Parasite attacks Morisset kangaroos: poll  

MORE than 150 kangaroos are believed to have died in less than a month after an outbreak of a parasitic infection led to the discovery of up to 10 carcasses a day in the grounds of Morisset Hospital.
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Alarmed wildlife rescue carers called in the authorities after finding too many of the dead animals to dispose of, prompting a joint investigation involving the RSPCA, Department of Primary Industries, Taronga Zoo experts, the Office of Environment of Heritage and others.

Kangaroos at Morisset. Pic: Dean Osland.

Native Animal Trust Fund president Audrey Koosmen said dead kangaroos were first reported to the organisation, which has cared for the animals at the site for some years, about three weeks ago.

Initially she thought it was the work of more “ratbags” who had run over or attacked the animals in the past.

But with large adult eastern grey kangaroos dying quickly, and more carcasses being discovered, the organisation realised “there’s something really wrong with these animals”.

“There’s a lot of little orphans left too,” she said.

“We had to bring the department in and say ‘we can’t cope with this any more’, when we had to dispose of [the carcasses].”

Initial findings show “no evidence of malicious poisoning” and that the kangaroos have been infected with a blood-borne parasite called Babesia, although the species has yet to be identified.

In livestock, it is referred to as “tick fever”, capable of swiftly killing large cattle and requiring quarantines for large outbreaks.

Samples of the kangaroos have been sent to Taronga Zoo this week for autopsy.

A Department of Primary Industries spokeswoman said other samples had been sent to its Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute.

“Babesia macropus has previously been found to infect kangaroos in Australia,” she said.

“This species is not known to have the potential to spread to humans.”

Hunter New England Health reminded staff and clients of the psychiatric hospital not to touch the animals.

Ground staff have also been asked to wear masks and protective equipment when disposing of the roos.

But animal rescuers are angry large numbers of tourists have ignored signs and fed the kangaroos bread, drawing large numbers of both humans and animals to what has become an unofficial visitor attraction.

“I have never seen so many animals in the one spot. I think they’re over-grazed, they may have contaminated their own area,” Ms Koosmen said.

“Now when you drive in the gates – honest to God, when I got down there, there was probably 150 of them waiting at the gate for the [tourist] buses.”

Ms Koosmen was stunned to witness foreign tourists recently pull a joey from its mother’s pouch for a photo.

“Then one of them was trying to cuddle this big buck who’s about six foot tall. I said ‘leave him alone, he’s a father, he’ll bite you, he’ll kick you’,” she said.

Hunter New England Health population health service director Dr David Durrheim said the number of people visiting the grounds was a concern, “and we request that tour operators and other visitor information websites remove any reference to the facility as a tourist attraction”.

Bland joins Dull and Boring

A COMBINATION of Dull, Boring and Bland is the cause of plenty of excitement with three ordinary-named locales coming together to form the League of Extraordinary communities.
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Last Tuesday, a quirky new tourism partnership was recognised by Bland Shire Council in which it will pair with US Pacific-northwest community Boring and the small village of Dull in the Scottish Highlands in an effort to boost visitors to the region.

Despite opposition, Bland Shire Council mayor Neil Pokoney welcomed the new links saying the partnership was “comedic and fun”, with him hoping the league will give the shire more notoriety to international tourists.

“A few people were worried it was disrespectful to the Bland Shire name,” Councillor Pokoney said, adding he had spoke on US radio as part of the partnership.

“But it’s meant to be light-hearted and a promotional tool for the entire shire, which has plenty to offer for travellers who might want to visit.”

Bland Shire has a population of 6000 people.

Boring has a population of 8000 while Dull is the smallest of the three, with about 80 residents.

Last September, a council employee read about the existing Dull and Boring partnership and thought it could be useful for Bland Shire to become a part of it.

“Boring was driving the initial partnership with Dull it is the biggest of us all,” Cr Pokoney said.

The partnership has already been reported on by the ABC, BBC and in UK, US and Canadian newspapers.

Bland Shire council deputy mayor Liz McGlynn said any publicity was good publicity for the shire and its towns.

“I hope it gets people talking and coming to the region,” Councillor McGlynn said.

Bland Shire has joined forces with Dull and Boring.

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Zohab Zee Khan’s performance poetry a slam dunk for reaching high school students

“It doesn’t feel like too long ago that I was one of them, you know”: Zohab Zee Khan.Zohab Zee Khan has little in common with the dead white male poets students commonly meet at high school.
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Dressed in high-top sneakers and a flat-brimmed baseball cap, he delivers his lines with the rhythm and physicality of a rapper.

