Shorten makes case for ETS on world stage

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has warned Australia's decision to abandon carbon pricing puts it at risk of being isolated on the world stage.

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Mr Shorten made his case for emissions trading during a speech in the United States, where he also urged the Abbott government to make climate change a priority at the G20 summit in November.

The government has copped criticism as host of the global forum for not including climate change in the discussions, opting to focus specifically on economic growth, trade and investment.

Mr Shorten told the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington DC that as an economic, environmental and security issue, climate change well and truly belonged on the G20 agenda.

"Just as global growth, global free trade and multi-national tax avoidance require international consensus, climate change is a global problem that demands a global solution," he said.

He conceded climate change had been a "politically difficult issue" for Labor but the party had decided the best policy for tackling global warming was an emissions trading scheme.

The combined value of the world's ETS markets was more than $30 billion, covering almost a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions and economies ranging from Mexico to California and parts of China.

Australia made international headlines earlier in July when the government became the first country in the world to unwind its carbon pricing scheme.

Mr Shorten described the decision as regrettable but said the more serious risk was that Australia would suffer "damaging economic isolation" as the world moved to take collective action on climate change.

"It will not be long before a lack of climate policy is an obstacle to finalising trade deals," he said.

"In fact, it is entirely possible that trade negotiations will mandate an effective price on carbon to ensure a level trading field."

SAfrica jails rhino poacher for 77 years

A South African court has jailed a rhino poacher for 77 years, one of the heaviest sentences handed out for the crime as poaching continues to escalate.

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South African national Mandla Chauke was arrested in the iconic Kruger National Park in 2011 after he killed three rhino calves. The vast park has seen the highest number of killings, with 370 rhinos slaughtered since January.

The South African National Parks (SANParks) hailed the sentence, saying it showed that "the courts are keen on stamping out the scourge of poaching".

"It's one of the harshest sentences and we hope it will send out a strong message to poachers out there," said SANParks spokesman Reynold Thakhuli on Wednesday.

This month, two Mozambicans were each jailed for 16 years for killing and dehorning rhino.

They were also caught in Kruger Park.

The vast area, roughly the size of Israel, forms a border with neighbouring Mozambique, a country where many poachers are recruited by international syndicates.

Rhino horns are prized as a status symbol in Asia, where they are falsely believed to possess medicinal properties to cure cancers and hangovers, despite being composed of the same material as fingernails.

A total of 558 rhino have been killed across South Africa since the beginning of the year, according to figures released this month.

Authorities have struggled to catch poachers who use increasingly sophisticated weaponry, such as semi-automatic rifles or poisoned darts.

Though 62 people have been arrested since the start of the year, most of the prosecuted are lower-level gunmen, while kingpins evade detection.

Pakistan unveils new domestic cricket comp

Pakistan's cricket administration has unveiled a new domestic league revamp, though demands to remove commercial and government department teams from the competition were ignored.

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Pakistan has long suffered from a below-par domestic structure. Many of its cricket heroes, such as Javed Miandad, honed their skills in street games rather than with teams.

The new championship will have two divisions. Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Najam Sethi said that under the new structure regional teams could receive private sponsorship so that they can compete with better-funded government departments and teams run by private companies such as banks.

But former captain and chief selector Aamir Sohail slammed the proposed changes and said the regional teams would struggle to compete financially.

"The PCB don't know how to administer the game. When regions don't have full fledged offices and no marketing people they can't do this," Sohail said.

Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan has also been a vocal critic of the domestic championship, demanding that commercial organisations be excluded.

The PCB's director of game development Haroon Rasheed said the new domestic cricket championship would have two first-class divisions.

"The division one tournament will be called 'Gold league' comprising six regional and six departmental teams while the division two will be 'Silver league' with seven department and as many regional teams," he said.

Each year, the bottom two teams from division one will be relegated and the two top teams from division two promoted, he added.

Hundreds call for justice for US man killed by police chokehold

Civil rights activist Al Sharpton led hundreds of mourners in demands for justice at the funeral for a black father of six who died after being choked by New York police.

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Eric Garner, 43, suffered a fatal heart attack on July 17 after being tackled by white officers for allegedly selling illegal cigarettes on Staten Island, a borough of New York City.

   

In a video captured by a local resident, whom Sharpton invited onto the podium, Garner cries out repeatedly that he cannot breathe as an officer grips him in a chokehold.

   

Garner, wearing shorts and unarmed, is shown arguing with two officers before one grabs him round the neck, wrestles him to the ground and another presses down his face.

