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Thu, 26 Jan 2023
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Latest floods set to sting Victorians - more insurance premium rises

Victorian households should steel themselves for more insurance premium rises following the latest round of devastating floods, a top economist warns.

Country towns worst hit by the latest crisis were also likely to be hit with council rate increases to cover huge rebuilding costs, AMP Capital's Dr Shane Oliver said.

Farmers and local communities are bracing for further crop losses and financial devastation after a $6 billion hit to the national economy caused by previous disasters, including Victorian and Queensland floods and Cyclone Yasi.


Afghan Child Hunger Among Worst in World

Afghan boys beg for food
Afghan boys beg for food with a plastic fork near the village of Jano Khevl in the province of Paktika in 2011.
Children in Afghanistan suffer one of the highest levels of chronic malnutrition in the world, a report said Monday, despite billions of dollars in aid that have poured into the war-torn country.

More than half of Afghan children under the age of five are chronically malnourished, according to the joint report by the World Bank and the government.

"Because of the ongoing conflict, foreign assistance has disproportionally gone to the provinces where concentration of troops and fighting has been heaviest," said acting World Bank country director Josephine Bassinette.

"But the analysis in this report shows that poverty and food insecurity rates are actually higher in the more peaceful provinces," she said, pressing for better targeting of aid to ensure it reaches the poorest people.

"It is shocking to learn that children are amongst the most vulnerable segment of the Afghan population, and their lives that could be saved are at risk," said Economy Minister Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal.

Heart - Black

The Senator: Sara Barnes Charged With Setting Fire That Destroyed 3,500-Year-Old Florida Cypress Tree

Sara Barnes

A 26-year-old Orlando-area woman has been charged with setting the January fire that burned and destroyed 'The Senator', one of the world's oldest pond cypress trees and a beloved local attraction.

Investigators said tips to a crime hotline led them to Sara Barnes, who allegedly took photos of the fire she started inside the popular 118-foot-high hollow tree and uploaded them to her laptop, reports WKMG. According to WESH, Barnes told police she regularly visited the spot in Longwood's Big Tree Park to use drugs, and lit a fire the night of January 16 in order to see better.

"She did not call the Fire Department or 911 to report the fire," Florida Department of Agriculture spokesman Sterling Ivey told the Orlando Sentinel. "It's a great fuel source. Unfortunately."

Arrow Down

Convicted Killer Received Unemployment Benefits While Jailed

Los Angeles, California - Authorities say a convicted killer who gained notoriety for having a murder scene tattooed on his chest received unemployment benefits while he was in jail.

Sheriff's Capt. Mike Parker said Saturday that Anthony Garcia, nicknamed "Chopper," received more than $30,000 in fraudulent unemployment while in Los Angeles County jail from 2008 to 2010.

Parker says Garcia's father and two girlfriends would get the checks then cash them and deposit the money in the inmate accounts of Garcia and fellow gang members.

2 + 2 = 4

Australian Students Think Cotton Is an Animal and Other Education Failures

© Minyanville
Bad Education
"Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"

That, if you'll go back in time twelve years with me, comes from President Bush, and actually only ranks 3rd on this list of his top ten gaffes.

Anyways, according to former New York City schools Chancellor and current head of News Corp's education division Joel Klein, that question (or a grammatically correct variant of it) has not been asked enough in the current presidential race. In an op-ed published in the Washington Post, Klein pointed out that even though only one-quarter of US students perform on par with students in the world's top five school systems, this year's presidential debate has devoted only 1% of the time and questions on education.

Then again, at least we're not alone.

According to a recent story in the Global Post, Australia (generally considered among the stronger education systems in the world) has seen a recent decline in test scores and student performance. In math, for example, Australian students have fallen two to three years behind their peers in some parts of Asia.


Congo-Brazzaville Arms Depot Explosions Leave Hundreds Dead

© N/A
At least 200 people have been killed and many more injured in a series of explosions in the capital of Congo-Brazzaville, according to a senior presidency official.

"According to sources at the central hospital we're talking of around 200 dead and many injured," said Betu Bangana, the head of protocol in the president's office in Brazzaville.

The blasts took place on Sunday after a fire started in an arms depot at a military base.

