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Monthly Archives: March 2019

Egypt court clears 26 after raid on gays

An Egyptian court has acquitted 26 men accused of “debauchery” after their night-time arrest from a Cairo bathhouse for suspected homosexual activity.

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“Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest), Long live justice,” chanted the defendants when the verdict was announced on Monday.

“Long live justice and the police,” cheered the jubilant families of the defendants, some of who had clashed with reporters and photographers before the hearing began.

Prosecutors later filed an appeal against the verdict.

The men were arrested in a December 7 raid on a hammam in the Azbakeya district of the capital, amid fears of a widening police crackdown on gays in Egypt.

The raid was filmed by a female television journalist, who days later aired the footage on the The Hidden, a weekly program on pro-regime private satellite channel Al-Qahira Wel Nas.

The footage showed the near naked men, covering their faces and wearing only towels, dragged out of the hammam and loaded onto police trucks.

The defendants, including the bathhouse owner and four employees, were brought handcuffed to the court room and made to stand in a metal cage guarded by two rifle-wielding policemen.

“The ruling proved our innocence and cleared the name of the hammam. I swear we did nothing wrong,” said Fathy Abdel Rahman, the owner.

“Finally, an Egyptian court issued a verdict in a case of this kind according to the law,” Ahmed Hossam, a defence lawyer, told AFP.

Egyptian law does not expressly ban homosexuality, but gay men have previously been arrested and charged with debauchery instead.

In the past, homosexuals in Egypt have been jailed on charges ranging from “scorning religion” to “sexual practices contrary to Islam”.

Greece could ‘face cash shortage’

Greece’s anti-austerity party Syriza will face a rapid cash shortage should it win snap elections this month and challenge the country’s EU-IMF creditors, the finance ministry has warned.

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The ministry said Greece has already exhausted a 15 billion euro ($A22.50 billion) cap on treasury bill sales and would need the consent of its European Union and International Monetary Fund creditors to sell more.

To end the impasse, the country would have to conclude an EU-IMF fiscal audit pending since last year, it said.

“(Greek) banks will be hard-pressed to find the required liquidity, and therefore purchase Greek state treasury bills, if the country has not concluded the audit,” the ministry said.

Greece last year secured a two-month extension from its EU-IMF creditors to conclude the audit that will determine the release of some seven billion euros in loans.

This extension expires on February 28.

“The agreement of (EU) peers and creditors is required to raise the 15-billion-euro limit,” the ministry said.

Last week, the ECB said that continued Greek bank access to its funding depended on Greece sticking to a path of reforms.

Syriza’s 40-year-old leader Alexis Tsipras has insisted that Greece will stay in the eurozone if his party wins the election as expected. But he has also left open the possibility of diverting funds from debt repayment to growth following six years of recession.

The government of conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras says this is tantamount to a debt default that could cost Greece its place in the eurozone, a prospect that has caused turbulence on markets in the last two weeks.

“It’s clear from any point of view that the subject of Greece leaving the euro simply does not exist,” Tsipras told Realnews weekly on Sunday.

Syriza have pledged to overturn many of the austerity reforms enacted in Greece over the past five years in return for EU-IMF rescue packages worth 240 billion euros.

In particular, the radical leftist party seeks to halt state privatisations and raise wages and pensions to combat what it calls a “humanitarian crisis” caused by austerity.

Ejectable black boxes soon on jets: report

The Airbus A350 and A380 passengers jets will soon come equipped with ejectable black boxes that can float, making them easier to find in an air crash at sea, aviation sources say.

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“At the end of last year Airbus got the green light from EASA (European Air Security Agency) to work on the necessary modifications to its planes in order to install these new black boxes in the rear of the planes,” one of the sources told AFP.

An EASA spokesman confirmed that the agency was working on changing the necessary certification to allow Airbus to equip its planes with the new flight data and cockpit voice recorders.

“The change is generally quick,” the spokesman added on Monday.

The technology, which has already been approved for military aircraft, has not been used in civil aviation because up until a few years ago air accidents have mainly happened during take-off or landing. Black boxes are generally found easily on land.

But in recent years passenger jets have crashed into the ocean raising the need for new technology to help find the black boxes. These recorders are critical in air crash investigations as they provide information on how the planes were operating and the conversations of the pilots.

In March last year a Malaysia Airlines disappeared over the Indian Ocean and its black boxes have still not be found.

Then last month an AirAsia plane crashed into the Java Sea and so far divers have found the flight data recorder but not yet the cockpit recorder.

“The idea is to modify the black boxes so that each one records the flight details and (cockpit) conversations. One would be ejectable, the other not,” a source close to Airbus explained to AFP.

