ALTHOUGH almost certainly unknown to many Australians a true gentleman and hero passed away last night in his home of Colorado Springs, USA. This man, Donald Stratton, was one of the last survivors from the USS Arizona, which was sunk after a direct hit from a Japanese bomber during the Pearl Harbor attack.
He survived that horror with horrendous burns to most of his body and was written off as dead by the medical teams. But he did survive and was medically discharged from the navy. For the next two years, he set about getting back in. He did eventually, and then went on to serve in the Pacific on the destroyer USS Stark until the eventual Japanese capitulation.
For those fortunate enough to read his book, All the Gallant Men, written in 2016 when he was 93 years old, will know what a person he was. My wife and I knew this man and counted him and his family among our friends. At the behest of the family we were invited by the USS Arizona Foundation to the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack which we did attend. We will count that time as being one of our most uplifting and moving experiences.
Having lost three of his four children in tragic circumstances he had every reason, bearing in mind his background, to be a bitter person, but he was not. As a US national treasure we know that many in the USA will be mourning his loss.
Raymond Stewart, Charlestown
VIRUS AN OPPORTUNITY TOO
THE COVID-19 virus has killed 1527 people so far and infected over 66,000 people at the time of writing ('Epidemic could send nations into recession', Newcastle Herald 18/2).
China's lockdown of 60 million people in Hubei and stiff quarantine laws throughout the country affecting, according to the ABC, 6.5 per cent of the total world population may have slowed the spread, but it has not stopped it.
One must have sympathy for those who have lost family and friends and now are suffering financial pain. It is this last point that, it occurs to me, may have a totally unplanned side effect.
The Chinese government, along with those of other countries, have effectively put the globe's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide into lockdown of the sort that could never be contemplated under any other circumstances. We are seeing transport systems closed along with factories, and this has international implications.
Here in the Hunter, our tourism and education industries have already been affected according to the Newcastle Herald ('Trouble in paradise', Herald 15/2). Air links between Australia and China have dropped from around 140 per week to 22 and I assume similar falls are occurring globally.
Here is a situation where global emissions of anthropogenic carbon dioxide will perhaps fall significantly, and while the emergency continues, may continue to fall for months. Given NASA has two orbital carbon observatories (OCO-2 and OCO-3) circling the planet every 90 minutes measuring various levels, this crisis may have at least some useful purpose in allowing scientists to model the sorts of economic impact a carbon-neutral world requires.
John Davies, Newcastle East
PORT'S COURT DAYS INTRIGUE
THE Port of Newcastle's container fee is now called a "penalty" by Premier Berejiklian, and correctly so. The purpose of the penalty is to make it uneconomical to develop a container terminal.
There is a flurry of legal activity in the Federal Court about the penalty ("Port legal action heats up", Herald 17/2). The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is suing NSW Ports. NSW Ports is counter-suing the government and Port of Newcastle Investments, and Mayfield Development Corporation is suing NSW Ports separately from the ACCC.
Because the penalty was concealed from the public and parliament, I believe it was not authorised by parliament. Thus, in my opinion the legal question is whether the penalty is lawful under the act that authorised Port Botany, Port Kembla and the Port of Newcastle to be leased to private companies.
Industry super funds own 80 percent of NSW Ports (Port Botany and Port Kembla) and 50 per cent of Port of Newcastle Investments. If found unlawful, the lease agreements are contrary to their members' interests.
Greg Cameron, Wamboin
LET ISRAEL FADE FROM VIEW
ARE we to be subjected to a blow-by-blow account of the French rugby so Israel Folau can continue to wallow in his perception of fame? As I understood, he sought all the notoriety because of his interpretation of the Bible,and his deeply held belief that he has a right to judge and condemn individuals because of how they were born, and who they are.
