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21 May 2013 1:02 PM
There was a moment of hope, a week ago, that there could yet be a negotiated resolution to the Syrian civil war. That hope now appears ended, with key Syrian government ally Russia backing away from what could have been international agreement on the need end the war.
Instead, the Syrian war is increasingly spilling across borders, with the Lebanese-based Hezbollah militia openly siding with the Syrian government by joining in the attack on the town of Qusair, Syria shelling the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and Jordan in particular buckling under the weight of more than 400,000 refugees.
The Syrian government’s attack on Qusair, near the border with northern Lebanon, is reported to be the heaviest artillery assault of the war. Anti-Assad regime forces still hold the town but are struggling, and its loss will put further pressure on the nearby hold-out city of Homs, also the scene of heavy fighting between Syria’s opposing forces.
Should Qusair fall, it will open a route for the Syrian regime between Damascus in the south and the sea ports at Al Hamidiyah and the Russian-based Tartus. The heavy fighting follows President Bashar al-Assad taking a hard line on the possibility of ending the civil war in an interview last weekend.
The fighting also follows the reporting drying up of weapons supplies to the anti-Assad forces. The reduced flow of weapons is a result of increasing concerns that they could fall into the hands of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Brigade and aligned factions, as well as as result of reports of atrocities on the part of both pro and anti-Assad forces.
Assad has said he will not negotiate with"terrorists", meaning forces arrayed against his regime, and says he plans to stand for"re-election"in 2014. Assad’s statement came a day after the US criticised Russia for supplying rockets to Syrian government forces.
Russia’s supply of the rockets was in apparent contradiction of the agreement between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry early in May, to push for a Syria peace conference in June. One reading of Russia’s position is that it will support peace talks in June, but only if it can strengthen the hand of the Assad regime ahead of such negotiations.
At this stage, however, Assad is not indicating that he will participate. Anti-Assad forces, meanwhile, see his resignation as a key condition for the talks to succeed. France has also said it will boycott the talks if Assad ally Iran is invited to participate in the talks process, which Russia is insisting upon.
With the anti-Assad forces now clearly divided between the Free Syrian Army and the al-Qaeda affiliates and Western support wavering, Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers are feeling increasingly confident of turning the tide in the war. It may be, however, that this is but another twist in an increasingly complicated, bitter and prolonged war.
20 May 2013 10:05 AM
Yet another clinical study has confirmed the growing body of evidence linking inadequate sleep to obesity.
One of the more surprising factors linked to weight gain is lack of sleep. More and more research studies are finding that poor sleep patterns and insufficient sleep are closely linked to weight gain and obesity.
The mechanism linking poor sleep to weight gain is not entirely understood, but is likely related to how signals from the brain which control appetite are altered by sleep restriction. Inadequate sleep can alter the levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin while reducing production of the fullness-feeling hormone leptin. This can lead to increased food consumption without a similar increase in energy expenditure.
15 May 2013 3:25 PM
From the industry reaction to Australia's overseas aid budget, one might have thought Canberra's cruel bean-counters are intentionally starving Third World orphans. The budget announcement of keeping foreign aid at around 0.35% of gross national income, or almost $5.6 billion, reflects a stepping down from a forecast increase in aid to 0.38%, but still represents an overall 4% increase in available funds.
In an era of broad budgetary restraint, this not unreasonable outcome reflects commitments given by Australia in order to secure its seat on the UN Security Council last October. It also reflects a shift away from the"hard power"of Defence, with the Iraq war drifting into history, Timor-Leste no longer active, Solomons concluding and Afghanistan looking to an end. The security emphasis now is on"soft"and"secret"power, with diplomacy drifting.
In order not to further alienate Labor's Left, the government has capped aid funds allocated to housing asylum seekers at 7% of the aid budget, at $375 million. Australia's commitment to the UN's millennium development goal of 0.5% of gross national income by 2015 has now been"deferred"to 2016-17. This target will now require an extra -- and improbable -- $1 billion a year for the next four years.
Of the more aspirational commitment to the OECD's 2002 Monterey Agreement to allocate 0.7% of GDP to foreign aid by 2015, only Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands have met that goal. Australia is outside the top 10 OECD aid providers by GDP. There is, however, some small comfort in still being well ahead of Japan and the United States.
Australia's aid recipients are unlikely to protest about the deferral of intended aid increases. Indonesia -- Australia's largest aid recipient -- does not care too much about Australian aid in any case. For some in Indonesia, Australian aid is viewed through a paranoid lens as a mechanism for some vague ulterior agenda. From Australia's perspective, aid simply helps secure a seat at Indonesia's diplomatic table.
Papua New Guinea is more concerned about Australian aid, mostly because it so poorly manages its domestic budget and needs all the help it can get. Some less critical Australian aid programs to Timor-Leste have been deferred, which otherwise remains high on Australia's aid priority list.
Tightening has hurt Australian diplomacy through funding of Australia's embassies. DFAT's departmental appropriations have survived this budget with a minor spending increase of $43 million to just under $1.5 billion. But this will come as cold comfort to many Australian diplomats, given the reduction in spending over recent years.
Australia's two new African embassies, in Dakar, Senegal, announced in the last budget, will be further funded by closing the embassy in Budapest. Given the critical role of exports, the Australian Trade Commission will have to do more with a little less, its budget down $13 million to $319 million.
Defence has, as was earlier known, taken a hit, losing just over $2 billion to $22 billion, reflecting Australia's shifting security focus. That less visible branch of Australian security, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, received another healthy budget increase, of more than 11.7%, from $211 million to almost $248 million. It is, it seems, a good time to be a spy.
Sexuality Education Matters is a Deakin University series of videos showing footage of pre-service teachers and lecturers discussing their experiences and challenges, as well as some examples of teaching and learning activities in action.
The Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific (CHCAP) seminar series aims to bring together academics and practitioners to discuss key issues facing cultural heritage and museums. The CHCAP is a leading research centre in the heritage and museum studies field, based in the Alfred Deakin Research Institute and the Faculty of Arts and Education at Deakin University. Established in 2001, as part of an agreement signed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and Deakin University, the aims of CHCAP are: - To develop a critical knowledge base in which to understand the diverse ways in which cultural heritage (embodied in places, collections and exhibitions as well as in intangible forms of cultural production) constitutes a medium to value and understand the relationship between past, present and future as well as the need to conserve, manage and interpret cultural heritage. - To advocate for an understanding of heritage that not only influences and shapes cultural identity, but fosters cross-cultural understanding within our increasingly globalised world. - To inform the development of policy and practice in the interrelated field of heritage and museum studies by undertaking research which is both nationally and internationally relevant and addresses the most pressing issues in this field.
Environmental Science (Wildlife and Conservation Biology) allows you contribute in a professional capacity to the study and management of wildlife populations both in Australia and overseas. Wildlife and Conservation Biology has a strong focus on hands-on fieldwork. Environmental Science (Environmental Management and Sustainability) provides you with the skills and knowledge to manage the interaction between people and the environment, and to satisfy society's needs for clean water, fresh air and healthy soils through the sustainable use of natural resources, environments and ecosystem services.
Professor Noam Chomsky presented a lecture'Changing Contours of Global Order', a look at our drastically changing world, and the implications for domestic and world order on 4 November 2011. This was a free public lecture and was Professor Chomsky's only public appearance in Melbourne, Australia. Professor Chomsky was an invited guest of Deakin University's School of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Social media and mobile technologies have taken off in Australia. This collection of audio and video content looks at the various perspectives from business to sporting organisations to security and families.