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  1. Pussy Riot punk resumes hunger strike

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    March 17, 2019 by admin

    Pussy Riot punk Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has resumed a hunger strike after being transferred back to her penal colony from hospital, her husband says.


    Tolokonnikova, 23, is serving a two-year sentence in a penal colony in the Mordovia region of central Russia for the band’s protest against President Vladimir Putin in a Moscow church.

    On September 23, she began an eight-day hunger strike demanding to be moved to another penal colony over “slave-labour” conditions. It ended with her being taken to a civilian hospital and placed on a drip.

    “Currently Nadezhda is in the sick bay of Penal Colony Number 14 and as she promised earlier, she is resuming her hunger strike over her transfer back to the colony,” her husband Pyotr Verzilov said in a letter sent to AFP on Friday.

    The regional prison service confirmed Verzilov’s comments, saying in a statement on its website that “on Friday Tolokonnikova wrote a statement saying that she was refusing to take food.”

    It said she had been transferred back to the penal colony from a civilian hospital on Thursday and was now under observation of prison doctors.

    Her bandmate Maria Alyokhina, 23, on Friday refused at a court hearing to proceed with a request for a softening of her punishment. She said she was doing this in solidarity with Tolokonnikova.

    Tolokonnikova began last month’s hunger strike after releasing a letter complaining that women at the penal colony were treated like “slaves” and worked 17-hour days in a sewing workshop.

    Tolokonnikova also said the deputy prison governor had hinted she could be killed by inmates if she complained about abuses.

    The two women, both of whom have young children, are due to be released in March.

  2. Man dies defending home in Central Coast

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    March 17, 2019 by admin

    Firefighters are still labouring to protect homes in NSW’s Central Coast, after one man died and historic properties are feared lost in the bushfires.


    In the first casualty of a fire disaster, a 63-year-old man at Lake Munmorah suffered a heart attack while he was fighting a fire at his home on Thursday afternoon.

    Attempts were made to resuscitate him at the scene but he died at Wyong hospital.

    On Friday night the fire at Ruttleys Road had been downgraded from an emergency warning to a watch and act and is now being controlled, the Rural Fire Service (RFS) said.

    Over the past 24 hours the fire ran through Tall Timbers Road, Carters Road and Kanangra Drive, spreading into the Munmorah State Conservation Area and then burning into Catherine Hill Bay.

    But firefighters reported on Friday evening that the threat had reduced to properties in the Chain Valley Bay North, Gwandalan and Summerland Point communities, following successful back burning.

    As residents at the heritage seaside town of Catherine Hill Bay returned to the area on Friday, they said up to five historical buildings were feared lost, including the 19th century Wallarah House at Catherine Hill Bay.

    Wayne Demarco described the landscape as “apocalyptic”.

    “It looks horrible with telephone poles burned to the ground and things just destroyed,” he told AAP.

    But Lake Macquarie Mayor Jodie Harrison says she is confident locals will band together.

    “To see people from … really tight-knit villages… at a time of such uncertainty is very sad,” she told AAP.

    Speaking from outside the Swansea RSL, which has been turned into an evacuation centre, Ms Harrison described the agonising wait for up to 60 evacuees waiting to return home.

    “The uncertainty is the most unsettling and disturbing thing for people.”

    Evacuation centres remain open at Swansea RSL and Doyalson RSL.

  3. Manila airport terminal ‘world’s worst’

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    March 17, 2019 by admin

    The Philippines’ main Manila airport terminal has been named the world’s worst for the second year in a row in a survey by an online travel website.


    Officials on Friday brushed off the survey results, insisting conditions were being improved.

    The Guide to Sleeping in Airports website said Manila’s crowded Terminal 1 was ranked by travellers based on comfort, convenience, cleanliness and customer service to be the worst in the world.

    Reviews for Manila’s Terminal 1 posted on the site mentioned “dilapidated facilities”, dishonest airport workers – particularly taxi drivers – long waiting times and rude officials.

    “These are old issues,” Manila airport Terminal 1 manager Dante Basanta said, adding that the problems were already being addressed by the government.

    He conceded that the Manila airport, with a capacity of about 6.5 million passengers annually, was overstretched, handling 8.1 million travellers last year.

    The terminal at the Italian airport of Bergamo was named the second worst, where it said there were “people loafing around without T-shirt or without shoes as if they were in their homes and no one gives a hoot”.

    Its third worst was Calcutta, just edging out Islamabad, ahead of Paris Beauvais.

    The best rated airports were Singapore Changi, Seoul Incheon, Amsterdam Schiphol, Hong Kong and Helsinki Vantaa.

    Manila’s Terminal 1, the oldest of its four passenger terminals, was built 32 years ago. The government has launched a 2.5-billion-peso ($A60.34 million) renovation program for the terminal.

    It is also attempting to reduce congestion by moving at least three million passengers a year to a newer terminal.

  4. Qld parliament ends with slurs

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    March 17, 2019 by admin

    On the final sitting night of a marathon week in Queensland parliament, some MPs turned to insults and others a late night “party” to let off steam.


    It was the second time this week the state’s politicians stayed back until the wee hours to debate controversial legislation which had been declared urgent.

