US Secretary of State Kerry arrives for AUSMIN talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Sydney for high-level talks with the federal government.

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Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop accompanied Senator Kerry on the flight from Myanmar where the pair had been for ASEAN talks.

Senator Kerry was greeted by NSW Premier Mike Baird, US ambassador to Australia John Berry, US consul-general Hugo Llorens and Kim Beazley, Australia’s ambassador to the US.

John Kerry is in Sydney and security at the Intercontinental is tight. Story @SBSNews > 南宁桑拿网,南宁夜生活,/i4kYRjmjxh Pic > pic.twitter广西桑拿,/DZYCEef3GL

— Ricardo Goncalves (@BUSINESSricardo) August 11, 2014

Later in the day, Senator Kerry spoke with Australian students at Sydney’s Maritime Museum about climate change.

Braving chilly temperatures, Mr Kerry told the handful of children in attendance that ocean conservation was a pressing issue deserving of their attention.

“The ocean is threatened like never before,” he said. “We’re going to continue to put this focus on everyone’s need to protect the ocean.”

He urged the students to use social media to “create a global movement” to campaign for environmental issues.

[email protected] chats w/ #Australian students at Pyrmont Bay Ferry Wharf in #Sydney before boarding Capt Cook’s “ship” pic.twitter广西桑拿,/0m1FvXolZK

— Sangwon Yoon (@sangwonyoon) August 11, 2014

Senator Kerry is in Australia for the annual Australia-United States Ministerial (AUSMIN) talks, which start on Tuesday.

He’ll be joined by US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, Ms Bishop and Australian Defence Minister David Johnston.

Opportunities for Australia’s special forces troops to keep training with their US comrades once they leave Afghanistan will be explored during the talks.

The four leaders will sign the Force Posture Agreement, which was reached by US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Tony Abbott earlier this year.

The agreement sets out the framework for an increased presence of US marines in Darwin. It will alos allow the US to expand military assets over the next 25 years in Australia.

Also on the agenda will be ways for US and Australian special forces soldiers to continue training exercises together once both nations have withdrawn from Afghanistan.

America will shift its military mission in the war-torn country to an advisory role at the end of this year, while Australia ended combat operations in 2013, but with Mr Kerry in town, attention may shift to affairs beyond Australia’s back yard.

For weeks, Mr Kerry has been spearheading efforts in the Middle East to broker a lasting ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, and has been talking tough on Russia over the downing of MH17.

The latter tragedy has gripped Australia and with no end in sight to the conflict between separatists and Ukrainian forces around the crash site, it’s likely to be discussed in depth.

The AUSMIN talks also are an opportunity for Australia to showcase its enviably close alliance with the global superpower and number-one ally.

Australia strongly endorses the Obama administration’s rebalance strategy towards Asia and the Pacific, known as the “pivot”, and sees itself as a trusted partner in the region.

“Most allies of the United States would want to be in that situation,” University of Sydney Associate Professor Brendan O’Connor told AAP.

However there’s always the risk such displays of camaraderie can antagonise China.

The territorial dispute in the East China Sea between China and Japan – a strong ally of both the US and Australia – won’t go unmentioned at AUSMIN.

 

Hird ‘threatened’ into taking Bomber blame

Sidelined Essendon coach James Hird says he was threatened and induced into accepting responsibility for the AFL club’s supplements program, and disagreed with the Bombers’ decision to self report.

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Hird claims he was at odds with Essendon’s decision to request both the AFL and Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority investigate the club over doping allegations.

He told the Federal Court he did not believe the club had done anything wrong, but agreed to toe the club line.

“I was asked by the Essendon Football Club not to shirk the issue,” Hird told the court on Monday.

“I was told it would be better for the club if we went along this path.”

At a February 2013 press conference Hird said he took full responsibility for what had happened in Essendon’s football department in 2012.

