A Sudanese judge has sentenced a Christian woman to hang for apostasy, despite appeals by Western embassies for compassion and respect for religious freedom.
“We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged to death,” Judge Abbas Mohammed Al-Khalifa told the woman on Thursday, addressing her by her father’s Muslim name, Adraf Al-Hadi Mohammed Abdullah.
Her Christian name is Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag.
Khalifa also sentenced her to 100 lashes for “adultery”.
Ishag, who rights activists say is pregnant and 27 years old, reacted without emotion when Abbas delivered the verdict at a court in the Khartoum district of Haj Yousef.
Earlier in the hearing, an Islamic religious leader spoke with her in the caged dock for about 30 minutes.
Then she calmly told the judge: “I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy.”
Sudan’s Islamist regime introduced sharia law in 1983 but extreme punishments other than flogging are rare.
After the verdict about 50 people demonstrated against the decision.
“No to executing Meriam,” said one of their signs, while another proclaimed: “Religious rights are a constitutional right.”
In a speech, one demonstrator said they would continue their activism with sit-ins and protests until she is freed.
A smaller group supporting the verdict also arrived but there was no violence.
“This is a decision of the law. Why are you gathered here?” one supporter asked, prompting an activist to retort: “Why do you want to execute Meriam? Why don’t you bring corruptors to the court?”
US regulators have voted for a controversial proposal that would allow internet “fast lanes” while leaving open the possibility of tougher regulations to protect online access.
Amid demonstrations outside its meeting and following weeks of lobbying from various groups, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 in favour of the new rules, which still must go through a public comment period before being finalised.
The plan, which aims to replace rules struck down by a US federal court, seeks to keep some principles of “net neutrality” – the notion that all online traffic should be treated equally – while allowing commercial deals authorising companies to pay for faster internet access.
The FCC said the proposed rules may allow special deals for priority access but that each would be examined for “commercial reasonableness”.
At the same time, the commission said it was keeping open the possibility of regulating internet access as a public utility, which could give the FCC much greater authority over internet access providers.
The plan is touted as a means to preserve an “open internet”, but did not placate activists on either side of the issue – those who want a guarantee of equal access, and those seeking less regulation that allows deals for faster speeds.
Michael Weinberg of the activist group Public Knowledge said the proposal “remains insufficient to guarantee a truly open and neutral internet”.
He said the proposal “would create a two-tier internet where ‘commercially reasonable’ discrimination is allowed on any connections that exceed an unknown ‘minimum level of access’ defined by the FCC. A two-tier internet is anathema to a truly open internet.”
Scott Cleland, a consultant and chairman of the business group NetCompetition representing telecom and internet firms, said the plan “is a blueprint for unnecessary uncertainty”.
Cleland said regulating the internet as a utility “would require every business decision of consequence to be approved by the FCC…”
“Ironically, the obvious unintended consequence here would be to put the American part of the internet in the slowest lane filled with interminable speed bumps, potholes, stop lights, and inspection stations,” he added.
The corporate owner of the Soma coalmine, scene of Turkey’s deadliest mining disaster, says 450 workers have been rescued with 80 of them still hospitalised.
With hope of finding more survivors largely gone, the company on Thursday repeated the official toll of at least 282 killed in the explosion and devastating underground fire two days earlier. At Soma, weeping relatives buried their dead.
The national broadcaster reported late on Thursday that the fire in the mine had been extinguished.
Pressure on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan intensified after a photograph showing one of his advisers kicking a protester at the disaster site was widely circulated on social media.
Yusuf Yerkel, a prime ministerial aide, is shown about to kick a protester who is being wrestled to the ground by two police officers.
Yerkel confirmed to the BBC’s Turkish Service that he was the individual pictured. Turkish media later quoted him saying the protester was a militant leftist who had attacked and insulted Erdogan and him.
Erdogan had visited the Soma mine on Wednesday, only to be confronted by angry locals attacking his car and calling him a “murderer” and a “thief”.
Erdogan has pledged a full investigation into the accident, while protesters across Turkey have called for his government to step down.
Police used tear gas and water canon against thousands of demonstrators in the western Turkish city of Izmir. About 20,000 people attended the rally in Turkey’s third-largest city.
