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Officer tells of predatory behaviour at ADFA

Posted on: February 3rd, 2019 by
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Australia Defence Association head Neil James has defended the way senior officers have handled the growing sex scandal within the Australian Defence Force Academy after Defence Minister Stephem Smith said the punishment of an eighteen year old female cadet was insensitive and stupid.

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The cadet was fined and confined to base, in a manner which created the impression she’s being punished for speaking out about sexual abuse, Defence Minister Stephen Smith says.

Mr Smith said the Commandant of the ADFA, Commodore Bruce Kafer, had acknowledged a major error of judgement in allowing an unrelated disciplinary matter to proceed at this time.

The action came as the ADF and federal police investigate allegations that consensual sex between the female cadet and a male student was broadcast, without her knowledge, to six other defence members watching in another room.

Smith labelled the decision “insensitive or completely stupid”, but James has hit back, reports the ABC.

“Of the number of phone calls and SMS messages and emails we’re getting, and people stopping me literally in the street, there’s considerable anger.”

James claims there are a number of inaccuracies in the press.

“There’s a growing unease about some of the statements made by the Minister for Defence. Civil control of the military is a two-way street and you would expect the Minister to defend the Defence Force and officers in the Defence Force from inaccurate and unfair media criticism,” the ABC reported James as saying.

Accusations

Earlier, a former officer at the Australian Defence Force Academy came forward with allegations of predatory sexual behaviour and cover-ups at the elite college.

The former divisional officer worked at the college in 2006 but said he quickly left because of a culture of covering up misbehaviour and misconduct.

“I had a cadet in my actual division who was actually stalking and harassing another first-year female,” Mark told AAP on Thursday.

“He blatantly lied to me and my divisional sergeant.

“I asked for action to be taken against him in the way of formal charges. They wouldn’t do it.”

Later, Mark discovered the male had been previously dating the female but she had ended the relationship.

“When I walked around at night, the college sounded like a brothel with the windows open,” Mark, now out of the defence force, said.

His story adds to a growing list of stories detailing a predatory culture at the academy.

Earlier on Thursday, a Brisbane woman told ABC Radio her niece was told to “suck it up” after being raped while training at the academy.

The unnamed woman said her niece was 19 at the time and injured so badly she was admitted to hospital.

The cadet’s partner, who was also in the defence force, had his career threatened when the young woman considered pursuing charges over the assault.

“The defence force did absolutely nothing. In fact, she was told by her commanding officer to suck it up,” the woman said.

When told of the rape allegation, Mark was unsurprised.

“There’s a hidden culture there.”

He said the structure of the academy, where third- and

fourth-year students lived and studied alongside first-year cadets

created countless problems.

“You could call them predators,” he said.

“What happens is they’re 21 years of age, and in come these nice 17-year-olds and it’s like, `you put out for me and I can help you get through all of this’.”

Mark said it was routine for the more advanced students to remind first years they were dealing with their future bosses.

“Straight away they’re indoctrinated into this situation, this pressure to put out.”

Dogs captaincy won’t change me: Graham

Posted on: February 3rd, 2019 by
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James Graham has declared the Canterbury leadership won’t alter his passionate approach to football after he was unveiled as the Bulldogs’ new captain.

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Graham was officially announced as Michael Ennis’ successor at the Bulldogs’ NRL season launch on Thursday.

The 29-year-old prop’s ultra-competitive nature sometimes threatened to get the best of him in Canterbury’s charge to the 2014 grand final, but Graham says the captaincy won’t change his emotional approach.

“I have to stay as true to myself as I have in the past,” Graham said.

“There was a great sense of pride when the gaffer (coach) got me into his office to offer the captaincy, there was certainly no hesitation.

“To be chosen when there are so many other great players and great leaders at this club is very fortunate.

“I’ll have to deal a lot more with the referees, but I’m looking forward to that.”

Graham said he feared bad news might be coming his way when called into coach Des Hasler’s office two weeks ago, but was thrilled to leave anointed as the next Bulldogs leader.

