Turkish police battle protesters in Istanbul square

Istanbul: Turkish riot police using tear gas and water cannon battled protesters for control of Istanbul’s Taksim Square on Tuesday night as demonstrators defied Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s demand they clear the area and end 10 days of demonstrations.
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Police fired volleys of tear gas canisters into a crowd of thousands – people in office clothes as well as youths in masks who had fought skirmishes throughout the day – sending them scattering into side streets and nearby hotels. Water cannon swept across the square targeting stone-throwers in masks.

Istanbul’s governor said on Tuesday riot police would continue operations against protesters in Taksim Square day and night until it was cleared, and appealed to people to stay away for their own safety.

“We will continue our measures in an unremitting manner, whether day or night, until marginal elements are cleared and the square is open to the people,” Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu said in a brief television announcement.

Protesters, who accuse Mr Erdogan of overreaching his authority after 10 years in power and three election victories, thronged the steep narrow lanes that lead down to the Bosphorus waterway. Gradually, many began drifting back into the square as police withdrew, and gathered around a bonfire of rubbish.

Mr Erdogan had earlier called on protesters to stay out of Taksim, the centre of demonstrations triggered by a heavy-handed police crackdown on a rally against development of the small Gezi Park abutting the square.

Gezi Park has been turned into a ramshackle settlement of tents by leftists, environmentalists, liberals, students and professionals who see the development plan as symptomatic of overbearing government.

The protests, during which demonstrators used fireworks and petrol bombs, have posed a stark challenge to Mr Erdogan’s authority and divided the country. In an indication of the impact of the protests on investor confidence, the central bank said it would intervene if needed to support the Turkish lira.

Mr Erdogan, who denies accusations of authoritarian behaviour, declared he would not yield.

“They say the prime minister is rough. So what was going to happen here? Were we going to kneel down in front of these (people)?” Mr Erdogan said as action to clear the square began.

“If you call this roughness, I’m sorry, but this Tayyip Erdogan won’t change,” he told a meeting of his AK party’s parliamentary group.

Western allies have expressed concern about the troubles in a key NATO ally bordering Syria, Iraq and Iran. Washington has held up Mr Erdogan’s Turkey as an example of an Islamic democracy that could be emulated elsewhere in the Middle East.

Victor in three consecutive elections, Mr Erdogan says the protests are engineered by vandals, terrorist elements and unnamed foreign forces. His critics, who say conservative religious elements have won out over centrists in his AK party, accuse him of inflaming the crisis with unyielding talk.

Market Turmoil

“A comprehensive attack against Turkey has been carried out,” Mr Erdogan said.

“The increase in interest rates, the fall in the stock markets, the deterioration in the investment environment, the intimidation of investors – the efforts to distort Turkey’s image have been put in place as a systematic project,” he said.

Despite the street protests against Mr Erdogan, he remains unrivalled as a leader in his AK party, in parliament and on the streets.

The unrest has knocked investor confidence in a country that has boomed under Mr Erdogan. The lira, already suffering from wider market turmoil, fell to its weakest level against its dollar/euro basket since October 2011.

The cost of insuring Turkish debt against default rose to its highest in ten months, although it remained far from crisis levels.

The police move came a day after Mr Erdogan agreed to meet protest leaders involved in the initial demonstrations over development of the square.

“I invite all demonstrators, all protesters, to see the big picture and the game that is being played,” Erdogan said. “The ones who are sincere should withdraw … and I expect this from them as their prime minister.”

Protesters accuse Mr Erdogan of authoritarian rule and some suspect him of ambitions to replace the secular republic with an Islamic order – something Erdogan denies.

“This movement won’t end here … After this, I don’t think people will go back to being afraid of this government or any government,” said student Seyyit Cikmen, 19, as the crowd chanted “Every place is Taksim, every place resistance.”

Turkey’s Medical Association said that as of late Monday, 4947 people had sought treatment in hospitals and voluntary infirmaries for injuries, ranging from cuts and burns to breathing difficulties from tear gas inhalation, since the unrest began more than ten days ago. Three people have died.

Mr Erdogan has repeatedly dismissed the protesters as “riff-raff”. But Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said on Monday leaders of the Gezi Park Platform group had asked to meet him and Erdogan had agreed.

A meeting was expected on Wednesday.

