Monthly Archives: May 2019



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Comment: Good news, flyers: ‘flight mode’ is safe during take-off and landing

By Hamza Bendemra

Earlier this year, the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) put together a panel of aviation experts to look at whether personal electronic devices (PEDs) could be used on planes without compromising safety.


The results are in: the committee is recommending that electronic devices – such as tablets, e-readers and other PEDs – be allowed during all phases of flight (including take-off and landing).

The FAA asked the Advisory and Rulemaking Committee to investigate this particular issue after growing public scepticism about limitations, and increased public pressure to allow passengers to use their electronic devices during all phases of flight.

When applicable, passengers will have to switch their devices to airplane/flight mode. Passengers will hence be allowed to listen to music, watch a movie, play games or read an e-book on their e-reader or tablet – as long as the data was downloaded and saved on the device before take-off.

As the committee’s report points out, many new generation aircraft have the appropriate shielding to prevent any interference from PEDs that may be on board.

The FAA is widely expected to follow through with the committee’s recommendations and will likely begin implementation next year. Other regulatory agencies, such as Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), are expected to follow FAA’s lead on the issue.

Lukas (Vermeer)

No talking on mobile phones

The committee is maintaining restrictions on devices capable of connecting to a mobile phone network and/or with data communication capability. Hence, mobile phones are not expected to be allowed to be used during take-offs and landings any time soon. They will be required to be put on “flight mode”.

A mobile phone searching for a network tower emits much higher energy radio waves and is therefore more likely to cause electromagnetic interference (EMI). Another concern is that a plane flying with several hundreds of phones attempting to connect to a nearby tower would cause unnecessary strain on the mobile phone network.

However, some airlines are already offering products that allows their passengers to make phone calls on their flight. Emirates has been pushing for this technology for several years. It relies on pio-cell technology which is basically an on-board antenna which relays calls to towers on the ground. The system is controlled by the flight crew.

What’s taken so long?

Felipe Luchi’s ‘Jailhouses’. (陈从峰)

Pressure on the FAA sharply increased over the past few years as electronic device use skyrocketed and airline passengers became increasingly dependent on them.

As Brazilian illustrator Felipe Luchi so perfectly illustrated in his artwork, we are becoming increasingly dependent on our mobile devices.

The decision to allow the use of electronic devices on planes may seem self-evident to some, but the committee was rigorous. The committee was set to release its recommendation months ago but asked for an extension as there was a large amount of data to review and evaluate.

Public perception that a small device like a mobile phone could not possibly interfere with a plane’s electronics is at the core of the issue – as shown by the parody below.

Parody on PEDs ban on planes (bit of swearing in it, too).

 A recently conducted survey showed that 30% of passengers admitted to not turning off their mobile phone when flying – but how many of them are actual aviation safety experts? Does knowing how to use an iPhone give someone the expertise to assess whether it can take interfere with a plane’s electronics?

Evidence-based policy is – as the term suggests – based on evidence. As is usually the case with research, it is extremely difficult to come up with a black-and-white answer. Research outcomes are made up of shades of grey: assessing likelihood, risk and so on.

As pointed out in a previous piece for The Conversation, interference allegedly due to phone calls during flight has been reported – but the lift of the ban on electronic devices such as e-readers and tablets is certainly most welcome.

Hamza Bendemra does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.



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Comment: Climate talks could succeed, if Australia toughens targets

By Ian McGregor, University of Technology, Sydney

Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri, said last week that on climate, “We have five minutes before midnight”.


He argues that governments have historically avoided taking responsibility for global warming.

In the more than 20 years since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was negotiated, global greenhouse gas emissions have increased by more than 30%. What hope is there for the rapid reduction of global emissions that is needed to have a high probability of limiting warming to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels?

This warming represents a level that most climate scientists accept as significantly less likely to result in dangerous climate change. The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report that has just been released confirms we are on a dangerous path. So what are the prospects for the urgently needed rapid change of direction?

Climate change is a global problem that needs a global agreement. Virtually every country on the planet has signed and ratified the UN Framework Convention which seeks to avoid dangerous climate change. The latest stage in these international climate change negotiations was launched in Durban in 2011 and is due to conclude in Paris at the end of 2015.

Is the Paris Climate Summit likely to be more successful than the failed Copenhagen Climate Summit of 2009?

