Quotulatiousness

September 14, 2014

Australia’s search for new submarines

Filed under: Japan, Military, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:50

A few days ago, news reports indicated that the next generation of submarines for the Royal Australian Navy would be bought from Japan, rather than built in Australia. Kym Bergmann says the reports are probably misleading:

There has been a flurry of public commentary following yesterday’s News Limited claims that Australia is about to enter into a commitment to buy its next generation of submarines from Japan. The local submarine community has been concerned about that possibility for some time, and senior members of the Submarine Institute of Australia have been writing to Defence Minister David Johnston — and others — since January of this year warning against such a decision.

Understanding what’s happening is difficult because the speculation appears based on remarks apparently made by Prime Minister Tony Abbott to his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe about such a course of action. The concerns have been reinforced among some observers by Abbott’s interest in strengthening Australia–Japan–U.S. defense ties — something in turn being driven by the rise of China. Yesterday Prime Minister Abbott did nothing to dampen the speculation, stating that future submarines were about capability, not about local jobs. As an aside, those sorts of comments also serve the PM’s aggressive political style, jabbing a finger into the eye of the current South Australian Labor Government.

However, the chances of the Federal Government making a unilateral decision to sole source a Japanese solution seem low — and if the Prime Minister were to insist on that particular course of action there could be a serious Cabinet and back bench revolt. Not only would such a decision constitute another broken promise — the word “another” would presumably be contested by the PM on the basis that no promises have been broken to date — but it’d almost certainly lead to the loss of Federal seats in South Australia (Hindmarsh for sure, perhaps Boothby and Sturt), as well as generate enormous resentment within institutions no less than the Royal Australian Navy, the Department of Defence, trade unions and a stack of industry associations, amongst others.

Australia is similar to Canada in this regard: military expenditure is almost always seen as regional development/job creation/political vote-buying first and value-for-money or ensuring that the armed forces have the right kit for the task come a very distant second. This means that the RAN, like the RCN, often ends up with fewer hulls sporting lower capabilities for much more money than if they were able to just buy the best equipment for their needs whether overseas or at home. But that doesn’t get the government votes in “key constituencies”, so let the sailors suffer if it means shoring up support in the next federal election…

July 29, 2014

Australia’s bitter experience with carbon mitigation

Filed under: Economics, Environment, Government — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 06:47

Shikha Dalmia looks at Australia’s recently abandoned carbon tax scheme:

Environmentalists had a global meltdown last week after Australia scrapped its carbon tax. They denounced the move as “retrograde” and “environmental vandalism.”

They can fume all they want, but Australia’s action, combined with Europe’s floundering cap-and-trade program, signals that “mitigation” strategies — curbing greenhouse gases by putting economies on an energy diet — are not winning or workable.

Australia leapfrogged from being an environmental laggard (initially refusing to even sign the Kyoto Protocol) to a leader when its Green Party-backed Labor prime minister imposed a tax two years ago. It required Australia’s utilities and industries to pay $23 per ton of greenhouse gas emissions.

But the tax was an instant debacle.

Australia has the highest per capita carbon dioxide emission in the world and the main reason is that it’s even more coal-dependent than America. Coal supplies 75 percent of its energy needs (compared to 42 percent in America). But contrary to green expectations, the tax didn’t prompt companies to rush toward renewable sources, because they are far costlier.

Rather, utilities passed their costs to households — whose energy bills soared by 20 percent in the first year. Other industries that face hyper-competitive environment such as airlines suffered massive losses. (Virgin Australia alone reported $27 million in losses in just six months.) The tax also made Australian exports globally uncompetitive, deepening the country’s recession.

This spawned a backlash that brought down the Labor government and catapulted into office the Liberal Party’s Tony Abbott, who made a “blood promise” to ditch the tax, which he did promptly once elected, despite warnings that Aussie lowlands are more vulnerable to rising sea levels and other dire consequences of global warming than other countries.

