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The Cruise Director: world cruises are changing

Posted on 09/07/2018 by

An Aqua Mekong cabin. Aqua Mekong lounge.

A world cruise used to be a fairly straightforward procedure: get on a ship in a northern hemisphere port (Southampton, Miami or Los Angeles), sail around the world for about 100 days, and then disembark at the same place you got on. Not any more.

These days, world cruises are divided into sectors (for those of us who don’t have a spare three months to go all the way). A world cruise might include a “grand cruise”, which is a 30 or 40-day voyage around a specific region – and not all lines that offer grand cruises offer world cruises. Then there are boomerang cruises, which combine cruises on two ships in one trip; for example, cruising from Southampton to Sydney on board QM2, then returning to Southampton on board Queen Victoria.

Here is a selection of ships that are sailing around the world, departing the northern hemisphere in January 2015:

Amsterdam (Holland America Line): 113-night world round trip from Miami; January 5-April 30. Amsterdam offers four itineraries out of Auckland and Sydney in February.

Arcadia and Aurora (P&O World Cruising): 106 and 105-night round trips from Southampton; January 6/8-April 23.

Costa Deliziosa (Costa Cruises): 115-night round-trip from Italy; January 6-May 2. Ports of call include Rio de Janeiro, Papeete, Auckland and Sydney.

Crystal Serenity (Crystal Cruises): 108-night round-trip from Miami; January 15 to May 4. There’s a 21-day segment from Auckland to Perth from February 20-March 13.

All three Cunard queens are sailing world cruises round-trip from Southampton; Queen Elizabeth (112 nights) and Queen Mary 2 (113 nights) leave on January 10, and Queen Victoria (103 nights) leaves on January 20. They will offer various regional segments, including QM2’s 13-night circumnavigation of New Zealand, and a royal rendezvous of QM2 and Queen Victoria on Sydney Harbour is planned for March 12.

Princess Cruises is offering a 104-night world cruise round-trip from Sydney, which leaves on May 22 and returns on September 4; it will visit 41 destinations in 28 countries.

Smaller five-star ships such as Silversea’s Silver Whisper Seabourn’s Sojourn also offer world cruises.Shipshape


LAUNCHED: 2014, the 62.4-metre luxury river ship was designed by Ho Chi Minh City-based architects.

PASSENGERS & CREW: 40 passengers (double occupancy), 40 crew.

ACCOMMODATION: There are 20 30-square-metre airconditioned suites all with panoramic windows, eight with balconies; four are interconnecting.

REGULAR HAUNTS: Aqua Mekong sails with three, four and seven-night itineraries on the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia.

PERFECT FOR: Sophisticated families with older children, couples, singles.

DINING: Michelin-starred chef David Thompson, renowned for his take on south-east Asian cuisine, is the executive chef on Aqua Mekong. Inventive menus featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients change daily. The elegant dining room has floor-to-ceiling windows and private outdoor dining is also available.

PARTYING: Enjoy pre-dinner cocktails at one of the two outdoor lounges or on the observation deck; take in a daily lecture from expert guides in the lobby lounge; book a private movie show in the screening room; spend quiet hours in the library/games room.

DOING: The ship has four boats that carry a maximum 10 passengers each on several daily excursions on the river, plus bicycles for riverbank touring. Local guides take guests to villages, temples and monasteries.

DID YOU KNOW? Aqua Expeditions was established in 2007 by founder and chief executive Francesco Galli Zugaro. The boutique cruise line operates two luxury riverships, Aqua Amazon and Aria Amazon, on the Peruvian Amazon.

THE DETAILS: Fares for the seven-night cruise from Siem Reap, Cambodia, to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, or vice versa, start at $US7000 ($7450). For departure dates, see website. Phone 1800 243 152, see aquaexpeditions南京夜网.



Save more than $1000 a person on a seven-night Asian fly/cruise holiday, including a five-night cruise on board Voyager of the Seas round-trip from Hong Kong. The package includes two nights’ accommodation in Hong Kong and return airfares from Australia. Costs from $1999. Book by September 10 or until sold. Phone 1300 369 848, see ecruising.travel.


UNIWORLD is offering savings worth up to $9175 on its 29-day Amsterdam-to-Istanbul cruise on board the imperial River Duchess. Choose from departures between May and October 2015; fares include beverages, shore excursions, free Wi-Fi, and start at $10,394. Phone 02 9028 5199, see uniworldcruises南京夜网.au.