As a 26-year-old living in the Illawarra, the world he rhymes about is familiar to the students at Dapto High School. ”It doesn’t feel like too long ago that I was one of them, you know,” said Khan, a state poetry slam champion.

The ease with which the artist connects with the teenagers is what drives the Red Room Company’s education program.

”Where normally it’s poetry on the page, this becomes poetry in the air,” said Tamryn Bennett, the not-for-profit organisation’s education manager. ”And they’re themes that these students are encountering themselves.”

The workshop explored the genre of guerilla poetry, writing and performing poetry in unconventional ways.

Students scrawled their verses across windows, which did not look out of place in the creatively-minded school, which has deliberately coated its walls in murals, paintings and graffiti art.

”We have an inexcusable number of blank walls but we’re doing everything we can to make this place beautiful and interesting,” principal Andrew FitzSimons said. ”Engaged students learn better, they attend more regularly and they take more responsibility.”

Maddison Raisin, who says she has created poetry in private from a young age, wrote about ”a stray cat being tossed from home to home and how it feels”.

Phoebe Parkin was ”utterly blown away” by the energy Khan put into his performance. ”It’s not just words on a piece of paper,” the 17-year-old said. ”Older teachers have the knowledge that younger people don’t have but they don’t have the way to engage them. They can teach you about poetry but he shows you what poetry is.”

For Khan, too, poetry has been a form of therapy at times.

”It has got me through plenty of times of jubilation and plenty of times of sadness,” he said. ”If I can give them the skills to write and express themselves, I think that’s a job well done.”

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OPINION: Cut, paste school reports mean nothing

THE cut and paste school reports from schools are nothing more than a system developed to avoid the fact that standards are falling. This type of reporting simply feeds parents meaningless information.
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Parents on several occasions have come to me with report cards asking what they mean. I tell them that they are meaningless, as students are not given marks or grade placings. The glossy paper and flowery gobbledegook are designed to confuse rather than inform.

Teachers are not allowed to tell the truth and only officially sanctioned comments, chosen from a prepared list, are put on reports. This self-serving system means that children cannot fail and teachers and schools cannot be challenged.

Image creation is everything these days and schools are well and truly into the fantasy world of smoke and mirrors. This is most evident when you trawl through their websites.

I browsed a few. The same delighted children doing exciting things can be seen on many different school websites.

When I asked the Education Department about it, it said that the website ‘‘template service’’ was part of their corporate look, available to schools to use if they want.

The same seems to apply to school reports.

There was a time when reports were honest and parents believed what they read. In my experience, they rather liked being told the truth even though the comments may have been unflattering.

Today, in the public school system, it would be impossible to report that a child was ‘‘lazy’’, ‘‘disruptive’’, ‘‘inattentive’’ or ‘‘rude’’. It would also be a rarity to find a school report where a pupil was given say 68per cent for maths, which placed him 16/28 in the class with an overall grade placing of 52/120.

Parents who have lost faith in the system and want to get to the nitty-gritty do have an option but it involves time, effort and money.

A private educational institution can measure a child’s IQ. If, for example, little Billy has an IQ of 120 and is 10 years old, he should have a reading and maths age of an average 12 year old. (Ten points of IQ equates to one year’s intelligence.)

If the school report is glowing with all sorts of meaningless adjectives but young Billy’s measured performance is below par, parents have every right to query the validity of the document.

Privately, teachers tell me the weight of meaningless documentation they must comply with leaves them burnt out.

Our NAPLAN testing is an attempt to independently test schools to ensure standards are lifted and funding follows.

This is steering our schools away from the ‘‘Mickey Mouse’’ stuff and stressing the basic skills that parents and industry demand.

Those who send their children to private schools pay a fortune in fees. They expect – and get – accurate and revealing information about their children. There is far more emphasis on academic excellence.

The public school system should do the same.

Geoff Walker is a former state school teacher.

MOVIES: Frozen warms the heart

COMEBACK: A scene from Disney’s latest animated movie Frozen, which is being tipped as an Oscar winner.A CRITICAL and commercial success, Frozen marks a second renaissance for Walt Disney’s legendary film studio – and is widely tipped to win its first Oscar for best animated feature next weekend.
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The movie, which has made nearly $US1 billion ($1.12 billion), is the culmination of a revival driven by fierce competition and the studio’s purchase of rival Pixar in 2006, bringing boss John Lasseter into the Disney fold.

