MH17: Australia and Netherlands accuse Russia of complicity

Foreign minister tells Australia will seek financial compensation from Moscow

Russia is facing international calls to accept responsibility for the downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, which caused the deaths of all 298 people onboard.

Australia and the Netherlands on Friday accused Moscow of complicity in the incident, while Britain’s foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said the Kremlin” must now answer for its actions “.

” The Kremlin believes it can act with impunity. The Russian government must now answer for its actions in relation to the downing of MH17 ,” told Johnson in a statement.

A Downing Street spokesman used to say during a phone call with Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, Theresa May said the alleged actions” fit into a well-established pattern of Russian aggression “.

Despite longstanding mistrust and a mounting body of proof pointing to Russia’s involvement, this is the first time governments have officially accused Moscow over the incident.

” Australia and the Netherlands have now informed the Russian Federation that we hold it responsible under international law for its role in the bringing down of MH17 ,” said Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, on Friday.

She called on Russia to” enter into negotiations to open up a dialogue about its conduct and to try reparations “.

The call is likely to bring about a diplomatic standoff, with Russia continuing to deny complicity and refusing to cooperate with investigators.

On Thursday, a team of international researchers said they had hard proof that the missile system to participate in shooting down the Malaysia Airline airplane came from a Russian military brigade.

The plane, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down over the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine in July 2014. More than half of the victims were Dutch, and there were also 44 Malaysians and 28 Australians onboard.

Bishop said her country seeking ways financial compensation from Russia for the families of Australian victims.” They want to see closure but they also deserve justice and we will be seeking reparations for the cruelties caused by this conduct ,” she said.

Johnson said the MH1 7 incident was ” an egregious instance of the Kremlin’s disregard for innocent life” and he offered his support for the Dutch and Australian demands.

” The UK fully supports Australia and the Netherlands in their request to the Russian Federation to accept state responsibility and to cooperate with them in their efforts to deliver justice for the victims of this tragedy ,” he said.

The EU and Nato also issued statements calling on Russia to accept responsibility.

Witnesses told shortly after the incident that they had ensure a Buk missile system travel through separatist-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine on the day of the downing, while a variety of photo and video proof has pointed to a Buk system that intersected from Russia.

On Thursday, the Joint Investigation Team( JIT) said it had” legal and persuading evidence which will stand up in a courtroom” that the missile system came from Russia’s 53 rd anti-aircraft missile brigade, based in the western city of Kursk.

Russia has vetoed a UN tribunal to decide guilt for the incident, so the JIT intends to issue indictments for a trial to be held in a Dutch court. On Thursday, the Dutch chief prosecutor, Fred Westerbeke, said the investigation was in its “last phase” but he declined to say when a court case might start.

He said the JIT was investigating” several dozen” suspects for complicity in the incident, though he did not say how high up the chain of command they went.

Russia has issued a series of blanket denials over the active involvement, and officials and state-linked media have floated a series of implausible alternative theories suggesting Ukrainian armed forces were to blame.

On Friday, the Russian defence ministry issued a fresh statement indicating all Buk rockets with the serial numbers indicated by the JIT had been destroyed in Russia in 2011, indicating the missile must have come from the Ukrainian armed forces. The foreign ministry complained that” these gratuitous accusations are an attempt to discredit our nation in the eyes of the international community “.

However, the evidence against Russia continues to mount. On Friday, the online investigations group Bellingcat held a press conference to reveal that it had identified a Russian military commandant operating in eastern Ukraine at the time of the crash.

Bellingcat said the military commander, known by his call sign Orion, about whom the JIT had called for information, was in fact Oleg Ivannikov, an officer in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service. Bellingcat said Ivannikov, operating under an alias, was responsible for the transfer of Russian weaponry into eastern Ukraine during 2014. The group, which utilizes principally open source research, identified the 53 rd brigade as the potential source of the Buk system virtually two years ago.

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Sharks love jazz but are stumped by classical, say scientists

A study at Macquarie University in Sydney found that sharks could recognise jazz if there was food on offer

Researchers at Sydney’s Macquarie University have discovered that sharks can recognise jazz music.

In a newspaper published in Animal Cognition, the researchers, led by Catarina Vila Pouca, developed juvenile Port Jackson sharks to swim over to where jazz was playing, to receive food. It has been thought that sharks have learned to associate the audio of a boat engine with food, because food is often thrown from tourist boats to attract sharks to cage-diving expeditions- the study shows that they can learn these associations quickly.

The test was induced more complex with the addition of classical music- this confounded the sharks, who couldn’t differentiate between jazz and classical.” It was obvious that the sharks knew that they had to do something when the classical music was played, but they couldn’t figure out that they had to go to another location ,” said researcher Culum Brown.” The task is harder than it sounds, because the sharks had to learn that different locations were associated with a particular genre of music, which was then paired with a food reward. Perhaps with more develop, they would have figured it out .”

