Tag Archives: australia

Women’s March goes global, 200,000 expected in D.C.

Organizers of today’s Women’s March on Washington expect more than 200,000 people to attend their gathering, a number that could exceed Trump’s swearing-in ceremony.

“In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore,” the statement says from the march organizers.

Women and other groups were demonstrating across the nation and as far abroad as Myanmar and Australia.

In Sydney, thousands of Australians marched in solidarity in the city’s central Hyde Park. One organizer said hatred, bigotry and racism are not only America’s problems.

The Washington gathering, which features a morning rally and afternoon march, comes a day after protesters set fires and hurled bricks in a series of clashes that led to more than 200 arrests. Police used pepper spray and stun grenades to prevent the chaos from spilling into Trump’s formal procession and evening balls.

About a mile from the National Mall, police gave chase to a group of about 100 protesters who smashed the windows of downtown businesses including a Starbucks, a Bank of America and a McDonald’s as they denounced capitalism and Trump.

“They began to destroy property, throw objects at people, through windows. A large percentage of this small group was armed with crowbars and hammers,” said the city’s interim police chief, Peter Newsham.

Six officers suffered minor injuries, he said.

The confrontation began an hour before Trump took the oath of office and escalated several hours later as the crowd of protesters swelled to more than 1,000, some wearing gas masks and with arms chained together inside PVC pipe. One said the demonstrators were “bringing in the cavalry.”

When some crossed police lines, taunting, “Put the pigs in the ground,” police charged with batons and pepper spray, as well as stun grenades, which are used to shock and disperse crowds. Booms echoed through the streets about six blocks from where Trump would soon hold his inaugural parade.

Some protesters picked up bricks and concrete from the sidewalk and hurled them at police lines. Some rolled large, metal trash cans at police. Later, they set fire to a limousine on the perimeter of the secured zone, sending black smoke billowing into the sky during Trump’s procession.

As night fell, protesters set a bonfire blocks from the White House and frightened well-dressed Trump supporters as they ventured to the new president’s inaugural balls. Police briefly ordered ball goers to remain inside their hotel as they worked to contain advancing protesters.

Police said they charged 217 people with rioting, said Newsham, noting that the group caused “significant damage” along a number of blocks.

Before Inauguration Day, the DisruptJ20 coalition, named after the date of the inauguration, had promised that people participating in its actions in Washington would attempt to shut down the celebrations, risking arrest when necessary.

It was unclear whether the groups will be active on Saturday.

The Women’s March on Washington features a morning rally with a speaking lineup that includes a series of celebrities, Scarlett Johansson, America Ferrara, Amy Schumer, Frances McDormand and Zendaya, among them.

Christopher Geldart, the District of Columbia’s homeland security director, said he expects the march to draw more than 200,000. He said 1,800 buses have registered to park in the city on Jan. 21, which would mean nearly 100,000 people coming in just by bus.

Friday’s protests spread across the nation, including to Milwaukee and Chicago.

In San Francisco, thousands formed a human chain on the Golden Gate Bridge and chanted “Love Trumps hate.” In the city’s financial district, a few hundred protesters blocked traffic outside an office building partly owned by Trump.

In Atlanta, protests converged at City Hall and a few hundred people chanted and waved signs protesting Trump, denouncing racism and police brutality and expressing support for immigrants, Muslims and the Black Lives Matter movement.

In Nashville, half a dozen protesters chained themselves to the doors of the Tennessee Capitol. Hundreds also sat in a 10-minute silent protest at a park while Trump took the oath of office. Organizers led a prayer, sang patriotic songs and read the Declaration of Independence aloud.

In the Pacific Northwest, demonstrators in Portland, Oregon, burned U.S. flags and students at Portland State University walked out of classes. About 200 protesters gathered on the Capitol steps in Olympia, Washington, carrying signs that included the messages “Resist Trump” and “Not My Problem.”

Great Barrier Reef sees record coral deaths this year

Warming oceans this year have caused the largest die-off of corals ever recorded on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, scientists said this week.