Critics have hailed Frozen as one of Disney’s best ever movies, following the success of The Princess and the Frog (2009), Tangled in 2010 and 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph.

If the movie does win at the 86th Academy Awards, it will be Disney’s first best animated feature Oscar since the category was created in 2001.

Disney has come a long way since the turn of the millennium, when the studio had been sidelined by Pixar and its string of blockbuster hits from Toy Story and Cars to Finding Nemo, Ratatouille and Up.

“Just like Great Mouse Detective was a step up from the nadir of Black Cauldron, so Princess and the Frog was more successful than the earlier films like Home on the Range and Meet the Robinsons,” said Tom Sito, professor of cinema at the University of Southern California (USC).

It is not Disney’s first comeback. The 1970s and ’80s were tough for the studio, until a new generation of animators arrived to create films like The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991) and 1994’s majestic success The Lion King.

Ironically, the Prince Charming of this latest rebirth had been the studio’s main rival: Lasseter, co-founder of Pixar, who was named Disney’s animated creative director after his company became part of Mickey’s empire eight years ago.

“Since the merger with Pixar in 2006, Disney Animation is once more under the direct guidance of an animator, John Lasseter. This had not been the case since the death of Walt Disney in 1966,” Sito, a former Disney animator, said.

The Toy Story and Cars creator “brought in a lot of new talent to the storytelling departments: clever young writers and directors . . . We also [saw] a return to the movie-musical format after a 20-year hiatus, which for Disney has always been a specialty,” he added.

Music is at the heart of Frozen: the movie’s keynote tune Let It Go is a frontrunner to win the best song Oscar next weekend.

Peter Del Vecho, producer on the film, said Lasseter changed the culture at Disney Animation: “We’re a different studio than Pixar, but a lot of the same ideas that he learned there, he imported to us.

“The main thing he imported was that we as filmmakers have to take ownership of our product. John sets a very high bar in terms of story, in terms of research, and you always want to hit that bar.”

But the studio’s culture is also highly collaborative, with directors and screenwriters on projects able to voice their opinions about others’ films after in-house development screenings.

“The best idea wins, you’re encouraged to make mistakes and to take risks,” said Del Vecho.

“We’re responsible for each other’s films, meaning that I went to Tangled screenings, I went to Wreck-it Ralph screenings and gave notes just as filmmakers and writers on other projects come and give us notes. Our movie couldn’t have evolved without that kind of open collaborative environment.” AFP

WINE: New beginning for vineyard complex

LIKE Dolly Parton, who confesses to having any of her “sagging, bagging or dragging” 68-year-old body parts “sucked, plucked or tucked”, the Upper Hunter’s Arrowfield Estate has had many makeovers in its 45-year history.
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REFURBISHED: Emma and Karen Williams in the newly opened Hollydene tasting room.

Now, however, the Jerrys Plains property that in 1977 boasted the largest producing vineyard in Australia and was devastated by fire in 1999, seems headed for a bright new future under the ownership of Central Coast couple Karen and Gary Williams and their family.

Last week they brought the scenic 3483 Golden Highway complex back to life by opening it as the Hollydene Estate at Arrowfield tasting rooms and cellar door, incorporating a spacious fine-dining restaurant and function room presided over by young Czech-born chef Pepa Hanus and his wife Laura.

The cellar door is open seven days between 10am and 4pm, and the Vines Restaurant is open for lunch from Monday to Thursday, for lunch and dinner on Fridays, and for breakfast and lunch on Saturdays and Sundays.

Karen and Gary, who had in 2005 purchased the Hollydene vineyard, on the Golden Highway at Hollydeen village, 10 kilometres west of Denman, and in 2006 the Wybong Estate vineyard, in Yarraman Road, Wybong, bought the Arrowfield property in 2011.

Using grapes from these three vineyards and fruit bought in from the Mornington Peninsula and the Orange area, Karen Williams has assembled a smart portfolio of 17 table wines, sparklers and liqueurs crafted by ace young Pokolbin-based winemaker Matt Burton.

The buy-out of Arrowfield from Inagaki, one of Japan’s foremost sake brewing groups, gave Karen and Gary 81 hectares of land, 18 hectares of vineyard, but not the Arrowfield brand.

