Powered by Piaoyigirl!

Prior engagement: Hunt to miss World Cup game for wedding

As a chastened Josh Dugan vowed to lock himself away on days off, one of his Australian teammates revealed he planned to run off to Byron Bay one game-day during the World Cup.
Nanjing Night Net

The Australians gathered in Brisbane on Wednesday ahead of a weekend trial against Fiji and Papua New Guinea at Suva’s ANZ Stadium, with an errant Dugan assuring the media there would be no repeat of the NSW north-coast drinking session with Blake Ferguson during State of Origin that reportedly played a role in coach Laurie Daley’s sacking.

But across the room, halfback Ben Hunt was explaining to Fairfax Media why he’d be in the very same area while the green-and-golds take on France at GIO Stadium on November 3.

“I’ve got a wedding on … my wedding,” he said. “Third of November. Bridget is my fiance, we’ve been together a few years and we’ve got a little boy, Brady. We’re getting married down at Byron.

“I had to ask Mal [Meninga] about it last week. It’s the day we play France. I asked if I could have it off.

“He’s been excellent Mal, he’s really understanding for me to go and get married. [Teammates] Matt Gillett and Josh McGuire, they were invited.

“Josh McGuire knocked back his own brother’s wedding so I don’t think he’d be coming to mine. There’s a few boys who had to pull out but there’s no one in the bridal party who had to pull out so it’s all good.”

The rather seismic scheduling clash is compelling evidence of how little chance Hunt, 27, thought he had of making Australia’s squad for the 14-team tournament, to be held in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, starting on October 27.

He joins St George Illawarra next year and thought he’d be moving to Wollongong rather than travelling around Australia and the Pacific for the World Cup as Cameron Smith’s back-up hooker over the next two months.

“We had it all planned for the next week or so, the big move. Then the camp happened and that all changed,” Hunt said.

“To be honest, with the year … I played a bit of Queensland Cup through the year so I wasn’t really thinking about playing for Australia.”

The ARL Commission is flying the families of the Australian squad to Fiji for the weekend, where the players will take on Samoa for 40 minutes and PNG for 40 minutes.

Asked if he would be out and about during the World Cup, Cronulla signing Dugan said at the Brisbane Sofitel: “Definitely not. Days off will be spent in bed.

“I was a bit surprised by my selection to be honest … but Mal has shown faith in me and now I don’t want to let him down. It’s massive and pretty humbling having someone of the stature of Mal to back me.”

Meanwhile, Newcastle have defended the decision to pull Samoans Sione Matautia and Tautau Moga out of the island nation’s World Cup side.

Matautia was asked to stand down after several incidents of concussion this year while Moga is changing clubs from Brisbane and had shoulder surgery.

“With Sione it was basically advice after we sent him to see Dr Paul McCrory in Melbourne – who is the No.1 expert in this field,” Knights high-performance manager Tony Ayoub said.

“He had some tests and the doctor said there was a very minor bit of doubt there with regard to him resuming contact. There is no ongoing problem, he isn’t suffering memory loss or headaches or anything like that.

“But with concussion, it’s a fast-developing field. How long do you need? Sione wanted to play in the World Cup but our advice to him after seeing the doctor was that it was in his best interests if he didn’t.”

Ayoub said there was no connection between the decision on Matautia and the legal action taken by Scottish winger James McManus over head knocks received while at the same club.

“Never discussed,” he said. “In the case of Tautau, he needed a shoulder clean-out. There was some talk of him having it after the World Cup but then there was the risk it would have an impact early next year. He’s at a new club, he’s starting again.”

Ayoub admitted there was always a conflict between the importance of representative football and the interest of clubs.

“There is some robust conversation, I can tell you,” he said. “But the Knights do want our players to play rep football and we do know what a big honour the World Cup is for our players.”

He said the club played no part in new recruit Aiden Guerra’s decision not to play for Italy.

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

‘If you cop one, so be it’: Klemmer ready for fists to fly

You don’t have to remind David Klemmer that international rugby league remains a different beast to the NRL when it comes to fisticuffs.
Nanjing Night Net

Klemmer was the man on the end of a nasty right hand from Sam Burgess in last year’s Four Nations tournament, with the England captain opening a cut over Klemmer’s eye during Australia’s 36-18 victory at London’s Olympic Stadium.

The big Australian didn’t have the chance to retaliate as players kept them apart but with rules for the Rugby League World Cup more lax than the NRL, where Klemmer plays for the Canterbury Bulldogs, a few jabs here and there may well be on the cards.

That presents an intriguing dilemma, especially for enforcers like Klemmer, who are tasked with going head-to-head with opponents such as Burgess and owning the middle of the park for their respective sides.

Burgess remained on the field after clocking Klemmer and World Cup referees will be able to use their judgment when it comes to incidents of striking, with the sin bin not automatically in play during the tournament.