AURORA EXPEDITIONS has new expeditions to Antarctica, on the 54-passenger Polar Pioneer, that include return airfares from Australia and accommodation in Ushuaia and Punta Arenas. The 12-day expedition, departing December 6, starts at $14,595. Phone 02 9252 1033, see auroraexpeditions南京夜网.au.Tip

It’s not too late to see Alaska this year; if you can take off in the next few weeks, there are some excellent fares with Holland America Line and Princess Cruises until the season winds up at the end of September. There are fewer tourists in September and bargains to be had in the souvenir shops. If that’s a bit too last-minute, check out shoulder-season cruises in May, when it’s often less rainy than in summer and fares cheaper than high season.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

100 years since birth of baby clinics

Posted on 09/07/2018 by

Babies benefit from specialised clinics: The introduction of the health centres has significantly reduced the infant mortality in NSW. Photo: Janie Barrett Parenting evolved in life of baby clinics: Nurse Jenni Jones with 8 month old Ethan his mum Sharlene Pasqual. Photo: Janie Barrett

The bundles arrive as they always have.

Squawking, sleeping, starving or stuffed, mostly loved, often confounding, nothing about babies has changed in the 100 years since the first baby health clinic opened in NSW, but “parenting”, as it is now known, has washed through fad after fad.

Irene Macadie watched the mothers who brought their babies to the clinic morph from stay-at-home wives with lots of close family support and exposure to other babies when she started working as a baby nurse in 1955, into working women, unfamiliar with babies and living far from their own parents when she retired in 1994.

They worried always about settling their babies, but the later mothers were more anxious about their babies’ development, and the general tiredness that afflicts all mothers had funnelled into a single question: “When will my baby sleep through the night?”

“That’s probably the biggest question,” Ms Macadie said.

“Over the years it seemed to be an expected thing.

“Mothers who had been very much on top of their careers I think expected to be able to manage the baby like they could manage their staff.”

The first baby clinic opened in Alexandria in 1914, followed by Newtown and Darlinghurst and by the 1980s there were about 500 clinics, these days known as Early Childhood Heath Centres.

The early focus was on reducing infant mortality and the nurses provided antenatal care, breastfeeding advice, growth monitoring, development, infant nutrition and teaching “the hygiene of infancy”.

In 1914, about one in 10 children died before they turned one. Today, fewer than five children per 1000 die before their first birthday.

During that time, the centres also changed their approach towards parents, from dogmatic to collaborative.

Catherine Bye started working as a baby health nurse in 1973, following in the footsteps of her mother, the director of Metropolitan baby health.

“I could see up to 20 to 40 mothers a day and we were just basically telling them what to do,” Ms Bye said.

She told mothers to breastfeed every four hours, and to give their babies boiled water if they were hungry in between.

It was not until she had her own daughter that she realised such advice was not the panacea to all baby problems.

“It was a bit of a shock to me because I’d been preaching all this. My mum used to say, ‘Babies don’t read the books’.”

The nurses these days made suggestions rather than laid down the law, and mothers took a more relaxed approach, Ms Bye said.

“But it’s important that they set some boundaries,” Ms Bye said.

Nearly 7.4 million babies have been born in NSW over the past 100 years. Health Services are celebrating the centenary of the service with events throughout the state this month.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Liberal marginals’ donations drought amid ICAC hearings

Posted on 09/07/2018 by

“Absolutely it’s tough for us”: Garry Edwards, Liberal MP for Swansea. Photo: Dean OslandThe NSW Liberal Party has begun pairing wealthy north shore branches as fund-raising sponsors of poorer marginal seats as it prepares to defend western Sydney and central coast electorates in the election in March next year.

But as the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s investigation into donations resumes on Wednesday, the party has tried to downplay the blue-ribbon “adoptions”.

Liberal candidates in western Sydney and the central coast – former Labor heartlands – are reporting difficulties in soliciting donations, and face cutting back on their election campaigns because of the cash shortfall.

‘‘Absolutely it’s tough for us,” said Garry Edwards, Liberal MP for Swansea, one of the state’s most marginal seats. “People aren’t keen to give you $100 or $250.”

‘‘The mood for change isn’t there as much as in 2011 … there’s less money,’’ said Melanie Gibbons, another first-term Liberal MP, whose seat of Menai had been renamed Holsworthy.

