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Posts tagged ‘Land of the Lone Wildlife’

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to visit Australia, Fiji

June 11, 2018

LONDON (AP) — Kensington Palace says Prince Harry, and his wife, the former actress Meghan Markle, will be touring Australia, Fiji, the Kingdom of Tonga and New Zealand this fall. The royal couple, now known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, will be making the tour around the time of the Invictus Games in Sydney, which is set for Oct. 20-27.

Harry, a British military veteran who served in Afghanistan, created the Paralympic-style games as a way to inspire wounded soldiers toward recovery. About 550 competitors from 17 countries competed in 12 sports during the event in Canada last year.

The couple joined the pageantry Saturday of the annual Trooping the Color ceremony in London for the first time since their wedding three weeks ago. The event celebrates Queen Elizabeth II’s official birthday.

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Ukraine eyes new Spaceport downunder

Moscow (Sputnik)

Mar 13, 2018

The Ukrainian Space Agency has reportedly come up with an ambitious proposal to establish a spaceport some 11,500 km from home.

According to The West Australian newspaper, Kiev has been lobbying both Canberra and the northwestern Australian state government of Kimberley for two years now, with its proposals falling on deaf ears.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia, Nikolai Kulinich, assured the newspaper that the proposal was “very realistic,” adding that “Ukraine could launch tomorrow morning if we had a site. We offer our people and our expertise if Australia has land for use.”

According to the Ukrainian Space Agency, it would require between 5,000 and 7,000 square kilometers of territory on a commercial lease. It would like to establish its space port near the Curtain Air Base, a Royal Australian Air Force airbase and civilian airport. A preliminary study could be completed for about half a million dollars, The West Australian says, with a study on construction and feasibility possible within two years.

The Ukrainian Space Agency envisions its Australian spaceport venture becoming Asia’s key spaceport, with launches sponsored by Australian, Japanese, Singaporean, South Korean and Indonesian partners.

Private investments, as well as contributions from Australia’s neighbors and allies, are expected to fund the construction of the spaceport, including its launch pads, hangars and support facilities.

Commenting on the ambitious plan, observers have pointed out that Ukraine’s once-proud space industry is but a shadow of its former self following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Ukraine’s space enterprises, including legendary enterprises like the Yuzhmash rocket plant and the Yuzhnoye design bureau have fallen on particularly hard times after the severing of space and rocketry industry cooperation with Russia in 2014, with many rocket scientists leaving Ukraine in pursuit of better opportunities elsewhere.

As to the potential costs of Ukraine’s proposed space port idea, Moscow’s experience with the construction of its Vostochny Cosmodrome has given some indication of the tremendous price tag attached to building a spaceport from scratch. Vostochny, expected to be completed later this year, has been estimated to cost upwards of $7.5 billion US.

Expert opinion aside, social media users aren’t too thrilled about the idea either, hatching a series of memes about the lack of realism in Kiev’s plan.

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Ukraine_eyes_new_Spaceport_downunder_999.html.

Australians commemorate 103rd anniversary of WWI battle

April 25, 2018

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australians gathered with descendants of former allies and enemies around the country, on a Turkish coast and in a French town Wednesday in dawn services to commemorate the moment when Australian and New Zealand Army Corps troops waded ashore at the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey 103 years ago in their first major battle of World War I.

Because extremists have targeted annual ANZAC Day ceremonies in the past, concrete barriers were placed around the service in downtown Sydney to protect those who gathered at Martin Place. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, his French counterpart, Edouard Philippe, and the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, marked ANZAC Day in France with a service that also commemorates the 100th anniversary of Australian troops taking the town of Villers-Bretonneux from the Germans in a daring counterattack in the early hours of the third ANZAC Day. Villers-Bretonneux is now home to the main Australian Memorial of the Western Front.

Phillipe said half the 313,000 Australians who fought in France and Belgium were wounded or died, forging “a brotherhood of spilled blood” with Australia’s allies. “You sometimes have to die far from home to honor and defend your country,” Phillipe told the gathering in French. “This is the very hard, sometimes bitter reality well known to the French.”

Turnbull said: “The Australians had come from the other side of the world to defend the freedom of France. We meet here 100 years later on land long healed to remember them.” Prince Charles said the spirit of Australians killed in Gallipoli and the Western Front “will forever be part of the Australian identity.”

At Villers-Bretonneux, Turnbull and Philippe on Tuesday unveiled a memorial plaque at the new Sir John Monash Centre museum, which is named after the Australian general responsible for taking the town.

Turnbull and his wife, Lucy, also visited the grave of her great-uncle Roger Hughes, who was killed by a German shell in 1916 five days after arriving on the Western Front as a 26-year-old military doctor.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton represented the Australian government at a service at ANZAC Cove at Gallipoli, where the Australian and New Zealand troops landed under British command in an ill-fated attempt to take the Ottoman Empire out of the war.

“It is the greatest honor for all of us to gather here at North Beach as dawn breaks more than a century after this campaign was fought,” Dutton said at a ceremony that brought together Turkish, New Zealand and Australian troops. “It is humbling to stand among our New Zealand and Turkish friends and reflect on the service and sacrifice of the tens of thousands of people on both sides of the campaign who lost their lives.”