June 25, 2014

“The only serious black mark against the NHS was its poor record on keeping people alive”

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, Europe, Government, Health, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:25

Britain’s NHS came in for rave reviews in a recent study that compared healthcare systems in several European countries and the Anglosphere. There was, as John Kay points out, only one minor flaw in the way the measurements were weighted:

“NHS is the world’s best healthcare system” was a headline last week in The Guardian newspaper. However, six paragraphs in, the authors observed: “The only serious black mark against the NHS was its poor record on keeping people alive.” Further investigation was clearly required.

The newspaper was reporting a survey of health provision by the US-based Commonwealth Fund in 11 advanced countries: seven European states, the US and Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The findings use measures of service quality, mainly derived from judgments by patients. The effectiveness of care is judged by the intensity of preventive activity – whether necessary tests are carried out, whether doctors advise on a healthy lifestyle – and the reliability of management of chronic conditions.

The safety of care is judged by the frequency of medical mistakes, and the incidence of hospital-induced infection. Good care is patient-centred and timely, with necessary treatment easily accessible. The survey also reports measures of efficiency, or more often inefficiency – how great is the burden of medical administration, how much unnecessary use is made of emergency services, how reliably test results reach medical professionals.

The UK’s National Health Service is at or close to the top on almost all these indicators, and its health spending per head is the second lowest in the survey. The US system scores badly on everything except preventive care, and US medical costs are off the scale when compared with other countries.

The problem, however, is that when it comes to keeping you alive, the World Health Organisation puts Britain tenth out of 11; only the US is worse. If your objective is to live a healthy life, go to France. Medical outcomes are judged by reference to three measures: avoidable mortality, infant mortality, and healthy life expectancy at age 60. And the NHS does not do well on these metrics.

June 9, 2014

Australia gets sensible about military shipbuilding

Filed under: Economics, Military, Pacific — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:51

Australia has similar military issues to the ones Canada faces, but unlike our own government (who view military spending primarily as the regional economic development variant of crony capitalism), Australia is amenable to economic sense when it comes to building the new support ships for the Royal Australian Navy:

The RAN is about to bring 3 large Hobart Class destroyers into service, but it’s the new LPD HMAS Choules and 2 Canberra Class 27,500t LHD amphibious assault ships that are going to put a real strain on the RAN’s support fleet. Liberal Party defense minister Sen. Johnson didn’t mince words when he announced the competition, early in their governing term:

    “With the large LHD’s [sic] – 28,000 tonnes each – we must have a suitable replenishment ship to supply and support those vessels going forward, the planning for this should have been done a long, long time ago.”

The Australian government is explicit about needing “fuel, aviation fuel, supplies, provisions and munitions on these ships,” and they’ve short-listed 2 main competitors to build the ships outside of Australia:
SPS Cantabria entering Sydney harbour in October 2013
Cantabria Class. The Cantabrias are an enlarged 19,500t version of the Patino Class replenishment ship. Fuel capacity rises to 8,920 m3 ship fuel and 1,585 m3 of JP-5 naval aviation fuel. Throw in 470t of general cargo, 280t of secured ammunition, and 215 m3 of fresh water to round out its wet/dry capabilities. These ships also carry a crew medical center with 10 beds, including operating facilities equipped for telemedicine by videoconference, an X-ray room, dental surgery, sterilization laboratory, and gas containment.

Spain already uses this ship type, and Navantia S.A. is already building the Hobart Class and Canberra Class, giving them a deep relationship with Australian industry and the Navy.

Aegir Class. The government named Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME), who are currently building Britain’s MARS 37,000t oiler/support ships based on BMT’s Aegir design. The concept is scalable, and Australia’s government sized the variant they’ve shortlisted at around 26,000t. BMT’s Aegir 26 design offers up to 19,000 m3 of cargo fuel, and 2-5 replenishment at sea stations for hoses and transfer lines. The design itself is somewhat customizable, so it will be interesting to see what the offer’s final specifications and features are.

Recall that HMAS Sirius was also built in South Korea, albeit in a different dockyard. That isn’t surprising, because South Korea arguably has the world’s best shipbuilding industry. Norway and Britain have each purchased customized versions of the Aegir Class ships.