Reuters

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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Hold your horses and rein in the mortgage

Illustration: Michael MucciQ I’m 31 with a $215,000 mortgage on a home that’s three years old. I’m overdue in starting a wealth-creation program but I want to make a move now – I don’t want to still be working at 70! With a wage of $90,000, what are your thoughts on purchasing an investment property versus paying my mortgage off as quickly as possible?
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A You’ve got plenty of time on your side. My recommendation is that you keep paying the mortgage until you reach a stage where your payments are $12 a month for every $1000 borrowed – that would be $2580 a month on a $215,000 mortgage. This will ensure it will be paid off in less than 10 years, provided rates stay under 9 per cent. Once you have the mortgage under control, you can take advice about borrowing to invest in growth assets.

Q You recently answered a question from a man aged 65 in which you inferred there could be an exit tax payable on his superannuation. Could you please clarify?

A Withdrawals are tax-free for most people once they reach age 60 but there is another class of super funds called unfunded funds – the members of these are public servants. There can be an exit tax on these funds because no 15 per cent contributions tax was paid initially.

Q My husband and I are age pensioners, 82 and 75, respectively, and live in the city. In 1976 we bought land in the country and built a house for retirement, which was completed in 1994. The value of the property has since grown significantly.

We are thinking of selling due to financial commitments, and understand there is a difference with capital gains tax on property bought before 1985. We would appreciate your advice on how that could affect us if we sell, or after our demise if our children sold the property.

A This is a little complex and you should be taking advice from your accountant. The land will be a pre-CGT asset and the house will be a post-CGT asset, so you will need to have calculations done to work out how much capital gains tax will be payable. If the bulk of the gain is in the land, the CGT may be small. If you leave the property to your children in your will, and they sell it within two years of you dying, there will be no CGT at all.

Q I am retired and have all my assets in an allocated pension balanced portfolio. The returns for 2012 were 14 per cent, and less than 3 per cent for 2011, but I can find nothing to compare these returns with. Is there independent accurate information available on allocated pensions?

A It is very dangerous to compare returns without getting specific advice because a fund that gives you a low return may have lower volatility and so be classed as lower risk. You need to sit down with your adviser and agree on a portfolio that suits your risk profile and then have an annual interview to make sure that portfolio is performing well in respect of its own benchmarks.

Q I’m trying to grasp the dividends paid by fully franked shares in an SMSF. I understand if they are fully franked and your super fund is taxed at 15 per cent until you reach 60, the fund doesn’t pay tax on the dividends as they are taxed at the higher company tax rate. Does this mean at the end of the financial year you can be refunded the difference between what your SMSF was taxed and what the fully franked shares were taxed?

A When you receive a franked dividend, the amount of that dividend plus any accompanying imputation credits is added together, grossed up, and tax is payable on the total. Then, the imputation credit is deducted from the tax payable. For example, if your fund received a $700 dividend with franking credits of $300, the grossed-up amount would be $1000, on which tax would be $150 because your fund would be paying 15 per cent tax on its income. When you deduct the $300 imputation credits, you find yourself in the fortunate position of having a bonus of $150 tax-free, making franked dividends an attractive investment for self-managed super funds.

Q I am moving to retirement living. How does Centrelink treat leaseholds and franking credits in calculating total assets and income?

A Most retirement village contracts these days are 99-year leasehold or licence arrangements. From a Centrelink perspective, the amount you pay to enter a retirement village is an entry contribution, and is used to determine whether you are considered a home owner as well as your eligibility for rent assistance. If the amount you pay is less than $139,500, you are considered to be a non-home owner and the value of the retirement village unit is included in your assets. If the amount you pay is above this threshold, you are a home owner and the amount you pay is exempt. While a deferred management fee (exit fee) is often charged when you leave the retirement village, this is not used to reduce your assessable assets while you live there.

Noel Whittaker is the author of Making Money Made Simple and numerous other books on personal finance. His advice is general in nature. Readers should seek their own professional advice before making decisions. Email: [email protected]杭州夜网m.You can follow Noel on Twitter – @NoelWhittaker

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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Hidden costs of ignoring small outlays

Waste not, want not. Photo: Paul Jones You’ve heard the old adage; it’s the little things that add up. This could be the case if you have a number of small recurring expenses. The costs for the goods and services that can range from subscriptions, memberships, to apps and late-payment fees are easy to miss if the costs are small. Let them slide for too long and you’ll find these little expenses will add up to hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each year.
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Subscriptions These days you can just about subscribe to anything – from household goods and services to books, magazines, memberships, food and interactive games.

