Saturday, April 30, 2016

Australia's defence white paper

Australia recently announced her plans to make a gigantic purchase of French submarines.

It goes without saying that I'm keen to find out what Australia plans to do with these vessels. Some answers can be found in a 191-page public document known as the 2016 Defence White Paper, containing several pages about submarines, which can be freely downloaded through the Internet.

I have taken the liberty of copying those pages and making them available to my Antipodes readers. Click on any extract to obtain a slightly enlarged display.

This project interests me immensely, both as an Australian and a French citizen. I hope to provide further public information as soon as it becomes available.

Friday, April 29, 2016

All the way to Timbuktu

When I was a child in Grafton (Australia), adults often mentioned the city of Timbuktu (Africa) as if it were a particularly remote place. To indicate that somebody we knew had moved far away, it was sufficient to say that he had gone all the way to Timbuktu. I knew immediately that the fellow in question was no longer in our vicinity, but I had almost no idea of where he might be located, because nobody had ever bothered to tell me where in fact this place was located on a map. Meanwhile, I imagined that there was little point in asking anybody to tell me where this place might indeed be found. It was surely so far away that the route to Timbuktu would be beyond my understanding.

Attitude towards Moslems decreasing in France

An Ifop survey carried out in France for the Figaro newspaper reveals increasingly negative attitudes towards Islam. We can indeed speak of a degraded image of that religion.

In 1989, 33 % of French citizens were “favorable” for the construction of mosques. Today, that favorable percentage has dropped to 13 %.

In 2010, 39 % of citizens who voted (like me) for the Socialist party considered that the place of Islam was « trop important » (too large). Today, we are 52 %.

Brittany bike

Click here to learn about a strange machine that might be referred to as the Brittany Bike, because it was invented long ago by a trio of Druids in the backwoods of Armorica. It's a kind of two-wheeled bicycle, with several slight technological enhancements... but any comparison with the sort of bike you grew up with is probably coincidental.

Before riding through busy traffic on this outstanding apparatus, I believe it would be a sound idea to acquire an insurance policy. My son François assures me that a Celtic cyclist is in perfect safety. Besides, you might notice that the rider in the above photo is not wearing any kind of helmet... which seems to suggest that the Brittany Bike never gets involved in accidents. That might indicate that this device has certain magical powers.

If you wish to order one or several hand-made models of this high-tech
avant-gardist invention, I advise you to send a blog message
to my son, who will provide you with pricing information.
But make your contact as quickly as possible,
for the manufacturer is being swamped with orders...
and they're forced to hire a new team of hobgoblins.

Faster than we thought

An Australian climate scientist has just made a sobering statement: We never thought the Great Barrier Reef was going to die completely by the 2030s. If that’s true, it’s a lot faster than we thought. He reveals above all that alleged thinking on this theme has been badly wrong.

Click here to access a grim story on this calamity in The Guardian. One of their innocent readers suggested that Australians should be taxed to cover the costs of protecting the coral. That's a bit like saying that Aussies should have their heads read for not looking into this tragedy earlier on... and for persisting in believing, among certain "experts", that it's no more than a hoax.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

USA has invented some new shit for Daesh

Here's the entry to the headquarters of the National Security Agency in Fort Meade (Maryland). For years, the agency has been listening to Daesh militants. From now on, the NSA's military counterpart, Cyber Command, will be handling this intelligence gathering.

US cyberweapons will be used against Daesh in the hope of disrupting the ability of Daesh to spread its messages, attract new adherents, circulate orders from commanders and pay its fighters. For the first time ever, the Obama administration has admitted that it has the ability to create and use such cyber attacks.

Even our familiar friends Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are learning how to detect Daesh messages and then waylay them.

Our enemy’s name

Click here for a Wikipedia article on the entity that is often known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Here in France, we don’t like that name, for two clear reasons:

• The terrorist entity in question is definitely not what we generally think of as a state.

• Furthermore, that barbarian terrorist entity cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be designated as Islamic.

In France, we have therefore decided to designate that entity by the term Daesh. This is simply a translation into Arabic of the letters ISIL

People who persist in referring to Daesh as an Islamic state can rightly be accused of aiding this terrorist organization inadvertently by giving it a pleasant (?) name that those barbarian murderers never deserved.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wrapped her thighs around a hot tube

Ladies have the right (like men, for that matter) to choose the kind of hot tube around which they would like to spread their thighs. And we have no right to interfere with their tastes. But this Belgian cyclo-cross rider, Femke van den Driessche, went a little too far when she decided that her chosen tube should contain an electric battery, so that it powered her pedaling.

