Gay marriage lobby declares its resilience

Same-sex marriage advocates have declared they are “as tough as nails” and will get through Australia’s divisive national debate and postal survey together.

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Supporters gathered in Sydney’s Taylor Square, off Oxford Street, on Sunday for a colourful street party featuring Love Is in the Air singer John Paul Young.

Equality campaign organiser Alex Greenwich encouraged the crowd to keep the focus positive despite a group of seven same-sex marriage opponents who staged a counter rally.

“We’re going to ignore them because our campaign is all about uniting people around Australia’s values of fairness and equality,” he said.

The group of seven, which included activist Kat A Klayton, who was tied to Sydney’s controversial “Vote No” skywriting, left part-way through the performances.

Keep Sydney Open figure Tyson Koh was keen to acknowledge the national debate had been tough for many vulnerable members of the Australian LGBTIQ community.

“It’s worth also acknowledging that we are a resilient bunch. We always have been,” he said.

“The gay and lesbian community, the queer community of Sydney and Australia, is as tough as nails and we will get through this with love, with fun, with compassion by sticking together.”

The colourful crowd, which included dozens of rainbow flags, same-sex marriage signs and several rainbow-adorned dogs, erupted when Young’s famous song Love Is in the Air began.

“Now off you go and get married,” he said when the track came to a close.

Mr Greenwich said the event, which also included performances from singer Ricki-Lee Coulter and electronic music duo Peking Duk, was designed to encourage people to return their ballots at the halfway point of the campaign.

“We really need to make sure as many people vote as possible and as many people play a part in this once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape our nation as a fairer and more equal place,” he said.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates about 57 per cent of ballots had been received as of last Friday.

The result of the voluntary postal survey will be announced on November 15.

Trump ‘not at all surprised’ by Harvey Weinstein allegations

“I’ve known Harvey Weinstein for a very long time, I’m not at all surprised to see it,” President Trump told reporters outside the White House.

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His comments came after the New York Times published a bombshell report earlier this week which alleged Weinstein, whose company produced such hits as “The King’s Speech” and “Django Unchained,” preyed on young women hoping to break into the film industry.

The scandal was pounced on by Republicans because Weinstein has been a major backer of Democrat candidates.

Many Democrat lawmakers have since vowed to turn over their contributions from Weinstein to charity.

Trump faced his own sex scandal last year when video emerged of him using lewd language to describe groping women.

Asked about the tape on Saturday, Trump dismissed it “locker room talk,” as he has done in the past.

Lisa Bloom, one of Weinstein’s lawyers who specializes in sexual harassment cases, said Thursday that her 65-year-old client “denies many of the accusations as patently false.”

“He has acknowledged mistakes he has made,” she wrote. “He is reading books and going to therapy. He is an old dinosaur learning new ways.”

His accusers, the Times said, were mainly young women hoping to break into the film industry and include celebrities such as Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd.

The accusers say Weinstein forced them to massage him, watch him naked and promised to help advance their careers in exchange for sexual favors.

Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd.AAP

Meanwhile overnight the Weinstein Company launched an internal probe over the harassment claims against co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, confirming he has taken an “indefinite” leave of absence.

The revelations prompted three of the company’s nine board members to resign, according to The New York Times.

“We strongly endorse Harvey Weinstein’s already-announced decision to take an indefinite leave of absence from the company, commencing today,” said a statement signed Friday by four board members: Bob Weinstein, Tarak Ben Ammar, Lance Maerov and Richard Koenigsberg.

“As Harvey has said… it is important for him to get professional help for the problems he has acknowledged.

0:00 Australian students respond to sexual assault and harassment report Share Australian students respond to sexual assault and harassment report

No change to age kids can be detained: PM

New counter-terrorism laws that could lead to 10-year-old children being locked up for two weeks without charges simply standardise measures now in place across the country, Malcolm Turnbull insists.

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Young children can already be charged with crimes under Australian laws, the prime minister says.

“Is very important to remember that (with) children there is actually no change here. Under our criminal law, children can be charged with committing crimes,” he told reporters in Sydney on Sunday.

The move to a 14-day detention period would allow police in all jurisdictions to hold people for the same length of time before laying charges, subject to oversight by a magistrate.

The harsh “pre-charge” detention scheme for terror suspects was part of a suite of measures agreed to at a special Council of Australian Governments counter-terror meeting in Canberra this week.