He received a fat wad of money in the ensuing bargain. Now he's overseas, and it seems he will no longer spout these superstitious and cruel utterances so he can get more wads of cash. Personally I find it strangely hypocritical that suddenly these beliefs he claims to hold can now be kept to himself. Doesn't the Bible have a lot to say about the rich, hypocrites and their eventual doom? Do the rest of us have to hear about him?
Anne Phillips, Wallarah
BUSINESS COST STILL UNTOLD
I BELIEVE we will never know the true cost of the light rail ('Light rail on track after first year', Herald 17/2).
Apart from the cost blow out and estimates of $220 million per kilometre (Herald 21/9/17), how do you put a price on the physical, emotional and financial strain that many business owners have suffered?
They endured the construction phase with the promise that the light rail would magically revitalise Newcastle East only to find that in my opinion the project has been a massive fail. The parking that has been taken along Hunter Street seems to have killed many businesses. Walk down the mall and count the empty shops. Speak to the business owners that are still there, and most will tell you that they are suffering. Look beyond blanked-out windows and I believe you will see few people using the light rail.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance and Premier Berejiklian were full of praise for the project last year on their first ride ('Premier says 'unbelievable' patronage expected after first ride on Newcastle light rail', Herald 15/2/19), declaring "Newcastle's new tram service will attract "unbelievable" passenger numbers."
They were right in their comments, but wrong with the estimate. Light rail has attracted what I consider unbelievably low passenger numbers ('
What has been the real cost of this white elephant to effectively continue on for one block from where the train terminated?
Robyn King, Newcastle East
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THOSE of us questioning the long term viability of the Supercars concept are not in anyway pleased to see the demise of Holden ('End of the lion', Herald 18/2) but would be eager to revisit the long-term business model for racing seasons into the future considering the brand's imminent absence.
Scott Cooper-Johnston, Birmingham Gardens
I HAVE witnessed 30-odd years of Jimmy's Beach erosion mismanagement. At times the band-aid approach is mind boggling. I can therefore genuinely sympathise with the residents of Stockton (''We dodged a bullet': Stockton hanging on', Herald 17/2). City of Newcastle boasts $5 million has already been spent on Stockton, yet the erosion has been a problem for decades. $5 million spent? Wow. Think of the unknown tens of millions spent on the controversial Supercars and council headquarters shift that could instead have gone to Stockton. No wonder residents are furious.
Christian Patteson, Hawks Nest
SO the government is bringing "grandparents" back to Australia from the Diamond Princess ('Ship passengers to be evacuated', Herald 18/2). All those poor Pops and Nans caught up in all of this, some outlets say. Cut the ageism claptrap. All we have to know is that some Australian men and women will be returning to the Northern Territory.
Julie Robinson, Cardiff
TODAY I received a letter from Newcastle council regarding a tree planting exercise in my area. Do the people at the council who come up with these ideas ever watch the television or read the papers and see all the damage that trees cause in storms? Houses and cars have been badly damaged. Some people are even killed by falling branches. Should the council have its way and just plant trees? Do we as residents get an insurance document from the council to say that we will be covered by any damage that is caused by falling trees that they plant on the footpath? I am sure that the money could be better spent on footpaths in areas that really need them. I have nothing against trees, but it seems like a bad idea at this time.
Greg Lowe, New Lambton
AFTER all the submissions are considered by legislators, the new Religious Discrimination Bill will be finalised and is presented to Federal Parliament. The Bill, will then be debated by Parliament, amended and passed into law. But no law can ever reconcile the rights or freedoms to discriminate, that "people of faith" think should be theirs, and the rights of everyone else. Since it must be a compromise, this law will please nobody. The President of the Uniting Church of Australia, Dr Deidre Palmer, warns that churches shouldn't be given too many rights over vulnerable groups such as the LGBTIQ community members, and people with disabilities. Touché, Doctor. In my opinion churches haven't done that well in their treatment of another vulnerable group: children, against whom, they have no legal right of discrimination.
Geoff Black, Caves Beach
GRAEME Kime (Letters, 18/2), don't forget this is Australia mate; I'll lend you my cricket bat.