Klemmer said nobody was going out looking to start fights but if a spark turned into a fire on the field, so be it.

“It’s always been part of it, even though the rules were changed. I copped a couple last year … Sam Burgess got me,” Klemmer said.

“It gets a bit heated. It’s grown men playing at 100 miles per hour, there’s a lot of emotion going through it. You’re representing your country.

“Everyone enjoys it. If you cop one, so be it. Everyone stays mates after the game.”

Since former NRL boss Dave Smith introduced mandatory sin bins for striking four years ago in the wake of Paul Gallen’s short-lived bout with Nate Myles in State of Origin, fighting has simply vanished from the code in Australia.

The notion of an old-fashioned punch-up would be something of a novelty for local fans, many of whom long for the days when players were able to do more than puff up their chest and posture when things started to get spicy.

Klemmer is hardly a shrinking violet but said overt aggression was a double-edged sword for players, with the media likely to play up the appetite for a biff, then criticise players for taking part.

“It’s the media … they want to see it, then they want to scrutinise you. The media try to get it all going and then scrutinise you. You can’t please everyone. But we’re here to play football. You can’t be worrying about that sort of stuff,” Klemmer said.

“People obviously get frustrated but now they take that out on a big run or a hit. You can definitely feel when someone is fired up. It’s good … that’s how it’s evolved. And I love being a part of that.”

The early rounds will give players and fans an indication of how referees are going to deal with incidents of striking. But if players are given an inch, some may take a mile, in which case the era of the stink could be back for a guest appearance over the spring.

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

Death of pilot in Antarctica preventable, inquest hears

David Wood was a helicopter pilot in Antarctica Photo: davidwarburtonwood南京夜网
Nanjing Night Net

The man in charge at an Antarctic base when a helicopter pilot died of hypothermia after falling into a crevasse told an inquest on Wednesday he believed the incident was preventable.

Davis station leader William De Bruyn said Captains David Wood and Paul Sutton knew there was a crevasse on the fuel cache site two weeks before Mr Wood fell.

He said that they knew and did not report the crevasse to him or the station’s operations coordinator showed a “carelessness on their part that contributed to this incident.”

Had he known about a crevasse earlier, he would have taken a different course of action towards the cache site, including a consideration of whether to move it, Mr De Bruyn said.

Photographs of the site where David Wood fell into a crevasse from January 11, 2016. Photo: Supplied

“I’m sort of guessing, but I’ve got a feeling it was out of their mind,” he said. “I just think that the pilots forgot it was there.”

The court has heard evidence that when first chosen the surface of the fuel cache site on the western ice shelf was “blue ice”.

But when Mr Wood stepped out of his helicopter on January 11, 2016, the crevasse he fell into was concealed by snow.

Mr Wood and Mr Sutton had landed their helicopters on the site to refuel only two weeks before Mr Wood fell.

Mr Sutton said as they rolled a fuel drum across the ice it crossed a crevasse about a foot wide.

Mr De Bruyn, a former police officer who also investigated Mr Wood’s death under the direction of an ACT coroner, said it was only later that he found out the pilots knew of a crevasse, when Mr Sutton showed him a photo on his phone.

The image hit Mr De Bruyn like “a bolt of lightning”.

Fielding questions from a barrister for Helicopter Resources at the Canberra hearing on Wednesday, Mr De Bruyn said if pilots returned to a site that had been considered safe previously and there was snow on it he would still expect them to land there.

He said pilots landed on fresh snow daily.

He denied suggestions that a visual inspection of a site had limitations, even while conceding a manual said crevasses could be impossible to see and urged caution when relying on previously used sites.

Asked how pilots were ever going to be protected from crevasses at a snow covered area, Mr De Bruyn said: “I have no answer to that.”

Mr De Bruyn said changes made since Mr Wood’s death, where field specialists physically “proved” a site before it was used as a fuel cache, was a start to fixing the problem.

But he said even if a specialist cleared the site it was possible the surface had changed in the time before the next visit.

He said pilots needed better training in what they are looking at and what they are landing on.

In relation to the station’s response to an emergency, he said there was an urgent need for a critical incident recording system, as well as basic emergency management training for staff.

The inquest hearing is scheduled to resume to hear more evidence on December 20 and 21 and for a further three days in the New Year.

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

Leading US academic warns NAPLAN computer marking could damage learning

Computers will mark NAPLAN writing tests from next year. A leading US education academic has warned that it would be “extremely foolish” and even damaging to student learning if NAPLAN writing tests were marked by computers next year, as education ministers across Australia back a move to online marking.
Nanjing Night Net

Les Perelman, an internationally renowned expert in writing assessment from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said a report on automated marking of NAPLAN was “so methodologically flawed and so massively incomplete” that it could not be used to justify any use of automated essay scoring of NAPLAN.

