NELSON MAMETSE has been waiting in autumn cold since the early hours of the morning to cast his vote for Jacob Zuma.
Nanjing Night Net

“He is man who does not give up, he sees everything through,” says the security guard who believes the ruling ANC party has a god-given right to govern.

“It was the party that delivered us from apartheid. We would not be standing here, if it was not for the ANC, Nelson Mandela and Zuma,” he assures me.

I encounter Mametse at the front of an 800-metre queue winding its way through the shanties and shacks of Johannesburg's most deprived and violent suburb. It was here in “Alex” that Zimbabweans, who generally work for less pay, were hacked to death last year.

In the early morning there is no sign of the “xenophobic violence” that shocked the rainbow nation but drew scant comment from the then president, Thabo Mbeki. Small groups cluster around makeshift fires chatting excitedly about today and the next president.

It soon becomes apparent not all queuing so patiently share Memetse's enthusiasm for Zuma and the ANC. A young women peering from under a red cap says she is angry about the lack of housing and endless broken promises. Asked how she will vote, she declines to say. “This is a secret ballot, my vote will remain a secret,” she smiles, declining to give her name.

But voting intentions of the woman in the cap are obvious. She says South Africa needs a new government, that 15 years has been long enough for the ANC to deliver its promises. “We are tired of waiting,” she says.

People in Alex tell me they have been impressed by Zuma who visited the township promising a better deal, but also asking for patience. Feelings towards Mbeki are mostly negative. “He never came here. He did not understand us,” an unemployed man volunteers.

Voting began 7am and was due to end at 9pm. Some 25 million people are expected to vote and the result is expected in 48 hours.

Tamba Msibi, an observer from Swaziland, told the Herald there had been few irregularities. “These people have been very patient, very orderly. They have their IDs checked, their fingernails painted and they vote. Some have had difficulty filling out the papers for the first time.”

In Alex, the ANC is highly organised with cadres turning out the vote. But on the other side of town in Western, a predominantly “Coloured” area, people queuing are not so sure about the ANC's right to rule. Jane Miya, an unemployed mother of three, says the party has inflicted a form of reverse apartheid on her community.

“This was supposed to be a rainbow nation, but it's blacks only when it comes to jobs. The Coloured people are being left out. They say it is affirmative action, but it's discrimination. Twenty per cent of people cannot find work.”

Miya says she is voting for COPE. Outside the church hall, a young men in hip sneakers and jackets tell me they are voting for the Democratic Alliance. “Helen Zille, she is one. She is who I am voting for. No more corruption,” one of them says.

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CARBON nanotubes are as light as plastic and stronger than steel, unique properties which quickly earned them a reputation as the wonder materials of the nanotechnology revolution.
Nanjing Night Net

Discovered 20 years ago and made from atom-thick sheets of graphite rolled into miniscule tubes, they are being developed for products ranging from energy-efficient batteries to stronger sports equipment and bullet proof vests.

But they are now also at the centre of safety fears about nano-sized materials. Research published last year suggests some nanotubes could be as deadly as asbestos if inhaled in sufficient quantities.

A British team found that long, thin, multi-walled carbon nanotubes had the same effects as asbestos fibres when injected into the abdominal cavity of mice. This is the established method of seeing whether materials have the potential to cause mesothelioma – a cancer of the lung lining that can take 30 to 40 years to appear following exposure.

Short and curly nanotubes did not behave like asbestos, researchers led by Professor Kenneth Donaldson of the University of Edinburgh reported in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. And questions remain, such as whether long nanotubes can become airborne, reach the lungs and work their way out to the sensitive outer lining, said the professor. “But if they do get there in sufficient quantity, there is a chance that some people will develop cancer.”

The study has galvanised calls for more research on the safety of nanotechnology and better regulation of this new science.

Assistant secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Geoff Fary, said regulations that take into account the unique properties of nano-sized materials were urgently needed to protect the health and safety of workers and consumers. “With animal tests showing some nano-materials share the same characteristics and reactions as asbestos fibres, governments and business must not repeat the painful lessons of the past and allow another tragedy to occur.”

Little was known about the use of nano-materials in Australia and a registry of all companies and organisations manufacturing, importing and supplying products containing them should be established, he said.

