One girl’s fight against child marriages in India

New Delhi: When Vijayalaxmi Sharma was 13 and heard that her best friend Meena was getting married, she wasn’t shocked. Every girl in Pachala village in Rajasthan where she lived got married at puberty.
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Vijaylaxmi attended the wedding and enjoyed dressing up for it. The shock came later when Meena became pregnant, developed complications, and died in childbirth, aged 14.

Her death set Sharma thinking and wondering if that might be her destiny too.

“All the girls in my extended family and all the girls in every village around here got married early,” Sharma told Fairfax Media this week. People here venerate parents who get their daughters married early because they have discharged their responsibility and have no tension.”

She wanted to avoid the same fate and wanted to continue studying. Her instincts were reinforced when some voluntary workers came to her school and explained the devastating consequences that child marriage can have for young girls: early motherhood can harm their physical growth, their mental and emotional development, and their health. Child marriage denies a girl her right to health, education and choice.

In some Indian states, including Rajasthan, almost six in 10 girls marry as children. Nationally, about half of Indian women are married before they turn 18 – the minimum legal age of marriage for boys and girls.

Poverty and ignorance are two reasons for child marriage. Another is a patriarchal culture that dictates that brides must be virgins. To ensure this, parents have to prevent daughters from dating and losing their virginity, bringing dishonour to the family, and the best way to do this is marry them off while they are still very young.

Sharma managed to avoid a child marriage and has campaigned to persuade parents in her own village and the surrounding ones not to marry their girls early.

This sole crusader, now 21, has been active in 13 villages, working with a small group of friends to spread awareness by going door to door, putting on street plays, and using puppet shows to project the message. She has managed to prevent around 50 child marriages.

But her first battle was with her own parents when she turned 14 and discovered that they were looking for a husband for her. The next few months were an ordeal. When she said she wanted to defer marriage until she had studied, her parents were dumbfounded. Girls in Rajasthan are not meant to voice their opinions. They are meant to obey.

If the girl is disobedient, the parents are mocked by neighbours. For her impudence, Sharma was locked up in a room without food or water. Her two younger brothers, who are fond of her, used to secretly share their food with her.

“My father said he was ashamed of me. He said I was the only girl in the village still unmarried. And it was true. I was the only one my age who wasn’t married,” she said.

The struggle lasted until her parents finally accepted that she was adamant. Moreover, she told them that she would finance her education herself without taking a penny from them. Sharma continued going to school and paid her fees by sewing clothes and giving tuition to other children.

In the initial stages of her campaign to persuade villagers of the ills of child marriage, she hit a wall. Because of her age, they didn’t take her seriously.

“If I don’t marry my daughter, are you prepared to take her on and look after her,” some asked. Others laughed when she told them her age and pushed her out of the house.

It was only when two things happened that the tide began slowly to turn. First, some members of a voluntary group from a nearby town began to lend her support. The fact that they were adults made villagers take Sharma more seriously.

Second, they saw her practical commitment to her cause: “I used to donate my clothes to girls whose parents were really poor. I used to ask the teacher to waive their fees so that girls could continue studying. When people began seeing that I wasn’t just saying ‘don’t marry your girls’ but also helping them practically, then attitudes began changing.”

Eventually her parents also threw their weight behind her. And then finally, the head of the village council – the sarpanch or headman – also lent his authority to her campaign. By now, in any case, villagers were a little nervous about her. This teenager with a low, gravelly, masculine voice, was capable of reporting a child marriage to the police the moment she got wind of the preparations.

“People became nervous about getting into trouble with the police,” she said. “That was another useful factor because under the law, no one can get married before the age of 18.”

Apart from the efforts of non-government organisations and individuals like Sharma, education and awareness have gradually been eroding child marriage. Many districts of Rajasthan, for example, have reported a decline in recent years.

Sharma, who went on to get a degree from Rajasthan University, is happy that she made her contribution. “Every time I felt disheartened, I used to picture Mamta in her wedding finery and her dead body a few months later.”

Will she ever get married? “Oh yes. If my parents supported me on this, that is the least I owe them now that I have finished my education,” she said. “I have promised them I will marry the man they choose for me.”

Fitzroy house price record smashed by nearly $1 million

Tap here for Saturday’s auction resultsTap here for the Market snapshotHouse of the Week: Colourful Fitzroy home embedded in historyGraeme Simsion selling his Fitzroy family homeDid Fitzroy just out-Fitzroy itself?
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Fitzroy’s house price record was shattered by almost $900,000 on Saturday, as a crowd of more than 200 watched in shock when a 163-year old year terrace sold dramatically under the hammer.

The previous suburb record is believed to be $4,011,000 for 17 Bell Street, Fitzroy, set last November.

The property at 43 Gore Street, owned by Madman Entertainment co-founder Paul Wiegard, last changed hands for $2.1 million in 2008, Domain Group data shows. Mr Wiegard spent about $2 million on a complete renovation in 2011.

