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Australian bushfires rage

Fires are an everpresent threat in Australia – many catastrophic blazes are lit by firebugs. With soaring temperatures in Victoria and New South Wales, dozens of people have died in the latest bush fires.

Fierce winds were fanning the fires and pushing them in unpredictable directions in Victoria on Sunday, after temperatures reached a state record of 47 degrees Celsius.

Forecasters said hot and uncertain weather conditions would continue through the day on Sunday.

Blair Trewin, a climatologist with the National Climate Centre in Melbourne, told Al Jazeera: “They are the most extreme conditions that we have ever seen in historic record in parts of southeastern Australia.

“We are seeing an upward trend in temperatures in Australia as elsewhere in the world.”

More than 600 houses have been destroyed by the fires.

The worst wildfires in recent memory killed 75 people and razed 2,500 homes in Victoria in 1983.

In south Queensland we continue to enjoy pleasant summer weather, while in the north of the state, there’s flooding. Australia – a land of climatic extremes.

UPDATE FEB 9

107 people are now known to have perished in the fires, which are still raging through Victoria and New South Wales.

Authorities suspect arsonists are responsible for some fires and police are treating some razed towns as crime scenes.

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, says deliberately starting the fires is mass murder.

The fire that is of most concern is burning out of control in Victoria’s north-east, threatening the townships of Stanley and Eskdale.

The other major fire of concern, the Murrindini Mill fire, is moving north-east and is now about 93,000 hectares in size.

Fire authorities are also warning it will take several more days to control a large blaze burning near Victoria’s biggest electricity generator, the Loy Yang power station.

There are 50 fires raging across New South Wales. A 31 year old Gosford man has been arrested for arson.

UPDATE FEB 10

At last, something that captures the imagination of Australia’s vampire media more than the global economic situation and counting ever-dwindling loot.

173 people have now died, and blame is being thrown here, there and everywhere. Beyond the predictable media frenzy, I see this as a tangible expression of denial, the first stage of grief. 911 had the same effect on folks – blame everyone except the culture which through its practices, contributed to the calamity.

There’ll be plenty of time to look for answers, if there are any which can really be addressed, given our frustrating 200 years of braindead whitey farming practices, 40,000 of pre-colonial firing techniques which preceded these and folks’ unwillingness to learn from science and successful models of integrating human habitation with the environment on which it depends.

How many people know that most eucalypts are weeds in Australia, which create the conditions they need to colonise, whose seeds only germinate when fired? It is more popular to romanticise about the noble Australian aboriginal living in ‘harmony’ with ‘nature’ than look with a scientific eye at the result of their nomadic farming experience.

Once the large slow moving forest dwelling herbivorous marsupials were hunted to extinction, it became traditional for our traditional owners to use fire to promote grassland for kangaroos – which conveniently breed like – kangaroos.

Always a joey in the pouch, one out grazing, always another on the way.

And eucalypts, with their need for fire, thrived at the expense of hardwood wet forest timber.

Clearing and much, much more firing by whiteys have increased the problem – along with the urban sprawl into Victoria’s bushland. You’d think we’d have learnt the lesson by now – this land can’t support the people it has – not enough water or arable farmland to depend upon. Yet our stupid government ignores the very real environmental impacts and limitations whilst mouthing rubbish about a sustainable economy needing more people. This bleating has been going on since whitey arrived here – the first settlers saw an empty land which needed wave on wave of migrants, with Australia’s rivers and forests bearing the brunt.

The choices are stark – either live with the forests – which make rain and oxygen on which we depend, revegetate with non-fire dependent species as much as possible, and take sensible precautions against bushfire catastrophes; or chop down even more of our precious bushland, till most of our land becomes as dry as the Simpson Desert.

@KevinRuddPM Tweetwatch Cockatoo

Our Kevvie’s recent incoming and associated twitbites make for fun reading … here’s some favs to date – the characteristic laconic, down-to-earth verging on shameless Aussie lingo is alive and twittering.

rogers: @KevinRuddPM Frosty handshake? Why didn’t you sock that arsehole in the guts…?

hortovanyi: @fang mate, I’m always well behaved on here .. the only person I’m not sure about is @KevinRuddPM

grodscorp: @KevinRuddPM Would’ve thought you wouldn’t need to do dishes at White House dinner, Kevvie.

ninjamoeba: I love @KevinRuddPM ‘s bio: “PM.” Surprisingly succinct.

After Kev’s first, very muted, ‘vpod’ offering:

jimbiosis: @KevinRuddPM Sir, “growing the cake” is a mixed metaphor.

owenhodda: What is this vpod @KevinRuddPM speaks of? I am not down with the cool kid lingo

jamesfehon: @KevinRuddPM you mean a vlog?

lenier: @KevinRuddPM Re: “vpod”. You may have developed a term where many already exist. Welcome to Web 2.0! You’re fitting right in.

chrissylvester: just watched @KevinRuddPM’s vpod about the G20 and wanted to let you know he wished we’d sent @TurnbullMalcolm instead – chrissylvester team

Several commentators express concern about correct twitgrammar:

calvinccc: @KevinRuddPM My first thought was: wow the PM’s twittering in the 3rd person

danupoyner: Shock! @KevinRuddPM has changed from 1st to 3rd person. I like to think that it is actually still Kevin, just talking in 3rd person 🙂

iusebiro: am pretty disappointed that @kevinruddpm isn’t even pretending that it’s my beloved KevOhSev tweeting 🙁

cinema_monster: do you think @KevinRuddPM is actually the one updating his twitter? i’m kind of getting the image of my dad trying to work the dvd remote…

Digs at Conroy’s profoundly idiotic attempts to censor the Australian internet:

alexrzem: @KevinRuddPM That’s nice that you recorded a message for us. But how do you know that in the future it wouldn’t be blocked by your Firewall?

