Isaac Harmelin's photo.

Will has been feeding rough sleepers and the homeless, five days a week, for several years. Through his organisation, he has built up a rapport with many of his inner-city regulars who recognise his friendly, open, all-welcome attitude and characteristic cheeky banter.

Tonight, at the end of a huge effort to put on a special dinner-party style affair with mains, dessert, donated clothes and toiletries, a young gentleman gave an emotional musical performance in which he thanked Will for changing his life after being released from prison. Not only has this man turned his life around, but is now on the other side, volunteering for Will.

Boss, standing with Will, is the managing-director and is equally committed to doing what she can to make people’s lives a little easier. These people are the real deal, this is what it’s about. A small, non-profit organisation making a material difference.

In Will’s own words, “I was trying to think of a way to help people, and I was like, ‘I can’t really do anything’. But it doesn’t take a degree or a lot of experience to give someone a sandwich.” – and that’s the point. Deliberating gets you to a certain point, but it’s about actually rolling up your sleeves and doing something.

Donations are great and if you can help out I know it would be appreciated. Even better, an hour of your time each week will help enormously to ease Will and the team’s load and you just have to see what a smile, handshake and hot meal can mean to someone. These people are genuine heroes, and that’s from the people who they’re helping.

Support a team of heroes and chuck in a like on their page, a dollar in their pocket, or an hour of your time

University Scraps Walking Licence Scheme

Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence of the University of Sydney today announced the scrapping of special ‘zoning’ restrictions, which were to be applied throughout the inner-city Camperdown campus. The restrictions would apply to all students on campus, including those who are ambulant. Number-tiered and colour-coded pathways, which students are only permitted to access when they have the appropriate level of skill, experience and logbook hours, had been scheduled for construction over the summer holidays.

The plans came in the wake of escalating frustration with students who failed to walk around campus and to the local train and bus stations (such as Redfern and Central) quickly, efficiently and considerately.

Although secrecy shrouds the schematics for the proposed network, what is known is that the skybridge over City Road was to be coded Red due to the particular difficulty people seemed to have walking appropriately over it, and would be protected by sliding glass doors. Only fully-licensed walkers would be able to swipe onto the bridge, and everyone else would have to cross at the road. Eastern Avenue and Manning Road would have been coded Yellow due to the high amount of foot traffic being offset by quite generous path space. There would also have been two pedestrian crossings into campus, coded Green, which were to be supervised at peak periods for those who simply cannot learn to walk with basic consideration for others and who pose a safety risk for the entire city. Those people were to receive Union-subsidised fMRI scans and genome sequencing to get a better understanding of their absence of empathy.

New South Wales Police Force Commissioner Andrew Scipione issued a stern rebuke to USYD students who couldn’t stick to basic commuting decorum: “Approximately 70% of Sydney’s traffic congestion is caused by inner-city campus students not having the first clue about basic walking etiquette”, he said. “Things like sticking to the left to facilitate ease of overtake and not crossing the road while ogling hotties on Tinder should really be second nature to our next generation of leaders”. He added that if students are desperate to get their rocks off on the go, they should at least wait until they reach the traffic island before swiping right. “I mean, that’s what they’re there for”, he noted. Scipione praised the University for its initiative in tackling this issue after hearing about its investment in the startup company, Shouldn’t Be Necessary Walking SolutionsTM, in return for immediate construction and implementation of the pilot program.

The tactful solution was abandoned this week, however, due to concerns over the ableist nature of the system. Although each zone was also going to be clearly labelled in ascending order (Green, tier 3; Yellow, tier 2; Red, tier 1; Blue, tier 0) with a Braille plaque at the beginning of each walkway, and the Blue tier being restricted to those with specific mobility difficulty (temporary injury passes were also going to be issued), there was a febrile response from the differently-sighted lobby, who felt that it was unfair that chromonormative individuals were exposed to two very clear indicative stimuli. Less-than-able-to-see-colour individuals would be restricted to the number system, especially those with achromatopsia, unless they also learned Braille, which the lobby noted chromonorms could also hypothetically learn.

For those with only partial colour loss and colour confusion (dichromatic individuals), this could even lead to a sense of overwhelming panic if they found themselves under the grave misapprehension of having wandered onto the wrong tier, which was projected to swamp the Arts faculty’s already overloaded Special Consideration site and crash both of the University’s servers.

