Cairo, Cairns and … Ian Thorpe:

Sam Richardson writes: Re. “Egypt protests: bread, freedom and dignity the aim” (yesterday, item 2). It’s interesting to contrast how the Australian media treats crises in Australia and overseas.  Compare Cairns to Cairo.

In Queensland, the government can do no wrong, and Anna Bligh has virtually become a saint.  The media seek out good-news stories, and any problems highlighted are coupled with an explanation of how hard it is to get things done in a crisis.  The focus is on the difficulties everyone is facing.

In Egypt, the government can do no right.  The media actively seek Aussies who aren’t happy with the DFAT response.  The planes aren’t quick enough, the Embassy hasn’t called them personally to tell them what to do (the phone system has crashed, and it’s pretty obvious they should just get out by whatever means possible), the Embassy isn’t providing a taxi service to pick them up from their hotel, the Embassy is suggesting in the first instance they try to use *shock* commercial means to fly out of the country.

Even when DFAT arranges charter planes to come into rescue Australians who want to get out, the media latch on to the fact that the flight wasn’t full and criticises the government as earlier reports indicated there were enough people to fill the plane.

There is no recognition by the media of the difficulties faced by the response team, such as the very limited Australian government resources in the region, and that any boost requires people to fly half way around the world.  The infrastructure in countries like Egypt is nowhere near as good as it is in Australia, and the local government is obviously not focussed on the protection of foreigners.

At the same time, DFAT’s budget continues to be cut after historically being underfunded in comparison to other government departments and the quickest and easiest way to save money is to cut positions overseas, which limits the capacity of embassies to respond.

While some of the above criticisms of DFAT’s response may be valid, it is interesting that such attitudes are rarely given media space during domestic crises, but are standard for overseas crises.

This media stance not unique to the current crisis in Egypt; the Australian media has taken the same attitude for every major overseas incident in the last decade – Bali bombings, 11 September attacks, Hurricane Katrina, Lebanon, Mumbai just to name a few.

Having worked on the front line in some of these crises, it is very disheartening that the long hours and high-pressure work undertaken in very difficult circumstances by those behind the scenes is not recognised and is continually undermined by the media.

A bit of balance between the two extremes of media reporting would be welcome.

Terry Towelling writes: Re. “iPhones in hand, they rushed to the scene of Yasi devastation” (yesterday, item 3). Fair cop…. While ABC TV News coverage was probably guilty as charged, radio certainly made up for it.

I would go so far as to suggest its blanket coverage and role as Go-To emergency broadcaster probably saved lives and was a literal and metaphorical lifeline to many people cut off from the world in the height of the cyclone.

As a Brisbane cricket fan, I was guiltily hoping to listen to the Aussie’s record run-chase, but instead sat transfixed at Auntie’s cyclone coverage of an event nearly 2000 kms away, yet in my home state. Where else but Australia.

More power to Aunty — and more resources while you’re at it.

Charles Richardson writes: Niall Clugston (Wednesday, comments) raises the interesting question of what counts as a “revolution”.

I don’t claim it has to result in anything like a liberal democracy, so I’m willing to include 1958-59 in Cuba,

but it has to at least involve a large-scale popular movement that results in an abrupt change of regime.

By contrast, 1940s China and 1950s Vietnam were much more drawn-out, being a civil war and a war of national liberation respectively — interesting and important, but different phenomena I think from a revolution.

John Richardson writes: Re. “Thorpe comeback: a Jordan-esque success or Schumacher-like failure?” (yesterday, item 15). Perhaps it’s just me, but Ian Thorpe seemed very fragile, lonely and uncertain as he dealt with the media pack on Wednesday; at times offering a decidedly young and immature countenance.

We shouldn’t forget that Thorpe is a young man who has been focused on a single endeavour for more than half of his short life. I for one found myself wondering if his motivation in attempting to return to the scene of his only success is driven by the fact that his life outside swimming has proved to be relatively meaningless.

Whilst I hope I’m wrong, perhaps Thorpe is really a victim of his past success and we have just witnessed the opening scenes of a great tragedy?

Peter Scruby writes: Three separate articles on Ian Thorpe in one Crikey newsletter … Fail.

National Heart Foundation:

Dr Lyn Roberts, National CEO – National Heart Foundation of Australia, writes: Re. “The sugar bomb is ticking away dangerously” (Wednesday, item 16).In Wednesday’s Crikey, David Gillespie repeated his criticisms of the Heart Foundation. We’ve responded to these previously, and it’s clear we’re not going to agree.

However, it’s important to know that breakfast cereals earn Heart Foundation Tick approval because they meet the Tick’s strict nutrition standards limiting saturated and trans fat, kilojoules, sodium  and encourage fibre and/or and contain at least 50% wholegrains.

The Tick is only available to companies who have passed independent testing to prove they can meet our strict standard.  It is incorrect to claim that the Tick can be handed out for a fee. The Heart Foundation is a charity and the Tick is a not-for profit program of the Heart Foundation.

We’re determined to do all we can to reduce death and disability caused by heart disease — and to do this we must improve the everyday food eaten by Australians. Reducing sugar alone is good — but reducing total energy consumption is essential.

News Ltd’s The Daily:

Janice Knight writes: Re. “Media briefs: countdown to terror … Nine on Ten … first look at The Daily ..”  (yesterday, item 18). I wonder how many iPad owners are like me. I live in Adelaide, where the newspapers are both Murdoch mouthpieces, with News Limited’s usual capacity to ignore news and push the Murdoch barrow.

I use my iPad (and the internet) to subscribe to magazines and newspapers which give me a more balanced view.  I would chew off my right arm rather than contribute one dollar to the Murdoch coffers and the Murdoch world view.

Kilojoules and calories:

Rosemary Stanton writes: John Band (yesterday, comments) pulls me up on my preference for Calories over kilojoules. Years ago, like most people with degrees in science, I supported Australia’s move to SI units. Sadly, for the average person, the switch to kilojoules has led to a loss of any relationship with the energy content of foods and drinks.

Those who could once add up their approximate daily intake using Calories can’t do the same with the much larger numbers of kilojoules. I see this as a problem.

Peter Fray

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