The only surprise in Cambodia’s elections over the weekend was that the victory for Hun Sen's Cambodian People’s Party was reduced to a comfortable rather than an overwhelming majority. For a "democracy" in which the ruling party and the state machine are, in effect, as one and there are widespread allegations of electoral fraud, the CPP’s reduced majority was a slap in the face to Hun Sen (pictured, after voting) and his strong-man style of government.
The CPP lost 29 seats to end up with a majority of just eight, for a total of 68 of the Cambodian Parliament's 123 seats. This means the CPP no longer has the two-thirds majority required to change the country’s constitution.
At first glance, the deal between prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Peter O’Neill transferring all Australian-bound asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea appears to deliver many benefits to that small poor country.
In return for housing the boat-arriving asylum seekers and resettling those found to be refugees, PNG receives a package of much-needed assistance, that includes redeveloping its universities, a new hospital, upgrading roads, a new courts complex, and the deployment of Australian police.
In addition, the processing centre on Manus Island will be expanded, PNG’s naval facilities on the island will receive a facelift, and schools and health centres will be constructed for Manus Islanders.
A major new study has called into question the traditional view that family meal times should be enjoyed together around the dinner table if youngsters are to pick up good eating habits. Having children eat the same foods as grown-ups appears a more important guide to kids developing healthy eating habits.
The habit of eating family meals together rubs off as healthier eating habits for children, yet it is not clear what are the key reasons for this. Social bonding, parental pressure (“Eat your veggies or you aren’t allowed to leave the table”), and positive reinforcement of good nutrition messages all are plausible reasons.
In less than a year, the Australian LNG landscape has gone from a feeling of euphoria to one of increasing negativity and pessimism. There is no doubt that the pendulum of sentiment tends to overshoot both extremes – the scale of the exuberance of 2010-2012 was, in hindsight, unjustified and unprecedented in the global LNG arena. Similarly, the pervasive pessimism today may be self-destructive if left unchecked. However, I will argue that some degree of caution is the prudent strategy when facing increasing uncertainty, and may be better for the long term competitiveness of the Australian LNG industry.
Many Australians would have watched Muslim MasterChef contestant Samira get kicked off the show on Wednesday night for cooking the worst pork hot dog.
Bowel cancer is one form of cancer where diet and lifestyle choices play a big part in determining a person’s risk of being diagnosed with it. Medical researchers have now put some hard numbers to how much this cancer can be prevented by following specific lifestyle recommendations.
Bowel cancer (also called colorectal or colon cancer) is the second biggest killer of Australians from cancer each year. Dietary factors alone are thought to explain almost half of bowel cancer risk, with physical activity (or lack of) around another quarter followed by genetics and family history. Processed meat, obesity (especially fat around the abdomen), smoking and alcohol are the diet and lifestyle factors that are considered to have the most evidence for being linked to colorectal cancer.
The removal of Egypt’s president Mohamed Morsi has done nothing to heal a deeply divided nation and an even more polarised political class. One of the many questions that will persist for some time is whether this was really a ‘military coup’ in the classical sense or whether it was ‘people power’ driven by mass demonstrations and enacted by the military.But this is a mere sematic debate that does not advance any particular practical argument, nor does it change a fundamental reality: that is any political action should always be judged by its outcome first and foremost and not simply by its discursive construction.
Egyptians and observers worldwide just woke up to the shocking but not un-expected news of the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi, the first ever democratically elected president in Egypt. Depending on which camp you align with, this is either a correction and restoration of the democratic project initiated following the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak just over 29 months ago, or simply a military coup against a legitimate President whose only crime is that he is an ‘Islamist’ president representing the ‘Justice and Freedom’, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The realm of weight loss is one where beliefs and myths abound. It seems everyone from the public to expert dietitians have views and beliefs around the causes of obesity, with these not always being supported by good science.
Coming from a firm scientific evidence footing, an eminent group of 20 respected obesity researchers scoured the Internet, popular media, and the scientific literature to identify prevalent obesity myths as well as facts that are well supported by evidence. Their findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on January 31 of 2013.
The research team arrived at a core group of ‘7 myths about obesity’, some of them certainly going against conventional wisdom. Following are a brief description of the 7 myths.
One could ‘sniff the wind’ and come up with similar responses to the Lowy Institute Poll 2013. But the poll does provide some detail, if again showing up a range of expected and occasionally surprising results on how the Australian public view our position in the world. And again, a large proportion of Australia’s foreign policy experts will tut-tut, shake their heads and say that the result explains why foreign policy is too important an issue to be left to the voters.
Perceptions on Indonesia is regularly held up as a case in point. Most Australians remain ‘luke-warm’ towards Indonesia, which scores 53 on the Lowy ‘thermometer’ scale. Most Australians (83%) say that Australia is a good neighbour to Indonesia, but only 54% believe that Indonesia is a good neighbour to Australia. People smuggling stands out as the major issue, with only 30% saying that Indonesia helps Australia combat people smuggling.
Consistent with these broader views, there also remain persistent perceptions of Indonesia as a source of terrorism and as a military threat. This is despite major efforts against terrorism within Indonesia and it never having had the capacity to meaningfully threatening Australia.
Only a third of Australians view Indonesia as a democracy, reflecting a range of competing images that are from time to time presented in Australia. Indonesia has had regular elections since 1999, but occasional reports of human rights abuses, corruption scandals and so on continue to sully the image of rule of law in Indonesia.
Without the Lowy Report asking why so many Australians view Indonesia as non-democratic despite regular elections, there appears to be a non-articulated perception that ‘democracy’ means more than just going to the ballot box every five years. This is consistent with a more ‘substantive’, as opposed to ‘procedural’ understanding of democracy.
The Lowy Report also showed that concern over the boat arrival of asylum seekers remained at around three-quarters, despite an increased arrival rate. Older people appear more concerned about boat arrivals than younger people, although the issue does resonate across generations.
Not unreasonably, China was overwhelmingly identified (76%) as key to Australia’s economy, but the US trumped it (82%) as important to Australia’s security. On this, 61% agree that China will eventually become the world’s major superpower. Related to this, most also believe that China will eventually become a military threat to Australia. But for the moment, Australians believe they can have their cake and eat it too.
The Lowy Report also surveyed perceptions on offshore processing (supported); action on climate change (more – 40% - say it is a problem and fewer – 54% - wanting to reverse the carbon tax), the Afghanistan war (61% say it is not worth fighting), WikiLeaks (58% support, down 4%) and terrorism, with 68% saying the government has struck the right balance.
Perhaps most disturbingly, though, what they survey did show was that younger people are increasingly ambivalent about democracy. Only 39% of 19-29 year olds agreed that democracy was preferable to any other form of government, and just over a quarter of all respondents agreed that non-democracy can be preferable in some circumstances.
In this, perhaps in the current domestic political environment, voters have increasingly adopted Winston Churchill’s famous dictum, that democracy is the worst form of government.
He qualified that statement, however, by adding ‘except for all the others’.