A group of year 9 students at Cerdon College in Sydney’s west were asked how the new NAPLAN tests, which they will be required to pass to receive their HSC, will affect both their current education and their prospects.

Dr Perelman was commissioned by the NSW Teachers Federation to review a report by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) into automated NAPLAN marking of persuasive writing tests.

ACARA’s report, released in late 2015, said a “significant body of literature” confirmed that automated essay scoring met or surpassed the quality of human markers. But Dr Perelman’s review said a major failing of the ACARA report was that it “completely ignores” any research that was critical of automated essay scoring.

“Until these critical studies are completed and carefully evaluated, it would be extremely foolish and possibly damaging to student learning to institute machine grading of the NAPLAN essay, including dual grading by a machine and a human marker,” Dr Perelman wrote.

The release of Dr Perelman’s review comes as ministers at September’s meeting of the federal Education Council gave in-principle support for NAPLAN writing tests to be marked by a computer and a human in 2018.

Stanley Rabinowitz, general manager of assessment and reporting at ACARA, said all NAPLAN writing tasks completed online next year would be marked by a person as well as an automated scoring system.

“This is to provide reassurance that automated marking achieves scores comparable to human markers, but faster,” Dr Rabinowitz said.

Dr Rabinowitz said ACARA had done further research since the 2015 report, including work based on Dr Perelman’s research, which would be released next month.

He defended ACARA’s report and said Dr Perelman and the Teachers Federation “are known critics of automated marking systems and the report findings should be viewed with this in mind.”

The acting president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Gary Zadkovich, said parents, teachers and principals had not been consulted about the “radical plans” to move to online marking.

“The federal agency in charge of NAPLAN is rushing through with plans to have robots mark next year’s NAPLAN tests despite their justifications being discredited by world-leading research,” Mr Zadkovich said.

Mr Zadkovich urged education ministers to reject ACARA’s plan to “bring robots into the marking of extended pieces of children’s work”.

Mr Zadkovich said Dr Perelman’s report warned that computers could only detect “low grade attributes of writing” and cannot detect “the most important elements of a text”.

Automated marking can discriminate against some social groups and is even flawed when it comes to grammar checking, he said.

Robyn Cox, the president of the Primary English Teaching Association Australia, said she did not oppose the role of artificial intelligence in education but warned that its ongoing involvement in areas such as writing could have negative consequences.

“My concern is that this will serve the needs of the computer and not the needs of humanity,” Dr Cox said.

“It won’t take us long before big corporations or text book publishers start developing software or text books that prepare kids for the writing task that a computer wants to see.”

The ACARA said the number of schools taking part in the double marking had not yet been confirmed but the Education Council was told that the move will deliver a “significant increase in costs”.

The ministers also agreed to extend the timeline for all schools to transition to NAPLAN online to 2020. All year 3 students will do NAPLAN writing tasks with pencil and paper regardless of when their school moves online.

The Sydney Morning Herald

Man stabbed in Mosman street in fourth armed robbery this week: police

Nanjing Night Net

A gang of knife-wielding thieves has been terrorising pedestrians in Sydney’s lower north shore this week, robbing four and leaving three with stab wounds.

Police are appealing for public assistance after the latest attack, in Mosman, in which a 50-year-old man was stabbed in the arm and back on Wednesday night.

The armed robbery is the fourth since Monday, with police saying they are believed to be linked.

The crime spree started on Monday night when a 15-year-old boy was approached by a knife-wielding man near North Sydney train station at 11.15pm.

The boy was stabbed and the man stole his phone and wallet.

About half an hour later, a 28-year-old man was threatened by two men on Bay Street in Waverton. One of the men was armed with two knives.

The two men stole his wallet, phone, iPod and shoes and left him with cuts to his legs.

Both victims were taken to Royal North Shore Hospital.

About 10.45pm on Tuesday, a 28-year-old man was walking in Wollstonecraft when he was approached by three men, one of whom threatened him with a knife.

The men stole his wallet, phone, watch, laptop and headphones but left him uninjured.

The latest victim is a 50-year-old man, who was confronted while walking on Spencer Street in Mosman about 10.40pm on Wednesday.

Police said the man was stabbed in the arm and back, and was treated by NSW Ambulance paramedics before being taken to Royal North Shore Hospital with injuries which are not considered life-threatening.

Investigators would like to speak to three men who may be able to assist with their inquiries.

One man has been described as being of Mediterranean or Middle Eastern appearance, in his 30s, with a full beard and wearing a red jacket.

The second man has been described as being of Caucasian appearance, with a beard and short haircut with a curly fringe, and was wearing a hooded top.

The third man has been described as having a large build, balding head and was wearing a blue shirt.

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

Affleck caught in Weinstein fallout, apologises for ‘acting inappropriately’

Actor Ben Affleck has apologised for an incident in 2003 in which he “acted inappropriately” towards actress Hilarie Burton.
Nanjing Night Net

Burton was the host of MTV’s TRL at the time; Affleck, who was on the program promoting a film, allegedly groped her breast.

