Yemen civilian death toll mounts, as families flee Saudi-led air strikes

Fire is seen at a military site after it was hit by an air strike on the Faj Attan mountain of Sanaa on Saturday. Photo: Reuters/Mohamed al-Sayaghi People rally against the war in Yemen, in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Monday. Pakistan sent a plane on Sunday to the Yemeni city of Hodeida to try to evacuate some of its 3000 citizens living in Yemen. Photo: BK Bangash
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Yemen ports under blockade as Saudis vow to intensify air strikesSaudi coalition forces pound Yemen rebels for a fifth night

Beirut: Five days into the Saudi Arabia-led aerial bombing campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen, the civilian death toll is mounting and hundreds of families are on the run, fleeing the nightly attacks that have shaken the already struggling country.

At least 40 people were killed on Monday and 200 wounded when an air strike hit al-Mazraq Camp for displaced people the country’s north, International Organisation for Migration spokesman Joel Millman said.

It appears the target was a nearby base for the Iran-backed Zaidi Shiite Houthi rebels, who have controlled much of northern Yemen since September.

Home to about 5000 people who had fled the capital Sanaa after years of fighting between Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government, al-Mazraq Camp, established in 2001, provides shelter to some of Yemen’s most vulnerable people, many of them malnourished and in desperate need of help.

There was no immediate response from Saudi Arabia to the deaths, or from the other countries involved in the air strikes aimed at forcing the Houthi rebels to hand back power to President Abed Rabbu Mansour Hadi – United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar, Morocco and Sudan.

Yemen’s state news agency Saba, which is under the control of the Houthis, said the camp at Haradh was hit by Saudi planes. It said the dead included women and children, and showed the bodies of five children laid out on a blood-streaked floor.

A Saudi military spokesman said the kingdom was seeking clarification on the incident.

“It could have been that the fighter jets replied to fire, and we cannot confirm that it was a refugee camp,” Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri said. “We will ask the Yemeni official agencies to confirm that.”

Mr Hadi’s foreign minister, Riyadh Yassin, earlier blamed Houthi artillery for the explosion. Pakistan and Egypt are reportedly providing naval support while the United States is understood to be providing intelligence to the Saudi-led coalition.

President Hadi escaped from Sanaa to the southern port city of Aden earlier this month and last week fled to the Saudi capital Riyadh, calling for military intervention to help end the crisis in his country.

At least 300 families – or about 1500 people – have been forced to flee the city of Hawta, the capital of Lahej Governorate in Yemen’s south, a humanitarian worker based in Aden told Fairfax Media.

Stressing the numbers of displaced were only preliminary and were sure to rise, the aid worker, who asked not to be named, said they were from three villages – al-Waht, al-Majahfa and Thaalab.

There were “severe food shortages and water scarcity”, he said, while the central hospital in Hawta had closed, preventing malnourished children and their families from accessing food and treatment.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have already detailed dozens of civilian deaths since the air strikes began on March 26, calling on both the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi rebels to protect civilians from attack.

The rising death toll comes the day after Arab leaders threw their support behind the Saudi-led coalition and agreed to the formation of a joint Arab military force to deal with some of the conflicts tearing apart the region.

Egyptian officials say the proposed Arab force would be made up of 40,000 elite troops and backed by jets, warships and light armour, but the next set of discussions over the formation of the force are not scheduled for another month.

In the meantime, the Yemen is at war and with both al-Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates joining the fight in the south, its instability is threatening a region already in crisis, the International Crisis Group warned in its latest briefing.

Divided between the Houthi movement, which controls the north and is rapidly advancing south and the anti-Houthi coalition, Yemen’s situation is “rapidly worsening”.

“The external intervention is aggravating the potential for protracted violence,” the group said.

“Unless this deterioration is halted, the result is likely to be a war similar to those decimating other Arab countries.”

The United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs says minors appear to be taking part in hostilities on all sides.

A devastating editorial from the Yemen Observer noted the there were an “estimated 320,000 combatants spread across 11 factions in Yemen and all are preparing for war”.