She was caught red-handed—or I might say red-thighed—and made to face a trial for cheating before the Union Cycliste Internationale. She was promptly stripped of her European title, fined 20,000 Swiss francs, and kicked out of the sport fo six years, which will give her ample time to cool down.

Bad bugger back on French soil

France's most-hated man, the 26-year-old terrorist Salah Abdeslam, is back on French soil, no doubt permanently. He was captured on 18 March 2016 at Molenbeek (Brussels).

As far as I can gather (which is never very far in this kind of context), the evil creature has been deposited in a particularly tough prison, Fleury-Mérogis, south of Paris. From this afternoon on, in the context of his new residence in France, the ugly pile of shit should wither away rapidly into oblivion. It is unlikely that Abdeslam will provide the world with any significant information.

Meanwhile, the moronic terrorist will be defended by a highly-reputed and courageous French lawyer, Frank Berton.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Handling terrorist idiots in Australia

Ever since the Lindt Café affair in Sydney, I've been shocked by the non-professional level of the men in charge. Recall that the 38-year-old woman Katrina Dawson was cut down, not by the crazy terrorist, but by ricochets from bullets of the NSW police force. Only today, the police officer in charge declared that he "had a gut feeling something was seriously wrong but still expected it to end peacefully". To my mind, policemen should not rely on "gut feeling". This nice fellow in blue deserves to lose his job, and be replaced by a more competent, tougher and highly-trained professional.

Australia has just offered a gigantic submarine contract to France. Why doesn't Australia ask France to give them technical assistance in the professional training of Australia's future anti-terrorist police and snipers? France is pretty good in that field. This problem should be handled rapidly, before the risk of having idiotic terrorists infiltrate the docks where Australia's future submarines are to be built. Don't remain at the level of last-minute "gut feelings".

Excellent decision, Australia!

"La France est reconnaissante de la confiance que lui témoigne l’Australie et fière de l’excellence technologique dont ses entreprises ont su faire preuve dans cette compétition de haut niveau. Ce nouveau succès sera créateur d’emplois et de développement en France comme en Australie", s'est félicité François Hollande.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Australian crocodile enters a camper's tent

An Australian family, on a fishing trip in the Northern Territory, set up their camp about 15 metres from a creek in the Daly region, a couple of hours away from Katherine. In the early hours of the warm morning, a 19-year-old member of the family was awoken by the presence of an animal tugging at his leg. He soon realized that he had been attacked by a saltwater crocodile, which was trying to drag him out of his tent.

The fellow succeeded in using his other leg to kick the animal away. The following morning, his family drove the fellow to Katherine, to receive medical attention for his wounded lower leg. He was psychologically shocked, because people don't normally imagine that they might receive the nocturnal visit of a crocodile inside a tent. A safety campaign tries to warn people that they should be "crocwise", and a video on this question uses local Aboriginal language. The organizers will now need to define the precise meaning of the expression "crocodile wisdom".

Sunday, April 24, 2016

My green mate at Gamone

Tineke took these lovely photos of my mate a few days ago.

Click to enlarge

Although he has been around for quite some time,
I'm ashamed to admit that I  haven't really given him a name yet...
but I'm keen on Bill the Lizard from Alice in Wonderland.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Australian river on fire

The muddy bed of the Condamine River in Queensland is a source of methane gas, and it's easy to light up. Many observers believe that the exceptional presence of this gas is due to fracking operations that are being carried out nearby.

Click here to see a video made by an on-the-spot witness.
The NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham who made this video is particularly excited,  partly because he almost set himself on fire.

Data supplied kindly by my Australian friend Jan Brown.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Australian newspaper refuses to believe facts about problems of the Great Barrier Reef

Click here to access a shocking piece of bad journalism. Queensland's Courier Mail simply refuses to face scientific facts concerning the disastrous coral bleaching that has hit the Great Barrier Reef. This is an appalling example of idiotic "thinking" in Australia. Unfortunately, there is so much intellectual mindlessness and stupidity of this kind in Australia that I'm not convinced that the nation will survive for long.

Did Australia take notice of my advice of 2008 about the superior qualities of French submarines?

