Help on way to cut-off Qld sites: premier

Close to 300 properties in cyclone-battered north Queensland have been deemed unlivable, as authorities rush to address water shortages in the region.

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says about 2000 damage assessments have so far been completed in the cyclone’s northern strike zone, with 270 properties damaged so severely they can’t be lived in.

Despite the focus turning to southeast Queensland and northern NSW following Cyclone Debbie’s destruction, Ms Palaszczuk insisted isolated north Queensland communities had not been forgotten.

The premier said authorities were “very conscious” about struggling communities such as Bowen, Proserpine and Airlie Beach, who were all battered by the category four storm on Tuesday.

“We are trying to get in there as quickly as possible. Let me make it very clear – help is on its way,” she told reporters at Beenleigh, where the local train station has been swamped by floodwaters.

Ms Palaszczuk said there were concerns about water supplies in the north.

“The army is doing everything it can to get water into those parts of North Queensland. I mentioned Airlie Beach, Proserpine, and the Whitsunday Islands. We have the SES helping with that,” she said.

Power restoration is the other critical factor hampering recovery efforts, with 50,000 properties in the Bowen, Mackay and Whitsunday regions still without electricity three days after Debbie crossed the coast.

It is slowly being restored to petrol stations and other essential services at Airlie Beach, after generators were brought in on trucks on Friday morning.

Authorities are also warning that Rockhampton could see significant flooding next week, after huge rainfalls in catchments feeding into the Fitzroy River.

“There is a concern for Rockhampton,” Bureau of Meteorology regional director Bruce Gunn told reporters.

At Airlie Beach, the army has used tanks and a truck to deliver almost 20,000 litres of much needed drinking water.

One pulled up at The Lagoon in the centre of town while the other went to The Centro shopping centre.

Young Kim is one of thousands of residents who has been without power and running water since Cyclone Debbie tore through the town.

He arrived early to secure his supply, saying the 30 litre containers he filled up would last about two days.

“We’ve been rationing,” he said. “I didn’t expect it to be like this, especially the toilet situation.”

Live Life Pharmacy manager Karen Milostic cried when she walked into one of her stores. It only reopened six months ago following extensive renovations to reduce damage caused by bad weather.

“The shop had been flooded twice before,” she told AAP.

Kyrgios to meet Federer in Miami semis

Nick Kyrgios has booked a semi-final showdown with the rejuvenated Roger Federer at the Miami Open after seeing off fellow young gun Alexander Zverev for the second time in two weeks.

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Australian 12th seed Kyrgios required six match points against the 19-year-old German, prevailing 6-4 6-7 (9-11) 6-3 at Key Biscayne.

After world No.20 Zverev refused to yield in an enthralling second-set tiebreak, Kyrgios rallied to break serve in the sixth game of the third set before taking victory in two-and-a-half hours.

Kyrgios sent down 16 aces to Zverev’s three in their second career meeting, having also won their maiden encounter at Indian Wells.

Kyrgios also hit 34 winners to 21, including a between-the-legs shot to win a point in the opening game of the second set.

However, Kyrgios’ bag of trick shots let him down in the second-set tiebreaker, netting a between-the-legs ‘tweener’ shot to hand Zverev the set.

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Kyrgios said.

Despite signs of frustration from the players during the tense final set, which included both chastising the chair umpire and lines judges, Kyrgios appeared to appreciate the Zverev challenge.

The 21-year-old posted to Facebook a photo of the pair embracing after the match, saying, “And there will be many more of those to come.”

On Twitter he posted a video of the final point and post-match embrace adding, “Let’s hug it out, mate. @NickKyrgios #MiamiOpen”.

Kyrgios is looking forward to facing Federer – the reigning Australian Open winner and two-time champion at Key Biscayne – after he withdrew from their scheduled Indian Wells quarter-final a fortnight ago with a virus.

“He’s my favourite player, so I’m going to enjoy the moment,” Kyrgios said of Federer, who is 17-1 this year.

“He’s the greatest of all time. We don’t know how long he’s going to hang around so it’s a blessing.”

On his match-up with Kyrgios Federer said in his on-court interview: “You all should tune in if you’re not in the stadium.”

Federer, the 35-year-old winner of 18 grand slam titles, fought off two match points before beating No.10 seed Tomas Berdych 6-2 3-6 7-6 (8-6) in their quarter-final.