Most subscription users generally have the payments automatically deducted from a credit card or bank account, either monthly or annually. What can happen is you stop using the product, but forget to check if the fees are still being taken out.

A typical money drainer for parents is where they have signed the kids up for interactive games or learning programs. The kids soon get bored of the games and move onto others. Parents are caught out when they forget to cancel the subscription.

Downloads A new study from the US Online Publishers Association, A Portrait of Today’s Tablet User – Wave II, found tablet users spend $349 a year on purchases made from their devices. That’s about $29 each month. The downloaded items may be only small, but over time, they add up.

An app charge for a magazine or music video is so small that they’re easy to let slip and forget. The study also reported that paid apps account for 23 per cent of all apps downloaded in the past year.

Apps Speaking of apps, the average number of downloaded apps an individual carries on their mobile device ranges from 40 to 60. It’s fair to say with this many apps, it’s easy to forget the number purchased.

Once you begin to pay for a few of them, they can really start to add up. A song app might only cost $2, but if you’re after the latest tunes, 10 songs a month will set you back $24 or $288 a year.

Health insurance Private health cover is great when you need it. Just be aware you’re not paying for extras you may never use.

It pays to regularly check with your insurance provider to work out whether you have the desired cover to suit your needs. Most health funds offer additional extras to the basic cover. One example is pregnancy and obstetrics cover. After members have had the desired number of children, often this additional cover is no longer required.

If you forget to cancel the extra cover, you’ll continue paying the higher premium.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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Brooke’s last, fatal text: ‘Are you still going to make it today?’

Brooke Richardson”Are you still going to make it today?” texted Brooke Richardson to a client while on her way to work.
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Moments later, while travelling at 100km/h, the 20-year-old hairdresser hit a tree.

“The text was sent at 8.27 in the morning and triple-0 got the phone call, I think it was 8.33,” Brooke’s mother, Vicki Richardson, said.

“From what we gather from the coroner’s report, she actually dropped the phone and she bent down to pick up the phone and swerved onto the wrong side of the road and hit a tree head on.”

The NSW resident died outside the Victorian border town of Cobram in December.

Mrs Richardson still has her daughter’s phone.

“It was the only thing that survived the accident,” she said.

Brooke’s death came a month after the NSW government introduced tougher fines and penalties for handling phones while driving, measures that authorities concede are not working.

“We tried to make it really clear that ‘hands-free’ actually means ‘no hands’,” said Marg Prendergast, general manager of the Centre for Road Safety.

“However, just drive around Sydney on any given day and you can see that that message hasn’t had cut-through.”

The NSW government has now launched a new approach to try and reach drivers – in particular the third of 20- to 29-year-olds surveyed who admitted to texting while on the road.

A $1.5 million road safety awareness campaign urges motorists to “Get Your Hand Off It” – a smartphone, that is.

The phrase “provides the community with a cheeky phrase that empowers them to speak out against friends and family who use their phones in a reckless manner behind the wheel”, said Roads Minister Duncan Gay.

The approach is akin to the controversial 2007 “Little Pinkie” campaign that implied young men who sped did so because they have small penises. The previous Labor government claimed it to be one of NSW’s most successful anti-speeding campaigns.

The latest campaign will be rolled out on outdoor advertising, such as that on buses and taxis. An R&B spoof video has been uploaded to YouTube to appeal to a younger demographic.

Mr Gay said focus group testing had shown the “edgy and evocative but not offensive” campaign got the message through.

“It’s a campaign to get to Gen Y,” Mr Gay said. “You can’t always get to the people that are offending in the area of using phones in their hands or texting in the usual way.”

Mrs Richardson, who has launched a “don’t-txt-n-drive” foundation and website in memory of her daughter, backed the campaign as something that speaks to young people “in their language”.

“Because if it’s boring and just someone saying something about safety, they’re not going to watch it, they’re not going to care,” she said.

“Twelve months before Brooke had the accident, a friend told me she was texting and driving, so I sat her down and I said, ‘Brooke, you’ve got to stop this, it’s dangerous’.

“But it was me just going ‘blah, blah, blah’.”

Mrs Richardson said using phones while driving was an emerging problem but greater awareness could prevent it becoming an epidemic.

”I don’t want to see another family go through what we’ve gone through,” she said.

NSW Police assistant commissioner John Hartley, who said more than 40,000 drivers a year were being caught, highlighted another recent case now before the coroner.