“The majority of these combatants are young people between the ages of 15 and 24,” the editorial said. “They are underfed, underequipped, and undertrained youngsters who have little knowledge of where this is heading.”

with Reuters

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Essendon’s drug scandal: The verdictRolling coverage

Jobe Watson the captain of the Bombers, flanked by his team mates talk aftrer the AFL’s anti-doping tribunal announced that 34 past and present Essendon Bombers AFL players have been found not guilty of taking a banned substance. Pic: Quinn Roone, Getty ImagesBackground:Your Guide to the Essendon saga
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NOT GUILTYThe AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal has found all 34 current and former Essendon playersnot guilty of taking a banned substance.

The AFL’s anti-doping tribunal case involving Essendon, the AFL and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authoritybegan in December last year and concluded on February 17.

Essendon’s drug scandal: The verdict | Rolling coverage Jobe Watson on Tuesday afternoon. Pic: Quinn Rooney, Getty Images

Jobe Watson and Essendon players front the media. Pic: Quinn Rooney, Getty Images

Kicking the footy at Essendon on Tuesday. Photo: Michael Dodge, Getty Images

Bombers head coach James Hird drives into the Essendon Bombers headquarters after Essendon players were found not guilty from the AFL’s anti-doping tribunal today from the investigation into alleged use of banned substances. Pic: Michael Dodge, Getty Images

Dyson Heppell arrives at Essendon on Tuesday morning. Photo: Michael Dodge, Getty Images

“Well, we’re very pleased and we all had a very fair hearing and we’re happy with the result obviously,” said David Grace QC.

Mark Harvey and Mark Neeld arrive at Essendon on Tuesday morning. Photo: Michael Dodge, Getty Images

Mark Harvey arrives at Essendon on Tuesday morning. Photo: Michael Dodge, Getty Images

Paul Chapman arrives at Essendon on Tuesday morning. Photo: Michael Dodge, Getty Images

D-Day: The comings and goings at Essendon on Tuesday morning. Photo: Michael Dodge, Getty Images

TweetFacebook4:25pm:Essendon CEO Paul Little and coach James Hird will speak at Tullamarine at 5:30pm.

4:06pm:The Western Bulldogs have rekeased a statement following the verdict:

“The Western Bulldogs welcome the verdict handed by the AFL anti-doping tribunal today.”

“The Club is proud of how the Club and its affected staff have worked together to achieve a just outcome for them.”

3.55pm:Full statement from Paul Marsh

“The AFL Players’ Association welcomes today’s tribunal decision, in which all 34 current and former Essendon players have been cleared of an anti-doping rule violation.

We have always been of the view that these players have done nothing wrong and this has been confirmed by the Tribunal today.

This decision does not absolve the Essendon Football Club of blame. Players were placed in an unacceptable position that put their health and careers at risk.

For over two years these players’ lives have been hijacked by this issue through no fault of their own, and today’s decision brings a sense of overwhelming relief and vindication of the players’ consistent position of innocence throughout this saga

The players have withstood enormous uncertainty, public scrutiny and speculation over their health, their careers, and their reputations. This decision finally brings that uncertainty and speculation to an end.

I would like to commend the players for the way in which they have conducted themselves over the past two years. Players have honestly, candidly and transparently cooperated with the process and can hold their heads high that this decision has cleared them of any wrong doing.

We are relieved this matter is now closed and we, as an industry, can get on with the footy. We believe this matter provides an opportunity for genuine industry reflection to ensure this type of situation never happens again.

The PA will continue to work with the AFL and Clubs to do everything we can to make sure no player’s health is ever put at risk again in the pursuit of on-field success.”

“This decision does not absolve the Essendon Football Club of blame.” – @Marsh_Paul

— AFL Players (@AFLPlayers) March 31, 20152.43pm:ASADA boss Ben McDevitt: “What happened at Essendon in 2012 was, in my opinion, absolutely and utterly disgraceful.It was not a supplements program but an injection regime and the players and the fans were so poorly let down by the club.”

2:38pm:The World Anti-Doping Agency has 21 days to appeal.

“The World Anti-Doping Agency’s director-general says he will review the “entire” Essendon drugs investigation and has also declared his plans to discuss “all elements” of the affair directly with the Australian government, and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority.”

I’ve been as bitchy and scathing as anyone but good luck to the @EssendonFC players. Hope decision stands. Nightmare over.

