119 men were each charged with one count of riot and one count of unlawful assembly but gradually that number has been reduced as charges have been dropped. Now 88 people will be prosecuted in 15 trials beginning in late January next year.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Melbourne lawyer Simon Kenny, who is representing some of the asylum seekers facing charges and who acted for men in another riot case on Nauru last year, described the ”Bravo” compound where all those charged are currently being detained:

”There is literally nothing there aside from the tents and a little yard which is about 10 metres by 10 metres and that’s the common area for over 100 men. There is no shade aside from inside the tents and the men have no books, not even a table to sit at,” Kenny says. ”I think it’s pretty unforgivable that these men can’t even be given a book to divert themselves with.

”I was told the men could make one phone call a week but a security guard told me it was more like every 10 days.”

Asylum seekers on Manus Island erected a sign appealing for help.Asylum seekers on Manus Island erected a sign appealing for help. Photo: Angela Wylie

A group of Melbourne and Brisbane lawyers and barristers are prepared to work pro bono to represent the asylum seekers, he says.

He and a colleague visited Nauru in late August and although he says he didn’t have any good news to report, the men were overwhelmed when they learnt that Australian lawyers were prepared to represent them.

One caseworker on Nauru describes life now. She is young, in her early 20s, just out of university and has been plunged into this secret world where, she says, ”anything seems to be allowed to happen”.

”Everyone is living in tents and there is no privacy. Since the riots people don’t have as much freedom as before,” she says.

”There had even been talk about having an open camp but that’s all gone. Before, we used to go on excursions down to the beach, people could use the internet, now there’s not enough space for the kids to run around in, we can’t take them to the park, the beach, nowhere. And these are the families who arrived after the riot, and they are bearing the brunt of something they had nothing to do with.”

The families that began arriving on Nauru from Christmas Island since the change of government are not faring well. They had been told the facilities on their next and possibly permanent home were similar to those on Christmas Island.

”The mothers are not coping well at all, their children are running amok,” another worker explains. ”They arrived and it was a tent city because the buildings had been destroyed. Women were refusing to get off the planes, they were crying, distraught.

”Families of five live in one little area of a large marquee divided only by clear tarpaulins so there is no privacy. Husbands and wives can’t have sex, can’t do anything without everyone knowing their business.”

Worse than anything else she has seen, though, is the condition of one child about four years old who has become catatonic and is refusing to eat.

”I have no experience to deal with this,” she says, ”other than report it to my line manager who says she has reported it to hers but nothing is happening.”

The single men’s camp, which is home to about 350 men, sounds especially dire. A recent outbreak of gastroenteritis shredded what remaining dignity the men may have had.

”There are three or four toilets for all those men and they just couldn’t manage. They were soiling themselves and then having to wait in line for hours to have a two-minute shower. It was really, really shocking.”

Manus Island, which is a men-only detention camp on PNG, currently has 1128 detainees. According to seasoned aid workers, the conditions are deplorable. The men live in either tents, ”dongas” – large shipping containers – or an old World War II bunker called ”Foxtrot” where 100 men are crammed in bunks lined up against each other with little room to move.

A fortnight ago, there were just 10 caseworkers to manage the entire camp, which meant that most men did not get seen.

Those that did probably spoke for the rest when they listed their complaints: snakes inside their accommodation, malaria, lack of malaria tablets, no mosquito nets, inedible food that often has cockroaches in it, no fresh fruit or vegetables and repeated requests to see a doctor or a nurse.

”It’s always the same but as time goes by the men are getting more desperate and more sick. They all complain about kidney pain, headache, insomnia, but it takes at least three weeks for a doctor to see a client,” one worker said.

All the men ask about family reunion. Will their wives and children be able to rejoin them on PNG where they accept they now have to resettle? ”The awful irony is that even though Australia has told them repeatedly they cannot live here, they are also telling these men they may never see their families again unless they go home. Or they will have to wait at least five years.”

In July, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that ”the combination of a tough physical environment, restricted legal regime, and slow processing mean that existing arrangements still do not meet the required international protection standards”.