Vila Pouca added:” Sharks are generally underestimated when it comes to learning abilities- most people assure them as mindless, instinctive animals. However, they have really big brains and are patently much smarter than we give them credit for .” She said that the evidence would hopefully inspires more conservation work.

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Lost in translation: Macron thanks Australian PM’s ‘delicious’ wife

French chairmen option of English terms in Sydney situates tongues wagging

Was it a verbal faux pas , or a jeu de mots gone wrong? We will probably never know, but Emmanuel Macron’s choice of English words certainly set Australian tongues wagging.

” I want to thank you for your welcome ,” the French chairman said to the country’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, at the end of a joint press conference in Sydney on Wednesday.” Thank you and your delicious wife for your warm welcome .”

The more charitable among the Australian media present reckoned Macron, who was in Australia for trade and regional security talks before visiting the French province of New Caledonia, was already thinking of his lunch.

Turnbull had just observed that the president had to rush off for a dinner with the French community in Sydney.” Yes, for French gastronomy, for the French winery ,” Macron responded, moving on to describe his host’s wife too as “delicious”.

Others said the French chairwoman, who prides himself on speaking fluent- though not flawless- English, might have fallen pollute of a faux ami, the French term for a word that voices similar in another language but carries a different meaning.

The French term delicieux, while often employed for the savor of food, would be better translated as “lovely” or “delightful” when used to describe a person.

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Donald Trump tells Brigitte Macron she’s ‘in good shape’ – video

Still others guessed Macron may have been attempting an albeit slightly obscure gag referencing Donald Trump’s visit to Paris last year, when the US president was caught on camera telling his host’s spouse, Brigitte, that she was ” in such great shape … beautiful “.

Whatever the explain, Macron’s English is an improvement on that of his predecessors. “I’m sorry for the time,” Nicolas Sarkozy once said to Hillary Clinton. That is one meaning of the word temps , but he meant another – the climate.

Francois Hollande also came in for criticism after he signed a letter of congratulation to Barack Obama following his 2008 election with the words:” Friendly, Francois Hollande “. That was a direct translation of amicalement , meaning” warm considers “.

But faux amis can also run the other way. The former British prime minister Tony Blair, who speaks pretty good French, was once caught out when he tried to say,” I envy you” to his French equivalent, Lionel Jospin.

Instead of “ Je vous envie “, he said: “ J’ai envie de vous “-” I want you .”

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More than #MeToo: 10 ways workplaces can turn the hashtag into action | Tracey Spicer

In an edited extract of a speech given at the Global Summit of Women, Tracey Spicer advises employers to step up and stamp out sexual harassment

My first task was running behind the Yummies Bar at our local roller-skating rink, swirling soft serves ice-creams into crispy cones to a soundtrack of Sweet with Ballroom Blitz for the speed skate and Barbara Streisand for the couples’ skate.

I recollect being so proud to be 14 years old in the workforce, earning the stellar sum of$ 2 an hour.

One day a human swaggered over to the counter and asked for a soft serve with extra sprinkles.

” Don’t worry about the change, luv ,” he leered.” Just give us a kiss .”

I did not want my first kiss to be with an unkempt chap in his early 30 s. But, I had no choice.

Before I could step back, he grabbed me by the elbows and began feeing my face. It wasn’t a kiss: he was biting, chomping, devouring.

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When he finally let go, I could savour blood. My lips and tongue were numb.

” See ya !” he smirked, slouching off.

I stood, in shock. I finished my change. Then I went home.

I thought, what’s the point in complaining? No one listens to teenage girls. The victim is always to blame.

My first kiss- supposed to be a sweet, consensual event- was actually my first experience of workplace sexual harassment. Countless encounters followed on a spectrum from indecent assault to attempted rape, which I wrote about in my memoir The Good Girl Stripped Bare.

I’ve worked on documentaries around the world about the plight of women and girls. My own experiences are not as serious as employing rape as a weapon of war. But as the #MeToo movement has shown, every woman has a tale. That’s why we launched Now Australia. For everyone. For the survivors in some of the lowest-paid sectors in the workforce. For the nurses, the cleaners, those on the factory floor. For the marginalised women, and those from diverse culture backgrounds.

Now Australia is a nonpartisan , not-for-profit alliance with one intent: to end sexual harassment in the workplace. We’re nearing the end of our initial stage of crowdfunding to build a triage service, connecting anyone who has experienced sexual harassment with the right counselling and legal support.

In Australia, one in four humen have been sexually harassed during their lifetime and one in two women. And girls from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are twice as likely to be sexually harassed at work.

Long-term, we plan to collate research to make education programs for colleges and businesses.

The message emerging is that there are a number of proven strategies to eradicate sexual harassment in the workplace, but none of them will work in isolation.

We need revolutionary cultural change involving quantum transformations in legislation, education and corporate structures, with cooperation across multiple sectors, from the grassroots to those above the glass ceilings.

