Escaping the net . The federal lobbyists register is now in operation with 141 entities having presented their credentials to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Noticeable by their absence are the legal and accountancy firms but that does not mean that they have stopped knocking on government doors making representations on behalf of clients. The definition of those engaged in lobbying who need to register has a get out clause for the so-called professions whose members do not need to register if they “make occasional representations to Government on behalf of others in a way that is incidental to the provision to them of their professional or other services.”

A similar exemption was used by the lawyers and accountants under the old registration scheme introduced by the Hawke Labor Government back in the 1980s so nothing has changed but it does make a mockery of this Labor Government’s claim to have introduced a system where “the Lobbying Code of Conduct is intended to promote trust in the integrity of government processes and ensure that contact between lobbyists and Government representatives is conducted in accordance with public expectations of transparency, integrity and honesty.” If a company wants to keep it generally quiet that it is making representations in Canberra then using an accountancy or law firm is the way to go. The Special Minister of State Senator John Faulkner did amend his initial proposal so that registration of a professional would be required “if a significant or regular part of the services offered by a person employed or engaged by a firm of lawyers, doctors, accountants or other service providers involves lobbying activities on behalf of clients of that firm.” No one, it seems, is in that category which is somewhat surprising.

A little bit of panic . There are some signs that the American Republican Party is getting a little concerned about the campaign of its candidate for president Senator John McCain with the news that his campaign team has gone through its second shake-up in a year. Now in charge is Steve Schmidt, who worked closely with Karl Rove on George W. Bush’s 2004 effort. That there are grounds for Republican concern is indicated by the current state of the opinion polls:

With only four months to go a lead of more than five percentage points is substantial. The best guess of the Real Clear Politics site is that the Democrat Barack Obama has 238 electoral college votes to McCain’s 163 with 137 being in the “toss up” category. The best guess after distributing the “toss ups” is a comfortable Obama victory with 304 electoral college votes to 234. Your friendly Australian bookmakers Centrebet and Sportingbet currently have Obama paying $1.50 for $1. I’m about to take the price.

Secret of the magic mushroom. Get ready for a burst of outrage at the audacity of the Journal of Psychopharmacology for publishing the research findings of a team of John Hopkins University scientists that feelings of well-being and life satisfaction brought on by the hallucinogen psilocybin, found in “magic” mushrooms, can last for months, The American researchers found that the majority of 36 volunteers who took psilocybin in controlled conditions continued to feel the beneficial effects for more than a year afterwards.

“Most of the volunteers looked back on their experience up to 14 months later and rated it as the most, or one of the five most, personally meaningful and spiritually significant of their lives,” said Roland Griffiths, a professor in the department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences and Neuroscience. The professor said the results gave credence to claims that the mystical-type experiences some people had during hallucinogen sessions may help patients suffering from cancer-related anxiety or depression.

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