    While tempers frayed inside the house, others let loose on a balcony outside.

    Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk says the revelry was so loud at times she couldn’t hear herself speak.

    “There was heated debate, very serious legislation, and people chose to party,” she said.

    “The partying and the offensive behaviour (inside the chamber) last night are a sign of an arrogant Newman government.

    “It was an all-time low.”

    Debate raged until 2.30am (AEST) on Friday before controversial laws passed that give the government powers to bypass the courts and lock up dangerous sex offenders indefinitely.

    During debate Ms Palaszczuk accused Premier Campbell Newman of slurring his words.

    When asked if she thought he had drunk too much she replied: “At the time I made those comments, the premier was slurring his words and I’ll leave it up to the premier to answer those questions.”

    During the late night debate, the Deputy Speaker worked hard to keep a lid on the interjection and attacks.

    In one interchange, the LNP member for Thuringowa Sam Cox accused Ms Palaszczuk of standing up for pedophiles by questioning the laws.

    Mr Newman backed the comments saying: “they are so true”, before being asked to withdraw.

    Mr Cox then went on to accuse Labor MP Jackie Trad of the same thing.

    A spokesman for the premier said there was no “party”.

    Some MPs who were not required to be in the House at the time were socialising, as MPs from all sides of politics do regularly during sitting weeks, he said.

    “It is disgraceful that Labor is continuing to resort to smear and innuendo to divert attention from the fact they voted against tough new laws to ensure the worst of the worst sex offenders remain in jail,” he said.

  5. Obama’s budget win has strings attached

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    March 17, 2019 by admin

    President Barack Obama has emerged far stronger than his Republican adversaries in Washington’s latest fiscal fight.


    He gave away virtually nothing and his hard-line tactics exposed deep divisions among Republicans and growing public frustration with the conservative party.

    But Obama’s victory came with strings attached. Under his watch, big swathes of the federal government were shuttered for 16 days, forcing hundreds of thousands of workers off the job and restricting many services. The nation was brought to the brink of a default for the second time in two years.

    Congress’ last-minute deal generated yet another round of looming deadlines on the same issues – funding the government and raising the country’s borrowing limit to prevent a default on its obligations. And there is no guarantee that Republican opposition to Obama’s objectives will be dampened in any way.

    “What comes next is very unpredictable,” said Steve Schmidt, a Republican strategist. “The notion that this group of people is going to be chastened by this, while it seems obvious, is uncertain.”

    Indeed, there’s little consensus among Republicans about how to proceed in the aftermath of the budget crisis. Some conservatives who demanded changes to Obama’s healthcare law in exchange for funding the government have signalled they’re ready to dig in for another fight. Among them is Kansas congressman Tim Huelskamp, who said Republicans may have “lost the battle but we’re going to win the war”.

    But other Republican lawmakers are demanding that their party make a course correction.

    “Hopefully, the lesson is to stop this foolish childishness,” said John McCain, the longtime Arizona senator who ran unsuccessfully for president against Obama in 2008.

    Republicans will have to quickly settle on a strategy. The deal that ended this month’s stand-off only keeps the government open through January 15 and extends borrowing authority through February 7, though emergency measures may give the administration another month before reaching the debt limit. The agreement also requires bipartisan negotiators to issue a report by December 13 on broader budget issues such as spending levels and deficit reduction – matters over which the White House and congressional Republicans have long been at odds.

    What happens during this next round of deadlines will help clarify whether Obama’s October win has done anything to alter the political dynamic in Washington or whether it was an isolated achievement.

    The White House said the president is entering the next phase of the debate with a similarly unyielding strategy. Aides said he is willing to make concessions as part of a larger budget deal, but won’t let Republicans make funding the government or lifting the debt ceiling contingent on certain outcomes.

    Some Republican leaders had assumed Obama would abandon that hardline stance during the most recent debate. Many were taking their lessons from the last budget and debt fight in 2011, when Obama indeed made concessions to keep the government open and avoid a default.

    But Republicans misread how political shifts in Washington over the past two years had affected the president, and in particular how Obama’s resolve had been stiffened by the fact he doesn’t have to run for office again.

    Staunch conservatives also ignored warnings from more moderate Republicans, who argued that Obama would never agree to changes in the healthcare law, which is intended to provide coverage for millions of uninsured Americans and remains the president’s signature legislative achievement.

    “A fundamental flaw – and probably the biggest flaw – was that they were negotiating for something that wasn’t really negotiable,” said Patrick Griffin, who served as President Bill Clinton’s legislative affairs director during the 1995 government shutdown.

    The start of the government shutdown coincided with the start of sign-ups for the “Obamacare” law’s health insurance exchanges – a rollout that was marred by widespread problems. In an ironic twist, the Republican insistence on shutting down the government to make changes to the law wound up overshadowing its glitches and a glaring embarrassment for the president.

    The result of the miscalculations: a wave of public opinion polls showing that the Republicans took the biggest hit as the budget war dragged on.

    Despite their dour approval ratings, Republicans may again try to test whether Obama is willing to hold his hard line in the new year. But Obama – long a believer in the power of public opinion – is banking that the anger Americans aimed at Republicans in recent weeks will persuade them to shift course.