The short answer is yes. The world has learnt some lessons from the failure of Copenhagen. But it is far from clear whether the outcome from Paris will be strong enough to prevent, with a reasonable degree of certainty, dangerous climate change.

An effective global climate change agreement in Paris will need to address the equity issue, ensuring each country contributes on an equitable basis to both reducing emissions and providing finance. These responsibilities will need to be based on the country’s respective capacity and historic responsibility for emissions.

Countries will have to make specific commitments during 2014 so that these can be assessed and further negotiated well in advance of the final Paris meeting. This was missing in lead up to Copenhagen. The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, has called a Summit of World Leaders for September 2014 – and challenged them to bring bold pledges.

The Paris agreement also needs to provide a dynamic framework that recognises that these commitments are not static and that countries need to increase their commitment levels as they develop.

Australia has an emissions reduction target of 5% by 2020 (with a 15-25% conditional target), which both major political parties have committed to. For Paris to succeed, we will need to do much better than that.

Australia’s per capita emission levels are more than double European Union levels and the EU has already committed to a 20% reduction by 2020 with a conditional commitment to raise this to 30%.

And developed countries, like Australia, need to show it is possible to reduce emissions whilst continuing economic growth. In the last year Australia proved this with the carbon price and policies to support renewable energy resulting in a 7% reduction in electricity emissions, whilst employment and wealth continued to increase.

It will be a blow to Australia’s influence in the international negotiations if it continues its current approach of resiling from effective climate action. If the Coalition were to commit immediately to the 15% target, and negotiate with a broad range of stakeholders on effective policies to reach this goal, and future higher ones, this would be a positive step towards an international agreement. It would also increase Australia’s influence on the world stage.

This latest round of climate negotiations was launched from the EU working closely with AOSIS (Association of Small Island States) and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) at the 2011 Durban meeting. This progressive alliance needs to be nurtured and reinforced by the EU in order to achieve success in Paris.

The US and China are the two largest emitting nations and are therefore critical to a successful outcome in Paris. There have been positive developments in 2013 as they have had bi-lateral talks focused on climate change, with positive outcomes for HFCs – greenhouse gases that are covered by the Montreal Protocol on ozone depletion.

It is, however, too early to tell whether this will have a positive effect on the overall climate negotiations.

The climate science as reiterated in the most recent IPCC report is clear: we are overheating the planet. The scale of global political change required to stabilise the climate is extremely challenging and needs to be a focus of all governments across the world in order to achieve a fair and effective climate agreement in Paris in 2015.

Read more coverage of the IPCC report here.

Dr Ian McGregor receives funding for his research from the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). He is a member of the Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre where he undertakes research on on global climate change politics. He organised a recent research seminar at the Centre where Julie-Anne Richards, formerly Global Policy Coordinator of Climate Action Network (CAN) International presented on the global climate change policy process and parts of her presentation have helped to inform this article. Julie-Anne is currently studying for a Master’s degree at the University of Sydney.



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Shocking fat ad warns of sugary drink risks

A new health campaign has been launched today by the Cancer Council, warning Australians over the health impacts of sugary drinks.


The ad, featured on YouTube, shows a man drinking a can of fat, saying that’s representative of what will happen if the extra kilojoules consumed through the drinks are not burnt off.

The Cancer Council says there are 16 packets of sugar in a regular 600ml soft drink, and one soft drink per day can lead to putting on five kilograms in a year.  


Leading public experts and community organisations gathered for a forum in Melbourne today to discuss the health risks associated with high consumption of sugary drinks and to discuss policy options to reduce consumption.   

According to research by the Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research at Deakin University, children who consume more than 250 ml of sugary drink per day are 26 per cent more likely to be overweight or obese.

Craig Sinclair, Chair of Cancer Council Australia Public Health Committee, says with nearly 25 per cent of children and more than 60 per cent of adults in Austraia overweight or obese, it is vital that we start to investigate ways to reduce kilojoules in diets.

“We have reached a point where sugary drinks are considered an everyday staple, as opposed to an occasion treat.

“Promotion by beverage companies through new media and traditional channel is relentless and it’s easier to find a bottle of soft drink than a water tap. We need to change the status quo,” he said. 

Cancer Council Australia, Diabetes Australia and National Heart Foundation (Victoria) recommended a series of measures to tackle this health crisis: restrictions on marketing sugary drinks to children and reducing availability in children’s settings; an investigation into tax options and reducing availability in workplaces.

