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Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 83, March 2016

I rushed to get this newsletter out as fast as possible after getting back from Chile so that anyone interested in trips through June can get in before they disappear.

The section on American Politics has information that most Americans don't know. If you'd like to try and make sense of what's going on In the US, I think I've got all the essentials there.

For pure fun, my favourite is the first link under 'photos' in the Photos and Videos section. There's a lot more which I hope you'll find worth browsing through over the coming weeks.

Note. The NY Times allows non-subscribers to look at ten free articles each month. I've got more links than that in this newsletter so I've marked them with a red asterisk (*) so that you can choose which are of most interest to you.

Willis's Walkabouts logo

In this issue

Last Chance — April to June

I just spent a wonderful five weeks in southern Chile. I am about to spend another five weeks in southern Africa. I will be in the US for at least three weeks in May-June. I do not have a full time office person. (That should change toward the end of the year.) That means that I've got to bring a few confirmation dates forward.


Only three trips remain available.

June 1-25

Only two trips are still available. We've had to cancel the rest. Both will be confirmed or cancelled on or before 23 March.

You can always see which trips have bookings by looking at our Availability and Specials page.

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Darwin in the Wet

While we have no space available on our remaining wet season trips (that's why they are no longer listed), I recently came across the website, Darwin in the Wet. Few people who haven't experienced it, have a real idea what it is like. Have a look and see what you think.

If you ever consider a wet season trip, you need to remember just how variable it can be. While it's not likely, you could get rain every day for two weeks — or no rain at all.

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"The higher the hygiene standards in a country, the higher that nation's incidence of allergies and autoimmune diseases. The more sterile a household is, the more its members will suffer from allergies and autoimmune diseases. Thirty years ago, about one person in ten had an allergy; today that figure is one in three. At the same time, the number of infections has not fallen significantly."

These statistics don't lie. Excessive cleanliness is damaging our health and the present and future health of our children. We need bacteria to live. The science isn't all there yet but more and more research is being published showing just how important the right bacteria are to our own health.

The quote that began this section is from the book Gut by Giulia Enders. I recently read it and highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning how their insides work.

For those who want more, here's a link to a Lateline interview she did for the ABC last July.

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30 Years of Willis

Just after my last newsletter came out, Wild ran an article based on a phone interview they did with me. 30 Years of Willis gives you a bit of an idea where I've come from and where I hope to be going.

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Morality — A Point to Ponder

Here's an interesting quote from Stalin. "The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic."
"When a tragedy claims many lives, we often care less than if a tragedy claims only a few lives. When there are many victims, we find it easier to look the other way."

Click the link. It's interesting to see how the human brain seems to be wired when it comes to mass tragedies.

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Water and Food

We can't live without food or water. Here are a few stories to make you think.

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American Politics

Electing a President

The reality of the American political system isn't well known in America, let alone in the rest of the world. What happens there can affect every person on this planet. It is conceivable that the next president of the US will be elected by a small group of about 600 people.

Donald Trump is the front runner for the Republican nomination. He is loathed by most of the Republican establishment. If he doesn't get a majority on the first ballot at the Republican convention, the delegates to that convention could legally choose almost anyone to be the nominee.

In early February, John Mauldin put out a newsletter called A Little Chaos is a Good Thing in which he discussed what could happen. If you are interested in how the American system actually works, it makes a good read.

Americans don't vote for a president. They vote for electors who are pledged to vote for a particular candidate. Given the way things are moving now, it is possible that a third party candidate could emerge, win some states and deny either major party a majority of the votes in the electoral college. That would get really interesting.

"If no candidate receives a majority for president, then the House of Representatives will select the president, with each state delegation (instead of each representative) having only one vote."

It is possible for an elector to vote for someone other than the person he or she had pledged to vote for. See Faithless elector. To date, this has never changed the outcome of an election, but it could. It's not likely, but this could be a really interesting year. Having said that ....

Presidential Power — Surprise!!!

In reality, "the American president is one of the least powerful national leaders in the world. This is particularly true in domestic affairs where he is a very visible, but a rather minor player in crafting policy."

