Hidden women of history: the priestess Pythia at the Delphic Oracle, who spoke truth to power

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Julia Kindt, Professor, Department of Classics and Ancient History, University of Sydney

In this series, we look at under acknowledged women through the ages.

In a time and place that offered few career opportunities for women, the job of the priestess of Apollo at Delphi stands out. Her position was at the centre of one of the most powerful religious institutions of the ancient world. The competing Greek city states had few overarching authorities (political or otherwise), so the significance of her voice should not be underestimated.

Indeed, there is some evidence to suggest that the Pythia was at the core what we today call a “knowledge economy”. Her role may well have involved the gathering, re-packaging, and distribution of information, with the ultimate intent of providing sound advice on the trivial and not-so-trivial questions of life in the ancient world.

Jacek Malczewski Pytia, 1917. Wikimedia Commons

The “Pythia” is the official job title. We know of several women by name who, during the long history of this institution (from ca. 800 BCE to AD 390/91), held that role, including Phemonoe and Aristonike. Indeed, at some stage Delphi became so busy that three Pythias were appointed to serve in the role simultaneously.

The oracle was consulted by the movers and shakers of the ancient world on a diverse range of problems. For the Pythia, this meant the opportunity to comment on a variety of issues of public and individual concern: cult matters, warfare, the relationships between existing city-states, and the foundation of new ones.

Numerous personal questions were also put to the oracle on matters of lovesickness, career advice, child birth, and how to get offspring. So, by all standards, this job was demanding yet also diverse and rewarding — a position powerful enough to change the course of history.

Yet right from the beginning, efforts to deprive the priestess of her power prevailed, particularly in older classical scholarship. Surely a woman, especially one in such a paternalistic society as ancient Greece, could not hold that powerful a position?

Some scholars suggested that the Pythia actually babbled unintelligible gibberish and that her words were later put into beautiful, deep, and meaningful hexameter verse — by male priests.

Yet in our ancient sources there is absolutely nothing to suggest that it was anyone other than the Pythia herself who came up with the responses. To the contrary: she is regularly named as the one and only source of the prophecies delivered at Delphi. There is no word of male priests, beyond those in purely administrative and assisting roles.

Read more: Hidden women of history: Hop Lin Jong, a Chinese immigrant in the early days of White Australia

Insult by oracle

The position of the Pythia seemed to have entailed the extraordinary opportunity to speak unwelcome truth to those in power.

A Spartan once approached the oracle with the intention of being confirmed as the wisest man in the world. In response to this question the Pythia named another person who was wiser.

The Greek city of Megara allegedly asked the Pythia in about 700 BCE who were the best of all the Greeks, hoping to be named first. The Pythia mentioned two better cities , concluding with the line, “[Y]ou, o Megarians, [are] neither third nor fourth.” Surely, the Megarians did not see that coming!

Cleisthenes, meanwhile, the famous tyrant of Sicyon, asked whether he should remove the cult of the hero Adrastus from the city. He received an oracle that came straight to the point: “Adrastus is king of Sicyon, and you but a common slayer.”

This kind of reality check and straight talk would certainly have upset those with egos accustomed to flattery and agreement.

The sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi. Wikimedia Commons

Of course, it is not always possible to tell whether these and other responses of the oracle were authentic or whether the whole incident was part of later historiographic lore. Yet whatever the case: the fact is that it was a woman who was attributed such a sharp, judgemental voice.

And her voice proved extraordinarily unimpeachable. The Greeks thought that it was the god Apollo who conveyed his superior divine knowledge through the mouth of the Pythia, so the priestess herself was largely beyond reproach. While itinerant seers, augurs, and oracle mongers feature in classical literature as corrupt and unreliable, the position of the Pythia seems to have stood above all criticism.

Read more: Hidden women of history: Théroigne de Méricourt, feminist revolutionary

The job and its challenges

John Collier, Priestess of Delphi, 1891. Wikimedia Commons

Being a Pythia was not always easy. Several ancient enquirers sought to influence the kind of answer they hoped to get from the oracle. Subtle manipulation in how the questions were put, not-so-subtle bribery, and even an attempt to force the oracle to deliver responses on a non-auspicious day are all on record – as are complaints about unfathomable responses.

For instance the Greek historian, philosopher, soldier, and horse whisperer Xenophon allegedly enquired at Delphi to which deity he should sacrifice and pray so that the military expedition he was about to join would be a success. He was later reprimanded by the philosopher Socrates for having posed a manipulative question. Socrates felt he should have asked whether it would be a success, rather than how.

Cleisthenes was said to have bribed the Pythia to deliver the same response to all Spartan requests at the oracle, no matter the question: to free Athens from the rule of tyrants.

And after a series of spectacular mishaps based on misread oracles, the Lydian king Croesus complained at the Delphic Oracle about having been misled. The Pythia responded that he himself was to blame for his misfortune: He should have interpreted the Pythia’s word correctly.

We also know of several instances in which the Pythia refused outright to respond to a question that, in one way or another, seemed unreasonable.

Job requirements

Delphic tripod. Paestan red-figured bell-krater, ca. 330 BC. Wikimedia Commons

What did it take to become the Pythia? Was she a local girl from a neighbouring village? Was any kind of training provided to candidates? Or were they thrown in the deep end?

Unfortunately, the ancient sources are silent. The Nobel prize-winning author William Golding in his (posthumously published) last novel The Double Tongue, written from the perspective of a Pythia, sees her as a local girl who was unable to get herself married and so took on that role.

Yet again, this sounds like speculation designed to downplay the position.

The kind of skills required to be successful in the role are easier to reconstruct. The sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi served as a marketplace for representatives from all over the ancient Greek world (and beyond) who came for a variety of reasons.

In addition to the oracle, the sanctuary housed regular athletic competitions (the so-called Pythian Games, analogous to the more famous Olympic Games). With its numerous temples and monuments, the site was also a popular tourist destination. All these activities together served to establish a busy hub, where information, news, and gossip of all kinds would have circulated freely.