An ejectable black box would be equipped with an airbag system so it could float on the surface of the water in the event of a crash at sea. It would also help to indicate the exact point of impact at the time of the crash and to find the wreckage.

Pope slams ‘deviant forms of religion’

Pope Francis has slammed “deviant forms of religion” following deadly attacks by Islamist militants in France last week and dubbed the “never-ending spread of conflicts” around the world a third world war.

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“Losing their freedom, people become enslaved, whether to the latest fads, or to power, money, or even deviant forms of religion,” he said, laying the blame on “a culture of rejection” which leads to “the breakdown of society and spawning violence and death”.

“We see painful evidence of this in the events reported daily in the news, not least the tragic slayings which took place in Paris a few days ago,” he said in his yearly speech to the members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.

The 78-year-old was speaking after France’s bloodiest attacks in half a century, which left 17 people dead.

He pointed to “chilling repercussions” from conflicts in the Middle East and “the spread of fundamentalist terrorism in Syria and Iraq”.

“Religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God himself, turning him into a mere ideological pretext,” he said.

Not for the first time, Francis called for “a unanimous response… within the framework of international law” to the so-called Islamic State and also urged the Muslim community to “condemn all fundamentalist and extremist interpretations of religion.”

The Pope has spoken before about the spread of conflicts around the globe being effectively a sort of third world war, and in this speech, known as his “State of the World” address, he repeated the claim of “a true world war fought piecemeal”.

Tomic, Kyrgios playing in Sydney tennis

Bernard Tomic will look to continue his outstanding recent form at the Sydney International when he gets his campaign underway with a first round match on Tuesday.

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The Australian has much to lose in his match against Dutchman Igor Sijsling given he’s defending ranking points from finishing runner-up at the tournament last year.

It followed a title win in 2012, suggesting the Gold Coaster is very much at home at the Olympic Tennis Centre.

The vagaries of the tweaked ranking system means Tomic has already dropped 18 spots this week to world No.71 before he has played but if he again gets deep into the tournament that number will improve significantly.

He will be warm favourite against Sijsling, ranked No.83 in the world.

A tougher task awaits for Tomic’s compatriot Nick Kyrgios, who faces world No.42 Jerzy Janowicz in his first round match on Tuesday night.

Janowicz is a Wimbledon semi-finalist and hits the tape at 203cm, offering a tricky proposition even for someone of Kyrgios’s not inconsiderable skill.

The Canberran is looking to shake off a back injury which kept him out the Hopman Cup – where the in-form Janowicz led Poland to the title.

Elsewhere in the men’s draw Australian Sam Groth looks to continue his strong season start when he play Gilles Muller while defending champion Juan Martin del Potro will hope to put a horror injury year behind him with a win over Sergiy Stakhovsky.

In the women’s draw Samantha Stosur should be in a buoyant frame of mind when she tackles Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, the Australian burying a few demons with her tough three set win over Lucie Safarova.

With a 2-9 record against Safarova before her win in Sydney and a first round exit in Brisbane, Stosur was again feeling the heat of the Australian public before the opening slam of the year.

But after the victory the 2011 US Open champion said she was in good shape.

“I guess I am probably a bit more relaxed about it this time around,” Stosur said of her lead-in to Melbourne Park.

“I think it’s just going through all these experiences and trying really to just embrace it. I’m really trying to make it about what I’m trying to do on the court and play the way I want to play – win or lose.”

Top seed Simona Halep from Romania gets her campaign underway after a first round bye against Karolina Pliskova while Australian Jarmila Gajdosova backs up from a win on Monday to play Dominika Cibulkova.

‘Piles of bodies’ after Boko Haram attack

When Borye Kime crept back into the fishing town of Baga in northeast Nigeria in the early hours of Monday, a weak moon shone on a grisly sight.

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“It is corpses everywhere,” he said.

“The whole town smells of decomposing bodies,” the 40-year-old fisherman added.

Kime was one of thousands who fled across the border to Chad when Boko Haram fighters stormed his hometown of Baga in Nigeria’s far northeast on January 3.

In the days that followed, the town and at least 16 settlements nearby were burnt to the ground.

What happened in the remote north of Borno state is gradually emerging, lending weight to fears that it may be the deadliest attack yet in a six-year insurgency that has killed over 13,000.

On Saturday, another man, Yanaye Grema, said he was forced to hide for three days while the militants ransacked Baga. He eventually fled into the bush under the cover of darkness on Tuesday.

“For five kilometres, I kept stepping on dead bodies,” he said.