If you want to understand that, read Why the President Isn't All That Important. Much of the perceived power of the American president simply doesn't exist.

Trump as a Symptom

Trump: The authoritarian's candidate of choice
"Trump's authoritarian supporters believe he can "take back America" and protect them from a scary world."

"...with or without a Trump, political scientists found that authoritarians generally, and Trump voters specifically, were highly likely to support policies such as prioritizing military force over diplomacy against countries that threaten the United States; amending the Constitution to bar citizenship for children of illegal immigrants; imposing extra airport checks on passengers who appear to be of Middle Eastern descent; and requiring all citizens to carry a national ID card to show a police officer on request."

Could something similar happen in Australia? Yes — I believe it could. The political system here would make it harder, but some of the factors are already in place.

The Washington Post article above linked to an article which was much more in depth, The rise of American authoritarianism. I found it fascinating. It's a bit long but well worth reading. Here are a few good quotes.

The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism suggests that, "There are tens of millions of Americans, especially lower-class whites, rightfully enraged at what has been done to them, their families and their communities. They have risen up to reject the neoliberal policies and political correctness imposed on them by college-educated elites from both political parties: Lower-class whites are embracing an American fascism."

It finishes with, "If Clinton prevails in the general election Trump may disappear, but the fascist sentiments will expand. Another Trump, perhaps more vile, will be vomited up from the bowels of the decayed political system. We are fighting for our political life. Tremendous damage has been done by corporate power and the college-educated elites to our capitalist democracy. The longer the elites, who oversaw this disembowelling of the country on behalf of corporations — who believe, as does CBS Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves, that however bad Trump would be for America he would at least be good for corporate profit — remain in charge, the worse it is going to get."

The TPP which I've talked about in a number of newsletters is symptomatic of how the general public is being sold out so that big corporations can benefit. If hasn't yet been ratified by the Senate. As I've said in the past, I hope it fails.

There is a saying, May you live in interesting times, which is supposedly a Chinese curse (it's not). For better or worse, we do live in interesting times. I have no idea what the changes will be but I expect that the world in ten years will have seen some truly major ones.

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Our Australian Trips from 26 June Onwards

Our 2016 Trip List Has Changed Yet Again and Will Change some More

Our regularly updated PDF trip list lists every Australian trip we offer. The list has changed dramatically in the last few days.

The regularly updated Availability & Specials page list every trip which already has at least one booking. I will do my best to run every trip that makes it there, but any trip not on that list may be cancelled with no notice.

Every trip which is still in the program is still available. Some may have to be cancelled so the sooner you get in the more likely it is that a trip which interests you will run.

All of the trips below have bookings.

Finally, If there is any trip that particularly interests you, get your name down as soon as possible or it might disappear and you'll miss out. Not sure what's on offer? Check it out. The dates on the tour pages are correct but some of the detailed pages haven't yet been updated for 2016.

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Our Overseas Trips

We've now almost finalised our overseas trips for 2016.

Something new. My recent trip to Chilean Patagonia included a number of day walks. IF a few people were interested, I could put together an interesting trip which was all day walks with no heavy pack carrying. If you think you might be interested in a trip like that, please let me know.

Note. None of the discounts which apply to our Australian trips apply to any of our overseas trips.

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If you go on one of our overseas trips, you'll need to make a long flight. If you fly at all, here are two good articles and a personal tip. The first may make your life a bit more comfortable; the next may save you some money. The final one might do both.

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Bushwalking Newsletters

There are several bushwalking newsletters which you might find interesting.

If you know of any others which you think I ought to mention, please let me know.

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Your Health

In no particular order, here are some interesting stories.

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Innovation and Technology

Low Tech Innovation

I live in a cyclone area. Here's proof you don't need to spend a bundle to live in a cyclone proof house. Australian man's houses outlast Cyclone Winston tells how "dwellings that cost $13,000, can be built in five days and may be cyclone proof."


To the tune of 'Santa Claus is coming to town' ... "Facebook knows when you are sleeping, it knows when you're awake,
Pretty soon it will know if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake."

