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What a week. PETA jumped the shark, odd things were heard in space and our politics went to complete doo-doo.
Hello and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. We’ve had some exciting developments in space exploration, anarchy in France, a serious misstep by PETA and the loss of whatever dignity our political system had left.
There’s been a bit of movement in the area of space exploration this week with one “unplanned treat” and another new pioneering mission planned.
NASA’s Insight lander managed an unexpected first, recording sound waves for the first time on our red neighbour. Motion sensors on the lander started detecting sound waves, which it managed to capture—a sound familiar to all of us; the sound of wind.
NASA released the audio this week for the world to hear and it does sound extremely similar to the sound of slow winds in a large open area back home. The first version of the audio is best listened to using headphones, however a version which has been modified to have the pitch increased is far better perceived by the human ear.
NASA have estimated that the winds were travelling slowly at approximately “5-7 meters a second” from the northwest to the southeast of the planet. The best part is, it really wasn’t expected, with InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt saying, “Capturing this audio was an unplanned treat. But one of the things our mission is dedicated to is measuring motion on Mars, and naturally that includes motion caused by sound waves.”
It’s like InSight is cupping its ears and hearing the Mars wind beating on it. When we looked at the direction of the vibrations, it matches the expected wind direction at our landing sight.
The sound was captured by two state-of-the-art pieces of technology that the lander has been equipped with: the first, an air pressure sensor inside the lander designed to collect “meteorological data”; the second, a seismometer which sits on the lander’s deck and is deployed by the lander’s robotic arm, and records vibrations that move over the lander’s solar panels which acts like a “giant ear”.
Tom Pike, a sensor designer at Imperial College London and a member of the InSight science team explains further, “The solar panels on the lander’s sides respond to pressure fluctuations of the wind. It’s like InSight is cupping its ears and hearing the Mars wind beating on it. When we looked at the direction of the lander vibrations coming from the solar panels, it matches the expected wind direction at our landing sight.”
It may not be as electrifying as landing a man on the moon but it’s still pretty cool in my humble opinion. Speaking of, China has just launched a potentially ground-breaking mission this week with the intention of landing a spacecraft on the far side of the moon to map out the largely unexplored area of our nighttime satellite.
The far side of the moon, or the “dark side of the moon” for the Pink Floyd fans among us, has a completely different composition to the side that we are more familiar with which has been explored in far more detail. The unmanned Chang’e 4 lander-rover combination launched by the Chinese plans to explore both above and below the lunar surface once it arrives at the South Pole-Aitken basin’s Von Karman crater after a 27-day journey.
Leonard David, from Space.com, explained that the mission will also perform radio-astronomical studies that will be unique in that they will be “free from interference from our planet’s ionosphere, human-made radio frequencies and auroral radiation noise” due to the far side always facing away from Earth.
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Paris is in lockdown this weekend due to the ongoing rioting by “yellow vest” protesters in the French capital as well as other cities around the country.
The protests are against living costs, primarily the extra pressure that household budgets have had to endure as a result of fuel taxes, and last weekend saw absolute mayhem in Paris with cars being torched, shops being looted and the famous Arc de Triomphe being vandalised with graffiti against French President, Emmanuel Macron.
In preparation for a repeat performance this weekend, the French government have deployed around 89,000 police across the country including around 8,000 in Paris alone. The Eiffel Tower and other popular tourist landmarks have been closed, shops have been boarded up and street furniture items have been removed to prevent them from being used as projectiles.
The protests do appear to have achieved their goal, with President Macron abandoning plans for the fuel tax changes, however the protesters are now asking for more, demanding lower taxes, higher salaries, cheaper energy costs, better retirement provisions and even Macron’s resignation. Hardly doing the world of protesters a favour as they reinforce the adage, “give them an inch and they’ll take a mile”.
Unfortunately for officials and police, the job of distinguishing between legitimate protesters and anarchists hitching their wagon to the mayhem is becoming increasingly difficult, further diluting the message and effectiveness of the protest’s purpose in the first place.
If you started the week thinking that the farce that Canberra has become couldn’t get any worse, you would have found yourself unfortunately mistaken.
As the last sitting week of Parliament commenced, a race against the clock for the government on two fronts was begun – their highly controversial encryption legislation and legislation designed to improve health checks on asylum seekers currently stuck on our offshore prisons.
Following calls from the Australian Medical Association for urgent intervention to get children off Nauru and for faster medical treatment for refugees on both Nauru and Manus, an alliance between Labor, the Greens and members of the crossbench introduced legislation that would see changes allowing refugees to transfer to Australia based on medical advice of two or more treating doctors.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was having none of it, calling it a “destructive, irresponsible and reckless move” and suggesting that it would “basically completely crumble offshore processing in this country…for one pathetic reason: to play games in the House of Representatives.”