The incident was partially captured on tape and has been discussed in the media since.

However it was raised again in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault levelled at Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein when Affleck lent his voice to a chorus of disapproval.

Ben Affleck concedes he “acted inappropriately” towards TV presenter Hilarie Burton during an interview in 2003. Photo: Richard Shotwell

In a statement issued via a social media account, Affleck said he was “saddened and angered” by the Weinstein allegations.

Affleck’s remarks prompted an exchange on social media in which a New York-based writer noted “he [Affleck] also grabbed Hilarie Burton’s breasts on TRL once. Everyone forgot though.”

Burton chimed in at that point with the words: “I didn’t forget.”

Affleck’s response was speedy: “I acted inappropriately toward Ms Burton and I sincerely apologise,” he said on social media on Wednesday.

Affleck also came under fire from Rose McGowan, one of the actresses who was the target of Weinstein’s unwanted advances.

McGowan’s remarks – “I told him to stop doing that, you said that to my face… you lie” – would seem to suggest that McGowan had confided in Affleck and that the 45-year-old actor had asked Weinstein to stop.

That would would jag slightly with the implication in Affleck’s statement that he, like others, had only recently become aware of the issue.

“I am saddened and angry that a man who I worked with used his position of power to intimidate, sexually harass and manipulate many women over decades,” Affleck’s statement said.

“The additional allegations of assault that I read this morning made me sick.”

In the last week a scandal has exploded around now-ousted Hollywood studio chief Harvey Weinstein in which details of decades of sexual harassment allegations have been made public.

Those revelations were followed by a bombshell report in The New Yorker magazine detailing at least three cases of alleged sexual assault.

Since then a number of high-profile Hollywood actresses, including Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, have also come forward to say they were the target of Weinstein’s harassment.

Others, such as Mira Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette, said that after rejecting Weinstein’s advances they found it difficult to find work and alleged the studio boss had essentially acted to punish them.

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

Controversy cultivated online before Milo Yiannopoulos tour starts in Australia

Controversy around Milo Yiannopoulos’ Australia visit is being cultivated by Mark Latham’s alt-right linked outfit before the internet personality has even arrived in the country.
Nanjing Night Net

With fewer than 1000 names on a petition to ban Yiannopoulos because the “clear risk that members of the public will react adversely to his presence”, the former Labor leader has issued a call to fight the effort.

“Milo Yiannopoulos is coming to Australia in early December but anti-free speech extremists want to stop him from entering the country,” Latham posted on Facebook. “He criticises lunatic feminists, cultural Marxists, Islamists and the politically correct. And that’s why they want to keep him out.”

In making his pitch to the public, Latham posted the link “Don’t Ban Milo”, which was purchased by Rebel News Network only five days after the tour was first publicised, in other words, before any sizeable outrage built.

Rebel Media, which hosts Latham’s web-only Mark Latham’s Outsiders website, has been at the centre of a number of scandals linked to the alt-right overseas, including the coverage of the Charlottesville, Virginia protest that left three dead, as well as the MacronLeaks which sought to sway the French elections.

As of Tuesday morning there were less than 850 signers on the Change.org petition. By early Thursday morning, after further media attention, the number of names still had not reached 1000.

University of Sydney linguistics professor Nick Enfield likens the media strategy of fighting the feared ban of Yiannopoulos to the “Streisand effect”.

Named for the singer, it is the tendency for the suppression of information or idea – in this case Yiannopoulos himself – to actually generate more interest and publicity among the public.

The reality, says Professor Enfield, is in terms of free and open debate “you want to have people like Milo precisely so you can tear them down with good arguments.”

Fairfax Media has sought comment from Rebel Media and tried to contact Latham.

Yiannopoulos’ tour also appears timed to coincide with the aftermath of the same-sex marriage postal vote.

As the Change.org petition notes: “To allow a visa to be issued to a provocateur who encourages right wing activists to troll on social media while the debate is still happening is to encourage those opposed to marriage equality to act in a similar manner.”

In a one-time departure from Australia’s traditional mandatory voting, the nation is conducting a postal survey of households to learn whether voters approve of allowing same-sex people to marry.

Yiannopoulos’ tour is being planned for capital cities, and yet the locations aren’t being released until a week before the event at the end of November and start of December.

For all of the furore around Yiannopoulos, Professor Enfield is sceptical about how well he will play in Australia because Australians, he says, are more moderate and less ideological in their views than Americans.

Latham, a former leader of the Labor Party, was a columnist for the Australian Financial Review who resigned following controversy over his views on feminism and other social issues.