In my blog post of January 21, 2008 entitled Expensive, aesthetic and nasty [click here], I made an out-of-the-way suggestion: If Australia's armed forces wish to purchase a new fleet of excellent submarines, why don't they examine what France has to offer? At the same time that I made those remarks publicly in my blog, I got into direct contact with Ross Babbage, chairman of the Kokoda Foundation in Canberra. He's the man who actually signed the Kokoda paper #4 of April 2007, which was the main source of the media articles that had presented this submarine affair to the public, as explained in my article of 26 December 2007 entitled Australia's submarines [click here]. Ross Babbage reacted kindly by sending me (airmail to France) a complimentary copy of his report, along with helpful explanations that clarified the situation considerably.

French Barracuda submarine

For the moment, I don't know whether Australia has reached a decision on this question. But I heard yesterday that France is highly placed.

Hypnotic space image

Bubble nebula viewed by Hubble

Click here

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince has left for another planet

Petit Prince de Saint-Exupéry
Ce dessin au style enfantin est l'œuvre

cover of New Yorker magazine, Purple Rain

Looking forward to the elimination of Daesh

Jean-Yves Le Drian, French minister of defence, has just made a reassuring radio statement on the possible elimination of Daesh in the not-too-distant future.

« Je constate que Daesh recule significativement. Je pense que depuis l’occupation par Daesh de la Syrie et de l’Irak, depuis la tentative d’attaque sur Bagdad en juin 2014, Daesh a perdu entre 30 et 40 % de son territoire. »
The international coalition opposed to Daesh, including the US and France, aims to liberate Mosoul (Irak) and Rakka (Syria) before the end of the year.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sad Australian ballad

Click the YouTube icon
Sent to me by my childhood friend Bruce Hudson

Bulldozer street fight in China

Click here to see how some Chinese firms settle a conflict.

Coral bleaching in Australia's Great Barrier Reef

I've already mentioned this question in an earlier blog post. But it has just been revealed that the situation is far worse than what most people imagined. Scientists surveying bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef say that some 93 per cent of the coral has been attacked.

Would this coral-bleaching be caused by large-scale coal-mining activities in Queensland? Nobody knows with certainty. Likewise, specialists do not know how much of the bleached coral might recover its colors, and what proportion will sadly die.

Click here for an article sent to me by my Grafton friend Jan Brown.

NOTE This sad news indicates that Alex de Waal would indeed appear to be as dull as a fragment of bleached coral.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Cultural sites in France must be protected

Depp's dogs

Readers will be happy to know that Johnny Depp's Yorkshire terriers Pistol and Boo have indeed succeeded in escaping safely from Australia in their master's jet plane, after being faced with a mortal countdown announced by the Aussie politician Barnaby Joyce. Here's an extract of John Oliver's TV presentation of the drama:

Click the YouTube icon to enlarge the show

Lianne Kent with Pistol (left) and Elly Kent with Boo.
photo: Happy Dogz Grooming Gold Coast

Monday, April 18, 2016

I've decided to follow regularly the exemplary socks decision of Richard Dawkins

This photo of Richard Dawkins was almost certainly taken recently, in the course of convalescence since his stroke:

Click to enlarge slightly

Click here to read the explanations that accompanied Richard's photo. From the moment I started to read his words, I was transformed instantaneously into an enthusiast of unmatched socks. In the space of ten seconds, bewitched by this splendid Sermon, I became a solemn Believer. And I'll possibly stay that way forever...

The Laughing Cow

This brand of processed cheese has always been very popular in France, particularly among children.

Everybody loves the crazy trademark of a bright red cow—with a white muzzle and horns, and large packet-shaped earrings (like the circular boxes in which the cheese is supplied)—that is clearly laughing... for reasons that nobody really knows. The product is 95 years old. Every day, in 120 countries throughout the world, ten million wedge-shaped portions of this cheese are eaten. The first box, created when this cheese was being delivered to French troops in World War I, was associated with the term whose pronunciation sounded, to the ears of French soldiers, like the enemy's term Valkyrie.

Click to enlarge slightly

Early versions of the circular cheese boxes were in fact metallic.

Everything about this product is associated with laughter and joy. So, it's a fabulous French marketing success, appreciated throughout the entire world.

Australian study debunks homeopathy

Here in France, most pharmacies sell homeopathic products, and countless French citizens seem to consider that it's possibly an authentic branch of medical science. This nasty subject reminds me of tales of the Loch Ness monster.

Click here for references to an article about Australia's latest negative reactions to this fashionable quackery.

