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Letter 14 (page 4)

In other news

While the US presidential election received coverage in exhausting detail, an interesting thing that was barely noticed was that voters in Alabama (population 4 million) were asked whether a clause in the state constitution banning inter-racial marraiges should be removed. Half a million said NO! Bare in mind that of the population, perhaps 80% are of voting age but only about half actually vote.

The tree outside my office building was spectacular this last autumn. In fact, it was a good year for "fall colors" all over Denver.

I did a course on public speaking this year and for one of my talks, chose to look into the Palestinian issue. I was shocked by what I found and I've become quite passionate on the issue. As I said in the talk, whether you call someone a terrorist or a freedom-fighter depends on which side you think justice is on. I don't think anyone argues it was wrong for the Resistance to strike back at the Nazis occupying Europe, yet that is situation the Palestinians find themselves in except that the media generally portrays them as terrorists trying to take what rightfully belongs to the Israelis. I've put the text for all four speeches on our site but if nothing else, look at the 3 maps of Palestine (you'll need to scroll down a bit) to get a glimpse how the truth has been distorted in the media. My speech about bumper stickers is there too!

The Denver Post reports that more Americans are killed by soda machines than sharks. If you try to get the money out by leaning them over, they may fall and squash you!

Before the Olympics I was pleased to be out of Sydney to avoid the general chaos that I thought it would bring. When it became clear that we were doing an exceptionally good job and the mood was electric, I wished I had been home. Unfortunately the Games were largely ignored here. There was no conversation about it at the office and NBC’s coverage was widely criticized, mainly because nothing was broadcast live. I was of course very interested in Kieren Perkins 1500m race and was hoping to find a live broadcast on the internet. The best I could do was the Sydney Morning Herald’s live text commentary. While it wouldn't work for a short race, it was better than nothing for a race that lasted 15 minutes. When it was over I went into the living room to tell Lan that Kieren had come second to another Australian and at that moment the NBC commentator said "... and tomorrow night, we'll be bringing you coverage of the final in the men’s 1500m freestyle" - just 24 hours late. Still, we got to see Cathy’s glorious moment lighting the torch and the "air guitar" humiliation of the US mens' swimming relay team. Too many of the Americans came across to me as arrogant spoilt brats while most of the Aussies were very down to earth. Not that I'm biased of course!

The "win at all costs" mentality, so evident in American sport, claimed an unlikely victim last year. One parent killed another at their children’s hockey game after an argument broke out about their sons' on-field behavior.

Lan and I saw The Castle on video recently and got a huge amount of pleasure out of it. For those of you who have not seen it, it’s an Australian film - a very Australian film - about a family whose house is about to be acquired to allow an expansion of the airport. The language is coarse to be sure but I felt it somehow captured the multi-cultural, unpretentious, everyone gets a "fair go" spirit of the country.

My sister Lucinda and brother-in-law Michael had a second daughter, Charlotte last October. Eleanor is now 3½.

In the past century, life expectancy for Americans increased 30 years. Of this total, 25 were due to public health initiatives - food and workplace safety regulations, immunization, pollution abatement etc. and just 5 were due to modern medicine like heart-bypass surgery. - NPR 3Apr00

For the 19th consecutive year, the best-selling vehicle in America was Ford’s full-size pickup truck with sales of 876,716 and EPA fuel consumption range 14-21 mpg (lower figure for city driving/thirstiest model; higher figure for highway driving/best model.). Next best was the equivalent GM product, then the Ford Explorer 4WD/SUV. In fourth place was the best selling car, the Toyota Camry with 422,961, or less than half the best but mileage of 20-33, or 50% better. It is my impression that most of the pickups perform the same job as the cars - going to work, getting groceries and picking up the kids from school. Such a waste. To make up, the new President has promised oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

And finally

We will endeavor to write to each of you individually over the next week or so. Those without email will have to wait a little longer while we get make copies of this letter using carbon-based toner on flattened dead trees. Bye for now.

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