Trade unionists in a range of industries held a one-day strike, protesting Turkey’s poor record on mining safety and charging that regulations had gone unenforced since the formerly state-run Soma mine was leased to a private company.
Citing rescue workers, news agency DHA said that 14 of the dead miners had taken refuge in the pit’s only safe room and took turns wearing oxygen masks before they suffocated. Rescuers found the 14 bodies lying on top of one another.
The report said there was just one safe room for 6500 miners at Soma.
The holding company responded on its website that the mine had been inspected every six months, most recently in March, and nothing had been found amiss.
Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said earlier that 787 workers had been in the mine when the explosion and fire took place. Citing 282 dead and 450 rescued, the company did not explain the discrepancy with Yildiz’s figures, which would leave 55 people unaccounted for.
The cause of the mine fire has still not been established, but media said an electrical defect was suspected of causing a transformer to explode, setting off the blaze.
Visiting the scene, Turkish President Abdullah Gul promised to shed light on what happened, saying the investigation had begun.
“Whatever is necessary will be done so we do not suffer such pain ever again,” he says.
The Soma explosion and fire is the world’s deadliest mine disaster in nearly 40 years.
A “morally bankrupt” financial adviser who stole millions of dollars from brain-damaged and other vulnerable victims has been jailed for at least 10 years.
Describing Tina Louise McPhee’s actions as callous, persistent and relentless, Judge Simon Stretton said she lavishly spent the money on holidays, fashion and plastic surgery including breast enhancements.
“You committed this offending purely and simply out of greed and for your own benefit,” he said in the South Australian District Court when sentencing the 40-year-old on Friday.
McPhee, pleaded guilty to 181 counts of dishonestly receiving property, stealing $1.9 million from six clients over a six-year period from August 2006 while she was trustee of their compensation payouts.
The judge said he was only sentencing her for those offences, but he took into account the fact that more than $4 million was lost, which included the substantial interest the payouts would have earned.
McPhee was appointed trustee to look after payouts made to two brain-injured crash victims and to four children whose relatives died in a car accident.
“It is difficult to conceive a worse or more serious breach of trust,” the judge said.
“You are a callous, dishonest and morally bankrupt woman.”
The victims have not recovered any money and have launched court action, which the judge said, could be expensive and long-running.
He had “very significant reservations” about her claim of remorse and apology, given that the offending was relentless and involved helpless, trusting victims whom she had been duty-bound to protect.
“That you would spend six years stealing their money, spending it by and large extravagantly on yourself while they suffered and went without … is simply outrageous.”
He noted McPhee, who was once a disability worker, did not suffer from any psychiatric disorder, or have a drug or alcohol problem.
The judge set a maximum term of 13 years.
(Transcript from World News Radio)
The Royal Commission into the Rudd government’s home-insulation program has centred around the deaths of four young, inexperienced installers.
But a deep political question of a different kind has emerged in the process in Brisbane.
It centres around what has long been known as the confidentiality convention of Cabinet.
Ron Sutton takes a look.
When Kevin Rudd asked to reveal Cabinet deliberations at the inquiry into his government’s home-insulation program, he knew he was bucking decades, even centuries, of tradition.
Immediately after the usual name, date and promise to do his best to help in his written statement to the Royal Commission, the former Prime Minister directly addressed such concerns.
Much of what was to follow in his statement, he said, would normally be precluded from disclosure under the confidentiality convention of Cabinet.
But, he wrote:
“Although I well understand that there are many good reasons to preserve the confidentiality of Cabinet and related deliberations, submissions, material and other information, my dilemma is that it is very difficult for me to provide anything of meaningful assistance to the commission that is not, in one way or another, prohibited from public disclosure, as the vast bulk of my engagement on the Home Insulation Program was through the Cabinet process.”
Lawyers for the federal government dropped their resistance to the move, and Mr Rudd was able to have his full 31-page statement delivered, with nothing blacked out.
Indeed, he was able to offer an unprecedented insight into those Cabinet deliberations — exactly the kind of details the confidentiality convention has been intended to prevent.
Political scientist James Walter, of Monash University in Melbourne, says a key purpose of that confidentiality was to ensure robust debate behind, in the end, a unified front.