An email sent by Hornsby Liberal Julian Leeser to local members said they had been asked to raise $85,000 for marginal seats, and Holsworthy, a seat based in Liverpool, was described as ‘‘our donor conference for the 2015 election’’.

Ms Gibbons was to visit the blue-ribbon Hornsby branch to talk about her campaign for a seat that had shifted west in a boundary change, limiting her ability to raise funds.

‘‘Note Hornsby has been allocated to assist the Holsworthy campaign,’’ the May 4 email said.

But Mr Leeser was now gagged by Liberal NSW head office, which told The Sun-Herald the email was wrong.

In a statement, a NSW Liberal Party spokeswoman said: ‘‘Seats are asked to raise funds for their own campaign and to support other seats. Other than local needs the extra funds are paid to the central party.’’

ICAC’s Operation Spicer heard in May the Liberal’s successful 2011 central coast campaign was partly bankrolled by tapping its wealthy Manly branch for donations and cheques were handed directly to Terrigal MP Chris Hartcher.

The NSW Liberal Party is understood to have tightened record-keeping practices of branch fund-raising since 2011 and a central computer system was now able to track donations.

The Liberals risked losing a swag of western Sydney and central coast seats that were won in a record swing in 2011 as voters rejected the Labor government.

But Labor was preparing to play the class card if volunteers and donations from wealthy branches were swung into the Liberal defence campaign in western Sydney electorates.

After Mr Leeser’s email was leaked to the media, the head office axed the Holsworthy ‘‘adoption’’.

‘‘Although Holsworthy was mentioned in the email, that is an error,’’ said a NSW Liberal spokeswoman. Hornsby would instead adopt Mr Edward’s central coast seat of Swansea.

Mr Edwards said his fund-raising would be limited to a ball and raffles, as there was no business community in the seaside village, which had previously voted Labor.

‘‘I will be relying on my donor branch at Hornsby to help me … If we can buy some radio time, that will be our top-end.’’

Both Mr Edwards and Ms Gibbons said ‘‘hard work’’ in the community would substitute for money. ‘‘Where we might have paid for letterbox drops, we will get volunteers to do it,’’ said Ms Gibbons.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Film rental pioneer Dr What closes its doors after more than 30 years

Posted on 09/07/2018 by

Atop a labyrinth of shelves, many still bursting with the faded covers of VHS tapes, Hollywood heroes watch over a landmark Sydney institution.

The royal-blue carpet is faded and worn after spending years underneath customers standing and scuffing their feet while deciding with which film to spend their Saturday nights.

It is on this same faded carpet that the Crisford family will spend their final month serving the good customers of the eastern suburbs who still support Dr What in Bondi Junction.

“In 100 years’ time people will try and explain the concept of a video store to someone and they wouldn’t have a clue,” said Neal Crisford, who has owned Dr What for more than 30 years with his wife, Carol, and son, Daniel.

“We are sad that Dr What is closing, but we understand. Obviously the future is online.”

When Dr What opened in 1981 it was one of the first video rental stores in Australia, arriving at the start of what Mr Crisford said was a “rollercoaster” ride for the film industry.

“In those days 80 per cent of the market was rental,” he said. “The theme of the ’80s was to stay home but go out, and it was a real treat.”

Mr Crisford reminisced fondly about the days when people would hire a movie, get some take away and stay in with the family.

From the advent of Beta and VHS to the introduction of DVD and Blu-ray, the film rental market has always been dictated by changing technology.

“Back in ’83 the VHS player was still over $700,” said Mr Crisford. “As more products came out, more people bought machines.”

DVD introduction revitalised the industry in the late ’90s, but it meant a hefty million-dollar investment for the Crisfords, because they had to replace their VHS library with DVDs.

In its lifetime, Dr What has become a hallmark for film in Sydney. There has been no shortage of actors and directors who have been its customers. Keanu Reeves, Ewan McGregor, Sam Neill and even former prime minister Kevin Rudd have graced the blue carpet.

The local customers, however, have been the real stars for the Crisford family.

“We’ve had quite a community build up,” said Daniel Crisford, who has worked at the store since he was eight years old. “We’re up to three generations of families that have come in.”

Ms Crisford said it was touching to see the community’s reaction to the store’s closure.

“We’ve had people cry,” she said. “Even though they might only come in now once every six months, before they were coming in weekly. You do get to know them. It’s sad, but things change.”

Acknowledging the changes in the industry, the Crisford family will take their knowledge of film online, but the majority of their vast collection of titles will go to Quickflix, a streaming and delivery service.

