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  1. Report warned of threat to rail safety

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    August 24, 2018 by admin

    SENIOR RailCorp executives warned that continued cuts to maintenance funding would jeopardise the safety of the network a year before the O’Farrell government announced 450 jobs would be axed, leaked documents reveal.
    Nanjing Night Net

    The confidential report of an executive management meeting shows RailCorp was already struggling with funding cuts in February 2011, a month before the state election in which the O’Farrell government took office.

    It had asked the then Labor government for a maintenance budget of $1.175 billion for the 2011-12 financial year. But the government offered only $1.049 billion – a shortfall of $126 million.

    ”Ongoing forward estimate reduction … will not allow the existing levels of safety and reliability to be maintained in the long term,” the report warns.

    Maintenance funding for 2011-12 ended up at $1.11 billion, higher than the proposed amount but less than initially requested and the same as the previous year.

    This meant the maintenance budget was cut in real terms in the first year of the O’Farrell government when inflation was taken into account, reversing a trend of higher yearly spending on maintenance.

    Last November, the Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, announced that as part of the government’s ”fixing the trains” policy, 450 maintenance jobs, or 10 per cent of the workforce, would be cut from RailCorp.

    The cuts would be achieved by merging smaller maintenance depots across the network to create larger ”centres of excellence”, Ms Berejiklian said.

    The O’Farrell government’s maintenance budget for the present financial year is $1.165 billion, still less than RailCorp’s request of two years ago but a record high. However, this would include spending to build the new centres.

    Separate documents obtained by Fairfax Media show the government plans to collapse 126 maintenance depots into six ”super depots” and 17 satellite depots.

    The national secretary of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, Bob Nanva, said the documents were ”alarming”.

    ”RailCorp warned that track safety would be compromised by budget cuts almost two years ago, yet since then the government has only accelerated its program of cuts,” he said. ”The wholesale axing of maintenance depots will gut RailCorp of the experience and knowledge needed to keep our rail network safe.”

    Ms Berejiklian said: ”This is a Labor government document written two years ago. Any restructure and changes in responsibility across RailCorp are being reviewed by Australian Transport Safety Bureau commissioner and former head of the Independent Transport Safety Regulator Carolyn Walsh.”

    The February 2011 document shows RailCorp was planning to delay refurbishing Tangara trains as one way of coping with its lower budget. But the document says deferring cosmetic maintenance on Tangaras were only short-term initiatives.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.


  2. Fire families return to ‘moonscape’

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    August 24, 2018 by admin

    ”Nothing that man makes lasts forever” … Vincent Morrissey surveys the damage in front of what used to be his home in Timor Road, Coonabarabran. The fire front now extends for 158 kilometres.THE Hills Hoist is still there but the oranges on the surrounding trees have been scorched.
    Nanjing Night Net

    All that remains of the family home where Vincent Morrissey grew up with four siblings is the chimney stack.

    Other residents of Coonabarabran were returning to similar desolation on Wednesday night after the town’s Timor Road, described by the Rural Fire Service spokesman Alex Chesser as ”a moonscape”, was opened up to locals to inspect their properties.

    Mr Morrissey 53, checked his 100 head of Hereford cross cattle on Sunday evening and left knowing there was nothing more he could do.

    That night he watched from a nearby hill as fire swept over the 700-metre-high Charlie’s Mountain and into the two kilometre-wide Yearinan valley. While Mr Morrissey didn’t see his house consumed by flames, the black smoke billowing over the hilltops had him fearing the worst.

    On Wednesday after the road reopened, he picked his way around the smoking remains of his property, cautious that asbestos may be the latest hazard he needs to confront.

    ”It will be a specialist job with protective equipment to clean up,” he said. ”People need to realise asbestos was used quite a lot to build some of the houses around here.”

    He added philosophically: ”Nothing that man makes lasts forever, not even the pyramids will last forever.”

    Just down the road is a similar scene, where the home of Veronica Mackay and her partner David Maslen had a small car recovery yard and a few animals.

    An acrid smell emanated from a still-burning heap of pig food, the same flames that claimed 10 of their pigs and the three-bedroom property.

    ”It was called Rainbow’s End but it isn’t any more,” Ms Mackay said. ”That was the laundry and that was my herb garden and those were my mandarin trees. We had the best mandarins in the district.”

    She added: ”We got a call from the fire service that said ‘If you thought you were going to stay, don’t. Evacuate now.’ It was a recorded message. I was quite shocked. I thought they would have used a real person.”

    One theory, supported by the Rural Fire Service, is that the inferno was started by lightning.

    For the time being, the town of Coonabarabran is fully occupied with the industry of fighting fires and helping those left with nothing. More than 40 properties have been lost and 185 have registered at the evacuation centre at the bowling club.