The worst-affected area is a 700-kilometer (400-mile) swath in the north of the World Heritage-listed 2,300-kilometer (1,400-mile) chain of reefs off Australia’s northeast coast, said the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

The center, based at James Cook University in Queensland state, found during dive surveys in October and November that the swath north of Port Douglas had lost an average of 67 percent of its shallow-water corals in the past nine months.

Farther south, over the vast central and southern regions that cover most of the reef, scientists found a much lower death toll.

The central region lost 6 percent of bleached coral and the southern region only 1 percent.

“The mortality we’ve measured along the length of the Great Barrier Reef is incredibly patchy,” the center’s director, Terry Hughes, told reporters. “There’s very severe damage in the northern section of the reef.”

“The good news is that south of Port Douglas, including the major tourist areas around Cairns and the Whitsundays (Whitsunday Islands), have had relatively low levels of mortality,” he added.

The governments of Australia and Queensland will update the UNESCO World Heritage Center this week on progress being made to protect and improve the reef, including their response to coral bleaching.

Providing a status update to the World Heritage Committee was required as part of its decision in June last year not to list the reef as “in danger.”

Federal Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg said Tuesday that the reef’s coral cover had increased by 19 percent in recent years before it suffered a “significant bleaching event” this year, caused by the El Nino weather effect and climate change.

“What that shows is that the Great Barrier Reef is very resilient and quite strong,” Frydenberg’s office said in a statement.

The governments plan to spend 2 billion Australian dollars ($1.5 billion) over the next decade on improving the reef’s health.

Hughes said the coral death rates in the north would likely make the task of keeping the reef off the “in danger” list much harder.

“In its ongoing dialogue with UNESCO, Australia has said the outstanding universal values of reef are in tact because of the pristine condition of the northern reef. That’s simply no longer the case,” Hughes said.

Researcher Andrew Baird said the 2016 coral die-off was “substantially worse” than the previous worst-ever event in 1998.

“The proportion of reefs that were severely affected was much, much higher,” Baird said, adding that he did not have precise figures immediately available.

The 1998 event was restricted to in-shore reefs around the Queensland coastal city of Townsville, while the 2016 destruction affected a much larger area, he said.

Scientists expect that the northern region will take at least 10 to 15 years to regain the lost corals. They are concerned that another bleaching event could interrupt that recovery.

There have been three extreme mass bleaching events in 18 years on the reef. In each case, the areas that suffered the worst bleaching were where the water was hottest for the longest period of time.

Reef tourism operator Craig Stephen did not expect the dead coral would diminish visitors’ experience of one of Australia’s biggest tourist drawcards.

“The patchiness of the bleaching means that we can still provide our customers with a world-class coral reef experience by taking them to reefs that are still in top condition,” Stephen said in a statement.

Graeme Kelleher, who headed the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for 16 years, said last week that Australians must not buy the “political lie” that they can have the reef as well as major coal mines nearby.

“We’ve lost 50 percent of the coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef in the last 30 years and the main cause of that is the burning of fossil fuel. I sincerely hope UNESCO rejects the claim that the government is doing enough,” Kelleher said.

Bleaching kills third of coral in northern Great Barrier Reef

Mass bleaching has killed more than a third of the coral in the northern and central parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, though corals to the south have escaped with little damage, according to scientists.

Researchers who conducted months of aerial and underwater surveys of the 1,400-mile reef off Australia’s east coast found that around 35 percent of the coral in the northern and central sections of the reef are dead or dying, said Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Queensland state. And some parts of the reef had lost more than half of the coral to bleaching.

The extent of the damage, which has occurred in just the past couple of months, has serious implications, Hughes said. Though bleached corals that haven’t died can recover if the water temperature drops, older corals take longer to bounce back and likely won’t have a chance to recover before the next bleaching event occurs, he said. Coral that has died is gone for good, which affects other creatures that rely on it for food and shelter.

“Is it surprising? Not anymore. Is it significant? Absolutely,” said Mark Eakin, the coral reef watch coordinator for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “We’re talking about losing 35 percent of the population of coral in some of these reefs — that’s huge.”