Since then, Latham has joined the libertarian-leaning Liberal Democrats. The AFR is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

Follow Chris Zappone on Facebook

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

Prison alternative leads to sharp drop in re-offending

New court orders diverting offenders from prison and into community-based supervision and treatment programs are more effective at reducing re-offending rates than prison sentences, according to groundbreaking new research.
Nanjing Night Net

The state’s prisoner population is at a record high of 13,092 and the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) has said consistently there is “strong evidence that prison exerts little to no deterrent effect”.

BOSCAR says its research shows intensive correction orders are a cost-effective alternative to prison.

It will publish a report on Thursday showing intensive correction orders (ICOs) – which are an alternative to short prison sentences – have led to a drop of up to 31 per cent in the odds of a person re-offending, compared with offenders given a prison sentence of up to two years.

“If ICOs are more effective than short prison sentences in addressing underlying causes of offending behaviour and reducing recidivism rates, expanding their use would have a significant impact on the imprisonment growth rate in NSW,” BOCSAR says in the report.

The orders, which include a number of mandatory conditions such as a minimum of 32 hours’ community service a month, along with drug and alcohol testing, were introduced by the former NSW Labor government in 2010 and replaced periodic detention as an alternative to full-time custodial sentences.

The court may impose a range of other conditions, including around employment and electronic monitoring.

The orders can only be imposed in cases where the offender is at least 18 and a sentence of no more than two years would otherwise apply.

Corrective Services assesses the suitability of individual offenders for an ICO and those convicted of a range of specific sexual offences are excluded.

“NSW is currently experiencing unprecedented growth in imprisonment numbers,” BOCSAR says in its report.

It said the rise in prison numbers and strong evidence that prison exerts little to no deterrent effect “has increased the urgency to find effective alternatives to imprisonment”.

The research compared rates of re-conviction among 1,266 offenders given an ICO and 10,660 offenders given a prison sentence of less than two years.

“The two groups of offenders were matched on a wide range of factors, including age, gender, race, offence, prior criminal record and prior penalties,” BOCSAR said.

The bureau found a reduction of between 11 per cent and 31 per cent in the odds of re-offending for an offender who received an ICO, compared with an offender who received a prison sentence of up to two years.

It said “even larger reductions in reoffending are observed when the prison group is restricted to offenders serving a fixed prison term of six months or less”, who are released with no supervision or treatment.

“In this case the odds of reoffending among those receiving an ICO are between 25 and 43 per cent lower for offenders across all risk categories and between 33 and 35 per cent lower among offenders in the medium to high risk categories,” it said.

Don Weatherburn, the executive director of BOCSAR, said the findings showed ICOs were a “cost-effective alternative to prison for offenders who would otherwise be sent to prison for short periods of time”.

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

Man charged after fireball on Singleton’s main street

A man has been charged with 10 offences after he allegedly took a stolen semi-trailer on a rampage through a Hunter Valley town on Wednesday, crashing into cars and buildings and causing a fireball to erupt.
Nanjing Night Net

The main street of Singleton was left looking like a war zone after Rodney Johnson, 29, allegedly crashed into several cars, injuring eight people, just before 9am.

One of the injured people, a 64-year-old man, is fighting for his life after being trapped in his car when it was hit by the semi-trailer, which was carrying mushroom compost.

The scene in Singleton on Wednesday. Photo: Singleton Argus

Police are investigating whether mental illnesses suffered by Mr Johnson played a role in the incident. It’s understood Mr Johnson, a truck driver who says on his Facebook profile that he is from the NSW town of Quirindi but lives in Penrith, may have been trying to find work as a driver in the area.

Mr Johnson was arrested at the scene and, after being treated for minor injuries in hospital, he was charged overnight with stealing a motor vehicle, two counts of not stopping during a police pursuit (known as Skye’s Law), two counts of using an offensive weapon to prevent detention, two counts of assaulting police officers, two counts of malicious damage and resisting an officer.

The semi-trailer, carrying mushroom compost, was allegedly stolen while the driver paid for petrol. Photo: Singleton Argus

He was subjected to mandatory blood and urine tests, however was not charged with drug or alcohol-related offences.

He was refused bail to appear in Singleton Local Court on Thursday.

A critical incident team from Port Stephens Local Area Command is investigating all circumstances surrounding the incident.

Police had received reports earlier on Wednesday that a semi-trailer was stolen from a petrol station in Murrurundi, north of Singleton, while the driver was paying for fuel about 7.30am.

The fully-laden semi-trailer was allegedly seen driving erratically about 100 kilometres south on the New England Highway, passing through Muswellbrook towards Singleton.

Police said they did not initiate a pursuit but deployed road spikes to stop the vehicle.

Photo: Singleton Argus

The truck continued up George Street in Singleton before crashing into buildings and cars and bursting into flames. A witness told Nine News he saw a plume of black smoke.

“I drove around the back streets to get around and saw a huge fireball and what looked like a car transporter with cars all over the road,” the witness said.