“I’m happy today to have come through somehow,” Federer said.

“I definitely got very lucky at the end. But I think I showed great heart today.”

Fourth-seed Federer was serving for the match at 5-3 and got broken, had a match point in the next game and couldn’t convert, then was down 6-4 in the breaker before winning the final four points.

Federer looked set for another emphatic victory after taking the first set but the second set is where things started going awry.

He needed only 26 minutes to take the first set before Berdych found his stride. Federer broke for 4-2 in the third, was serving for the match at 5-3 and got broken to love, then let a match point get away.

But Federer held on and was handed the victory when Berdych double faulted.

“Sick atmosphere,” Federer told the crowd afterward. “Thanks for making it very special.”

In the bottom half of the draw, unseeded Italian Fabio Fognini will face Spain’s fifth-seed Rafael Nadal for a spot in the final.

Vic energy companies breaking the rules

Five Victorians on life support weren’t given notice about planned power outages to their homes, according to a report by the state’s utilities regulator.

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It also found Victorian energy companies were breaching industry rules an average of more than three times a day in the last six months of 2016.

The Victorian Essential Services Commission energy market report for July to December last year found five Victorians on life support weren’t told about planned outages.

It also found 27 instances when a registered life support customer was improperly disconnected from electricity between July 2013 to September 2016.

The report said the mistakes occurred due to “human error or inaccurate maps”, but luckily no-one was “materially affected”.

Energy companies have since reported changes to ensure the errors don’t happen again, including changes to systems, retraining staff and improving the accuracy of network maps.

The commission found energy retailers and distributors broke the rules 687 times in the six months to December 31 last year, including more than 370 wrongful disconnections that cost more than half a million dollars in payouts.

The problem appears to be getting worse, with energy companies on track to pass the previous financial year’s figure of 565 wrongful disconnections.

During the 2015-16 financial year, Origin had 214 wrongful disconnections, AGL EnergyAustralia had 117, Lumo 63, Simply Energy 52, AGL 34 and Alinta 30,

A spokesman for the Australian Energy Council said rising electricity costs are placing increased pressure on customers and retailers alike.

“There were about 20,000 customers disconnected for not paying their bills and 379 disconnections were wrongful,” the spokesman told AAP.

“While that is less than two per cent of all disconnections, it is still too many.”

Sharks’ Lewis ready to join 300-game club

He’s won two NRL premierships, two rare NSW State of Origin series triumphs, and two Four Nations trophies for the Kangaroos, but Luke Lewis still isn’t satisfied with his NRL career.

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As he prepares to join the game’s exclusive 300-game club on Friday, Lewis admits his recently-signed one-year extension may not be his last as he craves more success with Cronulla.

And that includes winning back-to-back NRL titles with the Sharks.

“I really believe if we can put our head down and focus on what we can do well at Cronulla, we can definitely get to the end of the season in that big game,” Lewis said.

“You never know what can happen from there. I don’t want to be greedy, but I want to keep pushing forward and trying to win as many premierships as I can before I retire.”

That time may not even be at the end of next season despite the ageless warrior penning a one-year extension with the Sharks a fortnight ago.

If his body feels the same as it does in one year, there’s every chance he could play on.

“This year I was always planning on just seeing how the body felt and when I got to round 12, make a decision from there,” Lewis said.

“I feel amazing at the moment so I’ve done one year and if I get halfway through next year and I’m feeling amazing, I’ll go from there and maybe kick on.

“But if I’m not, I’m not going to drag it on. I don’t want to drag any club on, I just want to make sure I’m doing the right thing for myself and the club, so they can make the right decision.”

Lewis credited his longevity to the Sharks’ medical staff as well as his current teammates for pushing his body to the limits since his arrival from Penrith in 2013.

But he said it was only fitting he brought up his triple-century milestone in this week’s Women in League round, given his mum, sister, wife and daughter have played key roles in his career.

His mum Sharon, sister Krysti and wife Sonia were all critical in helping him overcome a thyroid cancer scare in 2012 when he questioned his future in the game.

“I remember when I got told about my thyroid cancer, I probably wouldn’t get peak fitness and all that stuff so I started to freak out,” he recalled.

“Would I get to play footy again? Would I always be able to play at the top of my game?”

