Monthly Archives: January 2019
Sixty Victorian properties linked to the Comancheros have been raided amid police fears of a payback involving the Hells Angels.
At least 18 people were arrested, including the Comancheros’ Victorian vice president, when police swooped early Wednesday morning.
Firearms, drugs including large quantities of steroids, ammunition, cash, tasers, swords and explosives were seized at 58 of 62 addresses targeted.
The raided properties include clubhouses, homes, factories and businesses.
“There’s still an ongoing feud with the Hells Angels motorcycle club and we’ve got pretty good intelligence they were planning retaliation for attacks on their premises last year,” Assistant Commissioner Steve Fontana told reporters.
Properties linked to the Comancheros including a gym, clubhouse and vehicles were attacked with guns and explosives last year.
Mr Fontana said the Comancheros brokered a deal after police executed warrants on the Hells Angels and other bikie groups last year.
“That was fortunate that that took place but that hasn’t resolved the issue between these clubs,” he said.
“I understand that a couple of individuals are really dark on the fact those attacks took place on their clubhouse and their premises and they want to retaliate.”
The Victorian Comancheros vice president was among those arrested and allegedly found to have a high-powered handgun and another firearm in his possession, Mr Fontana said.
The Comancheros were targeted after recent police operations in Mildura led to members being charged with serious offences.
“They absolutely terrorised the community,” Mr Fontana said.
Police now believe the Rebels motorcycle gang are moving in on Mildura after police pushed the Comancheros out.
The Finks outlaw bikies also recently patched over to the Mongols Motorcycle Club with intelligence suggesting they will be a front for Middle Eastern crime rackets in Victoria, Mr Fontana said.
“They’re linked back to NSW and we’re not going to sit back and wait for this to happen,” he said.
“I’m putting these clubs on notice that we’ll be coming in hard and they’ll see more of this activity.”
Argentina says it has appealed to the US Supreme Court against a lower court order to pay off hedge fund investors in its bonds, arguing that order violated its sovereignty.
Taking its two-year battle against the investors, which it calls “vulture funds,” to the highest US court, Buenos Aires said the lower court was wrong in trying to force the country to pay them out of reserves it says are immune from such orders.
In addition, it said, enforcing the lower court ruling could wreak havoc with restructurings of sovereign bonds generally, having a potential deep effect on global sovereign bond markets.
In key rulings in 2012 and 2013, the US District Court in New York said Argentina had to pay NML Capital and Aurelius Capital 100 per cent of the face value of the Argentine debt they hold, as well as accrued interest and penalties.
The two US investment houses were among a small group of “holdouts” which did not take part in the 2005 and 2010 restructurings of about $US100 billion ($A111.02 billion) in debt the country defaulted on 13 years ago.
While 93 per cent of the investors took large writedowns on the debt in the negotiated deal, the holdouts have persisted in their claims for full payback.
The New York court’s ruling gave NML and Aurelius the right to pursue Argentine sovereign assets – mainly bank accounts held offshore – to that end.
After a higher New York court rejected Argentina’s first appeal last year, the government resolved to petition the Supreme Court in the case.
Argentina said in the statement that the lower court erroneously interpreted the US Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which it argues protects its government accounts in US banks, among others.
In addition, it takes issue with the lower court’s view that the country’s bond contracts require it to repay the holdouts if it also repays the restructured bond holders.
Argentina argues that the hedge funds bought the bonds at a steep discount after it got into trouble and do not have the same rights as the restructured bond holders.
“Because there is no sovereign bankruptcy regime, Argentina followed established international practice and has successfully restructured almost 93 per cent of its debt, servicing bondholders ever since,” the government said.
“The consequences of this case go well beyond Argentina. If left unreviewed, the lower court orders could render future sovereign debt restructurings virtually impossible.”
Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito apologised Tuesday for remarks made last week after being named the central figure in a National Football League bullying scandal.
A 144-page report following an investigation that lasted more than three months and included more than 100 interviews found Incognito and two of his teammates guilty of harassing Jonathan Martin and another teammate as well as an assistant trainer.
Incognito had said independent investigator Ted Wells could not define him “in 144 years let alone 144 pages” and said Wells’ probe could not be independent “when the NFL paid the person to do it.”