More than 44,000 Allied soldiers were killed at Gallipoli. Turkish casualties were estimated at 250,000. At the Australian War Memorial in the capital, Canberra, an estimated crowd of 38,000 — 10 percent of the city’s population — gathered in the cool autumn darkness for the dawn service, which began with a lone soldier playing a didgeridoo, in recognition of the contribution of indigenous soldiers.

“The attendance at this year’s dawn service shows the enduring connection so many people have to Anzac Day,” Memorial Director Brendan Nelson said in a statement.

University of Sydney academics back BDS, as Israel guns down protesters

April 13, 2018

Dozens of academics at the University of Sydney have declared their support for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, reported the Australian.

According to the paper, the move comes as a response to the lethal crackdown by Israeli occupation forces on Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip.

The Australian notes that signatories to the BDS pledge say they “will not attend conferences sponsored by Israeli universities, participate in academic exchange schemes, or otherwise collaborate professionally with Israeli universities until the stated goals have been fulfilled.”

The BDS campaign, describes the paper, is an international movement “inspired by the success of boycotts in bringing an end to apartheid in South Africa”.

Nick Riemer, a senior lecturer in English and linguistics at the University of Sydney and a member of its BDS group, “said the response from fellow academics was encouraging” and expressed his hope that the pledge would spread to other Australian universities.

“People are already talking at Melbourne about the possibility of something like this,” he said.

According to the Sydney BDS website, some 40 academics have currently endorsed the pledge.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180413-university-of-sydney-academics-back-bds-as-israel-guns-down-protesters/.

Southeast Asia leaders use Australia meet to talk NKorea

March 18, 2018

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia’s prime minister said Southeast Asian leaders were using their meeting Sunday to discuss the “deadly threat” posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Australia is hosting a two-day summit in Sydney of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, and Sunday’s agenda had the leaders discussing economic and security issues.

“We’ll discuss some of the region’s most pressing security challenges, including how to respond strongly and effectively to the deadly threat posed by North Korea,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in opening remarks.

Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have eased recently amid plans for a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but Asian nations are still wary of any potential conflict in the region.

The leaders on Saturday signed an agreement on regional cooperation against violent extremism aimed at boosting counterterrorism capability throughout Southeast Asia. The issue is of particular concern as the region braces for the return of local militants who had gone to fight with the Islamic State group in the Middle East and are now fleeing losses there.

Other items likely to be raised are the plight of Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya and China’s overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea with several ASEAN nations. Both are thorny issues for the bloc, which operates on a policy of non-interference in members’ domestic affairs and can only issue statements approved by all.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told the summit on Saturday that refugee crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh was no longer solely a domestic issue for Myanmar, as fleeing Rohingya could be prime targets for terrorist radicalization.

“Because of the suffering of Rohingya people and that of displacement around the region, the situation in Rakhine state and Myanmar can no longer be considered to be a purely domestic matter,” Najib said as Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi looked on.

Turnbull is under pressure to raise the Rohingya crisis when he holds a bilateral meeting with Suu Kyi on Monday. The leaders are not expected to issue a closing communique at this summit, but past meetings have seen the nations butt heads over language on the South China Sea, which China claims in almost its entirety. China is the regional bloc’s largest trading partner, but its growing assertiveness in the disputed waters worries some ASEAN members.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, whose nation is not an ASEAN member, told reporters outside the meeting that the region’s leaders were clear-eyed about their own interests, particularly in relation to China as a crucial trading partner and source of infrastructure funding. However, progress had also been made recently on negotiating a code of conduct on the South China Sea, she said.

“We are not a claimant, but we reject any unilateral action that would create tensions, and we want to ensure that freedom of overflight and freedom of navigation, in accordance with international law, is maintained, and the ASEANs all back that same position,” she said.

On economic matters, Turnbull urged ASEAN leaders to support the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership deal, which is under negotiation between interests including Australia, the ASEAN bloc, China and India.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Long, the current chair of ASEAN, said there was hope the deal could be finalized this year. “This is a historic opportunity to establish the world’s largest trade bloc,” he told the leaders meeting on Sunday morning, adding that it would cover 45 percent of the world’s population.

In addition to Singapore, the other ASEAN nations are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Australian amnesty nets 57,000 firearms and rocket launcher

March 01, 2018

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — More than 57,000 illegal firearms including a rocket launcher and machine guns were handed in during a recent Australian amnesty in which gun owners could surrender such weapons without penalty.

The government and some gun policy analysts were surprised by the large number of weapons that were surrendered in the first nationwide amnesty since 1996, when a lone gunman killed 35 people in Tasmania state and galvanized popular support for tough national gun controls.

A virtual ban on private ownership of semi-automatic rifles and a government-funded gun buyback cut the size of Australia’s civilian arsenal by almost a third. The government said Thursday the three-month amnesty that ended in September collected 57, 324 firearms, including almost 2,500 semi-automatic and fully-automatic guns — the rapid-fire categories particularly targeted after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.