These are our top 10 suggestions to activate the hashtag:

1. Hire and promote more females

Research displays consistently that companies with more women in management have fewer instances of sexual harassment. This is partly because harassment prospers when humen feel pressured to chuckle along with the sexualised behaviour of their colleagues and superiors. Many women then internalise this misogyny and, yes, become offenders as well.

2. Protect employees, don’t just reduce liability

This is an issue identified in multiple papers. As Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev in the Harvard Business Review explain,” Executives … have installed training and grievance procedures and called it a day. They’re satisfied as long as the courts are. They don’t bother to ask themselves whether the programs work .”

3. Don’t penalise those who lodge complaints

Around a third of people who formally complained are demoted, fired or- believe it or not- further harassed. Several large-scale surveys show people who file complaints are much more likely to lose their jobs than those who experience similar levels of harassment and say nothing.

4. Provide multiple avenues of redress

Many big workplaces around Australia provide anonymous whistleblower hotlines. These are confidential electronic systems, operated by an external third party, permitting employees to report harassment. Sometimes the report is embargoed until someone else complains about the same person, to expose serial harassers.

A note of caution here: this was put in place at a television network in this country, but few people utilize it because of a lack of trust in the workplace.

5. Take responsibility as leaders

CEOs must take a strong public stand against harassment and maintain repeating that message. They should be first in line for train, and chair the committees tasked with solving the problem. Training must be mandatory for all levels of management- not just staff.

6. Train to change behaviours , not attitudes

In 2017, the writer Nora Caplan-Bricker alerted that telling people what not to do tends to trigger their” inner toddler”, causing defiance and tantrums.
Trying to impart knowledge and skills- for example” this is what harassment looks like “;” this is what you can do if you witness harassment”- runs better than trying to change stances. Directors need to feel like they’re part of the solution.

7. Implement spectator training

Sadly, people who enter sexual harassment train with the most biased positions tend to exit having learned the least.

As Claire Cain Miller explains in the New York Times,” Bystander training equips everyone in the workplace to stop harassment, instead of offering people two roles no one wants: harasser or victim .”

At its heart, “its about” having a conversation with a friend about the route they talk about girls.

8. Reward managers and staff for an increase in incidents

This sounds counterintuitive. But basically, we are all really tall children. Offering us a treat now and then is incredibly motivating.

We know that most women don’t report harassment for anxiety of retaliation, or fear that it won’t be taken seriously. The route to fix this is to reward directors if harassment complaints increase, at the least initially, because it means employees have faith in the organizations of the system.

You can’t solve a problem you can’t see.

9. Take strong disciplinary action against delinquents

Our investigations at Fairfax and the ABC disclosed a system that promoted the perpetrators, and stillness, sidelined or sacked the survivors.
Sometimes, HR departments characterise sexual harassment grievances as examples of poor management or interpersonal difficulties, rather than as violations of the law.

There required to consequences and follow-through.

10. Put your fund where your mouth is

Consider stimulating compliance with sexual harassment guidelines a condition of doing business. Especially if you have a family business: it reflects your values.

This is the perfect style to amplify your influence. After all, fund talks.

But so does storytelling. Yes, we need data. Certainly, policies and procedures are important. But my tale of the Yummies Bar; your narratives, and those of your family, friends and colleagues- these are the solid foundations of the #MeToo movement.

As Gloria Steinem once said,” You can’t empower women without listening to their narratives .”

We must continue to speak our truth- for the sake of our daughters AND our sons- so the next generation doesn’t have to live through this horror.

* To donate to NOW Australia, go to

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Boy, 12, steals credit card and goes on Bali holiday after fight with mother

Sydney boy boarded flight alone to Perth, then another to Indonesia, where he checked into the All Seasons hotel

A 12 -year-old Sydney boy stole his mothers’ charge card, tricked his grandmother into devoting him his passport and flew to Bali on his own after a family argument.

The boy, given the pseudonym Drew by A Current Affair, was told he couldn’t go to Bali by his mother but managed to book himself flights( researching an airline that allowed 12 -year-olds to fly unaccompanied) and a hotel room, and to depart the country unimpeded.

Telling his family he was going to school, he rode his razor scooter to his local train station, from where he travelled to the airport and, employing a self-service check-in terminal, boarded a flight for Perth, then another for Indonesia, the Nine Network program reported.

He was merely quizzed once, at Perth airport, when staff asked him for identification to prove he was over 12. Guardian Australia has independently corroborated the boy built the trip.

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” They just asked for my student ID and passport had demonstrated that I’m over 12 and that I’m in secondary school ,” he told A Current Affair.” It was great because I wanted to go on an adventure .”

In Bali, he checked in to the All Seasons hotel, telling faculty he was waiting for his sister to arrive.

