Go Kevin! Australia to regain political conscience?

Australia to speak up in the world: PM

The Prime Minister has declared that Australia will adopt an ambitious new “activist” stance on international issues where it believes it can make a difference.
Before leaving today on a round-the-world trip, which starts in the US and ends in China, Kevin Rudd said last night that Australia’s voice had been “too quiet for too long across the various councils of the world”.
He said the Government was committed to “creative, middle-power diplomacy as the best means of enhancing Australia’s national interests”.

Admittedly I’ve been busy with deadlines over here (because of course the end of the financial year is April 5 or whatever) but I haven’t seen Kevin really stuff up so far. This is so much more than I hoped for… to be very mature about it, Johnny Howard can go suck eggs.

The visible effect of trawling

The difference a photo makes is interesting.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Loving Our Oceans to Death has a Landsat satellite image of the Gulf of Mexico

The cloudy water that you see is the direct result of commercial bottom trawlers dragging large, heavy nets across the seafloor, denuding it of all life in their quest for a few marketable fish and shrimps. Unfortunately, most bottom trawlers destroy as much as 20 pounds of “bycatch” — unmarketable corals, sponges, fishes and other animals — for every pound of commerically valuable “seafood” that they retrieve, while they leave behind huge, choking clouds of mud and sediment that take weeks or longer to settle.

“Until recently, the impact was basically hidden from view,” he continued. “But new tools — especially Internet-based image sites, like Google Earth — allow everyone to see for themselves what’s happening. In shallow waters with muddy bottoms, trawlers leave long, persistent trails of sediment in their wake.”

What can you do to reduce this enviromental destruction? Until the industrial fishing industry proves that they are acting in a more environmentally responsible manner, you can boycott eating orange roughy, Chilean sea bass (Patagonian toothfish), and all shrimps. (Keep in mind that those shrimp species that are not caught by trawling are usually farmed in shallow coastal mangroves, which also leads to tremendous, and possibly irreversible, environmental damages).

But don’t just stop buying trawler-caught seafood – tell your supermarket or fishmonger why you’ve stopped buying it. Your consumer action can make a huge difference.

Tim Berners-Lee on tracking and privacy on the internet

From the BCS, Berners-Lee ‘wary’ of all web tracking:

Mr Berners-Lee explained that this type of targeting could lead to information about a user’s habits getting into the hands of unwanted parties and that instead, ISPs should have to comply with the same rules and regulations that any other utility company would.

Mr Berners-Lee said a user’s internet activity information was akin to a person’s private property, however.
“It’s mine – you can’t have it. If you want to use [that data] for something, then you have to negotiate with me. I have to agree, I have to understand what I’m getting in return,” he said.

All women team run NASA’s Mars rover (briefly)

Briefly is better than nothing…

The all-female team of scientists and engineers planned the event after noticing they were occasionally a supermajority on the rover operations team. They designed an action plan and transmitted all the computer codes for the day’s activities, including using the robotic arm to take microscopic images of dust while Spirit was stationed on a slope. Though men still outnumber women in space exploration, the gender mix is changing.

More from NASA.

Clive James says lots of sensible things about privacy

Clive James on privacy for the BBC:

“to the contention that nothing is private for the prominent, shouldn’t we be saying that privacy is for everyone, and not just for you and me?
To say that, however, you have to believe in private life as a value. I think most of us still do, although it may very well be true that a private life is becoming impossible to lead. But just because it’s fading from existence doesn’t mean that it was never vital.

To live in society at all, we have to keep a reservoir of private thoughts, which, whether wisely or unwisely, we share only with intimates. This sharing of private thoughts is called private life.
Until recently, the concept of private life was basic to civilisation. Its value could be measured by the thoroughness with which totalitarian states and religions always did their best to stamp it out. But now we have to face the possibility that the latest stage of civilisation might also be trying to stamp it out.
You can still keep your thoughts to yourself – nobody has yet invented a machine that can get into your head and broadcast what it finds – but if you try to communicate those private thoughts to anyone else you run an increasing risk that they will be communicated to everyone.

Pinching private phone calls and e- mails ought to be a crime, but somehow it isn’t. And it probably won’t be. There are too many laws as it is; too many of the new laws are useless; and a law against printing anything you can find would probably be seen as an infringement of free speech, even though the unrestricted theft of private messages amounts to an infringement of free speech anyway.