The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'sydney'
Yesterday, Australia awoke to the news of what appeared to be a terrorist siege in the heart of Sydney. ISIS terrorists had, it seemed, seized the Lindt Café, a retail outlet of the Swiss confectioner and popular tourist destination, and were holding a few dozen terrified hostages, some of them forced to hold up a black flag with Arabic writing in the window. International terror had struck home, and the Lucky Country's innocence was shattered forever, the hard dawn of the Long Siege breaking with the pitiless intensity of the Arabian desert sun. Rumours abounded: of sweeping police raids across Lakemba, a desperate hunt for the unspoken nightmare scenario this could be merely a distraction for, the diabolical plans of an invisible enemy who is everywhere, his dagger at our throats like Hassan ibn Sabbah's fabled Assassins. Awful videos of beheadings, lit by familiar Australian sunlight, were sure to follow.
But then the fog cleared and it turned out to be somewhat less than that. Far from an organised, tightly disciplined cell of fanatical death cultists, it turned out to be a lone individual with a gun and possibly an (actual or fake) bomb. The fearsome ISIS flag, that latterday skull and crossbones breathlessly reported by the Murdoch tabloids, turned out to be just a piece of black cloth with the fundamental tenet of Islam, the statement “there is no God but God and Mohammed is his prophet”, written on it, much as it is on the Saudi Arabian flag; superficially scarily terroristic-looking, though on deeper inspection, more like lazy set decoration than anything else. The siege dragged on through the day and well into the night; neither the gunman nor his accomplices managing to get their message into the media, partly because he didn't actually have any accomplices. Then, in the wee hours of the morning, the police stormed the building; at the end, three people were dead; two hostages and the gunman.
Details soon emerged of the gunman; it turned out that he had been a somewhat odd character, to say the least. An Iranian refugee who had sought asylum in 1996 from the country's Islamist dictatorship, who had imprisoned his family. At various times, he had styled himself as an Islamic cleric, peace activist and spiritual healer. It is in the course of the last vocation that he seems to have incurred several dozen charges of sexual and indecent assault. Whilst doing this, he was apparently also writing harrassing letters to the relatives of Australian troops killed in Afghanistan. Furthermore, last year, he had been charged as an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife. As he awaited trial for this, he maintained his calling as an Islamic cleric, despite finding little support in the actual Islamic community, and seemingly came to the conclusion that the community was wrong, corrupted by the “new religion” of moderate Islam. His one-man ministry became increasingly radical; a week before his last stand, he posted to his website, pledging his allegiance to ISIS, the aforementioned mob of bloodthirsty attention-seekers in Syria. It is not clear whether anybody in this group acknowledged his pledge.
There's a lot in that profile, and it's not flattering; it's like he's one part Martin Bryant (the mass murderer from Hobart) to one part Fred Phelps (also a self-proclaimed religious leader whose currency was hate); a deeply unpleasant troll and attention-seeking psychopath who escalated into possible murder. (It is not clear whether he killed either his ex-wife or any of the hostages, though it doesn't look good in either case.) Of course, a key difference between him and Bryant, Phelps, and indeed, any of the high school shooters of the past few decades, is that he was not “white”.
Much has been said about white privilege recently, especially in the wake of the killings of black youths in the US whose only crime was that it could not be exhaustively proven that they weren't about to pull a gun. White privilege, it seems, can involve being able to behave normally, rather than erring on the side of proving one's unthreateningness, or avoiding situations where a jury might rule that Whitey could have reasonably considered one to have been a clear and present danger. And now, it seems, it can also involve being judged on one's individual circumstances, rather than as an exemplar of a homogeneous, pathological Other, should one flip out and kill some people.
One can imagine how this would have been reported had someone from a white, Anglo-Celtic background been the perpetrator: a bingo-card of adverse circumstances (“broken home”, “failed marriage“, perhaps substance abuse and several possible types of mental illness); in and out of trouble with the law, the antihero turns to religion in an attempt to get his shit together, going from church to megachurch, but finding them all to be shallow phonies and leaving them behind, treading his own lonely, uncompromising, and increasingly narrow path. Then, one day, he snaps, and—surprise, surprise—nobody blames Hillsong.