Last year they sold the property to the adjoining Coolmore thoroughbred stud, leasing back the winery and a surrounding 19 hectares of vineyard and gardens. Coolmore is adding the remaining 63 hectares to its stud landholdings.

The winery, which commands superb views over Coolmore and along the Hunter Valley floor, had previously stood abandoned and stripped of all its wine production gear and former restaurant equipment.

At multimillion-dollar cost, the Williamses have imaginatively refurbished the building, upgraded the surrounding gardens and revived the old vines, some of which date back to 1969 when Sydney-based Pacific Islands trader W.R. Carpenter and Co Ltd bought a large tract of Hunter River frontage land.

Carpenter used 650 hectares for a charolais cattle stud and devoted a further 480 hectares to a massive vineyard and hilltop winery.

The opening of Hollydene at Arrowfield is the culmination of an expanding Upper Hunter investment by Karen and Gary Williams that takes in five vineyards, beef cattle, sheep and cropping properties.

Singleton-born Gary is a former mine manager at Mount Thorley and Bulga Coal, who now heads a major mining consultancy business that has an office in Jakarta.

Karen, a Sydneysider who worked in hospitality at the Menzies Hotel before marrying and coming to the Hunter with Gary, is executive director of the Hollydene operation – part of the United Pastoral family company.

Karen and Gary have six children and seven grandchildren and daughter Emma is Hollydene’s business and administration manager.

The couple lived in Muswellbrook before moving to the Central Coast, but retained a strong love of Hunter life, leading them in 2004 to buy the Roseglen vineyard at Wybong and prompting Karen to begin the wine course at Kurri Kurri TAFE. They later sold Roseglen to buy Hollydene in 2005.

Arrowfield has been “sucked, plucked and tucked” plenty of times since the founding W.R. Carpenter company hit deep trouble in 1983. It was taken over by Ric Stowe’s Western Australian Griffin Holdings Ltd group, which in 1986 sold Arrowfield to John Messara’s Australian Racing and Breeding Stable Ltd.

The Messara group set up what is now the Coolmoore thoroughbred stud on part of the property and opted out of the wine side of the property in 1989 by selling to a group headed by Nick Whitlam and wine merchant Andrew Simon.

In 1990 the Whitlam-Simon group sold the Arrowfield wine business for $7.4 million to the Japanese Inagaki family of Toyama.

The Inagaki ownership saw numerous management changes and was hit by a disastrous 1999 mid-vintage fire that destroyed the restaurant, cellar door outlet and 36,000 bottles of stored wine.

Despite a praiseworthy rebuilding program, by 2010 Inagaki had had enough and Arrowfield was shut down and stood unused and empty until eventually sold to the Williamses in 2011.

Jail’s recycled sandstone a feature

THE Hollydene vineyard and its distinctive polygon-shaped winery were established in 1968 by Sydney fashion retailer Ken Commins and later taken over by Brian McGuigan’s Wyndham Estate group.

The 60-hectare Hollydene property’s vineyard once covered 48 hectares and is now six hectares, with the balance being used for cattle and pasture growing.

The Wybong Estate vineyard was established in 1967 by leading Sydney orthopaedic surgeon Bob Smith and grazier David Hordern.

Bob Smith and his wife Theo took sole ownership in 1983, and enlivened the Upper Hunter social scene with weekend food and wine festivals and jazz concerts in the lovely sandstone winery built from stone from the old 1840s Bengalla jail.

Highly regarded winemaker Jon Reynolds and his wife Jane bought the property in 1989 and established a fine reputation with their Yarraman Estate wines.

Karen and Gary Williams’s 2006 purchase of Wybong Estate gave them 142 hectares of land, in which there are 14 hectares of vines.

The Hollydene, Wybong estate and Arrowfield vineyards provide them with shiraz, chardonnay, semillon, tempranillio, sangiovese, traminer and verdelho grapes.

OPINION: Hospitals bear brunt of primary care cuts

MANY in the Hunter are awaiting the outcome of the Commonwealth Government’s Commission of Audit. The question is not whether health will be cut, but where.
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Health is one of the fastest growing and biggest expenditure areas of government. A Productivity Commission report showed federal spending on health grew 4.9per cent a year over the past 10years. Health spending per head by all governments rose 37per cent over the same period. This is not a uniquely Australian trend.

Everyone in the health system knows we need to improve the cost-effectiveness of our system, while not detracting from the patient experience and health outcome.

