November 14th 2009

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Why Australians should oppose a human rights charter

CANBERRA OBSERVED: The Rudd Government's asylum-seeker dilemma

EDITORIAL: Emissions trading scheme in trouble

CLIMATE CHANGE: Rudd's ETS will hit country towns hardest

ECONOMICS: Rising interest rates create speculative bubble

SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Will SA be the first state to legalise euthanasia?

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Australia's crude Fiji sanctions policy backfires

BRAZIL: Lula's infatuation with tyrants and mass-murderers

OVERSEAS AID: Exporting death in our overseas 'aid'

ASIA: Taiwan's modified UN bid prospects rated as 'good'

EDUCATION: A destructive doctrine called 'diversity'

SCIENCE: Can computer games harm children's brains?

OPINION: Why I lost faith in the Left

Australian aid to China (letter)

Rags-to-riches story (letter)

Kokoda and Japan (letter)

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Western nations must prepare for cyber attacks; The tyranny of unelected 'experts'; School reform that works.

BOOK REVIEW: OUT FROM UNDER: The Impact of Homosexual Parenting, by Dawn Stefanowicz

BOOK REVIEW: THE ART OF WAR: Great Commanders of the Ancient, Medieval and Modern World, Andrew Roberts

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Western nations must prepare for cyber attacks; The tyranny of unelected 'experts'; School reform that works.

News Weekly, November 14, 2009
Western nations must prepare for cyber attacks

It has been several months since the basic "denial of service" attacks against networks in the United States and South Korea in early July. No one has yet taken credit, nor have others been able to determine the attackers' identity.

Cyberspace enables anonymous attacks. Identities are easily concealed or fabricated in cyberspace, and an astute opponent will of course make it look as if another was responsible for an attack.

Cyber conflict is a new and complicated strategic problem.

Advanced cyber weapons cause disruption or damage to data and critical infrastructure. A serious cyber attack would be an incident that disrupted critical services for an extended period, perhaps damaging military command or information systems, shutting off electrical power or fuel pipelines, or interrupting financial services.

Cyber conflict will be part of warfare in the future and advanced militaries now have the capability to launch cyber attacks not only against data and networks, but also against the critical infrastructure that depend on these networks.

We have, at best, a few years to get our defences in order, to build robustness and resiliency into networks and critical infrastructure, and to modernise our laws to allow for adequate security.

Frankly, many colleagues do not believe we as a nation will be able to do this and only a successful major attack will spur the United States to make the needed changes.

Extract from James Andrew Lewis, "The "Korean' cyber attacks and their implications for cyber conflict", Center for Strategic and International Studies (Washington, DC), October 2009.

The tyranny of unelected "experts"

Britain, even more than other states, is run by and for its standing officials. Our lives are less impacted by the decisions of our MPs or councillors than by those of the Local Education Authority, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, the Child Support Agency, the Financial Services Authority, the Health and Safety Executive, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and the rest of the unelected functionariat.

The worst of it is that government by quango meets with the noisy approval of many voters. They like the "experts" to be in charge, they say. (If they're such b****y experts, why have they made such a mess of things?). They fear "politicisation" they say. (Our quangocrats are political - their default setting is well to the Left of any of the main parties - they're just not elected.)

I still see getting power back from Brussels as the most immediate issue in British politics. But there is no point in doing so if we simply swap one bureaucracy for another.

Extract from Daniel Hannan, "We have overthrown the divine right of kings only to fall down before the dive right of experts", The Telegraph (UK) blog, November 2, 2009.

School reform that works

The "Massachusetts miracle", in which Bay State students' soaring test scores broke records, was the direct consequence of the state legislature's passage of the 1993 Education Reform Act, which established knowledge-based standards for all grades and a rigorous testing system linked to the new standards. And those standards, Massachusetts reformers have acknowledged, are the legacy of education thinker, E.D. Hirsch. ...

In trying to figure out how to close this "literacy gap," Hirsch conducted an experiment on reading comprehension, using two groups of college students. Members of the first group possessed broad background knowledge in subjects like history, geography, civics, the arts and basic science; members of the second, often from disadvantaged homes, lacked such knowledge.

The knowledgeable students, it turned out, could far more easily comprehend and analyse difficult college-level texts (both fiction and non-fiction) than their poorly informed brethren could. Hirsch had discovered "a way to measure the variations in reading skill attributable to variations in the relevant background knowledge of audiences."

This finding, first published in a psychology journal, was consistent with Hirsch's past scholarship, in which he had argued that the author takes for granted that his readers have crucial background knowledge. Hirsch was also convinced that the problem of inadequate background knowledge began in the early grades.

Extract from Sol Stern, "E.D. Hirsch's curriculum for democracy", City Journal (New York), Vol. 19, No. 4, Autumn 2009.

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