— Tony Wilson (@byTonyWilson) March 31, 20152:32pm:ASADA will conduct a press conference on Wednesday at 11amin Canberra.

2.29pm: From the Bombers’ chief executive:

I am so proud of our players

— Xavier Campbell (@XCampbell79) March 31, 20152:13pm:Expect a massive betting plunge on the Bombers this week now with their stars free to play.

2.07pm:The AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal has found all 34 current and former Essendon players not guilty of taking a banned substance.

No decsision yet on Stephen Dank.

2:01pm:Fair to say the football world is holding its collective breath at the moment.

1:52pm:So many parties with so much at stake today:

The 34 playersStephen DankJames HirdEssendonThe AFLASADAThe AFLPAWADAWestern Bulldogs and Port AdelaideOther AFL clubsState league clubsTop-up playersLawyersSupportersMediaHave we missed anyone?

1:41pm:James Hird remains, quite literally, the last man standing from the so-called coaching ‘dream team’ that came together during the latter stages of 2010. This occurred after an inner-sanctum of Bombers inspired by Mark Thompson and encouraged by Tim Watson began plotting the rebuilding of the Essendon Football Club.

Prevention is better than punishment

The AFL needs to build a culture of prevention rather than punishment for players taking illegal performance enhancers according to a professor who advises them on illicit drugs.

Jacqui Lambie Network: former Palmer United Party senator registers new political party

Senator Jacqui Lambie. Photo: Andrew MearesLambie resigns from Palmer United PartyJacqui Lambie considers new voting blocGlenn Lazarus quits Palmer United Party
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Independent senator Jacqui Lambie has taken the first step towards forming her own political party.

The Australian Electoral Commission published on its website on Tuesday a notice of application from Senator Lambie to form the Jacqui Lambie Network.

“The application for registration is made by all the Parliamentary members of the party and includes a statement that the party wishes to receive election funding,” the AEC’s notice said.

In a statement, Senator Lambie urged people wanting to join her new party to contact her via Facebook and floated the prospect of fielding candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives.

The Jacqui Lambie Network would oppose sharia law, advocate for clear labelling for Halal products and halve the foreign aid budget.

It would also support dedicated seats in Parliament for Indigenous Australians, have a “special interest” in Defence families and support a financial transactions tax.

But Senator Lambie said the party’s main focus would be that “members must always put their states first in all decisions they make”.

Anyone who wants to formally oppose Senator Lambie’s bid has until the end of April to protest.

Senator Lambie has been one of the Parliament’s most outspoken members since entering the Senate in July 2014 as a Palmer United Party senator for Tasmania.

However she became the first of the two Palmer United Party senators to abandon leader Clive Palmer, who sits in the House of Representatives. She became an independent and was followed only months later by former PUP colleague Glenn Lazarus.

Under electoral laws, anyone wanting to establish a political party must have a written constitution, have at least one member in Parliament or have at least 500 members on the electoral roll.

In January, Fairfax Media revealed Senator Lambie was considering launching her own party, claiming Tasmanians, Defence personnel, veterans and Australians from other states “keep asking” for a Lambie brand in politics.

At the time, Glenn Kefford, a lecturer in political science at the University of Tasmania, said the notion of “Tasmania v the centre” would be a future Lambie party’s greatest strength, but it would struggle to get a second senator elected at next year’s election.

“There definitely seems to be something idiosyncratic about Tasmania when it comes to support for independents who play Tasmania off against the centre, people like Brian Harradine [the former balance of power senator in the Howard era],” Dr Kefford said. The Jacqui Lambie Network policies

1) Members must always put their state first in all decisions they make.

2) JLN will always have a special interest in all matters associated with veterans, serving members of the Australian Defence Force and their families.

3) JLN will fight to establish a National Apprentice, Trade and Traineeship system incorporating both the Australian Defence Force and TAFEs.

4) JLN supports the establishment of a Financial Transactions Tax to guarantee extra government revenue for the protection of pensions and entitlements of retired Australians and defence veterans.

5) JLN is opposed to sharia law being imposed in Australia either formally or informally and will promote a policy of undivided loyalty to the Australian constitution and people.