The two major parties’ minor unelected representatives have surprisingly responded with unprecedented bipartisanship on the issue. One member of the Young Liberals, who agreed to be interviewed under condition of anonymity, said he thought that the implementation of walking laws was long overdue: “I mean, if you need a license to drive on public roads, why shouldn’t you need a license to walk on public streets? Dickish behaviour shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere but the party room and legislative assembly.” We laughed, too. Young Labor stuck their erroneously-spelt noses in to remark that, “we shouldn’t be supporting sending people to refugee islands to be processed offshore. Instead, we should be investing in pedestrian refuge islands with Wi-Fi, counselling and docking stations.”

However, other campus groups were not as convivial to the revelations that NSWPF officers were originally set to patrol the new walkways during daylight hours, arresting those who failed to comply and charging them with a range of offenses from disorderly conduct, insight riot, affray, domestic terrorism, fail to be a productive member of society, sport shitty-looking man ban, and fail to indicate while overtaking, at the discretion of the individual officer. There was also concern that NSW Premier Mike Baird refused to rule out the acquisition of surveillance and Predator drones from the ADF to monitor and enforce compliance.

Before the plans were scrapped entirely, a concession was made by the University in response to the imperial ‘Cops Off Campus’ movement’s lambasting of the proposal to have the new system permanently operated by Highway Patrol officers, citing the fact that they were certain to be more useful elsewhere, probably. The University said that it had listened to the concerns of the community and would instead only employ the most laid back State Transit Officers on a rotational basis. The SRC, who could not reach a unanimous decision on the issue, decided instead to semi-ironically nickname the project Operation Stalin’s Laid Back Deathmarch and demanded travelators be installed for the bottom two tiers in order to reach a deal allowing the plans to go ahead. They also demanded chai latte stands at regular intervals and a ‘halfway station’ to prevent stress.

Young Liberals responded to the change in personnel, which had originally been a condition of their cooperation on the deal, by demanding fully-armed OSG officers and police snipers stationed on top of the New Law Annex and Chemistry buildings to prevent freeloading students from becoming dependent on their walkway entitlements.

The Socialist Alliance, viewing the new system as a fascist racket, responded by forming a petition asking red- and yellow-tier walkers to check their privilege and consider boycotting Israel for its involvement in manufacturing the off-label paint used to mark the pathways, which they claim was never made available in the Gaza Strip, although one university in the West Bank has considered investing in a Shouldn’t Be Necessary Walking SolutionsTM system themselves. A press statement out of Benjamin Netanyahu’s office suggests he is seriously concerned about the Alliance’s petition: “The Sydney University chapter of The Socialist Alliance is having a serious impact on Israeli business. They’re really making me rethink how I run things. Mossad are currently reviewing our options. I would like to reiterate our position of nuclear ambiguity and that I can neither confirm nor deny our ability to launch nuclear warheads proximal to Australia.” The Socialist Alliance is sending representatives to Hebron where the Yellow paint is sourced in order to conduct an external review over concerns that the West Bank mixture was sub-standard and likely to fade three months earlier than advertised, perpetuating the aggressive capitalistic planned obsolescence that is crippling the West Bank’s otherwise flourishing and prosperous economy.

Other than compulsory lessons in human decency, no other solutions to the walking plague have yet been put forward.


Hipsters are destroying the world.

Hipsterism is no longer just an irritating fashion fad, it’s undermining staple foods and is intellectually inconsistent. So why is it so popular?

I hate hipsters.

Quinoa. We get it. NASA reckons it’s top shit, as far as astronaut fodder goes. But as one of Bolivia’s staple foods, it’s losing its nutritional power through reduced consumption. Consumption was reduced by a third while the global price trebled in five years. This has resulted in obvious income increases for Bolivian farmers, but a massive reduction in the accessibility of the crop to a population who have now had to revert to cheaper highly processed foods which have nothing near the level of nutrition supplied by their crops, which were domesticated locally thousands of years ago. Problems occur when farmers start excessively amplifying their quinoa production, putting stress on other crops and alpaca, which have to be moved or sold to make room for the quinoa. Due to increasing demand, supply has been sluggish to respond, increasing prices without any hint of plateau.

Kale is an interestingly similar case at home, although competition between Australian producers has led to a price reductions as demand in July last year sored to over 1 000 percent of what it was in 2013. Bruynen Farms, a Victorian producer of vegetables, including kale, told Landline that they had to stop growing red cabbage and leak because they need the space for kale. The narrowing base of production is a commonly understood narrative when any new product reaches a new and massive height in demand. Kale takes 10-14 weeks to grow, which is relatively quick. Despite this, the massive surge in demand has led even the Dutch seed producers to exhaust their supplies.