After his school reported he was absent, his family scrambled to find out where he was. Detecting “hes in” Bali, his mother, Emma, flew there to collect him.

Emma said the boy doesn’t like hearing the word “no”.

” Shocked, disgusted, there’s no emotion to feel what we felt when we procured he left overseas ,” she told A Current Affair.

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‘Plastic is literally everywhere’: the epidemic attacking Australia’s oceans

It never breaks down and goes away, say scientists struggling to understand the impact of widespread pollution

While heading down the Brisbane river, Jim Hinds once pulled aboard a drunken half-naked man only seconds from” going down for the last period “.

But on this day, like most other days for Hinds, it’s back to the horribly predictable as he launches his barge into the Nerang river on Queensland’s Gold Coast.

Instantly you see it.

Decaying plastic bags hanging from the branches of mangroves like dripping flesh; slicks of plastic water bottles and food containers waiting ashore for the liberation of the next rising tide; the misnamed “disposable” plastic and styrofoam drinking beakers; and other plastic paraphernalia in the different stages of disintegration.

” Everyone knows littering’s wrong- that’s not a secret. But it’s just nonsensical ,” tells Jim. His son Patrick, 21, has jumped ashore to pick up a vinyl football ball and about a dozen soft drinks bottles.

Hinds works for Queensland environmental conservation group Healthy Land and Water. His chore is to travel the coastal waterways and pick up rubbish- he’ll often have one of his two sons with him. His father also used to do the job.

In recent years, he has been grabbing about 10,000 items a month.” Consistently we’re getting plastic bottles- there are so many of them ,” Jim says.

Rubbish strewn on Chilli beach in Queensland. Photo: Tangaroa Blue Foundation

Hinds is working at the coalface of an epidemic of plastic pollution which, Guardian Australia has procured, is attacking Australia’s beaches, waterways and oceans, and the animals that live there.

From the most remote wilderness idylls to city coastlines, scientists and citizens have collected and documented millions of pieces of plastic debris.

Out at sea, expeditions skimming ocean waters, circumnavigating the continent, help find concentrations of plastics as high as 9,000 pieces for every square kilometre.

Sediment taken from the bottom of estuaries operating through busy Australian township contains tiny microplastic pieces and scientists find the same thing when they analyse samples of the ocean floor hundreds of kilometres offshore.

” Plastic is everywhere, all of the time ,” tells Dr Denise Hardesty, a principal research scientist at CSIRO.” It is in the air, the wind, the water and the clay and we find it in as many places as we seem .”

In late 2012 and 2013, Hardesty experienced a series of “gut-wrenching” research trips by floatplane to some of the most remote parts of Australia- the west coast of Tasmania and the Kimberley region in Western Australia.

” These places are pristine … quote, unquote ,” she says.” You stroll on to these beaches and no matter where you are there’s junk and it’s so confronting. Everywhere you go, you see it .”

Hardesty is helping to lead a global CSIRO project to understand how and why plastics are escaping the legitimate waste and recycling streams and where and how they travel. Her team’s tackling trips to so-called pristine beaches were part of a study published in late 2016 that had eventually counted litter at 175 coastal sites around the continent.

About three of every four items documented were plastic and the study concluded a key cause was, simply, littering.” In general, most of the junk is coming from us ,” Hardesty tells.

Tangaroa Blue volunteers retrieving ghost nets at a beach in Mapoon, Queensland. Photograph: Tangaroa Blue Foundation

The scientific literature is awash with research documenting plastics of all sizes in every environment that’s been studied- from the deep ocean to both the Arctic and Antarctic.

Microplastic is the term used to describe any piece of plastic less than 5mm broad – it’s mostly the broken-apart remnants of straw, fishing nets and all manner of other plastic items, creating trillions of tiny pieces.

Dr Jennifer Lavers, a marine biologist at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania, has expended the past 15 years analyse the impacts of plastics.

In 2015 Lavers travelled to one of the most remote places on countries around the world– the uninhabited Henderson Island in the middle of the Pacific- to find this world heritage-listed coral atoll’s beaches strewn with an estimated 37 m pieces of plastic weighing about 17 tonnes– the equivalent of less than two seconds of global plastic production.

Just one washed-up angling net, barely a decade old, was disintegrating into trillions of plastic fibres that gave the surround sand a lucid green splash.

” You can’t prepare yourself for moments like that ,” she says.

Northern Australia is a known hotspot for these so-called ” ghost nets” that are left to haunt the lives of marine animals. One project, GhostNets Australia, has collected more than 13,000 nets since 2004. A study analysed 9,000 nets found in the north of Australia and estimated that they alone had probably caught between 4,866 and 14,600 turtles.

” Nowhere is safe, and plastic is literally everywhere ,” tells Lavers.” No locating and no species is likely to remain immune for any period of time. It is ubiquitous. We are literally drowning in this stuff .”