The damage is part of a massive bleaching event that has been impacting reefs around the world for the past two years. Experts say the bleaching has been triggered by global warming and El Niño, a warming of parts of the Pacific Ocean that changes weather worldwide. Hot water puts stress on coral, causing it to turn white and become vulnerable to disease. Other reefs have suffered even more severely from the recent bleaching; Some Pacific islands, for example, have reported coral death rates of more than 80 percent, Eakin said.

This is the third and most extreme mass bleaching event in 18 years to strike the Great Barrier Reef. In each case, the areas that suffered the worst bleaching were the areas where the water was hottest for the longest period of time, Hughes said.

This time, the southern half of the reef was spared largely due to a lucky break that arrived in the form of a tropical cyclone. The remnants of the storm, which had lashed the South Pacific, brought cloud cover and heavy rains to the region, cooling the ocean enough to stop bleaching that had just begun in the south. About 95 percent of the coral in the southern portion of the reef has survived.

Storms have previously proven very helpful for heat-stressed reefs, Eakin said. In 2005, for instance, the quick succession of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita cooled the waters below as they passed over Florida, sparing the Florida Keys from a serious coral bleaching event affecting the Caribbean.

Experimental approaches to the bleaching dilemma have included attempts to lower water temperatures by using shades to cover corals, Eakin said. But such efforts require massive amounts of preparation and can only be done in small areas, Eakin said. Other solutions may lie in finding ways to minimize additional stressors to the already fragile reef.

“Anything you can do to reduce the level of injury and stress coming from other sources, the better the chance that the corals are going to survive,” Eakin said. “Those reefs that have recovered after events like this are the ones that are the most protected, least visited and least disturbed.”

Last year, the United Nations’ heritage body expressed concern about the state of the Great Barrier Reef and urged Australia to boost its conservation efforts.

Following the release of the bleaching report, Australian politicians — who are in the midst of an election campaign — jumped on the issue, with the opposition Labor Party pledging to create a $500 million fund for better management and research of the reef. Environment Minister Greg Hunt, meanwhile, announced that if his party is re-elected, the government would invest $6 million to helping combat the crown-of-thorns starfish, which feast on coral.


Popularity of Netflix series overwhelms records custodian

The popularity of the Netflix series “Making a Murderer” has resulted in a barrage of requests for records in the homicide case.

The custodian of those records, the Manitowoc County Clerk of Courts office, has been inundated with inquiries from local citizens as well as others from across the country who want to see the transcripts, exhibits and other documents.

Clerk Lynn Zigmunt says there are more than six banker boxes of material. She’s assigned an employee to handle the requests each day. Zigmunt tells WBAY-TV that on Jan. 5 a woman from Australia requested copies of the trial’s entire transcript, and at $1.25 a page, she will be billed $6,000.

Zigmunt expects the requests to wane in the future because someone who has purchased the documents will likely put them online. 

Crystal suggests life appeared on Earth 4.1 billion years ago

An ancient zircon crystal unearthed in Western Australia may hold evidence that life appeared on the planet 4.1 billion years ago, or about 300 million years earlier than previously thought, according to a team of U.S. researchers.

Scientists from Stanford University and the University of California, Los Angeles said they recently collected some 10,000 multibillion year-old zircons in Jack Hills, Australia, including one believed to contain a carbon deposit that is 4.1 billion years old, give or take 10 million years.

“Its complete encasement in crack-free, undisturbed zircon demonstrates that it is not contamination from more recent geologic processes … (and) may be evidence for the origin of life on Earth by 4.1 (billion years ago),” according to a paper published by the team in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.

Scientists have used the fossil record to assert that the history of life on Earth began about 3.8 billion years ago, in the form of single-celled creatures. Humans are believed to have first appeared on Earth only about 200,000 years ago.

The study was authored by Elizabeth Bell, Patrick Boehnke, and T. Mark Harrison of the University of California, Los Angeles along with Wendy Lao of Stanford.