Commenting on the Productivity Commission report, Health Minister Peter Dutton said the figures highlighted the challenge the government faced in placing health on a stable financial footing. The government aims to cut waste and invest in areas where the benefit to patients is greatest.

Last year, Professor John Horvath, a former Commonwealth chief medical officer, was appointed to head a review into the operation of Medicare Locals. Formed in 2011-12, Medicare Locals evolved from Divisions of General Practice. In the Hunter, the former Hunter Urban Division became the Hunter Medicare Local. Many people would be aware of Hunter Medicare Local through the GP Access After Hours service, which runs five after-hours GP clinics in the Hunter.

Hunter Medicare Local is confident that any considered examination of the system will confirm what has been consistently demonstrated in international studies for more than a decade: the sustainability of any health system is improved by strengthening primary healthcare.

It just makes sense to treat health problems before they become serious and require more expensive hospital care.

Unfortunately, what we know is that primary care and preventive programs are often the first to go when health budgets are trimmed. By far the biggest and fastest-growing spending category in health is hospitals – they receive almost $18billion more in real terms than they did 10 years ago.

A significant percentage of the patients in hospitals – the most expensive part of our health system – could be and should be receiving more appropriate community-based care.

If we are to get better health outcomes at a time of fiscal constraints we need to start using a more business-like approach to spending, not just continually pour more oil on the squeaky wheel of acute care.

Good businesses base their spending on developing a sustained income stream through improved effectiveness and efficiency. To achieve their goals, they take a longer-term view of where they will get “the best bang for their buck”.

Hunter Medicare Local can show it is delivering better health outcomes and better value for money through programs such as Connecting Care in the Community. This program supports people with chronic disease to better manage their condition to improve their health, well-being and quality of life, prevent complications, and reduce the need for hospitalisation.

Studies involving patients from Maitland and Newcastle show a 32per cent reduction in emergency department presentations, a reduction of 12per cent in the number of admissions, and a reduction of 32per cent in the length of stay in hospital.

Millions of dollars have been saved by this program alone, not to mention the benefit of improved health for the patients involved.

Hunter Medicare Local is strengthening our primary health system, reducing the demand for more expensive hospital care and providing better, more efficient access to services closer to where people live.

Some say health decisions are really not about health, but about money. From our perspective, you can apply good business principles to achieve better health outcomes, and Hunter Medicare Local has demonstrated this.

Investing in primary care is very clearly an investment in improving health outcomes, but it is also an investment in ensuring the sustainability of our health system into the future.

Despite uncertainty, the Hunter Medicare Local board is continuing to take a bold and innovative approach to healthcare, one that is acknowledged nationally.

We look forward to bringing a final plan to the public in the coming months.

Meanwhile, we wait to see if the government will not only continue to support primary care, but also invest in building a more sustainable health system for all of us.

Karen Howard chairs the Hunter Medicare Local.

Thai army chief warns country on brink of armed conflict

Bangkok: Thailand’s powerful army chief has warned that opposing groups are mobilising to fight each other and his country faces collapse unless a political crisis that has dragged on for three months is urgently addressed.
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General Prayuth Chan-ocha said in a rare television address that if there is further loss of life “the country will definitely collapse and there will not be any winners or losers”.

He said military intelligence suggested there were many armed groups assembling, including those involved in bloodshed in the capital in 2010, an apparent reference to pro-government red shirts.

Thailand’s National Human Rights Commissioner Niran Pitakwatchara also warned the country was on the brink of civil war.

“If the situation goes on like this, the country will collapse,” he said.

Red shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan has announced that supporters of besieged prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra will make their biggest move next month as legal action is taken against her over a controversial subsidy scheme for farmers.

“If we don’t come out now while the government is still the winner then the country will go the way of the anmart (elite),” he said.

But military sources say General Prayuth has asked Ms Yingluck to persuade the red shirts not to mass in Bangkok because of fears of clashes with anti-government protesters who are backed by mysterious, highly-trained gunmen who many observers believe are soldiers.

The men have fought running battles with police, raising concern about a potentially dangerous rift between police and the military.

General Prayuth’s comments followed a sharp escalation of bombings and shootings in the conflict that has so far left 20 people dead and almost 800 injured.

Analysts saw his comments as a signal to anti-government protesters they cannot rely on the military to stage a coup as it has done 18 times since the 1930s.

General Prayuth said the military does not support any side but repeatedly referred to the “constitution” and the responsibility of the government to enforce laws.