”We are investigating a crash that occurred in the last few months in western Sydney where a young mother on her way home, the last message on her phone in the foot well of the car was, ‘I’ll be home soon’,” he said.

”We believe using a phone may have contributed towards her death.”

More than 42,000 infringements were issued to NSW motorists for using a mobile phone while driving last year.

The penalty is a $298 fine and three demerit points. Higher penalties apply in school zones.

“This is a new issue and we need to start highlighting it,” Mrs Richardson said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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Garrett denies Victorian schools would lose funding

The federal government has denied almost 500 Victorian schools would be worse off under funding reforms, insisting every school would receive its existing funding plus 3 per cent indexation a year as a “bare minimum”.
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Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon told Parliament the Commonwealth’s latest modelling revealed that 249 state schools, 186 Catholic schools and 46 independent schools would be worse off if Victoria signed up to the deal.

Some of the state’s most disadvantaged schools were among those he named as losers, including Northern Bay College in Corio, which Mr Dixon said would be $6.2 million worse off over six years, and Sunshine College, which would lose $1.4 million.

The Victorian government later released a list of 60 state schools it said would be more than $100,000 a year worse off by 2019 than if the current funding arrangements were extended.

But federal School Education Minister Peter Garrett said these were ”fantasy figures” and no school would be worse off.

He said the Commonwealth offer of $4.2 billion in combined state and federal funding would be enough for every school to get at least its current share of funding, plus 3 per cent indexation, as a bare minimum.

”The vast majority of Victorian schools would get even more.”

The stoush comes as Prime Minister Julia Gillard made an increased offer to Western Australia in a bid to entice Premier Colin Barnett to sign up to the funding reforms by the June 30 deadline.

The new offer would see an increase to West Australian schools of $920 million in combined state and federal funding, plus indexation, over the next six years.

The federal government said it had increased the offer from $300 million after factoring in the higher cost of providing education in Western Australia, including higher teacher salaries.

Mr Dixon said Victoria intended to negotiate right up to June 30, especially in light of the increased offer to Western Australia.

”If the Commonwealth is finding buckets of money hidden away we would certainly welcome our share of sweeteners,” he said.

But a spokeswoman for Mr Garrett said the offer to Victoria of $4.2 billion in combined state and federal funding over the next six years would remain unchanged.

”The original offer  to WA factored in extra costs of 8 per cent compared to other states. This has now been calculated to be 11 per cent,” she said.

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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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House of the week: St Leonards Place, St Kilda

What if we said you could find a cosy, quiet little slice of St Kilda – a hamlet of sorts in a place where the closest cross streets are called Acland, Grey and Fitzroy?
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That trio is generally associated with everything rowdy, rollicking and risque about our most famous seaside suburb and not with the kind of tranquillity and escape you’ll find here.

St Leonards Place is a ripper little spot, a jag away from the western end of Acland Street, a further stroll from there to the main drag, and yet there’s a peace here you’d be hard put to find anywhere else in this buzzing bayside zone.

There are about nine homes here – modern townhouse types, but not of the blank and bland type; these homes have a bit of verve and personality about them, some depth and difference, much like the part of town in which they sit.

No.5 is a beauty. Two large stands of bamboo flank the sloping driveway here, giving a bit of privacy from the alley entry point.

The big, beautiful and blank concrete facade is leavened by a rectangular frame of red that projects forward and gives definition and a sense of the dramatic.

A set of steps to the left takes you up to the entry and inside where the concrete theme continues.

Now before you start thinking this all sounds about as warm as a cold day in June, the light here is wonderful. Large windows over a predominantly westerly orientation draw in the sun, and a good amount of much-needed northern light sneaks in, too.

There are some terrific features, such as the entry-level kitchen with deep black stone benchtop, red cabinetry and a glorious sky-blue rangehood floating above the bench. There is colour among the cool here.

Beyond the kitchen and dining room set in front is the fine living room with floor-to-ceiling windows over the St Kilda Adventure Playground. This is a great view – green and lively and it’s not open 24/7 so you don’t have to gaze out at the ankle-biters hanging upside down on the play equipment during your morning coffee.

Sitting between the front area and the living space is a slick bathroom and opposite are stairs, some leading up and some down to a subterranean level. Down below is a great space with access to a courtyard, while across the way is a funky open bathroom and another living area/retreat/rumpus room. The latter has a door that opens onto the slope of the front driveway.