6) JLN will support the proper regulation of Halal and other food certification systems.

7) JLN supports dedicated Indigenous seats being established for Australian parliaments.

8) JLN supports conscience votes on all moral and ethical issues.

9) JLN supports a halving of the foreign aid budget in order to help boost federal government investment in higher education from 0.6 per cent to 1.0 per cent of GDP.

10) JLN supports the creation of special economic zones in regional and rural areas to help boost business profitability and job creation.

11) JLN supports the introduction of a carbon tax – only after our major trading partners introduce a similar tax on their coal-fired power stations.

12) JLN supports a monitoring and regulation system which ensures that our power and fuel prices for Australian consumers and businesses are not more expensive than our overseas competitors.  

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Group of 8 withdraws support for further compromise on university deregulation

Education Minister Christopher Pyne Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Education Minister Christopher Pyne Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
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Education Minister Christopher Pyne Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Education Minister Christopher Pyne Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Christopher Pyne’s bid to deregulate tertiary fees has suffered a major setback with the influential Group of Eight universities withdrawing support for any more compromises aimed at securing crossbench support.

The powerful coalition of Australia’s leading universities, which has been a key backer of the government’s proposals, said on Tuesday the federal Education Minister’s original package to uncap tertiary fees is being watered down to the point where the compromises being made to secure hostile Senate votes is defeating the purpose.

CEO of the Group of Eight Vicki Thomson called for a depoliticised back-to-basics review instead of a third attempt to pass the legislation but the self-declared political “Fixer,” Mr Pyne, immediately ruled this out via Twitter.

“The higher education sector has faced 33 reviews since 1950 and another review is not a substitute for action,” he said.

“I suspect from his perspective, he is still working on the basis that he’ll get his legislation through. We’re not quite as confident as he is,” Ms Thomson said in Canberra.

“He’s always the eternal optimist and usually we are as well but in this case I think we’ve seen the writing on the wall,

“The crossbenchers are giving us no indication that they want to actually change their position and they’re not giving us any indication they want to change their position on a compromise package either,” she said.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon, who has led calls for a comprehensive review of university funding, said: “This is a breakthrough moment in the debate.

“The Group of Eight is being sensible. The government should focus on getting a good practical outcome for students and universities, not an ill-considered ideological fix.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the Go8’s position was “highly critical” of the Senate crossbench and not the government’s deregulation policy.

“My plea to the Senate crossbench is please engage with the Group of Eight as well as with the government,” he said.

“I respect their right to be a very important part of the legislative process but it’s not the government’s fault when the Senate crossbench go off on all sorts of tangents,” he said.

The government’s Leader in the Senate Eric Abetz said the Senate’s own “group of eight [crossbenchers]” should work with the official Go8 to come up with an agreed reform proposal.

“it would be nice to have a Group of Eight producing something that’s great,” the Prime Minister added.

The crossbenchers hold varied views on deregulating uni fees but many of them believe the government should take it to an election and seek the public’s approval before asking the Senate to pass the legislation for a third time.

Ms Thomson also called on Labor to announce its plan for the higher education sector and pointed out they had created the unsustainable funding environment in the first place.

“You can’t have a system where you deregulate student numbers, you encourage more students to come to our universities but you regulate funding so that we’re all funded the same.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that equation just doesn’t work,” she said.

The Group of Eight have been the strongest supporters of fee deregulation, which would allow them to charge significantly more for some courses due to the prestige attached to their degrees.

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White Bay cruise terminal: Sydney asset or harbourside error?

Steel Architecture at the White Bay Cruise Terminal. Photo: Sherrill Nixon Cruise ships, including the Pacific Pearl (pictured), berthed at White Bay Cruise Terminal have caused concern for local residents. Photo: Wolter Peeters WLP
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The White Bay Cruise Terminal. Photo: Wolter Peeters, Wolter Peeters WLP

Earlier this year, the development of a cruise terminal at White Bay was found to be a “serious error” resulting in undeniable air, noise and vibration problems for neighbouring residents.

The NSW parliamentary inquiry into the performance of the Environmental Protection Authority found the facility had received hundreds of complaints claiming these issues were making residents sick.