Incognito offered apologies to Wells, Martin and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who came out harshly against the tormenting behaviour after the report found a “pattern of harassment” and vowed changes would be made.
Martin left the team in October and Incognito was suspended in early November when the scandal came to light, featuring voice-mails and text messages that included racial insults and threats of violence, pulling back the curtain on unsavoury aspects of NFL locker rooms.
The report released Friday concluded Incognito’s harassment pushed Martin from the team but also found it was not intended to do so or cause lasting emotional harm.
“I apologise for acting like a big baby the last few days,” Incognito wrote on his Twitter page. “This has all been so much on me and my family. I just want to play football.
“I want everyone to know I’m in good spirits and looking forward to playing again one day.
“I would like to send Jonathan my apologies as well. Until someone tells me different you are still my brother. No hard feelings :)”
“I would like to also apologise to Mr. Ross and Mr. Wells.”
Australian surgeon Catherine Hamlin has just celebrated her 90th birthday, and for most people, this would be a good enough reason to slow down.
(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)
But Dr Hamlin says she will continue her work with women in Ethiopia with the potentially life-threatening medical condition, obstetric fistula.
(Click on audio tab above to hear full item)
When Catherine Hamlin celebrated her 90th birthday, she didn’t want gifts or a party.
Instead, she says she wished for her hands to remain steady enough to continue to operate on some of the thousands of women who come to the hospital she and her late husband, Reg, established in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Dr Hamlin says it’s not difficult to feel compassion for the women coming to seek help for a painful and potentially life-threatening condition.
“These patients are very touching to people meeting them because of their poverty, because of their needs. And to know that there are young women who would be ruined if they’re not repaired, you don’t have to have special gifts. If you just see one it draws out your compassion in your heart.”
Dr Hamlin’s work involves women who have developed a hole, or fistula, near their vaginas after prolonged, obstructed births.
The condition, when untreated, can cause incontinence, as well as severe infection– and in extreme cases, paralysis.
The work of Dr Hamlin’s hospital is supported by a fund-raising group in Australia.
Chief Executive Officer of the group, Lucy Perry, says the condition is debilitating.
“They’re in so much pain. They have serious internal injuries but people often forget too, because they’re dripping urine, they’re incontinent, just the acid in their urine eats away at their skin and their skin breaks down. Just walking is a huge discomfort to them. And just that ability to decide when you go to the toilet is such a basic human dignity that allows you to live your life properly.”
Dr Hamlin says obstetric fistulas frequently lead to women being excluded from their community in rural parts of Ethiopia.
“They don’t understand what is the cause of this. They think they’ve been cursed by God and they have no idea that it’s due to a mechanical factor. Either the baby’s too big or the pelvis is too small and they can’t deliver normally. And they don’t realise that this was the cause of them being incontinent when the baby comes out.”
Dr Hamlin says when she and her husband arrived in Ethiopia as fellow doctors in 1959, they never imagined the condition would end up being the main focus of their lives.
“We happened to have come to Ethiopia. We didn’t know anything about fistulas when we came. And we met these patients and we met these patients and we became very much involved straight away with trying to help them and we read all the literature about how to repair them and we contacted doctors in Egypt who were doing these operations. And we had to learn really, how to operate.”
Despite being more than 20 years over Australia’s retirement age, Dr Hamlin says she has no plans to stop working.
Every day, she walks from her home in Addis Ababa to the hospital, where she still operates on an average of two patients a week.
Other surgeons do many more operations – more than two-thousand a year, and almost all patients are completely cured.
Dr Hamlin says the best 90th birthday presents she can have are donations to help keep her hospital running.
Lucy Perry says even the smallest donations can make a difference.
“Anything from ten dollar packs of slippers for our patients. A ten dollar pack buys five pairs of slippers. Our patients arrive barefoot generally. So anything from small items like that right through to, we need to pay for obstetric fistula surgery, we need to pay for caesareans, we need to pay for accomodation for our long term patients who need training and more integration back into society, right up to $35,000 fully equipped midwifery centres in regional Ethiopia.”
The Hamlin organisation once received Australian government funding, but that’s stopped.
Now, it relies entirely on public donations to keep the hospital running.
Lucy Perry says it makes planning for the future of the hospital a challenge.