The club and Hird signed deeds of settlement with the AFL in August 2013, which resulted in the club being fined, thrown out of the finals and Hird’s 12-month suspension.

Hird said he only signed the deed, which held him partly to blame, under duress.

“There were threats and inducements to get me to sign that deed,” he told the court.

Hird repeated his allegation that then AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou had tipped off the club about a pending ASADA investigation the day before Essendon went public at the press conference.

Demetriou denies pre-warning the club.

Hird said the AFL made it clear to Essendon it was in the club’s best interest to self report, with then AFL chief operating officer Gillon McLachlan – now the CEO – making the case.

“Gillon McLachlan said to us it was his belief that the Essendon Football Club had taken performance enhancing drugs,” Hird said.

“I disagreed with what they said. I said `I don’t think that is true’.”

Hird and Essendon are claiming the investigation was unlawful and the resultant show cause notices, alleging doping by 34 players, should be thrown out.

But ASADA says its probe was legal, and to suggest otherwise would be “nonsense on stilts”.

Hird said he was told to participate in the investigation by the club’s then chairman David Evans and CEO Ian Robson.

“I was told by the club, by David Evans and Ian Robson, that we should co-operate with ASADA and with the AFL, because if we co-operated it would go well for our players.

“The players are the most important thing and I followed David Evans’ and Ian Robson’s lead.”

Essendon’s lawyer Neil Young QC said ASADA should not have given information to the league which was used to accuse the Bombers of bringing the game into disrepute.

He said the process was unlawful and could crush the club.

“The prejudice to the players will effectively rebound to the prejudice of the employer and effectively destroy the business,” Mr Young said.

But ASADA counsel Tom Howe QC said Essendon’s “seriously derelict” and “toxic” governance and management were a major part of the investigation.

“Possible governance and management issues were the very thing which prompted senior Essendon officials to approach ASADA,” he said.

Mr Howe said ASADA was not prohibited from conducting a joint investigation and if the court ruled against it, it would compromise the body’s stated aims.

“Indeed the expression ‘nonsense on stilts’ comes to mind,” Mr Howe said.

David Grace QC, on behalf of the players, said it would be a grave injustice if findings were made against his clients on the basis of the “unlawful” joint investigation.

Hird’s evidence will continue on Tuesday.

THE FOUR SIDES OF THE ESSENDON VS ASADA TRIAL

* ASADA:

Its legislation allows it to conduct joint investigations and share information with the AFL about Essendon’s “derelict governance”

“Possible governance and management issues were the very thing which prompted senior Essendon officials to approach ASADA,” Tom Howe QC said.

* Essendon:

Argues ASADA should not have given information to the AFL which was used to fine the Bombers and bar them from the 2013 finals for bringing the game into disrepute

“The prejudice to the players will effectively rebound to the prejudice of the employer and effectively destroy the business,” Neil Young QC said.

* Suspended coach James Hird:

Hird attacked senior managers at Essendon and the AFL, saying he was threatened and induced into toeing the company line

“I was told by the club, by David Evans and Ian Robson, that we should co-operate with ASADA and with the AFL, because if we co-operated it would go well for our players,” he said.

* 34 past and present Bombers players:

It would be an injustice if doping findings were made against them based on the “unlawful” investigation, David Grace QC said.

‘Bamboo ceiling’ holding Asian workers back

The report issued by Diversity Council Australia found that despite ambition – 84 per cent of respondents planned to advance to a very senior role – only 4.

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9 per cent of Australia’s senior business leaders are Asian born.

This is despite Asian born workers making up 9.3 per cent of labour force.

The report, titled “Cracking the Cultural Ceiling: Future Proofing Your Business in the Asian Century”, also stated that only 1.9 per cent of ASX 200 companies have Asian cultural origins.

Chief Executive of Diversity Council Australia, Lisa Annese, said the figures were “inconceivable”.

She said the research, issued on Monday, should be used to identify and address the hurdles – or “bamboo ceiling” – stopping the progression of Asian born employees.