Issues of concern in workplaces included skin exposure and inhalation of droplets of nano-material. “Until we know more … we should regulate as if it is dangerous to human health. It is the only safe option.”

Britain's Royal Society recommended in 2004 that products containing nano-ingredients face rigorous safety testing and be labelled before sale. No country has yet introduced nano-specific regulations, but last month the European Parliament recommended stringent new rules for safety assessment and labelling of nano-ingredients in food although it will not become law until national governments agree to the directive.

Scientists say much more money needs to be spent on safety research. Not enough is known, for example, about how to detect and trace nanoparticles in the body, said Dr Maxine McCall of CSIRO. “Right now we don't have sufficient information to have sensible regulation,” she told a recent forum on the issue in Canberra.

An OECD project has been established to develop safety tests for 14 priority nanoparticles but will take several years to complete. And the issue is complicated by the fact that the many thousands of different nanoparticles can have different possible toxicities, depending on their size, shape and how they are bound to other materials.

Last October a NSW parliamentary inquiry recommended that nano-versions of existing chemicals be assessed as new chemicals and nanoparticles in the workplace and in foods, sunscreens and cosmetics be labelled, but said regulations would be most effective if applied nationally.

A review for the Federal Government concluded last year there was no need for major changes to existing regulatory frameworks to cover new nano-materials.

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THE global recession has taken its toll on Kevin Rudd's bold vision for the nation's future with the release yesterday of nine low-cost and modest ideas that will be formally adopted from last year's 2020 summit.
Nanjing Night Net

The Government also appears to be going lukewarm on a pre-election promise to hold a referendum on the introduction of four-year, fixed terms for the federal Parliament.

The idea was recommended at the summit but did not make the final cut. The report promised only to consider the recommendation as part of “ongoing reform to our constitution”.

The 2020 report was delayed for four months because of the economy. Its most expensive commitment is $50.7 million over four years to help fund the research and development of a bionic eye.

A dedicated children's TV channel, to be screened by ABC3, made the cut. It will cost $25 million to $30 million a year, with funding to be contained in next month's federal budget.

The commercial-free digital channel is scheduled to be on air by the end of this year.

Detail and cost was scant on most of the initiatives, including a “Deployable Civilian Capability”. This would involve a small army of civilian experts and specialists that could assist the armed forces with international disaster relief, stabilisation and post-conflict reconstruction.

Another approved initiative is “golden gurus”, in which skilled, mature-aged people would act as vocational and community mentors.

In his foreword to the report, Mr Rudd acknowledges that ambitions had to be scaled back in the aftermath of the summit.

“None of us who gathered at Parliament House for the summit could have foreseen the severity of the global economic downturn that was even then beginning to develop,” he said.

“As a result of the crisis … the world of today looks very different from that of April 2008.”

One of the strongest recommendations from the summit was that Australia become a republic. This was given short shrift.

“The Government is committed to ongoing reform of our constitution, where appropriate, and will draw on the input of the summit in thinking about future possible proposals for future change,” the report says.

The same answer was given to the recommendation for fixed four-year terms.

The Government did commit $15 million for the Prime Ministers' Australia-Asia Endeavour Awards, a series of scholarships to deepen cultural understanding between Australian and Asian students.

There will be a feasibility study into an Indigenous Cultural Education and Knowledge Centre – a program to connect business with schools – and a Vocational Education Broadband Network, a single network linking tertiary training centres.

The last idea is called “Skills For The Carbon Challenge”, which will help to train workers for sustainable industry in the future.


* Civilian volunteers

* Indigenous knowledge centre

* Mentoring in the workplace

* $50 million for bionic eye

* Cultural scholarships

* ABC children's channel

* Business, school round table

* Promoting sustainability

* A post-secondary high speed broadband network

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THE estimated cost of the controversial CBD Metro has increased to $5.3 billion, the Herald has confirmed, a rise of more than 30 per cent since it was announced last October.
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Senior government and metro sources confirmed the figure to the Herald. Government sources said $500 million had recently been added to cover the risk of cost blowouts as well as construction and contract risks.