So perhaps the key to the Pythia’s success was simply to listen closely? There is good evidence to suggest that the fantastic tales of prediction and fulfilment are a matter of the (later) historiographic tradition and that it was mostly quite straightforward questions of everyday life that were put to the Pythia for comment, along the lines suggested by the ancient author Plutarch, who was also a priest at Delphi: Will I win? Shall I marry? Is it a good idea to sail the sea? Shall I take up farming? Shall I go abroad?

If this was indeed the case, it would, more often than not, have been possible to glean the information necessary to answer any particular enquiry from the chatter of those queuing to consult the oracle, to watch or participate in the games, or to take in the monuments. The Pythia may have trailblazed the knowledge economy millennia before the arrival of “big data” and the invention of the internet.

ref. Hidden women of history: the priestess Pythia at the Delphic Oracle, who spoke truth to power – http://theconversation.com/hidden-women-of-history-the-priestess-pythia-at-the-delphic-oracle-who-spoke-truth-to-power-108401

MIL Analysis+Reportage – EveningReport.NZ

Dirty deeds: how to stop Australian miners abroad being linked to death and destruction

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Julia Dehm, Lecturer, La Trobe University

Australian companies dominate African mining. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade counts 175 ASX-listed companies operating in 35 African countries. Professional services company PwC reckons there are more than 200, and that “a golden age of Australia-Africa relations has begun”.

But Australian miners also arguably stand implicated in both human rights and environmental abuses in pursuit of Africa’s mineral wealth.

The Human Rights Law Centre has documented serious human rights abuses in the overseas operations of a number of prominent Australian companies. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has linked Australian mining operations to deaths, destruction and displacement across Africa.

Right now the spotlight is on a bitter dispute between local people in the Xolobeni region on the east coast of South Africa and an Autralian-created mining company that wants to excavate a strip of coastal land, 22 km long and 1.5 km wide, for titanium.

The Xolobeni mine is about 200 km south of Durban in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province. www.mineralcommodities.com The proposed mine area is 22 km long and 1.5 km wide. www.mineralcommodities.com

The mining company, Transworld Energy and Mineral Resources, was until 2016 a subsidiary of Australian company Mineral Commodities Limited. The local community’s fight against Transworld goes back more than a decade. Last week a “consultation” meeting ended with police firing stun grenades.

In November the mine’s opponents won an important legal battle when the High Court of South Africa (Gauteng Division, Pretoria) ruled the local community needed to give free and informed consent to the project.

The ruling was based on a specific South African law. But the right of Indigenous peoples to give free, prior and informed consent to projects affecting their lands is also recognised by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Despite the Australian government endorsing the UN declaration – along with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which also covers human rights obligations – there is no real legal obligation for Australian companies operating overseas to abide by such principles.

Conflict and consent

Transworld first sought the right to mine the Xolobeni territory in 2007. Locals formed the Amadiba Crisis Committee to oppose the mine shortly thereafter.

After Transworld filed a new application for mining rights in March 2015, the Amadiba Crisis Committee joined together with other groups and 89 residents to claim their rights to the land according to customary law. They filed their claim in March 2016.

Around the same time the Amadiba Crisis Committee’s chairman, Sikhosiphi Rhadebe, was shot dead at his home. No one has been arrested for his murder, so it’s impossible to say what motivated his killers. But the mine proposal has led to significant conflict within the community.

Read more: How South Africa’s mining industry can change its ways

Some locals believe the mine will benefit them. Those opposed to the mine fear it will force them off their land, disrupt livelihoods based on agriculture and eco-tourism, and harm the community’s whole culture.

They point to the effects of similar strip-mining operations, such as Rio Tinto’s mine near Richards Bay, 400 kilometres north. The South African Human Rights Commission has documented adverse social, economic and ecological impacts across the country.

Under South Africa’s Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, property holders only need to be “consulted” before a mining licence is granted. But Judge Annali Basson ruled in November that customary rights were guaranteed by the Interim Protection of Informal Rights to Law Act 1996.

Read more: Why South African community’s win against mining company matters

This law, designed to protect those discriminated against during the apartheid era, provides that “no person may be deprived of any informal right to land without his or her consent”. On that basis the court ruled a mining right could not be granted unless the community made a communal decision to consent. The the minister for mineral resources is appealing the decision.

Lacklustre accountability

Australian human rights and environmental groups called on Mineral Commodities to drop its plans for Xolobeni back in May 2016. They also called on the Australian government to make companies more accountable for monitoring and enforcing human rights standards in their overseas operations.

The federal government has had a “National Contact Point” for the OECD Guidelines since 2002. But an independent review in 2017 found the initiative “significantly lacking”.

How the National Contact Point handled a submission from representatives of the Xolobeni community in 2013 demonstrates its limitations. It did not accept the complaint under the guidelines because the submission opposed all mining. This meant there was no community interest in a “mediation process that carries with it even the remotest possibility of accommodation between the mining company and local residents”.

In June 2017 the Australian government established an advisory group for implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The group quickly recommended developing a national action plan, in line with international standards. But in October the government announced it was “not proceeding with a national action plan at this time”.

We can do better

Other countries are doing more.

France has introduced a “duty of vigilance” law requiring companies ensure their supply chains respect labour and other human rights.

In Switzerland there is a push for a constitutional amendment obliging Swiss companies to incorporate respect for human rights and the environment in all their activities.

Canada is soon to appoint an independent Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise to investigate allegations of human rights abuses linked to Canadian corporate activity overseas.

It’s increasingly recognised on a purely pragmatic level there are legal, reputational and financial risks if companies attempt to operate without community consent. Studies show the huge financial costs of conflicts with Indigenous communities, which can delay projects significantly.