Nigeria’s government has claimed that troops were “actively pursuing” the militants as part of an operation to take back control of Baga.

But Kime said there was “not a single soldier in Baga”. Others reported seeing troops abandon their posts when Boko Haram attacked, leaving the fighting to civilian vigilantes.

“The vigilantes fought for some time but withdrew because they could not match Boko Haram’s heavy weapons,” said Mala Kyari Shuwaram, a local chief from Baga who also made it to Dubuwa.

Many of those who escaped made it to islands on Lake Chad. Chief Shuwaram said about 1000 people, including the four soldiers spent three days on the Lake.

The panicked mass evacuation split families and has increased pressure on already over-stretched local authorities in the border areas of neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

With Boko Haram still holding Baga, hundreds of people are still stranded on the islands, exposed to the cold seasonal wind, the Harmattan, and without food.

Parents these days are judged too harshly

By John Pickering, The University of Queensland

I need to start with a confession: I’m not a parent.

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I am someone who investigates how science can help parents deal with the sleepless nights, the fussy eaters, the sibling rivalry, the intrusive in-laws, and a career that favours fulltime hours.

I certainly don’t know what it feels like to hold your own child in your arms and to see that same child grow to become an independent human being.

I haven’t experienced these things.

What I have experienced, though, is the growing and seemingly widespread view that parents these days aren’t doing a good job – that in fact they’re doing a “crap” job.

Parents are out of touch, we’re told, and too soft. They give in to their kids too easily. They’re over-involved helicopter parents, or under-involved don’t care parents. Or they could be bulldozer or lawn-mower parents, the ones who smooth the way for their child’s transition through life and make life difficult for everyone else in the process.

This is the old “kids these days” narrative but applied to parents.

Has parenting actually changed?

A 2012 study surveyed thousands of English adolescents in 1986 and again in 2006 to determine the extent that parent-child relationships had changed over 20 years.

 

Has anything changed in the way people parent? Shutterstock

 

The study showed that parental monitoring of youth behaviour and parent-child quality time increased from 1986 to 2006. Parents in 2006 also expected more from their children than they did in 1986, including the expectation of being polite.

The authors concluded that their study failed to provide any evidence that the quality of parent-child relationships had declined over time, and that there is little evidence of any decline in parenting across the target population.

This finding corroborates earlier studies which analysed parenting patterns across generations and found that both mothers and fathers tended to spend greater amounts of time in child care-related activities in the 1990s than they did in the 1960s.

So what is different?

The major trend that strikes me about parents today is the appetite for evidence that informs decisions about parenting. Parents want evidence that what they are doing is effective.

They invest time to research whether vaccines work; to find evidence that “breast is best”; evidence that car seat A is superior to car seat B; evidence that certain toys are developmentally appropriate; evidence that the discipline strategies they use are effective.

The costs of having children are also on the rise.

In Australia the costs of raising a child are estimated at anywhere between A$500,000 and A$1 million per child – and that’s just to the point when they leave home.

These costs have doubled since 2007 while household income increased 25%, which is perhaps an indication of why people are having fewer kids these days.

How you parent is important

Years of experimental research are now converging on a very simple, and plainly obvious, conclusion: the way we parent our children has a profound effect on how they develop and go on to contribute to society. Put differently, the specific parenting strategies we use with our children have a direct and significant impact on our children’s life chances and opportunities.

 

How you parent has a great effect on the type of person your child will be Shutterstock

 

Early family relationships have been shown to have an impact on an individual’s cognitive ability, social and emotional adjustment, health and wellbeing, and involvement in crime and substance abuse.

Recent research has also demonstrated how different parenting styles and strategies influence various aspects of brain development. One study showed how harsh parenting reduced telomere length in the brain (a biomarker for chronic stress). Another demonstrated that, even in environments of poverty, altering the way we parent our children can help alleviate some of the adverse effects of disadvantage and promote better brain development in kids.

A fundamental skill that parents can teach their children is self-control. It’s a skill that allows us to get on with others, to focus and stick to tasks and to be sure to look after ourselves. The importance of self-control at both the individual and community level has been captured in a powerful longitudinal study which found that the level of self-control of children at age 3 could predict their later physical health, substance dependence, financial wellbeing and involvement in crime at age 32.

Nobel Laureate James Heckman, points out that disadvantage is better defined by the quality of the early nurturing environment and the types of parenting that children receive, rather than by the financial resources available to them.

As this evidence begins to make its way into the modern vernacular of parenting, the physical, emotional, financial and intellectual resources that parents are now investing in raising their kids have never been greater.