Anti-government protesters have for weeks blockaded government departments and shut down parts of Bangkok to cripple the government, which was democratically-elected in mid-2011.

Protest leaders are wanted for treason but Thailand’s politicised courts have refused to approve arrest warrants for some of them.

General Prayuth said “many sides” would like to see the use of force to settle the crisis.

“I would urge you to reconsider, compose yourself and ask yourselves whether this would end peacefully,” he said.

Reading from a prepared statement, General Prayuth said the army was collecting evidence against those responsible for violence, which included the deaths of three children last weekend.

“Someone must be held responsible for serious acts but it doesn’t mean the military can use force to resolve the situation because the current conflict occurs at numerous levels and involves officers and many groups of civilians,” he said.

“If the military is used to try to solve the problem … laws and the constitution will have to be nullified,” he said.

“Many parties may want to use this method but let us reconsider and come to our senses as to whether the problem can be resolved through peaceful means or not.”

General Prayuth urged all sides to hold talks as soon as possible.

Ms Yingluck said in a separate interview that “there is nothing better than all sides coming together”.

“When violence is used the pain will be felt by the whole nation,” she said.

But protest leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, who has declined repeated requests to meet Ms Yingluck, continued his attacks on her, claiming her condemnation of the weekend’s violence was insincere.

Mr Suthep, a former deputy prime minister in a military-backed government, said if armed red shirts came to Bangkok security authorities, not his supporters, would have to deal with them.

The conflict in broad terms pits two groups of Thai elites against each other, one led by Ms Yingluck’s elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra and the other backed by Bangkok’s middle class and royalists.

Mr Thaksin,a  former prime minister forced from office in a 2006 coup, lives in exile to avoid a two-year jail sentence for corruption.

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It’s lights out for North Korea: NASA shares remarkable photograph from space

In the dark: North Korea is barely visible at night from space. Photo: NASAAustralian missionary “lost” in North Korea
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North Koreans are literally being kept in the dark, a stunning new image taken from space shows.

While South Korea appears to be bathed in light in the nighttime image, snapped from the International Space Station, its northern neighbour is shown sitting virtually in darkness.

In fact, it is easy to mistake the communist state for a vast section of ocean.

NASA released the image, taken by an Expedition 38 crew member on January 30, which tells the tale of two vastly different Koreas.

“Unlike daylight images, city lights at night illustrate dramatically the relative economic importance of cities, as gauged by relative size,” NASA said in a statement.

South Korea’s population is roughly 50 million and the land teems with light in the photograph.

In contrast, North Korea is home to an estimated 24 million people, and yet hardly any lights are visible in the country beyond the capital, Pyongyang.

“In this north-looking view, it is immediately obvious that greater Seoul is a major city and that the port of Gunsan is minor by comparison,” NASA said in a statement accompanying the image.

“North Korea is almost completely dark compared to neighbouring South Korea and China. The darkened land appears as if it were a patch of water joining the Yellow Sea to the Sea of Japan.”

NASA said the light emission from Pyongyang, which had a population of just over three million in 2008, was equivalent to the smaller towns in South Korea.

“Coastlines are often very apparent in night imagery, as shown by South Korea’s eastern shoreline,” NASA said.

“But the coast of North Korea is difficult to detect. These differences are illustrated in per capita power consumption in the two countries, with South Korea at 10,162 kilowatt hours and North Korea at 739 kilowatt hours.”

Last week, a United Nations panel warned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he may be held accountable for orchestrating widespread crimes against civilians in the secretive Asian nation.

Those alleged crimes range from executing and torturing prisoners to systematic abductions and starving mass populations.

It is unusual for a UN report to directly implicate a nation’s leader. But in a letter accompanying a year-long investigative report, the chairman of a three-member UN commission of inquiry, retired Australian judge Michael Kirby, directly warned Kim that international prosecution is needed “to render accountable all those, including possibly yourself, who may be responsible for crimes against humanity”.

Fairfax Media with AP

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Lupita Nyong’o: she’s got the acting chops, and she’s got the look

Oscar nominated actress Lupita Nyong’o has been winning critical acclaim not only for her role as Patsy in 12 Years A Slave, but also for her fashion.
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The previously unknown actress became an instant fashion “it girl” with her caped Ralph Lauren gown, worn to the Golden Globes.

Since then the 30-year-old actress has gone from fashion strength to strength.

She appeared on Vanity Fair’s 20th annual Hollywood cover, alongside superstars like George Clooney and Julia Roberts and has also graced the cover of New York Magazine’s spring fashion issue.