“I don’t know what I expected, I don’t know what I had done wrong, I was just glad it was good news,” Graham said.

“It wasn’t about getting appreciation from Des (for accepting), it was a natural reaction.

“Everyone knew it was up in the air and the amount of great candidates we had, it was tough to choose someone.”

Graham joins the likes of Steve Price, Steve Mortimer, Terry Lamb and George Peponis as a Bulldogs skipper.

Frank Pritchard and Aidan Tolman have been installed as vice-captains.

Graham captained the Bulldogs in their 2014 grand final loss to South Sydney, with an ankle injury sidelining Ennis, who has now gone to Cronulla.

He also skippered England in the early stages of last year’s Four Nations, when Sean O’Loughlin was sidelined with a thigh injury, and led St Helens in his final season in the Super League in 2011.

Hasler said Graham was a player who led by example.

“James is a professional athlete who has shown a number of leadership qualities since arriving here at the club,” Hasler said.

“He leads from the front on the field and is a man that is continuing to look at different ways to improve his game.

“He is a mentor amongst the playing group and being a seasoned campaigner, he has the knowledge across all aspects of the game to help the club continue to move forward.”

It’s about camaraderie, iPad 2 queuers say

Posted on: February 3rd, 2019 by
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Some of the hundreds of people who have been queuing for almost two days in front of Sydney’s Apple store to get the new iPad 2 say it’s all about meeting people.

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Canadian backpacker Alex Lee arrived in Sydney on Wednesday to be first in line to buy Apple’s iPad 2 and has theorised on the phenomenon.

“I call it the 90/10 rule for Apple – 90 per cent is about the people, the experience and just the whole feeling and 10 per cent is about the product itself,” the IT consultant said.

Alex already owns an iPhone, an iPad 1, and an iPad 2 (bought in America) and was typing away on his Mac laptop outside the George Street store when he was approached by AAP on a chilly Friday morning.

“The iPads I’m buying today, one is for charity and one is for my sister,” he said.

“It’s the camaraderie, we meet a lot of good people in line and we have a good time learning about each other, different cultures,” he said.

“We always find we have something in common.”

Alex has CBD workers and tourists frequently coming over for a chat and people are constantly wanting to take pictures with him.

Further down the line several Sydney high school boys are bonding over their experience.

“They always say: why don’t you just come next week. (But) it’s not about that,” says 15-year-old James Dounis, who has been camping outside the store since Thursday evening.

“The atmosphere is really exciting `cause you meet other people who want the same thing you do. “It’s pretty trustworthy around here.”

James, who doesn’t own any other Apple products, says he wouldn’t have made friends with Beau Giles, 17, if he hadn’t lined up.

Beau, who will also buy his first Apple gadget on Friday, said lining up overnight would be a good story to tell. “I’m here pretty much for the experience,” he said.

“I always hear people ranting how awesome it is lining up overnight and being able to meet new people. “It’s cool to meet people who share common interest and sort of networking.”

The iPad 2 started getting sold from 5pm (AEDT) today.

Cairo protesters defy military

Posted on: February 3rd, 2019 by
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At least one person was killed earlier in the morning when troops and police stormed the iconic square to break up an overnight protest demanding the trial of former regime officials.