He said his only regret came from failing to finish off his final year at Penrith.

“The only disappointing thing I found was that I didn’t get to finish off that season with Penrith and play the few games,” he said.

“I had to miss the rest of the year because I wasn’t allowed to play at that particular point.”

Counterterrorism response to involve military more easily

The army will be given new powers to respond to unfolding terrorist attacks, but the Federal Government says state police will still be the first responders.

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says most terrorist attacks are sudden and quickly finished.

“In the current threat environment, it’s most likely that a terrorist attack will use simple methodologies — a knife, a gun, a vehicle — and the attack itself could be over in minutes.”

But for attacks that go on for longer, particularly hostage situations, the Federal Government is giving the military new powers to intervene and help the police respond.

The Defence Act will be changed to remove a rule that says the states cannot ask the military for help until their own capabilities have been exceeded.

Mr Turnbull says Australian Defence Force officers will be embedded inside police counterterrorism units to improve cooperation.

“(It is) vitally important that we have that close liaison. It is no point operating in silos. Our enemies aren’t. We have to be completely connected at all times. And we’re clarifying the ability of the ADF to pre-position both personnel and material to fortify and enable the quickest possible response.”

The special forces will also offer training to police-response units.

But Justice Minister Michael Keenan says state police will still take the lead in terrorism incidents.

“It’s very important that everyone understands that domestic counterterrorism response remains primarily the responsibility of our police forces, but there will be certain circumstances — and we can’t always know exactly what form a terrorist attack might take in Australia — there will be certain circumstances where the ADF might be useful. When that is the case, I think Australians would understand we need arrangements that are going to allow that to happen.”

Labor has confirmed it is likely to support the reforms.

Opposition defence spokesman Richard Marles has promised a bipartisan approach, as is the norm with national-security issues.

“We have not yet seen the specifics of the legislation which is being proposed. We’ve asked that of the Government. But we will work with the Government to ensure that we come up with a bipartisan position for our country to deal with the threats that we face. And, indeed, I’d point out that, for more than a year now, Labor has been raising the question as to whether or not the call-out provisions have been strong enough to deal with the various terrorism threats that our country faces.”

The Government is not stopping there and plans to work with the states on further law changes.

Malcolm Turnbull says he wants to make sure prison sentences are high enough and ensure terrorism suspects can be detained without charge in any state.

The states will also be asked to give police more legal protection so they feel empowered to shoot and kill attackers.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Peter Jennings says police culture has already shifted away from prioritising arrests since the Lindt cafe siege in Sydney.

“Increasingly, because of what they call this active-shooter problem, police are basically training to kill terrorists on the spot. And in that sense, on that particular area, their culture is becoming more like the military culture.”

 

Manus Island’s forgotten refugees

Australia’s first refugee processing centre on Manus still stands, housing West Papuans.

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Some of the refugees still live in the camp, built when PNG was an Australian colony.

There is a place on Manus island in Papua New Guinea lost in time and forgotten in Australian history.

Manfred Meho was just three months old when he arrived.

“Our parents, when they ran away, we came as refugees to Manus Island. The government transferred us to Manus, our parents. At the time I was a child, maybe three or four months old.”

Thousands fled Indonesia’s takeover of Dutch New Guinea in the 1960s into the then-Australian colony of Papua and New Guinea.

“Papua Merdaka. Papua Merdaka means ‘Papua independence’.”

About 50 years ago, the Australian government built houses on Manus to isolate politically active refugees from what is now known as West Papua.

Several dozen ended up on Manus, marking the start of the use of the island for refugee processing.

Professor Klaus Neumann, a historian from Deakin University, says Australia needed to find a way to avoid diplomatic embarrassment.

“They thought they were a nuisance, because potentially they caused a problem with Australia’s relationship with Indonesia. Australia had not objected to Indonesia’s takeover of the Dutch colony, and Australia had recognised that Indonesia was now in charge of former Western New Guinea, so for Australia to grant refugee status to these people would have posed a diplomatic problem.”

A disputed UN-sponsored referendum, known as the Act of Free Choice, secured Indonesia’s takeover.

Two West Papuans, Clemens Runawery and Willem Zonggonau, both now deceased, tried to bring international attention to the issue.

Clemens Runawery told what happened in an Australian political television advertisement from ten years ago.

