Keep Parliament to a minimum. It is noticeable just how little media coverage the federal opposition has been getting during the current parliamentary recess. Even outrageous statements such as conscripting the young to work in Western Australia’s mines have barely been getting a run. Kevin Rudd will be well served if he keeps sittings of the House of Representatives to an absolute minimum before he calls an election for the first Saturday in July.

Abbott and no dole for the under 30s. As for Tony Abbott’s comments on the dole, all I can say is that it is hardly the way for the Liberals to get back the youth vote! He should be thankful they received so little publicity.

A gentle slowing. Motor vehicle sales figures out this morning from the Australian Bureau of Statistics again show just how important the stimulus measures were to saving Australia from the worst impact of the global financial crisis. While the March 2010 seasonally adjusted estimate for total sales of new motor vehicles (83,245) decreased by 2.7% when compared to February 2010, the sales increased by 19.2% when compared to the March 2009 estimate.

22-04-2010 newmotorvehiclesales

Political quote of the day: The conventions of he-said-she-said reporting, among other things, make it surprisingly easy to get away with even the most obvious hypocrisy. — Paul Krugman, New York Times blog

Climate pledges fall short. Current national emissions targets can’t limit global warming to 2 °C, calculate Joeri Rogelj, Malte Meinshausen and colleagues in an article published overnight in the journal Nature — they might even lock the world into exceeding 3 °C warming. The conclusions of the scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research in Germany is that a rise of at least 3C by 2100 is likely. Nature gives this summary of the article:

Nations will probably meet only the lower ends of their emissions pledges in the absence of a binding international agreement

Nations can bank an estimated 12 gigatonnes of Co2 equivalents surplus allowances for use after 2012

Land-use rules are likely to result in further allowance increases of 0.5 GtCO2-eq per year

Global emissions in 2020 could thus be up to 20% higher than today

Current pledges mean a greater than 50% chance that warming will exceed 3°C by 2100

If nations agree to halve emissions by 2050, there is still a 50% chance that warming will exceed 2°C and will almost certainly exceed 1.5°C

On its website the BBC has this illustration of the probabilities:

22-04-2010 projectedglobaltempertureincrease

Some volcano explanations. The website of The Economist has some interesting insights into Iceland’s volcanoes and the possibility of future disruptions to air traffic.

And why not. If it is OK for governments to provide safe injecting rooms for heroin addicts then it seems logical enough to me that the Sofa bar in the northern city of Kiel, the latest addition to Germany’s social welfare state, is now catering exclusively for unemployed alcoholics.

The experiment, reports Der Spiegel, has been such a success that other cities are now hoping to follow suit.

The Sofa looks like any Eckkneipe, the small corner pubs with a working-class clientele that dot German cities, and about the same amount of alcohol is consumed here. It has roughly 70 regulars, aged from 18 to 70, football pennants hang on the walls, and a TV set above the bar, on the left side, is always on — but usually with the sound turned down. However, there is one critical difference between the Sofa and other bars.

In this bar, some of the costs are covered by taxpayer money from the city treasury. The Sofa is Germany’s first drinking room, a sort of crash smoking room for alcoholics. Most of the people who frequent the place are serious alcoholics and are allowed to bring their own cheap beer and sangria. The bar itself only serves soft drinks and strong coffee. “It’s great,” says Dirk, twisting his tattooed face into a smile, “isn’t it?”

Peter Fray

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