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The health ministry said one person died, a figure later echoed by the army, and 71 people were hurt – some from bullet wounds and others suffering breathing difficulties or having been struck during clashes. Medics said two people were killed and 18 people wounded. The fatality was the first in the square since it became the focal point for 18 days of protests that triggered president Hosni Mubarak’s resignation on February 11. The army denied it was responsible for the fatality, saying no deaths were discovered when it cleared the square to enforce a pre-dawn three hour curfew. Instead, four soldiers and nine protesters were wounded, said a military spokesman who vowed to clear the square of protesters who defied the curfew. “Those who remain in the square will be dispersed,” General Ismail Etman told reporters. The warning was ignored by protesters in Tahrir, who chanted against the military. “I’m not scared, I’m sad it came to this, but what right does the army have to attack us,” said one protester, Mohammed Abdel Al, as he prepared to take a nap on the square. Etman defended the military’s actions the night before. “We did not use force; we did not beat anyone,” he said. Any protesters hurt had been hit with stones thrown by others, he added. For his part, General Adel Umara said that after the army cleared and left the square in the morning, a large number of “protesters came … to Tahrir with two automatic weapons and Molotov cocktails, and they attacked three military vehicles.” He did not explain why the vehicles were left behind. “There was a death reported, unfortunately. An initial autopsy shows it was a bullet in the mouth,” the general said. He did not identify the fatality. Tens of thousands gather On Friday, tens of thousands had massed in the square calling for Mubarak and his cronies to be tried for corruption and criticising the military rulers for stalling on reforms in what was dubbed the “Day of Trial and Cleansing”. Some were also demanding that 75-year-old Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak’s defence minister for two decades and the man who replaced him, also step down. Several hundred camped out in the square overnight, and witnesses said soldiers, backed by riot police, fired live rounds, mostly into the air, and beat protesters. Earlier, the interim military government said “elements from the interior ministry”, backed by civilians, had cleared “outlaws” from the square, in a statement carried by the official MENA news agency. A statement on the military’s Facebook page blamed remnants of the formerly ruling National Democratic Party for the demonstration, and said it had ordered the arrest of four party members it accused of “thuggery” during the sit-in. Cairo under curfew Cairo remains under a 2am to 5am curfew. An officer said “we did not fire live bullets”, adding that an inquiry was underway. Earlier, an official said the army had used only blanks. Those claims were repeated by General Umara. Seven army officers had defied a warning from the ruling military council and joined the protesters on Friday, calling for a “purification” of the army. “Our demands are your demands. We want a civilian government. We want to try corrupt people,” one officer said to loud cheers. At midnight on Friday, the officers gathered in a tent surrounded by more than a dozen protesters who wanted to guard them against arrest. General Etman said 42 people had been arrested, including the officers. Army withdraws The army withdrew from the square in the morning, prompting the swift return of at least 200 protesters. By the afternoon that figure had swelled to around a thousand. A military bus was still in flames, and stones and bullet casings littered the ground from the overnight violence. The protesters were calling for Tantawi’s overthrow and said they would remain in the square until he quit. The demonstrators cordoned off entrances to the square with barbed wire abandoned by military police. The mood was tense and decidedly anti-military. Some protesters surrounded a man who objected to their presence, pummelling him with punches and kicks before other demonstrators intervened. “I’ve come to Tahrir Square because we are witnessing a counter-revolution,” student Malik Asam told AFP. Another student, Anas Mohammed, said: “I had expected to see the other face of the military, but if they carry on as they are, they will see the other face of the people.” That was an apparent reference to the army’s stance during the anti-Mubarak protests, when it said the demonstrators’ demands were just and protected them from anti-regime elements who tried to drive them out of the square. Mubarak banned Mubarak, his wife Suzanne and their two sons Alaa and Gamal and their wives have already been banned from travel and had their assets frozen. Several former ministers and members of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party are being investigated as part of a sweeping probe, but pro-democracy activists say key figures still need to be brought to justice. On Thursday, Mubarak’s chief of staff Zakariah Azmi was detained for 15 days on suspicion of illegally acquiring his wealth. The army has promised legislative and presidential elections before the end of the year and a return to civilian rule, but many Egyptians are concerned that key elements of the old regime are still firmly entrenched.

Garnaut wants $2.5b for clean energy

Posted on: February 3rd, 2019 by
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Australia should be spending $2.

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5 billion a year on new low-emissions technologies by 2017, a doubling of current expected expenditure, climate change adviser Ross Garnaut says.