“It was a very, very good result,” Law Enforcement Minister Angus Taylor told The Associated Press. “This is another step in the process of making sure that we keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and gangs, and we keep Australians safe and secure,” he added.

Taylor declined to comment on whether the United States and other countries should follow Australia’s example after the recent Florida high school shooting that killed 17 people. “I’m not going to give advice to other countries. This is working for us,” Taylor said, referring to national gun controls.

Before the amnesty, Sydney University gun policy analyst Philip Alpers predicted it would only collect “rubbish guns” that were not valued by legitimate gun owners or criminals. “It’s a resounding success. I think it exceeded everybody’s expectations. I was astonished,” Alpers said on Thursday.

Key to the success over several state-based amnesties that have occurred since the 1996 massacre was that licensed gun dealers had agreed to act as collection points. In previous amnesties, the guns have had to be surrendered at police stations.

The amnesty report said a rocket launcher had been handed into a gun dealer rather than police. The dealer said he understood it had been found in a local garbage dump in Queensland state. Alpers said the surrender now of semi-automatic and automatic weapons that had been hidden in 1996 when they were banned suggested Australia’s mindset on guns was shifting and that controls had gained popularity over two decades.

Most illegal guns in Australia are considered to be in the gray market, meaning they were not registered or surrendered as they should have been, but are not considered black market guns owned for the purpose of crime.

The danger of those markets merging became obvious in 2014 when a man who professed support for the Islamic State group took hostages in a Sydney cafe armed with a gray market shotgun. The gunman and two hostages were killed in a shootout with police.

A government inquiry into the siege recommended the government deal with illegal guns in the community.

Syrian refugees: 12,000 new Australians settle in to adopted home

29.10.2017 Sunday

By Rebecca Trigger

After escaping her war-torn hometown of Aleppo, Talar Anjer-Koushian threw herself into Australian life — going to university, securing a fulltime job, and now volunteering to help other refugees establish themselves in their adopted home.

Talar was one of 12,000 asylum seekers granted visas in Australia under a special humanitarian intake of Syrians and Iraqis, fleeing terrorism and civil war — all of whom have now arrived on our shores.

Ms Anjer-Koushian said the biggest challenge after arriving in Australia was going back to university — she’s studying a masters in International Development in her fourth language.

She also managed to land a fulltime job last week, but says for many other Syrians, securing employment remains their biggest concern.

“We want to work, we want to give back, we don’t like just taking and sitting and being lazy,” she said.

All of the extraordinary visas announced by the then-Abbott government in 2015 were granted by March this year, but the final families only arrived in the latter half of the year.

The special visas have been granted to people in UNHCR camps, but also to people forced to flee and shelter in urban communities in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

‘We decided to leave, to have a life’

For Ms Anjer-Koushian, her life now is a stark contrast to what she was forced to leave behind.

Syria’s horrific civil war has left hundreds of thousands of people dead, fueled the rise of the Islamic State group, and caused the biggest asylum seeker crisis since the last World War.

Once a vibrant and thriving commercial center, Aleppo has seen industrial-scale devastation, buildings damaged beyond repair, and basic services to its people cut off.

“We had days that we didn’t have water, electricity, it wasn’t safe to go outside,” she said.

“Electricity was a celebration, so whenever we had electricity we used to wake up even if it was in the middle of the night, just to watch TV, and just enjoy the lights.”

She said the worry was constant, and it was always dangerous to leave your home.

“You get used to it, you get the skills that help you to live with the conditions that you are put under,” she said.

“But when it was enough … we just couldn’t tolerate it, and we decided to leave, and to have a life.”

‘It needs time’: Syrian-Iraq refugees put down roots

Ms Anjer-Koushian said while many of her fellow refugees will be grateful for the chance at a new life, they will need help to adjust to a completely new environment.

“They might get afraid people won’t be welcoming of them, so they won’t approach others,” she said.

“They will be closed and always questioning themselves, ‘are we good enough, are we OK to approach and to talk to others, and form friendships and meet other people?

“Although Australians are really welcoming, from my experience everyone was really welcoming and helpful … so I think in time they will get over that.”

Despite learning about Australia from an uncle who lived in Perth for many years, Ms Anjer-Koushian still hit a few hurdles adjusting to the culture here.

“Sometimes being straightforward and being honest in my culture is not always that acceptable, you always turn around and you’re not straight to the point,” she said.

“Whereas here people don’t go around and around, they just tell you straight what their opinion is or what they think about a topic.

Volunteering to help others adjust

Now she is giving back — volunteering with the Australian Red Cross’s new Humanitarian Settlement Program to help new refugees acclimatize and understand how to thrive in their adopted country.

Of the new refugees arriving in Australia in 2016-2017, more than 6,500 were fleeing the Iraq-Syrian conflict, and many more are expected to come from the region in future years.

Red Cross migration support programs manager Vicki Mau said people who came to Australia through the humanitarian resettlement program had often been through extremely difficult experiences, but that also meant they were incredibly resilient.

“What we’re really trying to do is make it a smooth process for them,” she said.

Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Link: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-29/extraordinary-intake-syrian-iraq-refugees-12000/9090308.

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