Both the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy are willing to buy ships from Korea. Why not the Royal Canadian Navy’s next ships? Because the government would rather spend many times more money and get smaller, less capable ships as long as they get to spread the money around to cronies:

They won’t be built in Australia, because the government doesn’t believe that the industrial infrastructure and experience is in place to build 20,000+ tonne ships locally. Britain has made a similar calculation, while Canada provides a cautionary example by building smaller supply ships locally at over 5x Britain’s cost.

H/T to Mark Collins for the link. Mark also posted this back in 2013:

To add insult to injury, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, the civilian-manned support ships for the Royal Navy, are purchasing 4 replenishment vessels under the MARS tanker program to be built in South Korea by Daewoo (arguably the foremost shipbuilder in the world). These ships are slightly larger than the Berlin-class. What is the British government paying for these 4 vessels? £452M or about $686M USD. Not per ship but for all four. The per unit cost is around $170M. If we somehow manage to keep the cost for the JSS at $1.3B per unit, that will still be over 7.5x what the British are paying. If the cost goes up to ~$2B per JSS, we’re looking at almost 12x the cost [though the RCN's JSS is supposed to have some additional capabilities (already much reduced from 2006 to now, and see the very optimistic timeline here) — but how many of them can the government afford?].

June 5, 2014

Living in a post-Snowden world, under the gaze of the Five Eyes

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:12

It’s been a year since the name Edward Snowden became known to the world, and it’s been a bumpy ride since then, as we found out that the tinfoil-hat-wearing anti-government conspiracy theorists were, if anything, under-estimating the actual level of organized, secret government surveillance. At The Register, Duncan Campbell takes us inside the “FIVE-EYED VAMPIRE SQUID of the internet”, the five-way intelligence-sharing partnership of US/UK/Canada/Australia/New Zealand:

One year after The Guardian opened up the trove of top secret American and British documents leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) sysadmin Edward J Snowden, the world of data security and personal information safety has been turned on its head.

Everything about the safety of the internet as a common communication medium has been shown to be broken. As with the banking disasters of 2008, the crisis and damage created — not by Snowden and his helpers, but by the unregulated and unrestrained conduct the leaked documents have exposed — will last for years if not decades.

Compounding the problem is the covert network of subornment and control that agencies and collaborators working with the NSA are now revealed to have created in communications and computer security organisations and companies around the globe.

The NSA’s explicit objective is to weaken the security of the entire physical fabric of the net. One of its declared goals is to “shape the worldwide commercial cryptography market to make it more tractable to advanced cryptanalytic capabilities being developed by the NSA”, according to top secret documents provided by Snowden.

Profiling the global machinations of merchant bank Goldman Sachs in Rolling Stone in 2009, journalist Matt Taibbi famously characterized them as operating “everywhere … a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money”.

The NSA, with its English-speaking “Five Eyes” partners (the relevant agencies of the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada) and a hitherto unknown secret network of corporate and government partners, has been revealed to be a similar creature. The Snowden documents chart communications funnels, taps, probes, “collection systems” and malware “implants” everywhere, jammed into data networks and tapped into cables or onto satellites.

May 2, 2014

Australian Financial Review says the “World is Fukt”

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:09

In my mundane jobs, occasionally filler text is accidentally included in an otherwise ready-to-publish piece of work. Much more rarely, someone on staff uses placeholder headings that are never meant to go beyond their small circle of fellow scribes (sometimes funny, often scatological, risky-but-stress-relieving kind of things). When I was working for [defunct international telecom equipment manufacturer], a fellow writer included the instruction “If you find an error in this document, please dial 1-800-EAT-SHIT” on a cover page. The divisional VP was not amused when that hit his desk.

This is bad when it escapes to the internal audience outside the working group, but it’s much worse when it somehow goes out to the general public:

Australian Financial Review - World is Fukt

The financial newspaper which accidentally published a front-page headline reading “World is Fukt” apologised today to its readers for the error-ridden edition.