In his seventh update of his landmark 2008 review, Prof Garnaut argues there’s a case for “exceptionally large fiscal support for firms that invest in research, development and commercialisation of new low-emissions technologies” over the next decade.

He says pricing carbon will drive innovation but “on its own it will not increase it by enough”.

That’s because the market doesn’t always support research and development adequately because it’s expensive and risky.

The seventh update, released on Wednesday, recommends the government redirect a significant proportion of the money raised from the proposed carbon tax to fund clean energy projects.

Australia’s contribution to an international target of $100 billion each year would be between $2 billion and $3 billion.

Prof Garnaut wants to increase Australia’s expenditure over the next five years to the mid-point figure of $2.5 billion.

That’s double the current expected expenditure and five times the $500 million spent now.

Funding would plateau between 2017 and 2022 before gradually declining.

“Revenue from the carbon price should be used to add to existing commitments,” Prof Garnaut says.

He recommends a new low-emissions innovation council be established to oversee an initial focus on basic research which isn’t technology specific.

The Australian Centre for Renewable Energy would be charged with supporting subsequent demonstration and commercialisation.

The update favours offering support to firms via lump-sum or multi-year grants. But it recommends other mechanisms be examined.

Prof Garnaut suggests Australia faces two main constraints in moving to a clean-energy future.

First, the resources boom is pushing up prices, and, second, the 2008 global financial crisis increased the cost of finance.

On the contentious issue of carbon capture and storage (CCS), the update remains upbeat, noting “studies and trials to date indicate there are no insurmountable technological challenges”.

CCS associated with gas liquefaction alone “could make a substantial contribution to Australia’s mitigation effort”, Prof Garnaut notes.

If geosequestration from gas combustion was added “it would make a decisive contribution”.

The update acknowledges that carbon capture and storage in the electricity generation sector is “more technically challenging and expensive”.

Incorporating the technology in power plants would increase costs by between 40 and 75 per cent.

“Analysts seem more reserved than they were in 2008 about the near-term prospects for carbon capture and storage in the electricity sector,” Prof Garnaut states.

But he adds there’s no need to abandon prospects of storing emissions from coal combustion “where coal is cheap and good geological sites are nearby”.

In good news for solar power, the update says costs for that technology “are expected to fall at a faster rate than previously expected”.

There are also “many signs that the penetration of electric vehicles will be much quicker than predicted” with oil prices forecast to be higher.

In a general warning, however, Prof Garnaut notes that to date government support for innovation in low-emissions technology has suffered from delays and under-expenditure.

Arbitration court nixes BP’s Russia tie-up

Posted on: February 3rd, 2019 by
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An arbitration tribunal has blocked British energy giant BP’s Arctic oil tie-up with Rosneft in a decision that could hit Russia’s hopes of expanding its share of the world energy market.

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The Stockholm Arbitration Tribunal ruling upholds a freeze on the tie-up issued by a London court in February and formally puts a halt to the $16 billion deal.

The British firm immediately issued a statement saying it “remains committed to partner with Russia” and would seek other ways of completing the historic deal.

“BP has always been and remains fully committed to investing in Russia,” it said.

The news appeared to catch Russian officials off guard and is likely to cloud the immediate outlook of the country’s largest oil company – a state-held firm that is urgently seeking international investors’ support.

“We only just received this information and have to study it in full,” chief Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the RIA Novosti news agency.

The unprecedented share-swap and Arctic exploration agreement was announced with much fanfare by the Russian government in January and was soon followed by a similar agreement between Rosneft and the US oil major Exxon Mobil.

The deal would have handed Rosneft five per cent of BP’s ordinary voting shares in exchange for approximately 9.5 per cent of the Russian company’s stock.

The two firms also agree to jointly search for oil in Rosneft’s three licensed blocks in the Arctic – a 125,000 square kilometre (50 square mile) region said to contain five billion tonnes of oil and 3.0 trillion cubic metres of gas.

Rosneft has been seeking a Western partner to provide it with the know-how and technology to develop the forbidding region and the Kremlin eventually gave the nod to BP – a company with a long but sometimes troubled history in Russia.