Quinoa and kale are only the tip of the iceberg (lettuce). Food is only a part of the spuriously new(ish), rebooted subculture known as Hipster. Hipsterism is also associated with ‘ironic’ t-shirts, supping obnoxiously conflated flavours of latte and wearing trendy, ‘unique’, unwashed clothing.

Cursory Wikipedia research (what? This is a blog, you weren’t expecting academic-standard sources, were you? And yes, I donned my deerstalker and monocle for the investigation, ironically assuming the characteristics of a hipster to really know my enemy) has revealed a number of enigmatic idiosyncrasies about the origins of the movement.

Conflating a number of probably-more-qualified-than-me authorities, I have discovered that hipsterism is associated with dirty clothes (mostly chinos and bow-ties), ‘man-buns’, gluten-free diets, facial hair, hemp and/or canvas everything and snooty-sounding foods (like quinoa and 3/4 caramel latte with 5-spice nonsense).

Ironically (get it?), the movement so hell-bent on individuality acquires intellectually inconsistent status by also associating with expensive mainstream consumer products, like iPhones and Macbooks (although I did hear about a scandal where a few batches of organic Apple products were found to contain gluten, causing a number of severe cases of absolutely no ill health effects whatsoever). Turns out, most hipsters are upper-middle class unemployed university students who are trying to cleave an individual identity for themselves by literally burning society to the ground and conforming to the same dress and consumer pressure as everyone else.

Mostly a pejorative term, few actually self-identify as hipster. However, unfortunately, after doing thorough and rigorous empirical research, I feel that I must now diagnose myself as a potential hipster-lite. I don’t regularly eat kale or quinoa, and I use a Windows computer. But I have an iPhone. I wear long ties and serious t-shits, but I also own two pairs of chinos. I don’t drink stupid-sounding coffee, but I do fancy me an almond chai-latte. I sport a trimmed and maintained five o’clock shadow at times other than five o’clock. Sometimes I can be a little too snarky.

And I often pretend I know what the word ‘ironic’ means when I actually don’t have a clue.

Well. That’s not how I anticipated this piece turning out.


Vaccinate your damn kids

Vaccination is demonstrably effective.

Study(1) after publication(2) has demonstrated that vaccines are effective in their basic function; stimulating an individual’s immune system to develop adaptive immunity to a given pathogen. In simple terms, this means that vaccines reduce the incidence of disease. And, of course, historical data demonstrates this(3)(4). As can be seen in the graphs(3,4), the implementation of vaccination corresponds to a rapid decrease in death and incidence of various diseases, and is supported by evidence of statistical significance (i.e. not simply a case of correlation being confused with causation).

Meta-analyses of some types of influenza vaccines have shown reduced effectiveness during some seasons, however, this is almost ubiquitously a result of the rapidly mutating nature of the influenza virus, and not the efficacy of the vaccines themselves. Individuals may still become ill after being vaccinated, as individual vaccination effectiveness is, of course, only approaching 100% (about 98% for measles, for example)(1). However, the absolute majority of individuals achieve functional immunity once immunised against most diseases, and it is this vast majority that, when coupled with high community vaccination rates, confers the additional benefits of herd immunity and the eventual eradication of disease.

The eradication of poliomyelitis in the Western world and smallpox globally is one of the greatest public health achievements to date. This came about through a disciplined vaccination schedule and years of research and dedication; the almost-total destruction of these diseases is testament to the efficacy of vaccination(5).

Vaccination is demonstrably effective in reducing the incidence and death rates associated with disease.

Vaccination is safe.
As a rule-of-thumb, no biological agent can ever be considered 100% safe, and all types of medicine have side-effects. However, the propensity of the evidence towards their safety is absolutely clear and except in a very limited number of exceptional cases, are almost always safe. I will demonstrate this assertion here, first discussing the ingredients in vaccines and then using the example of the autism controversy surrounding vaccination, specifically the MMR vaccine.

Some children (and adults) have medical conditions which cause them to be immunocompromised, or may have a specific allergy to an ingredient in a vaccine. These individuals should not be vaccinated; however, these individuals provide even more reason for others in the community to become vaccinated; immunocompromised children rely on the heard immunity of their immediate and extended community to prevent them from becoming ill.

