Monday, June 19, 2017

Final sitting week dramas ahead

The government will spend much of this Parliamentary sitting week convincing either the Greens or a majority of the crossbench to vote for its “Gonski 2.0” education package. Under a deal being negotiated with the Greens, schools funding would increase faster than originally foreshadowed and an independent watchdog would oversee the fair allocation of funds to schools in need. Greens leader Richard Di Natale has warned that the party won’t support a flawed package “simply because it's the government that wants to rush this through”, and the NSW Greens have urged their federal counterparts to abandon negotiations. Labor has refused to negotiate with the government, with deputy leader Tanya Plibersek warning ($) against “a secret deal between the Greens and the government on schools funding”.

Labor will continue pressuring the government over possible contempt of court charges against three ministers. On Friday solicitor general Stephen Donoghue QC fronted Victoria’s court of appeal on behalf of health minister Greg Hunt, social services minister Alan Tudge and assistant treasurer Michael Sukkar to explain why the trio should not be referred for prosecution for questioning the court’s integrity. While all three withdrew their comments, none offered apologies, and government figures pointedly refrained from speaking on the matter over the weekend as the court deliberates over whether to press charges. Labor has seized on comments by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that the judiciary is “not immune from public criticism”, made the day before the trio were due in court, as evidence Turnbull was pressuring the court not to prosecute his ministers. Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus claimed the comments show Turnbull “backed in his ministers’ comments, despite knowing this matter was before the court the following day”.

Dozens of refugees being held on Manus Island will soon know if they will be resettled in the United States. US Homeland Security officials told Manus detainees last week that they could expect a decision on their resettlement applications within six weeks after completing medical and security checks. It is the first time any party to the US-Australia refugee swap deal has offered a time frame, although it is still unknown how long approved applicants will have to wait for their transfer.

And in France, new president Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche! party has won a large parliamentary majority in the second round of legislative elections. The result, which was marked by a record-low turnout, gives Macron a convincing mandate to enact his pro-EU, economically liberal policies. The rise of LA REM has come at the expense of traditional parties on both left and right; the conservative Les Républicains were reduced to 125 seats in the 577-seat legislature, while the centre-left Socialists will retain just 34 seats of the more than 300 they held in the last parliament.

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From Russia with blood

“Russian assassins have been able to kill in Britain with impunity over the past decade, 17 current and former British and American intelligence officials told BuzzFeed News. The reasons for Britain’s reticence, they said, include fear of retaliation, police incompetence, and a desire to preserve the billions of pounds of Russian money that pour into British banks and properties each year. As a result, Russia is making what one source called increasingly ‘bold moves’ in the UK without fear of reprisals.” buzzfeed uk

The Scarface of sex: the millionaire playboy who murdered his way to the top of porn

“On Friday, Nov. 13, 1970, Michael Thevis slipped into his office early for an important meeting. With balding hair and a tidy goatee, the 38-year-old business owner looked like any other executive working in downtown Atlanta. His company headquarters spanned an entire city block of historic Marietta Street and commanded annual profits of $25 million – more than Hewlett-Packard or Hershey Foods. But Thevis wasn’t in computers or chocolate. He was in America’s hottest new commodity: pornography.” the daily beast

The lunar sea

“Scientists have known for centuries that the moon alters Earth’s ecosystems through gravity ... What is becoming increasingly clear, however, is that the moon also influences life in a more surprising and subtle way: with its light. In the past few years, scientists have rekindled a long-neglected curiosity about the moon’s power to manipulate life, reviving studies on biology’s secret moon clocks.” hakai magazine



Is there any hope of stopping gentrification in our time?

“A Sydney Vivid Festival concert in Kings Cross was shut down before 9:30pm following a series of noise complaints which began flowing into the venue from as early as 7:30pm. Local novelty punk act ‘Birdman Or The Unexpected Virtue of A Tony Hawk Pro Skater Cover Band’ were performing at the Kings Cross Hotel as part of the launch event for Vivid’s Basement Parties: SKATE Or Die! series last night (which had intended to help ‘reinvigorate Sydney’s nightlife’) and were four songs deep into their set when the gig was (ironically) shut down.”   music feeds


Nimbin has fallen. The dream is dead.

“It was once best known as the drug capital of Australia but today Sydneysiders are flocking to buy land and homes in the NSW Northern Rivers village of Nimbin as it phoenixes from dippy hippy to hippy chic ... Sydney couple Pip and Nic Aplin heard the call and have just bought a 3450-square-metre plot of land off a bitumen road, a five-minute walk from the village for $157,000. Currently living in a small apartment in Potts Point without much natural light, they can’t wait to build their own home.”  domain


and finally:

Quietly stunning photos of Europe’s grandest libraries

“The journalist Norman Cousins once said: ‘A library is the delivery room for the birth of ideas, a place where history comes to life’. If we ever needed proof the man knew what he was talking about, photographer Thibaud Poirier is here to provide. His photo series, Libraries, features a whole heap of Europe’s (and therefore the world’s) finest classic and contemporary libraries, each photo paying homage to ‘the personal touches and interpretations of literature’ that each architect brought to their building.” smith journal