“It is in all our interests to adopt a culturally responsive approach to business strategy and therefore talent management,” she said.

“Indeed, the benefits of doing so for corporate performance, innovation and access to new markets are well established.”

Ms Annese also stressed the significance of Asian markets on the Australian economy, stating that 80 per cent of the nation’s largest trading partners are in Asia, while Australia’s “multicultural market” has an estimated purchasing power of more than $75 billion per year.

Through surveying more than 300 leaders and emerging leaders from Asian cultural backgrounds, researchers also found that fewer than one in five Asian workers feel their workplaces are free of cultural stereotypes.

 Of the survey participants, sourced from more than 100 Australian organisations, 61 per cent reported feeling pressure to confirm to existing, inherently “Anglo” leadership styles.

Of the 30 per cent of respondents saying they intend to leave their current job in the coming year, one in four attribute their decision to negative cultural diversity factors.

Folau seeking first win over All Blacks

Israel Folau has compared the hype surrounding the Bledisloe Cup to that of State of Origin rugby league and ranks getting his first win over the All Blacks as one of the biggest challenges of his glittering career.

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Folau enjoyed plenty of success at club, Origin and Test level as a league player and last week was part of the first NSW Waratahs team to win a Super Rugby title.

The dual international faced the world champion All Blacks three time in his first season in rugby last year and was on the losing side each time.

“It (the challenge) is definitely right up there with what I’ve experienced in my career so far,” said Folau, five days before the Wallabies’ first Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship match of the year in Sydney.

“You want to play against the best and they’ve been the best for a long time so those are the teams you want to challenge yourself (against).”

Folau can expect to be named at fullback on Tuesday in a side that will have at least two changes to the one that completed a three-Test whitewash against France back in June.

Nathan Charles is tipped to get a first Test start at hooker following an injury suffered by Tatafu Polota-Nau in the Super final.

Pat McCabe is expected to come in on the wing for Nick Cummins following the announcement of his signing to play in Japan.

Queensland Reds rake Saia Faingaa was called into camp on Monday after an injury to Tolu Latu further depleted Australia’s thinning hooking stocks.

Latu was forced out of the squad after breaking an arm in a Sydney club game on the weekend.

He joins Australia’s two most senior hookers Stephen Moore and Polota-Nau on the casualty list.

Faingaa has played 29 Tests, though only seven as a starter, while Charles earned his first two caps off the bench in the recent series against France.

James Hanson, the other hooker previously named in the squad, who could be the back-up on Saturday, made his only Test appearance as a substitute against the All Blacks in 2012.

Prop Sekope Kepu was confident Charles and Hanson had the goods to take on the formidable New Zealand pack despite their lack of international experience.

“It’s not like you’re pulling guys that haven’t played at Super Rugby level and guys like Hanson and Charles played massive amounts of games this year and credit to them they’ve played really well,” said Kepu.

“It’s their chance to step up to the plate.

“I’ve no doubt they are looking forward to soaking up the occasion and taking the opportunity.”

Kepu wouldn’t be surprised if the All Blacks targeted Charles.

“I’m sure they will look at that and as much as they might focus on us, our focus is on ourselves,” Kepu said.

“It’s all about challenges and I’m sure the pack is up for this weekend. We’re pretty excited.”

Paris plea to lovers: say it with a selfie, not love locks

That was the message issued on Monday by City Hall authorities, desperately trying to save its bridges, including the world-famous Pont des Arts, from damage from the thousands of padlocks left there by lovers to pledge their eternal devotion.

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Since 2008, when the craze first began, thousands of couples from across the world have visited the Pont des Arts every year and sealed their love by attaching a lock carrying their names to its railing and throwing the key in the Seine.

   

But too much love can be a dangerous thing and the city authorities have been wrestling with the problem of how to halt the phenomenon, which is beginning to take its toll.