We need to stop damning parents of today, embrace their appetite for knowledge, and continue to evolve the sophistication and availability of evidence-based parenting strategies.

John Pickering is an employee of The University of Queensland (UQ). UQ owns The Triple P-Positive Parenting Program. The University through its technology transfer company, UniQuest Pty Ltd, has licensed Triple P International Pty Ltd to publish and disseminate the program worldwide. Royalties stemming from published Triple P resources are distributed to the University and contributory authors. John Pickering has no authorial connection to Triple P and is not a financial recipient of program dissemination.

Finance News Update, what you need to know

WORLD FINANCE UPDATE:

The Australian dollar has given back some of its gains made following disappointing US data which had sparked a rally for the local currency.

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At 0630 AEDT on Tuesday, the local currency was trading at 81.67 US cents, down from 82.52 cents on Monday.

And the Australian share market looks set to open lower following falls on international markets with energy stocks dragged down by tumbling oil prices.

At 0645 AEST on Tuesday, the March share price index futures contract was down 51 points at 5,334.

ELSEWHERE:

WASHINGTON – Two securities exchanges have agreed to pay a total $US14 million ($A15.15 million) to settle federal charges of giving inaccurate information to trading firms about the buy and sell orders they used.

ATHENS – Greece’s anti-austerity party Syriza will face a rapid cash shortage should it win snap elections this month and challenge the country’s EU-IMF creditors, the finance ministry has warned.

MOSCOW – Russia’s central bank in 2014 sold $US76.1 billion and 5.4 billion euros in attempts to support the rouble, published statistics say, as the currency continued to fall.

DUBLIN – Goldman Sachs will advise Dublin on its options for selling the state-rescued Allied Irish Banks, finance minister Michael Noonan says, as the government seeks to recoup taxpayers’ cash.

GENEVA – Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche says it will invest nearly $US1.2 billion ($A1.30 billion) for control of US molecular and genomic analysis firm Foundation Medicine, in a bid to boost its personalised cancer treatment offerings.

ROME – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles says “extremely positive” results for sales of the new Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X will allow the automaker to add 1,500 new jobs in Italy.

LONDON – Indian-owned luxury car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover revealed plans on Monday to create 1300 jobs in Britain to build Jaguar’s first-ever sports utility vehicle.

BERLIN – Volkswagen says it sold more than 10 million vehicles last year for the first time as strong performances in China and western Europe pushed deliveries 4.2 per cent higher.

BEIJING – Volvo Cars, the Chinese-owned Swedish automaker, says it will export cars made in China to the United States.

FRANKFURT – German airline Lufthansa says it expects a sharp increase in underlying profits this year as a result of falling fuel prices.

WELLINGTON – It might not sign up the smiling customers most financial lenders promote, but that hasn’t stopped the Reserve Bank from winning an award for Central Bank of the Year.

Pakistan massacre school reopens

Survivors of Pakistan’s worst-ever militant attack have returned to the school where Taliban gunmen massacred their classmates, with students and parents expressing a mixture of defiance and apprehension.

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The December 16 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar claimed the lives of 150 people, mostly children, and prompted a bout of national soul-searching even in a country used to high levels of violence.

Across the country, schools had remained shut for an extended winter break as authorities strengthened security and announced new measures including the death penalty to combat insurgents.

Most reopened on Monday along with the army school in the northwestern city.

For 16-year-old Shahrukh Khan, who was shot in both legs while pretending to play dead in his school’s auditorium, going back was traumatic.

“I have lost 30 of my friends. How will I sit in the empty class, how will I look towards their empty benches?” he said before the school reopened.

“My heart has been broken. All the class fellows I had, have died. Now my heart does not want to attend school,” he added.

At least 20 soldiers were seen at the main entrance of the Army Public School, with an airport-style security gate installed at the front.

Elevated boundary walls with steel wire fencing have been put in place in some schools around Peshawar and nationwide.

Raheel Sharif, the head of Pakistan’s powerful army, made an unannounced visit to the school.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is currently in Pakistan on a surprise two-day visit, is also reportedly scheduled visit the school, according to the national security adviser to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Parents spoke of having to sit down with their children and mentally prepare them for their return to the school.

“He was terrified but we talked him up. We cannot keep him imprisoned between four walls and we must stand against militancy,” Muhammad Zahoor said as he walked his son along the city’s main Warsak Road.

“I want to go to school to see my friends. I will join the army after my schooling and will take revenge,” said Muhammad Zaid, his son.

Of the 150 victims killed in Pakistan’s deadliest-ever militant attack, 134 were children.