“It has had quite an impact, it was a million dollars a year. Our entire budget to run the hospital and the midwifery college is five million dollars a year so to lose 20 per cent of our income is an enormous amount. But at the same time, I’ve always said that if I’m doing my job properly, we’ll never need to apply for AusAid funding again because we’ll have enormous support from the Australian public.”
Dr Hamlin says she wants donors to realise that despite the number of operations at her hospital, there are still many women in rural parts in Ethiopia suffering from obstetric fistulas.
“I just love the patients and I feel this tremendous need to awaken the Western world to this need.”
Ms Perry says Dr Hamlin needs her patients as much as they need her.
“She said to me once, oh if I stop operating, I’ll die. And she’s still operating weekly and she’s amazing. I’ve sat with her in theatre a number of times and she has amazing steadiness of hand. She doesn’t wear glasses, she sits down to operate and the team around her sit around her. She said to me in theatre once, the day I lose the steadiness is the last day I’ll operate.”
Dr Hamlin’s sister, Ailsa Pottie agrees.
“I think she just loves the work and people say ‘oh you know you’re wonderful to give up a good career in Australia’, as though it’s some sort of terrible hardship for her. But she just loves the people and she loves the work, and she’s just committed.”
But Dr Hamlin does have a plan in place to keep her work going for the women of Ethiopia, when her hands one day do become unsteady.
Lucy Perry explains.
“We have 90 midwives in training at the moment. In time, as we can deploy those midwives out into the countryside, and they can be alongside women in Ethiopia when they give birth, we will be able to reduce the incidence of obstetric fistula. And then we can look towards the future of really putting our effort into general obstetrics and really being able to give to the women of Ethiopia emergency obstetric services when they need them. So that’s the vision. Catherine has said to me over the years, she had wanted to achieve that in her lifetime and last time she said that to me she said it won’t be in my lifetime, but it might be in your lifetime. And I’m 50 years younger than Catherine so I’ve got my work cut out for me.”
Catherine Hamlin says it is the dedication of her staff that helps the hospital to thrive, and will keep her foundation running for many years to come.
“I’ve got a good staff that are committed to help and they’re inspired to go on with this work and they will keep the hospital going until we’re free of fistulas in the countryside.”
Would you like fries with that? Will that be in a meal deal? Fancy a cookie and drink with your sandwich?
It seems that everywhere we look, we’re being “upsold”.
Someone’s constantly trying to convince us to buy more, pay more, consume more. America can take most of the credit (or blame).
But not Chrysler. Unlike its compatriots, the big American car maker has taken the minimalist approach to the latest version of its most well-known model with a “low fat” version built specially for Australia.
Keen to tap into the Aussie love of big, muscular performance sedans, the American brand has stripped its impressive 300C SRT8 hot rod back to the core. Literally.
If this is “basics”, give me more of it.
Call it addition by subtraction. Because although they’ve taken away some of the luxury items from the original SRT8, they’ve left behind all of the performance and desirability at a much-reduced price.
The heart of this machine, the Core, if you like, is a thundering, high-performance 6.4-litre V8 engine that underpins the appeal of the big Chrysler.
The engine delivers some formidable numbers. 347 kilowatts of power and a gargantuan 631 Newton metres of torque. 0-100km/h in about 4.8 seconds – and an electronically-limited top speed of 250km/h.
But the most formidable number is this one. $56,000. That’s the price, by the way, not the fuel bill.
The SRT8 Core is a full $10 grand cheaper than the fully-equipped SRT8 – and close to $20-grand cheaper than you would have paid a decade or so ago when the very first SRT8 that caused such a stir when it arrived in Australia. Not many cars have become $20,000 cheaper over the course of the past decade, that’s for sure.
Those numbers combine to make the SRT8 Core perhaps the best value performance machine on the market. Certainly nothing comes vaguely close to delivering the same kind of bang for your buck – even though Ford has recently started running out the final versions of its turbo-charged Falcon FPV F6 at a comparable cost.
The Chrysler is more than just a muscle machine.
While some desirable features of the full-blown 300 SRT8 have been stripped away (the leather trim, the premium audio and the adjustable suspension system, for instance), there’s still an overwhelming sense of refinement about this car.
