March 29th 2008

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: The truth about Australia's birth rate

EDITORIAL: NSW electricity to be privatised?

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Opposition needs new policies, not stunts

WATER: Time to build new reservoirs

QUARANTINE: EI inquiry flags major changes to horse quarantine

INTERNATIONAL TRADE: Rudd Government to re-examine FTAs

ENVIRONMENT: Conference rejects climate change alarmism

HIGH SCHOOLS: School: ladder of opportunity or game of snakes and ladders?

HUMAN RIGHTS: Behind Beijing's crackdown in Tibet

UNITED STATES: California court attacks parental rights

DRUGS: Australia's complicity in global drugs menace

UNITED NATIONS: Feminist frolics at the UN

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Muslim attacks forcing Jews out of Paris suburbs / School vouchers flourishing in Sweden / Coal tipped to be world's top energy source

MEDIA: ABC's take on Islamic school controversy

CINEMA: BELLA: A gentle film with a big heart

BOOKS: DARWIN DAY IN AMERICA: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, by John G. West


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Muslim attacks forcing Jews out of Paris suburbs / School vouchers flourishing in Sweden / Coal tipped to be world's top energy source

News Weekly, March 29, 2008
Muslim attacks forcing Jews out of Paris suburbs

VILLEPINTE, France: Rabbi David Altabe looks older than his 27 years when he talks about the future of the Jewish community in this working-class suburb of Paris.

"We do what we can, but it's hard," he says. "I don't know why I stay. I ask myself that question all the time."

Over a period of just three years, roughly half the Jewish families in Villepinte have left. Some have gone to other suburbs or Paris neighborhoods considered safer for Jews; a few have left the country.

Of 300 families three years ago, only 150 remain today, community president Charly Hannoun estimates.

Villepinte's 40-year-old synagogue, which was torched in 1991 and 2001, is at risk of closing because there are barely enough regulars for a minyan. Jewish community leaders are wondering if Jews have a future here.

"It's a whole history that's being erased," says Hannoun, who worked with contractors and friends to build the town's synagogue. "It's the end of the synagogue..."

Villepinte is one stark example of what is happening to many Jewish communities in the immigrant-heavy suburbs of the Seine-Saint-Denis region, north of Paris.

Scarred by the surge in anti-Semitism that swept through France between 2000 and 2005, roughly two-thirds of the mostly Sephardic Jews who once lived in these close-knit communities have left town.

Experts say the Jewish flight from the suburbs is changing the demographics of France's Jewish community and increasing the ghettoisation of Jews in the country.

All of France is experiencing the problem, says University of Paris sociologist Shmuel Trigano, the author of The Future of the Jews in France.

"It is a general shift, not a passing crisis," Trigano says. "The Jewish community is becoming a ghetto. It is no longer a community of choice but a community of necessity. In a democracy that shouldn't happen." ...

"They chased us from Algeria and they followed us here," Robert Sebbane, 81, says of the North African Muslims responsible for much of France's anti-Jewish crime.

- from Devorah Lauter, "Jews flee Paris suburbs for 'ghettos' where life is safer", JTA: Jewish & Israel News (New York), March 12, 2008.

School vouchers flourishing in Sweden

The most profound social revolutions can start from seemingly trivial or technical changes to the law.

When Sweden introduced a radical system of independent state schools, financed by vouchers, in 1992, not even the policy's architects took it that seriously.

"It had been in the manifesto since the 1970s," says Anders Hultin, who helped put it into practice 16 years ago. "I remember the deputy education minister saying to me, 'This is tokenistic, nothing will come of it.' Then, to our surprise, we had all these groups saying they'd like to set up schools."

Today one in every eight schools in Sweden is a so-called "free school" - some 900 already, with a further 1,550 applications granted last year. That said, Hultin also points out that most of these applications do not result in new schools.

"Many applications are by parents wanting to pressure a council which is threatening to close down a local school," he says. So of course, if the council backs down, the application is unnecessary....

Swedish parents don't protest against school closures - they simply apply to open a rival school. This prevents councils from amalgamating good small schools into ever-larger educational warehouses....

The new breed of Swedish schools averages just 180 pupils.

- from Fraser Nelson, "Made in Sweden: the new Tory education revolution", The Spectator (UK), February 27, 2008.

Coal tipped to be world's top energy source

VANCOUVER: Despite global alarm about the threat that fossil fuel combustion poses to Earth's climate, coal appears poised to recover its 19th-century prominence as the world's top energy source, delegates at the Globe 2008 conference heard on March 12.

Mark Josz, head of strategy and portfolio management for energy systems project managers Suez International, says the growth of coal-fired electricity generation in China is unprecedented in the history of electricity infrastructure development....

"In 2006, China put into operation 105 gigawatts, which is [equivalent to] the entire electricity generation system of France," Josz said.

He said 90 per cent of that generation was from coal plants, and China followed by adding 91 gigawatts of coal generation in 2007.

"This is unique, we have never seen that in history. Coal was the energy of the 19th century, lost to oil in the 20th century, but clearly coal could be the fuel of preference for the 21st century."

Other advantages include its abundance. Reserves are 1.5 times higher than combined proven reserves of oil and natural gas, and there's less supply and price risk because it's well-distributed, cheap and not subject to the price volatility of oil.

- from Scott Simpson, "China promotes new era of coal-fired energy, despite pollution", Vancouver Sun, March 12, 2008.

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