The film industry entrepreneur is understood to be moving across the Yarra River to the other side of the city following the sale.

The average punter inspecting the house could have mistaken it for the set of the next season of The Block.

All three floors of the Victorian three-bedroom house were buzzing with people, who lined up just to get a peek at the rooms; some admiring the thoughtful and tasteful styling and renovation.

Bidding opened slowly at $4 million with a vendor bid by Kay and Burton auctioneer Gowan Stubbings, and rose mostly in $25,000 jumps.

Mr Stubbings went to check with Mr Wiegard for the second time when the bidding appeared to have run out of steam at $4.65 million. He came back outside only to return inside immediately again, after a shock knock-out bid of $4.8 million from the eventual buyer ??? putting the house on the market.

After a final attempt by one of the two other would-be buyers with a $10,000 rise, a second knock-out bid of $4.9 million sealed the deal.

The buyers were a young family with three children who presently live in the City of Boroondara, but interest had come from all over the world, including China, New Zealand, Germany, Singapore and the United States. More than 300 people had inspected the property throughout the campaign, according to listing agent Darren Lewenberg.

“We knew we had an amazing home, we knew we had depth in the market, people who wanted to own it; the unknown was in terms of what the result was,” Mr Lewenberg said. “They took a couple of years of painstaking research and speaking to designers and architects to get it to this level.”

“Buyers ??? local, national and overseas ??? not only inquired but also visited the home.”

Prominent surgeon Thomas Embling built the terrace in 1854 as his home and practice.

Gore Street is home of some of Fitzroy most significant sales, including the former home of comedian Hamish Blake and author of international bestseller The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion. The author and wife, Anne Buist, recently sold their Fitzroy home for an undisclosed price close to $4 million.

Meanwhile in Albert Park, an original two-bedroom house on just 164-square metres sold under the hammer for $1.38 million, $100,000 above reserve.

Three hopeful buyers competed for the period cottage at 172 Danks Street, which was part of a deceased estate and had been in the same family for decades.

Abercromby’s auctioneer Mark Williams opened the bidding at $1.2 million and the house, just one block from the beach, was declared on the market at $1,285,000. A family with plans to renovate trumped their competition to win the keys.

Klemmer requests release from Bulldogs contract

Canterbury’s best forward could be on his way out of the club, with NSW Origin and Test prop David Klemmer requesting a release from his deal at the Bulldogs.
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In a huge blow to Canterbury’s future aspirations, it appears Klemmer could be on his way out of Belmore at the end of the season after seeking a release from the final three years of his contract.

Fairfax Media understands at the heart of Klemmer’s frustrations is a perception he has been left short-changed after the club failed to commit to a number of financial arrangements previously agreed upon.

The club is trying to make sure Klemmer is compensated for the deal coming undone, but he is no guarantee to be at the Bulldogs next year.

It is also understood Klemmer’s future as a starting player at the Bulldogs has recently been questioned by the club, who had been considering shifting the international forward to the bench next year to accommodate the arrival of Aaron Woods alongside Aiden Tolman and James Graham in the run-on 13.

Klemmer is considered one of the best forwards in the NRL and would not have any trouble landing a deal for 2018 and beyond if the Bulldogs are unable to keep him satisfied.

Wests Tigers showed interest in luring the 23-year-old the last time he was off contract and Klemmer would be a handy pick-up for the joint venture to go with the acquisition of Russell Packer and Ben Matulino in a new-look forward pack at the club next season.

While Klemmer’s departure would cruel the prop of the chance to play alongside close friend Woods, Klemmer is very close to Josh Reynolds, who will leave the Bulldogs at the end of the season bound for the Tigers.

It is understood Klemmer was disappointed the club did not do more to keep Reynolds, who is regarded as the heart and soul of the Canterbury outfit.

Woods and Reynolds will be in Klemmer’s bridal party when he gets married to the mother of his three children after this year’s World Cup at the end of the season.

Canterbury have massive salary cap constraints for next season and are already expected to part ways with Sam Kasiano and Greg Eastwood at the end of the year to make room for Woods and Kieran Foran.

Graham, who has been linked with a move to Newcastle after reports the Bulldogs captain had been shopped around, is now likely to remain at the club – especially if Klemmer departs at the end of the season.

The Bulldogs this week extended the contract of fullback Will Hopoate for another three seasons, the former NSW representative agreeing to play games on Sundays despite a desire to sit out matches on the sabbath because of his religious beliefs.

If Klemmer is granted a release, it would go a long way to alleviating Canterbury’s salary cap concerns for next year, with only hooker Michael Lichaa among the high-profile off contract players at the end of this year.

Klemmer was arguably NSW’s second best forward behind Blues prop Andrew Fifita in the opening game of the State of Origin series on Wednesday night, proving why he is held in such high regard by Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga.