The agreement was personally blessed by Russia’s powerful prime minister Vladimir Putin and hailed by BP as an important part of its expansion plans following the humiliation it suffered during last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

But its implementation has been blocked in the courts amid arguments by BP’s current Russian joint venture TNK-BP that the Rosneft tie-up violated its own shareholder agreement with the British company.

BP was technically committed to perform all its operations in Russia through its TNK-BP venture but was already working on its own in the vast energy project the country is developing in the Pacific Sakhalin Island.

It used the Sakhalin argument when it was presenting its case to the Kremlin and Putin himself later admitted to being surprised that the agreement was having such difficulties in the courts.

Russia’s energy tsar Igor Sechin – a close ally of Putin – even warned in one interview ahead of the decision that “Rosneft would estimate its losses from the unrealised deal and require compensation” from BP if it was blocked.

The British firm’s Thursday statement said it would still look to complete the share swap without the joint Arctic exploration part of the pact – a move that could potentially keep it out of litigation.

The small group of billionaires making up the Russian half of the TNK-BP joint venture – collectively known as AAR and led by Alfa Group chief Mikhail Fridman – said the ruling left them satisfied but still concerned.

Virgin Blue heads for pre-tax loss

Posted on: February 3rd, 2019 by
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Natural disasters and spiralling fuel costs have forced Virgin Blue Holdings Ltd to issue a fourth earnings downgrade in 12 months, leaving the airline’s share price at a near seven-month low.

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The airline group – comprising Virgin Blue, Polynesian Blue, Pacific Blue and V Australia – said on Wednesday it expected to post a before tax loss for 2010/11 in a range between $30 million to $80 million.

“This assumes no further significant increase in fuel prices and no material deterioration in the trading environment,” Virgin Blue said in a statement. If the result prints in line with expectations, it would be well below the $33.4 million pre-tax profit in 2009/10.

Investors hammered Virgin Blue in response, with the stock slumping 7.58 per cent to be at the lowest level since August 26, 2010 at 30.5 cents at 1405 AEDT.

Chief executive John Borghetti said plans to wean the airline off the heavy reliance on the leisure market and seek a larger share of corporate and business travellers were unchanged.

On the contrary, Mr Borghetti said current circumstances left him even more certain it was the correct approach. “We are more confident than ever that our strategy is the right one,” Mr Borghetti said.

The airline said it faced an extra $115 million in costs in the second half, with $50 million due to soaring jet fuel and $15 million because of the Christchurch earthquake.

That was on top of the previously announced $50 million hit as a consequence of Cyclone Yasi and the devastating Queensland floods. In response, Virgin Blue said it had initiated an “action plan” that identified cost savings and revenue initiatives, such as fuel surcharges and capacity reductions, that would “partially offset” the impact of these recent events.

Macquarie Equities Research said Virgin Blue’s domestic operations looked on track to post a full-year loss for the first time since the company listed in 2002.

“Management is seeing no sign of capacity being eased off from competitor Jetstar, leaving domestic leisure yields under substantial pressure,” Macquarie said in a research note dated March 23.

Virgin Blue had anticipated capacity growth of between six and eight per cent across the group in 2010/11, but a company spokesperson told AAP the airline had flexibility to adjust capacity in light of recent events. Cost savings would not include job losses, they said.

At the airline’s first half results presentation in February, Mr Borghetti said the second half would be “challenging”, but declined to issue specific earnings guidance, saying it was too early to do so.

In Wednesday’s statement, Mr Borghetti said: “We have witnessed an unprecedented number of significant events in an extraordinarily short period of time, including natural disasters and a sharp spike in fuel prices.”

“These events have severely impacted consumer confidence, resulting in a slower than usual recovery in tourism.”

Macquarie said the Virgin downgrade also pointed to some earnings pressure at Australia’s national flag carrier Qantas Airways Ltd.