The cause: cruise liners running their engines while berthed because of a lack of onshore power, not included in the facility’s design brief, and not available at any cruise facility in the southern hemisphere.

It found the decision to move the terminal from Barangaroo to White Bay to be “a serious error”, and noted the EPA “could have taken more proactive and persuasive action” during the approval process for the terminal.

While the facility’s location was found wanting, what the report didn’t do was find fault with the terminal building itself – lauded by many as an inspiring example of how to adapt Sydney’s very precious and increasingly overdeveloped harbourfront land for contemporary use while respecting our unique maritime heritage.

Designed by architects Johnson Pilton Walker (JPW) in response to a competition and brief by the Port Authority of NSW, the terminal last year won the nation’s top commercial architecture prize at the National Architecture Awards, along with a swag of other honours over the past 18 months.

It was “exhilarating, confident and joyful, a great new asset to Sydney’s shoreline”, the national jury found, and acted as “an evocative reminder of Sydney Harbour’s working history”.

JPW director Paul van Ratingen said the building responded directly to the site’s history and site itself – a flat concrete wharf apron bounded by a majestic sandstone escarpment and Balmain on one side and White Bay and the city skyline on another.

“This is a structure and site that’s been adapted over time,” Mr van Ratingen said. “The current transformation is a further, newest iteration or reinvention and the cruise terminal is a continuation of its maritime history.”

Key to the architectural design was a deceptively simple three part strategy.

Most importantly, the architects preserved and used two strikingly handsome industrial remnants: a twin pair of 300 metre long, half-century-old steel gantries, erected in the 1960s for the world’s first international containerised shipping service and slated for demolition since 2003.

The gantries were, the national awards jury said,’ “a powerful reminder of Sydney’s working port and its heroic engineering structures”.

JPW then slung, or inserted, a billowing, wave-like steel canopy between both, lightly draping it over an unencumbered column-free arrival space, designed to be both highly flexible and arrestingly beautiful.

“We looked at wind on ribbon, and leading edge and trailing edge that would give the roof a natural profile against the water,” Mr van Ratingen said.

To anchor the building back into the cliff, they created a series of amenities pods closest to the escarpment, while simultaneously opening it to the city and water views on three sides through full-height glass walls.

“Our brief was to get people off the boat as quickly and efficiently as possible, and this building does that extremely well,” he said. “This is such a legible building. You come off the ship and you know where you are and where you’re going.

The inquiry recommended the terminal be retrofitted with an onshore power source, and for cruise ship operators to develop noise-mitigation strategies.

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Danny Russo creates paddock-to-plate menu for Marble & Grain in Braddon

Paddock-to-plate push for Marble & Grain in Braddon. Paddock-to-plate push for Marble & Grain in Braddon.
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Paddock-to-plate push for Marble & Grain in Braddon.

Paddock-to-plate push for Marble & Grain in Braddon.

Changes are afoot at Braddon hotel restaurant Marble & Grain. Former hatted chef Danny Russo has been consulting on the menu at the eatery on Mort Street in the Avenue Hotel.

Russo formerly earned a Sydney Morning Herald chef’s hat at L’Unico in Balmain and has worked all round Europe. He’s been sourcing produce from hotel owner Rob and Batkovic’s farm which produces everything from vegetables and herbs to Scottish Highland cattle. “We’re just going back to what was meant to be,” he says.

The revamped steakhouse menu has a more paddock-to-plate feel, he says. “We do a fantastic section where we share the love, we do a butcher’s board, a tomahawk steak, a 1kg dry aged ribeye Scottish Highland. We’ve got an heirloom charred carrot salad which is beautiful with hazelnuts. It’s not just all meat – there is quite a lot of vegetarian.”

Russo plans to work on the Marble & Grain project for the next couple of months and has already spent the past month in Canberra. “We’re doing paddock to plate in the sense that the owner has a farm,” he says. “We’ve got a program in place that one day a week the boys in the kitchen must go the farm to help them pick all the herbs, the spinach and it’s absolutely fantastic.”

He says Canberra has “definitely turned the corner” when it comes to food culture. “And not only that, you’re so resource rich that I think people might be quite surprised. Just from what I’ve seen you’ve got some really good restaurants, really passionate chefs. It’s healthy competition and they’re doing a great job.”

