Gloomy and miserable people. I am rather taken by this morning’s best story based on a survey. The Sydney Morning Herald found a report showing trendy inner-city suburbs of Sydney are full of gloomy and miserable people — and they have been that way since before the economic turmoil began. Given that the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index report, compiled by Bob Cummins, professor of psychology at Deakin University, confirms my own prejudices I am happy to give it this plug.

Independent schools keep growing. The growth in the proportion of Australian children attending non-government schools continued in 2008. Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics this morning show that the proportion of full-time students enrolled in the government education system as at August was down to 65.9% from 70.3% back in 1997.

A month is a long time in politics. Just ask Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Back in December his Conservative Party minority government was confronted by an alliance of the Liberal, New Democratic and Block Quebecois parties that united to express no confidence in his government. The Governor General accepted her Prime Minister’s advice to allow Harper to prorogue the Parliament to complete preparation of the Budget with the vote on that to determine his government’s fate. This week the three party opposition alliance fell apart with the Liberals agreeing to pass the budget.

A global warming update. Forget about Adelaide and Melbourne’s heat wave. Who stole New Delhi’s winter?

The mean minimum temperature so far in January of 8.9°C is 1.5 degrees higher than normal for the Indian capital and the mercury fell below 5°C on only two days. Delhi’s minimum temperature was above normal on 20 days out of January’s first 28.

We down here below the equator should be thankful that the southern hemisphere in recent years has not been warming as quickly as up north as the data from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies shows.

Take your pick: an extra 18 million unemployed, 30 million or 51 million. A grim forecast from the International Labor Organisation this week with its calculations showing world unemployment is likely to increase this year somewhere in the range of 18 million to 51 million people. The lower figure, which would take the world’s unemployed total to 6.1% or 198 million, was based on the estimates the International Monetary Fund produced last month for likely economic growth. The second ILO scenario of unemployment rising by 30 million to 210 million is roughly similar to the revised IMF forecast released overnight. The really gloomy third scenario where the number of unemployed reaches 231 million shows what would happen if the worst impact on the unemployment rate since 1991 would repeat itself simultaneously in all developed economies. And note that none of these forecasts of what the world financial crisis is doing to employment includes the billions of people in developing countries that the ILO classifies as the working poor and those in vulnerable employment who are not necessarily part of the world’s cash economy.

Peter Fray

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