The hope is that the loyal customers of the bricks-and-mortar Dr What will follow the family online.

Dr What will officially close its doors at the end of August.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Obesity makes pallbearing too dangerous

Posted on 09/07/2018 by

Obesity takes its toll on the funeral industry: Funeral directors are running out of oversized coffins. Photo: SuppliedOne of the oldest rites of respect for the dead, the shouldering of the coffin by pallbearers, is being phased out as too risky as obesity takes its toll on the funeral industry.  As Australians become heavier, the funeral industry is being forced to change traditions, introduce automation to reduce the risk of injury and upsize everything from coffins to graves. It is now routine for funeral directors to keep a stock of oversized coffins, but even those are not big enough for the increasing number of morbidly obese who required custom-built coffins, funeral directors say. Some crematoriums and mortuaries are turning away obese corpses because they do not have the equipment to safely handle these weights, and health and safety regulations discourage manual handling. “The idea of shoulder-carrying is a major occupational health and safety issue and there are real dangers attached to that,” said Warwick Hansen, who has worked in the industry for 47 years and is a former past president of the industry’s NSW branch. “We try to discourage people from that.”

The average coffin is now 182 centimetres long, 50.8 centimetres wide across the shoulders and 33.5 centimetres deep, compared with 175x46x30 about 20 years ago. Often burial plots have to be widened from a standard one-metre width. Mr Hansen’s company recently buried a Wollongong man who was 320 kilograms. “We had to remove part of the house to get him out,” he said. Because of the dead man’s size, the service was conducted at the graveside to eliminate excess handling. “Everything was done reverently and respectfully,” said Mr Hansen, regional manager with Hansen and Cole Funerals. The man was too large to fit into a standard grave site so he was buried in a wider grave at the end of the row. “It took 10 men using straps, like lowering tapes, to lower the coffin down into the grave.” A report by the National Preventative Health Taskforce on obesity forecast that as many as 1.7 million people will die from being overweight or obese by 2050 if current trends continue. That adds up to 10.3 million lost years of life for Australians aged 20 to 74, with each fat person dying an average of 12 years earlier than he or she would otherwise, said the report.  According to Daryn McKay, the regional operations manager with Invocare in Queensland, which owns the Albany Creek memorial park, the company installed an oversized cremator because it didn’t want to discriminate against the obese by refusing to handle these funerals. It has also decided to charge the same, although some people in the industry are considering charging more. Even so, staff were “rightly nervous” about the recent cremation of a young obese man when it took eight men to lift the 320-kilo coffin including corpse, said Marcus Cowie, the general manager of Austeng, an engineering company which manufactures oversized cremators, prefabricated burial sites and moving trolleys to reduce manual handling of the deceased. Staff did a trial run supervised by Mr Cowie to ensure nothing went wrong. They filled a test coffin with bags of concrete and inserted it into a cold furnace, trying to avoid the high risk of fire that could happen if the coffin were to catch fire in a 900-degree furnace before the door was closed Disposing of the corpse took four hours, more than twice as long as the average cremation,  Mr Cowie said: “Looking back, the most dangerous thing we did that day was not putting it (the coffin) in the furnace but pulling it out of the hearse.” In Europe, several fires have been started at crematoriums disposing of the remains of obese people. Mr Cowie said Austeng’s newer models of computer-controlled furnaces were more easily regulated than the older models.  “If you put in a huge fuel load, such as a really fat person, the older ones used to take off,” he said, adding that they had “real potential to burn the place down”. Last month funeral director Joanne Cummings, of Pilbara Funeral Services, was forced to store an obese man in her car overnight with the airconditioning running full blast after a Port Hedland morgue refused to take the body. Ms Cummings then drove the body 200 kilometres back to her home outside of Karratha in Western Australia. After keeping the man cool in her car, she rented a refrigerated shipping unit to store him before the funeral.   “I had to deal with his parents, and they were horrified,” Ms Cummings said. “They wanted to have a viewing and we couldn’t do it. That’s why I spoke out, it was disrespecting him.” The threat of injury associated with handling the dead is forcing the industry to consider automating every aspect of the process, said Peter O’Meara, chief executive officer of the Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria Trust. As part of an industry wide no-lift initiative, the trust was investigating the potential for fully automated coffin trolleys that would be able to navigate the narrow and often bumpy paths in old cemeteries such as Rookwood. It already has an automated process where the catafalque (the table holding the coffin) drops below the floor to a tunnel where a conveyer delivers the coffin to the crematorium without manual handling. 148,000 Australians die each year, including about 47,000 in NSW. Three out every five Australian adults are overweight or obese. That’s more than 12 million people.1.7 milion deaths are forecast from problems associated with being overweight or obese between now and 2050.Are you obese? Check here.SOURCES: ABS, Australian Institute of Health, National Preventative Health Taskforce 2009