The All Saints Toongabbie Tigers junior made his NRL debut in 2013, graduating from the Bulldogs’ under-20s team where he was crowned the competition’s most valuable player in 2012.

He has played for his state on seven occasions and represented in nine matches since making his debut for the Kangaroos as a 20-year-old in 2014.

Housing plan ignores what voters need

For all the partisan differences between the NSW Liberal and Victorian Labor state governments, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’snew housing planmight well have been published in Melbourne.
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Both governments are doing what voters say they want. But voter instincts about the key policies to improve housing affordability are misguided.

As in Victoria, giveaways to first homebuyers are the centrepiece of the NSW package.

First homebuyers buying off the plan will be exempt from stamp duty if they pay up to $650,000 for a home. Those paying between $650,000 and $800,000 will pay less stamp duty than now. These concessions will be extended to first homebuyers of existing homes, not just new housing.

These giveawayssoundlike they will improve affordability for first homebuyers, and areextremely popularwith voters. But in reality they are second homesellers’ incentives:the biggest winners will be people who own homes already, and property developers with new homes ready to sell.

Of course giveaways to first homebuyers also need to be paid for. And, as in Victoria, foreign and local investors in NSW will be slugged with surcharges.

Recent surveys suggestslugging foreign investorswill be even more popular than giving extra grants to first home-buyers. Foreigners are easy scapegoats, and even better, they don’t vote.

But the fact is that foreigners don’t own much of our housing – perhaps 2 per cent of the value of the residential stock. A lot of the ‘foreign buyers’ at auctions are in fact first- and second-generation migrants who will not be affected by the new rules – and who often do vote.

So what policies really would make a difference?

Rapid population growth in Sydney and Melbourne is a big part of this story. But rapid population growth in the 1950s didn’t end in a housing affordability crisis. Back then, housing supply kept up with population growth.

The past decade has not been such a happy story. Planning controls limit how much new housing gets built in the inner- and middle-ring suburbs where most people want to live, and which have better access to the city centres where new jobs are increasingly concentrated. New housing supply has picked up in the past four years, but more is needed to address past shortfalls.

The NSW government is asking the Greater Sydney Commission to provide housing targets for each local council. It is also proposing to simplify development approvals in greenfield areas, increase housing supply in “priority precincts”, and introduce a new medium-density housing code.

But with planning reforms, the devil is in the detail.

And there will be plenty of opposition. Many people who live in the established middle suburbs don’t like subdivisions in their neighbourhoods – even if these are exactly the kind of dwellings that their children would like to buy.

After raising expectations among voters anxious to see action on housing, Premier Berejiklian has resorted to expensive and ineffective giveaways to first homebuyers, while scapegoating foreign buyers.

NSW is making the right noises on relaxing planning rules to get more homes built, but will it have the courage to persevere in the face of the almost inevitable NIMBY responses?

John Daley is chief executive and Brendan Coates is a fellow at the Grattan Institute.

A ‘greener’ office actually improves how well you work

Newresearchhas shown the quality of the office environment can have significant negative effects on thinking, health and productivity.
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A recentstudyby teams from Harvard and Syracuse Universities focused on indoor air quality. The researchers simulated environments with different levels of ventilation, carbon dioxide, and emissions from common office products.

Employees were tested under two different conditions. One was in typical office building conditions, the other used asimulated “green condition” where ventilation was improved, and levels of carbon dioxide and emissions were reduced.

Results showed that employees in the green condition environment performed 61 per centbetter on cognitive tasks than in the standard office conditions. Further, by doubling the ventilation in the green condition environment, cognitive performance increased by more than 100 per cent.

Though plants were not included in this study, otherresearchhas shown that adding greenery to office environments increases not only satisfaction and productivity but also the perception that air quality had improved.

The cost of providing better quality environments in the workplace may be considered a factor limiting organisations from implementing change.

Howeverresearchhas shown that spending just US$40 per person, per year on indoor air quality resulted in a US$6500 increase in employee productivity.

These findings suggest that improving the quality of the indoor environment is an important focus for organisations seeking to improve employee performance and well-being.

Libby Sanderis alecturer atBond Business School.This article was originally published onThe Conversation.

Hunter TAFE loses out to private provider Max Solutions for English language courses

HUNTER TAFE students fear a federal government decision to outsource courses to improve English skills will make it harder for them to get jobs.
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In April, theAssistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, Karen Andrews, announced that contracts for two programs to improve English language and literacy skills in the Hunter had been handed to private firms Max Solutions and Navitas. TheSkills for Education and Employment and the n Migrant English Program courses had previously been delivered by Hunter TAFE.

Students such as Keila Ward, a Bolivian national who has lived in the Hunter for four years, are worried whether they’ll have access to the same resources.

“TAFE has a very good reputation and is recognised by employers,” she said. “My concern is will we have access to libraries and computers, for example, like we do at the TAFE.”