It’s drawn criticism from the Law Council of Australia and shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus, who described the move as a “shocking and drastic step”.

Mr Turnbull accused Mr Dreyfus of crab-walking away from a bipartisan commitment to keeping Australians safe.

“This is very, very important as a tool for the police and security agencies to keep us safe from terrorism,” the prime minister said.

“We need an absolute united front, a full-court press, in giving our police the means that they need to keep us safe.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said successive changes to counter-terrorism laws chipped away at civil liberties in the same way that terror attacks and plots chipped away at Australians’ sense of safety and security.

“The notion that laws that might have worked, systems, processes, procedures that might have worked a year ago or 20 years ago are fit for purpose today, that is a deluded view,” he told ABC TV on Sunday.

“There is not the luxury to effective political leaders to have an esoteric debate.”

New Orleans and Gulf Coast hunker down as Hurricane Nate makes landfall

Hurricane Nate has made landfall at the mouth of the Mississippi River on the south-eastern tip of the state of Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center said Saturday.

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The storm was packing winds of 85 miles (140 kilometres) per hour as it was bearing north at 20 miles (31 kilometres) per hour.

Nate caused widespread flooding and left dozens of people dead in Central America, the latest in a series of deadly storms to hammer Caribbean islands, Mexico and the south-eastern US in this exceptionally busy hurricane season.

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US Gulf Coast residents scrambled with last-minute preparations as the outer bands of Hurricane Nate began lashing New Orleans.

But US President Donald Trump said federal officials were prepared for the fast-moving storm.

He urged residents of the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida on Twitter to “listen to your local authorities & be safe!”

As a weary and sodden region prepared for its third hurricane in two months – filling sandbags, stocking up on essential supplies or packing cars to flee – New Orleans, which was ravaged by deadly Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and other cities on the coast were under a hurricane warning.

0:00 Louisiana governor warns of approaching tropical storm Nate Share Louisiana governor warns of approaching tropical storm Nate

‘Dangerous storm surge’

“The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline,” the NHC warned.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey tweeted that she had asked Trump for a presidential declaration of emergency, “to ensure we have all possible resources in place to respond to #HurricaneNate.”

Trump earlier issued an emergency declaration allowing federal aid to be sent to help mitigate the storm’s impact.

New Orleans issued a mandatory curfew for Saturday from 6:00pm, and mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders were issued for certain low-lying areas.

Swells expected to affect the north-western Caribbean over the weekend “are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions,” the US forecasters said.

Officials said the recent hurricanes, devastating as they were, actually helped with preparations for Nate, since emergency supplies and assets deployed for the earlier storms were still in place.

Still, the resources of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have been stretched.

National Guardsmen were prepared to ride out the storm in the city’s huge Superdome arena, ready to respond once Nate passes over, the nola南京夜生活, news website reported.

Our great team at @FEMA is prepared for #HurricaneNate. Everyone in LA, MS, AL, and FL please listen to your local authorities & be safe!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2017’Prepare now’

As New Orleans braced for yet another powerful hurricane, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said that “our greatest threat … is not necessarily rain, but strong winds and storm surge.” 

The mayor urged residents in three areas under mandatory evacuation orders to leave by noon, when nearby floodgates were closing.

The city’s levee system has been considerably fortified since Katrina claimed some 1,800 lives in the region, but authorities warn that it has not completely eliminated flood risks.

Unlike Hurricane Harvey, which dumped record amounts of rain as it hovered over neighbouring Texas for a week, fast-moving Nate was expected to pass through quickly along a northerly path.

Still, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards warned that Nate could cause unexpected damage.

“Anyone in low-lying areas … we are urging them to prepare now,” he said.

As #HurricaneNate approaches, listen to local officials & follow this list of trusted accounts for up-to-date info: 南京桑拿,南京SPA,/imjr7ryNgP 南京桑拿,南京SPA,/Lny88GoWIT

— FEMA (@fema) October 7, 2017Oil rigs evacuated

In neighbouring Mississippi, lines formed at gas stations in areas along the potential path of the storm. Off the coast, some oil and gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico have been evacuated.

The Entergy electric utility warned users that power outages could last as long as a week.

The United States is recovering from two major hurricanes: Harvey, which tore through Texas and then Louisiana in August, and Irma, which slammed Florida in September.

Another powerful storm, Hurricane Maria, ripped through the Caribbean in late September, devastating several islands, including Dominica and Puerto Rico, a US territory.