The hostage taker was clearly an unstable individual. He was also an unstable individual from an Islamic cultural background, and his pathology was coloured by Islam, by the currents of extremism on the fringe of Islam and the perception of the Islamic Jihadist as the bête noire of our age. However, it looks like that was all he was; there seems to be no evidence of him having been part of a larger terrorist conspiracy, or even having had much of a plan. Some are referring to him as “self-radicalised”, which is another word only used for the scary Other; one is less likely to see this word attached to, say, the failed pick-up artist in California who decided to shoot some women to avenge having been repeatedly rejected, despite the fact that, in both cases, we are witnessing a similar phenomenon: toxic resentment buttressed by ideology. It's just that, in one case, the ideology is not from here.
Fortunately, with the exception of Murdoch's Daily Telegraph screaming terrorism, Australia has mostly kept its head on. Mindful of the posibility of a Cronulla-style backlash against conspicuously Muslim-looking bystanders, offered their solidarity on Twitter, with the #illridewithyou hashtag soon trending worldwide. Meanwhile, civic leaders have rejected the Murdochs' claim that everything had changed forever, framing the siege as an isolated incident. One does wonder how long this will hold; whether this will be used as justification to pass a new tranche of sweeping police powers or restrictions on civil liberties. (The government's planned mandatory data retention regime is coming up for debate soon, and could be rubber-stamped through parliament, even though it would have had no effect on this case, with the perpetrator having been very well known to police.)
The (Melbourne) Age has a piece looking at the history of the long-running rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney (which is sort of like Australia's equivalent of the rivalry between Edinburgh and Glasgow), and the layers of values attached to those two points on the map by generations of their advocates and detractors:
Some contend that it is based on the foundation stories of the capitals. Sydney was set up as an open-air jail in 1788, whereas Melbourne was founded in 1835 by independent settlers seeking new farmland.
By the 1880s, writer Marcus Clarke sought to share the spoils by pointing out that Sydney would probably evolve as “the fashionable and luxurious capital”, while Melbourne would become the intellectual and cultural capital.The article discusses the usual stereotypes (Sydney: glamorous if ditzy, with breathtaking harbour views; Melbourne: Europeanised, full of pretentious people who read a lot and watch art-house films), debunks a few others (Sydney apparently gets twice as much rain as Melbourne, though, of course, being Sydneysiders, they take theirs in spectacular thunderstorms) and states that the coffee is better in Melbourne. That may well be so (it's hard to go past Atomica or Jasper), though the last time I was in Sydney, they had excellent coffee there as well. (If I recall correctly, Campos in Newtown is pretty good.)
The Australian federal government has published its phase 1 report (which may be found here) on possible routes for a high-speed rail line in the eastern states, connecting Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane. The report evaluates several possible corridors joining the cities, as well as the locations of stations, taking into account growth predictions, construction costs, challenging or environmentally sensitive terrain and proximity to facilities such as universities, hospitals and tourist areas and came up with a (somewhat broadly drafted) potential route, or rather a short-list of route segments.
The route will go up from Melbourne along a path similar to the existing Countrylink line and the Hume Highway, passing through Albury, Wagga Wagga, Canberra. From Canberra, it will either follow the Hume Highway or diverge via Wollongong and the coast, on its way to Sydney. From Sydney, the line will follow a fairly straight line to Newcastle, whence it will go either along the coast or slightly inland, with a recommended route taking in the Gold Coast on the way to Brisbane. The journey will take one hour between Sydney and Canberra, 1:50 between Canberra and Melbourne, and 3 hours between Sydney and Brisbane. Journeys are expected to cost between AUD99 and AUD197 for Melbourne-Sydney (in 2011 dollars) or slightly less for Sydney-Brisbane.
As far as stations go, some likely sites have been identified. In Sydney, the obvious one is Central, though pressure from wealthy NIMBYs in the northern suburbs may necessitate moving the terminus to Parramatta (which, despite being talked up as "Sydney's second CBD", would negate some of the advantage that high-speed rail has over air travel, i.e., directly connecting city centres). In Melbourne, the trains would either terminate at Southern Cross or at a new terminus in North Melbourne, with Southern Cross looking better. In Brisbane, the likely terminus is Roma St., whereas in Canberra, there is likely to be a through station, either in the centre or by the airport. For what it's worth, the report assumes that the system would be built to European specifications, and consist of trains running at 350km/h on lines capable of a theoretical maximum of 400km/h.
For what it's worth, there is a history of Australian high-speed rail proposals here. So far, no true high-speed services have been built in Australia, though systems linking the eastern capitals have been proposed in the past. The current proposal was commissioned by the Labor minority government, under pressure from their Green coalition partners, though now has nominally bipartisan support.