The respected Australian Financial Review, in a message from editor-in-chief Michael Stutchbury, said the mistake was due to a production and printing error.

“The Australian Financial Review apologises to Western Australian readers for the obviously unacceptable state of the newspaper’s front page on Thursday,” he said in an apology in Monday’s newspaper.

The accidental front page quickly found fans on Twitter, who approved of the headline which read in full: “Arms buildup – Buys planes, World is Fukt”.

They also enjoyed the fact that the headline for a story about a major budget speech by Treasurer Joe Hockey was empty of meaning, reading “Three lines to come here”.

H/T to my best source in Oz, Roger Henry.

March 31, 2014

Comparing NATO and Russian military spending to 2012

Filed under: Cancon, Europe, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:23

Mark Collins links to this Washington Post graphic showing a comparison of military spending in the top five NATO countries and Russia (counting Soviet spending 1988-1991). Note that the United States and Russia now each spend the same proportion of GDP on their respective military forces:

Click to see full-size graphic

Click to see full-size graphic

For reference, Canada’s military budget doesn’t crack the top 10 in NATO: we spend about US$16.5 billion per year (not even in the top 15). Mark also points out that Australia spends proportionally more than Canada … about 50% more, in fact. But it should also be noted that while Canada and Australia have a lot in common, our defence needs are significantly different: Oz is in a much more dangerous part of the world than Canada, and they don’t share a lengthy border with the world’s biggest military spender. You could probably make a viable case that Australia isn’t spending enough given the rough neighbourhood they’re in.

January 6, 2014

US icebreaker dispatched to assist Chinese icebreaker in Antarctic

Filed under: China, Environment, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:02

AntarcticaThe Australian is reporting that the US Coast Guard’s Polar Star is enroute to assist the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long and the chartered Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy:

The US Coast Guard’s Polar Star accepted a request from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) to help the Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been marooned since Christmas Eve.

It will also aid the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long, which was involved in a dramatic helicopter rescue of the Shokalskiy’s 52 passengers last Thursday before also becoming beset by ice.

AMSA confirmed the Polar Star, which was on its way from Seattle for an Antarctic mission, had diverted course and was on its way to help.

It will take about seven days for the icebreaker, with a crew of 140 people, to reach Commonwealth Bay after collecting supplies from Sydney today.

The AMSA spokeswoman said the Polar Star had greater capabilities than the Russian and Chinese vessels.

“It can break ice over six metres thick, while those vessels can break one-metre ice,” she told AAP on Sunday.

“The idea is to break them out, but they will make a decision once they arrive on scene on the best way to do this.” AMSA will be in regular contact with the US Coast Guard and the captain of the Polar Star during its journey to Antarctica.

Twenty-two crew remain on board the Shokalskiy, which sparked a rescue mission after a blizzard pushed sea ice around the ship and froze it in place on December 24.

A U.S. Coast Guard HH-52A Seaguard helicopter landing on the icebreaker USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10).

A U.S. Coast Guard HH-52A Seaguard helicopter landing on the icebreaker USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10).

January 4, 2014

Antarctic climate researchers still not home-free

Filed under: Environment, Media, Science — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:59

AntarcticaRemember the story about the Australian climate researchers trapped in the Antarctic ice? The good news from a few days back — that all the passengers of the MS Akademik Shokalskiy (including researchers, tourists, and journalists, but not the crew) had been successfully transferred to the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis is now overshadowed because the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long which also responded to the SOS call is now itself also trapped in the ice:

The saga just keeps going. The Chinese Icebreaker is now also stuck, and has asked for help so the Aurora Australis with 52 extra passengers rescued from the Russian Charter boat have to stay nearby to help. Twenty two Russian sailors are still trapped on board the Russian boat — the Akademik Sholaskiy. Plus other scientists in Antarctica still don’t have their equipment. Costs for everyone involved are continuing to rise.