Back past the ground level and up again there are two fine bedrooms, both with excellent storage. The back bedroom has more of that pretty playground view, while the street-facing space boasts a top-notch en suite. There’s also a separate powder room and laundry on this level.

One final set of stairs takes you up to the roof terrace and what a sight it is up here. The Eureka Tower, Westgate Bridge and Spirit of Tasmania dot the skyline and St Kilda spreads out before you. This is a hugely appealing, flexible place, stylish and serene in the heart of the buzz.

5 St Leonards Place, St Kilda $1.2 million-$1.3 million 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1 car spaceAuction 2pm, June 15Inspect 2-2.30pm, SaturdayAgent Pride Real Estate, 9593 6222

Need to know:St Kilda median house price $883,500*Median apartment price $468,750 *Fewer than 30 sales for the quarter Source: REIV

Recent sales: 49 Argyle Street Three-bedroom house, $890,0001/9 Eildon Road One-bedroom apartment, $507,0001/19 Marine Parade Two-bedroom apartment, $682,000

Surrounding area:St Kilda Five kilometres south-east of the city centre.Famous for Luna Park, St Kilda beach, nightlife, pubs, music.Serviced by You can get everything you need on Fitzroy and Acland streets – fine dining, cafes, cakes, supermarkets, bars and boutiques; quirkier stuff lies on smaller streets around town; tram routes 16, 96 and 112.Close to Elwood; Albert Park Lake; Chapel Street

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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Joining the Kiwi Chorus line

Every Australian investor knows Telstra (ASX: TLS), and is familiar with the National Broadband Network. What is perhaps less well known is that a similar effort is under way across the Tasman – and one value-priced company with irreplaceable assets stands to benefit.
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The Kiwi NBN

In New Zealand, dual-listed Chorus Limited (ASX: CNU) has been awarded the rights to build much of the Ultra-Fast Broadband Initiative (UFB), the Kiwis’ equivalent to the NBN.

In completing its portion of this project, Chorus will build “fibre-to-the-premises” in 24 of that nation’s largest 33 population centres. As part of the public-private partnership, the New Zealand government is subsidising this work to the tune of nearly $NZ1 billion ($A840 million).

The project is already underway, with the company receiving the subsidy on an incremental basis as it completes the work. While able to use much of its existing network to complete its portion of the UFB, the company still incurs costs in excess of the subsidy (more on this later). Chorus’ work on the UFB is due for completion by the end of 2019.

Today, Chorus has nearly two million “fixed line” connections – think home phones, representing some 93 per cent of all New Zealand’s fixed lines – and about one million total broadband connections. When the UFB work is completed, the company will also possess much of the country’s largest and fastest fibre broadband network.

Valuable assets and the key point for investors

With these valuable assets, and following its demerger about two years ago from Telecom New Zealand (ASX: TEL), Chorus is New Zealand’s foremost telco “wholesaler”.

In short, the company sells access to its considerable telco assets and makes money when, for instance, Telecom New Zealand or another retail company purchases access (for the purpose of selling voice and internet packages to consumers).

The key point for investors is the irreplaceable nature of Chorus’ assets. Such assets should produce plenty of cash, and the company appears committed to paying out much of this cash to shareholders in the form of dividends.

The company has guided to a full-year 2013 dividend payment of NZ25.5¢ per share, while Chorus shares have lately been trading just north of $NZ2, or less than six times earnings and three times sales. But the sailing isn’t guaranteed to be smooth, and there are a few risks current and future investors need to keep in mind.

Costs rising, plus regulatory concerns

It should come as no surprise: Large-scale projects like the UFB are almost always more expensive in implementation than they look to be in the earlier, planning stages. While Chorus initially estimated the cost of its UFB build to be between NZ$1.4 and $1.6 billion, newer estimates run to between NZ$1.7 and $1.9 billion. The company also has a considerable, but to all appearances manageable, debt load.

Additionally – and this looks to be in part behind the low share price – the regulatory environment is somewhat unclear for Chorus just now. The New Zealand government is able to regulate some of the prices Chorus charges for its various services. In December, a draft ruling from New Zealand regulators warned of a cut to wholesale broadband prices that could significantly affect Chorus’ earnings. The company has responded, but the outcome isn’t yet clear.

Foolish takeaway

As a value-priced dividend play, Chorus shares could be attractive (but remember, the dividends aren’t franked). Investors will want to keep close tabs on the outcome of regulatory decisions before jumping in – so stick this one on your watch list and wait for news before making beautiful music with Chorus.