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Commonwealth Games: Shelley Watts Australia’s first women’s boxing champion

Posted on 01/07/2018 by

Shelley Watts has become Australia’s first women’s Commonwealth boxing champion, taking out India’s Laishram Devi in the women’s light category to etch her name in the history books.

In the first tournament in the history of the Games, Watts smashed her way to the gold medal bout and would not be denied against the tough Devi, who landed some hard shots before Watts hit her straps.

Watts was happy to stand and exchange, backing her high-pressure game to overwhelm the experienced Devi, who looked strong in the opening round.

But Watts kept going forward, tucking in behind some stern defence and unleashing with left hooks and straight rights.

Devi never wilted though and the pair slugged it out right until the finish, with an overjoyed Watts being awarded a unanimous decision.

Watts has been the star of this Australian boxing team. She took up the fight game just four years ago and at just 26, looks primed for an assault on the Rio Olympics in two years.

She breezed through her semi-final but didn’t have it all her own way against Devi, who presents a strong orthodox stance and took the first round on the back of some strong straight combinations.

But this Australian team has been wonderfully coached by Kevin Smith and Watts had the right game plan. She never doubted herself and continue to barrel forward, landing the far better shots and taking the final three rounds to take gold.

Andrew Moloney won Australia’s second boxing gold of the night, outpointing Pakistan’s Muhammad Waseem to become the Commonwealth flyweight champion.

Moloney fought a controlled fight, relying on his fast hands, to take the decision and make it two from two for the Australians.

The Victorian was knocked out in the quarter-finals at Delhi but presented in Scotland as a much smarter boxer.

He opened a cut on the cheek of Waseem and despite a late rally from his opponent, had the discipline to steady, return fire and claim the gold.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Archerfield Airport to open $4 million student centre

Posted on 01/07/2018 by

Archerfield Airport general manager Corrie Metz hopes a new $4million training and accommodation centre will breathe new life in to the airport. Photo: Robert ShakespeareA new student aviation centre at Archerfield Airport has the airport’s boss hopeful it can put aside recent disappointments to reach new heights.

The $4 million pilot training and accommodation centre, which has been under construction since November, should be completed next month.

Archerfield Airport Corporation general manager Corrie Metz said the facility would breathe new life into the suburban airfield, which recently suffered a blow when a deal to introduce regular passenger services fell through.

He  said the benefits would be felt beyond the confines of the airport, in Brisbane’s south-west.

“I can see it improving the economy of south-east Queensland if we get people from overseas. Those overseas students will want to get involved in various community activities, so it’ll have a flow-on effect to the community,” Mr Metz said.

“On airport, we’ll have an increased rate of flying with the flying school, which will flow on to the refuellers and the maintenance companies, so it’ll be very positive in all those areas.”

The training centre will include 40 single rooms, a commercial kitchen, offices, classrooms and conference rooms.

But Mr Metz said the highlight would be a viewing platform located on the roof.

“It will give a 360 degree view of the airport, but it will also have radios tuned to tower frequencies so the students can get good situational awareness listening to the circuit traffic,” he said.

Sydney-based aviation college Basair has signed a 10-year lease for the property, but other aviation schools will also use the building.

“They’ll make rooms available and they’ve already given me clearance to do that with some of the other flying schools,” Mr Metz said.

“It’ll be for [Basair] to manage – they will be paying the rent on it – so it’ll be up to them how they manage that.”

Basair Aviation College chief operating officer Mark Rowell said it was a matter of good timing to set up in Brisbane.

“We looked at the Sunshine Coast initially and found it was probably a little too far for people to travel to get to Maroochydore,” he said.

“I think we were in the right place at the right time when we met Corrie and he showed us the facility and we did everything we possibly could to secure it.”

Mr Rowell said the school hoped to attract students from around the world to Archerfield.

“We used to have a huge market in India, but with the high Australian dollar that dropped off quite substantially,” he said.