Driven sedately, it’s quiet, comfortable and spacious. Yes, even practical – if not exactly economical.
The SRT does, though, get Chrysler’s cylinder deactivation system – which shuts down four of the engine’s cylinders when it’s not operating under heavy load – to save fuel. A little “eco” sign illuminates on the instrument panel whenever the cylinder deactivation system kicks in – and it’s surprising how often you see it lit up during normal driving conditions.
Of course, get too enthusiastic with the right foot and you’ll literally be able to watch the fuel gauge heading towards empty.
That won’t come as much of a surprise. Expecting a car with 6.4 litres of Detroit V8 to go light on the juice is a bit like expecting George Clooney to lay off the coffee.
We handed the big Chrysler back with 500km on the trip meter, the fuel gauge nudging empty and the onboard computer showing an average consumption rate of 12.1L/100km.
That’s pretty impressive for a car of this size and particularly one with such performance capability – despite the massive capacity of its V8 engine.
It will, after all, fit five adults in comfort, and it boasts masses of cargo space in that big, handsome rear end. As well as its thundering capacity to accelerate, the SRT8 can wipe off speed just as convincingly, thanks to its massive Brembo high-performance brakes – the same as those featured on the “full cream” version.
The 300C is an intimidating looking machine – particularly in the dark blue hue of our test vehicle, complemented by dark chrome 20-inch alloy wheels that are standard on the Core model.
So what do “Core” buyers have to do without? Not much, to be honest.
The seats are cloth, instead of leather, but they’re still comfortable and supportive. They’re not heated, either, but that’s hardly a deal-breaker in Australia.
The Core gets sports suspension – but not the electronically adjustable version of the top-line SRT. Likewise it misses the radar-guided Adaptive Cruise Control – and the collision avoidance system that comes with it.
But you still get the excellent touch-screen cabin management system (known as UConnect) which allows you to do everything from dial in your destination on the sat-nav (an option on the Core) to dial up your friends on the Bluetooth phone system. There’s also an SRT function which allows you to measure various vehicle dynamics and acceleration stats.
Like the SRT8, the transmission is a robust five-speeder, rather than the eight-speed unit fitted to more sedate V6 models. Apparently that excellent self-shifter has not yet been calibrated for the V8’s tarmac-tearing power.
The auto is still adequate and the wheel-mounted paddle shifters allow the driver to select ratios at will.
The bottom line is a car that boasts massive doses of what performance fans want – with virtually none of the things they don’t.
A bit like being on a diet, I guess – but a diet where you still get to eat fillet steak every night of the week. You want fries with that?
CHRYSLER 300 SRT8 CORE
DETAILS: Four-door, five-seat luxury performance sedan with 6.4-litre V8 engine, five-speed automatic transmission.
TECH STUFF: 6.4-litre Hemi V8 with aluminium cylinder heads, electronic throttle control, variable valve timing and multiple-cylinder displacement system produces [email protected]; [email protected]; five-speed automatic transmission with sports mode and wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
FEATURES: Seven airbags; electronic stability control with brake assist and all-speed traction control; ready-alert braking with rain support; adaptive lighting, rain-sensing wipers; 8.8-inch touch-screen cabin management system; Bluetooth and iPod inputs; electric seats, windows and mirrors.
THIRST: 13L/100km (combined figure).
PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h in less than five seconds (no official figure provided).
VERDICT: Plenty of meat, hold the fries.
BOTTOM LINE: $56,000 plus onroad costs.
Leaders from Pacific nations, including Australia and New Zealand, are gathering in the Marshall Islands for the Pacific Islands Forum, with climate change a major item on the agenda.
The Marshall Islands is hosting the forum, and has chosen the theme “Marshalling the Pacific response to the climate challenge”.
It is pushing for member countries, and observers like the US and China, to support a pledge to take bold action on climate change.
Isolated in the Pacific, its capital sitting less than two metres above sea level, the Marshall Islands is quite literally struggling to keep its head above water.
A freak high wave or storm can prove catastrophic for the Marshalls, a group of 34 atolls with a population of 65,000, sitting 4800 kilometres north of Auckland.
When Pacific leaders touch down in the capital of Majuro on Tuesday, they’ll see first-hand the impact changing weather patterns, rising seas and ocean acidification are having on the islands.