In The Australian, Graham Lloyd‘s paywalled article begins with this:

TAXPAYERS will foot a $400,000 bill for the rescue of a group of climate scientists, tourists and journalists from a stranded Russian research vessel — an operation that has blown the contingency budget of Australia’s Antarctic program and disrupted its scientific work. The Antarctic Division in Hobart said it was revising plans and considering airlifting urgently needed scientific equipment that could not be unloaded from Aurora Australis before the ship was diverted from the Casey base to rescue the novice ice explorers just before Christmas.

The Sydney Morning Herald posted this short video earlier in the week, before the Aurora Australis had gotten close enough to take on the passengers from the Akademik Sholaskiy:

Update: The head of French antarctic research is unhappy with the tourists’ disruption to actual science work:

The head of France’s polar science institute voiced fury on Friday at the misadventures of a Russian ship trapped in Antarctic ice, deriding what he called a tourists’ trip that had diverted resources from real science.

In an interview with AFP, Yves Frenot, director of the French Polar Institute, said he had no issue at all with rescuing those aboard the stricken vessel.

But, he said, the trip itself was a “pseudo-scientific expedition” that, because it had run into difficulties, had drained resources from the French, Chinese and Australian scientific missions in Antarctica. “There’s no reason to place Antarctica off-limits and to keep it just for scientists, but this tourism has to be monitored and regulated so that operators can be sure of getting help if need be,” he said.

January 2, 2014

National reputation rankings for 2013

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Economics, Law — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:37

In Forbes, Susan Adams reports on the most recent reputable countries report:

Which countries have the best reputations? What does that even mean? The Reputation Institute, a global private consulting firm based in New York and Copenhagen, has just released its fourth annual list of 50 countries, ranked according to what it says is people’s trust, admiration, respect and affinity for those countries.

Topping the list for the third year in a row: Canada. Sweden comes in second, one place up from last year and Switzerland is third, up from fourth last year. (Australia slipped from second to fourth place.)

What’s most notable is how far down the U.S. ranks: 22nd place, behind Brazil and just above Peru. Several European countries that continue to battle severe economic turmoil ranked above the U.S. again this year including Italy in 16th place, France in 17th, Spain in 18th and Portugal in 19th place.

One reason the U.S. doesn’t rank higher, says Fernando Prado, a managing partner at the Reputation Institute, is that when asked what was most important to them in gauging a country’s reputation, respondents said it was effective government and appealing environment a bit more than an advanced economy. But the U.S. has been steadily gaining in each of those three categories, says Prado, which explains why it moved up one place from 23rd last year. Prado adds that the U.S. is burdened by what he calls “a negative emotional halo” that has to do with being a world superpower. Outside the U.S., people have mixed feelings about its dominant role in the world.

December 15, 2013

QotD: Choosing a capital city, Australian style

Filed under: History, Humour, Politics, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 09:22

Australia [...] set up a special city just for the national capital. Keep them all in one place, it avoids spreading the contamination.

Partly that’s due to our settlement pattern. Mostly, each state capital is the oldest city in that state, the first point of European settlement. It’s also the largest city in the state (and, to be horribly honest, most other ‘cities’ in each state are really ‘regional centres’, the state capital is pretty much the only show in town.)

So when the states federated to form a nation, there was of course a fight to host the capital. Sydney was the obvious one — the oldest and largest city. Melbourne wanted it because it’s like that irritating little sister who always wants what her big sister has, and the other cities — well, nobody really cared about them anyway.

So, in a wonderful stroke of compromise, they chose a site that is roughly equidistant from Sydney and Melbourne (and set in some of the most boring countryside available). They held a worldwide competition to design the city — Walter Burley Griffin won. Lord knows what lost. It’s a clever plan designed for maximum confusion, condemning some hapless visitors to spending the rest of their lives endlessly circling but never arriving at their destination.

But, as I say, at least it keeps the federal pollies well away from everyone else. Always a plus.