Plastic tsunami

Chilli beach is a two-hour drive north from the Aboriginal community of Lockhart River , north of Cairns in Kutini-Payamu national park.

Heidi Taylor, the founder of charity Tangaroa Blue, takes a squad of volunteers, school children and traditional proprietors up to the area each year to clear the beach. In 2013 the first year different groups did a full “clean sweep” of the 7km-long beach, they collected 5.5 tonnes of material.

” But for every one full item, there was probably 100 fragments that were scattered- like colourful confetti through the sand ,” Taylor tells.” Every hour you went to pick something up, it would disintegrate in your hands because it had been there for decades .”

In five years, different groups went from grabbing 5.5 tonnes a visit to only 2.3 tonnes. But in 2017, they assembled seven tonnes, probably thanks to hurricanes in the Pacific pushing older material on to Australia’s shores.

There is an Aboriginal community at Mapoon , north of Weipa on the west of Cape York. Their 14 km beach is another regular location for Tangaroa Blue’s work.

In recent years, an Indonesian government crackdown on illegal angling in the Arafura Sea has watched a drop in the number of ghost nets making the beach.

But in 2017, the group was shocked when they arrived to find 10,601 plastic beverage bottles from a 7km stretch- and most of them were the popular Indonesian brand Danone Aqua.

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Welcome to Australia’s plastic beach- video

” Plastic is one of the most useful materials we have ever made. Our problem is not with plastic as training materials but what we utilize it for. We construct so many things that don’t involve the longevity that plastic has- we don’t need a straw that we will use to sip one drinking that will stay in the environment eternally ,” Taylor says.

As well as running beach cleanup, Tangaroa Blue has coordinated data from cleanups run by other groups around Australia since 2004.

The data encompass 2,460 different sites with more than 878 tonnes of material removed over 14 years , and it presents about three-quarters of what is collected is plastic. For comparison, that’s about the same weight as 535 Holden utes. The database has just recorded its 10 millionth piece of debris.

So, while the evidence for the ubiquity of plastics is clear, Lavers tells much less is known about the impact of this tsunami of plastics on the habitats and species that are taking it in.” When it comes to wildlife our knowledge is constrained to individual level impacts ,” she says.

Even though reports of single whales with stomachs filled with plastic bags and ropes are unbelievably graphic and distressing, Lavers says” the scientific question becomes … so what ?”

Understanding the impact of the ingestion of plastics on whole animal populations and habitats is now a major scientific challenge.” Is plastic either now, or likely to be, a driver of population decline for any devoted species ,” she asks.

” The answer to that question is almost invariably’ we don’t know .’ It isn’t that the plastic doesn’t have the capacity to do that, but it is very difficult to document .”

She says while it’s easier to observe the impact of plastic on a species in a laboratory environment, it is much more difficult to tease apart its impact in the real world when species are already being hit by other impacts such as climate change, coastal developments, disease or overfishing.” We are in a big data gap ,” she says.

In 2013 Lavers published a journal paper looking at Australian flesh-footed shearwater birds. She found they were likely more contaminated by plastic than any other known marine vertebrate studied anywhere else in the world.

But Lavers also hypothesised the plastic ingestion could be cutting the survival rates of chicks by about 11% annually.

” The smaller the piece of plastic, the more species devour it. Everything that’s tiny is at the base of the food web, so it’s not just albatross and sperm whales, you literally have microplastics and nanoplastics being feed by sea cucumbers, corals, clams and muscles, zooplankton and krill- right at the very base of the food web. You have all levels of the food web infiltrated. And where the plastics run, the chemicals follow .”

A dissected flesh-footed shearwater bird taken from Lord Howe Island in 2017, with plastic pieces from its belly arranged beside it. Photograph: Jennifer Lavers

According to Lavers, research has found that plastics act as a vehicle to transport toxins and metals such as leading, cadmium and arsenic into the tissues of animals.

Her own studies, and those of other scientists, have shown that such metals can be transferred from the plastics feed by animals into their tissues. Toxic chemicals have also been found to leaching into the tissues of animals via the plastics they have eaten.

” We should not simply wait for or demand more data before we can make a decision ,” she tells.” We should default to the likely outcome. If danger is possible, we should heed the warning and do something to prevent it .”

Policy answer

Campaigners have had some success in persuading governments to introduce receptacle deposit schemes where plastics can be recycled for money. South Australians have been returning plastics and other items since 1977.

In early 2013, the liquor giants Coca-Cola Amatil, Lion Nathan and Schweppes successfully opposed the Northern Territory’s then-new container deposit strategy in the courts. The government changed the rules but reintroduced the strategy, which has been running since August 2013.

The New South Wales scheme has been running since December 2017, while the Australian Capital Territory’s scheme is due to start at the end of June 2018. Queensland tells its scheme will be published in November 2018 and in Western Australia, a program will start in 2019. Tasmania and Victoria have no concrete plans.