Labor has also questioned why the contracts were handed to Max Solutions, when the company has previously been accused of signing up job-seekers to courses they had no prospect of starting or completing.

During a Senate estimates hearing last week, the n Skills Quality Authority admitted Max Solutions had been found “non compliant” after an audit.

But a Max Solutions spokeswoman said that ruling had come after submitting applications to deliver “additional specific courses” within other subject areas in the middle of 2015.

“In 2016, Max demonstrated compliance throughout the re-registration process for all these existing courses and was approved by n Skills Quality Authority,” the spokeswoman said.

“All courses currently delivered by MAX are fully compliant under ASQA national standards for Registered Training Organisations.”

On Monday, Newcastle Labor MP Sharon Claydon met “distressed” students enrolled in the courses.

“TAFE doesn’t just provide a language training service – it helps students in all aspects of their integration into n life,” she said.

“It is absolutely senseless for the Turnbull Government to discontinue such a successful program and hand the contract over to a private provider that has little experience indeliveringthe critical support that newly arrived migrants and refugees need.”

However Max Solutions talked down fears about access for students, saying “all relevant materials will be provided to participants along with free wi-fi and computer terminals”.

The spokeswoman said the courses would be available from sites across the Hunter, including Newcastle, Mayfield, Maitland and Charlestown.

However Labor’s shadow minister for TAFE Kate Ellis said the contracts were “another kick in the guts for TAFE from a government that has a habit of putting big business before the interests of people in the Hunter who are trying to get ahead”.

“There are some important questions that need to be answered, and it’s time the Liberals stopped putting local students and quality education at risk,” she said.

James Aish a chance to return as Pies wait on injured trio

Pies coach Buckley lauds injured Goldsack’s ‘gutsy effort’
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Midfielder James Aish is likely to be fit to come back into the depleted Collingwood team for the Queen’s Birthday game against Melbourne on Monday.

Injured trio Jamie Elliott, Daniel Wells and Tyson Goldsack all remained in Perth on Sunday night and are yet to be re-assessed by doctors.

The trio were coincidentally among a group of about eight players and the same number of club staff who had arranged to remain in Perth after Sunday’s game and fly back on Monday. The club’s physio stayed with the group but the doctor had flown back late on Sunday night with most of the team.

The players were not expected to have scans on their injuries until late Monday or Tuesday and to have those scans assessed by the doctors on Tuesday.

The club was still expecting that the trio were likely to be out in the medium term.

Wells has re-injured the calf muscle that kept him out of the early rounds of the season, but the extent of the strain or tear was not known.

Elliott rolled an ankle when Lachie Weller fell on his leg as he tackled him. It was the same ankle that kept Elliott out of the early rounds.

Goldsack injured a shoulder, suffering damage to the scapula but again, until scans are taken, the extent of damage and whether there is a fracture will not be known.

Collingwood football manager Geoff Walsh said Aish, who fractured a cheekbone in the win over Hawthorn three weeks ago, is likely to be fit to take on Melbourne.

It is as yet unknown if Alex Fasolo will be cleared to play after missing the Fremantle game as he dealt with depression.

Fasolo said as he announced he was withdrawing from Sunday’s game that he still hoped to be able to return after just one week out.

“Aish will probably be available and Alex Fasolo will depend on how he is feeling later in the week,” said Walsh.

“He may be OK to play, but we won’t know that until later in the week and we see how he feels and what the medical advice is. The game is not until Monday so we have plenty of time.”

Ben Reid and Travis Varcoe are unlikely to be fit to play. With Collingwood having a bye the week after Monday’s game it is likely they will give both players – who have had trouble with soft tissue injuries – more time to recover.

Small running defender Ben Sinclair is back running and training.

“We always said with Sinclair it would be some time after the bye [that he’d be back playing].”

The latest injuries mean that Collingwood would be without up to seven of their best 22 players – Elliott, Wells, Goldsack, Reid, Varcoe, Fasolo, Sinclair and possibly Aish.

If Fasolo is not fit for Monday’s game and Elliott, as expected, is unfit it will mean the team’s two leading goalkickers are out.

In the last six rounds, Collingwood have been the second best performed side after GWS in the league winning four games. The Giants have won five of a possible six.

Two murdered in the name of free speech: can Donald Trump be blamed?

Washington: Riot police were out in force in Portland, Oregon, on Sunday, as pro and anti-Trump supporters faced off in the wake of two murders that are the latest manifestation of a disturbing wave of real and threatened political violence in the United States.
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When the pushing, shoving and name-calling was over, there were a reported 14 arrests after helmeted police resorted to noise grenades and tear gas to keep the protests apart. But the police said they were reacting to sentiments expressed on the weapon-of-choice championed by Donald Trump and a good many others grappling with, or defending, his elevation to the presidency: social media.

Portland has been a tinderbox since May 26, when three commuters went to the assistance of two girls – one black, the other wearing a Muslim headdress – who were being taunted verbally as they travelled on a city train.