Australia deports leader of radical anti-choice group that made controversial videos

The head of anti-abortion group Operation Rescue is boasting that his organization and the Center for Medical Progress are “taking down” Planned Parenthood on a $120,000 budget, the amount raised over three years for the undercover video operation that has set off a national debate over use of tissue from aborted fetuses in medical research.

Operation Rescue president Troy Newman — who also serves as secretary of the California-based center that released hidden-camera videos — cited the small cost of the videos during an interview with The Associated Press.

“We are one of the most effective pro-life organizations in the country on the smallest budget,” Newman said of Wichita-based Operation Rescue. “I mean, look what we did with the Center for Medical Progress. I mean, we are taking down Planned Parenthood on a $120,000 budget. There are organizations that spend that in one day.”

But his work is not so highly regarded in Australia, which detained and deported him when he showed up there to make a series of inflammatory anti-choice speeches.

Now he’s back in Wichita after being declared a threat to public order.

Newman says he potentially faces fines as high as $10,000 to $20,000 stemming from the proceedings in Australia, but had not yet been fined. Still, Operation Rescue seized on the opportunity to send out a fundraising email under the subject line “Operation Rescue crippled?” that sought to raise funds to pay such a fine. That email was the latest effort by the group to raise money in the wake of the release of the undercover videos. An earlier appeal sought to raise money to fight a lawsuit filed by the National Abortion Federation against Newman and others involved in the undercover operation.

Laura McQuade, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said the small amount of money abortion foes raised to produce the secret videos and Newman’s comment shows how out of touch they are with the American public.

“They raised $120,000 over three years because they don’t have the support of the American public to be doing what they are doing,” McQuade said.

Planned Parenthood has been fending off attacks since the release of the misleadingly edited and secretly recorded videos showing its officials talking about using tissue from abortions for medical researchers.

Planned Parenthood offers patients contraception, sexual disease testing, cancer screenings, prenatal health care and numerous other reproductive health services to women who could not otherwise afford them. Only about 3 percent of their clinics provide abortions, and even fewer provide tissue to researchers investigating new ways to fight diabetes, ALS, Alzheimer’s, AIDS and other diseases.

Such tissue led to development of a vaccine that prevents polio, virtually ending the scourge of the disease in the United States.

Still, the Republican-led U.S. House voted to create a special panel to investigate Planned Parenthood and some GOP Senators have tried unsuccessfully to block federal funding for the group. That battle could resurface in mid-December, when the measure to keep the government functioning runs out. President Barack Obama has promised to veto legislation that cuts the group’s funding.

“Planned Parenthood is not going anywhere either in the region or across the United States,” McQuade said. “And just like we have emerged from other unfounded attacks … we will emerge stronger than ever.”

Threat to the community

Also going nowhere — or at least not going to Australia — is Newman. The battle to prevent Newman from coming to Australia for a speaking tour began, after a lawmaker sent a letter to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton saying Newman could pose a threat to community safety.

“I am most concerned that Mr. Newman’s call for abortionists to be executed could lead to threats or the commission of acts of violence against women and medical professionals,” wrote Terri Butler, a member of the opposition Labor Party.

Immigration officials then revoked Newman’s visa.

Newman, who co-authored a book that suggested doctors who perform abortions are committing a crime egregious enough to warrant the death penalty, denied that he posed a threat to anyone.

After he was detained, Newman appealed the government’s decision to Australia’s High Court in Melbourne. His lawyers argued their client had never incited violence and the revocation of his visa was therefore flawed.

High Court Justice Geoffrey Nettle disagreed, ruling that Newman posed a threat “to the good order of the Australian community.” The judge said Newman willfully disobeyed Australia’s immigration laws by boarding the flight to Melbourne.

“He does not come to this court with clean hands,” Nettle said.

Butler, the Labor lawmaker, said Australians are a welcoming people, but don’t take kindly to those who flout the law.

“To think he is above the law gives us an insight into the sort of person we are dealing with,” she told reporters after the court’s decision. “We don’t welcome extremists into our country and we don’t welcome extremism.”