Sydney's status as one of the world's most liveable cities has recently been threatened by spiralling rents and property prices. In an attempt to turn this about, the New South Wales government has announced that it will pay Sydneysiders to leave, with eligible residents standing to get AU$7,000 to move to the countryside:
The one-off grants to move to country areas will be payable to individuals or families provided they sell their Sydney home and buy one in the country. The country home must be worth less than $600,000 (£390,000), something that won't be hard in most rural areas. It will cost the taxpayer up to $47m (£30m) a year.
As much as boosting regional areas, the scheme is also about making Sydney more liveable. The city's population is 4.5m and predicted to grow by 40% over the next 30 years, putting unprecedented pressure on infrastructure and housing.The government reportedly considered increasing the building density in Sydney to something approaching European levels for almost five minutes, before it was pointed out that doing so would be fundamentally un-Australian, and would violate Australians' rights to a house on a quarter-acre block with a two-car garage, which, much like Americans' right to bear arms, is sacrosanct and not negotiable.
It's not clear whether Melbourne (which is about as expensive as Sydney these days, making up for its lack of a spectacular harbour with a thousand funky laneway bars) will follow this lead and offer people money to move to Geelong or Moe or somewhere.
A few quick links to things recently seen:
- A visual study guide to cognitive biases
- Sydney is considering closing George St. to traffic, building a light rail (pronounced "tram") line. Interestingly enough, this plan, like Melbourne's original laneway-driven regeneration and "Copenhagen lanes", was suggested by a Danish urban-planning consultant.
- Google have developed facial recognition technology, capable of identifying individuals in photographs. Given the privacy implications (that plus Google Goggles would be the ultimate stalker tool), they're wisely being very careful about what, if anything, they do with it.
- Spoonflower is a web-based company that will print your designs onto fabric and send it to you. Now if only we could get them talking to Blank Label (a web-based service that lets you design custom shirts, though currently only from a somewhat conservative range of fabrics), then that would be awesome.
- Some music videos: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Higher Than The Stars (warning: features furries), Rainbow Arabia, Holiday In Congo (warning: not actually filmed in Congo but Brazil; features massed Michael Jackson impersonators)
- Nifty trompe l'oeil paste-up on the sides of a fence in Berlin:
The NSW president of the Australian Hotels Association has some choice words to say about the differences between Melbourne and Sydney:
"Melbourne is Melbourne. Sydney has a different outlook," said Mr Thorpe, a fierce critic of the City of Sydney's plans to make it easier for hole-in-the-wall bars to gain permission for extended trading. "We aren't barbarians, but we don't want to sit in a hole and drink chardonnay and read a book."
"People can sit down, talk about history, chew the fat and gaze into each others eyes and all this sort of baloney but it's pie in the sky stuff," he said. "That's not what Sydney wants."
Sydneysiders - fit, outdoorsy types who enjoy the fresh air - are more likely to want alfresco drinking, dining and dancing, he says.
"There's a lot more entertainment than sitting there chatting. I think our culture is a little different than Melbourne because they haven't got this magnificent harbour and the Opera House. No wonder they want to sit in a hole in the wall," he said.
The Age has an article about how, thanks to some two decades of thoughtful urban planning, Melbourne has advanced ahead of Sydney in terms of creative culture:
Melburnians had gained more public open space and access to waterfront lost for decades and, since 1991, thousands had been to encouraged to live in the "central activities district", creating demand for bars, restaurants and footpath cafes. Melbourne's laneways had been protected through height regulations and, between 1983 and 2004, active arcade frontage had increased from 300 metres to 3 kilometres, Adams said. And only bluestone paving is now allowed in the city.
The City of Melbourne had also invested in public art to improve the public domain, determined by an independent artists' panel.
The Sydney envy at hearing of Melbourne's leadership in city planning, architecture and art spilled into newsprint. Sydney University adjunct associate professor of architecture Elizabeth Farrelly lamented Sydney's developers had erased a plethora of laneways and back streets with skyscrapers, while much of Sydney's character had been "Botoxed away".
Farrelly declared that the biggest difference between the two cities is Sydney's "sheer cultural timidity - from fashion to cafes and from public art to architecture - compared with Melbourne's cultural courage".A big part of the difference is in affordability, with Sydney's property prices, cost of living (Sydney is the fifth most "severely unaffordable" city in the affluent English-speaking countries, while Melbourne is the 23rd) and hypercompetitive, status-obsessed culture choking local creativity, putting pressure on artists to get a real job to keep up or otherwise leave for somewhere less sharky.
