Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Police: no survivors on NZ volcano

Five people are dead, eight are missing and 31 are in hospital after a New Zealand volcano eruption on Monday caught visiting tourists, including Australians, off guard. New Zealand police believe there are no survivors among those left behind on Whakaari/White Island following the eruption, which ejected an ash plume 3657 metres above the volcano. A pilot was able to undertake a ground search but did not encounter survivors. “We share in your unfathomable grief in this moment and time,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told victims' families this morning. “For now, our duty is to return loved ones.” She said one of the boats that returned from the island was covered in “half a metre of ash.” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a number of Australians had been caught up in the eruption, including 24 Australians visiting as part of a cruise ship group. “We must prepare for some difficult news in the days ahead,” he said.

Russia banned: The World Anti-Doping Agency has banned Russia from major international sporting competitions for four years over doping non-compliance. The ban means Russian athletes will have to compete as neutral representatives at events such as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and the men’s football World Cup in Qatar in 2022. The news comes as Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Monday that the state will make an official bid to host the 2032 Olympics and Paralympics. The bid centres on Brisbane, the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, and also includes events in Townsville, Cairns and the Whitsundays.

Sydney water restrictions: Level 2 water restrictions come into force in Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Illawarra from today. The restrictions require gardens to be watered using a watering can or bucket, with "smart" water and irrigation systems only to be used for 15 minutes a day, with both options only to be used before 10am and after 4pm. If the drought continues, Sydney could see its restrictions upgraded to unprecedented levels in a matter of months. The news comes as New South Wales faces a day of extremely hot, dry and windy conditions expected to see bushfires again encroach on populated areas. 

Afghanistan interviews: Confidential documents obtained by The Washington Post reveal that senior United States officials consistently misled the public about the war in Afghanistan, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding evidence the war had become unwinnable. They include more than 2000 pages of government interviews with generals, diplomats, aid workers and Afghan officials. John Sopko, the head of the federal agency that conducted the interviews, acknowledged that the documents show “the American people have constantly been lied to”.

The man who didn’t kill Colin Winchester (part two)
Following his wrongful conviction for the murder of Canberra’s top police officer, David Eastman sought compensation. But bigger questions remain, about mental health and the law.


“Google and Facebook own so much personal data they can know what users are feeling, doing, thinking and buying; where they are going and where they have been. In short, they could make for powerful enemies. And their power has eroded the profitability of Australian media companies, all of which are in lock step about the need for change, although none so energised as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. A view has emerged of a Coalition caught between a rock and a hard place – with News Corp hammering its claim on one side and two of the largest companies in the world on the other.”


“Citizens of Sydney and nearby parts wake each morning to the smell of their environment going up in smoke. Trees, leaves, animals, fences and homes are ablaze. The sky is a sinister colour, the rivers are empty, the air is dangerous, the oceans are filled with junk, islands are disappearing, the Earth is on its knees and the price of bread has gone up. ”


“Bruguera, who will exhibit in Australia as part of the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, is now considering how to work with the political moment that is defined by Donald Trump. She knows 2020 will be the right time, and that the challenge will be to interject effectively in a cultural environment that is both overwhelmingly contradictory and simplistic. ‘The times are so politically charged and we, the people who have studied history, we know that we are repeating a history that already existed. We know where this is going,’ she says.”


“Scott Morrison’s decision to abolish four federal departments in a massive public sector restructure was not canvassed in the Thodey review of the public service, a department secretary has said … Government sources said Morrison plans to announce further changes consolidating the number of government agencies and proposing more investment in information technology systems.”


“Great chunks of time and money went into relocating, renaming and reorganising the new departments. Morale took a beating too, with the future of this unit or that team unclear each time. Units and authorities were split up or abolished, fragmenting or even losing expertise, documentation and institutional memory. Ask a department to turn over records from their previous incarnation and they will tell you they don’t know where they are, how the filing system worked or who they could possibly ask about it.”


“Figures in wetsuits run up and down the beach, clutching buckets of water. ‘Mind the tail!’ someone shouts out. ‘Over here!’ cries another voice over the constant sound of waves. There is a sense of urgency, but people are smiling and laughing. A huge, black pilot whale lays on that sand. Volunteers have dug around its tail and fins, and large green sheets protect its back from the sun. The whale seems unfazed by the hubbub, its dopey white eyes staring fixedly along the beach. This is Mark: a life-size, custom-made inflatable whale.”

Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.