   

“When you can in broad daylight choke one of God’s children, God expects us to stand up and demand justice,” Sharpton told the packed Bethel Baptist Church.

   

“The choke hold is illegal but even if you lost your training memory, a man in your arms saying ‘I can’t breathe’? When does your decency kick in? When does your morality kick in?” demanded Sharpton, also a minister and lately a news broadcaster.

   

Sharpton called for the two officers to be prosecuted and for a federal investigation in an emotional speech that was greeted by a standing ovation and loud cheers from the congregation, including Garner’s closest relatives.

   

“We’re going to demand justice,” said Sharpton. “Don’t bow down, we’ve got to win,” he said.

   

Friends, relatives, clergy, activists from Sharpton’s National Action Network and a handful of black city council officers crowded into the church for the funeral, fighting off the sticky summer heat with hand-held fans.

   

Relatives prostrated themselves in grief over Garner’s open coffin before the lid was closed at the start of the service, a wreath of yellow and white flowers on top.

   

Public advocate Letitia James said the city would demand justice for Garner’s death, promising a full investigation of all chokeholds and complaints against police.

   

The case spotlights not only racial tensions in America’s most liberal city but has sharpened calls for police reform under New York mayor Bill de Blasio.

   

De Blasio, who took office in January, is currently on a family vacation in Italy.

   

The district attorney’s office is leading a criminal investigation and both police officers have been assigned to desk duty pending the investigation, police said.

   

New York police chief Bill Bratton has also ordered all city officers to be retrained in the use of force.

   

Chokeholds are illegal because of concerns over potential deaths.

Lions keen to sink rising Suns

The Brisbane Lions have vowed to atone for their “worst loss of the year” by derailing the Gold Coast’s AFL finals tilt in Saturday’s QClash.

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Livewire Dayne Zorko has admitted Brisbane’s 53-point round three defeat to the Suns still stings and they’re determined to repay them in kind at the Gabba.

Although Zorko is a Gold Coast product, he said the Lions would like nothing less than sinking the ninth-placed side’s finals hopes.

“If we’re not playing finals then we definitely don’t want the Gold Coast playing finals,” he said on Thursday. “It would be great for Queensland football but we want to be the dominant side in Queensland.”

The Suns completely dominated their last meeting at Metricon Stadium to end a five-game losing streak against their big brother.

Lions coach Justin Leppitsch put the demoralising defeat under the microscope again this week to ensure his youthful side lifts their intensity and hunger on Saturday.

“Leppa said it was our worst loss of the year,” Zorko said. “We’ve looked at the areas that Gold Coast really got on top of us.

“This weekend we’re going to go out and focus on the areas they beat us last time, which was contested ball and that’s probably been one of our weaker points all year.”

Suns defender Steven May set the tone back then when he pulled off a huge shirtfront on Zorko in the first quarter.

Zorko had no complaints and expected the derby to push the limits of physicality.

“The QClash is a different game to any other game I believe,” he said. “Game plans go out the window pretty early on and it’s whoever is hardest at the ball and really gets into the contest first.”

Meantime, the Lions have added another player to their long injury list with Mitch Golby expected to miss the rest of the season with a foot injury.

Golby, who has suffered two stress fractures to his left foot, was in a moon boot at training on Thursday and will see a specialist on Friday.

Ukraine crash a vexed issue for Abbott

Tony Abbott is no stranger to Ukraine, having travelled there during his Oxford days in the 1980s.

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Three decades on, the prime minister has found himself squarely focused on the eastern European nation where up to 39 Australians are among the 298 dead in the MH17 disaster.

His initial response to the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing-777 has been widely praised both in Australia and internationally.

Politically, it is being seen as something of a watershed in terms of the former opposition headkicker growing into the prime ministerial role almost 12 months into the top job.

As tragic and terrible it is for the families and friends of the victims and Ukrainians still facing the daily prospect of death and destruction at the hands of pro-Russian separatists, it may be a domestic political game-changer for the coalition.

The Abbott government faces a dire position in the wake of unpopular budget measures such as the GP co-payment and fuel tax hike.

Having repealed the carbon tax, it still faces huge problems trying to convince the Senate and its 18-member crossbench to pass billions of dollars in budget cuts and deliver on key election promises.

But like John Howard before him, who was in Washington during the September 11 terrorist attack in 2001, Abbott has embraced the role of comforter while at the same time expressing the nation’s sense of anger and despair.

Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop rightly championed a UN Security Council resolution to ensure proper access to the crash site and the respectful and professional treatment of bodily remains.

The sight of coffins being loaded into Dutch and Australian aircraft, after days wondering whether the rickety train carrying them would make it out of separatist-held Ukraine, must have been a blessing for the families of victims.

It’s also reassuring to know that Australia’s most skilled forensic experts are now in the Netherlands helping with the identification and seeking answers to the who, how and why of the terrible crime.

What happens next might be just as crucial as the initial government response, both in political and global security terms.

If investigators can’t get reasonable access to the crash site because of ongoing fighting in the region in which the aircraft went down, public attention will turn to how Australia and other countries plan to enforce the UN resolution.

To date, neither NATO nor the United States and its allies, such as Australia, have shown an adequate interest in staving off the strongarm tactics of the Russian-backed separatists.

Abbott himself admitted Australia bodies and belongings may still be lying in the looted fields of eastern Ukraine.

The success or failure of Operation Bring Them Home, as it has been dubbed, will have political consequences.

From another perspective, the plane shooting in the context of the Ukrainian conflict is a demonstration of global issues not being taken as seriously as they should.

It brings into question the coalition’s previously bitter disdain for the bid of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard for an Australian seat on the security council.

Without that seat, Abbott and Bishop would not have had the platform to voice Australia’s views and seek the reassurance and justice the victims deserve.

What’s more, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is being gutted just when Australia needs more feet on the ground in countries such as the Ukraine where our interests have not been focused.

The aid and development budget may yet face further cuts if other budget measures can’t be secured.

Then there is the question of whether Russian President Vladimir Putin should have his G20 summit invitation torn up, given his nation’s culpability in supplying missiles to the separatists.

The G7 sidelined him in June as a sign of anger over the start of the Ukrainian offensive.

Despite Russia supporting the security council resolution, Putin is considered by many Australians to be a bully and a pariah.

Summit host Abbott has declined to engage in the debate yet, but he may need to start thinking about it soon especially if Russian bombs start obliterating the 50 square kilometre crash site.

Bikies arrested over Qld extortion ring

Three bikies who police say were involved in an extortion ring have been arrested in simultaneous raids on Thursday morning.

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Police say the Bandidos members who lived in Brisbane and Logan were threatening victims with violence unless they paid a $5000 “fine”.

The extortion racket allegedly started after a public brawl between two men over a woman.

It’s understood one of the men called in friends from the Bandidos and the fight escalated.

The bikies allegedly threatened violence to others involved in the fight unless each paid a $5000 “fine”.

A victim’s car windscreen was smashed with a baseball bat, police said in a statement.

Detectives say they know of four victims but believe there are others and have urged them to come forward.

A 26-year-old former president of the Bandidos’ Gold Coast chapter was among the bikies arrested, as well as two 22-year-old alleged gang members.

All were charged with committing extortion as vicious lawless associates, while both younger men were also charged with drug offences and wilful damage.

A 21-year-old man and a 36-year-old man were also arrested and charged with possessing drugs and utensils.

The five are expected to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Thursday.

Detective Inspector Brendan Smith said the operation demonstrated the use of standover tactics by criminal gangs.

“These offences were committed in public places and targeted everyday Queenslanders, threatening victims with violence for money,” he said.

“They have done this as a group, using their criminal gang association to further intimidate victims to both comply with their demands.”

Police expect to lay more charges.

China cracks down over blow-up toad joke

The installation of a giant inflatable duck in Hong Kong’s harbour last year sparked a national craze for oversized blow-up wildlife, with several Chinese cities launching their own imitations.

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The latest, a 22-metre-high (72-feet) toad, appeared in a Beijing park last weekend, but met with mockery from social media users who compared its appearance to that of former President Jiang Zemin.

The website of China’s official Xinhua news agency and popular web portal Sina had deleted their reports on the animal — seen as a symbol of good fortune in traditional Chinese culture — by Wednesday.

A message on Xinhua’s website read: “Sorry, the report you are attempting to access has been deleted or has expired,” although reports on some lower-profile news sites were still accessible.

China’s ruling Communist Party tightly controls the Internet, blocking foreign sites such as Facebook while ordering local outlets to remove articles on political topics it deems sensitive, such as criticism of senior leaders.

Last year China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo blocked searches for “big yellow duck” after users posted an image of the iconic “Tank Man” photograph showing a Tiananmen Square protester but with military vehicles replaced by giant ducks.