When Nate struck Central America on Thursday and Friday, at least 31 people were killed and others were still missing.

Intense rains forced thousands from their homes, uprooting trees, knocking out bridges and turning roads into rivers.

Authorities in some areas warned that crocodiles might be roaming after rivers and estuaries flooded.

The Atlantic hurricane season normally runs from June to November.

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Diamonds close to Constellation Cup win

Australia’s netball team have all but secured the Constellation Cup after a 60-52 win against New Zealand in Christchurch in the second Test.

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Silver Ferns coach Janine Southby admits there are still shortfalls which need fixing, with the Diamonds needing just one more win in the next two matches in Adelaide and Sydney to wrap up the four-Test series.

After edging the Kiwis 57-54 in Auckland three days ago, Australia were ruthlessly efficient across all four quarters at Horncastle Arena on Sunday.

“We had a great start, but I thought we let it slip in the last couple of minutes of the first quarter, and ultimately we paid a bit more of a price tonight than we wanted to,” Southby said.

“I can’t fault the intensity and the work rate people have put out there.

“I think our connections are still not where they need to be, and at times we were just not using the court as well as we can, or have confidence in each other to let the ball go.”

New Zealand’s accuracy was solid enough, led by Maria Tutaia’s 26 goals from 29, but the volume of ball into their shooters lagged behind Australia, who never looked back after closing the first quarter with a five-goal run to lead 14-11.

Ahead 29-26 at half-time and 44-39 at the three-quarter mark, the Diamonds shut down any likelihood of a Silver Ferns comeback, even if they didn’t quite achieve coach Lisa Alexander’s targets.

“There’s been a lot of growth in the group, in digging in,” Alexander said.

“They really stuck to the game plan and implemented it, and lifted their intensity in defence, and that was very pleasing.”

Alexander wanted her team to dominate and to put the foot down when they had the chance, and she said there were glimpses of that ruthlessness.

“I think there were some opportunities, particularly in that first half when we went out to five at one stage and really should have pushed on.

“It’s those little silly errors that are costing us – we’re still not taking care of the details well enough.”

Shooter and skipper Caitlin Bassett, who dominated the front space and nailed 40 of her 44 attempts, said she’d been pleased with her team’s work in the attacking third, where Liz Watson and Kim Ravaillion were always half a pace ahead.

“I think the girls were a lot better with their placement of the ball tonight,” Bassett said.

“We were hitting the circle edge and Lizzie Watson in particular was so strong and has got such fast hands that it’s really hard to stop her.”

‘Only one thing will work’: Trump says North Korean diplomacy has failed

US President Donald Trump said Saturday that diplomatic efforts with North Korea have consistently failed, adding that “only one thing will work.

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Trump has engaged in an escalating war of words with North Korean strongman Kim Jong-Un, trading insults amid rising tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

“Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid,” Trump tweeted.

Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid……

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2017

It “hasn’t worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, makings fools of US negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!”

The US has not ruled out the use of force to compel Pyongyang to halt missile and nuclear tests, and Trump has threatened to “totally destroy” the country.

The mercurial American president also told journalists at a recent gathering with military leaders to discuss Iran, North Korea, and the Islamic State group that this “could be the calm before the storm,” declining to clarify his remarks.

…hasn’t worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, makings fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2017

Last week, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson flew home from meeting with top Chinese officials, Trump tweeted that his envoy was “wasting his time” in trying to probe North Korea’s willingness to talk.

The message came after Tillerson had revealed there were backchannels between US and North Korean officials.

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Waves of Justice: The TV show teaching viewers in Timor-Leste about human rights

In wealthy countries, free-to-air broadcast television may be giving way to marathon binge sessions on your favourite streaming service.

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But in Timor-Leste, viewers are getting something extra in their terrestrial TV programming and it’s proving a hit.

A new locally-produced law and order drama is taking the fledgling nation by storm.

Laloran Justisa, or Waves of Justice, is a Tetum-language series that presents family tensions, football, music and love stories in combination with important human rights and democracy themes.

Currently broadcast nationally, there are also public screenings under way in remote villages from Maubisse, in the central highlands, to Fohorem.

“The shows sets a good example for us students as well as our families,” class three student Sonia de Reigo explains.

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“When a relative stays with us to go to school, we should let them go to school, the housework can be done after school.” 

The show is part of a broader project where students are taking part in an art and writing competition.