Of course, affluenza is hitting Melbourne as well; property prices are skyrocketing, and the young creative people who filled up the inner cities are being displaced further and further out, making room for moneyed yuppies with a taste for boutique lifestyles. Perhaps one of these days we will find that Springvale or Sunshine has become Melbourne's Neukölln, sufficiently populated with thrifty creatives and bohemians to have a vibrant local culture but insufficiently "funkified" (in the words of estate agents) to have attracted the yuppies?
British psychologist Oliver James (the author of Affluenza, a critique of the effects of materialism and consumerism on happiness) travelled to Australia for research, and found that Sydney was particularly badly affected by soul-deadening hypercompetitive materialism:
Adelaide and Melbourne had a "different vibe" and did not strike James as being as materialistic as Sydney. He had not been to Sydney before and expected a "philistine nation" of "jolly, uncomplicated fun-seekers". Instead, he found a city in thrall to American values and a puritan work ethic that robbed life of joy and meaning. Middle-class Sydney, he writes, is "packed with career-obsessed workaholics". When they are not working the longest hours in the developed world, they pursue perfect bodies through joyless fitness regimes, or obsess about property prices. Always, they are looking around anxiously, in the hope that others aren't doing better than them.
"They (Sydneysiders) were like the tin man from the Wizard of Oz. They had no idea of the point of their lives, other than to get rich." James noted Bureau of Statistics figures highlighting a rise in depression that coincided with a bullish property market, which caused stress and anxiety -- particularly among young Australians.You'd think that, being from Britain, he wouldn't be one to talk; after all, if any place is soullessly materialistic and aggressively hypercompetitive, it would be London, right? Well, not quite, according to James; Britain's class system, you see, insulates it from the excesses of affluenza that grip America and Sydney:
"The British, compared to the US or Aussies, are less easily convinced that money will get you further. The British elite have been around for an awfully long time and there is not the crassness of the Australian rich."
Apparently they're upgrading the Melbourne-Sydney XPT passenger rail service. I hadn't heard much about it for a while; I heard a rumour that it was to be scrapped because everybody was choosing, instead, to fly for half the price and 1/5 or so of the time. The last time I caught it (in December 2003), I recall that there were quite a few empty seats, and most of the patrons were elderly people, rural commuters and one rather drunk bikie.
The Victorian and NSW governments are investing A$35M into the XPT, which apparently buys a new lick of paint, new furnishing for all carriages, and better refreshment and toilet facilities. (And, given that there's nothing in the news report about it shaving a minute off the 11 or so hours that a one-way journey takes, that's probably a good thing.) I suspect that the upgrade won't include power points in seats/tables (as, say, Virgin Trains in the UK have), as pensioners and bikies in rural Australia generally don't carry laptops.
Anyway, it's good to hear that the XPT is not only still kicking around but actively being invested in. When the oil crunch comes and the cheap flights dry up, it'll undoubtedly come in handy.
The Age has an article on the difference between the Melbourne and Sydney live music scenes, and, in particular, on why Sydney lags behind Melbourne:
For Sydney, still, is a big international city which can host an extravagant Olympic Games and have massive designs on itself but can't yet sustain its own rock'n'roll culture. It's a scene strangled by bureaucratic red tape; rules and regulations have suffocated what once stood for rebellion. In the ultimate of ironies, a building which was once a classic old Sydney venue called the Stage Door Tavern, in the heart of the CBD, which hosted riotous gigs by the likes of Midnight Oil, is now the NSW Licensing Court - the very body which administers the deathly red tape.
The Camels have had airplay on Triple J, and on local station FBI (Free Broadcast Inc), which now has a permanent licence but is still only emerging. However, this doesn't add up to a skerrick of the favours they would have found at Melbourne's Triple R and 3PBS. In fact, Holt says the fact they've had four Triple J hits means nothing when they get to Melbourne because Melbourne doesn't need to listen to Triple J. And, in Melbourne, they would have played many, many more gigs here in their six years, to people more used to - and therefore more in tune with - live music.A lot of Sydney's live music malaise dates back to when their local radio station, 2JJ, was ripped out of the local community and remade into a deracinated national "yoof" station, depriving the local scene of one of its means of promoting gigs and venues. Though the influx of poker machines (the cane toads of live music) in the early 1990s and fact that local licensing laws are weighted heavily in favour of moneyed residents don't help either.