Australia law makers, therefore, can do both local communities overseas and domestic investors at home a favour by putting in place adequate mechanisms to ensure Australian companies cause no harm overseas.

ref. Dirty deeds: how to stop Australian miners abroad being linked to death and destruction – http://theconversation.com/dirty-deeds-how-to-stop-australian-miners-abroad-being-linked-to-death-and-destruction-109407

MIL Analysis+Reportage – EveningReport.NZ

Limes not lemons: lessons from Australia’s first e-scooter sharing trial

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Benjamin Kaufman, PhD Scholar in Transport, Griffith University

If you’ve been in central Brisbane recently, you will know there is a new visitor in town. Lime e-scooters have popped up all over the CBD and neighbouring suburbs. It’s early days for this new mobility provider, so we can’t say if this is a permanent fixture with certainty, but here’s a transport research team’s view on the Brisbane trial and its implications.

Transport disruption makes life difficult for policymakers and transport agencies. Queensland at first attempted to deter illegal ride-sharing but then legalised Uber and Ola in response to public demand. E-scooter sharing systems might be just as transformative for people’s travel.

You can download an app, sign up quickly and for only a dollar unlock a scooter, hit the accelerator and zip down the street at up to 25km/h. Scooters can be picked up and dropped off on footpaths throughout the central city. They offer low-cost travel and produce low carbon emissions.

Read more: Can e-scooters solve the ‘last mile’ problem? They’ll need to avoid the fate of dockless bikes

Previously, North American cities, such as San Francisco and Washington DC, were inundated with e-scooters. In response, some cities banned e-scooters outright, others used regulations to control the new players.

The trial in Brisbane is helping the city and state see if it works and determine an appropriate regulatory approach. Lime was initially given a “temporary pass in Brisbane”, allowing up to 500 e-scooters. As long as riders wore helmets (either provided by Lime and attached to each scooter, or bring-your-own) and rode them responsibly, there would be no problem.

Kudos to the Queensland transport minister and his department for being the first in Australia to allow a trial and, more recently, for improving the regulation of these operations. Well done also to Brisbane City Council for allowing the trial in the central business district and working with Lime on the roll-out. It was especially helpful that the council’s contract with its bikeshare operator did not prevent e-scooters from competing for riders.

When you take off on one of these e-scooters, it is liberating. If you’ve used a kick scooter before, even as a child, these new versions are relatively intuitive to ride. The electric motor means Brisbane’s hills are suddenly no problem. A trip from our South Bank campus across the river and through the botanic gardens to connect to a downtown meeting took six minutes and cost just over $3.

For only a few dollars, an e-scooter can get you from Brisbane CBD to South Bank in a matter of minutes. Albert Perez/AAP

No other mode of transport would compete in terms of either time or cost for such trips, unless you bring your own bike or e-scooter with you into town. Thousands of residents and tourists are using the e-scooters in Brisbane each day. Our sources tell us over 100,000 users have made over 300,000 trips since the mid-November launch.

There are reports of injuries from falling off the scooters. This highlights a need to take it easy your first few trips, to look for problems on any scooter you hire and to wear your helmet.

So what are the problems?

Our observations this last couple of months suggest user behaviour has changed. Some unruly behaviours we saw in the first few days seem have given way to new social norms.

Parking behaviour is also improving. Riders cannot lock the scooter (and stop paying for it) in locations where it might cause a nuisance, such as on the main green bridges. They are both encouraged to park out of harm’s way and forced to submit a photograph of their parking attempt. Park poorly a few times and Lime will suspend your account.

Lime itself emphasises the need to ride safely and follow the rules.

There are some issues though. The guidance provided to riders about where you can legally ride, whether on the departmental website, news media, the system app or its website, is at times missing, contradictory or just confusing. Fixing that should be easy enough.

Brisbane has not built much bicycle infrastructure in the last five decades, a few notable bridges and riverside paths aside. Nor have we reduced local street speeds to 30km/h, as is now standard European practice. There aren’t obvious safe routes to use when scootering through parts of the central city.

Fixing these issues will be more challenging, but quiet non-polluting e-scooters are clearly preferable to a city centre clogged with cars.

What are the best regulatory options?

Lime has proven these systems work well in Australian cities. But key regulatory questions remain. North American cities are introducing various regulatory systems. These include:

  • permits (often awarded via tender)
  • maximum fleet sizes
  • vehicle regulations – especially maximum speeds
  • go/no-go zones
  • parking controls
  • high fees to pick up and impound scooters that operators fail to collect.

Our city managers have to decide what options they prefer.

Read more: Electric scooters on collision course with pedestrians and lawmakers

We have five suggestions.

1. There is no need for scooters in Australian cities that have more power or go faster than the current Lime scooters. The decision to choose 25km/h seems appropriate at present. Restricting speeds to 10km/h, as previous laws did in Queensland, would be nonsensical.

Based on Brisbane’s trial, a 25km/h speed limit for e-scooters seems about right. Albert Perez/AAP

2. E-scooter systems are likely a natural monopoly, or perhaps duopoly. This is because one needs many scooters from the same operator available across a wide area to ensure efficiency in operations, keep costs low and provide wide coverage for users.

Brisbane City Council is talking of a probable monopoly, awarded via tender. This is the approach used since the city’s first tram operations in the 1880s. If Australian cities do award monopoly rights we hope they adopt Santa Monica’s use of a levy on the operator that is hypothecated towards improving the city’s bike lanes and bike paths, to create more safe riding space.

3. We recommend scooter parking locations be designated in key locations, such as close to Brisbane’s Queen Street mall, difficult as this will be given the competition for space on the city’s narrow streets and footpaths.

4. Cities should enter into meaningful partnerships with scooter companies that include data sharing for research and analysis of overall city transportation. Gold Coast’s MoBike scheme is, without much fanfare, the best-used bicycle-sharing scheme in Australia and an exemplar partnership model.

5. These scooters need to be part of the coming move towards subscription mobility services. Soon we are likely to be offered “mobility as a service” and pay one monthly fee to get public transport plus rideshare, bikeshare and scooter-share trips, some car-sharing and maybe some taxi kilometres. Based on the demand seen in Brisbane, e-scooters should be included in these packages.

This regulatory mix would cover most of the issues raised by others. Get all this right and e-scooters can help create a safer, more sustainable and liveable city with a better set of mobility options.