Aussies are indeed a weird mob

I’ve often thought that the brains of some of my fellow-countrymen become scrambled at times, as if they’d spent too much time in the sun. Aussies who are brain-damaged in this unusual way lose their capacity to use common sense in their reasoning. They start to babble on as if they were inebriated or drugged. They start to speak in tongues, like the Disciples. Australia has always had a terrifying native collection of deadly insects, reptiles and sharks. But soft-brained inspectors persist in believing that these killers are harmless compared to the cute little puppies brought into Australia by a foreign visitor.

My wife and I were startled, long ago, when inspectors sprayed us with pesticides and confiscated products we were carrying for our baby daughter. My friend Geoff saw his cans of precious French foie gras dragged away as if they were deadly.

The scrambled brains of legal experts decided that a good way to punish the actor and his wife would consist of demanding that they put together a tourist video on the alleged splendours of Aussie scenery! Shit...

Throw a few more fucking prawns on the barbie!

A French journalist designated this punishment as "digital humiliation".
Click here for French treatment of this news. If you succeed in watching their tourist video, you'll see that Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are having trouble to prevent themselves from breaking into laughter. In a quite different domain, I'm reminded of Vladimir Putin who surely cringed in terror when he heard that powerful Tony Abbott had threatened to "shirt-front" him.
It's all so ridiculous...

Sunday, April 17, 2016

DNA testing

Click here to see a video about a DNA trial carried out this weekend in a French village, Trélivan (Côtes-d'Armor), in the hope of identifying a local youth who had attempted to rape a 22-year-old jogger a year ago.

This criminal investigation reminds us of the terrible affair involving the rape and murder of a 13-year-old English girl, Caroline Dickenson, in July 1996, in a youth hostel in another Breton village, Pleine-Fougères (Ille-et-Vilaine, near Saint-Malo). In spite of systematic DNA trials, the murderer— a Spaniard named Francisco Arce Montes—was only captured by chance, 5 years later, thanks to a bright US detective, Tommy Ontko, when the criminal happened to be holidaying in Miami.

Ontko's fortuitous work played a fundamental role in enlightening the French public on the amazing possibilities of DNA testing to track criminals. Today, in the village where yesterday's testing was carried out, I would imagine that everybody was motivated by the fantastic possibilities of this kind of scientific police investigation.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Sorry, You Can’t Speed Read

If you've got time to read this interesting one-page article, click here. You might find it useful.

Woody Allen joke about taking a speed-reading course. “I read ‘War and Peace’ in 20 minutes,” he says. “It’s about Russia.”

We're in France, we spik French

I've always been surprised and amused whenever I discover, for the Nth time, that French people are generally quite incompetent in English. Click here to find a few good examples.

Tara Pacific 2016-2018 expedition

This appears to be a splendid project.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Powerful playgrounds in Ghana

This kind of roundabout, installed in various school playgrounds in Ghana, generates electricity to light lamps that can then be used by the children. What a bright idea!

Making myself feel antediluvian

Every individual has a way of making oneself feel as old as a dinosaur. My failproof method consists of watching old cycling videos. Click here for a typical aging device.

Not much to say

I watched and listened until late in the evening. But François Hollande didn't seem to have any exciting news for us. There's no doubt in my mind that the president is an intelligent man, who speaks well. But you can't squeeze wine or water, or even moisture, out of a stone. He had little to tell us... and that's more or less what we heard.

For the moment, we don't know whether or not Hollande intends to be a candidate in the forthcoming presidential election, but he says we'll receive a firm answer to that question before the end of the year. His decision will only be affirmative, so it seems, if the French economic situation were to make a dramatic positive leap... which would be great news for everybody. But I fail to see how such an economic miracle could become a reality within the remaining months of 2016. That would be a bit like Agnès Saal informing us [click here] that she intends to get involved in a Parisian taxi-bike business.

But why not ?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Airport software accepts two French passengers who exchanged passports

This demonstration appears to be valid... but there's no firm proof of the absence of stage tricks.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Places that can be seen by my son in Brittany

Up until recently, I was constantly puzzled by the question of the not-so-distant places that could or could not be observed from the house of my son François Skyvington in Brittany. Click here to see a recent post that mentions a few of these places. I had the impression that my blog offered a good conclusion to most aspects of this interesting question. Well, I don't know whether my son actually studied that blog post carefully. Be that as it may, half-an-hour ago, he phoned me up to say that he was thrilled to have concluded, this afternoon, that distant lights that he could see in a north-easterly direction from his upper-floor study (using binoculars) were in fact located, not on French territory, but in the British island of Jersey.