One of the sideshows that has been played out of the public glare has been the question around whether the two charities, Save The Children and the Salvation Army, that won the contracts to work with asylum seekers in the offshore detention facilities, should ever have put their hands up for the jobs.

The off-the-record view of most of the Australian aid sector is that the two charities are effectively colluding with the government and lending their good name and reputation, and therefore implicit imprimatur, to the detention regime and more particularly, the mandatory detention of children.

Current and former Salvation Army staff who have worked offshore say they believe the agency had no idea what it was getting itself into when it signed its contract with the Commonwealth.

”They are naive at best and at worst, they are doing damage,” says a very senior and experienced aid administrator. ”It’s a long way from soup vans and caring for the homeless.”

Child abuse expert Professor Chris Goddard from Monash University, who co-authored the book Human Rights Overboard, says:

”As we have written, locking up children is organised and institutionalised abuse. NGOs such as Salvos, Save the Children, have been seen traditionally as champions of the poor, advocates for human rights. Now, important voices may be silenced and advocacy lost and they may be seen as agents of government policy.”

A spokesman for the Salvation Army says its position on detention had not changed. ”We are opposed to offshore processing and are on public record as saying so. Our preference would be that people are processed in the Australian community, without the need for offshore processing.

”But, we work where there are people in need and where there is the suffering and the vulnerable.”

History usually has something useful to offer current governments, regardless of their political hue. The Abbott government promised Australians at the last election it would turn the boats around and it would ram its message home to would-be asylum seekers by making sure that they lost any hope of resettling here.

But Paul Power from the Refugee Council of Australia asks: does middle Australia want to see more images of sewn lips and slashed wrists that became one of the enduring mental snapshots of the Howard years?

”There will be increased incidents of self harm – it’s started to happen. There will be suicides, hunger strikes, because if you hold people in a harsh environment indefinitely with no hope then they break.”

Power points out that the Abbot government’s deterrence-at-all-costs approach has left out the whole idea of protection of asylum seekers. ”There is no hint at all since September 18th of people who need protecting.”

The federal government seems to be counting on the rebooted Pacific island solution so conveniently put in place by the former Rudd government. But the Abbott government is adding its own flavour and tone.

As a senior executive with one of the charities says: ”I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, worried that one day we may have to face a royal commission and have to answer for the conditions under which these people were treated and which we didn’t have the guts to challenge the government on.”

Julie-Anne Davies.

In Australia, apartheid is alive and kicking

Warrior Publications

The richest land on Earth writes Aboriginal people out of history and pushes them to the margins. Like South Africa 30 years ago

John Pilger, The Guardian, November 5, 2013

The corridors of the Australian parliament are so white you squint. The sound is hushed; the smell is floor polish. The wooden floors shine so virtuously they reflect the cartoon portraits of prime ministers and rows of Aboriginal paintings, suspended on white walls, their blood and tears invisible.

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Fuel Removal From Fukushima’s Reactor 4 Threatens ‘Apocalyptic’ Scenario

In November, TEPCO set to begin to remove fuel rods whose radiation matches the fallout of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs

– Andrea Germanos – Published on Thursday, October 24, 2013 by Common Dreams

An operation with potentially “apocalyptic” consequences is expected to begin in a little over two weeks from now – “as early as November 8” – at Fukushima’s damaged and sinking Reactor 4, when plant operator TEPCO will attempt to remove over 1300 spent fuel rods holding the radiation equivalent of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs from a spent fuel storage tank perched on the reactor’s upper floor.

Fukushima Reactor 4 While the Reactor 4 building itself did not suffer a meltdown, it did suffer a hydrogen explosion, is now tipping and sinking and has zero ability to withstand another seismic event.

The Japan Times explained:

To remove the rods, TEPCO has erected a 273-ton mobile crane above the building that will be operated remotely from a separate room.

[…] spent fuel rods will be pulled from the racks they are stored in and inserted one by one into a heavy steel chamber while the assemblies are still under water. Once the chamber is removed from the pool and lowered to the ground, it will be transported to another pool in an undamaged building on the site for storage.