Operation Rescue is the group that campaigned against Dr George Tiller, one of the nation’s few late-term abortion providers. Newman reportedly urged his followers to stalk Tiller, circulating photos of him and his patients and of their license plate numbers.

That campaign resulted in Tiller’s murder. Six years ago, he was shot to death in church by Scott Roeder, an Operation Rescue member who claimed to have spoken with Newman about carrying out possible violent action.

AIDS conference honors 6 delegates killed aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

An international AIDS conference opened in Australia on July 20 with a tribute to several delegates who were killed en route to the gathering when their plane was shot down over Ukraine.

Officials at the opening ceremony for the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne held a moment of silence for the six AIDS researchers and activists killed aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

All 298 people on board the plane died when it was shot down by a surface-to-air missile on July17 as it flew over rebel-held eastern Ukraine.

Among the passengers was prominent Dutch researcher Joep Lange, former president of the International AIDS Society, and World Health Organization spokesman Glenn Thomas, based in Geneva.

Around 12,000 scientists and activists from 200 countries are attending the conference to discuss the latest developments in HIV and AIDS research.

The president of the International Aids Society, Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, dedicated the conference to those who were killed, and a candlelight vigil will be held on July 22 to commemorate their lives. Condolence books were also being passed around for attendees to sign.

“It’s a really important time for what we think everyone needs, which is a space to grieve and to respect the six members of our community that died on MH17,” conference co-chair Sharon Lewin said.

Aussie hosts of Bingham Cup commit to eliminate homophobia in sport

Call it a blitz.

Australian organizers of this year’s Bingham Cup — the world cup of gay rugby — are challenging athletes, coaches and front-office execs around the globe to help eliminate homophobia in sport.

“Discrimination in sport is something we see globally,” said Andrew Purchas, president of the Bingham Cup Sydney 2014. “In fact, sport is one of the last places in Western societies where gay, lesbian and bisexual people still struggle to be accepted.”

This spring, Purchas and others involved in hosting a gay rugby tournament in August, announced that the leaders of Australia’s professional sports leagues signed a commitment pledging to eliminate homophobia in the game. 

The commitment is unprecedented — the first time all the major professional sports leaders in a country collectively committed to implement policies and changes to welcome LGBT people on the field and in the stands. 

The pledge was made by Andrew Demetrious, CEO of the Australian Football League; Bill Pulver, CEO of the Australia Rugby Union; Dave Smith, CEO of the National Rugby League; David Gallop, CEO of the Football Federation Australia and Ben Amarflo, executive general manager of Cricket Australia.

“I’m proud to see Australian sports play such an important leadership role,” Australian Minister for Sport Peter Dutton stated in a news release. “There is no place for discrimination on our sporting fields, in our clubs or sports organizations.”

Some of Australia’s most celebrated athletes appeared at a news conference to announce the initiative and also appear in a 30-second ad.

“I feel we have reached a turning point in our efforts to change sporting culture,” said Wallaby John Eales, the ambassador for the Bingham Cup Sydney and the most successful captain in Australian rugby history. “It’s important to focus entirely on a person’s ability to play a sport and not get caught up in old-fashioned, clearly incorrect stereotypes and assumptions about people. I’m very proud of the five Australian sporting organizations for undertaking this commitment to make their sport more welcoming, safe and inclusive.”

The deadline to implement policies and changes under Australia’s newly created Anti-Homophobia and Inclusion Framework is mid-August, when 2,000 gay rugby players from 16 countries will gather for the Bingham Cup hosted by the Sydney Convicts and named for American Mark Bingham, one of the heroes of Sept. 11, 2001. 

Bingham, a member of the San Francisco Fog, died on United Airlines Flight 93, the plane hijacked by terrorists that went down over Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Bingham is believed to have joined three other men in trying to overtake the hijackers.

At the time of his death, only six gay and inclusive rugby clubs existed in the world — two of them co-founded by Bingham. Today, there are about 60 such clubs, including the Madison Minotaurs, which formed in Wisconsin’s capital in the spring of 2007.