Their tormentor produced a knife, killing two of the men. The 35-year-old alleged assailant, Jeremy Christian, was charged with double murder in what the FBI is treating as a hate crime.

Sunday’s event began as a Trump Free Speech rally, but according to eyewitness reports the hundreds of Trump supporters who assembled in a park near City Hall were greatly outnumbered by a counter-rally lining three sides of the park. Their chants of “Nazis go home” were met with choruses of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”.

Sunday’s tension in the city was heightened by claims that Stewart Rhodes, leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, told reporters that a local Republican Party official had asked for Oath Keepers, some of them armed, to provide security for the pro-Trump rally.

The Portland murders took place the day after a by-election in Montana, which Republican Greg Gianforte won despite “body-slamming” a reporter from The Guardian the previous day, sparking a wave of online support for the candidate and sparking renewed debate on the extent to which Americans have become inured to political violence.

Gianforte earned rebukes from senior political figures on both sides of the aisle, like Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Democrat House leader Nancy Pelosi, but Trump was silent on the attack – and Texas Governor Greg Abbott joked later about shooting journalists.

Threats and insults are being hurled by both sides of politics, particularly at town hall meetings held by GOP members of Congress, and media that are sympathetic to Trump rail against Democrats, emphasising incidents in which Republicans have been the targets of abuse.

But others insist that this is a Trump phenomenon, highlighting the serial sexual harassment and abuse charges levelled against him and comments he made that were read as incitements, such as “I’d like to punch him in the face” and “Knock the crap out of him, would you?” – both uttered by Trump at rallies during his campaign.

Trump also boasted that he could kill a man in broad daylight and not lose a single vote. And comments he made in public were interpreted as suggestions that his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton should be assassinated.

Trump’s election victory has also given new energy to white supremacist movements and the so-called alt-right movement, prominent figures in which are close to the Trump administration. During Barack Obama’s two terms as president, the number of documented right-wing militias in the country jumped dramatically, from 42 in 2008 to 276 in 2016.

In the view of Michael Dorf, a law professor at Cornell University, Trump’s behaviour encourages others to misbehave.

“Our constitutional culture has not yet degraded so far that Gianforte’s conduct was broadly deemed acceptable,” Dorf said, “But the degradation has begun, and it starts at the top. Trump has contributed to the climate of hostility to the press that characterised the most disturbing comments by Gianforte’s supporters.”

And the issue prompted a heated exchange on CNN last week, with University of Virginia political professor Larry Sabato accusing a pair of CNN hosts of perpetrating a false equivalence in arguing that Democrats were as likely as Republicans to promote violence and use violent rhetoric.

“I’m not going to deny that American history is dotted with examples of legislators and congressmen getting into fights of one sort or another,” Sabato told hosts John Berman and Poppy Harlow.

“But here’s the difference: We’re in the age of Donald Trump. What happened over the past two years? Donald Trump really brutalised many people. Not just the press, loads of individuals and groups, including using the issue of immigration to stir up the Republican base.”

Stopping short of accusing Trump of physically attacking anyone, Sabato charged: “But in those rallies, you remember him doing nothing to stop some of the physical violence. And in fact, urging it on. Let’s not rewrite history. The man got elected President. He was rewarded for these sorts of activities. Politicians pick up on that. A man who will do and say anything got rewarded with the presidency.

“I think that affects other elected officials. And you combine that with social media, the anonymity of social media, there’s a mob mentality on social media and it spills over into real life. And we’re going to see a lot more of it.”

Salman Abedi’s third-generation path to jihadism brought terror home to Manchester

London: The third attack on British soil in as many months has raised many uncomfortable questions about the nation’s ability to combat deadly acts of terrorism.
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But none are more difficult than the issue of home-grown terrorism. In the wake of recent attacks in the UK a depressing pattern has begun to emerge with police carrying out raids in areas becoming known as breeding grounds for radicalisation. The attacks that took place near London Bridge and Borough Market on Saturday were no different with police arresting 12 people in Barking, East London two days later.

But even before Khuram Shazad Butt and Rachid Redouane and a third man yet to be identified, used a rented van and knives to murder seven people near London Bridge on Saturday night, the UK was trying to come to grips with how Manchester local Salman Abedi had managed to kill 22 people in his home town, less than a fortnight earlier, in the name of Islamic State.

In the days after the 22-year-old Abedi detonated a bomb at the Manchester Arena, the British press generated almost daily reports on the telltale signs that were overlooked. These included numerous tip-offs from friends to authorities, his expulsion from Didsbury mosque after a public dispute with an imam, and reports of his family’s links to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group – an Islamist organisation loosely affiliated with al-Qaeda which opposed Soviet forces in Afghanistan and Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya.

