Kayaker 'lucky to be here' after shark attack

A man in Australia claimed he had a “lucky day” after escaping a 13ft shark that attacked his kayak and left him clinging on to the boat as the creature circled him.

Kyle Roberts (31) was paddling off his local beach in calm conditions on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland when the tiger shark suddenly knocked him off the kayak.

“It hit side-on with such force it ejected me and flipped the kayak,” he told the ‘Courier Mail’. “I landed in the water about [seven feet] away and looked to see it locked on to the middle part.

“It let go and disappeared. I swam over and inspected the damage. I could put my fingers in the holes left by its teeth.”

Mr Roberts, who regularly kayaks in the area, used his radio to contact surf rescue authorities and waited about 35 to 40 minutes for them to arrive.

David McLean, from Surf Life Saving Queensland, said Mr Roberts was “starting to panic, especially when the shark was starting to circle him”.

“There was no blood in the water – nothing else to attract any sharks – just came out of the blue, completely broadsided him, and as he stated, he’s very lucky to be here,” Mr McLean said.

“It had punctured the kayak – he managed to get back to the kayak and hung on and fortunately there was an air bubble at the front of the kayak which managed to keep it afloat until we could get to him.” Mr Roberts said he planned to return to the water on his kayak next week.

Source: Read Full Article

Berry needle scare ‘motivated by spite’

An Australian woman accused of hiding sewing needles inside strawberries in a high-profile sabotage case was motivated by spite, a court has heard.

My Ut Trinh, 50, was arrested on Sunday following a nationwide police investigation that began in September.

Ms Trinh had worked as a supervisor at a strawberry farm north of Brisbane, according to Queensland Police.

The maximum prison term for contaminating goods in Australia was recently raised to 15 years.

Ms Trinh faces seven counts, and has not said whether she will fight the charges.

The “unprecedented” strawberry scare spread to every Australian state and later to New Zealand, raising public alarm.

Police said there had been 186 reports of needle-contaminated strawberries since September, though 15 turned out to have been hoaxes.

It is not yet clear how many of those Ms Trinh is alleged to have caused. On Monday, police described their investigation as “far from over”.

The court in Brisbane on Monday heard that Ms Trinh’s DNA had been found on strawberries in the state of Victoria.

“The case that is put is that it is motivated by some spite or revenge,” Magistrate Christine Roney said.

“She has embarked on a course over several months of putting a metal object into fruit.”

Fears of ‘retribution’

The first cases emerged in Queensland, where a man was taken to hospital with stomach pains after eating strawberries.

Farmers were forced to dump tonnes of berries, and supermarkets pulled the fruit off sale.

In response, Australia’s government raised the maximum prison term for fruit tampering from 10 to 15 years.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison vowed to “throw the book” at anyone responsible, saying: “It’s not funny, putting the livelihoods of hard-working Australians at risk, and you are scaring children. And you are a coward and a grub.”

On Monday Supt Jon Wacker, from Queensland Police, described it as a “unique investigation impacting virtually every state and jurisdiction in Australia”.

In Queensland, where the strawberry industry is worth A$130m (£72m; $93m) a year, the local government pledged A$1m to support the state’s stricken farmers. An A$100,000 reward was offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of perpetrators.

Prosecutors said they opposed giving bail to Ms Trinh because she may face “retribution” in the community.

However, Ms Roney said a bail application would not be considered until more information about the case was known.

Source: Read Full Article

Isil claims stabbing attack in Melbourne

A man went on a stabbing spree in the centre of Melbourne yesterday after apparently setting a car alight, killing one person and bringing the city to a standstill.

Police believe the deadly attack by a Somali-born Australian was an act of terrorism, possibly designed to destroy a vehicle filled with gas cylinders in the city centre.

The man, who died after being shot by police, set a four-wheel drive car on fire before stabbing three men, including one who died in hospital.

Isil claimed the attack, its propaganda channel said.

“The perpetrator of the operation… in Melbourne… was an Islamic State fighter and carried out the operation… to target nationals of the coalition” fighting Isil, Amaq reported a jihadist security source as saying.

Graham Ashton, chief of Victoria State police, said the man was known to counterterrorism agencies through his “family associations”. “His family members are certainly known to us from a terrorism perspective,” he said.

Mr Ashton said the man moved from Somalia in the 1990s to Melbourne’s north-west suburbs. He had convictions for cannabis use, theft and driving offences but not for violent offences.

Some witnesses claimed he was yelling “Allahu akbar”, though police said this was not confirmed. They added they did not believe there was an ongoing threat.

According to ‘The Herald Sun’, the man had his passport cancelled several years ago.

Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, condemned the “act of evil” and pledged the city would “go about our business this weekend and every weekend”.

“This is an evil, terrifying thing that’s happened in our city and state,” he said. “We condemn it… We’ll not be defined by this act of evil.”

Police said the car was parked before being set alight.

“There were gas bottles – I understand at this stage they are barbecue-style gas bottles – within the vehicle,” Commissioner Ashton said.

Footage taken by witnesses showed police shooting the man after he threatened them with an object that appeared to be a knife. Witnesses said the car exploded before the man began stabbing people.

