Mass grave dug at Gaza hospital

Palestinians trapped inside Gaza's biggest hospital by Israeli forces are digging a mass grave for the dead, as conditions continue to deteriorate inside the besieged territory. 

What we know:

  • Israeli forces have surrounded Gaza City’s Al-Shifa hospital, where hundreds of patients and thousands of civilians are reportedly sheltering (Reuters); 
  • With refrigeration out for days, staff on Tuesday were digging a mass grave in the yard for more than 120 bodies in the morgue, health officials said (AP); 
  • “We are planning to bury them today in a mass grave inside the Al-Shifa medical complex. It is going to be very dangerous as we don't have any cover or protection from the [Red Cross],” a spokesperson said;
  • Health authorities say 40 patients have died in recent days, including three premature babies whose incubators were knocked out;
  • Thirty-six premature babies are left in the neonatal ward, but without fuel for generators to power incubators the babies are lined up eight to a bed in an effort to keep them warm;
  • Israel says its forces allow exit routes for those inside the hospital and has offered incubators, but medics inside the hospital deny any arrangements have been made and say those trying to leave come under fire;
  • Israel claims the hospital sits atop an underground headquarters of Hamas militants — which hospital officials deny — and released a video of what it alleged was evidence of Hamas activity in Rantisi children's hospital in northern Gaza City (BBC); 
  • Fighting has raged for days around Al-Shifa Hospital, as Israel moves deeper into Gaza City to further its invasion in response to the killing of 1200 people, mostly civilians, by Hamas;
  • Gazan health officials say more than 11,000 people, two-thirds of them women and minors, have been killed by Israel’s siege, but have been unable to update figures since Friday as communications collapse in the besieged territory (Washington Post); 
  • A further 200,000 people fled the north of Gaza in recent days, with almost the entire 2.1m population now squeezed into the southern two-thirds of the tiny territory.

PwC shields Russian oligarchs

A major leak of documents has revealed how embattled accounting giant PwC helped Russian oligarchs dodge sanctions.

What we know:

  • The leaked documents show how 67 Russian billionaires used financial services firms in Cyprus to hide their wealth and keep it out of reach from Western sanctions related to the war in Ukraine (Forbes); 
  • That includes the leaders of Evraz PLC, a key steelmaker for Russia’s military efforts, who asked a manager at PwC’s Cyprus arm to transfer US$100m between shell companies as the invasion of Ukraine commenced (ICIJ);
  • PwC also helped Russian steel magnate Alexey Mordashov attempt to transfer US$1.4bn in shares to his wife, Marina, one day after he was sanctioned by the EU (The Guardian); 
  • A shell company linked to Mordashov agreed to pay about US$700,000 over five years to German journalist Hubert Seipel, known for his glowing accounts of Russian president Vladimir Putin, in exchange for writing a book on Russia (ICIJ); 
  • Other revelations include a state-owned Syrian oil company that attempted to evade a US ban by using an intermediary on Cyprus to disguise requests for purchases from a Houston oil equipment supplier (ICIJ); 
  • A spokesperson for PwC said: “All PwC firms, including PwC Cyprus, take the application of sanctions against clients and sanctions prohibiting various professional services extremely seriously … PwC introduced a policy that goes beyond what is legally required, of applying all sanctions imposed by major countries across the PwC network, irrespective of the sanctions country of origin.”
  • It follows PwC Australia shedding hundreds of jobs after it was exposed leaking confidential government tax information to clients (AFR $). 

Parent company blamed for Optus outage

The “international peering network” that contributed to Optus’s major network failure last week has been reported to be the telco’s parent company, Singtel.

An unnamed source close to Optus claims that the Singtel Internet Exchange was the unnamed third party “network” that Optus alluded to in a statement (SMH). 

The network allegedly sent routing information to the telco’s routers on the day of the outage that put them into meltdown, following a software update at the Singtel Internet Exchange.

The outage affected about 10m customers Australia-wide for more than 12 hours.

An unnamed Optus engineer said that at least part of the hesitancy to name Singtel as the “third party” probably had to do with the fact the parent company’s board was visiting Sydney last week to meet Optus executives.

Network engineers say Optus nevertheless should have had filtering rules in place that dismissed or ignored the update from the Singtel exchange.

It has also been revealed that key executive Jorge Fernandes, who left Canadian telco Rogers Communications less than two weeks after it last year suffered an almost identical outage to Optus, is now working for Singtel as chief technology officer.


Bunnings drops engineered stone

Bunnings will stop selling engineered stone at the end of the year, amid a call for a ban on the controversial material.

Bunnings director of merchandise Jen Tucker confirmed the move, after a government report recommended a nationwide ban on the construction product commonly used in kitchen and bathroom benchtops (The Age). 

Engineered stone can cause the lung disease silicosis through exposure to crystalline dust when cut.

"While there has been clear indication from NSW and other state governments that they will legislate a ban on the product, we are proactively making this decision to allow suppliers and customers time to prepare for a transition," Tucker said.

Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union national secretary Zach Smith said "When even a massive corporation that until now has put profits over workers' lives concedes it's lost any remaining social licence to sell this killer stone, no government can squib it on a ban.”


Broadbent quits Liberals over preselection

Liberal moderate Russell Broadbent has defected to the crossbench, after he was defeated for preselection in his Victorian seat of Monash.

He received only 16 out of more than 190 votes, losing to Mary Aldred, daughter of one time federal MP Ken Aldred (The Conversation).

Broadbent informed Tuesday’s parliamentary Liberal meeting of his decision, saying he believed the vote revoked his licence to represent the party.

He is the second Coalition MP to defect to the crossbench this term, after Andrew Gee left the Nationals over the party’s opposition to the Voice.


People get told that there’s a cyclone and they're like ‘we’re still coming for a holiday’.

As Fijian authorities scramble to prepare for severe flooding from Cyclone Mal, Australian tourists are naturally heading to the archipelago anyway, in the true Australian tradition of exacerbating climate disasters in the Pacific (ABC).


Postscript: Sprinkler blamed for 30km of Sydney motorway chaos

A wayward sprinkler has flooded a major Sydney road, causing 30-kilometre traffic jams in the city’s south-west during Tuesday morning’s peak (The New Daily).