Though Britain’s MI5 is already conducting an internal review into how Abedi slipped under its radar, it looks increasingly clear that the signs should have been unmissable from the beginning. Particularly given Abedi’s target was his home city – one of Britain’s three major hotspots for homegrown jihadists. Birmingham and East London, where the latest raids took place in the early hours of Monday morning, are the other two areas of deep concern for security officials.

“The Abedi case is looking a lot more like an intelligence problem,” says Kyle Orton, from the Henry Jackson Society, a London think-tank.

“I know that’s said after every one of these [attacks],” Orton adds. “It’s usually not true, because intelligence agencies are very good at detecting extremists, but in this case he has been abroad many times and he comes from a background that should have been under a great deal more scrutiny.”

When petty criminal-turned-extremist Khalid Masood rammed his hired car into tourists on Westminster Bridge in March, it was the sort of crude attack carried out by a loner with prior convictions that Europe has come to expect.

But Britain reacted differently to what happened in Manchester. The scale, the death toll, the heinous targeting of children and the sophistication of the attack made the bombing particularly shocking.

“An improvised explosive device – we haven’t seen that in this country, there was a rudimentary bomb blown up in [the July 7, 2005 London attack] in the Tube, but that was a long time ago,” said Karin von Hippel from the defence and security think tank RUSI.

Last year the global coalition fighting Islamic State in the Middle East, of which is a member, warned IS would attempt further attacks in the West in retaliation for the destruction of its so-called caliphate. It quickly claimed responsibility for the Manchester carnage, saying it had been carried out by “one of its soldiers”.

“This isn’t a guy who has just ended up getting touch with a recruiter on WhatsApp and has been talked through it or provided with weapons or something by them, he’s been in theatre with them and been trained by them and it looks like the first case of a returning foreign fighter,” Mr Orton said.

Abedi is the British-born son of Libyan parents. His father Ramadan Abedi was arrested in Tripoli, along with another of his sons following the attack. He fled Libya for England in the 1990s but told Bloomberg he did not belong to extremist groups, as claimed by the Gaddafi regime.

Manchester would become home to Britain’s largest Libyan community. Arthur Snell, a former British diplomat posted to Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa, and now with security consultants PGI Intelligence, says Britain initially turned a blind eye to Libyan arrivals in Britain, believing “these people are not a threat to the UK”.

“Libya [under Gaddafi] was seen as a rogue state, so people who were in opposition to the Libyan regime were not [seen] as problematic,” he told Fairfax Media.

“Where it gets complicated is where the West’s attitude to Libya changed,” he said. “If we’re honest, the authorities in this country largely ignored the Libya issue because up until the moment of the Arab Spring, the radical threat in the UK was not seen as coming from that quarter.”

That has changed with the case of the Abedis, with reports Ramadan Abedi took his sons to Libya “on holiday” to take part in the civil war against Gaddafi.

Mr Snell said some of the groups operating in Libya at the time were at the “jihadist end of the spectrum, but the focus of their militancy was the Gaddafi regime”. NormalfalsefalseEN-GBJAX-NONE /* Style Definitions */table.MsoNormalTable{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;mso-style-noshow:yes;mso-style-priority:99;mso-style-parent:””;mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;mso-para-margin:0cm;mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;mso-pagination:widow-orphan;font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Cambria;mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria;mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria;mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

Catholic sector defends ‘funneling’ money between schools

Senator Jacinta Collins spoke on the Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday 2 October 2014. Photo: Andrew MearesThe Catholic school sector has reacted angrily to suggestions it is “funnelling” money away from students in disadvantaged areas to those in wealthy suburbs.
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At fiery and, at times, personal Senate hearings,Catholic education authorities also opened up a new front in the school funding debate by warning the Turnbull government’s changes could lead city dioceses to break away and form their own systems so they don’t have to send money to schools in poorer regional areas.

Catholic education commissions in each state and territory receive government funding in a lump sum, which they distribute among their schools as they see fit.

Fairfax Media revealed last month that Catholic schools in low-income areas were receiving up to $1.5 million less than they were allocated under the federal government’s needs-based formula.

Meanwhile, schools in wealthy suburbs such as Elwood in Melbourne and Pymble in Sydney were receiving funding significantly above their allocation in order to keep fees low.

The Senate hearings into the Turnbull government’s proposed new funding model became heated on Monday when Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young accused Labor senator Jacinta Collins – a practising Catholic – of running a “protection racket” for the Catholic sector.

An outraged Senator Collins demanded Senator Hanson-Young withdraw the comment, which she agreed to.

Ross Fox, a former executive director of the National Catholic Education Commission, released a new analysis showing funding for disadvantaged Catholic schools was 54 per cent higher than for Catholic schools in wealthy areas.

But this redistribution will not be possible in the future if city dioceses break away from the state-based Catholic education systems, he said.

“There are already discussions about whether for the 11 dioceses in NSW, whether it would be in their interests to all stick together if the model is passed,” Mr Fox, now director of Catholic education for the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, said.