“But our international students, a lot of them come from Malaysia, Indonesia, we’ve got students at the moment from East Timor, Papua New Guinea, so it’s mainly Asian countries.

“We do have a few European students, who come from Switzerland and France, because it’s cheaper to learn to fly in Australia and they prefer Australia to America.”

Mr Rowell said, to his knowledge, there was no other facility in Australia quite like it.

“It’s very unique in having the accommodation right above where the operations will be,” he said.

“So they’ll get out of bed in the morning, walk downstairs and they’ll be at school.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

200,000 native ducks shot as pests of rice crops

Posted on 01/07/2018 by

Bag counts tipped to rise: New regulation practices will likely result in more duck deaths, experts say. Photo: Craig SillitoeDuck season may have been abolished in NSW, but almost 200,000 native ducks were killed by hunters in the state in the past five years.

Figures obtained from the Environment Department showed 199,920 ducks were shot on more than 1500 private properties under the guise of pest eradication to protect rice crops.

Greens MP David Shoebridge said the data showed ‘‘industrial-scale killing of native birds’’.

“The ducks are being killed by amateur hunters, many of them driving up from Melbourne for weekend hunting trips, who are focused on sport rather than protecting rice crops,’’ he said.

This month, responsibility for duck hunting has transferred from the Environment Department to the Department of Primary Industries, under a deal struck by the O’Farrell government with the Shooters and Fishers Party.

Mr Shoebridge said more ducks would be killed as a result.

‘‘It’s like the fox guarding the chickens,’’ said animal activist Lindy Stacker.

Before duck season was banned by the Carr Labor government in 1995, Ms Stacker organised veterinarians and volunteers to rescue maimed ducks, and collect carcasses to deposit on Parliament steps in protest.

‘‘They shot at pelicans, their own dogs were shot,” she recalled. “They shot at fish in the water.’’

She was concerned the shift to hunting on private land had removed the scrutiny of hunters, and maimed birds were being left to die in pain.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Primary Industries said the new system would likely see the recorded number of dead ducks rise, as hunters would be encouraged to collect birds.

‘‘Due to more stringent reporting requirements … there may be a perceived increase in the number of native game birds harvested,’’ she said.

Some of the ducks being killed didn’t even eat rice, said Ms Stacker. Sixty-five pink-eared ducks had been shot, but they ate only plankton and insects.

The director of the University of NSW’s Centre for Ecosystem Science Richard Kingsford questioned the effectiveness of shooting ducks and said more effort should be put into finding alternative methods of protecting rice crops.

‘‘The shooting is so patchy,” he said. “Shooting ducks on rice at night raises issues of identification.’’

Professor Kingsford said it was unfortunate ducks were more likely to be attracted to rice during droughts when their natural habitat had dried up, and the fields presented ‘‘a magnet of food and water’’.

‘‘The issue will continue to grow as we take away natural habitat and regulate waterways.’’

The department spokeswoman said annual cull quotas for properties were based on scientific information about bird populations, rainfall and climate predictions.

‘‘When you are in Bali, there are ducks all over the rice and they don’t shoot them,’’ said Ms Stacker.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Sydney woman facing adultery charges refused help with finding safe house

Posted on 01/07/2018 by

A Sydney woman who is trapped in Lebanon facing adultery charges has been refused help with finding a “safe house” by the Australian embassy in Beirut.

Mahassen Issa, 29, a mother of two from Greenacre has pleaded for help, saying she has run out of money, has nowhere to stay and is being pursued by bounty hunters, but staff on behalf of Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said it is “outside the scope of their consular role”.

The charges of adultery were apparently triggered when Ms Issa’s Australian husband registered their marriage in Lebanon and then made a complaint that she had travelled there and was with another man.

Ms Issa’s family have publicly disowned her and a court order has been obtained prohibiting Ms Issa, under her married name Mahassen Abou Lokmeh, from leaving Lebanon. It was issued on July 24 by the Lebanese Office of General Security.

Ms Issa’s lawyer, Zali Burrows, said it was an unusual situation because Ms Issa, who is Australian-born and was married in Australia, has not committed any crimes against a Lebanese citizen.

A letter to Ms Burrows from the First Assistant Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs said “consular staff have discussed with Ms Abou Lokmeh the possible provision of a  ‘safe house’ and advised her that such assistance is outside the scope of the embassy’s consular role”.

“I am advised that the sentence for adultery under local law is imprisonment for a term of between three months and two years,” the letter continued.