Read more: For Mobility as a Service (MaaS) to solve our transport woes, some things need to change

ref. Limes not lemons: lessons from Australia’s first e-scooter sharing trial – http://theconversation.com/limes-not-lemons-lessons-from-australias-first-e-scooter-sharing-trial-108924

MIL Analysis+Reportage – EveningReport.NZ

So you’ve KonMarie’d your life: here’s how to throw your stuff out

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Jenni Downes, Senior Research Consultant, Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney

A wave of decluttering is sweeping the nation. St Vincent de Paul has reported a 38% increase in donated goods in some areas compared with the same time last year.

However much of this is, frankly, junk. “Donating” broken, shabby or useless items only shifts the cost of sorting and sending it to landfill onto charities, which the National Association of Charitable Recyclers has reported collectively costs A$13 million a year.

So here’s how to make sure your tidying spree doesn’t create a bigger mess for someone else to sort out.

Read more: Time for a Kondo clean-out? Here’s what clutter does to your brain and body

Charities don’t need your trash

Giving your excess to charities to find a new life is a great idea, in principle. But with the rise of fast fashion, fast furniture, and fast electronics, charities are being inundated with goods that are unsaleable or downright rubbish.

It can be tempting to think struggling people should be grateful for any sort of serviceable items, even if they’re old-fashioned, shabby or a bit grubby. But these people have self-respect, and deserve it from us.

Further, most donated items are not actually distributed directly to people in need. Unpublished research by the Institute for Sustainable Futures found major Australian charities often only give 5-10% of donated items directly to clients. Instead, most items are sold through op-shops to raise money to fund their social services. This means donated items need to be attractive enough for people to willingly buy them.

Key donation rules from St Vincent de Paul. Weekend Sunrise

Don’t ‘wish-cycle’

Another way to dodge dealing with our rubbish is “wish-cycling”. Have you ever wondered if something is recyclable, only to decide that if it’s not, then it should be, and proceed to tossing it in the recycling bin? This is wish-cycling: hoping/wishing a tricky item is recyclable, and assuming someone at the other end will either remove it, or devise a way to recycle it.

Unfortunately, this generally isn’t what happens. It can be expensive or impossible for a recycling plant to sort waste streams with that level of detail. Unrecyclable material can contaminate entire batches, meaning whole loads are sent to landfill, not just your unrecylable item.

Read more: Five golden rules to help solve your recycling dilemmas

In other words, pretending our rubbish isn’t rubbish might ease our conscience but ultimately creates more waste.

So what do you do with your stuff?

Professional waste managers will tell you the first step in cutting down on landfill is reduction – not buying so much stuff in the first place. Obviously that ship has sailed if you’re reading this article, but do keep it in mind.

But if you’re getting rid of clutter, which presumably includes items in reasonable condition as well as broken or useless things, you do have a few options.

Before donating anything, ask yourself: what condition is it in? Would you pay money for it? Or give it to a friend? Vinnies has a slogan: If it’s not fit for a mate, don’t donate! If it’s in good shape, by all means donate it to a charity. If you’re not sure, you can call and ask your local charity shop.

(In fact, calling ahead is good practice in general. It lets op shop staff gracefully decline anything they can’t use. The worst thing you can do is take stuff after hours and leave on doorsteps or around full charity bins – this is dumping and is illegal.)

What if you have something your local charity won’t take, but you think someone might want it? Try listing it for free on a classified site like Gumtree, a Facebook freecycling group, or look for local tipshops and upcycling enterprises that could turn your unwanted trash into someone else’s treasure.

If an item is not quite worth reusing, see if you can turn it into something else. Battered shelves can be plant stands; old clothes can become cleaning rags. Almost anything can be a plant pot if you shovel in enough dirt. Pinterest can be a great source of DIY inspiration and there are a raft of books and websites filled with inspiration on repurposing and “upcycling”.

Upcycling: the art of turning your stuff into other, better stuff. Shutterstock

What do you do with the rest?

So, you’ve carefully separated out your quality items to donate, given your excess coathangers to a drycleaner, and turned an old t-shirt into a cushion cover. But what do you do with everything left over?

One option for bulky items such as broken furniture, old appliances and electronics is to use council services such as scheduled or bookable collections and waste dropoff days. Your council website or sites such as Planet Ark’s Recycling Near You can tell you what can be taken where and when.

It’s important to note that aside from certain electrical and metal goods, most items collected from kerbside by your council are sent to landfill. This is something many people don’t understand: nearly 50% of us incorrectly think the majority of collected items are reused, recycled or otherwise salvaged.

Read more: We can’t recycle our way to ‘zero waste’

Few councils have the resources to sift through thousands of tonnes of collected rubbish to salvage reusable items. So if you’re putting it out for collection, you’re mostly still throwing it out – though some items may be grabbed by salvagers before being collected, the proportion is still low. However putting things out on your kerb simply in the hope someone will see and take them (when you haven’t booked a council cleanup) is also considered dumping, and is illegal.

It’s good to think about what we need and don’t need, and reducing clutter has clear benefits. But if you’re really trying to create peace and joy, then think carefully about what to do with your once-but-no-longer wanted items, and don’t dump them on charities or the kerbside.

ref. So you’ve KonMarie’d your life: here’s how to throw your stuff out – http://theconversation.com/so-youve-konmaried-your-life-heres-how-to-throw-your-stuff-out-109945

MIL Analysis+Reportage – EveningReport.NZ

How does ecstasy kill?

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Nicole Lee, Professor at the National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University

MDMA (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine), commonly referred to as ecstasy, was manufactured as a potential pharmaceutical early last century. It had some limited use in the 1970s as a therapeutic aid in trauma treatment and in relationship counselling, and more recent studies using MDMA for trauma have shown some promise.

Structurally, MDMA is similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and to the hallucinogen mescaline, and so has both stimulant and mildly hallucinogenic effects.

Most problems with recreational MDMA are acute. Dependence and other long-term problems are quite rare. Less than 1% of all drug treatment presentations are for ongoing problems with MDMA, such as dependence.

Most fatalities from taking ecstasy are a result of a combination of factors, not just the drug itself.