Nyong’o has shone at every red carpet event this year with a taste for elegant but bold pieces, and fashion houses including Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen have been queuing for the chance to dress the Mexican-born, Kenyan-raised star.

However Nyong’o says she hasn’t always been on top of the latest sartorial trends.

“I wasn’t the girl who bought the fashion magazines, I’d always just worn what appeals to me,” Nyong’o told The Daily Beast.

While her fashion icons include Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth Taylor and her own mother Dorothy, Nyong’o made sure she did plenty research into current fashion trends before hitting the red carpet for the first time.

“It’s been a great education – a great discovery – to find clothing artists who are doing things that I feel express something about myself,” says Nyong’o.

There is plenty of speculation around what frocks the stars will wear to the Oscars, and the eyes of the fashion world are firmly fixed on Nyong’o to see what and whom she wears.

For her part Nyong’o says clean lines, classic shapes and solid colours are things that grab her the most.

“I like to wear things, I don’t like things to wear me,” says Nyong’o, who won’t reveal the name of the designer she has chosen.

Nyong’o is competing with Hollywood’s other darling and face of Dior, Jennifer Lawrence, for best supporting actress.

Check out the photo gallery for Nyong’o’s red carpet choices so far.

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Opinion on $A polarised as Bank of America predicts more gains

Opinion on the direction of the Australia dollar is becoming increasingly polarised.Fears Australian dollar facing “benign collapse” to US66¢
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Deutsche Bank may be tipping a collapse of the Australian dollar, but rival investment bank Bank of America Merrill Lynch is taking a bullish view and is betting on further gains back towards US93¢ in the short term.

Debate about the direction of the Australian dollar over the next year comes as cold weather clouds the economic recovery in the United States and as global central banks look to normalise interest rates from historically low levels.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch technical strategist MacNeil Curry said the Australian dollar is set to resume its “bull trend” as a two week old phase of contraction draws to a close.

The investment bank has a buy recommendation on the currency at US89.9¢ and is targeting US92.69¢. The Australian dollar is trading at US90.19¢ at 1pm AEDT, which is about 0.18 per cent lower than where it was at 7am this morning.

“The impulsive gain from the US86.58¢ January 24, low says upside targets are seen to the confluence of resistance between US92.69¢/US93.38¢. Further supportive of the bullish view is the potential for a short squeeze, as positioning remains at bearish extremes. Pullbacks should not break US89.36¢,” he told clients on Monday.

The prediction comes as data shows that speculators decreased their short positing in Australian dollar futures to -$4 billion from -$4.3 billion – which suggests that less traders are selling the currency.

On Monday, Deutsche Bank gave one of the most bearish forecasts for the Australian dollar saying it could face a “benign collapse” to US66¢ by the end of next year amid falling commodity prices, declining mining investment and reduced government spending.

Westpac chief currency strategist Robert Rennie said he sees merit in both views but maintains that the currency will be around US85¢ at the start of 2015.

“Certainly views are becoming more polarised. But our view is that we will see a modestly weaker Australian dollar but not significantly so.”

He added that with demand for Australian resources experts to increase over the coming years, particularly for iron ore and liquified natural gas, this will be offset by the actions of central bank policy makers in raising interest rates offshore.

Around US70¢ is considered the long term average for the local currency. But after the 2008/09 financial crisis, weakness in the US dollar saw investors buy into alternative and commodity linked currencies such as the Australian dollar – which at the start of last year was trading as high as US1.05¢.

Part of the reason why the Australian dollar rose above parity with the US dollar after the financial crisis was due to investors seeking to take advantage of the carry trade and buying currencies with higher interest rates and selling those with lower rates.

Whilst Deutsche Bank is eyeing off a significant pull back in the local currency, there are others who share the more bullish view of Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Former Citibank chief economist is also bullish on the local currency and in a fresh blog post said “the Australian dollar has already had its sell-off, dropping from $US1.10 in July 2011 to US86.6¢ just last month. The peak to trough fall is over 20 per cent.

“Down at around US87¢ or US88¢ was the time to get in because the pick up, back to around US90¢ at the moment, is just the start of trend that should see the AUD move back to US95¢ and then above parity.

Meanwhile, economist and author of the brushTURKEY report, Clifford Bennett believes the currency was now on its way to US97¢ once again.

Mr Bennett’s track record includes being the first to forecast the Aussie dollar to rise above parity with US dollar, in 2006 when AUD/USD was US76¢.