He also told the media: “I will do whatever I can, whatever I can. I will fight them using whatever tool or tactic I have available to me to ensure that we do not undermine our border protection laws.” So he and those in his corner resorted to games of their own.
As the final sitting day approached on Thursday, the government were faced with an unthinkable scenario. Not only did it appear that the legislation would pass the Senate, but it also appeared that it could pass the house, making it the first time in almost 90 years that a sitting government lost a vote in the House and the clearest sign yet that Morrison and his party no longer have a mandate to govern.
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Ex-Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi and Pauline Hanson teamed up in the Senate to drag the vote out as long as possible, hoping to achieve a situation where it only passed once there was no longer time for it to be heard in the House before our pollies head off on their extended Christmas breaks. Bernardi attempted to suspend standing orders twice and then voted differently on each government amendment made to the bill. The filibustering worked, unfortunately, with the clock running out and the government refusing calls to keep the House running until it could be heard.
It was thought that perhaps an ace up the sleeve of the Labor party could circumvent the stalling tactics, with the Libs’ controversial encryption laws (that they had promised would be delivered by Christmas) requiring their sign off before they could be passed. Shorten and his party did look like they were holding the bill to ransom in exchange for keeping the house running long enough to have the asylum seekers bill heard. Once the clock ticked over 4:30, and all hope was lost on the asylum seekers bill (for now), Bill Shorten appeared to be sticking to his guns, saying, “Apparently national security is only national security until 5pm on a Thursday. They are more keen to be seen to maintain their political pride than either to protect Australians or get kids off Nauru.” Earlier, Liberal MP Christopher Pyne had attacked Labor for their delaying tactics, Tweeting, “Labor has chosen to allow terrorists and paedophiles to continue their evil work in order to engage in point scoring.”
Having since been deleted, perhaps Pyne’s ridiculous tweet struck a chord with Shorten, as out of nowhere, Labor backtracked and allowed the encryption legislation to pass without amendments—amendments it desperately needed to avoid us becoming an all-out police state—and Shorten attempted to paint it as a win, indicating that he wasn’t going to let Australians be unprotected over the holidays.
So we saw possibly the most disgusting and dysfunctional day in Australian parliamentary history. We saw legislation that could see kids moved off a prison island quickly delayed so that our leaders could enjoy their Christmas break knowing they’d lived to fight another day; we saw legislation that eroded what was left of our digital privacy passed by politicians who only have enough technological nous to Google themselves on a regular basis—and who, in doing such, have avoided the advice and warnings of pretty much every expert in the field. I definitely feel safer knowing that the government can read anything I send, encrypted or not, over the holiday break. They should all be f***ing ashamed of themselves…but unfortunately they won’t be.
Wacky and wonderful
Directly from the wacky file this week, we saw the world of political correctness reach a new pinnacle of madness thanks to animal rights organisation, PETA.
Political correctness is a confusing minefield these days, one I struggle to get my head around on a daily basis. On the one hand, I strongly believe that we need to try and prevent people from acting in a way that will unreasonably offend others. On the other hand, with offensiveness being such a subjective concept, we have to be incredibly careful not to let the lunatics take over the asylum.
A case in favour of the latter hit the news this week with PETA releasing a list of alternative phrases that we should start using to avoid offending both animals and animal rights activists.
PETA have advocated that phrases such as “Kill two birds with one stone” should be changed to “Feed two birds with one scone”. Or that “Bring home the bacon” should change to “Bring home the bagels”. Or my personal favourite, “Take the bull by the horns” becomes “Take the flower by the thorns”. The list of “helpful” changes was provided along with a tweet saying, “Words matter, and as our understanding of social justice evolves, our language evolves along with it. Here’s how to remove speciesism from your daily conversations.”
Go home PETA, you’re drunk.
Putting aside the absolute ridiculousness of the notion that such phrases have ever, in any shape or form, promoted the harming of animals, there is a far more important issue that PETA have ignored. There are countless people around the world that have suffered, and are suffering as a result of derogatory, discriminatory and hateful language. These people, and those that support them, have fought and continue to fight against such language due to the very real damage that it causes.
More often, they are thwarted by a simple counter argument: “Where is the line?” By advocating this type of insane political correctness, PETA have just handed those who want to continue preaching real hate speech a hell of a big stick. They have further degraded the value of anyone who has ever been a victim due to the colour of their skin, their gender, their sexuality, their disability or their race. They’ve destroyed what little credibility they had left, and set the very legitimate cause of animal advocacy back even further.
That’s it from me TBSers, have a cracking week!