“Wim and I fled West Papua to New Guinea to fly to New York to inform the United Nations that the Act of Free Choice was corrupt. We were forced off the plane by Australian government officials.”

In 1969 they were sent to Manus, along with dozens of other refugees.

The camp is just a hundred metres away from Australia’s current refugee transit centre in the remote island’s capital, Lorengau.

Klaus Neumann says it would be wrong to compare it to today’s detention centre.

“The holding camp was not a detention centre, it did not have a barbed wire fence around it, people could come and go as they wanted to. In fact the administration was quite upset that they were not working, they wanted them to work in Lorengau or somewhere on Manus Island, they wanted the kids to go to school, so in that sense it wasn’t at all like a detention centre.”

Most of the original refugees have now died or moved elsewhere in PNG.

Some returned to Indonesia’s Papuan provinces, like Amos Kimbri.

“They told us if we hold a flag for West Papua, then they will kill us, so I and my wife and son and daughter went back again to PNG.”

On PNG’s independence in 1975, Australia took no responsibility for these refugees.

Now after almost five stateless decades, the incumbent PNG government of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has made them an offer.

“We have quite a large number of West Irian Indonesian refugees in PNG. Under this government, close to 10,000, are classified as eligible for PNG citizenship and a few weeks ago the first 300 were able to participate in a ceremony resettling them in the country.”

One of the last original West Papuan refugees, Manfred Meho, welcomes the offer of citizenship.

“Last month migration officials come to us and tok to mepla to givem displa citizenship yeah.”

But for those remaining refugees on Manus, returning to a free West Papua still remains a distant dream.

 

Saudi executions alarming rights groups again

There has been widespread condemnation of recent executions in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province, including four men convicted in a secret, so-called “terrorism” court.

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Human-rights groups are voicing increasing concern over what they call an unprecedented rate of executions in Saudi Arabia, already with one of the highest rates in the world.

It comes after four men were executed in Qatif, in the country’s east, after being charged with protest-related crimes and acts of violence.

At least six others were executed the previous day on smaller, criminal charges.

The director of the London-based, prisoner-rights organisation Reprieve, Maya Foa, says it is alarming.

“We’ve now seen 11 executions in just two days, which is an unprecedented rate of executions for Saudi Arabia and deeply troubling. It recalls the mass execution that we had over a year ago now, where 47 people were executed in one day, and there are really troubling concerns that Saudi Arabia may be now ramping up its execution machinery to kill more people on its death row.”

Middle East researcher Adam Coogle, at Human Rights Watch, says his organisation reviewed more than a dozen Shiite convictions in the same region in 2011 and 2012.

“In nearly all of the cases, the Shia citizens were convicted almost solely based on confessions that they gave freely, supposedly, to Saudi police.”

Mr Coogle describes the case of a man named Yussuf al-Mushaikass.

“Human Rights Watch has reviewed his case file, and this was certainly true of his case. He alleged that he was tortured to get a confession. Some of the Shia sentenced to death also include individuals who supposedly committed their crimes, the crimes that they’re alleged to have committed, before they were 18, so they’re considered to be child offenders. We’re aware of, I believe, four or five of these cases, and these individuals are currently on death row.”

Maya Foa cites the widely publicised case of 22-year-old Ali al-Nimr, who has spent five years in a Saudi prison, three on death row.

“Ali Al-Nimr was, of course, a young man, a juvenile, just 17 years old, who was arrested after he attended a protest. He was tortured terribly and then convicted and sentenced to death — he was actually sentenced to death by crucifixion.”

He is the nephew of Saudi Shiite cleric Sheik Nimr al-Nimr, whose execution, along with 47 others in January 2016, sparked widespread international condemnation.

“He is among other juveniles who face imminent execution. The charges, just to be clear … I said ‘attending a protest,’ (but,) on the charge sheet, they have things like ‘inviting friends to the protest on their BlackBerrys,’ ‘administering first aid at the protest.’ These are not things that we would ever consider to be crimes, let alone meriting execution.”

Ali Al-Ahmed is a former political prisoner in Saudi Arabia who now heads the Institute for Gulf Affairs in Washington.

He links what he calls the targeted executions to the country’s quest to establish its legitimacy in the eastern region of Qatib.