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NBN Co sets target of 90,000 fibre-to-the-basement connections in 2015

Sources said the higher costs were caused by contractors demanding more pay to work on the project. Photo: Rob HomerNBN Co is aiming to have 90,000 homes and businesses ready to connect to its fibre-to-the-basement network by the end of 2015.
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It comes as the broadband provider on Tuesday launched its FTTB service, with 2000 customers across 18 apartment blocks now having the chance to connect to the network through various internet service providers.. NBN Co had been running trials before the launch.

NBN Co chief customer officer John Simon said that during trials users were getting speeds near 89 megabits per second for download and 36Mbps for upload.

NBN Co estimates about 1 million end users will be connected to FTTB once the rollout is complete.

About 30 per cent of premises in Australia are MDU (multi-dwelling units), but only about one-third of those have more than about a dozen end-user premises, Mr Simon said.

“Many of them might not be served at all by fibre to the basement. Where the economics makes sense, they might be served by fibre to the node,” Mr Simon said.

While there was no black-and-white number for required end users in an MDU, Mr Simon said the smaller the apartment block, the less likely it would be part of the FTTB rollout.

“Until we do the design for each building, we don’t finalise an outcome, but generally you would expect the economics aren’t going to be too favourable for something that has got under nine end-users premises – but that’s not a hard rule that they apply,” he said.

NBN Co has already commenced work on a further 500-600 MDUs.

Mr Simon said  NBN Co had come across competing technology while rolling out its FTTB network.

“We do know that some buildings that we’re constructing into today do have other providers and we are building out in those buildings as well,” Mr Simon said.

TPG’s competing network is aiming to connect about 500,000 homes to its FTTB services, which it has to offer wholesale services for, in metropolitan areas.

TPG chief executive David Teoh  said last week that the FTTB rollout was moving slowly due to having to convince strata committees of the product as well as the impact of having to stop sales because of a change in government regulation forcing it to create wholesale plans for other internet service providers.

Mr Simon claimed NBN Co was having few problems with strata boards.

“Most of, that we can see, the body corporate are welcoming for NBN because they can see that most importantly we bring a large amount of competition and therefore more choice for end users, or their residents,” Mr Simon said.

However, Mr Simon again acknowledged that competing wholesale networks present an issue.

“Our business plan is predicated on rolling out to a certain number of premises. If there is wholesale cherry-picking across the board in large parts of that, that will have an economic impact to the business plan,” Mr Simon said.

“All we can do is do what we’re doing and accelerate our rollout. “

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Shares in Slater & Gordon’s target, Quindell, surge 25pc in London

Slater & Gordon is seeking $890 million from shareholders to fund its proposed acquisition of troubled UK professional services firm Quindell. Photo: Jessica ShapiroSlater & Gordon’s $1.2 billion deal to buy the troubled UK professional services firm Quindell prompted a 25 per cent jump in its share price in London overnight, a “remarkable recovery” in some sceptics’ eyes.
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Dubbed a “deluxe ambulance-chaser” in Britain, Quindell’s prices soared 30 per cent in early London trading rising to 180p before falling back to 148p. At the beginning of the month it traded at 90p.

The deal, greeted with widespread interest and a few raised eyebrows by the financial press, forms a major plank of Slater & Gordon’s aggressive expansion into the UK with much of its work in the lucrative ‘no-win, no-fee’ personal injury claims.

Already, the UK accounted for close to half of its $418 million revenue last year, with both companies signalling the deal will create the UK’s largest personal injury firm.

Under the Slater & Gordon deal, Quindell plans to return as much as £500 million of proceeds to shareholders later this year, fuelling the share rise on AIM, London’s junior stockmarket.

Quindell’s interim chairman, David Currie, installed after its founder, Rob Terry, was unceremoniously removed late last year in a bid to restore investor confidence, described the move as a “landmark”, one which would allow it to “move forward with renewed purpose”.

The company, described by the Financial Times recently as an “unusual collection of loosely related insurance, technological and legal businesses piled on top of a golf club” has struggled with a share price tumble, losing over £2 billion in market value last year  prompting industrywide speculation it was running out of cash.