Panic spread from Brazzaville across the Congo river to Kinshasa, where windows were shattered by the force of the blasts. The river separates the former French colony of Congo-Brazzaville from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Police break up anti-Putin protest in Moscow

Riot police on Monday quickly and forcefully broke up an opposition attempt to occupy a downtown square in a bid to challenge Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's victory in Russia's presidential election, arresting dozens of participants, including some prominent opposition leaders.

The harsh police action could fuel the opposition anger and trigger bigger protests against Putin's rule, but it also underlined the massive challenges faced by the opposition.

Putin seems to command the unswerving loyalty of police and the military, whose wages have recently been doubled. The urban middle-class forming the core of the protests could be more reluctant to attend future protests after seeing the tough police response.

The police action followed a rally in downtown Moscow that drew about 20,000 protesters angry over a campaign slanted in Putin's favor and reports of widespread violations in Sunday's ballot.

The big rally went on peacefully, but hundreds of police in full riot gear violently dispersed several hundred protesters who had vowed to stay on the iconic Pushkin Square in downtown Moscow until Putin steps down. Police moved quickly to stamp out the protests, apparently fearing they could act as a catalyst for bigger demonstrations.

Comment: The 'fraud claims' come from one source: "the GOLOS Association, a US Government-funded NGO "established in 2000 to facilitate Western influence over the electoral proceedings in Russia."

The NED, National Endowment for Democracy (really a CIA front), lists GOLOS as one its grantees here.

Leaked GOLOS emails in December 2011 exposed US interference in Russian elections:

See here also: Emails expose watchdog's dollar deals


Man's Home 'Invaded' by Government Search of Fish Tanks

© CBC News
Mike Baynes said he felt the inspection team invaded his privacy, when they came looking for a marijuana grow-op.
Canada, British Columbia - A B.C. man who raises tropical fish said his home and privacy were invaded when local enforcement agencies knocked on his door while looking for a marijuana grow operation, and then forced him to pay for an electrical inspection and upgrade his fish-tank operation.

"I felt violated," said Mike Baynes, 67, from Surrey, B.C. "When they came in here and saw no grow-op, I think they should have said 'I'm sorry Mike,' and then turned around and walked out."

Baynes is one of 128 Surrey residents who don't have grow operations, but were nevertheless subjected to searches and electrical repair orders in recent months because they use a lot of hydro.

"I think that is an invasion of privacy," he said. "I don't think that the City of Surrey has anything to do with my hydro consumption."

Seven B.C. municipalities, including Surrey, are registered with BC Hydro to get monthly lists of all customers who use more than three times the daily average amount of power.

Teams of electrical and fire inspectors then go out to the homes they suspect could be marijuana grow operations to conduct searches, with the RCMP standing by outside.


Whites Outlive Blacks in the US, Study Suggests

© Kelly Young, Shutterstock
In the US, whites live longer than African Americas, but not all states are equal. Where does yours rank?

In the United States, white males live about seven years longer on average than black men, and white women live more than five years longer than their black counterparts, new research suggests. The results indicate that the United States still needs to improve the health of African-Americans, the researchers add.

The researchers collected data on mortality from disease-related deaths, accidents and intentional deaths like murder and suicide. They studied death certificate data from 1997 through 2004, covering more than 17 million people from all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The researchers noted race/ethnicity, sex, the age at death and the state where each subject was born, lived and died.

National life expectancy, also referred to as average life span, was almost 75 years for white men and about 67.5 years for black men. Women fared a little better with white women having an average life span of nearly 80 years and black women about 74.5 years. This narrower gap for females held true in every state.

They analyzed the U.S. state-by-state and discovered that New Mexico had the smallest disparities between blacks and whites (a gap of 3.76 years for men and 2.45 years for women), while the District of Columbia had the largest (13.77 years for men and 8.55 years for women).

Light Saber

'We won!' Teary-eyed Putin wins presidential election by landslide

Vladimir Putin, set to win a third presidential term, declared his victory and thanked his voters for their support. Polling at almost 64 percent with almost all of the votes counted, victory seems assured.

"We have won in an open and fair struggle," Putin said, addressing 110,000 people gathered on Manezhnaya Square outside the Kremlin walls.

He stressed that this victory signals a defeat for those who want to destroy Russia.