“It’s a convention in most of the Westminster parliaments that the advice that goes to Cabinet and to ministers from public servants and the decisions taken in Cabinet should be confidential, partly because of the principle, generally, of Cabinet solidarity. The understanding is that ministers can argue whatever position they like in Cabinet but, once the decision’s taken, everybody’s bound by it.”
Former federal Labor MP Mary Crawford blames the Abbott Government for creating the situation that she calls the first time that protocol has been broken.
She defends Kevin Rudd as doing what he had to do to give the whole picture after his original, heavily redacted statement went into the public domain.
Now a visiting scholar in politics at the Queensland University of Technology, Dr Crawford says she is deeply concerned about the effect it will have on future Cabinet debate.
“This is really at the heart of the Westminster system, this whole question of responsibility and accountability. Ministers are free to say whatever they like in Cabinet, and Cabinet confidentiality is then ensured, and, of course, then the 30-year rule applies as minutes and materials are archived, and it’s only after 30 years then they’re usually released. I think it very clearly sets Cabinet now in a very difficult position to have full and frank discussions.”
Parliamentary Library papers show the very word “cabinet” originally referred to a “small room or closet”.
By the early 1600s in Britain, Cabinet referred to a committee of the Privy Council, variously known as the Foreign Committee or the Intelligence Committee, an inner circle of councillors.
The size of Cabinet reportedly grew from five people in 1783 to more than 20 by 1915.
A famous study of British politics in the 1860s found Cabinet confidentiality quite remarkable, and the convention — not law — has persisted in Australia from colonial times.
At Monash University, James Walter says the other, big part of that confidentiality convention has always been to protect public servants.
“The most important aspect is that the public servants and others who advise government should be confident that they’re, in a sense, not going to be targeted by a future administration because they provided advice that the then-government wanted which is in contradiction with what the new government wants.”
At the home-insulation inquiry, Kevin Rudd’s statement indeed put heavy responsibility for the home-insulation scheme, as well as its much-criticised tight deadline, on the public service.
And he said public servants never warned Cabinet the deadline would put safety at risk.
Former MP Mary Crawford says, just as the revealing of the Cabinet deliberations leaves questions about how ministers will act in future Cabinets, it raises questions for public servants, too.
“If the ministers are not going to be able to tell the truth and everything’s going to be exposed in a moment, why can’t the public servants just go out and say to people, ‘Well, this is actually what happened.’ And, of course, the other big issue is, ‘Do we always have public servants in there?’ And if we don’t, then what bindings are going to come for them?”
(Transcript from World News Radio)
A US underwater explorer claims he may have found the wreckage of one of Christopher Columbus’s ships – more than 500 years after it sank off the coast of Haiti.
Barry Clifford says the remains of the Santa Maria need to be salvaged as quickly as possible – to prevent further looting.
Greg Navarro has more.
Speaking to an audience at the Explorers Club in New York City – underwater explorer Barry Clifford sounded more like lawyer before a jury – trying to prove his case.
“When you hear the evidence of what we found, I think the evidence is overwhelming that this ship most probably is the Santa Maria. I can’t imagine myself as to what else it could be.”
The Santa Maria is one of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’s ships.
It ran aground during Columbus’ voyage to the Americas in 1492.
Barry Clifford says he first made the discovery more than a decade ago – but chose to go public now – out of a sense of urgency.
“We just learned from our last expedition that the wreck had been looted. So we’re appealing to the public, we’re appealing to the government of Haiti, which have been very cooperative. The President has been marvelous and understanding the significance of this, obviously, and in order to project and preserve and to excavate the shipwreck.”
The 68-year old explorer says he believes several items – including the ship’s cannon – have been taken, and he’s concerned that nobody is guarding the wreckage to prevent thieves from stealing any more.
Looters may not be Barry Clifford’s only problem – as he tries to convince the world that the remains of a ship found in relatively shallow water – is an elusive piece of history archaeologists have searched for – unsuccessfully – for centuries.
He says entries from Columbus’ diary led him to a spot just off the coast from Cap Haitien.
“It was at the exact distance that Columbus said that he lost the Santa Maria from his fort. So we go the exact distance that he says, and we find exactly what we’re looking for. And we eliminated everything else.”
Barry Clifford says all that’s left from what could be one of the most significant underwater discoveries ever is a pile of stones used to help stabilise the Santa Maria.