Most of these conditions don’t result in death if they are treated early, but because of the stigma associated with using illicit drugs, sometimes people don’t seek help early enough. Any unusual or unwanted symptoms experienced while taking ecstasy should be treated as soon as they appear.

Read more: Six reasons Australia should pilot ‘pill testing’ party drugs

Contaminants and polydrug use

Most people are under the impression drugs are illegal because they are dangerous, but a drug’s legal status isn’t necessarily related to relative danger. In fact, drugs are much more dangerous because they are unregulated, manufactured by backyard chemists in clandestine laboratories.

Unlike alcohol, which is a highly regulated drug, there’s no way to tell how potent illicit drugs are or what’s in them, unless you test them.

In Australia, what is sold as ecstasy may contain a lot of MDMA or very little. Pills can contain other more dangerous drugs that mimic the effects of MDMA, and benign substances, such as lactose, as filler agents.

A recent report on findings from Australia’s first official pill testing trial at the Groovin’ the Moo music festival last year, found nearly half the pills tested were of low purity. Some 84% of people who had their pills tested thought they had bought MDMA but only 51% actually contained any MDMA.

Some of the more dangerous contaminants found in pills include PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine), which is more toxic at lower doses than ecstasy; N-Ethylpentylone, a cathinone which is a lot more potent than MDMA making it easier to take too much; and NBOMes (N-methoxybenzyl), which is more toxic at lower doses than other hallucinogenic drugs and can cause heart attack, renal failure, and stroke.

Pills have also been detected in UK and NZ with up to three doses of MDMA in a single pill.

Although it’s possible to take too much MDMA and experience severe toxic effects, as with other illicit drugs, most ecstasy-related deaths involve multiple drugs.

Sometimes these drug mixes are unexpected and sometimes people take multiple drugs deliberately. It’s safer for people using ecstasy to limit use of other drugs, including alcohol, to avoid risk of adverse effects.

Read more: While law makers squabble over pill testing, people should test their drugs at home


Heatstroke or hyperthermia (dangerously high body temperature) is one of the most common issues among people taking MDMA.

MDMA increases body temperature and sweating, and using it is often accompanied by physical activity (such as dancing) in a hot environment (such as a crowded venue or in the summer heat), exacerbating fluid loss. If you don’t have enough fluids your body can’t cool itself properly.

The effect of ecstasy can be exacerbated by consuming alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic, so it makes you urinate more and increases dehydration. Dehydration increases risk of heatstroke.

Heatstroke can cause brain, heart, kidney and muscle damage, and if left untreated can cause serious complications or death.

If active, people taking MDMA should drink around 500ml (two cups) of water an hour and take regular breaks. Isotonic drinks (such as Powerade and Gatorade) are also OK.

MDMA increases body temperature and sweating, so users have to stay hydrated. from www.shutterstock.com

Water intoxication

People using MDMA can get really thirsty. Some is probably the direct effect of MDMA, some because they’re hot, and some from dehydration.

But if you have too much water the ratio of salts and water in the body becomes unbalanced – basically the level of salt in your body gets too low and your cells start swelling with water. The technical name is hyponatraemia.

MDMA is an anti-diuretic, so it makes you retain water, which can increase risk of water intoxication.

People may feel nausea with vomiting, confusion, severe fatigue, muscle weakness and cramps.

People taking ecstasy need to stay hydrated but only replace what is lost through sweating – around 500ml per hour if active and around 250ml and hour when inactive.

Serotonin syndrome

The main action of MDMA in the brain is an increase in serotonin, which among other things is responsible for regulating pro-social behaviour, empathy and optimism. This is why people who have taken MDMA feel connection with and positivity towards others.

But too much serotonin can result in “serotonin syndrome”. It typically occurs when other drugs that also raise serotonin levels (other stimulants, antidepressants) are taken together with MDMA.

Signs include high body temperature, agitation, confusion, problems controlling muscles, headache and the shakes. People might also experience seizures or loss of consciousness.

It can be fatal if the symptoms are left untreated, so if anyone taking MDMA shows any of these signs they should be treated immediately. It’s safer not to mix different types of drugs, especially if you do not know what’s in them.

Read more: Here’s why doctors are backing pill testing at music festivals across Australia

Other causes

More rarely, fatalities have been reported as a result of other health complications after taking ecstasy, especially if the person has pre-existing risk factors, such as high blood pressure or a heart condition. Complications related to heart failure, liver failure and brain haemorrhage have been reported in people already at high risk of these problems.

The number of people who die from party drugs is relatively low compared to other drugs such as heroin, alcohol, and pharmaceuticals. But the media tend to report a higher proportion of these deaths compared to other drugs, increasing the perception of harm. Most of the deaths are not directly from the drug itself but other complications or contaminants.

It’s safest not to take drugs at all, but if you choose to, it’s safer to take a small amount first (like a quarter of a pill) and wait at least an hour to make sure there are no ill effects; drink about 500ml per hour of water if active; and don’t mix drugs, including alcohol.

In the absence of a legal, uncontaminated supply of MDMA, when pill testing becomes available in Australia it will at least help people make informed decisions about drug use and reduce the risk of fatalities and other harms. People often choose not to take their pills, or take smaller amounts, when they discover contaminants.

ref. How does ecstasy kill? – http://theconversation.com/how-does-ecstasy-kill-109506

MIL Analysis+Reportage – EveningReport.NZ

Australia can do more to attract and keep women in parliament – here are some ideas

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Brendan Churchill, Research Fellow in Sociology, University of Melbourne

The resignation of Kelly O’Dwyer, Federal Minister for Women, Jobs and Industrial Relations, tells us what we have known for some time: Australia’s parliament is a hostile workplace for women and working mothers.

O’Dwyer’s desire for a bigger family and more quality time with her young children reflects, in some respects, the challenges ordinary working mothers in Australia face everyday. It also highlights yet another example of the difficulties faced by women in politics.

As Liberal senator Linda Reynolds wrote in an opinion piece: O’Dwyer’s resignation “ …is not simply a gender issue. It is a parent issue”.