"Obviously Melbourne is the music capital," says Jamie Holt, "the music capital of Australia, one of the capitals of the world. The strength lies in size, as in the number of venues and all the different types of music that get played down there.
Tim Holt agrees: "Yeah," he says. "Positives and negatives. Like, Melbourne seems to breed genre-based bands just because there's so many of them. There's so many little cliques and genres, whereas up here in Sydney the bands tend to be cross-genre, I guess because we have to appeal to a wider crowd. Plus there's this real small section of the Melbourne scene that is really vocal about why Melbourne is better. You don't see that here. It's quite funny."
Midnight comes. Where to from here? There's one place nearby, Spectrum on Oxford Street, an open-late bar with good music. But that's about it round these parts, except for dance music clubs, which is not a viable option in rock.Though, in this age of fashion-punk, hasn't garage rock become the new house music for the beautiful people? Surely the Oxford St. clubs would let rock bands play, assuming, of course, they had a good stylist.
Interracial violence erupts on a Sydney beach, as a standoff between Lebanese "gangstas" and Anglo-Australian surfers escalates, with the Anglos joined by Waltzing Matilda-singing neo-Nazis, who in turn end up beating up anybody non-Anglo-looking. Apparently the trouble had been brewing for a long time, and escalated when some Lebanese gang members went on a rampage at Cronulla, the surfer gang called for "patriots" to reinforce them, by when the bampots took charge. It turns out that far-right racial-nationalist groups modelled on the British National Party took an active role in organising the riots, and while the Prime Minister has condemned the violence, one of his media allies, right-wing talk radio host Alan Jones boasts of having led the charge, by reading out text messages calling "Aussies" to "support the Leb and wog bashing day". And, of course, Australia's answer to Little Green Footballs is providing another rallying point for the "Aussie" nationalists.
And yes, that did say text messages. Apparently both sides called in the cavalry through a tree of text messages. Sydney's ultra-violent Lebanese gangs (who, it must be said, are not representative of the mainstream of the Lebanese community) are said to mobilise quickly through mobile phones (actually, weren't some of the notorious Sydney gang rapes from a few years ago, also said to be committed by the gang members, organised spontaneously by mobile phone?).
And it would be folly to airbrush away the reality that what started the Cronulla tensions was yet another provocation by the aggressive, repugnant Lebanese gangsta culture - itself an alien subculture within the Lebanese community - which has given Sydney dozens of shootings and murders, a spate of gang rapes, hundreds of sexual assaults, and thousands of deliberate racist provocations at Darling Harbour, the eastern and southern beaches and some of the big clubs in western Sydney, along with Canterbury Bulldogs rugby league matches.
At its worst, this culture had overtones of civil war, as the Kanaan gang sprayed the Lakemba police station with gunfire. One of those who took part in this attack was Saleh Jamal, now in jail in Lebanon on weapons charges. He has turned to Islamic fundamentalism and wanted to explode a terrorist bomb in Sydney before he fled the country.Now, the surfers and right-wing bovver boys seem to have also adopted this tactic, and used it as an excuse to beat up anyone they see as "un-Australian". So now we are seeing an age of flash mob rule. We live in interesting times.
There are more reports of the violence here:
I saw a group of three well-dressed 40-ish women drinking Breezers standing atop a retaining wall chanting at the police. I saw a group of four teenage girls (typical tanned 'Northies' Shire-girls -- long hair, short skirts and massive sunglasses) being interviewed by ABC radio with 'Multiculturalism Doesn't Work' stickers on their backs. I saw a fifty-year-old man wearing an 'Osama Don't Surf' t-shirt. I've never seen that many people in Cronulla before.
It wasn't too long before a rumour started spreading that a train full of Lebs was on its way to Cronulla (it was like an insane game of Chinese Whispers, there were stories going through the crowd that Tom Ugly's and Captain Cook Bridge had been closed, that the Bra Boys had arrived and that the kiosk at North Cronulla was under siege because it was owned by Wogs), so everyone was off to the station, via Cronulla Mall.
But many locals were involved, and for the most part loving every minute of it. There were plenty of units and apartments decked out in Aussie flags with parties overflowing into the streets, proud to be a part of what was just a disgusting day. How so many people could be getting pleasure from this was just impossible to comprehend. It was part machismo bullsh*t and part mob-mentality but it was mainly just ugly racism. It no longer had anything at all to do with two lifeguards getting beaten up last weekend, it was all just hatred towards a group of people who weren't even there.A family-friendly festival of nationalism and hatred. Perhaps next time they can book Prussian Blue to play on a stage?