“It may be to the advantage [of the metropolitan dioceses] to form a separate system and we would be in a very invidious position where we couldn’t benefit from the redistribution that is going on.”

Catholic authorities said they were in a better position to know which of their schools needed increased funding than the federal government’s “crude” socio-economic status formula.

Stephen Elder, head of the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria, said it was absurd that a Catholic primary school next to a housing commission in inner-city Melbourne was deemed to be more advantaged than the elite Geelong Grammar School.

Mr Elder said state governments redistributed funding among their schools and often over-funded selective high schools and public schools in wealthy areas.

Ian Baker, head of policy at the NSW Catholic Education Commission, said Catholic schools in low-income areas such as Punchbowl in Sydney were being given up to $1.3 million less than their federal funding allocation for the “common good” of the system.

“Our obligation is to keep all 558 Catholic schools in NSW operationally viable,” he said.

“It is about relative need.”

Senator Hanson-Young said it was “extraordinary” that Catholic authorities had prioritised keeping fees low in wealthy suburbs over sending money to their neediest schools.

Senator Hanson-Young said the Greens would only support the government’s changes if it gave more money to needy schools, speeded up its 10-year timeframe and created a new independent school resourcing body.

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Cyclist Dr Rod Little remains at John Hunter after bike dragged behind truck on Central Coast

Shocking: Emergency specialist and cycling enthusiast Dr Rod Little is in John Hunter Hospital after being dragged 200 metres behind a truck.EMERGENCY specialist and cycling enthusiast Dr Rod Little remains in John Hunter Hospital in a battered state, but lucky to be alive, after being dragged on a trailing rope behind a truck for more than 200 metres.
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Dr Little, 58, had further surgery on Monday after he was rushed to the hospital one week ago following an incident while he was on a routine ride along the Scenic Highway at Terrigal.

Shocking footage taken from a security camera outside a Scenic Highway property shows a Central Coast Council truck trailing a rope and Dr Little’s unconscious body being dragged behind it.

The footage horrified Dr Little’s wife Nicolette Gregory, who said initial reports that he had only suffered minor abrasions were not correct.

“He had several hours of surgery on Wednesday, he’s had major skin grafts and more surgerytoday (Monday) and he’s had enormous deep skin loss. He’s really messed up,” Mrs Gregory said.

She said the full extent of the horrific incident only hit after she went back to the Scenic Highway to pick up Dr Little’sbike –a handmade Clamont by Geoff Scott –and saw marks on the road where her husband had been dragged.

Horrified witnesses flagged down the driver of the council vehicle who was in shock after the incident. The Scenic Highway is a popular cycling thoroughfare between Terrigal andAvoca Beach.

Mrs Gregory said the bike’s frame was intact but part of the rope which trailed from the back of the truck for at least 30 metres remained in the frame.

“The rope’s just jammed itself under the front wheel brake,” Mrs Gregory said.

She said her husband did not recall any of the incident.

“He is actually very lucky to be alive but he has been badly injured,” she said.

Dr Little has worked as an emergency physician since 1995 after completing a medical degree at Sydney University in 1985.

A Central Coast Council spokesperson said council, policeand other agencies were investigating.

“Council understands the cyclist is recovering in John Hunter Hospital. He and his family are in our thoughts and we wish him a speedy recovery,” the spokesperson said.

A-League: Newcastle Jets to profit after Dimi Petratos exits Korean club Ulsan Hyundai

TARGET MAN: Dimi Petratos is poised to join the Newcastle Jets. Picture: Getty ImagesFIVE months after Newcastle pocketed$150,000 for the sale of Dimi Petratos to Korean club Ulsan Hyundai, the promising midfielderis poised to become a Jet again.
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Petratos, 24, has agreed to a mutual termination less than a third of the way through a three-yeardeal at the K-League club.

Pending a medical and a couple of details beingfinalised, Petratos will join the Jets on a two-year contract.

“Things are looking positive with regards to Dimi,” Jets football operations manager Joel Griffiths said.“We haveagreed on a number of things. I havespoken to his agent, Tony Rallis, but I want to speak to the boy himself. Until he signs on the dotted line, you are always a bit nervous. In terms of his football, the same things that attracted us to him before remain attractive. He ticks a lot of boxes.”

Ralis said he had promised chief executive Lawrie McKinna that the Jets would have first and last option if Petratos became available.

“I gave him my word that if Dimi was ever to come back, I’d give the Jets the last rights to sign him,” Rallis said. “Unless something drastic happens I anticipate he will be there. I will keep my word to Lawrie because Lawrie did the right thing.”

Petratos hasn’tplayed for Ulsansince starting against his former club Brisbane in the AFC Champions League on May 10.In total, hemade nine appearances in the club’s 22 matches in all competitions.

Ralis said the decision to leave Ulsan was “purely a lifestyle thing”.