“Those stones were in the very bottom of the ship. the ship has all been eaten away since then by marine organisms.”
Claims that these stones are the evidence of a find – which no one could find for more than five centuries – are sure to attract skeptics.
Which may explain why just being an explorer isn’t enough.
“The reason why this hadn’t been found before is people were looking in the wrong place which is understandable. I went there first and eliminated those areas for the 3rd and 4th time.”
Especially when trying to convince people you’ve made the discovery of a lifetime.
Too much time online could be causing mental illnesses and social problems for children, British researchers believe.
Loneliness, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and heightened aggression are some of the issues faced by children who overuse the internet, according to Public Health England (PHE).
A report by the government agency has found a link between the time spent on social media sites and “lower levels of well-being”, the Daily Mail reported on Friday.
The newspaper said the association is striking when children spend more than four hours a day in front of a screen – but kicks in even at very low levels of use.
A PHE report says improvements in children’s wellbeing over the past two decades has been “curtailed and may be in reverse”.
One in 10 children now has a mental health issue, and a third of teenagers feel “low, sad or down” at least once a week, the Mail said.
The report says the number of calls to ChildLine about online bullying, suicidal thoughts and self-harm have soared in recent years.
PHE suggests parents should be particularly worried about their child’s mental health if they spend more than four hours a day in front of a screen.
“Children who spend more time on computers, watching TV and playing video games tend to experience higher levels of emotional distress, anxiety and depression.
“This relationship is particularly negative among those who engage in high levels of screen use – more than four hours a day.
“The evidence suggests a ‘dose-response’ relationship, where each additional hour of viewing increases children’s likelihood of experiencing socio-economic problems, and the risk of lower self-esteem,” the report said.
It added: “Increased screen time and exposure to media is associated with reduced feelings of social acceptance, and increased feelings of loneliness, contact problems and aggression.
“Certain internet activity (social network sites, multi-player online games) have been associated with lower levels of wellbeing.”
(Transcript from World News Radio)
Low-paid restaurant and cafe staff will lose some of their penalty rates for working on Sundays after a long-awaited decision by the Fair Work Commission.
It’s ruled the loading for working on Sundays should drop from 75 per cent to 50 per cent, or around four dollars an hour, for some casual workers from July.
Gary Cox reports.
Lauren McCabe runs a busy cafe in Melbourne’s Federation Square.
She says the industrial commission’s decision won’t be received in the same way by everyone it affects.
“It’s good for the business – not so good for the staff. It means they’re getting paid a bit less but we can offer a bit more hours for them.”
Ms McCabe estimates the cafe will be able to save anywhere between $100 and $300 a day in wages.
She says that means more staff can be employed on busy shifts.
“We won’t extend our hours, it doesn’t matter that way, for the staff. But we will hire more staff to cover busy periods.”
Up to 40,000 hospitality workers across Australia will be paid 25-percent less once the penalty cuts come into force.
But it hasn’t persuaded Sydney cafe worker Lorraine Brewer to give up her Sunday shifts.
“I think it is not fair for the worker, but is good for the employer because he will maybe be able to employ a few more people.”
It’s estimated the penalty changes mean businesses will save $112-million each year.
The union United Voice counts hospitality workers amongst its members.
Spokesman David O’Byrne warns the decision risks creating an underclass of lower-paid workers.
“If you devalue the workers, pay them what are minimum rates wages and cut them even further you are going to struggle with service standards and that will have an impact on that business.”
Restaurant & Catering Australia chief executive John Hart can see opportunities.
He says that some businesses, now shut on Sundays, could consider reopening.
“We have moved on from having sacrosanct weekends. We have moved on from having Saturday and Sunday being different days of the week from any other.”
John Hart says the industry now needs to look at what operating environment it will bring in the future.
The scintillating form of Lionel Messi and the steady hand of coach Alejandro Sabella have left many believing that Argentina are ready to end their long wait for a third World Cup crown.
The South American giants have regularly been favourites heading to recent World Cup finals, only to wilt under pressure once the action starts.
Successive squads bristling with world-class talent have rarely delivered, meaning 28 years have passed since a Diego Maradona-inspired Argentina last lifted the trophy – in Mexico in 1986.
There are several signs this year that it could be different.