These schemes do work. A CSIRO analyze in Australia and the US looked at the numbers of drinks receptacles found in coastal areas where receptacle deposit laws were in place. The analyze found that by financially incentivising members of the public to recycle, there were about 40% fewer plastic drinkings receptacles recorded in litter surveys.

Plastic draping plants in the Torres Strait. Photo: Tangaroa Blue Foundation

Bans on single-use plastic bags will roll out this year in Victoria, WA and Queensland, joining existing prohibits in NT, SA, the ACT and Tasmania.

There is a lot of evidence that these schemes have a significant impact on litter ,” Hardesty says.” Cash for receptacles works ,” she tells.” But what I keep coming back to is the thought that all the stuff we find out there was once in a person’s hand. That means you can make a change .”

Lavers agrees that the bans are welcome but tells governments have been far too slow to introduce schemes that have been shown to work.

” If we want change and we want the quantity of plastics going into the ocean to go down, then the rate of change in our society needs to outstrip the rate of plastics going into the ocean ,” she tells.” And right now we are not even close .”

While the new legislation is likely to slow down the wave of plastic pollution hitting Australia’s coastal waters, there’s little that could be done about the mountains of plastic that’s already out there.” I don’t think going out there and cleaning it all up is a super viable proposition ,” she says.

Both Lavers and Hardesty think what’s needed is a societal switching in how communities and industries use and recycle plastics.

” Plastic never actually go forth … where is this magical mystic place we call’ away ‘,” asks Lavers.” We know plastics take anywhere between 100 and 10,000 years to break up … and I don’t use the term’ break down ‘. It never breaks down and goes away .”

Back on the Nerang river and the collect bin on Jim Hinds’s boat is full with plastic strips, balls, suitcases, bottles and food wrappers. He is feeling philosophical but not hopeless.

” I think people are careless ,” he tells.” I don’t think there are a lot of scoundrels.

” I always hope that it’s generational- that the next generation will be better than ours. I guess that’s the great hope .”

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Fake Black Lives Matter Facebook page run by Australian union official report

Ian Mackay suspended from National Union of Workers over report he ran page, which he denies

A high-ranking Australian union official has been suspended amid reports he ran a fake Black Lives Matter Facebook page that solicited gifts from the movement’s supporters.

CNN reports that Ian MacKay- an official with the National Union of Workers- helped set up and run a Facebook page called Black Lives Matter as well as other domain names linked to black rights.

The page, which was removed by Facebook after CNN’s queries, had almost 700,000 adherents- more than doubled the official Black Lives Matter page.

MacKay- who is white- did not respond to calls or emails but denied running the page when contacted by CNN.

A statement given to the Guardian by the NUW’s national secretary, Tim Kennedy, said the union had launched an investigation into the claims attained in the CNN report.

He said the union had suspended” the relevant officials pending the outcome of an investigation “.

Ian Mackay. Photograph: National Union of Workers Facebook page

” The NUW is not involved in and has not authorised any activities with reference to claims stimulated in CNN’s story ,” he told.

The Guardian understands MacKay and one other NUW official has been suspended.

In 2015 Mackay was appointed vice president of the NUW’s general branch and the union’s public office records state that he still holds the position.

The investigation quoted sources who said the page may have garnered upwards of $100,000 in donations, at least some of which is now being directed to bank accounts registered in Australia.

It was tied to online gifts that supposedly went to Black Lives Matter causes in the US. At least some of the money, however, was transferred to Australian bank accounts, CNN has reported.

Fundraising campaigns associated with the Facebook page were suspended by PayPal, Donorbox, Classy, and Patreon after they were contacted for comment.

MacKay also registered other websites with links to black rights, such as, and, among more than 100 site names in total.

Domain records show that in 2015 he registered a site known as, which operated as a Reddit-like discussion forum that encouraged donations. Historical domain registration details show Mackay use his union email address to register the site.

Archived records on the site describe the site as being “created” by Black Lives Matter to” share the news that mainstream media play down or conceal “.

The historical site records country it is” not funded by any other BLM group, George Soros, Ford foundation or Celebrity “.

” We also help people who can’t get support otherwise that are victims of hate crimes or have been affected by racism that come to us, we can’t often help them financially but try our best to get them free legal advice or some place to stay with one of our network ,” an archived gifts link to the site reads.

The CNN investigation traced an anonymous Facebook profile under the name” BP Parker” who shared a link to the blackpowerfist website the day after it was registered. The same profile was an administrator of the “Black Lives Matter” Facebook page until the page was suspended.

Black Lives Matter was contacted for comment.

It goes as Facebook faces increased scrutiny on the content it hosts on the social media site. The company’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is due to appear before the US Congress this week when lawmakers will quiz him about the privacy scandal involving political consultant Cambridge Analytica and Russian use of the platform ahead of the 2016 US election.