   

In June, police hurriedly ushered tourists off the Pont des Arts when a section of the footbridge collapsed under the weight of the metal displays of affection.

   

Two young Americans living in Paris have gathered thousands of signatures for a petition they launched in March calling for the locks to be removed, saying they are eyesores and cause damage to the bridges.

   

City Hall authorities told AFP: “The idea is to give couples the alternative of a selfie instead of a love lock and explain that they are weighing too heavily on Parisian bridges.”

   

Notices have been put up on bridges encouraging lovers to take a selfie and upload them to a special site (lovewithoutlocks.paris.fr) or to tweet them with the hashtag #lovewithoutlocks.

   

“It’s the first step in a wider action plan … an initial communication effort to tell people that love locks are not good for Paris’s cultural heritage and that actually, it’s not an ideal way to symbolise love,” the City Hall added.

Coulson jailed in UK hacking case

Andy Coulson, the former editor of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World and one-time spin doctor to British Prime Minister David Cameron, has been jailed for 18 months for his role in the phone-hacking scandal.

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The sentence passed by a judge at the Old Bailey court in London caps a stunning fall from grace for 46-year-old Coulson, who once enjoyed access to the heights of the British establishment.

Four former colleagues at the now-defunct tabloid received shorter sentences for hacking the mobile phone voicemails of thousands of royals, celebrities and politicians in what prosecutors called a “criminal enterprise”.

Cameron – who was forced to make a public apology after his former communications director Coulson was convicted last week at the end of an eight-month trial – said on Friday that the sentence showed “no one is above the law”.

Murdoch shut the News of the World in July 2011 amid public outrage after it emerged that Britain’s biggest selling paper had illegally accessed the voicemails of a murdered schoolgirl.

Judge John Saunders said Coulson was receiving the longest jail term because of his senior role at the paper.

“Mr Coulson has to take the major share of the blame for phone hacking at the News of the World. He knew about it, he encouraged it when he should have stopped it,” the judge said.

Former News of the World news editor Greg Miskiw and chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck were each sentenced to six months imprisonment for phone hacking.

Journalist James Weatherup and private detective Glenn Mulcaire each received suspended sentences and were ordered to perform community service.

All four had previously pleaded guilty.

Rebekah Brooks, the former head of Murdoch’s British newspaper arm and editor of the News of the World from 2000 to 2003, was cleared of all charges at the trial, along with her husband and three other people.

Researchers translate chimp sign language

Chimpanzees use their hands to say “follow me,” “stop that” or “take this”, according to new research seeking to translate the sophisticated messages flowing back and forth.

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Previous research had revealed that our nearest genetic relatives use gestures to communicate, prompting questions over whether the communication systems shared ancestry with the origins of human language.

The new study, published on Thursday in the US journal Current Biology, created the first ever chimpanzee dictionary of sorts, deciphering just what the apes were saying to each other.

The researchers said the chimpanzee gestures – they decoded 66 in total – can be used in isolation or several can be strung together to create more complex exchanges.

And, importantly, the meaning remained consistent, regardless of which ape was making the gestures.

The messages ranged from “simple requests associated with just a few gestures to broader social negotiation associated with a wider range of gesture types,” said the authors from the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

The researchers studied more than 4500 gestures within more than 3400 interactions, all captured on film in Uganda between 2007 and 2009.

They determined that when a mother shows the sole of her foot to her baby, she means “climb on me”.

Touching the arm of another means “scratch me” and chewing leaves calls for sexual attention.

The researchers said their observations revealed unambiguous links between some gestures and outcomes – like the seductive message of leaf-chewing.

Others seemed to convey more than one idea, like grasping another chimp, which sometimes seemed to indicate “stop”, and other times “climb on me” or even “go away”.

Iraq PM vows not to give up third term bid

Iraq’s premier is insisting he will “never give up” seeking a third term despite allegations at home and abroad of sectarianism and authoritarianism amid a sweeping jihadist-led offensive.