“If you compare it to the rest of Saudi Arabia, it has always been a place where politics have been made. Movements from communist to pan-Arabist to Islamist to liberal movements have been born there, and activists from there dominate the country’s political opposition, historically. So this is an area which has been giving the Saudi monarchy a big headache for many years.”

He rejects the idea that the Saudi government is targeting militants there.

“Most of them, protesters. All of them are protesters, but, most of them, their only crime is to protest or to write slogans on the walls or to raise the words in Arabic ‘Death to Al-Saud’ or ‘Down to Al-Saud.’ And that is a very, very sensitive and huge embarrassment to the Saudi monarchy, who view themselves as human gods, basically. And insulting them personally has no punishment but death, and that’s why Sheikh Al-Nimr was executed, because he dared to speak badly in public inside Saudi Arabia about the Saudi royal family, by name.”

Reprieve’s Maya Foa cites the case of another juvenile executed during last year’s mass executions that included Sheikh Al-Nimr.

“We later found out that there were a number of juveniles among those executed, including Ali Al-Ribh, who was a young man pulled out of school by the police, tortured, forced to sign a forced confession, sentenced to death and executed before we knew about the case. His family only found out that he had been executed after it had happened by reading it in a newspaper.”

Reprieve is calling for more involvement from governments such as Australia.

Maya Foa says it wants them to make clear to the Saudi royal family and newly appointed Crown Prince they do not support the execution of juveniles for attending peaceful protests.

“Silence is effectively condoning this behaviour and could very quickly turn into complicity.”

 

Acupuncture punctures period pain: study

Acupuncture can help combat period pain in sufferers, as well as relieve associated headaches and nausea, a study by Australian and New Zealand researchers has found.

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A small pilot study of 74 women aged between 18 and 45 found that more than half had at least a 50 per cent reduction in the severity of their period pain after undergoing acupuncture treatment for three months, with the effects lasting for up to a year.

Many of the women also reported less need to use painkillers to treat their period pain and an improvement in secondary symptoms, including headaches and nausea , according to the study published in the international journal PLOS One.

Known in medical circles as primary dysmenorrhea, period pain is most common in women aged under 25 and the most common gynaecological problem among women generally, with four in five encountering it during their reproductive years.

The researchers from Western Sydney University and the University of Auckland also found that manual acupuncture, where thin needles are inserted at certain points on the body, provided more relief than electro-acupuncture, which involves a small electrical current passing through the needles.

“Our pilot study found that using manual stimulation of the needles, rather than an electrical pulse, commonly used in many Chinese studies for period pain, resulted in reduced need for pain-relieving medication and improvement in secondary symptoms such as headaches and nausea,” said Dr Mike Armour, a postdoctoral research fellow at Western Sydney University’s National Institute of Complementary Medicine.

“The latter was unexpected and will be explored further in future, larger trials.”

During the study, the women kept a diary and underwent one of four types of manual or electro acupuncture treatments.

Twelve treatments were carried out either once or three times a week over three menstrual cycles.

The women reported significant reductions in “peak pain” during the first three days of their period and in “average pain” experienced over their entire period, with the effects sustained for 12 months.

Many also experienced improvements in PMS-related symptoms such as mood swings.

“Treatment timing appears to play a small role, with high frequency of treatment providing greater improvements in health-related quality of life,” the researchers wrote.

Australian family say lost son would want them to ‘keep fighting’ for MH17 truth

A Sydney mother who lost her 25-year-old son in the MH17 disaster says while Jack “didn’t come walking back in the door” she knows he would say to keep on fighting for the truth to come out.

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Three years after the Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down by a Buk missile over Ukraine, Meryn and Jon O’Brien and their daughter Bronwyn attended the opening of a new memorial in Holland to the 298 people who lost their lives

Among them were 38 Australian citizens and residents, including their son Jack, flying back on July 17, 2014, from a European backpacking trip to resume his studies.

The memorial at Vijfhuizen near Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport features 298 young trees planted for each of those who died.

After the memorial’s opening, attended by the Dutch king and queen, the O’Briens visited their son’s tree, a crab apple, as planes took off from the nearby airport he flew out of.

“It’s a big thing for us to come back to the airport that Jack left from,” Ms O’Brien told AAP.

“We want Jack to walk back in the door but it’s a beautiful symbol,” she said of his tree, now hung with cards and ribbons sent by his grandmothers, friends, cousins and soccer mates.

