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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
    Nanjing Night Net

    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

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

  • 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.
    Nanjing Night Net

    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.

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

  • 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¢
    Nanjing Night Net

    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.

  • Mahmoud Hamzy shooting: police release CCTV footage

    CCTV footage of hooded man in station Photo: NSW Police CCTV vision shows a car driving along Bardo Circuit in Revesby Heights about the time Mahmoud Hamzy was shot dead. Photo: Police Media
    Nanjing Night Net

    Police have released CCTV vision detailing the moments before the shooting death of Mahmoud Hamzy in Sydney's south-west last October and possible vision of one of the gunmen afterwards.

    The vision from October 29 shows three people getting out of a white Nissan Tida on Bardo Circuit in Revesby Heights before they are seen creeping along the street in dark hooded jumpers and pants.

    The three then run into a driveway and out of sight of the camera, which is installed in another home.

    Police say that, at that point, a number of people were sitting in a garage at the end of the driveway, including Mr Hamzy, 25, and a 24-year-old man who was later treated for serious gunshot wounds to his leg and stomach.

    “The three gunman have fired bullets at the people inside the garage; two of them have been hit,” a NSW Police pokesman said.

    The vision shows a fourth person driving the car down Bardo Circuit before the three gunman jump back in.

    “The three gunman then run out of the garage and have got into the car and the CCTV depicts what appears to be a gun being fired from the car, like a passing shot back towards the garage,” the spokesman said.

    Emergency services were called about 12.30am.

    Both injured men were taken to Liverpool Hospital where Mr Hamzy was pronounced dead.

    Shortly before 1am, CCTV shows a person walking into a deserted Hurstville railway station wearing a dark hooded jumper and tracksuit pants, white shoes and carrying a small plastic bag.

    NSW Police say they believe this person can help with inquiries and that “they may be one of the people involved in the shooting”.

    Commander of the Homicide Squad, Detective Superintendent Mick Willing, said members of the public had already provided some important information to detectives from Strike Force Roxana, which was formed to investigate the case.

    “We want to thank the community for the support they have provided on this case to date, and ask them to contact us again - either via the anonymous Operation Talon phone and SMS lines or through Crime Stoppers,” Detective Superintendent Willing said.

    “The community play a crucial role in helping us investigate serious crimes and we need their continued assistance to ensure we track down the people responsible for this cold-blooded murder.”

    The Nissan Tida was found burnt out in Jamison Park in Penrith a few hours after the shooting, and investigators have also have two firearms that have been forensically linked to the incident.

    A third gun is yet to be recovered.

    Police ask anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers (1800 333 000), the anonymous Operation Talon phone (1800 802 980) or SMS (0448 990 101).

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

  • Pru Goward to head domestic violence taskforce

    "Appropriate support": Pru Goward will head the new taskforce. Photo: Wolter PeetersLaws may make victims reluctant to testifyMandatory sentencing watered downMore NSW news
    Nanjing Night Net

    A new taskforce will look at sentencing for domestic violence offenders following the government's introduction of mandatory sentencing for assault in public places.

    Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward said she would chair the new taskforce that would look at whether "current sentencing options for perpetrators of domestic violence are effective, reduce recidivism, reflect the seriousness of the crime, and reflect community expectations".

    “The taskforce will also study whether the current system provides appropriate support for those reporting and witnessing domestic and family violence, and also the link between alcohol and domestic violence," she said.

    “How alcohol contributes to the frequency and severity of domestic violence is a question we need to answer. Whether it is violence on the street, or violence in the home, a woman has the right to feel safe,” Ms Goward said.

    Ms Goward said MPs Bryan Doyle and Natasha Maclaren-Jones would join experts, including Tracy Howe of Domestic Violence NSW and Karen Willis of the NSW Rape Crisis Centre, in examining ways to drive down violence in NSW homes.

    She said the new taskforce would consider:

    * Current reporting, conviction and sentencing patterns for domestic violence offences;

    * Experiences of other jurisdictions;

    * The Joint Select Committee Inquiry on sentencing of child sexual offenders;

    * Sentencing for alcohol-related violence; and

    * Outcomes of consultation with stakeholders.