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At least 15 people were killed in a suicide attack on Iraqi forces south of Samarra, a mostly Sunni city that also houses one of the Shiite Islam’s holiest shrines and is a main front line in the weeks-old crisis.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s remarks came after a farcical parliament session in which Iraq’s various factions – many of which strongly oppose him staying – failed to unite and choose a speaker, sparking international criticism and from the country’s top Shiite religious leader.

But in a rare piece of good news in the weeks since the jihadist-led militant offensive began, 46 Indian nurses caught up in the conflict were freed and headed home.

With parliament next due to meet on Tuesday and Maliki facing widespread criticism over the onslaught that has overrun swathes of five provinces, he insisted he would fight to retain his job.

“I will never give up on my candidacy for the post of prime minister,” Maliki said in a statement.

He said that because his bloc won the most seats in April 30 elections, it retained the right to nominate the premier, and insisted rival groups had “no right” to impose conditions on the final selection.

Earlier Osama al-Nujaifi, the speaker in the previous parliament, announced he would not seek a new tenure, in a move seen as removing a key obstacle to Maliki’s ouster despite the two men being rivals.

Deputies need to choose a speaker and then elect a president before they can move on to forming a government, and the key question of a possible Maliki third term.

Iraq’s most revered Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on Friday criticised the failure to pick a speaker, with his spokesman calling it a “regrettable failure”.

Maliki’s remarks highlighted the disunity between Iraq’s major political blocs, which have been urged to come together and quickly form a government to help repel militant groups led by the Islamic State jihadist group.

Constant surveillance is necessary in a society built on self-interest

By Kevin Albertson, Manchester Metropolitan University

If you want to know why we in the UK see more security cameras on street corners than other nations, and why politicians are fending off accusations of spying on their own citizens, then turn your eyes to an obscure conference of intellectuals in pre-war Paris.

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In 1938, at the Colloque Walter Lippmann, neoliberalism was launched. The societal structure developed from this form of political economy implicitly – albeit inadvertently – laid the conditions for a form of “surveillance state”; the kind that encouraged Edward Snowden to turn whistle-blower and give us all a startling glimpse of its implications.

In his 1944 book The Road to Serfdom, one of the participants at the conference, Friedrich von Hayek, built on the ideals of neoliberalism to contended that freedom for the individual could be maintained only where the means of production were divided among many people, rather than concentrated in the hands of “planners” who ran the state.

The concerns raised in a Europe ravaged by war found their echo in America. It was proposed Hayek write a follow-up aimed at the US audience, The American Road to Serfdom. Hayek declined but Milton Friedman rose to the challenge in 1962 with Capitalism and Freedom.

The sufficiency of self-interest

Friedman argued the highest ideal for which society might strive is freedom. Other virtues are the responsibility of each individual to own or to reject as they see fit. He recognised this did not overcome the basic problem of how to coordinate individuals into a society from which all would benefit. Therefore, Friedman suggested cooperation could be based on self-interested individuals trading in markets. This is based on Adam Smith’s observation that:

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest

Friedman reckoned individuals’ self interest would be checked by the supposed objective power of the market’s “invisible hand”, and constrained by the “rest of us” so as to promote social progress. Therefore, in a neoliberal world, coercive power operates through manipulation of market incentives and regulations backed up by the threat of sanctions.

Expanding the coercive state

The need for self-interested but free individuals to be constantly regulating each other to promote social good explains the seeming paradox that, as the state withdraws from the economy in line with neoliberal theory, its role in criminal justice expands. Where the actions of some have adverse social consequences, the state must attempt to disincentivise them through regulation and punishment. And this, of course, requires rigorous detection and monitoring.

 

Shedding some light. DaveOnFlickr, CC BY

In England and Wales, for example, the attempt to regulate behaviour has led to 1,472 new imprisonable offences being created by parliament between 1997 and 2007 alone. To encourage compliance, the UK has between 4.9m and 5.9m security cameras – the vast majority of them privately owned. This surveillance of public spaces is complemented by online surveillance.