The Premier, Nathan Rees, was accused of policy on the run and drawing up the project “on the back on an envelope” when he announced the metro on October 25. He was not able to put a cost on the proposed line from Central Station to Rozelle at the press conference at which it was announced.

After the press conference, the Government told journalists it would cost $4 billion. That figure was subsequently inflated to $4.8 billion until last week. The much longer north-west metro that Mr Rees dumped, and the Opposition says it would reinstate, was costed at $12 billion.

The latest budget blowout comes as the Government begins only now to properly test the project's viability.

Last week the Herald revealed that a Sydney Metro Authority plan to terminate 26 trains an hour at Central Station, thereby bolstering passenger numbers on the metro, was withdrawn from Infrastructure Australia.

The federal infrastructure advisers said the proposal was physically impossible because the CityRail network could not turn that many trains around.

The Herald confirmed yesterday that no updated or replacement plan had been submitted to Infrastructure Australia.

The costs of the project have always been rubbery. In an email released to the NSW upper house after a call for papers, the NSW Treasury adviser on the state's infrastructure needs, David Thorp, revealed the Government was still in the dark about how the cost figure was established.

Alec Brown, a spokesman for the Metro Authority, said a range of cost estimates for the capital works were determined “through to” $5.3 billion.

“This range allows for different levels of contingency, escalation, risk and scope changes,” he said.

The cost raised eyebrows within the industry from the day it was announced. Bob Carr's promised second rail line from Redfern, through the CBD and under the harbour to Chatswood was last costed at $5.5 billion.

The CBD Metro not only has one more station than promised in that project which never saw the light of day, but also has one extra harbour crossing, travelling under both Darling Harbour and White Bay.

Geotechnical drilling has confirmed that expensive tube pressurisation will be required because the tunnel will have to be bored through mud above the level of sandstone.

Drilling began in Pyrmont yesterday on the project. Geotechnical surveys will be used to determine the tunnelling challenges which lie ahead.

The Opposition transport spokeswoman, Gladys Berejiklian, said yesterday it was clear the project had not been properly costed.

“If they haven't properly costed the project it means they haven't done the basic feasibility studies you would expect should occur before a project of this scale is even announced,” she said. “They have opted for the headline rather than putting the interests of the community first.”

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LIKE so many children in Dubbo, cousins Alyssa Ferguson, 12, and Kaitlyn Rose, 11, were having fun riding their bikes on the street about 11am on Sunday.
Nanjing Night Net

Then they heard a baby cry. They rode towards the sound to a spot under a window of a nearby flat, where they found an abandoned newborn, who has since been named Sunday April.

Yesterday, as the baby was being cared for at Dubbo Base Hospital, police appealed for the mother to come forward.

Inspector Matt Goodwin of the Orana Local Area Command said the search had been extended to health and welfare agencies in a bid to identify the mother.

“It really is a concern for her safety and the ongoing welfare of the child,” he said.

A hospital spokeswoman said Sunday was a full-term baby, very healthy and feeding well. “The nurses said she was a bit cold [when she was found] but she was very healthy.” Police said doctors described Sunday as being of white or European appearance, and that she was born between 6am and 9am.

Alyssa's mother, Kerrianne Howarth, recounted what happened after her daughter and niece made their discovery. “They ran back as fast as they could, they just flew in the door and said 'there is a baby over there',” Ms Howarth said.

She and her eldest daughter “ran over there, and picked her up and put the blanket around her tighter, and brought her inside and rang triple-0”.

“She wasn't distressed when I found her. The hospital later told me that she did have a bit of hypothermia. Her body temp was low because the cement over there would have been really cold.

“I think the [biggest] shock was that she was a newborn,” Ms Howarth said. “On the way to hospital I nearly started crying. I just couldn't believe it. The little baby was gorgeous.”

Ms Howarth's eldest daughter, Alex, had heard the cries earlier that morning. “I heard the baby crying first. My nephew and

I were having breakfast and

I heard a baby crying and thought, 'Oh someone is obviously not attending to their baby',” Alex said.

Mrs Howarth said: “It wasn't until the kids got on their bikes that we discovered where the cries had come from. So she was over there for two hours before anyone noticed her.”

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