Ms O’Brien said her “beautiful child” was returning to Australia “to get on with his life” and he had been passionate about the things he cared about.

A Dutch-led investigation, that includes Australians, has concluded that the Buk missile that downed MH17 was fired from rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine from a launcher that had crossed the border from Russia.

The Russians insist the Ukrainian military downed the aircraft.

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Mr O’Brien said some responsibility must lie with Ukraine for not closing its air space during conflict and with Malaysian Airlines, which with many other airlines continued to fly over Ukraine.

“We hold accountable the crew on the ground who shot the missile but there’s a level of responsibility and accountability all the way up the chain of command, all the way to the top,” he said.

The O’Briens know it may take years for the investigative and prosecution process to play out.

“The main game is that Jack didn’t come walking back in the door, but the truth would matter to Jack as well,” Ms O’Brien said.

“So I feel like he would say to us, ‘keep fighting for the truth to come out’.”

She said the 298 people whose names were read out by relatives at Monday’s ceremony had “lost the chance to live, so the truth matters”.

Many of those reading out the names were in tears, with their voices breaking with emotion.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima led 17 school children from the local community to lay sunflowers at the new memorial in a symbolic opening.

No regrets for speaking out: Harrison

Amber Harrison doesn’t regret speaking out about her bitter battle with Seven West Media, despite a court finding she acted “unreasonably” in her case against the network.

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The ex-lover of Seven boss Tim Worner has been at the centre of a long-running dispute with the broadcaster after she publicly revealed details of the affair in December.

While Ms Harrison admits she made some mistakes, she says she was driven to breach a confidentiality agreement about the relationship after fighting to resolve the matter for more than two years.

“When I was exhausted emotionally and financially and left ruined in December of 2016, I made a decision that the court system does not serve an individual,” she told ABC Radio on Monday.

“It serves a company who knows its way around it and I took the path that I took.

“And no, I did not regret that.”

Ms Harrison has been ordered to pay all Seven West Media’s legal costs after a judge on Monday found she made allegations she could not substantiate and acted unreasonably in her battle with the company.

The single mother of one insists she won’t pay the bill – which could total hundreds of thousands of dollars – because it would send her bankrupt.

While Ms Harrison says it will be difficult figuring out how to financially support her son, she remains unapologetic.

“I think (Seven) won in court by bankrupting me, but the court of public opinion is very different and I’ve had overwhelming support,” she said.

She also fired a warning to the “boys’ club” that she believes dominates Australian business.

“I think my case is a wake-up call for them and I hope it changes things, changes the culture,” she said.

The media company had sought a permanent gag order to stop Ms Harrison from leaking company details and argued her social media posts had breached her employment contract.

Justice John Sackar on Monday found she had decided to contest the company’s claim and run a cross-claim, mounted on allegations she wasn’t able to back up.

US travel ban tweak lets grandparents in

Grandparents of US citizens from six Muslim-majority countries are now eligible to receive US visas, according to a State Department memo seen by Reuters that reflects the latest court ruling on US President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

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The memo, or cable, from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was sent to all US diplomatic posts overseas on Friday after a US district judge in Hawaii issued a ruling late on Thursday limiting the scope of the administration’s temporary ban on refugees and travellers from the six countries.

US District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu found the government cannot bar grandparents and other relatives of United States citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from getting visas under the ban.

Watson declined to put his ruling on hold pending appeal, meaning it went into effect immediately. The administration has asked the Supreme Court and San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals to block the decision.

The July 14 cable updated the definition of “close family” that are exempt from the temporary travel ban laid down in Trump’s March 6 executive order.

The cable reversed the State Department’s previous, narrow definition of close family and stated that “grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, and cousins” are eligible for visas.

In another reversal, the State Department had originally interpreted the Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling to exclude fiances, saying they do not count as a close family relationship eligible for an exemption to the travel ban. Just before the 90-day travel ban was to take effect on June 29, the State Department said fiances would be counted as close family.

Last month the Supreme Court partially revived the March 6 ban that had been blocked by lower courts. It said the ban could take effect, but people with a “bona fide relationship” to a US person or entity could not be barred.

Parliament indigenous voice a challenge-MP

The first Aboriginal woman elected to the House of Representatives now believes an indigenous referendum is even further away, after leaders were encouraged to enshrine a voice in parliament.