Jiang — who stepped down as president in 2002 but still wields influence within the party — has been mockingly nicknamed “toad” by some Internet users for his jowly features.

Rumours have been swirling around Jiang amid reports that current party chief and president Xi Jinping is targeting some of the former president’s allies in an anti-corruption drive.

A spokesman for Yuyuantan park in Beijing said there were no immediate plans to remove the toad.

Gym workouts and sunbathing do more for your brain than crosswords

By Rachel Feltman | @rachelfeltman

Doing puzzles and listening to classical music might improve your concentration momentarily, but they don’t actually make you any smarter.

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That is, they don’t improve your long-term brain function, according to The Economist’s interview of Nicholas Spitzer, a professor of neuroscience at the University of California and editor-in-chief of BrainFacts南宁夜生活,.

“Let me dispel a brain development myth,” Spitzer told The Economist. “Many people think classical music is going to enhance brain function (the Mozart effect) or playing particular games sharpens one’s cognitive function. These theories have been looked at in detail and they don’t stand up. It is disappointing in a way, but what we have learned is that exercise is the key thing for brain function.”

By exercise, he means general activity and—more importantly—exposure to sunlight. In a recent study (paywall), he found that rats produced different brain-altering chemicals based on environmental factors. He thinks that our brains change their behavior (like “a railway switching yard”) based on environmental factors to help us conserve energy during winter. But when we give in to the evolutionary impulse to stay inside under the covers, we give our brain a further signal that it’s time to use as little energy as possible. This feedback loop, he says, is what causes Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression that affects otherwise healthy people during the dark winter months.

So to keep your brain at tip-top shape, you should stay active. That gives your body cues to devote lots of resources to cognitive function. Then again, puzzles do help with some specific things, like increasing verbal aptitude (paywall) and helping you learn a new subject more quickly. So as long as you get plenty of time outside, there’s no reason to drop the sudoku.

And getting into bed, for certain purposes at least, can help brain function, too. A recent study found that female orgasms trigger an increase in blood flow to all regions of the brain, improving overall cognitive performance. Keep that in mind when you’re figuring out how to get that exercise in.

This article was originally published on Quartz. Click here to view the original. © All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

 

Rockets found at UN Gaza school missing

The UN secretary-general says he is “alarmed” to hear rockets were placed in a UN-run school in Gaza and now “have gone missing”.

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A spokesman for Ban Ki-moon says he has demanded a full review of such incidents.

In a statement released on Wednesday night Ban expressed “outrage and regret” at the placement of weapons at a site run by the global organisation.

The UN says that has happened at least twice so far in the current fighting.

“Those responsible are turning schools into potential military targets, and endangering the lives of innocent children,” UN staff and anyone seeking shelter, the statement said.

The rockets had been placed at one of the schools run by the UN refugee agency for Palestinians, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza.

Once they were found, “in accordance with standard practice, UNRWA handed them over to the local authorities. Since then, they have gone missing,” Ban’s deputy spokesman, Farhan Haq, said in an email.

The Islamic militant group Hamas controls Gaza. The US, Israel and the European Union all consider Hamas a terrorist organisation, but the UN does not.

A week ago, UNRWA said that during a routine check it discovered about 20 rockets hidden in one of its vacant Gaza schools and called on militants to respect the “sanctity and integrity” of UN property. It said the incident was “the first of its kind in Gaza”.

On Tuesday, UNRWA reported a second incident, saying it found rockets hidden at a vacant school during a regular inspection.

“UNRWA staff were withdrawn from the premises, and so we are unable to confirm the precise number of rockets,” it said.

“The school is situated between two other UNRWA schools that currently each accommodate 1500 internally displaced persons.”

UNRWA said it was looking at all possible ways to safely remove the rockets and would investigate the incident.

The UN statement on Wednesday said Ban has asked for the immediate development of a plan to safely handle any weapons found on UN premises, and he told the UN Mine Action Service to immediately send people to deal with the situation of the missing rockets.

NRL set to double serious injury payouts

NRL players who suffer career-ending injuries will be eligible for payouts of up to $1 million under a newly-proposed temporary insurance scheme.

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The planned policy, unanimously supported by the league and all 16 clubs, doubles the current amount of $500,000.

The payout will apply to the most serious injuries, including paraplegia, quadriplegia, loss of sight and the loss of the use of a limb which end a player’s career.

It will cover the top 25 contracted NRL players in each club, 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

The interim scheme is currently under consideration by players, and will operate through to March next year while a new whole-of-game policy is developed.