Teacher Maria da Silva says the show engages students, making it a powerful education tool. 

“The show can motivate the students: they can learn from the series, the good and bad,” de Silva said.

The show is the result of a close collaboration between Australian human rights lawyer Patrick Burgess, who runs Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR), and award winning writer Phillip Gwynne.

Burgess isolated the human rights themes while Gwynne wrote the drama and action to ensure the show would be engaging entertainment.

The project was developed in conjunction with the Timorese government and bankrolled by the European Union.

Gwynne wrote the scripts, while Dili Film Works produced the shows with the aim of delivering education through entertainment. 

“People aren’t going to watch it if there’s not enough drama, love stories … and you’re going to fail,” Burgess told SBS World News.

“You have to have that but if the messages are not clear you have also failed.”

Sister Marcelina, from the Fohorem Church, says two of the show’s characters, who are keen to assert their independence, offer some good coming-of-age lessons.

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“From what I see in the two kids, they both are enthusiastic about the life in the city,” Sister Marcelina said after a public viewing.

“But along the way, when they are faced with the reality of life, they couldn’t go through with it.

“So this reflects the reality of life, where children have high hopes, but with the lack of support from family they decide to find their own place to live.” 

That’s no accident. Burgess says there’s a theme for each of the 20 half-hour episodes.

“One might be domestic violence, one might be environmental pollution and those episodes can be used as training in schools, in government and the police,” he said.

Burgess is no stranger to conflict and nation-building. He’s worked on reconciliation after the Rwandan genocide, atrocities in Yemen and as UN Human Rights chief in Timor-Leste.

“There are a lot of village people who don’t understand their rights, that they have the right to basics like schooling, education and that they shouldn’t tolerate corruption by local officials and that nepotism is something that is not going to benefit anybody, so we put those in,” he said.

The idea is modelled on a similar series The Sun, the Moon, and the Truth, also made by Asia Justice And Rights in Myanmar.

Watched by seven million people, it was so successful it’s now used to train all police officers.

“We had no idea it was going to be that successful. It has such an impact that the show is now used to train every new police officer in Cambodia,” Burgess said.

“There’s a scene with a domestic violence situation where an older cop says: ‘You know this is a family problem’, while the younger cop is pursuing the legal process, siding with the victim.

“Trainee cops are asked to assess that situation.”  

The good-cop-bad-cop scenario in that series is also used in Waves of Justice too.

Fohorem Village Chief Fernando Ferreira attended the public screening in his community and says it demonstrates the right approach to law enforcement.

“I learned something from the movie, about the police capturing the suspect,” Chief Ferreira aid.

“[They] lock him up in cell and [he’s] brought to court. It shows the good cop/bad cop, which is a good example that reflects reality.

“If there were any cops here tonight watching, I hope they could learn something from the show. The shows set good example for us students as well as our families.”

Las Vegas shooter ‘made hand-written calculations to maximise accuracy and number of kills’

The piece of paper was found by police officers who stormed Paddock’s room after he launched his attack from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel Sunday night – killing 58 people and injuring nearly 500.

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In an interview set to air on Sunday, Officer David Newton of the Las Vegas Police Department’s K-9 unit, told CBS’ “60 Minutes” he noticed Paddock’s note “on the nightstand near his shooting platform.”

“I could see on it he had written the distance, the elevation he was on, the drop of what his bullet was going to be for the crowd. So he had had that written down and figured out so he would know where to shoot to hit his targets from there,” he said.

Newton added that forcing entry into the room with an explosive before finding Paddock’s body and an arsenal of weapons was like something “out of a movie.”

It was “very eerie,” he said.

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Paddock’s hotel suite gave him an ideal perch from which to carry out his attack on a crowd of more than 20,000 people attending a country music concert across the street, some 400 yards (365 meters) away.

The note has not shed any light on the gunman’s motives, which authorities are yet to uncover nearly a week after the deadliest mass shooting in recent US history.

“We still do not have a clear motive or reason why,” Undersheriff Kevin McMahill of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department told reporters Friday, adding that law enforcement was continuing to search for answers with “great tenacity.”

The shooting has refueled debate on gun control in the US, with even the powerful pro-gun National Rifle Association calling on authorities to review laws surrounding “bump stocks.”

Used by Paddock, a bump stock’s spring-loaded mechanism uses a rifle’s recoil to repeatedly and rapidly pull the trigger, allowing the user to fire several hundred rounds per minute.