    Some 200 firefighters are here in 60 fire trucks from throughout the state. Twenty aircraft are in use to try to halt the advance of the fire front, which extends for 158 kilometres. A tent city has grown on the racecourse capable of housing 400 firefighters.

    Each tent can house some 30 fire crew in airconditioned respite from their campaign.

    There is some good news, however. Temperatures that were expected to reach the low 40s on Thursday and Friday are now predicted to be in the mid-30s. There is also hope that the fire will now be contained within the next 24 hours.

    The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is expected to visit the town on Thursday.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.


  3. City gets a wake-up call, courtesy of horn virtuoso

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    August 24, 2018 by admin

    ”I try to find the best place for acoustics and visual look” … the repertoire of Russian alphorn player Arkady Shilkloper ranges from traditional Swiss songs to improvisational jazz.HE HAS played his three-metre long alphorn at dawn on Bondi Beach, aboard the Manly ferry, in Hyde Park and even alongside the giant rubber duck temporarily berthed at Darling Harbour.
    Nanjing Night Net

    But on Wednesday morning, Russian alphorn player Arkady Shilkloper played atop the most recognisable Sydney location of all: the largest sail of the Sydney Opera House. Cutting a tiny figure from below, the multi-instrumentalist performed as part of the Sydney Festival as the city woke to a perfect summer’s day.

    ”It’s quite a special feeling because the audience is very enthusiastic,” Moscow-born Shilkloper said of performing at sunrise. ”It’s not just people who come by accident.”

    Of his choice of Sydney locations, Shilkloper said: ”I try to find the best place for acoustics and visual look. It’s kind of an improvisation.

    ”It was not easy to play on a [ferry]. The boat was swinging with the waves and it wasn’t a musical kind of swinging. It was not stable.

    ”But I still played from Manly beach back to Sydney.”

    The 56-year-old began his music career at six, playing the alto horn in a brass orchestra in Moscow. He has been lauded by his musical peers for playing that ”[goes] places that horn players aren’t supposed to go without a net, map, seatbelt, crash helmet, overhead air support and a note from their mothers”.

    Shilkloper’s alphorn repertoire ranges from traditional Swiss songs to improvisational jazz. Each year, he gives about 100 masterclasses to other musicians.

    Shilkloper is not only a masterful player of the alphorn but several brass instruments and the didgeridoo.

    Jeffrey Agrell, an associate professor of horn at the University of Iowa’s school of music has said Shilkloper is ”simply the most creative hornist on the planet and one of the greatest horn players who has ever lived”.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.


  4. Sydney more likely to become a hot spot for fracking, says Chief Scientist

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    August 24, 2018 by admin

    Chris Hartcher … Minister for Resources and Energy.FRACKING is more likely to take place during coal seam gas drilling near Sydney than in many other gas fields around Australia, according to an unpublished report from the NSW Chief Scientist that was commissioned by the state government.
    Nanjing Night Net

    In a briefing to the Resources Minister, Chris Hartcher, the Chief Scientist and Engineer, Mary O’Kane, concluded that companies would be likely to start fracking once ”sweet spots” for gas have dried up.

    Fracking is a drilling technique that forces gas to the surface by pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals underground. Opponents say it can cause gas leaks at the surface, crack underground aquifers, and pollute water with toxic chemicals, though some experts dispute the degree of damage it can cause.

    The documents, obtained by the NSW Greens under freedom-of-information laws, suggest that if large-scale coal seam gas extraction takes place in the Sydney Basin, fracking will probably end up being used because of the geology of the rock strata under Sydney and the age of the coal deposits.

    ”Coal seams from some basins in NSW appear from the advice to be more likely to need fracturing than others,” Professor O’Kane wrote in her briefing, referring to coal seams in the Sydney, Gunnedah and Gloucester basins.

    ”In the later stages of coal seam gas developments after the high permeability coal seams or ‘sweet spots’ have been drilled, it is more likely that wells will then be [fracked] to increase production.”

    However, she added that ”the development of new technologies may significantly reduce the need for hydraulic fracturing in the future”.

    AGL has reversed its position on fracking, saying the drilling technique is now back on the table as an option, after earlier ruling it out.

    The company plans to drill 66 wells in western Sydney, between Campbelltown and Liverpool. It has promised that there will be no surface impact from drilling, and says it will meet strict health, safety and environmental standards.

    The Chief Scientist’s advice was based on reviews conducted by three experts – Professor Val Pinczewski, the head of the school of petroleum engineering at the University of NSW, Professor Peter Cook, of the cooperative research centre for greenhouse gas technologies at the University of Melbourne, and Dr Rob Jeffrey, the CSIRO’s research program leader in petroleum engineering.

    A separate briefing note to the minister, also from the chief scientist, dated November 2011, was critical of a separate series of consultants’ reports commissioned by the government into coal seam gas drilling standards.

