Thursday, August 22, 2019

Australia to join US in Strait of Hormuz

Australia is joining the United States in its decision to send military support to the Strait of Hormuz to protect shipping. Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the move as a way to counter the “destabilising behaviour” in the region, referring to the escalating shipping incidents involving Iran, the US and UK in recent months. He said it was “in Australia's national interest to work with our international partners to contribute to an international maritime security mission …  in the Middle East.” The Strait of Hormuz is a major  transit route for oil globally. Morrison said about 15 per cent of crude oil and 30 per cent of refined oil that comes through the strait is destined for Australia, a potential economic threat that the government decided to confront. Experts say there are likely to be “significant legal issues” for the Royal Australian Navy in its “escort” role as well as questions around the rules of engagement if Australian ships were attacked. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said Australia would send staff to the joint task force headquarters immediately to work out details. 

Cardinal George Pell lost his appeal to have his conviction for child sexual abuse overturned yesterday, with Victorian court of appeal judges ruling 2-1 to uphold the ruling. Pell’s grounds for appeal was based on three things: that his plea of “not guilty” was not made in the presence of the jury; that the jury’s verdict was “unreasonable” as it was based significantly on the evidence of the complainant; and that the defence was not allowed a “visual representation” as part of its closing address. In their summary, the justices described the witness as “very compelling” who “was clearly not a liar, was not a fantasist and was a witness of truth”. Pell, who continues to maintain his innocence, will now need to take his appeal to the High Court. Responding to the news, the Vatican released a statement acknowledging the decision of the court to dismiss the appeal, but that Pell had the “right to appeal to the High Court”. 

In their first face-to-face meeting, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has challenged British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of the G7 summit to find a solution to Brexit “in the next 30 days” that avoids the UK crashing out of the EU and a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Island. She acknowledged that a deal could take two years but that the solution could potentially be found in the next 30 days. Johnson said he was “glad” to hear the chancellor’s support and repeated her famous phrase uttered during the 2015 refugee crisis “wir shaffen das” (“we will manage”). 

US President Donald Trump has cancelled a scheduled visit to Denmark and called the Danish leader “nasty” after she rejected his offer to buy Greenland. Earlier this week, Trump tweeted that he was interested in purchasing the territory describing it as essentially “a large real estate deal”. Denmark Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen labelled the deal “absurd”, leading to Trump cancelling a planned trip to Denmark at the invitation of Queen Margrethe II in September and making negative tweets about the nation. The US has long viewed Greenland as strategically important as it sits along the direct route between Europe and North America. It is also resource-rich with coal, zinc, copper and iron ore. 

Drugs in swimming
The furore over Australian swimmer Mack Horton’s stand against long-time rival Sun Yang underscores confusion about how drug testing in sport actually works.


“Some of Hastie’s Liberal colleagues see his comments on relations with China as a shot across the prime minister’s bow for not being appointed to the ministry. Morrison was not impressed. He said the government is ‘very aware of the complexity of the world in which we live and we’ve fashioned our policies to address that’.” 


“The result is simple – no introductions, rose-coloured reflective voiceovers, backstage machinations or interviews to interrupt the action. At 87 minutes, Amazing Grace is neither overly long nor indulgent. It comes and goes in a flash, a rush of adrenaline, with none of the retakes of those long nights. It’s a work of cinematic chemistry, distilling the emotion – exhaustion, labour, joy, transcendence – into something that transports the viewer purely. Naturally, it feels like a miracle.”


“In 2014 Sun tested positive to a drug he’d been prescribed for a well-documented, ongoing heart condition. The drug had been listed on the WADA banned list only five months earlier and his doctor failed to get an authorisation known as a Therapeutic Use Exemption. This was viewed as a ‘no-fault’ positive and Sun was given a three-month suspension. His doctor, who should have been more attentive, was suspended for 12 months. A few months later the drug was downgraded after it was found not to be performance enhancing when taken on its own.”


“GetUp Campaign Director Miriam Lyons said a new investigation would be a waste of public money. ‘The AEC has investigated GetUp exhaustively, not one, but three times - and three times they have found that we are an independent, issues-based organisation. Mr Morrison clearly doesn’t like that answer, so he’s asking the same question again,’ Ms Lyons said.”


“The Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission has been asked to investigate links between GetUp and a not-for-profit company it helped establish as new ties emerged showing former charity officials had worked with the left-wing activist group, the Greens and Labor. Following a report in The Australian on Commons Library Limited and its links with GetUp, Assistant Minister for Finance, Charities and Electoral matters Zed Seselja on Tuesday wrote to ACNC Commissioner Gary Johns asking him to formally examine the groups.”


“At some point this summer, I opened my eyes, and taxidermy was everywhere. On the first page of Ocean Vuong’s poetic new novel, ‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,’ a buck’s head hangs over the soda machine at a Virginia rest stop, its black glass eyes embodying ‘a death that won’t finish, a death that keeps dying.’ A friend forwarded me a trailer for a documentary, ‘Stuffed,’ about the “craft, technique, and obsession” that informs ‘the world of modern taxidermy,’ with its bro-ey enthusiasts and feminist millennials. Another friend directed me to Instagram’s #taxidermy hashtag, which is flourishing like nightshade. What was once a curio—a relic of hobbyists and museums—had found, it seemed, new life.”


Anna Horan
is a Melbourne-based editor and writer.