But for every Tim Hammond (the federal Labor Member for Perth who quit politics last year for family reasons) there is a Kelly O’Dwyer or a Kate Ellis .

Women by and large are still the primary caregivers in this country regardless of whether they are an MP or senator.

Read more: The Liberal Party is failing women miserably compared to other democracies, and needs quotas

Institutionally, Australia’s parliament has made significant progress over the past decade to accommodate parents. Parliament House now has childcare services and a breastfeeding room off to the side of both chambers for new mothers.

Breastfeeding mothers can vote by proxy in the House of Representations. And in 2017, former Greens Senator Larissa Waters became the first federal MP to breastfeed in parliament.

But there is still progress to be made. Parliament remains family-unfriendly. Sitting hours often extend well beyond childcare hours and sitting weeks are often scheduled during school holidays.

Fewer options than other working women

These issues affect all working parents but must surely impact heavily on parliamentarians who have to travel from their electorates to Canberra. Ordinary working mothers often opt for part-time work to manage the demands of work and family. This is because we haven’t quite figured out how to help women and families best manage their competing workloads.

An MP or senator does not have the option of working part-time. While women politicians do take maternity leave, a part-time MP or senator might not meet community expectations about politicians and service. We also know women in part-time work often end up feeling more stressed as they take on more domestic work or end up working outside of their set part-time hours.

But the idea of job sharing seems less remote. Historically, job sharing, which involves two people sharing what is normally a full-time role, has been seen as an alternative way for women to stay in the workforce. Some preliminary research in the UK suggests that might be a viable option for politicians. And evidence shows it works at the highest level of business, so this is perhaps one way parliaments can learn from the business community.

However, like all flexible working arrangements, job sharing cannot be seen as a solution or alternative for women alone – swapping the political sphere for the private. Male politicians with children would need to be encouraged to adopt these arrangements should they ever eventuate. And getting men to take up flexible working arrangements is not always successful as evidenced by policymakers’ attempts to get new dads to take up parental leave.

Read more: Time pressure may be a better way to measure work-life balance

As we enter the next decade, politicians, political parties and the parliament should consider how best to support working mothers (and fathers).

This must begin with a shift in culture. In her resignation speech, former Liberal now Independent, Julia Banks, stated:

equal representation of men and women in this parliament is an urgent imperative which will create a culture change.

Advances towards equal representation are lopsided in the parliament. While Labor is on track to reach equal representation with almost half of its parliamentarians women, the Coalition’s ratio is only one in five. It’s expected with O’Dwyer’s resignation along with recent announcements by other women, female representation in the Liberal and National parties will be proportionally lower than when John Howard left office in 2007.

Regardless of political persuasion, fewer female MPs can only slow progress towards gender equality.

Tim Hammond’s experience is an example of the toll experienced by fathers in federal parliament, but this is still the exception rather than the rule. Greater female representation will help shift cultural ideas about women and working mothers.

But shifts in ideas about working fathers in parliament are needed too. Images of male politicians working with their children at their side is a rarity saved only for election campaigns.

Like ordinary working women, female politicians need not only supportive workplaces but supportive families. Former Queensland premier Anna Bligh relied on her partner and mother for support during her time in office. However, not every female politician has a Greg Withers or a Clarke Gayford, partner of New Zealand prime minster Jacinda Arden, to care for their children while their partner gives a speech to the United Nations.

Ideas from other nations

Jacinda Arden provides one example of greater flexibility for mothers who are parliamentarians. She has broken up her schedule into three-hour slots so she can breastfeed. But not every woman in parliament has as much control over her schedule as a prime minister.

New Zealand is perhaps leading the pack in making parliaments work for parents. Recently, the Speaker of the New Zealand parliament has sought to make it even more family-friendly with a raft of measures, including the installation of highchairs in the cafe and a playground.

Read more: It’s only a baby, right? Prime ministers, women and parenthood

In Europe, things are also progressive with women politicians in the European Parliament – including most famously Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli – taking their children to parliamentary debates and meetings.

In the US, the number of mothers in congress has doubled following the mid-term elections in 2018, which saw a record number of women run for office. Last year, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois became the first senator to have a baby in office, which necessitated changes to allow a baby on the senate floor.

Only ten women have given birth while in Congress and of those, six in the last 11 years.

The presence of children, especially mothers breastfeeding in parliamentary chambers, continues to be worldwide news, suggesting it’s still a novelty. Japanese local government member, Yuka Ogata, has a number of times been forced to leave the assembly as irritation grows around her demanding more family-friendly policies.

At the press conference announcing O’Dwyer’s resignation, the prime minister said he supported:

[…] all women’s choices. I want women to have more choices and all the independence that comes with that.

But choices are always made in the context of individuals’ lives. This is especially true for women who are working mothers. To ensure they make the choice to enter and stay in parliament we must ensure these issues are addressed.

It’s important parliament be made up of working mothers so policies and laws that affect families and in particular working women are informed by those who experience these challenges.

ref. Australia can do more to attract and keep women in parliament – here are some ideas – http://theconversation.com/australia-can-do-more-to-attract-and-keep-women-in-parliament-here-are-some-ideas-110174

MIL Analysis+Reportage – EveningReport.NZ

All that slipping and sliding on tennis courts prevents injuries: a biomechanics expert explains how

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Anthony Blazevich, Professor of Biomechanics, Edith Cowan University

Hard courts are very negative for the body. I know the sport is a business and creating these courts is easier than clay or grass, but I am 100% sure it is wrong. I may have to play more on clay than before, but there aren’t that many options.

So said Rafael Nadal back in 2012 – and several times since – before succumbing to another knee injury in 2018.

Rafa’s right. Evidence has been available for decades to suggest that players have fewer knee problems if they play on clay courts rather than hard surfaces over their careers.

Way back in 1979, German researcher von Salis-Soglio showed that top-ranked tennis players had more leg and back injuries after playing on hard courts than on clay.

But that’s not because hard courts are hard. It’s because they’re not slippery enough.

Read more: Fitness play-off: how tennis stars compare with other athletes

The physics of hard, grass and clay courts

There’s a perception that clay courts are less hard. But anyone who has played on a clay court knows that’s not quite true – they are pretty firm. And it’s easy to do a little experiment to prove it.