A spokesman for Facebook told:” We investigated such a situation as soon as it was brought to our attention, and incapacitated the page admin for maintaining multiple profiles on the platform “.

” We continue to look into the situation and will take the necessary action in line with our policies .”

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Turning cities into sponges: how Chinese ancient wisdom is taking on climate change

Landscape architect Kongjian Yu is building friends with water to mitigate extreme weather events in modern metropolises

How does a city cope with extreme weather? These days, urban planning that doesn’t factor in some sort of catastrophic weather event is like trying to build something in a fictional utopia. For Kongjian Yu, one of the world’s leading landscape architects, the answer to coping with extreme weather events actually lies in the past.

Yu is the founder and dean of the school of landscape architecture at Peking University, founding director of architectural firm Turenscape, and famous for being the person who is reintroduced ancient Chinese water systems to modern design. In the process he has transformed some of China’s most industrialised cities into standard bearers of green architecture.

Yu’s designs aim to build resilience in cities faced with rising sea level, droughts, deluges and so-called ” once in a lifetime” cyclones. At 53, he is best known for his” sponge cities”, which use soft material and terraces to capture water which can then be extracted for employ, rather than the usual concrete and steel materials which do not absorb water.

European methods of designing cities involve drainage pipelines which cannot be dealt with monsoonal rain. But the Chinese government has now adopted sponge cities as an urban development and eco-city template.

Kongjian Yu, founder of Turenscape and proponent of sponge cities. Photograph: Turenscape/ NGV

Yu spoke in Melbourne on Tuesday at a symposium on water-conscious design held as part of Melbourne Design Week at the National Gallery of Victoria. Speaking to Guardian Australia ahead of his appearance, Yu, who is based in Beijing, explained the key benefit of sponge cities is the ability to reuse water.” The water captured by the sponge can be used for irrigation, for recharging the aquifer, for cleansing the soil and for productive use ,” Yu said.

” In China, we retain storm water and reuse it. Even as individual families and homes, we collect storm water on[ the] rooftop and use the balcony to irrigate the vegetable garden .”

When it comes to water, the motto of the sponge city are:” Retain, adapt, slow down and reuse .”

His firm currently has 600 employees and works across 200 cities in China. The firm has completed more than 600 projects and won a swag of major architecture and design awards.

The strategies Yu utilizes are” based on peasant farming techniques, adapting peasant irrigation systems to urban environments and experience in accommodating buildings to a monsoon climate “.

The first strategy-” based on thousands of years of Chinese wisdom”- is to” contain water at the origin, when the rain falls from the sky on the ground. We have to keep the water “.

” In China, there is a shortage of fresh water ,” Yu tells.” China has only 8% of fresh water of the world and feeds 20% of the population- so any fresh water from the sky will need to be kept in an aquifer .”

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Ai Weiwei on the US-Australia refugee deal: ‘Its exactly like slave trading’

Chinese artist brings three tackling runs about refugee crisis to Australia with a message

The internationally renowned Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei believes the US and Australia are engaging in a slave trade.

His claim comes amid a discussion of worldwide refugee movements, the impact of globalisation on human suffering and a lack of humanity in the west- which form the context of his contribution to this month’s Sydney Biennale exhibition.

Ai is well aware of Australia’s refugee policies, including its most recent chapter- a deal with the US to take up to 1,200 refugees languishing in offshore detention centres.

” That is a complete insult to the understanding of refugees ,” he says.” It’s exactly like slave trading. You cannot deal with human being by violating their[ rights ].”

Ai is in Australia this week to launch three of his runs- two exhibiting at Sydney’s Biennale. All confront and question the west’s complicity in the refugee crisis gripping the world.

One, Crystal Ball, is a two-tonne installing made of crystal and lifejackets, offering a chance of reflection on the chaos of the crisis.

The other, Law of the Journey, is an imposing 60 -metre-long rubber boat crammed with almost 300 gigantic faceless figures. It fills a warehouse on Cockatoo Island.

Ai Weiwei in front of Law of the Journey, a statement on the therapy of refugees, at Sydney’s Cockatoo Island. Photo: Ben Rushton/ EPA

The oversized life raft and its occupants are all black, made of the same rubber and by the same company that manufactures the barges most often used by refugees for the dangerous Mediterranean crossing.

Ai built it to sit in the National Museum of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic- which accepts no refugees- and it was coincidence that it resolved so perfectly into an Australian space, one with its own history of displacement and detention.

Ai will also deliver a keynote address to launch his refugee documentary, Human Flow, for Australian audiences.

He spent two years traveling the world, visiting 23 countries and more than 40 refugee camps, to generate the confront movie and he remains shocked by what he saw.

” You just couldn’t believe it’s in Europe. It’s not shocking to find people escape, from fire, killing- this is natural. People bring their loved ones and just leave ,” he says.

” But it’s not natural to see Europe, which has been so superior in every aspect- not only economically but morally … their work on human rights has been the foundation of our modern society .”