Attention: Foolish, dividend-loving investors and BusinessDay readers alike who are looking for Australian investing ideas can click here to request a Motley Fool free report entitled Secure Your Future with 3 Rock-Solid Dividend Stocks.

 Catherine Baab-Muguira is a Motley Fool investment analyst. You can follow The Motley Fool on Twitter @TheMotleyFoolAu. The Motley Fool’s purpose is to educate, amuse and enrich investors. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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Perils of a poison pie

Keen eye … Jack Simpson examines poison pie mushrooms at Red Hill. Photo: Jeffrey ChanJack Simpson, of Narrabundah, is deep in the world of fungi, and in May led a walk in Westbourne Woods, near Yarralumla, to search for just some of the 50,000 species of fungi that grow in Australia.
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May is normally the month for fungi, but the Friends of the ACT Trees group found only a few mushrooms, a result of the dry weather this year.

Entering the Royal Canberra Golf Club grounds, there were no pixie-parasol mushrooms, but we admired the saffron-yellow cups of Quercus chrysolepis, a rare evergreen spreading oak. We trampled in dry leaves and heard birds sing.

Simpson, a forest pathologist and mycologist, showed us tiny grey blobs of fungi growing on crab apple trees in Westbourne Woods. They’re used by highlanders in Papua New Guinea as chewing gum, although the species, Schizophyllum commune, can infect the lungs and toes of humans.

The day after our walk in the woods, it rained and, a fortnight later, like magic, up came the fungi. Simpson found a fairy ring under a cork oak in Red Hill, the ”poison pie” (Hebeloma crustuliniforme), which could be confused with Agaricus, the field mushroom.

He says there has been very little research into the poisonous properties of Australian mushrooms and false truffles. You should never eat unidentified fungi, and it’s wise also to keep an uncooked specimen of any fungi you do eat in the refrigerator for four days, so if you become ill, the fungus can be identified.

Few people work on fungi in Australia, and those who do usually focus on agricultural and horticultural crops. But the many species of fungi in Australia include edible mushrooms and the lichens that add character to old neglected fruit orchards.

Lichens do not cause damage to the trees but they will corrode roof tiles and gravestones. In 2012, the International Union for Conservation of Nature gave fungi the same conservation status as plants and animals, so mycologists around the world celebrated.

The largest fungi organism in the world is an Armillaria root-rotting fungus in Canada, the colony of which is about seven kilometres wide.

On the walk, we saw the native Armillaria novae-zeelandiae growing on an ash tree. Mycorrhizal fungi form on roots – among them edible fungi like truffles and slippery jacks. We were told slippery jacks (Suillus luteus) make excellent soup, if first sliced and dried.

The shortage of timber for making matches during World War II stimulated interest in local tree growing. Poplar plantations were established in the Northern Rivers in NSW, along the Murray River in Victoria and at Tumut.

Simpson says in the early 1970s, poplar rust was discovered in trees near Sydney, probably introduced on illegally imported poplar cuttings. Poplar rust (a fungi) wiped out the match-making industry of Bryant and May.

If, like me, you have a collection of safety matchboxes, check the origin of the matches. Some may be from Hanna Match Australia and made in Japan, or have matchwood stock from Finland.

My box of Redheads was made in Sweden for the Australian market, and I have an old box of campfire matches made in the former Soviet Union.

Susan Parsons is a Canberra writer.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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Pro-choice pollie set to miss abortion vote

Source: The Examiner
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Debate on decriminalising abortion in Tasmania is likely to take place in the absence of one pro-choice MLC today.

Hobart independent MLC Rob Valentine requested a leave of absence from Parliament this week due to a family illness.

Mr Valentine has requested a pair for the vote.

However, The Examiner understands that so far no MLCs who oppose the Bill have offered to pair with him.

A pair would not partake in the final vote, so Mr Valentine’s absense would not affect the final balance of numbers.

The Reproductive Health Bill passed the lower house 13 to 11 in April and appeared headed toward a seven-all draw in the Legislative Council, including Mr Valentine.

Leader of Government Business Craig Farrell introduced the legislation to the upper house this morning and then suspended debate to await further briefings.

Health Minister Michelle O’Byrne, who sponsored the legislation, said earlier this week that she hoped the briefings would absolve MLCs concerns with the legislation.