It said the embassy was in close communication with Ms Issa about her situation, including her personal security and safety, and was providing her with appropriate assistance under the charter.

But Ms Issa said she had not received any assistance apart from being told to go to a women’s refuge, which would not take her because she is the subject of a court order.

She has sent a message from Lebanon saying she is hiding in squalid hostels in the northern city of Tripoli.

“I don’t stay in one place in fear of random security checks,” she said.

“I am so scared that I do not sleep and get up from any slight noise or siren. Tripoli was up in arms last night and there were gunshots and bombs going off all night. I was shaking all night from anxiety and stress.”

Ms Issa said she stays inside all day and night in fear of being seen or stopped at a checkpoint.

“I wait by the door when I hear voices and listen for any footsteps, and I have hidden my passport in my singlet,” she said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Flight of the children finds a US divided

Posted on 01/07/2018 by

It is a crisis that built slowly in plain view but still managed to shock authorities in its scale and tragedy.  In less than a year a wave of nearly 60,000 unaccompanied children have made their way across the United States’ southern border, overwhelming the agencies in place to care for them, house them and ultimately, often, to deport them.

By year’s end it is expected 90,000 will arrive and according to an administration estimate 150,000 children from Central America will travel through Mexico to arrive alone at the border in 2015.

So far the response has been typical of governance in this divided nation. Fingers have been pointed and blame laid. Congress has failed to pass legislation to address the causes of the exodus, reform an immigration system everyone agrees is broken and fund an adequate response. Democratic Party proposals have been stymied by Republicans who are also at war with themselves on the issue.

The surge started around October 2013 and has built steadily since then, but only began making headlines in America earlier this year when authorities in Texas  had to transfer child migrants to other states when their own facilities filled and photos of children crowded into pens and sleeping in rows on floors circulated.

When buses carrying children who had come over the border in Texas arrived at a facility in California they were greeted by a crowd of protesters bearing signs that read “No new taxes, no new illegals” and “No vacancy, try the White House.” One woman shouted at the children on the bus, “We don’t want you! Nobody wants you!”

They cheered when the buses turned back, with one man declaring that they had “defeated the enemy”. In fact the children were taken to temporary accommodation nearby.

With national attention now focused on the problem, America’s ongoing debate over immigration flared bitterly.

Many conservatives blame President Barack Obama for inviting the surge of children by signalling that he wants to reform the immigration system to offer a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants thought to be living in the US.

Obama’s most paranoid political opponents believe that he is seeking to create a permanent Democratic majority by changing the nation’s demographics – in the last presidential election Obama won 71 per cent of the Latino vote in 2012 to Mitt Romney’s 27 per cent.

In truth it does appear the children are arriving in part due to US policy, though it has more to do with a law passed by George W. Bush in 2008, that allows minors who cross America’s land borders to stay in the US with relatives or guardians until their claims for asylum are heard. The courts are so overwhelmed with cases that the process can now take years. This has led to a belief in parts of Central America that minors are given preferential treatment under US law.

In reality though the surge in arrivals has far more to do with conditions in Central America. Many children are escaping endless poverty. Others are fleeing horrifying violence.

While the gang warfare that broke out in Mexico appears to have stabilised, criminal gangs in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have unleashed a wave of violence.

In Honduras the murder rate has climbed to 90.4 per 100,000, the highest in the world, according to a United Nations report. The figure in El Salvador, the nation with the fourth highest rate is 41.2 and in Guatemala it is 39.9.

“The first thing we can think of is to send our children to the United States,” a mother of two said. “That’s the idea, to leave.”

Children have told authorities in the US that they face either conscription into the drug gangs or torture and death.

Many parents have decided that their children are safer risking the journey up through Mexico in the hands of smugglers in the hope they will be allowed to remain in the US. The journey itself is fraught with danger. NPR reported on Friday that an 11-year-old girl being housed in the District of Columbia was found to be pregnant as a result of sexual abuse. According to reports doctors are now testing children as young as nine for HIV.

Once in the US the children are kept in protective custody unless a family member or guardian can be found to house them until their case is heard.

With Texas overwhelmed many are being sent to other parts of the country, but such is the politics of immigration in the US that this is a fraught process. Some governors and even mayors have shored-up hardline images in the lead-up to the November mid-term elections by publicly refusing any assistance.