Gwynne Powell, posting to the Lois McMaster Bujold Mailing list (http://lists.herald.co.uk/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/lois-bujold), 2013-12-13

December 13, 2013

Australian territory’s gay marriage law struck down by High Court

Filed under: Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:01

The Australian Capital Territory attempted to make gay marriage legal within its borders despite federal law prohibiting same-sex marriages being recognized. The Australian High Court decided yesterday that the territory cannot override federal law on this issue:

The ACT legislation had allowed gay couples to marry inside the ACT, which includes the Australian capital, Canberra — regardless of which state they live in.

Federal law, however, specified in 2004 that marriage was between a man and a woman.

Civil unions are allowed in some states in Australia.

The High Court in Canberra ruled unanimously against the ACT legislation on Thursday, saying that it could not stand alongside national-level laws.

“Whether same sex marriage should be provided for by law is a matter for the federal parliament,” it said in a statement.

“The Marriage Act does not now provide for the formation or recognition of marriage between same-sex couples. The Marriage Act provides that a marriage can be solemnised in Australia only between a man and a woman,” it added.

Attorney-General George Brandis had previously warned that the local law would face a legal challenge, because it was inconsistent with the country’s Marriage Act.

November 29, 2013

Australian railway’s Chinese-made locomotives falsely certified as asbestos-free

Filed under: Business, China, Railways — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:15

A growing concern for companies that deal with Chinese businesses is when safety is compromised and (as in this case) required safety certifications are falsified:

Railway workers have been exposed to potentially hazardous asbestos after the deadly dust was found in locomotives brought in from China.

The breach of a 10-year ban on the import of products containing the carcinogenic fibre is not the first incident of its kind.

Unions are now demanding tougher policing of Chinese imports, describing the current asbestos-free certificates as a farce.

Last year freight carrier SCT imported 10 locomotives made by China Southern Rail (CSR) to tow iron ore bound for China to port.

To comply with the decade-old Australian ban on asbestos imports, they were certified asbestos-free. However, this was not the case.

National secretary of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union Bob Nanva says maintenance workers raised concerns about the dust.

“We had our maintenance workers repairing a number of diesel engines,” he said.

“They identified a lot of white dust among those engines and asked the question as to whether or not that dust was safe.”

The workers’ concerns were justified. White asbestos — or chrysotile — was found throughout the locomotives, in insulation around the exhaust and muffler system, around coolant pipes and in the brake exhaust section near the roof of the driver’s cabin.

[...]

This is not the first time China has broken the Australian ban on asbestos.

Last year more than 25,000 Chinese-made Great Wall, Chery and Geely cars were recalled after asbestos was discovered in their engine gaskets and brakes.

In decades to come experts expect hundreds of thousands of Chinese casualties from asbestos.

A 1980s film by Szechuan University smuggled out from China shows the tragic story of China’s own Wittenoom — at Dayao, in the province of Yunnan — where asbestos exposures had led to the fatal cancer — mesothelioma.

Back in Australia, it was the same type of blue asbestos, from the Wittenoom mine, that lined Melbourne’s blue Harris trains, potentially poisoning passengers when the walls were broken.

So dangerous were the trains they were sealed in plastic and buried in quicksand at a quarry in Clayton.

Blue asbestos, which is more likely to cause the cancer mesothelioma, is now banned in both countries — but China is now the world’s largest user of white asbestos, which Perth’s asbestos expert Professor Bill Musk warns still causes cancer.

H/T to Craig Zeni for the link.

November 11, 2013

The newest menace of the waterways – private submarines

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:24

Keeping up with the Joneses has always been a popular hobby among the nouveau riche, and topping the neighbours’ fancy car is only the start of it for some people. If your particular Jones just bought a lovely new pleasure boat, here’s a possible riposte — the Seabreacher J:

Seabreacher J

The Seabreacher J was designed and engineered exclusively for the recreational boating market. This model incorporates a jet drive for increased safety and better surface performance. The J model is able to be registered as a conventional powerboat. It is powered by a Rotax engine which is available in 155hp or 215hp supercharged variants. The engine and jet drive can be easily maintained at any personal watercraft dealership, making it a very basic watercraft to own and operate. The Seabreacher J combines the thrill of flying a submersible watercraft with the practicality and dependability of a conventional personal watercraft. The J model can be custom built with a host of available options that can personalize your Seabreacher to your desires.