SilkCharm: @KevinRuddPm Hi Kev, thanks for your video G20 email http://twurl.nl/hon8lp – Please enjoy our #nocleanfeed video http://twurl.nl/06dsl3 🙂

Other tweets are disappointed with Kev’s autistic twitter demeanour, particularly in comparison to the more experienced twitterer @TurnbullMalcolm:

Mediamum: Gee, @KevinRuddPM has over 2000 followers and hasn’t had a conversation with anyone yet! FAIL

perkler: @KevinRuddPM just emailed me to say he looked forward to ‘our continuing dialogue’. I didn’t know we were having one. I got the email tho

jedwhite: @TurnbullMalcolm Great to see your genuine engagement through twitter. Very positive contrast to @KevinRuddPM. Hope u r finding useful.

@KevinRuddPM is now Number 8 on the Aussietwit list, yet it seems some followers are dissillusioned.

a_lil_spaz: The novelty has worn off now. Defollowing @KevinRuddPM & others people of political note. Sick of big shots not using Twitter appropriately.

caitabee: @KevinRuddPM I just unfollowed you. Fuck yes.

TWITFLASH!

We have liftoff! @KevinRuddPM is responding – and the cat is cool 🙂

Shilling for a War

War - both sides of the storyCon Coughlin does it again in this waffly piece of shillery, overflowing with unnamed senior sources, claiming Israel is seeking authorisation from the Pentagon to whack Iran. Interestingly and simultaneously, the uber conservative Daily Telegraph broadcasts this story wherein Cheney warns that military action against Iran remains a possibility.

AP debunks the Coughlin shillery swiftly.

The subject has a revealing history of similar deceptive preemptive pro-war journalism. Is MI6 involved as well?

A report, put together by Campaign Iran and published at the end of 2006, revealed that Daily Telegraph’s political editor Con Coughlin, the man who ‘broke the story’ of Iraq’s 45 minute WMD capacity, was behind 16 articles containing unsubstantiated allegations against Iran over the past 12 months. The Press Complaints Commission has launched its third investigation into Coughlin in as many months after a number of high level complaints about his latest article on Iran. The investigation is looking at an article by Coughlin on 24 January relying on an unnamed “European defence official” alleging that North Korea is helping Iran prepare a nuclear weapons test.

Back in 2000, the British Journalism Review remarked that “officers of MI6… had been supplying Coughlin with material for years.” It is known that the MI6 has a shadowy programme called “I/Ops” (Information Operations), whose activities within Fleet Street have never before been so clearly exposed.

Supposing the Tele story is an MI6 plant, what should we make of this Times Online story that several US generals are prepared to resign if Doodoo gives the order to attack Iran?

“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”

A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.

“There are enough people who feel this would be an error of judgment too far for there to be resignations.”

A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. “American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,” said a Pentagon source. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders.

The threat of a wave of resignations coincided with a warning by Vice-President Dick Cheney that all options, including military action, remained on the table. He was responding to a comment by Tony Blair that it would not “be right to take military action against Iran”.

Perhaps there are secret wars within the intel agencies themselves. Who is feeding the pro-war line in the Brit press and the Pentagon? Could it be none other than the recently departed torturer and his evul cohorts? Seymour Hersh spills the beans on the United Stupids tilt toward Iran:

The key players behind the redirection are Vice-President Dick Cheney, the deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, the departing Ambassador to Iraq (and nominee for United Nations Ambassador), Zalmay Khalilzad, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser. While Rice has been deeply involved in shaping the public policy, former and current officials said that the clandestine side has been guided by Cheney. (Cheney’s office and the White House declined to comment for this story; the Pentagon did not respond to specific queries but said, “The United States is not planning to go to war with Iran.”)

OBL wants war in Iran
Ironically, the tilt against the Shite Iranians will benefit the most radical, fundamentalist Sunnis, from whom the likes of Bin Laden came. Whose side are the torturer’s mob really on?

“The Saudis have considerable financial means, and have deep relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis”—Sunni extremists who view Shiites as apostates. “The last time Iran was a threat, the Saudis were able to mobilize the worst kinds of Islamic radicals. Once you get them out of the box, you can’t put them back.” The Saudi royal family has been, by turns, both a sponsor and a target of Sunni extremists, who object to the corruption and decadence among the family’s myriad princes. The princes are gambling that they will not be overthrown as long as they continue to support religious schools and charities linked to the extremists. The Administration’s new strategy is heavily dependent on this bargain.

Nasr compared the current situation to the period in which Al Qaeda first emerged. In the nineteen-eighties and the early nineties, the Saudi government offered to subsidize the covert American C.I.A. proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Hundreds of young Saudis were sent into the border areas of Pakistan, where they set up religious schools, training bases, and recruiting facilities. Then, as now, many of the operatives who were paid with Saudi money were Salafis. Among them, of course, were Osama bin Laden and his associates, who founded Al Qaeda, in 1988.

What is the payoff for the torturer? More war, re-election of the neocons, more oil, more profits for Helliburton etc. – his mates.