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

  • Planning Assessment Commission decried as ‘rubber stamp’ after high approval rate

    "Little more than a rubber stamp": Greens planning spokesman David Shoebridge.The independent authority that assesses some of the state's most controversial developments has been described as a ''rubber stamp'' after a study found it agreed with the Planning Department in 96 per cent of cases.
    Nanjing Night Net

    The Planning Assessment Commission has approved 222 of the 234 proposals it determined between April 18, 2011, and February 11 this year, according to research by the Greens.

    These included the Cronulla Sharks Leagues Club redevelopment, the central coast's Calga quarry expansion and the Ashton coalmine proposal in the Upper Hunter.

    All 222 cases had been recommended for approval by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, the analysis found.

    Only 12 applications were refused during the same period and only nine of these - or 4 per cent of all the PAC's determinations - went against the department's advice that they be approved.

    Greens planning spokesman David Shoebridge said the PAC ''acted as little more than a rubber stamp'' for the state government. The PAC's approval rate shot up to 100 per cent when a matter was determined by a single-member panel, he said.

    The criticism has been flatly rejected by Planning Minister Brad Hazzard and his department, which said the PAC often added consent conditions that differed from those it recommended.

    Mr Hazzard said that, by the time proposals reached the PAC, they had undergone assessment by several government agencies and so ''have a reasonable chance of getting through the process''.

    But veteran planner, lawyer and City of Sydney councillor John Mant said the members of the PAC were appointed by government and served at the mercy of their political masters. Cr Mant also criticised a separate ''pre-gateway review'' process that uses the PAC or a joint regional planning panel to reconsider otherwise final council rezoning decisions.

    The process allows developers to challenge unwanted outcomes if they can stump up the $5000 application fee and additional $15,000 if a review is granted.

    Only one refusal has been upheld since the reviews were introduced by the O'Farrell government almost two years ago.

    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.

  • Tony Abbott approved decision to release cabinet papers to the royal commission into Labor’s botched home insulation scheme

    Prime Minister Tony Abbott: Approved a decision to make cabinet documents available to the royal commission. Fears of endangering the convention of cabinet confidentiality: Former prime ministers Bob Hawke and Malcolm Fraser.
    Nanjing Night Net

    Prime Minister Tony Abbott personally approved a decision to make cabinet documents available to the royal commission into the Rudd government's botched home insulation scheme.

    Former prime ministers Bob Hawke and Malcolm Fraser have expressed alarm at the decision to hand over cabinet documents, revealed by Fairfax Media on Saturday, because they fear it will endanger the convention of cabinet confidentiality.

    The deputy secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Elizabeth Kelly, told Senate estimates hearings on Monday that 4500 government documents, including cabinet documents, had been handed to the royal commission since January. The department provided cabinet documents to the commission as recently as February 11, Ms Kelly said.

    She said the decision to comply with a summons for documents from the royal commission was approved by Mr Abbott. She said neither he nor anyone from his office had seen the documents, which were passed to the Attorney-General's Department to send to the royal commission.

    The cabinet documents were given to the royal commission on the condition they be viewed privately. If the royal commission wants to make any cabinet documents public, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has requested it be warned in advance so it can apply for a ''public interest immunity'' waiver to block publication.

    Ms Kelly said cabinet documents had previously been provided to the royal commission into the Centenary House scandal and the Clarke inquiry into the Mohammed Haneef affair.

    Ms Kelly's explanation came only hours after Attorney-General George Brandis and his department secretary, Roger Wilkins, told a separate Senate estimates committee they were not aware of any requests from the royal commission for cabinet documents.

    Mr Wilkins later issued a clarification, saying he did not ''want to mislead the Senate''.

    ''The [Attorney-General's] department will act as an agent … as a go-between in terms of the various departments and the royal commission in terms of the answering of summonses and subpoenas,'' he said.

    Labor senator John Faulkner claimed the case was an ''open and shut'' breach of 113 years of cabinet confidentiality.

    According to the Australian government's Cabinet Handbook: ''The convention is that cabinet documents are confidential to the government which created them and not the property of the sponsoring minister or department. Access to them by succeeding governments is not granted without the approval of the current parliamentary leader of the appropriate political party.''

    Government Senate leader Eric Abetz said it would have been absurd for the Prime Minister's Department not to comply with a summons from the royal commission given this constitutes a criminal offence: ''The royal commission has greater power and authority than what may or may not be in a cabinet handbook,'' he said.

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