Yet, despite all this, the UK is a relatively high crime nation and has the highest imprisonment rate in Western Europe.

The UK is not alone in facing this conundrum; there is international evidence that neoliberal states are relatively more punitive than nations which adopt other ideologies. This might be because neoliberalism is associated with higher social inequality and relatively poor welfare support, both, arguably, drivers of crime.

It’s a tragedy

On the jacket notes of first edition of The Road to Serfdom, written to promote liberty, Hayek asked (rhetorically):

Is there a greater tragedy imaginable than that in our endeavour consciously to shape our future in accordance with high ideals we should in fact unwittingly produce the very opposite of what we have been striving for?

It is similar concerns for liberty which encouraged Snowden to turn whistleblower; and the underlying tension between individual and social good highlights the crucial question of whether freedom is possible without self-restraint acting as a check of self-interest.

All states rely, to one extent or another, on ethics to check self-interest, complemented by criminal justice sanctions and intelligence. However, by emphasising self-interest pursued in free markets, neoliberalism discourages the former and encourages the latter. It all means that in an effort promote overall social good – often interpreted as maximising economic growth – many of our freedoms and liberties may be compromised; our every step in the High Street can be watched, and every email scanned.

Irrespective of whether we should be concerned by the UK’s possible claim to be the most spied upon democratic society in history, this state of affairs certainly is not within the spirit of individual freedom envisaged by Friedman.

Kevin Albertson does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

Rebels lament late momentum shift

Melbourne Rebels coach Tony McGahan has lamented his side’s failure to cope with a late momentum shift after the Lions came from behind for a 34-17 win in South Africa on Saturday morning (AEST).

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The Rebels were leading 17-14 with 25 minutes to play before the fast-finishing Lions scored two tries and two penalty goals to close out the Super Rugby match.

“We fought back after a poor start and showed a lot of belief in each other,” McGahan said.

“Unfortunately there was a big momentum shift and we couldn’t turn it around.”

McGahan played down suggestions the Rebels struggled in the final quarter due to their inexperience playing at the altitude of Johannesburg’s Ellis Park Stadium.

“We don’t have any excuses about altitude or playing away from home, we have had a great preparation,” he said.

“We just weren’t able to grab that momentum at the end.

“We turned the ball over and they took it 90 metres, and from there we weren’t able to get it back where we needed it.”

The Rebels’ fourth straight loss puts them in prime wooden spoon territory ahead of next weekend’s last-round clash against the Bulls.

The visitors had their chances, however, with captain Scott Higginbotham twice bundled into touch while reaching out to score.

His night only got worse in the 70th minute when he was given a yellow card for a tip tackle on Willie Britz.

The Lions were extremely successful at pressuring the Rebels at the breakdown and stalling their momentum.

Young Rebels fullback Jack Debreczeni started nervously in his second game taking over from Jason Woodward, making a couple of mistakes and missing an absolute sitter of a penalty goal from almost directly in front.

Lions sharpshooter Marnitz Boshoff, on the other hand, starred for the home side, kicking seven goals for a haul of 19 points and throwing a long cut out pass for a second-minute try to winger Anthony Volmink.

A 22nd minute quick tap from Rebels halfback Luke Burgess finally sparked the visitors into action, Tom English crossing to narrow the gap to 8-7.

The Rebels hit the front in the 52nd minute when flanker Colby Fainga’a scored from a maul.

English then thought he had crossed for a double when he dived over a ruck, only to embarrassingly realise he’d placed the ball over the five metre line, not the try line.

That hurt the Rebels, their stalled momentum resulting in the Lions going the length of the field for a 57th minute try to Warwick Tecklenburg and a three-point lead.

After Boshoff knocked over his final two penalties, Lions captain Warren Whitely put the result beyond doubt with a 71st minute try.