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Linda Burney is disappointed the Referendum Council did not recommend removal or replacement of “archaic” race powers in the constitution.

Instead, in a report released on Monday, the body tasked with finding a path to constitutional recognition recommended establishing an advisory body.

It proposed a constitutionally-entrenched body, whose powers would be legislated.

Ms Burney believes the proposal is limited.

“They have specifically said that ‘we will not entertain anything except this voice to the parliament’ and this has created I think a challenge for everyone,” she told ABC radio on Tuesday.

Ms Burney acknowledged the council’s months of consultation, which culminated in a summit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders at Uluru in May.

“Somehow or other we’ve got to find the magic formula of meeting the aspirations of Aboriginal people,” she said.

As well, there was an understanding there had to be a “clear, fairly simple proposition” that would win support from the broader Australian community.”

Ms Burney was hopeful of a referendum in early 2018 but now doubted that would be the case.

“I think we are on a path that it is further away than what I anticipated,” she said.

Council co-chair Mark Leiber told political leaders there were only two options available in pursuing a referendum – adopt the recommendation or put constitutional recognition on the back burner.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was non-committal when he sat down with the council, describing its recommendation as a “big idea” short on detail.

He and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten both vowed to give the proposal careful consideration.

Mr Leibler said some details of how the representative body would operate needed to be fleshed out before a referendum was held, but most could be finalised afterward.

Labor senator and Aboriginal leader Pat Dodson described the council’s proposal as “a bit of a bolt in the dark” and that handing down a single recommendation made things pretty hard.

Senator Dodson believes the nature, function and purpose of the indigenous advisory body needs to be clearly understood and explained, to ward off any potential scare campaigns at a referendum.

“I don’t think we’ve got a clear line of sight as to whether any constitutional change is going to take place or not,” he said.

White House accuses Democrats, Ukraine of ‘collusion’

White House spokesman Sean Spicer repeated allegations that a Democratic operative had met with Ukrainian embassy officials during the campaign, turning the tables on its accusers amid an all-engulfing scandal over Trump’s contacts with Russia.

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Spicer referred to several recent reports by conservative media outlets, alleging the Democratic operative sought dirt on then Trump campaign director Paul Manafort.

The allegations first came to light in a Politico story in January.

“Obviously, there’s been a lot more interest in recent days with respect to what the DNC did in coordination with the Ukrainian government to try to collude,” Spicer said.

The White House spokesman alleged that the Democratic National Committee collusion took place to “achieve a goal of having someone removed, which ultimately did happen.”

Manafort left his post in August 2016, as Trump’s general election prospects looked dim and details of his own business dealings with pro-Kremlin leaders in Ukraine emerged.

Spicer was asked by a pro-Trump media representative whether the issue was raised when Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko visited the White House in June.

Spicer said he did not know, but claimed that “the DNC’s collusion with the Ukrainian government has definitely gotten a lot more attention since that meeting.”

Adrienne Watson of the DNC accused the White House of deflecting.

“The White House has been pushing this narrative to distract from the Trump campaign’s willingness to work with a hostile foreign government to interfere in our election. No one is buying it.”

‘That’s politics!’

The comments come as the White House reeled from Donald Trump Jr.’s confession that he and two other Trump senior aides knowingly met Kremlin-connected operatives to get incriminating information on rival presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

That admission, after months of denials, has prompted some Republicans to openly criticize the White House and venture that Donald Jr. may have broken the law.

US intelligence agencies believe that President Vladimir Putin ordered a vast influence operation to tilt the 2016 election in Trump’s favor.

Trump himself has responded by describing his son’s meeting as business as usual.

“Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended in order to get info on an opponent.

That’s politics!” he tweeted on Monday.

Spicer seemed to contradict his boss, by saying the meeting was actually about adoption.

In a statement, the Ukrainian embassy in Washington denied allegations it had “colluded” with Democrats against the Trump campaign.

The embassy “neither coordinated with the DNC on opposition research nor taken any actions to undermine campaign efforts,” the statement read.

“While some politicians who are not part of the Ukrainian government might have taken sides or made comments during last year’s election, the Embassy and the government of Ukraine did not.”

“We highly appreciate US administration support to Ukraine and the progress achieved in recent months in our bilateral relations.”

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