Sunday Photo Feature #03: decoration on traffic-light control boxes in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, 2003:
Today I had occasion to catch a tram from Glebe to Central Station. One thing I noticed about Sydney's trams (all one line that they have there, much like Manchester or LA or someplace) was that they have TV screens installed on board, with sound, which play some sort of "entertainment programming", consisting of ads and extreme-sports segments. Which looks like the sort of thing that giant TV screen in Bourke St. shows.
Mind you, the trams there do have air conditioning you can actually feel, as opposed to the pitifully weak effort on Melbourne's trams/trains (presumably adjusted down to the bare minimum to cut the privatised operators' electricity costs). Perhaps that's what the ad revenue pays for?
Sydney's buses also have video screens, which today were displaying Fun Facts About Christmas (i.e., about reindeer and Christmas trees and such, not about Jesus Christ or Mithras or the like). Not sure what the point of those is; perhaps they'll gradually sneak in ads?
(Yes, I'm in Sydney right now; I'm typing this from Peter's house. I've been on the road since Sunday, hence the recent sparsity of blogging.)
Thieves steal computers from Sydney Airport intelligence centre. The men, who were described as being "of Middle Eastern appearance", masqueraded as technicians before wheeling servers holding "thousands of sensitive files" out of the top-security machine room, in what appears to have been a carefully planned operation. Terrorists, or just ordinary crims?
Sydney's public radio landscape is looking like a bit less of a wasteland, now that FBi Radio, a new community FM station along the lines of PBS/RRR, has opened. The initial programming looks quite promising; Peter Hollo has a programme on Sunday nights, playing glitchy laptop electronica and such, and Leigh of Traffic Sounds has an indie programme on Monday nights. There's also something called The Discordian Hour, but it appears to be a drugmusic mix of some sort, and not an Hour of Slack-style bulldada programme.
Two English teenagers thought they were going on a holiday to Australia -- only to discover that they were in Canada. They suspected that the aircraft was too small, and discovered where they really were uon seeing a sign reading "welcome to Sydney, Canada". The mistake was believed to be the fault of the travel agent.
The Sydney Morning Herald was giving away DVDs of the Tropfest competitors, with a coupon in today's edition. Unfortunately, the offer was open only to residents of NSW and ACT. AFAIK, there is no way for Melburnians to get a copy, short of bribing someone in Sydney; even though a Victorian filmmaker looks likely to win the grand prize.
A new crime wave is sweeping through affluent parts of Sydney; ultra-wealthy socialites are mutilating and poisoning trees in order to ensure uninterrupted views of the harbour from their palatial residences. The offenders are unconcerned about being caught, as the maximum fines are dwarfed by increases in property values thus gained, thus making illegal tree-poisoning a sensible investment.
Am I glad I don't live in Sydney: Meanwhile, civil liberties have been suspended, as Sydney is turned into Disneyland for the Olympics, replete with totalitarian restrictions designed to maximise the sponsors' profits. (Or so these lefties are saying anyway; though in this case I'd probably believe them.)
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has the power to disqualify athletes who "promote a political or religious message" and requires them to sign an agreement prohibiting them from "recording their thoughts" of their Games experiences, which according to the IOC would amount to "an athlete acting as a journalist." The rule, which covers athletes' personal web sites, is an attempt to ensure that athletes do not scoop official broadcasters. Any breach will constitute grounds for expulsion from the event.
It is illegal for residents living within a five-kilometre radius of an Olympic venue to allow cars to be parked on their property, with any breach punishable by a $15,000 fine. Parking in Olympic-designated zones incurs a $348 fine, five times the current penalty, and those attempting to travel in special Olympic traffic lanes on Sydney roads will be fined $2,200.
(Somewhat reminiscent of the special lanes on Soviet motorways that were reserved for Communist Party apparatchiks.)
Welfare workers have complained that treatment of the homeless by security guards "borders on harassment". The guards, however, are taking their lead from the state government, which has offered the homeless a "choice" of staying in an overcrowded city hostel or being transported to a tent encampment in one of Sydney's outer suburbs
(Brazilian-style shanty towns, here we come; perhaps we should borrow more of the Brazilian solution and just cull the homeless like feral kangaroos?)
Sydney now has a new railway line to its airport -- an idea whose time has come? (Though not seemingly in public-transport-deficient Melbourne.)