Under normal circumstances, such an operation would take little more than three months, but TEPCO is hoping to complete the complicated task within fiscal 2014.

A chorus of voices has been sounding alarm over the never-been-done-at-this-scale plan to manually remove the 400 tons of spent fuel by TEPCO, who so far has been responsible for mishap after mishap in the ongoing crisis at the crippled nuclear plant.

Arnie Gundersen, a veteran U.S. nuclear engineer and director of Fairewinds Energy Education, warned this summer that “They are going to have difficulty in removing a significant number of the rods,” and said that “To jump to the conclusion that it is going to work just fine is quite a leap of logic.”  Paul Gunter, MD, Director of the Reactor Oversight Project with Takoma Park, Md.-based Beyond Nuclear, also sounded alarm on Thursday, telling Common Dreams in a statement that “Given the uncertainties of the condition and array of the hundreds of tons of nuclear  fuel assemblies, it will be a risky round of highly radioactive pickup sticks.”  Gundersen offered this analogy of the challenging process of removing the spent fuel rods:

If you think of a nuclear fuel rack as a pack of cigarettes, if you pull a cigarette straight up it will come out — but these racks have been distorted. Now when they go to pull the cigarette straight out, it’s going to likely break and release radioactive cesium and other gases, xenon and krypton, into the air. I suspect come November, December, January we’re going to hear that the building’s been evacuated, they’ve broke a fuel rod, the fuel rod is off-gassing. […]

I suspect we’ll have more airborne releases as they try to pull the fuel out. If they pull too hard, they’ll snap the fuel. I think the racks have been distorted, the fuel has overheated — the pool boiled – and the net effect is that it’s likely some of the fuel will be stuck in there for a long, long time.

The Japan Times adds:

Removing the fuel rods is a task usually assisted by computers that know their exact location down to the nearest millimeter. Working virtually blind in a highly radioactive environment, there is a risk the crane could drop or damage one of the rods — an accident that would heap even more misery onto the Tohoku region.

As long-time anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman explained, the

Spent fuel rods must be kept cool at all times. If exposed to air, their zirconium alloy cladding will ignite, the rods will burn and huge quantities of radiation will be emitted. Should the rods touch each other, or should they crumble into a big enough pile, an explosion is possible.

“In the worst-case scenario,” RT adds,

the pool could come crashing to the ground, dumping the rods together into a pile that could fission and cause an explosion many times worse than in March 2011.

Wasserman says that the plan is so risky it requires a global take-over, an urging Gunter also shared, stating that the “dangerous task should not be left to TEPCO but quickly involve the oversight and management of independent international experts.”

Wasserman told Common Dreams that

The bring-down of the fuel rods from Fukushima Unit 4 may be the most dangerous engineering task ever undertaken.  Every indication is that TEPCO is completely incapable of doing it safely, or of reliably informing the global community as to what’s actually happening.  There is no reason to believe the Japanese government could do much better.  This is a job that should only be undertaken by a dedicated team of the world’s very best scientists and engineers, with access to all the funding that could be needed.

The potential radiation releases in this situation can only be described as apocalyptic.  The cesium alone would match the fallout of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs.  If the job is botched, radiation releases could force the evacuation of all humans from the site, and could cause electronic equipment to fail.  Humankind would be forced to stand helplessly by as billions of curies of deadly radiation pour into the air and the ocean.

As dire as Wasserman’s warning sounds, it is echoed by fallout researcher Christina Consolo, who told RT that the worst case scenario could be “a true apocalypse.” Gunter’s warning was dire as well.

“Time is of the essence as we remain concerned that another earthquake could still topple the damaged reactor building and the nuclear waste storage pond up in its attic,” he continued. “This could literally re-ignite the nuclear accident in the open atmosphere and inflame it into hemispheric proportions,” said Gunter.

Wasserman says that given the gravity of the situation, the eyes of the world should be upon Fukushima:

This is a question that transcends being anti-nuclear.  The fate of the earth is at stake here and the whole world must be watching every move at that site from now on.  With 11,000 fuel rods scattered around the place, as a ceaseless flow of contaminated water poisoning our oceans, our very survival is on the line.