    The NSW Greens said the documents showed fracking was inevitable under Sydney, if the AGL project was approved.

    ”Our aquifers and geological formations are like Humpty Dumpty, once you’ve fracked it, you can’t put it back together again,” the Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said. ”Barry O’Farrell should act now to protect land and water rather than leaving it to a future government to say sorry for the damage done by fracking for coal seam gas.”

    The AGL proposal for western Sydney will be on public exhibition until February 8.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.


  5. Weighed down by excess worry

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    August 24, 2018 by admin

    Life’s a laugh … loving ourselves as we are does away with the stress of being perfect and can have a positive impact on health. Fat focused … is it time to rethink our approach to weight?
    Nanjing Night Net

    Around and around the weight-loss merry-go-round we go. Another year, another resolution to shed the kilos.

    A survey by the Dietitians Association of Australia reveals 42 per cent of young women are resolved to lose weight this year.

    Nothing new here. They had the same resolution last year. Around the developed world, the situation is the same. One study found 95 per cent of 16- to 21-year-olds in Britain want to change their body shapes while about 63 per cent of American women want to lose weight.

    In Norway, a study of 3500 young women showed 49 per cent wanted to change the way they looked and would consider cosmetic procedures, such as liposuction, to do it.

    While many of them may succeed, 95 per cent of those who lose weight will regain the weight within a few years, and many will gain more weight than they originally lost.

    These are sobering statistics and it raises the question: why do we keep doing it to ourselves? Why do we keep rehashing the same goal, a goal that rarely works and simply serves to make women – and men – feel bad about their bodies and berate themselves when they do not succeed?

    “It’s tricky,” says the psychologist Deborah Thomas, who will run a “psychological perspective” course on weight loss at Sydney University next month. “On the one hand, it’s important for us all to be healthy and if you’re too overweight then it’s healthy to lose weight. But putting an emphasis on perfection and not loving ourselves as we are [is not healthy].”

    Tara Diversi, a dietitian and author of The Good Enough Diet, agrees. “By constantly telling yourself you’re fat, you’re not going to get thinner, you’re just going to make yourself unhappy and [then probably] dull the anxiety with food.”

    Such thinking offers an insight into why it is such a sorry cycle and why so many people tell Diversi and Thomas they would be happy if only they could lose weight.

    Many people delay getting on with a life plan until they have reached their desired weight but experts say the constant self-criticism is taxing.

    Many dieters convince themselves their emotional “weight” would be lifted along with their kilos.

    However, it rarely is. “If you lose weight is your life going to be better?” Diversi asks. “Will you be more attractive? Not necessarily. Will you be smarter? Definitely not. Will you be better at your job? No.”

    Ironically, placing yourself under pressure to lose weight and lose it fast can have the opposite effect. There are two reasons for this.

    First, Thomas says, women and increasingly men are shamed by the weight-loss industry into thinking losing weight is easy. “Shame is a hidden emotion and a classic way of dealing with shame is to eat. It’s a losing battle,” she says.

    Second, she points to a passage from Brian Wansink’s book, Mindless Eating, which says it is not always easy or fast.

    “Our body and our mind fight against deprivation diets that cut our daily calorie intake from 2000 to 1200 calories a day,” Wansink says.

    Being extreme in your approach “becomes stressful and stress is one of the things that make weight loss hard”, Thomas adds.

    ‘The stress response . . . includes insulin and leptin [the ‘satiating’ hormone] resistance, along with the increased production of neuropeptide Y.

    “These changes collectively stimulate the appetite and make it incredibly difficult to maintain the low calorie intake. Moreover, we are likely to turn to comfort foods [those high in sugar and fat] in order to relieve this stress response.”

    The key is taking a gradual approach and looking at our lives in general.

    “Happiness doesn’t lie in external factors,” Diversi says. “Particularly not in your body. People need to have a look at what they think will make their life better. It might be having the courage to do something for yourself . . . taking time for yourself, painting, swimming or playing soccer. I think weight loss should be a byproduct, not the goal.”

    Contradictory though it may seem, in focusing the goal away from weight, the results are often found. When we feel good, we care more about our health, we treat our bodies with more kindness and we produce different hormones more likely to lead to weight loss.

    “Eating is nice, it’s very, very pleasurable,” Thomas says. But “often we’re seeking to fill something other than hunger.

    “I often say [to new clients] ‘forget about weight loss, exercise and nutrition. Let’s look at what’s making you unhappy.’ It can take quite a bit of time to get past the idea that weight is the problem.

    “[But] it’s important to be really honest with yourself about what’s going on and try to be a bit kind to yourself. I often find that when [my patients] make these changes and have sorted out their relationships, improved their self-esteem and started to live their lives more fully, then the weight just drops ‘

    Healthy Weight Week is January 20-27.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.