“He started and was playing but struggled with the culture,” Ralis said. “He will solve the No.10 position for the Jets.”

Griffiths spent five years playing in Asia and wasunderstanding of Petratos’ call.

“He obviouslydidn’t enjoy his time in Korea,” Griffiths said.“It is tough playing overseas. It can be political and hard to adjust. I was fortunate to go to Beijing Guoan. Even when I was there and at Shanghai, you always get players who sign for two years and are gone in three months.”

Griffiths said coach Ernie Merrick, who along with McKinna wasdue back from China late Monday night,was excited at the prospect of working with Petratos.

“Dimi has so much potential,” Griffiths said.“He is a big-game player and is really mature for his age. He can fill a number of roles in the front third. Ernie will work with him in the pre-season and see where he fits best. It is pretty much a clean slate for everyone.”

If, as expected, Petratos signs it willleave the Jets with three places available on the roster, which could stretch to four if Aleksandr Kokko doesn’t return from Finland.

However, Griffiths ruled out making a play for Kosta Barbarouses, who on Monday was granted a release by Wellington Phoenix.

“He wasn’t on our radar,” Griffiths said.“I rate him highly, but we have identified other players who can do the job next year.I suspect he has a deal stitched up with one of the bigger interstate clubs. We are in talks with a couple of other players and hopefully can finalise them soon.”

Petratos, whosigned a three-year deal with the Jets in January before they were gazumped by Ulsan, would joinyounger brother Kosta in Newcastle.

They will be among a host of new faces, including Roy O’Donovan, Daniel Georgievski, Mario Shabow and keeper Glen Moss. The Jets had been in talks with Mark Bridge in January, but he is expected to return to Western Sydney Wanderers.

“I am really excited about how things are going,” Griffiths said.

“Hopefully in a few days there will be a couple of more players to add.

“You need luck. You need things to fall into place and you need to keep on persisting and asking the question. If they say thatthey want to go back to and enjoy the lifestyle, then great. If they want to chase the money, which a lot of the time they do, you can’t compete with it.“There is no point getting upset, I did the same thing. There are always good players coming through and there are a lot of good players we are looking at.”

The Jets start pre-season training on June 22 and have their first hit out against Chilean side Audax Italiano at McDonald Jones Stadium on July 8.

Sydney’s accident-prone sculpture finds a new home

There are new hooves that can be found on the paddocks at the Riding for Disabled centre in Marsfield Park – but not just any hooves.
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The controversial Origami Horses sculpture in the West Ryde Plaza was given its trotting orders after a handful of pedestrians were injured walking into it.

Ryde Mayor Bill Pickering witnessed a man in his 70s walk into the aluminium sculptures. The man required stitches to his forehead after a collision with one of the three horses – which range from three metres to 5.5m tall.

“My immediate reaction when the incident happened was to have the area cordoned off because it was a safety concern,” Cr Pickering said. “We needed to find a new home for the sculptures that was safe for the public and somewhere that it could still be seen.”

The structure was closed off to the public for five months, but late last week workers were seen cutting down the Origami Horses at the plaza.

They were relocated onto council land outside the Riding for Disabled Association (RDA) centre at Marsfield Park.

“The Riding for Disabled was the best option,” Cr Pickering said. “The art work is still open for public display, I’ve been assured about the safety of the public and it’s a really great organisation in our community.”

The centre was one of the proposed locations after much debate about whether the horses should stay at the plaza.

“We’re really impressed with the horses – they’re making a great statement and people are starting to notice RDA,” Barry Davis, President of Ryde’s Riding for Disabled centre said. “When we heard about the plans to remove them from the plaza we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice here?’.”

Mr Davis said there are plans to run a competition for the children to name the horses.

“A lot of people will now be able to see the sculptures more than before – there’s a lot more space for them, they’re spread out. At the plaza they were so cramped,” he said. “We can’t wait to bring the children out to see them once they’re done. We’ll need to bring the horse too – just in case they get spooked, but I’m sure there will be no problem with it.”

Barricades remain around the horses until they are made safe for the public to go near, but that hasn’t deterred locals from stopping at the new attraction.

“People are stopping to take photographs with the horses – they’re well spaced out and very pretty.”

The three aluminium sculptures designed by Milne & Stonehouse in collaboration with a local primary school were installed in 2013 to bring colour to the plaza.

Council workers sawed off the tail of one horse in 2014 due to its sharp point and potential danger to children. Pot plants and seating were also installed to deter people from walking directly into the horses.

Cr Jerome Laxale said he was concerned about how little the community had a voice in the removal of the sculptures.

“The community didn’t have a say on whether or not the horses should stay in the plaza, and now they don’t even have a say as to where they go.”

“The council has also been left in the dark – I don’t recall being advised that the horses would be moving to the centre – there were other options, including schools who wanted them.”

Shade cloths and seating areas would replace the horses in the plaza.