The legislation proposes decriminalising abortion and leaving consent as the only requirement for abortion up to 16-weeks gestation.

After 16-weeks two doctors would be required to find that continuing the pregnancy posed a greater risk to the woman’s physical and psychological health than termination would, having account to her social or economic circumstances.

Mr Farrell urged MLCs not to misinterpret the social and economic clause when considering the legislation.

“Social and economic factors are absolutely relevant and capable of significantly impacting on a woman’s mental and physical health,” he said.

“These words are often misinterpreted in this issue to suggest women terminate a pregnancy on a trivial or superficial matters.”

The debate is likely to the house this afternoon.

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Government refuses to say if it receives PRISM data

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has declined to say whether Australian intelligence agencies receive information from the PRISM program. Photo: SuppliedFederal police spying on phone, internet
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The Gillard government has sought to head off concerns about any Australian links to a controversial US data gathering program, insisting all information shared between countries was subject to strict oversight.

But the government is standing by its refusal to disclose whether Australia is actually receiving or swapping intelligence with the US in connection with the widespread phone and internet surveillance programs revealed in the past week.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus declined on Tuesday night to say whether Australian intelligence agencies were receiving information from the PRISM program, through which the US is reportedly using “back doors” to access data from big technology firms such as Google, Facebook and Apple.

But he added: “Our intelligence activities and intelligence relationship with close allies, including the United States, protect our country from threats such as terrorism, foreign espionage and cyber intrusions.”

Mr Dreyfus went on to say that intelligence and security agencies were required by law to get authorisation from either the Defence or Foreign Affairs Minister before they produced intelligence on an Australian.

If matters related to threats to security, approval from the Attorney-General was also needed, he said.

Moreoever, all such activities were independently examined by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security to make sure the authorisations were conducted within the law.

“Any information obtained by our agencies from the US is subject to these protections,” he said.

The Guardian and Washington Post reported late last week that US signals spies, the National Security Agency, had been secretly collecting emails, documents, photos and other material from the internet through the PRISM program.

On Wednesday morning, one of Canberra’s top cyber security bosses used almost identical language as Mr Dreyfus in an effort to hose down concerns about any overreaching surveillance.

Major General Stephen Day, deputy director for Cyber and Information Security at the Australian Signals Directorate, told a cybersecurity conference in Canberra that “all intelligence activities carried out by ASD are conducted in strict accordance with Australian law”.

Like Mr Dreyfus, he said he could not comment on intelligence matters – according to longstanding practice.

“But what I can say is that we have a very strong legal framework to protect Australians. Under the intelligence services act, (the ASD) is required by law to obtain specific authorisation from the Minister for Defence or the Minister of Foreign Affairs to produce intelligence on Australians,” he said.

“Any information obtained by us from the United States is subject to exactly the same protections,” he said.

Asked whether the ASD had ever outsourced intelligence analysis to a third party organisation, General Day reiterated that he could not comment on intelligence arrangements.

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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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Tamou to miss Origin II after drink-drive charge

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MAY 28: James Tamou of the Blues trains during a New South Wales Blues State of Origin training session at North Sydney Oval on May 28, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images) Photo: Ryan PierseNSW prop James Tamou will be sidelined for game two of the State of Origin series as a result of a two-match suspension after being charged with driving nearly four times over the legal alcohol limit and without a licence.
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The ban, after discussions between the Cowboys and the NRL’s integrity unit, was announced by officials on Wednesday.

Tamou was also fined $20,000. With the player forgoing $30,000 bonus for playing in Origin II, he has effectively been fined $50,000.

NRL chief executive Dave Smith said the penalties reflected the seriousness of the offences.

“This is a high level, high risk, high penalty situation,” Smith said. “Drink driving puts lives at risk. Our players are well educated regarding alcohol management and there is no excuse for such behaviour.

“Our Integrity Unit has reviewed the situation, we have consulted with the Cowboys and we have sent a clear message of what is expected of our players.”

A statement said the NRL will also work with the Cowboys and Tamou to implement additional education and welfare programs, including responsible driver education.

The Australian Test prop was charged by police after recording an alcohol concentration of 0.197 when he was pulled over at about 3.30am Monday in the suburb of North Ward.

Tamou will appear in Townsville Magistrates Court on July 2 on charges of unlicensed driving and driving under the influence of alcohol, and has indicated he will plead guilty.