In stark contrast to their turbulent qualifying campaign in 2010 under Maradona’s management, when they only just obtained one of the automatic places in South Africa, Argentina waltzed through the qualifying competition for Brazil.
They booked their place with two matches to spare, destroying Paraguay 5-2 away in Asuncion with a display of attacking football that will serve as a warning to Group F opponents Iran, African champions Nigeria and debutants Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Key to Argentina’s path to the finals was the form of Barcelona star Messi, revelling in the captaincy role handed to him by Sabella after the wily former Estudiantes coach’s appointment in 2011.
Messi was Argentina’s top-scorer in qualifying, notching 10 goals in 14 games, suggesting the 26-year-old maestro had finally nailed suggestions of being unable to reproduce club form in the international arena.
Messi’s club form of late has not been great, and he has been hampered by injuries over the past 12 months, but his burgeoning form at international level is a testament to the faith that Sabella has placed in his captain.
Unlike Maradona – who unbalanced Argentina’s attack at the last World Cup with the inclusion of striker Carlos Tevez – Sabella has built his side entirely around Messi.
“We need to make him feel comfortable and think about what’s best for the team,” Sabella has said of Messi. “And what’s best for the team is, first and foremost, to make him feel comfortable.”
As a result, Tevez has not featured for his country since the 2011 Copa America, when Argentina bowed out in the quarter-finals to Uruguay.
However, La Albiceleste are anything but a one-man band.
Sabella’s squad contains several stars who would walk into most other starting XIs at the World Cup, such as Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain, Manchester City duo Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta, Barcelona defender-cum-midfielder Javier Mascherano and Real Madrid winger Angel Di Maria.
Perhaps crucially, Argentina’s team also contains a core of players who won the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in 2005.
Messi, Zabaleta, Ageuro and midfielder Fernando Gago were among those who featured in that triumph, fostering a tightly knit team spirit that could prove the difference in Brazil.
“At the national team, we have a solid group of friends,” said Messi recently. “Some of us have known each other since we were little kids. That’s something good.”
(Transcript from World News Radio)
Anger has erupted across Turkey after a coal mine explosion known to have killed hundreds of people in the west of the country.
Hope is fading for hundreds of workers still trapped in the disaster in Soma, some 480-kilometres southwest of Istanbul.
Turkey’s biggest union says it will go on strike over the devastating incident.
The government and the mining industry have been accused of negligence, a claim they reject, saying such accidents happen.
Zara Zaher reports.
Turkey has declared three days of national mourning in what’s become the country’s worst-ever mining disaster.
Hundreds of miners have been killed in the explosion, believed to be caused by an electrical fault and hundreds more are still missing.
It’s been reported almost 800 workers were underground in the mine in Soma, when the blast occurred.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has travelled to the site, extending his condolences to the families of those killed.
Speaking through a translator, he told reporters all of Turkey will feel the pain of the mine disaster.
“We are a nation of 77 million people and we are going through a big, painful time. It’s a very painful and very stressful time for us. For those who want to earn a living sweating under the ground, we are really saddened with this disaster.”
Grieving relatives of the victims have called for Mr Erdogan’s resignation.
In the capital, Ankara and in Istanbul, police have used tear gas and water cannon to disperse thousands of protesters.
They’ve accused the government and mining industry of ignoring repeated warnings about mine safety.
But Prime Minister Erdogan has defended the country’s mining safety record.
Through translation….”Such mine accidents do not happen only in Turkey. It also happens in many countries such as the United States, China, France, India and Belgium. I give, for example, figures for death tolls, many people died in such coal mine accidents. Our country is in a much better position.”
An emergency officer working for an Australian mining company in Turkey says hope is slowly fading for those still unaccounted for in the explosion.
The Australian man, Goksel Alpaslan is one of more than 450 rescue workers at the scene of the accident.
He has told SBS’s Turkish program, that raging fires and toxic gases are hampering efforts by rescue workers.
But he insists the government has provided sufficient aid to help with the emergency.
“I can say it was well organised by the government and there were no other problems. The government alerted all the medical people and their equipment, ambulances etc and everything alerted, especially around the mine site and within the viscinity, near the city. There were lots of medical staff available at the mine site and I can say it was more than enough actually.”
The Turkish government has promised a thorough investigation into the incident.