Diabetes Australia says obesity is a major cause of a range or chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, and sugar-sweetened drinks are known to be a major contributor to the problem.

The ad has been licensed from the New York Department of Health and tailored for an Australian audience.



There are 16 packets of sugar in a regular 600ml soft drink. You wouldn’t eat that amount of sugar, then why would you drink it? – See more at: 苏州美甲网网,



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High Court rules on indigenous sentences

The High Court has dismissed an appeal from an indigenous man who sought to have an extended jail sentence overturned on the grounds it hadn’t taken into account his disadvantaged background as an Aboriginal person.


West Australian man Ernest Munda had pleaded guilty to the 2010 manslaughter of his partner.

The pair had been drinking at a pub and he had smoked cannabis before he assaulted her at home, punching her and repeatedly ramming her head into a wall.

The next morning, they had sex and Munda left the house briefly.

When he returned his partner wasn’t breathing and she was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

He was initially sentenced to more than five years’ jail but WA prosecutors appealed the sentence as too lenient.

The WA Court of Appeal re-sentenced Munda to almost eight years in jail.

Munda appealed the decision in the High Court, with his lawyers arguing the appeal court had failed to giver proper regard to his ancestry and personal circumstances.

Submissions outlined Munda’s history living in indigenous communities and his struggles with alcohol abuse since the age of 16.

But a majority of the High Court judges on Wednesday upheld the WA court’s findings the original sentence was “manifestly inadequate”.

“While it was relevant to take into consideration an offender’s circumstances of severe social disadvantage, the High Court held that the same sentencing principles must be applied in every case irrespective of an offender’s identity or … membership of an ethnic or other group,” the court said in a statement.

The High Court made the same statement about sentencing principles in its ruling on another case, that of NSW man William David Bugmy.

But it upheld Bugmy’s appeal of an increased sentence, finding the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal had not addressed the question of whether the original sentence was manifestly inadequate.

Bugmy was initially sentenced to a non-parole period of four years in jail for assaulting a prison officer.

The prosecution appealed this and he was re-sentenced to a non-parole period of five years. It was this extended sentence Bugmy appealed in the High Court.



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Bartra making a strong case for centre back slot

A graduate of the La Liga club’s famed youth academy, 22-year-old Bartra’s chances have been limited since he joined the first-team squad last season but he was deployed alongside Gerard Pique in place of the injured Javier Mascherano for the Group H clash in Glasgow.


Barca spent the close season trying to sign another centre back as a long-term replacement for captain Carles Puyol, who is poised to make his comeback after knee surgery, but Bartra’s polished display in Scotland suggested he may be the answer.

He coped efficiently with Celtic’s most dangerous threat, combative Greece international Giorgios Samaras, and did not commit a single foul during the match, even striding forward in the second half and unleashing a powerful long-range drive that forced a sharp save from Fraser Forster.

His eye for goal will help his case for a regular place in Martino’s side and he scored from Lionel Messi’s assist in this month’s 4-1 win at home to Real Sociedad in La Liga.

“He played an impeccable match,” Martino said at a news conference.

“He was up against their most difficult player (Samaras) and he did a very good job,” added the Argentine.

Although Barca were unable to extend their lead against a team who played the final half an hour with 10 men – Celtic captain Scott Brown was dismissed for kicking out at Neymar – there was general satisfaction with their showing.

The Catalan club, bidding for a third European crown in six years after triumphs in 2009 and 2011, top the group on six points from two matches, two ahead of AC Milan after the Italians were held to a 1-1 draw at Ajax Amsterdam.

They have also made a fine start to their La Liga title defence, amassing a maximum 21 points from their opening seven games to top the table along with Atletico Madrid.


A battling Celtic twice threatened the Barca goal after losing their captain when Victor Valdes produced a brilliant reaction save to deny James Forrest and Charlie Mulgrew headed narrowly wide from the resulting corner.

“It was a pretty complete performance and we played with a lot of consistency,” said Martino, who is making his debut in Europe’s elite club competition this season.

“Apart from the Valdes save we had almost no problems,” he added.

Barca’s next outing is a La Liga game at home to Real Valladolid on Saturday when they will again be without injured World Player of the Year Messi.

The Argentine, who netted a hat-trick in the 4-0 win at home to Ajax on matchday one, should be back for the home and away games against Milan on October 22 and November 6 respectively.

(Editing by John O’Brien)