“Clearly this is not a great indicator of demand strength for QAN either, with VBA’s (Virgin’s) main competitor directly exposed to weakness in the Japan market,” Macquarie said.

“We also expect Jetstar domestic would be losing money in the current environment.

“However, QAN’s earnings as a whole are likely to be less severely impacted due to a better hedging profile and its dominant share of premium traffic which continues to improve.”

At 1405 AEDT, Qantas was down two cents at $2.07.

Dutch gunman kills six then himself

Posted on: February 3rd, 2019 by
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A gunman opened fire in a packed mall in The Netherlands Saturday, killing six people and wounding at least 10 others before shooting himself dead, an official said.

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The shooter was a gun club member with several arms permits who was known to the police, the prosecutor’s office said. “The number of dead now stands at seven,” including the shooter, Bas Eenhoorn, the acting mayor of Alphen aan den Rijn south of Amsterdam, said in a statement. Earlier he had spoken of another 11 wounded, four of them seriously: the latter number dropped to three with the announcement of the latest death. Kitty Nooy of The Hague prosecutor’s office identified the gunman as 24-year-old Tristan van der Vlis, a member of a shooting club who had permits for five weapons. He acted alone, she said. “He had in his possession three firearms, but we don’t know at this stage if he used one of them in the course of the shooting,” she added. He had left a farewell letter, she added, without elaborating. In his car, a black Mercedes parked in the shopping centre car park, investigators had found another letter saying that explosives had been placed in three other shopping centres in the town, she said. Van der Vlis lived with his father near the shopping centre, she said. Earlier Saturday, Eenhoorn had said that three other shopping centres in the town had been evacuated “as a precautionary measure”. Mall packed with families The shooting took place around midday (1000 GMT) at the Ridderhof shopping mall, packed with families with children, Eenhoorn told journalists. “A man armed with an automatic firearm opened fire on the crowd… before taking his own life,” Eenhoorn said. Dutch media interviewed survivors who described the gunman as a cold-blooded killer. “He was big and dressed in camouflage pants,” an elderly woman told Dutch public television NOS. “He moved about without haste, killing in cold blood.” Police evacuated the shopping centre, where the shooting sparked mass panic amid early rumours that the killer was not acting alone. Most witnesses said the shooting lasted between 10 and 20 minutes. “Initially, we thought it was fireworks,” 37-year-old Mehdi Attha told AFP. “Then the noises got closer and two people fell to the ground very close to me. “People went over to them to help, thinking that they had fainted. When they understood that someone was firing shots, everyone started running,” she added. “I didn’t see the shooter, I was just thinking about running.” Hajam Leouesset, a young woman who witnessed the slaughter, said: “We saw people running in all directions and we heard them scream. “Then I saw a man firing shots with a type of machine gun and there was blood everywhere,” she said. According to Leouesset, the killer “shot himself with another gun, near the cash registers at the supermarket where I was”. Ronald van Boven, 43, was shopping in the complex when the shooting started. “A supermarket employee grabbed an injured person by the hips and dragged them inside the shop to them under cover,” he told AFP. “There was a lot of blood,” he added. “It is hard to believe that our town could experience such slaughter, and on such a beautiful day,” said Eenhoorn. He was “profoundly shocked”, he added, offering his condolences to the victims’ relatives. Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands had also expressed her distress at news of the shooting and passed on her condolences, said Eenhoorn. Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten called the events “a terrible drama”. “One hears of these types of things happening abroad,” Glenn Schoen, a Dutch specialist on security issues, told NOS. “One does not expect that such a bloodbath can happen in a country like the Netherlands.” The NOS television footage broadcast photographs taken of the scene, including one of a man killed in his car, his body hanging from the open door among shards of glass. On April 30, two years ago, a man rammed his car into crowds celebrating the annual Queen’s Day in The Netherlands. He killed seven people and himself, injuring nine others in the attack on the Dutch royal family in the central city of Apeldoorn.