NSW Ambulance Inspector Luke Wiseman said eight people were treated and four taken to hospital, including a 64-year-old man who was flown to Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital in a critical condition with head and chest injuries.

A 62-year-old woman was also taken to John Hunter Hospital with pelvic and hip injuries.

Another man, also 64, was taken to John Hunter Hospital with neck, back and chest pain.

Mr Wiseman described the initial scene as “chaotic”, involving “a number of distressed people”.

Rohingya survivors give shocking testimonies

“You do not belong here – go to Bangladesh. If you do not leave we will torch your houses and kill you,” Myanmar security forces announced through megaphones.
Nanjing Night Net

But many Rohingya Muslims never got the chance to leave, according United Nations investigators, who have found that well-organised, co-ordinated and systematic attacks in Myanmar’s Rakhine State were not only intent on driving an entire population out of Myanmar, but to prevent them ever returning home.

Shocking testimonies cited by the UN’s Human Rights Office, obtained from survivors who reached Bangladesh, will intensify pressure on countries like Australia to impose sanctions on Myanmar and cut ties with the country’s generals.

A 12-year-old girl from Rathedaung township in Rakhine State told how Myanmar security forces and Buddhist vigilantes surrounded her family’s house and started shooting.

“It was a situation of panic – they shot my sister in front of me, she was only seven years old,” the girl was quoted as saying in a UN report released on Thursday in Geneva.

“She cried and told me to run. I tried to protect her and care for her but we had no medical assistance on the hillside and she was bleeding so much that after one day she died???.I buried her myself.”

A 26-year-old mother said when she woke up at 3am her house was on fire.

“There was chaos everywhere, they were shooting to kill us, they took women and dragged them away to rape them,” she said. “They did not spare anyone – even children were beaten and tortured.”

A 25-year-old woman described shootings in her village as a massacre.

“Women were collected and taken away – they were raped in front of us, in front of their families,” the woman said.

“The [four men] in uniform took my sister when we were hiding in the hills???they raped her in front of us as we were hiding behind trees,” she said. “She was crying but my father could not help her as we had to be quiet so they did not notice us. It was horrible and she had pain and was bleedings for days.”

The report cited witness accounts of Rohingya victims, including children and elderly, being burnt to death inside their homes. It detailed evidence of children suffering severe beatings, stabbings and killings.

The report described a strategy to “instil deep and widespread fear and trauma – physical, emotional and psychological” among the Rohingya population.

More than 500,000 Rohingya have fled to squalid refugee camps in Bangladesh since August 25, when Myanmar security forces said they launched an offensive in response to Muslim insurgent attacks on police posts and a military base.

But the report said the offensive started in early August, days before before the insurgent attacks, and that violence is ongoing, despite a claim by Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi that the offensive ended on September 5.

The report detailed the destruction by security forces of houses, fields, food-stocks, crops, livestock and even trees to “render the possibility of the Rohingya returning to normal lives and livelihoods in the future in northern Rakhine almost impossible”.

“It also indicates an effort to effectively erase all signs of memorable landmarks in the geography of the Rohingya landscape and memory in a way that a return to their lands would yield nothing but a desolate and unrecognisable terrain,” the report found.

The report pointed to evidence that Myanmar security forces have targeted “teachers, the cultural and religious leadership and other people of influence in the Rohingya community in an effort to diminish Rohingya history, culture and knowledge.”

Investigators found it was “highly likely” that Myanmar security forces have planted landmines along the border in recent weeks to prevent Rohingya from returning, citing doctors treating injuries.

UN Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein urged Ms Suu Kyi’s government to immediately end its “cruel” security operation.

He said by denying more than one million Rohingya their political, civil, economic and cultural rights, including the right to citizenship, the government’s actions appear to be a “cynical ploy to forcibly transfer large numbers of people without the possibility of return”.

UN and international aid agencies have described the situation in the Bangladesh camps as an emerging catastrophe with children and women the most vulnerable to disease, starvation, trafficking and sexual violence.

“The health and sanitation conditions are critical and described by on-site medical doctors as a perfect storm in the making,” the UN report said.

Thousands more Rohingya are crossing the border each day in what has quickly become the largest movement of a civilian population in Asia since the 1970s.

The Turnbull government has resisted growing calls to consider punitive action to pressure Myanmar to end the atrocities, which human rights group say amount to crimes against humanity.

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

Why it’s too early to call this a property crash

Prices have fallen in Sydney after the biggest real estate boom in recent memory, with no shortage of people likely to say this represents the end of surging house prices.
Nanjing Night Net

Sydney’s house prices fell 1.9 per cent over the September quarter – or about $23,000, Domain Group data shows, leaving home owners’ main assets worth sitting below the peak of June’s property market.

When put on a graph, this can look decidedly unsettling for anyone with a mortgage.