A tennis ball bounces higher on a harder court because the court surface compresses less when the ball collides with it. That means less energy is dissipated and the ball bounces up with a lot of energy (largely because of its own elasticity).

That energy dissipation is reflective of the “damping” properties of the surface. If you drop a brand new ball from a height of one metre onto either a clay court or a hard court, it will bounce about 60-65cm high.

On a grass court, the ball may only bounce about 35-40cm. This is because both clay courts and hard courts have a low damping coefficient (a measure of the damping effect when colliding with a ball). Grass courts, on the other hand, typically have a much higher damping coefficient.

Nonetheless, damping may be dramatically reduced on worn areas of grass courts, as is comically demonstrated in this (edited) video.

Djokovic (2015) clearly demonstrates how easily a ball can bounce on a ‘hard’ grass court at Wimbledon.

And tennis players spend a lot of time running on this hard, worn part of the court.

A fraction too much friction

So if clay courts (and some grass courts) are also hard and don’t have a high damping coefficient, why aren’t they also linked with high injury rates?

A study published 31 years ago provides the best answer. Researcher Benno Nigg and a colleague examined injury rates in more than 1,000 tennis players.

They found that painful injuries were five to eight times more likely when playing on high-friction surfaces such as asphalt and some synthetic surfaces than on courts covered with loose sand that allow players to slip and slide.

It was clear that when friction between the shoe and surface was high, so was the injury rate.

Read more: Tennis, running, netball: do I really need a specific shoe for a specific sport?

This is now a well-known phenomenon. If you are running fast and you want to stop quickly, you have to apply a force to the ground. The ground returns that force to you (for the science buffs among you, that is Newton’s third law) to slow you down.

But you can choose to apply a high force for only a short time or you can apply a smaller force over a longer time and get the same result: stopping.

We tend to slide when friction is lower and this increases the time over which the force is produced, and the peak force is lower. The lower force is less likely to cause injury, so this is a good thing. In fact, players also notice they’re less sore after matches, so they recover faster too.

Actually, the effect of surface friction is seen in other common sporting tasks. For example, other researchers showed that injuries are greater in pivoting sports (such as netball or basketball) when surface friction is higher, even when both surfaces (artificial versus wood) were very hard. In this study, the injury rate was double on the artificial surface, which allowed less sliding.

How we choose to move

But there’s another reason for the injury-reduction benefit of lower-friction surfaces. On these courts, we “choose” to move with different, and safer, movement patterns during high-intensity, agility-type tasks such as those in tennis.

A great example is provided in a study looking at people experienced in sports that required side-step “cutting” manoeuvres. Cutting manoeuvres are those that require rapid changes in direction.

When tested on different surfaces, sports people were found to land with their knee straighter and more rotated when running on surfaces with higher friction. This is considered to be a serious risk for knee anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury during cutting tasks.

So in a nutshell, there are two things that place us at risk of injury when playing on surfaces with high friction: a lack of energy dissipation, plus a difference in how we move (including rapid changes of direction, as occurs in tennis).

Luckily, a lot of effort has been put into improving hard court surfaces.

At this year’s Australian Open you’ll see players sliding quite well on the Plexicushion surface (made from latex, rubber and plastic particles), which is specially designed to allow players to slide.

It’s safer for the players and also fun to watch.

Nadal sliding on clay and Plexicushion at the Australian Open.

Read more: Why so many tennis players go pro even though few ‘make it’

ref. All that slipping and sliding on tennis courts prevents injuries: a biomechanics expert explains how – http://theconversation.com/all-that-slipping-and-sliding-on-tennis-courts-prevents-injuries-a-biomechanics-expert-explains-how-106938

MIL Analysis+Reportage – EveningReport.NZ

Jakarta Post: Free radical cleric linked to Bali bombing – why now?

Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir … controversy over presidential plan for his early release. Image: YouTube still

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Indonesian President Joko Widodo says a radical Muslim cleric linked to the 2002 Bali bombings would only be released from jail if he pledged loyalty to the state and its ideology, following news he would be freed unconditionally sparked criticism – including a stinging editorial in the country’s national English language daily.

President Widodo had declared last week that Abu Bakar Bashir, 81, would be freed on humanitarian grounds, citing his age and poor health.

But a presidential statement said yesterday it would be a “conditional release”.

READ MORE: Indonesia backtracks on ‘unconditional’ release of Bashir

Condemning the release decision, The Jakarta Post said: “The timing and circumstances of the President’s decision are so suspicious that one wonders whether his health condition was a factor at all.”

Bashir was convicted in 2010 under anti-terrorism laws for links to militant training camps in Aceh province and jailed for 15 years.


Although linked to the Bali attacks and a bombing at Jakarta’s Marriott Hotel in 2003, Bashir was never convicted for them and denied those ties.

The Jakarta Post’s editorial board published the following opinion article:

‘Wrong on so many levels’
“There is nothing wrong with granting an old and ailing felon conditional release or even a pardon on humanitarian grounds. But President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s decision to approve the early release of 81-year-old terror convict and firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Bashir is wrong on so many levels.

“It is not impossible to pardon the ailing cleric on humanitarian grounds, but the timing and circumstances of the President’s decision are so suspicious that one wonders whether his health condition was a factor at all.

“The call came only months before the April presidential election in which Jokowi will square off against his old rival, Prabowo Subianto, in a bid to secure a second term.

“Prabowo has been touted as the more Islamic candidate by hardline Islamists, while Jokowi is struggling to convince voters he is not a communist, even after naming the leader of the nation’s most influential Islamic institution as his running mate.

“Given the political backdrop, it is too easy to believe the move was just another attempt by Jokowi to win Muslim votes.

“Yusril Ihza Mahendra, the lawyer for the Jokowi-Ma’ruf Amin campaign, has dismissed such speculation. Mahendradatta, Bashir lawyer, has also claimed that his client’s release has nothing to do with politics, that it is not a ‘political gift’ from Jokowi.