Australia will be represented by Senator Jacinta Collins, Minister for Mental Health and Ageing. In the absence of a high-powered Australian delegation, days out from the general election, all eyes will be on New Zealand as the forum member with the most power to influence the global agenda to combat climate change.
Prime Minister John Key’s visit comes just two weeks after the NZ government announced an emissions reduction target of five per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 – a meagre goal in comparison to the European Union’s commitment of 20 per cent below 1990 levels.
Mr Key defends that, saying New Zealand’s commitment is still bigger than those of the US and Australia.
A week ago, Marshall Islands government minister Tony de Brum labelled New Zealand’s commitment “so, so meaningless”.
Mass population evacuations are decades off, but the Marshallese government isn’t content to wait around for that to happen, Minister in Assistance to the President, Tony de Brum, told AAP.
“Relocation is not an option for us,” he said. “We did not create this problem. It is the responsibility of the polluters to reverse their polluting ways.”
That includes the US, which administered the Marshall Islands for four decades until 1986 and provides aid support essential to the Marshalls’ economy.
President Christopher Loeak wrote a strongly worded letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of the forum.
“If the US is serious about rolling up its sleeves and renewing its global leadership on climate change, you will pivot to the Pacific and join us in Majuro,” he wrote.
That invitation was snubbed; Mr Kerry is busy dealing with a potential US-led military strike on Syria, and has instead sent another official.
Regardless, the Marshalls will push ahead with an attempt to get Pacific-wide agreement on the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership, which “recognises the complete insufficiency of current efforts to reduce [emissions]”, and calls on post-forum dialogue partners – including the US and China – to make specific, bold targets to reduce their emissions.
“The Pacific Rim is home to more than 60 per cent of global greenhouse emissions and rising,” Mr de Brum said.
“This is the key battlefield in the war against climate change. We need the wider region to support our call for urgent action.”
The forum wraps up on Friday.
A new United States climate fund for small Pacific nations has been unveiled on the final day of the Pacific Islands Forum, helping offset criticism of the big polluter’s climate change commitments.
US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is attending a post-forum dialogue in the Marshall Islands on Friday alongside representatives from other big greenhouse gas emitters China and India.
Speaking at a press conference alongside Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak on Friday afternoon, Mrs Jewell announced the new Pacific American Climate Fund, to help small, developing Pacific states adapt to the threats of climate change.
It will include $US20m ($A22m)-$US24m, albeit subject to funds, to provide and monitor grants for adaptation measures.
The US also announced $US4.5m over five years for a disaster preparedness and response programme in the Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia.
Pacific leaders were hoping the US would make a bolder commitment to tackle climate change, such as increasing its 2020 emissions-reduction target from 17 per cent of 2005 levels, but was left disappointed by Mrs Jewell reiterating its existing commitments.
The appearance of big polluters at the post-forum dialogue on Friday follows forum members’ agreement on Thursday to the Majuro Declaration, calling on all states to take meaningful steps to address climate change, including boosting their carbon reduction targets.
Along with pressure on the US to boost its climate change commitments, the Marshalls – a former US territory which endured dozens of nuclear tests 60 years ago – demanded it live up to its obligations to Marshall Islanders still affected by resulting health issues, and settle the $US2 billion in compensation claims still outstanding.
However, US Ambassador Tom Armbruster says the US considers it has paid full and final compensation for the nuclear tests.
Big polluters China, the US and India will come in for criticism from small Pacific states threatened by climate change at the Pacific Islands Forum.
Those powerhouses are attending a post-forum dialogue on Friday in the Marshall Islands, where they’ll face off with the leaders of low-lying states, whose future could be underwater unless action is taken to stem rising seas and other climate-related impacts.
Pacific leaders on Thursday agreed to the Majuro Declaration, calling on forum members and others to take meaningful steps to address climate change, including boosting their carbon reduction targets.
The host of next year’s forum, Palau President Tommy Remengesau, says he plans to build on the momentum on climate change that the Marshall Islands has started.
“This is an issue of our very own survival, and our sustainability as a people, and as small island nations here,” he said.