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

Autopsy still not performed eight days after asylum seeker Reza Barati killed

Immigration Department Secretary Martin Bowles before a Senate estimates hearing on Tuesday. Photo: Andrew Meares A vigil for 23-year-old Reza Barati, the Iranian man who died during violent clashes on Manus Island. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui
Nanjing Night Net

Rory Callinan: Information kept under control on Manus Island

A post-mortem on the body of the 23-year-old Iranian asylum-seeker killed during violent clashes on Manus Island still has not been carried out eight days after the man died, a Senate estimates hearing has been told.

Immigration Department Secretary Martin Bowles told the hearing in Canberra on Tuesday that Reza Barati’s body had been flown to the Papua New Guinean capital Port Moresby but indicated it had not yet been examined.

“As of today, my understanding is still that the deceased has been moved to Port Moresby in anticipation of an autopsy,” he said.

Both the PNG and Australian governments have said that a PNG police investigation is under way into Mr Barati’s death.

Fairfax Media reported last week that his body was being minded by employees of security contract G4S who are due to end their contract on Friday.

Mr Bowles also revealed gas canisters were fired in the incident.

“G4S [was] drawing back to protect the internal perimeters … that’s when they discharged a gas canister and warning shots were fired … I will stress that this is still to be tested,” Mr Bowles said.

Mr Bowles said he received a phone call at roughly 1am about the violence on Monday night. He told the hearing he learnt of G4S’s involvement through G4S staff on the island.

It was not until Saturday night that he learnt the violence occurred inside the centre, he said.

As of Saturday, Transfield Services will take full control of the centre.

A spokesman told Fairfax Media that the company would continue to employ local security forces, despite their implication in the violence.

With Sarah Whyte

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

Ambulance service says lack of stations risking lives

Sydney’s ambulance stations are lagging far behind the city’s growing and ageing population, and the government’s failure to have built more could cost lives, according to the Ambulance Service of NSW’s own confidential analysis.
Nanjing Night Net

Analysis commissioned by the Ambulance Service to convince senior government figures of the need for more funding in the 2011-12 budget reveals Sydney’s stations have been stretched beyond capacity for years.

”Significantly more people are likely to die or experience poorer quality of life … unless immediate action is taken,” the document says. ”It is a question of whether the NSW government and community are willing to let emergency response times climb towards 20 minutes and over.”

The document, compiled in the dying months of the last government, says $130 million is needed for 20 new stations for Sydney by 2020. Six were recommended to have already been built or started construction, with three more to begin construction by June.

Yet, three years since this pitch was made to the top levels of government, Fairfax Media understands no construction has started.

The Ambulance Service says it has received $22 million in funding from the O’Farrell government for the program, which it has used to buy land for five new stations. It would not comment on how far advanced plans were at each.

The document outlines the consequences of failing to build new stations in time to cater for Sydney’s growing and ageing population and congested streets.

”Adding further vehicles and staff to existing stations is not an option,” the report says.

It says that, without new stations, emergency response times in Sydney will begin to climb significantly from June and continue on a trajectory towards 20 minutes by the end of the decade.

If projections hold, 340 heart attack patients would be reached by an ambulance within the service’s benchmark of eight minutes next year, compared with more than 1000 in 2008.

In 2012-13, response times for the top-priority cases in Sydney reached 11 minutes, up from 10 minutes three years ago and in line with projections.

The time taken to reach 90 per cent of all ambulance patients in Sydney has shot up even further, rising by 2.3 minutes to 20.6 minutes.

”The change in response performance is primarily due to higher demand,” an Ambulance Service spokeswoman said.

Between 2010-11 and 2012-13, the number of patients treated by the service each year increased by 50,000 to 958,000, according to the Productivity Commission.

”Ambulance response time continues to go up and demand continues to go up,” opposition health spokesman Andrew McDonald said. ”The Ambulance Service is not keeping up with what they said was vital four years ago.”

Fairfax Media recently exposed severe delays in Ambulance Service call centres, where callers were on hold for up to 20 minutes.

The Health Minister described these reports as ”concerning”. Mrs Skinner declined to say whether she had read the document, why its recommendation for new Sydney stations had been ignored and whether this would result in worse patient care.

She said the state government had increased funding for the Ambulance Service by 5 per cent.

”I’m confident our record funding for NSW Ambulance is ensuring it continues to deliver,” she said.

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