Others have tried to walk a more complicated line. Martin O’Malley is the Democratic Governor of Maryland and is widely thought to be positioning himself for a White House run in 2016. He has supported abortion rights, wind farms and gay marriage, and has spoken movingly about the “humanitarian plight” of the child migrants. But even he has sought to prevent the federal government from stationing migrant children in an empty US Army warehouse outside Baltimore, his state’s capital.

In Maine, Tea Party Republican Governor  Paul LaPage complained about the presence of migrant children in his state when only eight have been placed there.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat finishing his final term, has offered his state as a refuge for migrant children, a position that has drawn praise and scorn.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, a conservative Republican, sent national guardsmen to the border, a move mocked by many as nothing more than public relations since the guardsmen do not have the authority to arrest anyone and the children are not trying to evade detention, they are turning themselves over to the authorities.

In early July President Obama asked Congress to pass a bill allocating $US3.7 billion to address the crisis. The funding was to improve facilities, take on more staff in critical services and hire more lawyers and judges to process the children. A bill authorising $US2.7 billion was ultimately blocked by Republicans and two Democrats in the Senate.

The President “is asking to use billions of taxpayer dollars without accountability or a plan in place to actually stop the border crisis,” Bob Goodlatte, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.

On Thursday the Republican-dominated House of Representatives was to have voted on a GOP proposal for $US659 million in spending. In the end though Republicans pulled their bill after internal feuding.

While Democrats are more or less united in their desire for broad immigration reform, the issue divides Republicans. The Republican caucus was set to leave Washington on Friday for the summer recess, but has decided to stay on in the capital in an effort to pass a bill. Many members are calling for spending to be directed to increasing border patrols rather than on social services and want to see laws changed to speed up deportations.

More broadly the Tea Party right opposes any plan to grant amnesty to long-term undocumented immigrants, even those who were born in the country. One Republican firebrand, congressman Steve King from Iowa infamously said last year that for every child of illegal immigrants “who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” As the November mid-term elections approach many of the right are using the issue to energise support and drum up donations.

King has said Republicans would immediately move to impeach Obama should the President use his executive authority to step around Congress and introduce his own reforms. The threat seems to delight the White House which is using it as an example of conservative extremism. For days now Democrats have been using the issue in a flurry of advertisements calling for donations.

But establishment Republicans believe some form of amnesty is necessary, as do key Republican allies including many churches and the Chamber of Commerce, which believes labour shortages are dampening America’s economic recovery.

The conservative columnist George Will, appearing on the Fox News Channel, said the migrant children should be allowed to stay in the US. “My view is that we have to say to these children, ‘Welcome to America. You’re going to go to school and get a job and become Americans’,” Will said.

“We have 3141 counties in this country. That would be 20 [children] per county. The idea that we can’t assimilate these eight-year-old criminals with their teddy bears is preposterous.”

Democrats want to see not only relief for the struggling border agencies but also broad-based immigration reform and Obama is known to view such reform as a legacy issue for him. It would also serve to entrench the support Democrats have already won among the Hispanic community. Since the 2012 election Obama has been strictly enforcing immigration and deportation laws in the hope he can win Republican support for reform. Patience is wearing thin among immigration advocates, some of whom have taken to calling him the “deporter in chief”.

The public seems more sympathetic to the children than many politicians. According to a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute, 69 per cent of Americans consider the children refugees who should be allowed to stay “if authorities determine it is not safe for them to return to their home country.” Fifty-six per cent believe families sending their children from Central America were acting to protect them from violence, while 38 per cent believe the families are “taking advantage of American good will” to stay illegally in the US. Meanwhile, 58 per cent of Americans want Congress to pass a law giving illegal immigrants in the United States a path to citizenship.

Last Friday Obama met with presidents Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala, Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras and Salvador Sanchez Ceren of El Salvador, and delivered them a tough message. Not many of the children, he said, would qualify for humanitarian relief or refugee status. “There may be some narrow circumstances in which there is a humanitarian or refugee status that a family might be eligible for,” Obama said after talks with the leaders. “But I think it’s important to recognise that that would not necessarily accommodate a large number.”

He said that children without proper claims would be repatriated, and that though America had compassion for them a deterrent was necessary.

Speaking with the Washington Post before the meeting President Hernandez noted that the US bore some responsibility for his nation’s plight.

“Your country has enormous responsibility for this,” Hernandez said..

“The problem of narco-trafficking generates violence, reduces opportunities, generates migration because this [the United States] is where there’s the largest consumption of drugs. That’s leaving us with such an enormous loss of life.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.