“Everyone in the game has been working together for some months to develop an insurance scheme which looks after the welfare of our players,” NRL chief executive Dave Smith said on Thursday.

“Obviously players will always be able to take their own insurance to protect their income in the event of a serious injury.

“But it is also important that the game has its own scheme and the players, clubs and NRL are working towards that.”

Smith said the league was also planning to set up a foundation to assist players who suffer catastrophic injuries.

South Sydney boss Shane Richardson backed the proposal on behalf the clubs.

“The clubs and the NRL recognise the importance of the improved insurance arrangements and support the proposal that was put to the Players Association for their members’ review,” he said.

The announcement follows last weekend’s Rise For Alex round, which raised more than $1.1 million for Newcastle forward Alex McKinnon.

McKinnon suffered a devastating spinal injury after a lifting tackle in the Knights’ round-three clash with Melbourne.

Twitter admits to diversity problem

Twitter says it has been hiring too many white and Asian men to fill high-paying technology jobs, just like several other major companies in Silicon Valley.

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The lack of diversity in Twitter’s workforce of roughly 3000 was detailed in data released by the San Francisco company behind the popular short messaging service on Wednesday.

The breakdown revealed 70 per cent of Twitter’s worldwide workforce is comprised of men.

In the US, nearly 90 per cent of Twitter’s workers are either white or Asian. Racial data wasn’t provided for the global workforce.

Things look even worse for computer programming positions and other technology jobs that tend to pay the highest salaries.

Just 10 per cent of those jobs are held by women worldwide. More than 90 per cent of Twitter’s technology jobs in the US are being handled by whites and Asians.

Twitter’s scarcity of women, black and Latino workers mirrors similar situations at Google, Facebook, Yahoo and LinkedIn.

All of those companies have released their diversity data since late May in response to a campaign led by the civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow PUSH coalition.

Jackson has spent much of this year pressuring major Silicon Valley companies to diversify their workforces because the booming technology industry is expected to be a major source of employment for years to come.

Many of those jobs pay high salaries and give out stock options that can become worth millions of dollars.

In a statement, Jackson lambasted Twitter’s diversity numbers as “pathetic” but called the disclosure of the problem a “step in the right direction”.

Twitter vowed to change its ways.

“We are keenly aware that Twitter is part of an industry that is marked by dramatic imbalances in diversity,” Janet Van Huysse, the company’s vice president of diversity and inclusion, wrote in a blog post.

Like some other technology companies, Twitter is supporting programs that teach women how to program computers and introducing internal training programs aiming to eliminate biases.

NSW government open to trial of medical cannabis

Clinical trials of medicinal cannabis could happen in NSW, but Premier Mike Baird is waiting on details about regulation and supply before making any commitments.

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Under a private member’s bill to be introduced next month by Nationals MP Kevin Anderson, terminally ill people and their carers will be legally able to carry up to 15 grams of cannabis.

Mr Baird indicated his support after meeting Daniel Haslam, a 24-year-old who in 2010 was told he would only live for a few more months.

Asked if he would support a clinical trial, as proposed by the Australian Medical Association, Mr Baird said “it may well be something we have to do”.

“I’m open to that,” he told ABC Radio on Thursday.

Mr Haslam began taking cannabis to relieve his symptoms and help deal with the side effects of chemotherapy.

His retired nurse mother Lucy and father Lou – former head of the drug squad in northwest NSW – are now asking politicians to legalise the controversial drug.

“I was struck with Daniel and the battle he’s in. It’s heart-wrenching,” Mr Baird said.

“I’ve got deep sympathy and empathy with their position.”

But Mr Baird is waiting to see details of the bill and whether it will address his concerns about the sale and regulation of the drug.

“I’ll be looking closely at that,” he said.

“Let’s get to the details of what comes forward.”

He wouldn’t say whether government MPs would be given a conscience vote on the proposal, which is supported by the Greens and has provisional backing from the opposition.

But if the bill satisfies Mr Baird, it seems likely Daniel and his family won’t be forced to break the law for much longer.

“If we can provide relief to them in those circumstance, well, what premier would not want to do that?” Mr Baird said.

NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson said he’s willing to work with the government but, like Mr Baird, wanted to see how the bill addresses things such as supply and access before fully endorsing it.

“I’m not writing a blank cheque, but I am very supportive of his notion,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“If marijuana is part of the solution to dealing with those issues as a means of relieving people’s pain, then we should be looking at that.”