That clearly gave officials enough ammunition to come down on the player and after discussions between the parties, it was agreed that the 24-year-old would miss Friday’s clash with St George Illawarra, and then Origin II on June 26.

Cowboys chief executive Peter Jourdain said Tamou’s actions were ‘‘clearly unacceptable to us and the NRL’’.

“James returned a very high reading and was driving unlicensed – two offences that can never be condoned,’’ Jourdain said. “We believe the two-game punishment is appropriate. He is missing a crucial game for his club and the honour of again representing the Blues in what could be an historic Origin clash.’’

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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$1.2b boost to state hospital infrastructure

Mike Baird. Photo: Michel O’SullivanThe NSW budget for new hospital buildings will increase by 10 per cent this year to $1.2 billion.
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NSW Treasurer Mike Baird said that despite facing a revenue challenge, next week’s budget would invest in critical infrastructure. He said many hospital buildings were more than 50 years old.

“The tough decisions we have made means we will commit more than $1.2 billion in health capital works in Tuesday’s Budget for the coming year,” he said.

“After 16 years of neglect by state Labor, we are rebuilding and upgrading our hospitals so our patients and staff have the facilities they expect and deserve.”

Mr Baird said projects being funded included a $139 million redevelopment at Campbelltown Hospital, another at Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital at a cost of $120 million and a new building at Royal North Shore Hospital clinical services building.

Opposition health spokesperson Andrew McDonald said there was no new spending commitments in the capital works budget announcement.

“This is just a business-as-usual budget,” he said.

“This does nothing to address the backlog of patients on the waiting lists.”

NSW Health Minister Mrs Jillian Skinner said the government’s infrastructure spend was boosting hospital staff spirits.

“They expect the environments in which they work to match the high quality of care they deliver to their patients,” she said.

Mrs Skinner said the capital works budget would go towards a new clinical services building at Blacktown Hospital for cancer, cardiac, respiratory and aged care services. The building is due to be completed in 2015.

Brian Owler, president of the NSW Australian Medical Association, said he welcomed an increase in infrastructure funding. He said a 20-year plan was needed for investment in hospital buildings to ensure they met the growing demands of an ageing population.

“There has been an under-investment in hospital infrastructure for decades,” he said.

“We need to make sure we invest in infrastructure needs for the future.”

The AMA has said that recurrent funding for health services also needs to increase by 7 per cent to keep pace with demand.

“Anything less than 7 per cent is going to be seen as a cut,” Dr Owler said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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Markets ride getting bumpier

ASX200 volatility index over the past 12 months.Stock market volatility has been on the rise over the past six weeks, but there is no reason to panic, analysts say.
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The ASX200 Volatility Index is hovering around its highest levels in nearly 12 months, at 19.78, but it is well off the levels seen during the global financial crisis, which saw volatility peak at 66.72 points.

Since May 14, this year’s stock market peak, the volatility index has jumped 52.1 per cent.

“Yes, you’ve seen volatility rise, but it’s nowhere near the extent to where you’d consider it at crisis levels,” said Macquarie Private Wealth division director Martin Lakos.

Mr Lakos said the index was a measure of perceived volatility which followed markets, so it was no surprised to see a jump over the last month, with the ASX200 falling 9.5 per cent and the Australian dollar slipping to 33-month lows.

Over the past five years, volatility has spiked a number of times, including during the European debt crisis and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, but overall it has been trending downwards.

“What is interesting is that through the last year or so, through the US election, through the budgetary process in the US, volatility has been coming off, these things are either being factored into the market or the market is becoming more comfortable with these issues,” said Mr Lakos.

Credit Suisse analyst Damien Boey said the slight increase in volatility was a sign that the market was unsure if central banks could cope with another crisis.

“Volatility came down because central banks were able to, through their quantitative easing policy, drive down to risk premium. But now that Japan is showing signs of ineffective quantitative easing and the Fed is talking about potentially ending it, volatility is starting to return,” said Mr Boey.

Australia’s volatility index is now at similar levels to the US, with the Chicago Volatility Index at 17.1, well off its peak of 80.9 in 2008.

While the US index has been a little more erratic than its Australian counterpart, Mr Boey said he was unsurprised by the indexes’ correlating.

“Both economies are facing downside growth risk, the US economy is experiencing quite extreme fiscal austerity, that is affecting the growth outlook and that’s why the most recent data points have been a bit negative.”

“In Australia, we know the story is about mining capex and how it’s not rolling over,” he said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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