Any concerns about this slide in prices being the start of many to come is understandable – discussion of a property bubble has been regular and high-pitched in the last five years.

And if there was such a thing as a “checklist” for spotting a downturn, we would tick a lot of the boxes already.

The banking regulator, the Australian Prudential and Regulation Authority, has continued cracking down on “risky” lending – including interest only loans.

Auction clearance rates are declining, residential construction is slowing, rent price growth is lacklustre, Sydneysiders are selling up and moving interstate, and another wave of big-name brands has tipped price falls or warned about over-indebtedness.

These are all classic signs of a market in slowdown.

But for those who have been listening closely for the last five years, this sounds a lot like a song that has already been sung.

Just two years ago – in the December quarter of 2015 -we saw prices fall a record 3.1 per cent and there was a near-unanimous belief house prices had reached its ceiling.

The market had other plans. House prices have increased another $100,000 since those price falls were publicised and the Sydney market broke new price records.

Even apartments, which have been springing up in Sydney at lightning pace, declined 2.8 per cent and then grew again over this same time period.


Despite this, it’s understandable pundits were anticipating the 2015 decline was the harbinger of a more significant downturn. Other signals seemed to point that way then too.

APRA had been trying to target investor loans and auction clearance rates had dipped below 60 per cent.

And respected companies, such as UBS and Barclays, had aired concerns that Sydney house prices were “overvalued” and would face a period of stagnation.

What this proves is that nothing is straightforward for the harbour city’s real estate market and there are many unknowns.

Among them is the way the Reserve Bank will act. In 2016, after declining house prices in Sydney, the RBA cut rates in May and then again in August after 10 months on hold.

Now, rates have been steady at 1.5 per cent for 13 months – and recent surveys of economists show most are anticipating the next move to be up, rather than down.

And there’s a simple question of how much more people are willing to pay, how much more mortgage debt they’re willing to take on, for a roof over their head or for an investment property.

These are not easy predictions to make – our most esteemed economists rarely agree on how the market will perform even with the same information available to them.

What we can say with more certainty is that one quarter of price declines is not enough evidence for a housing market bust, but it’s definitely time to pay attention.

Until there’s evidence in future quarterly data that this is a sustained downturn, and not a temporary pause like that seen in 2015, it’s prudent to be hesitant.

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

NAB slashes rewards points in major credit card shake-up

NAB has taken the knife once again to the value of its reward points on its credit cards. The bank will soon no longer offer American Express companion cards and, from February 21, 2018, NAB American Express Cards can no longer be used with customers told to “cut up” the cards.
Nanjing Night Net

There will also be a major shake-up of NAB rewards credit cards effective from November 13, which will lead to the value of rewards points plummeting by up to 47 per cent on the NAB Qantas Rewards Premium Card and NAB Velocity Rewards Premium Card, says Kirsty Lamont, a director of comparison site Mozo.

NAB’s latest changes follow a swath of cuts to credit card rewards programs from the major banks, Lamont says.

“In March this year, ANZ became the first big bank to completely scrap the dual card account,” she says.

“Westpac retained its American Express card but significantly lowered its earn rates, while the Commonwealth Bank moved to slash higher Amex earns rates unless overseas, or at specific merchants,” Lamont says.

Even before the latest move by NAB, Mozo estimated there had been a decrease in rewards credit card value of 63 per cent during the past 12 months. The average rewards cardholder is now spending $19,000 to earn just $27 in rewards.

The big banks blame the cuts on interchange fee regulations introduced by the Reserve Bank that took effect from the middle of this year.

CBA has responded to criticisms of credit cards, saying it would introduce a new credit card with a purchase interest rate of 9.9 per cent. Its current lowest rate card is 13.24 per cent.

From November, all CBA’s credit card holders will be able to receive alerts through the CommBank App reminding them that a credit card payment is due.

And from mid-2018, credit card holders will be able to pay off their credit card debt in fixed monthly instalments.

While the big banks have recently removed, or soon will remove, their ATM fees, consumers are paying almost twice as much in credit card fees even as the value of rewards points falls.

A report earlier this year by comparison site Finder estimated that Australians fork out nearly $800 million a year in ATM withdrawal fees.

ZipMoney, a provider of “buy now, pay later” digital wallets, used its own data and Reserve Bank figures to estimate that Australians are paying about $1.5 billion in total credit card fees, or almost twice that of ATM fees.

Over the past 20 years, credit card fee revenues for Australian financial institutions have increased from $125 million in 1997 to $1.5 billion in 2016, an annual growth rate of 15 per cent.

Credit card holders are hit with fees for cash advances, late payments, drawing more than their credit limit, account keeping, transfers and even fees for being a joint card-holder.

The ZipMoney analysis of 19 financial institutions finds the biggest fee category is for international transactions, which makes up almost 40 per cent, or $600 million, of the $1.5 billion in credit card fees.