In 2002, Bingham posthumously received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. The same year, the Mark Kendall Bingham Memorial Tournament — the Bingham Cup — was created.

In July, Bingham will be inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame, which is based in Chicago. The ceremony will coincide with the annual Out at Wrigley Field on July 12.

Bingham “is an excellent role model for all LGBT athletes, whether it be at the youth, professional, amateur or collegiate level,” said hall of fame founder Bill Gubrud. “We are very proud to have Mark Bingham in the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.”

Australian lawmakers expected to keep gay marriage ban

The chairman of an Australian parliamentary committee that examined gay law reform said he believes lawmakers will maintain a ban on same-sex marriage when the contentious issue is voted on later this year.

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs received an unprecedented number of responses on the question – more than 276,000 – and 64 percent of them were in favor of allowing gay marriage. But the committee’s eight members were divided and made no recommendation in their report published this week.

Committee chairman Graham Perrett, who has two gay brothers and supports gay marriage, said he does not believe a majority of lawmakers share his views.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, an opponent of gay marriage, will allow members of her center-left Labor Party to make personal choices on how they vote on the legislation. But opposition leader Tony Abbott, a staunch Roman Catholic, will insist that members of his conservative Liberal Party reject gay marriage.

Perrett, a Labor lawmaker, said he believes lawmakers would reject gay marriage even if Abbott allowed members of his party a free vote.

“My reading of it is that would not be the case” that gay marriage would be allowed, Perrett told reporters.

Perrett noted that the captain of Australia’s rugby team, David Pocock, supported gay marriage.

“You know when a rugby player is more progressive than many of the parliamentarians, even within the Labor Party, you know that Australia has changed significantly,” Perrett said.

Greens lawmaker Adam Brandt, who has introduced one of the two gay marriage bills, said Monday that he will not allow his bill to be voted on unless Abbott allows his party to vote according to their consciences.

Brandt said he was more optimistic than Perrett that the legislation would pass.

Labor lawmaker Stephen Jones said he expected his own gay marriage bill will be voted on this year.

“We’re short of a majority at this point and a lot of that is contingent on whether the Liberals are given a free vote,” Jones said. “I can’t see that happening in the near term, but these things can change.”

Australian law was amended in 2004 with the unanimous support of Labor and the conservatives to make clear that only a union between a man and a woman can be legally recognized as a marriage.

But Labor changed it policy at its annual national conference in December last year.

Download a PDF of the current issue of Wisconsin Gazette and join our Facebook community.

Former British colonies told to end gay bans in order to stop HIV

Leaders of former British Empire countries that outlaw homosexuality will be asked next week to reverse their bans in an effort to reduce their disproportionately high HIV-infection rates, The Associated Press reported.

Leaders of 53 countries will meet in the western Australian city of Perth for three days for the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
The meeting’s agenda will include a recommendation to legalize homosexuality, said Michael Kirby, Australia’s representative in the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group.

Of the countries attending, 42 still outlaw homosexuality, including Malaysia, which is prosecuting its opposition leader, and many African and Caribbean countries. Host Australia and Britain long ago repealed their bans on gay sex.

Kirby, an openly gay retired High Court judge, blamed the British influence on former colonies for the high rates of HIV/AIDS. Most of the countries still outlaw same-sex relations, which the rival French Empire legalized in 1791.

“It’s a very special British problem, and the problem is it makes it very difficult to get messages about HIV out,” Kirby said in a radio interview.

Australian Federation of AIDS Organizations executive director Rob Lake said the Commonwealth forum represents 30 percent of the world’s population but more than 60 percent of its HIV/AIDS cases. He said there is evidence in Africa and elsewhere that laws against homosexuality drive gay men underground and out of reach of sexual health campaigns.

“They create a stigmatizing environment in which gay men hide what they do and who they are so they don’t access diagnosis for HIV, treatment or preventative measures” such as condoms, Lake said.

The Australian government forced the repeal of the last state laws against gay sex in 1997.