Controversial ingredients include:

Thimerosal, what most anti-vaxxers claim as the origin of autism, is an organic mercury-based compound that consists of just under 50% ethyl mercury(6). Thimerosal is not in the MMR vaccine(9). It has been omitted from almost all vaccines since 1999(6), there is no evidence of it causing any adverse health effects with the exception of minor swelling and redness at the site of injection(6), and it has never been implicated in causing autism. It was used as a preservative, but the amount was so thoroughly insignificant that one’s risk of mercury bioaccumulation from the entire childhood vaccination schedule is nine-times less than a single tuna sandwich(7). And anyway, if it did cause autism, you’d expect autism to drop after it was taken out of vaccines. Which it didn’t.

Formaldehyde, also used as a preservative and to prevent runaway pathogen replication. 70-80 times more can be found in the human body by natural production than in a jab(8).

Aluminium Hydroxide is in such small quantities in vaccines that you can literally get 1000 times more of it from a single ant-acid tablet and is the most common metal in nature(7)[around 9:00]. Breastfeeding puts a child at greater risk(8).

MMR and Autism
The MMR vaccine does not cause autism. In fact, none do(7)(10)(11)(12)(13).
Time and time again, studies and meta-analyses have found no correlation between vaccination and autism. In 1998 Andrew Wakefield conducted an illegal test (it wasn’t even an experiment) on 8 children (which is a pitifully small sample), doctoring the evidence of those measurements, and presenting them to be published in the Lancet(12). The paper was later retracted and Wakefield lost his licence to practice medicine. Before looking for more evidence, frightened readers and the 24-hour news cycle regurgitated the hokum and established the current fear of vaccines. What the public didn’t know was that Wakefield had been hired to find evidence of the correlation for a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company responsible for the production of the vaccine; and Wakefield was developing his own vaccine which he wanted to force into the market as a competitor(12). Follow the money.

Failure to vaccinate elucidates measurable counter-benefits.

Decreasing vaccination rates have been implicated in the recent resurgence of measles(14). In fact, failure to vaccinate has caused hundreds of thousands of preventable cases; this interactive map is absolutely critical in examining the extent of diminished benefit due to failure to vaccinate(15). This topic will be explored more thoroughly in the following rounds, but the key factor here is that deaths which would otherwise have been prevented occurred. Diseases which should be relegated to the nightmares of history such as polio and measles are resurging. And all of this based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever. This amounts to biological warfare, and those responsible for the anti-vaxxination movement, primarily the charlitain and corrupt Andrew Wakefield, should be held accountable for their heinous crimes against humanity.

The depths of moral turpitude and depravity of the anti-vaccination movement have demonstrated themselves to be limitless. It is up to us to fight superstition and pseduo-science with evidence and reason. If there were sufficient funding at our disposal, I would recommend taking the lot of them to The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity and mass infanticide.

(1) New England Journal of Medicine, Markowitz, L. (et. al), Immunisation of Six-Month-Old Infants[…]
accessible at: http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJM199003013220903
(2) Journal of Infectious Diseases, Weindberg, G & Szilagyi, P, Vaccine Epidemiology: Efficacy, Effectiveness, and the Translational Research Roadmap, accessible at: http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/201/11/1607.full
(3) https://62e528761d0685343e1c-f3d1b99a743ffa4142d9d7f1978d9686.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/files/18060/area14mp/xvr3974g-1353996376.jpg
(4) http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/images/measles_incidence.gif
(5) http://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/timelines/polio
(6) http://www.ncirs.edu.au/immunisation/fact-sheets/thiomersal-fact-sheet.pdf
(7) Go to 10:30:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLcOz4EKrxg
(8) http://www.chop.edu/service/vaccine-education-center/vaccine-safety/vaccine-ingredients/aluminum.html
(9) http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/appendices/B/excipient-table-2.pdf
(10) http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/topics.html
(11) http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4026.pdf
(12) http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/healthcare-triage-vaccines-and-autism/
(13) http://www.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/content/1FC63A2886238E6CCA2575BD001C80DC/$File/full-publication-myths-and-realities-5th-ed-2013.pdf
(14) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/21/europe-measles-outbreak-france_n_851911.html
(15) http://www.cfr.org/interactives/GH_Vaccine_Map/#map

Transcribed from a debate I had, which can be found here: http://www.debate.org/debates/Resolved-Vaccination-is-on-balance-both-safe-and-effective/1/