I found that news weird, because I believed that my son had spent so many hours (days, months and years) staring out across the splendid English Channel, from his delightful house on the cliff-tops of Plouha, that the wonderful view no longer held any kind of secrets for him.

Certain websites are strictly brain-damaged

I saw this heading:

Conspiracy theorists believe Mongolian mummy
‘wearing Adidas’ is proof of time travel

And here's their image:

I'm not sure there's any way of treating such a terribly sick website. I have the impression that it would be more humane if the website were to be calmly euthanized, to put it out of its misery. If not, the miserable website is likely to suffer excruciating pain for years to come.

French arms supplier for terrorists arrested

In many ways, memories of the horrible Paris terrorist attacks of January 2015 (Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher) seem to be so far away in the past that they almost belong to ancient history.

I've just heard that a 27-year-old French fellow captured yesterday in the south of Spain was an arms merchant who provided weapons to the terrorist Amedy Coulibaly who attacked the Hyper Cacher at Porte de Vincennes on 9 January 2015.

If this accusation could be proven to be true, beyond any doubt whatsoever, I feel that there's little point in bringing this fellow back to face a trial in Paris. Couldn't the French Republic offer him a free boat trip down towards Somalia, accompanied by the other fellows I talked about yesterday? I have the impression that more in-depth imagination is necessary in the way we handle certain proven delinquents. There's no point, as they say in the classics, in beating around the bush.

Am I suggesting, in a way, that the death penalty might be reintroduced in France for certain exceptional crimes? Maybe. The question  has never really arisen up until now, for the simple reason that we've had relatively few convicted criminals with blood on their hands and infinite evil in their heads. Give me time to think about that...

Splendid painting found in a French attic

Click to enlarge slightly

The younger woman on the right, Judith, is using a sword to hack off the head of an Assyrian general, Holofernes. This splendid painting, possibly the work of Caravaggio, was found by chance in the attic of an ancient dwelling near Toulouse. Click here to access a short video on this fascinating subject.

Caravaggio had already painted an earlier version of this same theme.

Click here to access a Wiki article on this first version of the painting.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Abominable fellows

During my first voyage to Europe, in 1962, our Greek ship Bretagne dropped in at an exotic but desolate place named Aden.

Click to enlarge slightly

In those days, Aden (now known as Yemen) was still a British protectorate. As a naive young Australian, totally devoid of political intelligence (as is probably still the case for many of my fellow Australians), that short visit to Aden was akin to dropping in at DisneyLand on a day when there were general strikes and power cuts, and everything was topsy-turvy. I remember the archaic look of the dusty old town, and the presence of beggars and wounded people. Later, I talked about Aden with an imaginative Sydney friend, Richard O'Sullivan, who had developed the habit of referring to the township as "Limb Valley", meant to draw attention ironically to the striking presence of citizens who were missing an arm or a leg.

In those days, nobody imagined that scoundrels from that corner of the globe—from Somalia in particular, on the nearby shores of the isthmus—would soon decide to transform themselves, aboard flimsy vessels, into murderous pirates.

These days, in France, we're aware of this nasty form of terrorism, because French forces captured seven of these poor primitive bastards, who are now awaiting their sentencing in a Paris court of law.

Click to enlarge slightly

On 8 September 2011, in the Gulf of Aden, they attacked the pleasure craft of a French holiday-maker, Christian Colombo, skipper of the Tribal Kat, and murdered him savagely. I've always thought that it's hard to understand the presence of these seven stupid rogues, from far across the waters, in a great French law court in Paris. Later this afternoon, we shall inevitably learn that these seven fellows have been sentenced to many years in a French jail, where they'll stay until they rot. Now, that situation troubles me immensely. I have the impression that there's something wrong with the French legal system when it captures seven uncouth ruffians, out on the open seas, and brings them back here to the heart of France where they'll inevitably be thrown into chilly cells for the rest of their miserable lives. To my mind, there is little chance that these ruffians will truly grasp what has happened to them, and why. There's something perfectly normal in the idea of sentencing such criminals to harsh punishment, if only to prevent them from repeating their crimes. But I persist in believing that something has gone wrong, and that those idiots don't really deserve to be subjected to that kind of handling. They certainly needed to be captured, sentenced and punished. But maybe differently... whatever that might mean. (I'm deliberately vague, because I really don't know the answers to the questions I'm raising.)

In my previous blog post, I evoked a splendid human theme: the Sermon on the Mount. I'm curious to know how the author of that monumental message—human, too human—would have expected us to deal with Daesh terrorists and Somali pirates...