The Seabreacher J isn’t a true submarine, but it’s priced for a larger market. To see what they look like in use, a quick Google Image Search turns up lots of “action shots”. True submersibles are also available for more wealthy customers, as Strategy Page explains:

Since the 1990s there have been a lot of recreational submarines. Luxury boat builders have even built submarine yachts. Submarine construction technology has come a long way in the past century, and it’s possible to build these boats at an affordable ($10-200 million) cost. They are safe and there are over a hundred of them out there.

A few companies have gained a lot of experience building subs for non-military underwater operations (academic research, oil exploration), which has created a body of information and cadre of technicians who can build these recreational subs. One of the largest civilian submarine yards is in Dubai, where dozens have been built so far and construction continues. Another large operation in the U.S. has built most of the scientific subs over the last two decades.

The submersible pleasure craft look like streamlined yachts while on the surface. The upper deck, including the bridge, is outside the pressure hull. When submerging, everyone goes below and the upper deck gets flooded. If you get close to one of these yachts it becomes obvious that they are built to dive. Military subs are still not used to encountering this civilian traffic underwater. The military boats have the right of way, but military boats are now warned to exercise extra care when approaching coastal areas used by civilian subs.

Owners of these luxury subs tend to be secretive, and the builders have agreed to some government oversight, especially to make sure militarized subs, that can carry torpedoes or mines, are not built. But there is no law against anyone owning one of these submarines, and it’s feared that it’s only a matter of time before drug dealers, gun runners, or even terrorists, get their hands on some of them. Some police officials believe this has already happened, but no one is saying much. The civilian subs don’t dive as deep as military subs and are not built for combat. They have staterooms and large windows. But they do have carrying capacity, and that could be put to criminal uses. Already, Colombian gangs have been caught trying to build subs, using Russian advisors initially and later just employing the same tech used for recreational subs. Over a hundred submersibles (a sub that travels just below the surface) have been caught carrying cocaine. The age of privately owned subs is here.

October 9, 2013

England performs poorly in literacy and numeracy survey

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:50

In the Guardian, Randeep Ramesh reports on a recent OECD ranking of literacy and numeracy which shows England in a poor light:

England is the only country in the developed world where the generation approaching retirement is more literate and numerate than the youngest adults, according to the first skills survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In a stark assessment of the success and failure of the 720-million-strong adult workforce across the wealthier economies, the economic thinktank warns that in England, adults aged 55 to 65 perform better than 16- to 24-year-olds at foundation levels of literacy and numeracy. The survey did not include people from Scotland or Wales.

The OECD study also finds that a quarter of adults in England have the maths skills of a 10-year-old. About 8.5 million adults, 24.1% of the population, have such basic levels of numeracy that they can manage only one-step tasks in arithmetic, sorting numbers or reading graphs. This is worse than the average in the developed world, where an average of 19% of people were found to have a similarly poor skill base.

When the results within age groups are compared across participating countries, older adults in England score higher in literacy and numeracy than the average among their peers, while younger adults show some of the lowest scores for their age group.

As with any sort of survey of this kind, it helps to know how they went about assessing skills in various countries and how similar countries rank:

Literacy for people aged 16-24

6 Australia
15 Canada
17 Ireland
19 England/N Ireland
20 United States

Literacy for all adults

5 Australia
10 Canada
14 England/N Ireland
16 United States
19 Ireland

Numeracy for people aged 16-24

14 Australia
16 Canada
18 Northern Ireland
20 Ireland
24 United States

Numeracy for all adults

13 Australia
14 Canada
16 England/N Ireland
19 Ireland
20 United States

If there’s reason for English authorities to be concerned with their middle-of-the-Anglosphere ranking, there’s even more reason for American educators to take note.

H/T to Tyler Cowen for the link.

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