How Facebook knows when you're asleep explains how "A hacker discovers the social media site knows more about us than we realise." It was quite easy to do. The world envisaged in The Circle which I referred to in a previous newsletter is getting ever closer.

Smart Phones

The Downside of the Internet of Things

Car Hacking

How long can it be before the computers in a car lead to a kidnapping or a killing?

Forget cars, why not take out a whole city.

New Scientist ran a story called, Cyber attack: How easy is it to take out a smart city? The answer was that it wasn't all that hard. Terrorists who shoot a few people are insignificant amateurs compared to someone who figures out how to bring down a whole city — or country, or all of the western world. It can be done.

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Your Money

Banks and Debt

Governments around the world have declared war on savers. As someone who tried to put something away for my later years, I am, to say the least, not happy with this. If you have any money to put away for your retirement (or if you are retired already), here are a few items that might be of interest.

Rental Property

Your Super

Compare the pair attack is unfair, says ISA
"Government plans to exempt banks and retail super funds from disclosing their fees and returns have drawn fire from industry super funds."
Shouldn't you have a right to know what fees your super fund is charging you?

End Welfare as We Know It — Universal Basic Income

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The World's Best Countries

These are the world's best countries.
Sorry, America — you're No. 4. (Australia comes in at No. 6.)

The people who did the study measured many things. The way they weighted the different things may not be the way you would weight them. As one example, in "quality of life" Australia scores 91 but the US scores a mediocre 54.To see how different countries rated on different things, see Data Explorer
I think it's fascinating to explore. I could spend hours browsing this one site.

Here's a different study which used different criteria. We're Not No. 1! We're Not No. 1! *
"For those who think America is the best at everything, here's a reality check." (The US came in at no. 16, Australia 10, New Zealand 5.)
For more details from this one, have a look at the Social Progress Index website. Can you guess which South American countries ranked ahead of several European ones?

The World's Least Religious Countries is mostly what you'd expect, but there are a few surprises. One is that, irrespective of where they live, the survey's authors found that people younger than 34 tend to be more religious than older respondents.

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Photos & Videos



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News About This Newsletter

Next Newsletter — When?

May? July? August? While I do enjoy producing these newsletters they do take time. I'm about to go to southern Africa for five weeks. I'm home for less than three before heading to before heading off to the US for my 50th uni reunion. I honestly don't know when I'll have time to do the next one.


Before I finish one newsletter, I'm already working on the next. I often find that I've got too many interesting things for a single newsletter. I'm also always looking for other interesting items I can add. I'm particularly interested in environmental issues, especially those which might affect bushwalking and in the technology which is shaping our lives. As I said in the last newsletter, Suggestions welcome.

Sending the newsletter

While I now send most of the newsletters using MailChimp, I still send about 200 newsletters using a program which is hosted on the same server that hosts our website. In both cases, the newsletters are sent from walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au. This is the contact address on our website. If you would like to continue to receive these newsletters, please include this address in your "friends list" so that it isn't blocked.

For some reason, some servers block the newsletters no matter what you try and do. I send these in small groups from my normal email. It's not a simple problem. If anyone thinks they might have an idea how to overcome the problem, I'd love to hear from you.

Emails sent to walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au are currently automatically forwarded to rrwillis at internode.on.net. If you want to send an email to that address, replace the word "at" with the symbol @. I am trying not to put that address any place where it can be harvested by spam bots.

We don't want to add to the mass of email spam. If you don't want our newsletter, please send us an email and let us know. We'll then delete your name from our newsletter list.

Our email address is walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au.

Note. Both MailChimp and the other program we use to send some of these newsletters have an automatic delete at the bottom. Clicking that link will delete you from the mailing list on the server but it will not delete you from our main database. One of the programs will not allow the auto delete to send me an email notifying me that a deletion has been made. If you want to be sure that you are removed from all further mailings, please send an email to walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au

If you know someone you think would enjoy this newsletter, please forward it to them. The more people who get it, the more likely it is that I'll be able to run the trips which might interest you.

Best wishes to all from a 2016 world wanderer,
Russell Willis

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