On Friday, US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will hold one-on-one meetings with several leaders, but her reception from the host nation will be lukewarm, the Marshalls’ Foreign Affairs Minister Phillip Muller has indicated.
“We would have expected, if not (Secretary of State John) Kerry, somebody close to him,” he said, adding that Mr Kerry’s predecessor, Hillary Clinton, attended last year’s forum in the Cook Islands.
“When you send a minister of the interior, that’s the person who manages the internal affairs of another country, and for us I think that’s really more than just a slap in the face.”
Along with pressure on the US to boost its climate change commitments, the Marshalls – a former US territory which endured dozens of nuclear tests 60 years ago – will also demand it live up to its obligations to Marshall Islanders still affected by resulting health issues, and settle the $US2 billion ($A2.19 billion) in compensation claims still outstanding.
A man who had previously been jailed in Australia for the manslaughter of a teenage boy has been given one of New Zealand’s longest non-parole sentences for the murder of a 13-year-old Christchurch schoolgirl.
Abuse was yelled at Jeremy McLaughlin on Wednesday as he was led from the dock after being sentenced by a New Zealand court to at least 23 years behind bars for the 2011 murder of Jade Bayliss.
McLaughlin narrowly avoided being the first person to be jailed for life without parole.
During his trial in the High Court at Christchurch, the crown said McLaughlin strangled Jade – the daughter of his ex-girlfriend – and put socks in her mouth when she found him burgling the family home, and then set fire to the house to try to cover it up.
In 2001, McLaughlin was deported back to New Zealand from Australia after serving four years for the manslaughter of 14-year-old Perth boy Phillip Vidot.
McLaughlin was 18 when he and two others killed Phillip when they robbed him in a Perth park of his joggers and wallet in 1995.
Christchurch police were aware of the conviction, but privacy laws prevented them from disclosing it to Jade’s mother.
Although specialist reports to Justice Graham Panckhurst labelled McLaughlin as a medium- to high-risk candidate for reoffending, he turned down a crown request for a life sentence without parole.
Justice Panckhurst said he was taking into account submissions, victim impact reports and McLaughlin’s Australian manslaughter conviction in handing down the 23-year non-parole sentence.
Jade’s mother, Tina Bayliss, described her daughter as the “apple of her eye” who was an exceptional student at Cashmere High School and who had everything to live for.
Ms Bayliss said never a day went by that she didn’t blame herself for what had happened. She described herself as having been always enthusiastic about life but that she now suffered from constant depression.
She and her ex-husband Gary Bayliss said they constantly worried about the effect of Jade’s murder on their two younger daughters.
Justice Panckhurst said he found McLaughlin’s denial of the murder was “simply fatuous” and that the case had been the most compelling he had ever experienced on the bench.
He added that McLaughlin’s refusal to “acknowledge the obvious was very disturbing”.
The non-parole option has been open to New Zealand sentencing since 2010 but Justice Panckhurst ruled that McLaughlin was “on the brink but not crossing the line”.
New laws which make it easier to prosecute criminals from opposite sides of the Tasman have come into force.
The agreement between Australia and New Zealand, which has been 10 years in the making, has come into force on Friday.
The new rules make it easier for people in Australia or New Zealand to:
* start court proceedings against a person in the other country;
* require people in the other country to give evidence; and
* register and enforce a civil court judgment in the other country.
People involved in a case in the other country will be able to ask:
* for the case to be heard before a court in their country;
* to appear before the court in the other country via video or audio link; and
* to suspend enforcement of a civil court judgment from the other country.
“Trans-Tasman proceedings arrangements between New Zealand and Australia introduce a range of measures to make a trans-Tasman court case more like a case between people in the same country,” Justice Minister Judith Collins said.
Ms Collins and Australian Attorney-General George Brandis said the agreement was important given the success of the Closer Economic Relations agreement.
“It’s become increasingly easy for people, goods and services to move between Australia and New Zealand,” Ms Collins said.
“This ease of movement creates a greater risk of cross-border legal disputes that have historically been difficult to resolve. The new arrangement is designed to make resolving trans-Tasman disputes simpler and more efficient.”
A working group began looking at the issue in 2003 and legislation was passed in both countries in 2010 but the need to sort out rules and procedures in all seven Australian states meant it’s only now they are coming into force.