Instead they are building walls and fences and camps, and changing migration laws and chasing down the boats, Ai says.

” It’s so cold, virtually pushing them back in the ocean if they can ,” he says.” Greece said … it’s just not possible for us to push them back to the ocean, otherwise they would do it .”

Australia does. For many years the Australian government has operated the legally contentious policy of boat turnbacks in the seas to its north, sending asylum seekers back to where they last came from- usually Indonesia- in purpose-built barges to stop them landing in Australia.

The numbers are tiny as compared with Europe, but the governmental forces tells it has stopped people drowning at sea in their thousands. Thousands of others are in the offshore camps or on tenuous temporary visas in Australia.

Ai appears to target countries with his exhibitions, displaying the Law of the Journey first in the Czech Republic and now in Australia. But he says he has thought about boycotting to send his message and has done it at least once- pulling down his show in Denmark in protest against the government’s decision to confiscate the belongings of refugees.

” I tried both ways, but most of the time I want my voice to listen to ,” he says.” I guess, as artists, to give just a gesture is sufficient to. The fight takes a real conflict. To devote a moral kind of superiority presents a problem, because we have to see that we’re all together. The struggle builds the meaning. I prefer to have a real fight than withdraw from the fight .”

‘ You simply couldn’t believe it’s in Europe ‘: Ai Weiwei at a refugee camp between Greece and Macedonia. Photo: Valdrin Xhemaj/ EPA

Ai has been arrested, jailed and beaten for his activism. Friends and coworkers have been arrested, some have disappeared.

” It’s always personal ,” he tells.” When I run very personal, it always becomes political, all my work is like that. I’m always searching for answers: “whats happened to” my father’s generation, what would it be if a writer lost his chance to express himself ?”

Twice during the interview, Ai brings up those pre-dawn hours on Lesbos, watching a mob spill from a refugee boat. His own background is one of displacement and exile, and his research clearly affected him.

” Very often people say,’ what can we do ?’ … I think if we as individuals- all those tragedies are made by humen- we are genuinely can solve it if we want to ,” he tells.” If it’s not solved, it’s simply because we don’t want to solve it, because we is beneficial for the situation. Other people’s suffering and desperation is beneficial, so if those questions are not being answered, we will never solve the problem .”

He hopes people who ensure his run will be moved towards activism.

” I think everybody who respects “peoples lives” should be activists, because liberty is struggle ,” Ai concludes.” If for a long time you’re not used to fight, it is because you don’t care and you don’t treasure the freedom .”

* The Sydney Biennale opens on 16 March and operates until 11 June

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British woman jailed for 28 years for ‘bucket list’ murder in Australia

Jemma Lilley boasted she had ticked off crime by garotting and stabbing autistic teenager

A British woman who had an “obsession” with serial murderers has been jailed for life for garotting, stabbing and burying the body of an autistic teen in Western Australia.

Jemma Lilley, 26, murdered Aaron Pajich, 18, at her home in Perth, interring him in a shallow tomb in her garden and encompassing it with concrete and tiles.

Lilley, previously of Stamford, Lincolnshire, was convicted in November alongside her housemate Trudi Lenon, 43, at the supreme court of Western Australia after a four-week trial.

On Wednesday, the pair were sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum word of 28 years.

Aaron Pajich was described as a’ precious little son’ by his mother. Photo: Western Australia police

James Mactaggart, prosecuting, had told the court Lilley said she wanted to kill someone before she turned 25 and was so” full of herself and euphoric” having ticked off murder from her” pail listing” that she could not assistance brag to a work colleague.

She had previously written a volume about a serial murderer called SOS and went on to assume the identity of the character, the jury heard.

Speaking to the Times after the conviction, Lilley’s stepmother, Nina Lilley, 48, said:” The book was a big problem with me. At the beginning I thought,’ Fair enough. You want to write a horror story .’ But I didn’t like the contents of it.

” She had always had an obsession with serial murderers, but she said it was a way of ventilating her annoyance of what happened when she was a child .”

Pajich was lured to his death on 13 June 2016, with each defendant blaming the other for the killing.

Lenon told the court that Lilley approached the teen from behind as he installed games on her computer, garotted him with a wire until it violated and then stabbed him three times.

The prosecution said Lilley left incriminating messages for her” obsequious and sycophantic” follower Lenon hours after the killing, saying she was feeling things she had” not felt before “.

Sharon Pajich, the murdered teenager’s mother. Photograph: Richard Wainwright/ AAP

After the verdict, the victim’s mother, Sharon Pajich, told reporters she was heartbroken and would have to deal with what happened to her son for a lifetime.

His murderers were” disgusting animals” and should never be released, she said.

” He was my precious little boy, he was my firstborn … he was full of life. They deserve everything they get for what they’ve done. They’ve taken an innocent son from his loved ones ,” his mother said.

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