A cruel cut? The BBC World Service is not your standard shock-jock radio forum but it sounded a bit like one overnight when prominence was given to a report by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) into the castration of male s-x offenders in the Czech Republic. After the Slovenian chairman of the Committee calmly announced his committee’s finding that surgical castration is a mutilating, irreversible intervention that amounted to “degrading treatment” and called for its abolition, it was time for a little vox pop.

When the citizens from European streets were given a chance to air their views it was a very different opinion. Let it be said that while the CPT is against surgical castration of detained s-x-offenders by testicular pulpectomy with the intervention involving the removal of parts of the core of the testes to reduce the testosterone level in order to diminish the sexual urges of the offender, the mob clearly seem to favour it. You will find a summary of the BBC report here and the full report here. I will be interested to see whether Crikey readers have a different view on this subject to BBC listeners.

An Oscars update. The campaign of the Slumdog knockers is not denting the view of the market that it will end up winning the Academy Award for Best Picture. The tale of the Mumbai slums is still clearly favoured on the Crikey Election Indicator and its director Danny Boyle is favourite as well to pick up the Best Director Oscar. Where the film does not feature is in the contests for actors and actresses which, with the exception of Heath Ledger’s clear favouritism for the best supporting actor award, are much more open affairs.

Too good not to plagiarise. That witty and erudite commentator on legal matters Richard Ackland (I’m buttering him up as payment for knocking off his story) in his SMH column this morning quoted NSW Chief Justice, James Spigelman, at a speech on Monday night to mark the opening of the new law term, reflecting on what he saw as some of the consequences for lawyers of a rapidly downward sloping economy.

As he put it: “The salience of commercial values in discourse about legal practice, which threatened to overwhelm all other values, is now in secular retreat.” In other words, the idea of recent memory of lawyers trying to reinvent themselves as merchant banks “would not be high on anyone’s agenda”. Spigelman recalled the time when he acted for the companies regulator against Laurie Connell, who ran Rothwells “bank”. In evidence was a tombstone newspaper advertisement from the bank that read: “Rothwells Limited — one day all merchant banks will be like ours”. Spigelman added: “And so it proved.”

Not too bad yet for tourism. I am sure that the tourist industry lobbyists are in there with the best of them at the moment putting forward the case for a great big bundle of money from the public purse to help them out from horrors caused by the world financial crisis, but figures out this morning from the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggests that things are not yet really at crisis point. Reviewing short term visitor arrivals the Statistician argues that trend estimates provide the best method to analyse the underlying direction of international tourism and that since December 1987 the trend series has mainly recorded long-term growth. While the current Global Financial Crisis has seen the series decline from April 2008 the decline faltered in December 2008. In terms of monthly percentage change, reports the ABS, this recent fall in the series is not as great as previous declines experienced in the series (e.g. the Pilot’s Strike in late 1988, the Asian Financial Crisis commencing in 1997 and the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States of America).

Peter Fray

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