A Price WaterhouseCoopers report was commissioned last year to investigate the company’s much-weaker-than-expected financial results and while this report has yet to be made public, a preliminary statement on the review provided by Quindell on Monday found that “accounting practices in some parts of the group were described as “largely acceptable but are at the aggressive end of acceptable practice”.

The company was listed on AIM in May 2011 via a reverse merger as a small technology company, and moved quickly to buy up a series of companies servicing the motor industry insurance industry.

The company’s pledge was to build a multiplatform, one-stop shop provider of services, from car hire, legal advice and medical assessments, aimed at “revolutionising” and slashing costs to the car insurance industry. Companies swallowed up by Quindell included a Mobile Doctors business to offer nursing, occupational therapy and psychological assessments for drivers and passengers as well as the acquisition of two legal firms and a car repair business.

The company grew rapidly in its first year but was enveloped in turmoil in 2014 after a New York-based research company launched a scathing, short-selling attack and a series of controversial share sales and resulted in the board’s decision to shake up management from the top down.

While some observers have hailed the company’s model as a compelling investment story, other commentators are unconvinced by both the business model and the company’s rapid growth.

They argue that while Quindell provides the full gamut of services to the insurance industry when a claim is made, it still has to pay the insurer upfront for car crash cases and then it takes aslong as six months to receive payment once the claim is resolved.

“This means that though the outsourcing group reported revenue of £380 million in 2013, it generated operating cash of just £10 million” the  Daily Telegraph in London reported.

Concern has also been raised over a previous venture founded by Rob Terry in 2000. As chief executive of the newly created insurance software firm The Innovation Group, he led the company in a similarly rapid expansion campaign just before the dotcom bubble burst. Similarly to Quindell, this company too became involved in a complex reverse takeover.

However valuations, despite its well-received technology, were affected and Terry left the company three years after in the wake of a share price collapse.

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Miles Franklin Literary Award longlist 2015: Omar Musa, Suzanne McCourt and Christine Piper hit it big with debut works

Rapper and poet Omar Musa has been longlisted for the Miles Franklin. Photo: Jay Cronan
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Rapper and poet Omar Musa has been longlisted for the Miles Franklin. Photo: Jay Cronan

Rapper and poet Omar Musa has been longlisted for the Miles Franklin. Photo: Jay Cronan

Rapper and poet Omar Musa has been longlisted for the Miles Franklin. Photo: Jay Cronan

Elizabeth Harrower: Miles Franklin contender for a novel written in the 1960s. Photo: Lidia Nikonova

Elizabeth Harrower: Miles Franklin contender for a novel written in the 1960s. Photo: Lidia Nikonova

Elizabeth Harrower: Miles Franklin contender for a novel written in the 1960s. Photo: Lidia Nikonova

Elizabeth Harrower: Miles Franklin contender for a novel written in the 1960s. Photo: Lidia Nikonova

Queanbeyan rapper and poet Omar Musa is among three debut novelists featured on the Miles Franklin Literary Award longlist. Suzanne McCourt and Christine Piper, who won the Vogel Literary Prize last year, are also first-time novelists.

At the other end of the spectrum, Elizabeth Harrower is longlisted for the first time at the age of 87, for a novel she wrote in the 1960s but withdrew from publication in 1971. After that she didn’t publish again. The only award Harrower has won is the 1996 Patrick White Award. However, she allowed publication of In Certain Circles last year and, with the reissue of her four earlier novels, it has brought her a late burst of admiration in Australia and overseas.

“There are many wonderful things in this novel,” wrote Andrew Riemer in The Sydney Morning Herald review of In Certain Circles. “Harrower’s skill in evoking a place is impressive. Her eye for oddities of behaviour, for quirks of character and for patches of pretentiousness is as sure as ever. The wry intelligence of her view of middle-class Australian life is evident throughout. Her writing is characteristically sharp and pithy. Whatever the reason behind her decision not to allow this novel to be released four decades ago, its rebirth is an event to be celebrated.”

Eight of the 10 nominees are women, also including award-winning veterans Joan London and Sonya Hartnett. Many of the books deal with forms of domestic violence, child abuse and broken families, reflecting a trend in fiction – and sadly, in society.