0:00 Man installs crosses in honour of Vegas shooting victims Share Man installs crosses in honour of Vegas shooting victims

Wallaby Hodge steals Folau’s thunder

Reece Hodge has hailed the Wallabies pack and star-studded backline after stealing Israel Folau’s thunder with a career-first Test try-scoring double in Australia’s 37-20 Rugby Championship win over Argentina.

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All the pre-match focus was on Folau and the superstar fullback’s bid to break the world record for most tries in a calendar year after he eclipsed Lote Tuqiri’s Australian-best tally of 10 with his 11th five-pointer against South Africa.

But it was Hodge who delivered a decisive double in Mendoza as the Wallabies secured second spot in the championship.

While Folau finished empty-handed, Hodge crossed in each half and would have collected a hat-trick if not for a forward pass in the lead-up to another fine attacking play on Sunday morning.

After being used in the centres for most of his 19 Tests since debuting last year, the classy utility is revelling on the wing for the Wallabies.

Deflecting the praise, the humble back says it’s a dream playing outside the likes of Folau, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley and Will Genia.

“It’s really exciting to play off the back of that. When they get the ball, anything can happen,” Hodge said.

“Bernie talks about it at every session and every backs review that we’ve got to be chasing through and chasing those line breaks and not assuming there’s going to be a ruck there.

“With those guys there, it’s a pretty realistic thing to have line breaks. It’s pretty good to play off.”

Hodge, though, reserved special gratitude for the Wallabies forwards, saying the backline couldn’t thrive without the necessary go-forward.

“It really came down to our ruck work. When we get that speed of ball, we really back our shape,” he said.

“We can go through anyone if we really nail down that attacking breakdown.

“When we start going forward, anyone can get involved no matter if you’re one to 15. It’s a bit of a cliche but when the forwards are going forward, it makes it really easy to play.

“So I’m really enjoying playing off the back of that.”

Xenophon just wants SA balance of power

Nick Xenophon will be looking at the maths and the promises from Labor and the Liberals should he find himself kingmaker in the next South Australian parliament.

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But the federal senator insists he only wants to make things better for his home state and doesn’t have eyes on the top job.

Senator Xenophon announced on Friday his intention to quit the Senate and stand for the state’s lower house in the March election, hoping to return to SA politics after a decade in federal parliament.

His SA-Best party intends to stand candidates in up to 20 of the 47 lower house seats as well as in the upper house.

ABC election analyst Antony Green suspects the party will do well.

“There’s also deep discontent with the major parties and I don’t think anyone could discount the fact that he may do spectacularly well and his party could finish in second place or even equal to one of the other parties,” Mr Green told ABC TV on Sunday.

“I don’t want to make people think it is a real possibility he could be premier but it is the sort of thing you shouldn’t discount.”

Asked directly if he was running to be premier, Senator Xenophon insisted he was only seeking to hold the balance of power.

“Just to make this clear to both the premier and opposition leader: I’m running because I don’t think either side offers a clear vision and a good path forward for South Australia,” he told Sky News.

Should SA-Best win enough seats to be in a position to decide which party forms government, it would consider who won the popular vote and the most seats as well as “which side will be fair dinkum on issues of transparency” such as reforming freedom of information laws and strengthening the powers of the auditor-general and the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption.

The party would not seek any cabinet positions.

Mr Green said recent history had shown Labor around the country had been able to do deals with smaller parties to govern, while the SA Liberals had already ruled out any coalition with Senator Xenophon’s team.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop went on the attack on Sunday, saying it appeared to her Senator Xenophon would inevitably back Labor.

“It’s quite clear in the upcoming state election that if you want to get rid of an incompetent Labor government … then don’t vote for Senator Xenophon,” she told reporters in Brisbane.

SA-Best has already hit a road bump, with Senator Xenophon on Saturday sacking one of his candidates, Rhys Adams, within minutes of a Facebook photo emerging of the man holding his fist up to a wax model of pop star Rihanna.

Senator Xenophon insisted the party had good vetting procedures – including extensive interviews, police checks, psychometric testing and social media vetting – but the photos had been missed in this case.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull believes his government will be able to work with whoever replaces Senator Xenophon on the Senate crossbench.

However, Mr Turnbull’s Senate team might find it is still dealing with Senator Xenophon, even if he is not in Canberra, with the departing senator saying he still expects to be involved in federal policy decision-making.