“The claim is hardly convincing. Bashir’s lawyers had long cited Bashir’s deteriorating health as the primary reason for his release, or him being put under house arrest. The government had ignored the request. So why the change now?

“Moreover, the Jokowi administration has been far from transparent in explaining the legal basis for Bashir’s release.

“Days after the decision was made public, officials said it was unclear if Bashir was pardoned or granted conditional release. It is hard to say which.

Presidential pardon not sought
“Neither the cleric nor his lawyer have ever sought presidential pardon. The cleric is neither eligible for conditional release, despite having served two thirds of his prison sentence, because he refused to sign a letter of loyalty to the state ideology Pancasila — a requirement for all terror convicts.

“Yusril argued Jokowi could just change or ‘ignore’ the policy, as it is only stipulated in a ministerial regulation, not a law. While it is possible to tweak the regulation, one wonders why Jokowi needs to go through all that for Bashir.

“This leads to another issue: fairness.

“The President has often pledged to not interfere with the law. Only recently, Jokowi cited the exact argument to reject calls for him to grant clemency to a housewife jailed for inadvertently exposing the man accused of sexually abusing her.

“Jokowi is also merciless to drug convicts. Last July, a terminally ill Pakistani drug convict on death row died in prison. The man claimed innocence and Jokowi refused to free him despite his health condition and plea for justice.

“The President has the prerogative to pardon convicts, but he is obliged to justify his action before citizens. His decision on Bashir was poorly timed, legally flawed and insensitive. It sent all the wrong messages to many of his supporters as well as the international community.”

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL Analysis+Reportage – EveningReport.NZ

MIL-Evening Report: Bangsamoro Islamic troops choose peace via historic Philippines vote

By Sofia Tomacruz in Sultan Kudarat, Mindanao

Battle-scarred they might be, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have faced their toughest campaign yet.

Armed with nothing but a first-time vote, young troops from the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces prayed they would win the decades-old struggle for autonomy and independence through yesterday’s ballot.

More than 150,000 former combatants of the MILF are among the 2.8 million people who have registered to vote in the plebiscite, where the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and the creation of a new, expanded Bangsamoro region will be decided.

WATCH: Sofia Tomacruz’s video reports and live updates from Rappler

New role? MILF chairman Murad Ibrahim (left) will likely become the Bangsamoro region’s chief minister if the organic law is ratified in yesterday’s referendum. Image: Malacañang file

MILF leader Al Hajj Murad Ibrahim cast his vote for the first time in the historic referendum seeking to ratify the law that will give more autonomy to the Philippines’ Muslim minority.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) is seen as the solution to the decades of separatist conflict in Mindanao, a region plagued by poverty and violent extremism, reports Arab News. More than 120,000 people have died in the conflict.


“This is my first time to vote,” said Murad. “During the height of the war, we never thought that this would happen. But after the progress of the peace process, we see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

It took the leader of the MILF, formerly the biggest Muslim group in the country, only a few minutes to case his “yes” vote.

First time vote
“I am happy that at least for the first time, I have exercised my right of suffrage,” he later said, adding that his participation in the voting signals the commencement of their transition from a revolutionary into the democratic process.

Like Murad, thousands of MILF fighters, along with their families, also trooped to polling centers yesterday to take part in the voting process, many of them for the first time.

“We are hoping that with this development, we can finally achieve the aspiration of our people for peace, progress and a good life in this part of the country and in the entire country,” Murad said.

Murad said that after the plebiscite, “hopefully the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the transitional government, will be immediately established and we will start to organise our government structure and after the BTA, a regular government in 2022.”

Murad said that once the BOL is implemented, their priorities would be education, medical services, social services,and infrastructure, adding that education was their top priority.

“For more than 50 years of war, many of our people have not obtained education. We cannot really progress if our people are not educated,” he said.

Murad said that as long as the vote is conducted in a fair manner with no manipulation, intimidation or cheating, they are “determined to accept whatever is the result.”

Chief minister
A chief minister will head the BTA and this position will likely go to Murad.

Before he talked peace with the government, Murad was a fearsome MILF commander.

Murad’s decades of rebellion began in 1972 when he joined the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by former University of the Philippines professor Nur Misuari.

A group within the MILF disagreed with Nur over a peace deal with the government and broke away in 1981. This group became the MILF.

Murad became the head of MILF’s army, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF). He commanded at least 12,000 men.

When MILF’s then-leader Hashim Salamat died in 2003, Murad took the reins.

After years of fighting government forces, the MILF began peace talks with the Arroyo and then the Aquino administration.

Signing witnessed
In 2012, Murad witnessed the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which laid the groundwork for the BOL.

The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country but Mindanao has a significant Muslim population.

Many regard the region as their ancestral homeland, dating back to the 13th Century when Arab traders first arrived, and over the decades various rebel groups sprang up demanding the right to self-rule.

Mindanao has seen a huge amount of violence in recent years – mainly between the army, Muslim separatists and other rebels.

The violence has left Mindanao one of the poorest regions in the Philippines.

The entire region of Mindanao is still under martial law, which was implemented in 2017 after clashes between the army and militants linked to IS.The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country but Mindanao has a significant Muslim population.

Ancestral homeland
Many regard the region as their ancestral homeland, dating back to the 13th Century when Arab traders first arrived, and over the decades various rebel groups sprang up demanding the right to self-rule.

Mindanao has seen a huge amount of violence in recent years – mainly between the army, Muslim separatists and other rebels.

The violence has left Mindanao one of the poorest regions in the Philippines.

The entire region of Mindanao is still under martial law, which was implemented in 2017 after clashes between the army and militants linked to IS.

If a majrity of the millions of voters from Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Cotabato City voted “yes” include their areas in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), a second voting day will take place on February 6.

This time, in Lanao del Norte – except Iligan City – and 7 towns in North Cotabato.

If a majority of voters in all areas agree to their inclusion, the new BARMM will be comprised of the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Cotabato City, 6 towns in Lanao del Norte, and 67 barangays in North Cotabato.

MIL OSI AnalysisEveningReport.nz