State Library of NSW Mitchell Librarian and one of the judges, Richard Neville, described the list: “From a contemporary rap symphony [Musa] and a 1950s polio clinic love affair [London], to the suburban father too good to be true [Hartnett] and the spiritual journey of an Antarctic supply ship [Parrett], this year’s Miles Franklin longlist showcases the extraordinary vitality and range of recent Australian fiction.”

“Interestingly, a number of the novels are written from the child’s perspective, with unravelling families, or families in tension, driving the narratives,” he said.

The longlist of 10 authors competing for the $60,000 prize is:

Elizabeth Harrower, In Certain Circles

Sonya Hartnett, Golden Boys

Sofie Laguna, The Eye of the Sheep

Joan London, The Golden Age

Suzanne McCourt, The Lost Child

Omar Musa, Here Come the Dogs

Favel Parrett, When the Night Comes

Christine Piper, After Darkness

Craig Sherborne, Tree Palace

Inga Simpson, Nest

This year’s judging panel also includes The Australian’s Murrary Waldren, Sydney bookseller Lindy Jones, Queensland Writers’ Centre founding chair Craig Munro and Emeritus Professor Susan Sheridan.

The Miles Franklin was first awarded in 1957 for a novel that is “of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases”. The shortlist will be released on Monday May 18 and the winner will be announced on June 23.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Mother-of-four Salwa Haydar stabbed to death, husband refused bail

Police at the scene of the fatal stabbing in Bexley on Tuesday morning. Photo: Nick Moir Police at the scene of the fatal stabbing in Bexley on Tuesday morning. Photo: Nick Moir
Nanjing Night Net

Police in front of the Bexley home where a woman was stabbed to death and her daughter was injured. Photo: Nick Moir

Police at the scene of the fatal stabbing in Bexley on Tuesday morning. Photo: Nick Moir

Police at the scene of the fatal stabbing in Bexley on Tuesday morning. Photo: Nick Moir

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A man has been charged with stabbing his wife to death and injuring his teenage daughter during a violent domestic incident at a southern Sydney home on Monday night.

Haydar Haydar, 58, faced court on Tuesday morning after the mother of his four children, Salwa Haydar, 45, died from a number of stab wounds in their Bexley home.

The couple’s 18-year-old daughter, Ola, is believed to have called triple-0 about 6.45pm to say that her mother had been stabbed and was unconscious.

The teenager was later taken to St George Hospital suffering serious injuries to her hand, police said.

Mr Haydar did not apply for bail in Kogarah Local Court on Tuesday and it was formally refused. He briefly looked to a group of supporters in court, who left in tears after police led him away.

Devastated relatives from Mrs Haydar’s village in Lebanon congregated at the end of Valda Street on Monday night, watching on as police and forensic officers taped off the red brick villa where the couple lived.

“She was from our village and she was a cousin to me,” one man told Fairfax Media.

“She was a nice woman, a hard worker,” he said.

Mr Haydar handed himself in to Kogarah police station on Monday night where he was later charged with murder and intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Relatives say the couple had only recently moved into the quiet cul-de-sac which backs onto Bardwell Valley Parklands.

In 2007 Mrs Haydar spoke to Fairfax Media about the day her mother Layla was killed by a missile attack as she tried to escape her village in Lebanon.

At the time she said her husband, Mr Haydar, was watching the news and learned that a convoy, of which her family was part, had been attacked.

“It was as if it was just yesterday,” she said. “It is still very hard on everyone. The people there are still suffering.”

In July 2006, several vehicles left the village of Aitaroun, one of the most bombed areas in south-east Lebanon, near the Israeli border. She said at the time her brother saw the first two cars ahead of them get attacked and realised their lives were in danger.

“They ran for safety in a small field,” she said. “A missile fell and killed my mum and injured my sister-in-law and niece.”

The family returned to the car and rushed the injured to Najm hospital, on the southern edge of Tyre.

A year later, Mrs Haydar said her family was still struggling to come to terms with the devastation. Salwa’s sister-in-law underwent  a number of operations for an injured arm while her niece will need plastic surgery.

Magistrate Christine Haskett adjourned Mr Haydar’s case until April 9 at Central Local Court.

The National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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