Saturday salon 21/11

1. Brazil dam burst could devastate the environment for years

River Doce translates as “Sweet River”. After two tailings dams burst the focus was on the local town of Mariana, much of which was swept away. Now the concern has shifted to downstream where 500 km of river is becoming biologically dead, the silt is affecting nearby farmlands and is expected to contaminate fishing grounds when it reaches the sea.

This is what the not so sweet river looked like:


The Krenak tribe of Indians has blocked the railway line Vale uses to ship iron ore to port.

Two more dams may be at risk.

The mine is a joint venture of Australia-based BHP Billiton Ltd, the world’s largest mining company, and Vale, the biggest Brazilian iron ore miner.

The disaster is reminiscent of Ok Tedi, probably not as big, but more people affected.

Obviously there have been calls for stricter mining regulations, which I understand were in the process of being loosened.

2. Bacteria now resistant to ‘last resort’ antibiotics

There is a class of drugs known as polymyxins which were used as a last resort used to treat infections that resist every other kind of antibiotics. Unfortunately farmers especially in China have been feeding colistin, the most widely used polymyxin, to pigs and chickens. Predictably a gene resistant to colistin has now shown up, but in a form that can move easily from bacterium to bacterium.

Chances are it will go global, no matter what we do.

3. Turning back the boats as we watch

A small boat thought to be carrying about eight people got within a few hundred metres of Christmas Island. Could have been friendly fisher folk or dreaded asylum seekers.

The Australian Navy was not friendly, however, and towed it out to sea after issuing life jackets all around.

Introduction to Saturday salon

Because of the way the blog currently presents posts on the home page I think it’s better to remove the introductory material to a different place. For new readers, here’s the rationale for this space.


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

    The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

13 thoughts on “Saturday salon 21/11”

  1. The idea of building tailings dams above a town is a bit scary given the way tailing dams that are not built properly do fail from time to time.
    Wonder too what the final report on the failure may tell us about the reasons for failure. It is an object lesson about the heightened risks of having a number of separate dams running down a valley.

  2. The Australian Navy was not friendly, however, and towed it out to sea after issuing life jackets all around.

    Excellent news. Over the next decade, France will spend over ten billion euro on counter-terrorism and probably still have a couple hundred more citizens turned into dog chow by Islamist militants with bombs and AK-47s. The threat of Islamist terror will continue to chill free speech and ordinary folk will have their liberty eroded by draconian but necessary security measures.

    Australia will avoid France’s fate because the Left-Right Consensus will keep our Muslim population small.

    Hopefully each wannabe refugee will be given a free “F#ck Off, We’re Full” t-shirt as a souvenir to remember us by.

  3. Meanwhile, the terrorists (who are well funded by petrodollars) will simply fly into Australia on valid visas.

    Be afraid Karen, be very afraid.

  4. Zoot’s right, the Nanny State/Big Brother can not protect us.
    Perhaps freeing individuals to protect themselves, radical as that idea may seem to some.

  5. Jumpy: Terrorists would love

    Perhaps freeing individuals to protect themselves.

    All the terrorists would need to do is throw a few crackers into the mob of armed citizens and stand back and watch the armed citizens annihilate each other.
    I fact, they wouldn’t even have to throw a cracker. Experience in the US is that armed citizens kill lots, lots more other citizens compared with those killed by terrorists.

  6. John,
    If you have examples of cracker initiated massacres in highly armed populations I’ll take your comment seriously.

    Something not made in Hollywood or by Monty Python.

  7. I will add that most terrorist lately have been shot or blew themselves up when the armed folk eventually turn up to protect the unarmed.

  8. Heard on the news today that the spill from the tailings dam has just reached the mouth of the river. Apparently where it spilt onto the banks it hardens like cement.

  9. I must say, as a Test Cricket traditionalist, I’m not disliking the Day/Night concept.
    If the terms ” resounding success ” or ” dismal failure ” are in the media tommorro i’ll question the authors motives.
    The most honest headline, and most welcome by folk like me, would be ” Same same, phew!”

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