The fees are incurred when travellers use their credit card to pay for something when they are overseas or buying goods from overseas.

The ZipMoney analysis estimates credit card holders shell out almost as much in annual fees. Cards with the highest annual fees are usually those with rewards points. Sydneysiders pay most

The ZipMoney analysis shows Sydneysiders paid the most in credit card fees in 2016 of $311, on average, followed by Brisbane at $303, and Perth at $302. Melburnians paid $277 in fees.

Brisbane credit card holders pay the most in international transactions fees, at $89, and pay the most in cash advance fees.

The credit card holders of Adelaide are the most frugal in terms of overall credit card fee spend, but Canberra-based card holders incur the lowest cash advance fees.

Card holders in Perth and Sydney opt for credit cards with higher annual fees, at $99 each.

Andy Mitchell, ZipMoney’s chief of growth and innovation, who produced the research, says the pace of revenue generated by credit card fees nationally has moderated in the past five years as consumers become more discerning around the use of credit cards.

He says there has also been a decline of the average interest-accruing balance, dropping from $2500 to $2000 during the past five years.

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

‘I’m jumping ship’: Sydney’s runaway property prices take a tumble

Sydney’s runaway property prices have finally stumbled, with both house and unit prices falling last quarter, new data shows.
Nanjing Night Net

Experts say this marks the end of the five-year property boom, and that further growth this year is unlikely.

In the three months to September, the median house price fell 1.9 per cent over to $1,167,516, making it one of the country’s worst performers, Domain Group’s State of the Market report showed.

Despite being the poster child of the property boom, Sydney’s recent price performance was softer than every capital city other than Darwin – where house prices fell 3.6 per cent over the same time period.

The decline brings the harbour city’s year-on-year price growth to 8.2 per cent for houses, up from $1,079,309 in the September 2016 quarter. But it’s now $23,000 cheaper than just three months ago.

The apartment market also recorded a decline in its median price, with a 0.8 per cent fall over the quarter to $732,321.

John Okgrolic, a train guard who lives in the western suburbs, is one Sydney property investor who has already anticipated a shift in the market.

Worried about future price falls, he is now planning to sell his investment property in Cronulla, which he has held for 15 years.

“We’re at the top of the market … I’m jumping ship before it hits the iceberg and sinks,” Mr Okgrolic said.

“When house prices have grown so fast compared to wages growth, you know something is wrong.

“You’d have to be blind and drunk to not see a fall in prices coming.”

Domain Group chief economist Andrew Wilson said the quarterly fall in prices were unsurprising, pointing to lacklustre auction clearance rates and a crackdown on investors from the banking regulator, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.

“The market has flattened. It’s the ending of the boom,” Dr Wilson said.

“Chances are we won’tsee prices grow again this year at least – the inner suburbs were holding the market up, but we’re now seeing signs of them easing as well,” he said.

He anticipated a rise in listings – as more rush to sell their homes before the end of the year – could hasten the decline.

While a price slump had also been expected by AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver, he said there was less certainty around how big the drop in prices would be.

While he doesn’t foresee a ‘crash’, which he defines as falls of around 20 per cent, he said property values falling up to 10 per cent was a possibility.

“The Sydney market has well and truly cooled,” Dr Oliver said.

A major factor behind the price slump was simply the affordability barrier, Grattan Institute chief executive John Daley said.

“House prices in Sydney have become very high relative to disposable income, and household debt relatively to household income is at an all-time high,” he said.

In the past, those who had borrowed a large sum to get into the property market found their growing wages quickly put them into a more comfortable position, he said. “But when you have low wages growth it takes longer to get out of a difficult situation.”

It’s not the first time the end of the boom has been called.

Mr Daley noted that a price decline occurred in 2015 – with the median house price falling 3.1 per cent in the December quarter – but said it was a “different situation”, with subsequent interest rate cuts helping to revive the market.

At the coalface of the market, buyer’s agents have also found conditions easing in the past few months after years of strong competition and a market that favoured vendors.

Among them is Propertybuyer chief executive Rich Harvey, who said the stabilisation in the market had been long anticipated.

“It’s a levelling off rather than a correction,” Mr Harvey said.

“There’s a strong floor under the property market, with massive infrastructure development creating jobs and amenity, and strong population growth,” he said. But he didn’t anticipate another boom for “at least another seven years”.

He said there were nevertheless still “pie-in-the-sky” vendors who were yet to revise their price expectations to be more realistic.

PK Property Group buyer’s agent Peter Kelaher also said sellers needed to be more pragmatic if they expected to secure a sale.

“Vendors still have their heads in the clouds with their expectations – the prices they want are over the top.

“There’s no doubt we’ve come off the boom, we’re back to a normal market.”

The data also recorded house and apartment rents stable over the quarter, at $550 a week, up from $530 and $525 a week year on year respectively.

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

Previous Posts