“He seemed to be waving something, people around me screamed that he had a knife, but I couldn’t see clearly from where I was,” a witness told ABC News. “And then I heard one loud bang. It sounded like a gunshot.”

Sarah Werkmeister, a witness, told ‘The Herald Sun’: “All I saw was the car on fire, and the police cuffing someone on the ground. People who’d seen it told me they heard shots being fired, and everyone heard an explosion that was like the petrol exploding.” (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Source: Read Full Article

Melbourne 'in lockdown' as one dead, two injured in city stabbing

One person was stabbed to death and two others wounded after they were attacked by a man in the centre of the Australian city of Melbourne on Friday, police said.

Police shot the man who threatened officers with a knife and he is in a critical condition under guard at a hospital, Victoria Police Superintendent David Clayton told reporters.

“Three people have been stabbed, unfortunately one of them is deceased at the scene,” he said. “There is no known links to terrorism at this stage we will keep an open mind as to whether there is any link.”

Parts of the Australian city’s CBD were in lockdown on Friday afternoon and Victoria Police urged members of the public to avoid the area.

Witnesses said they heard explosions as a car burst into flames on Bourke Street and there were unconfirmed reports that a man was shot after attacking police with a knife.

Police said in a statement: “A man was arrested at the scene and has been taken to hospital under police guard in critical condition.  

“Police are not looking for anyone further at this stage. A small number of people are being treated for stab wounds..

“The exact circumstances are yet to be determined at this stage.”

More to follow…

Source: Read Full Article

Taylor Swift, Donald Trump and an America That Confounds the World

The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter from our Australia bureau chief. Sign up to get it by email. Here’s where to find all our Oceania coverage.


After Taylor Swift sang “Bad Blood” and “Gorgeous,” before the trapeze artists appeared, while the fireworks were bright and the rain was still bucketing down, I smiled and thought: This is so American.

That was last Friday, when she performed in Sydney at ANZ Stadium. I was there with my young daughter and son, and it’s not the first time I’ve contemplated what pop music could teach my kids about the United States.

As I wrote when they were toddlers in Mexico, “our ears pull in the first lessons of culture,” and America’s greatest appeal can often be found in the sounds showing off the country’s carefree creative exuberance.

Friday’s concert, though, came at a serious time: just a few days before the American midterm elections that determined control of Congress. And what I saw in Taylor Swift’s no-holds-barred extravaganza (even though I’m a middling fan of her music) was some important context for all of us trying to figure out what on earth is going on in the U.S. of A.

What it told me — or reminded me — was that the country is impossible to hold down, that it’s far too big and too dynamic for any one person to totally corral or define. No place that can produce Childish Gambino and Taylor Swift, or Lady Gaga and Cardi B, will ever be easy to control.

President Trump received a form of that message with Tuesday’s election results. Despite structural barriers that favor Republicans in many states (from gerrymandered districts to voter ID restrictions), the House of Representatives flipped to the Democrats.

The Republicans added seats in the Senate but the results will no doubt lead to more pressure for the president and more open political conflict.

House leaders have already signaled that they plan to use their subpoena power to demand more from Mr. Trump (including his tax returns) while the president has threatened that he would retaliate with investigations of his own.

But before the battle gets going, let’s take a breath and ask: What do the results tell us about the country on a deeper level?

A few things to look at:

1. District Maps: This New York Times map shows which parts of the country shifted to the left and to the right compared to 2016. The leftward tilt was pretty widely dispersed.

2. Exit Polls: Surveys of voters from the 1980s onward highlight divisions that are both racial and generational, with the age divide becoming especially striking.

3. Diversity: More women and more young, nonwhite lawmakers are heading to Washington, including the first Muslim and Native American women elected to Congress. That means the power structure will more closely resemble the country at large.

All three of those developments point to an electorate with more people who have become more frustrated with President Trump, including many of those who voted for him two years ago.

If the age trends hold, and with a bunch of the winners coming from the more moderate side of the Democratic Party, it may also mean a future with more consensus than we have now.

Imagine that, an America united. I admit, I have a hard time picturing it.

But if we look beyond the what-ifs and issues and ideology — if we really step back — maybe we can see something more illuminating.

The results and the messiness of American democracy — with ridiculously long lines to vote, with far too many ways to cast ballots, with oodles of money sloshing around from billionaires — all spotlight the jumble of paradoxes that have shaped the United States since settlement.

It’s a country founded as a utopian “city on a hill” — and defined by ruthlessness in capitalism and politics.

It’s a country where white nationalism is surging — and “Black Panther” is the year’s top box-office earner.

I could give you a dozen more of these with 10 minutes and a beer, but I don’t live there anymore so I won’t bore you with that.

And really, Taylor Swift said it best. With just her guitar, playing in the middle of a giant stadium, with most of her big budget production taking a rest, she stripped down America to its essence:

“We’re happy free confused and lonely in the best way,” she sang. “It’s miserable and magical, oh yeah.”

Now for some other stories. Because even Tay knows it’s not always about her or her country.

You know where to find us for more discussion: Our NYT Australia Facebook group, and at [email protected]


Australia and Beyond

We had a busy week. So busy in fact, that I’m going to limit this week’s roundup to coverage connected to Australia and the region. Let’s dive in.

If you have a thoughtful 15 minutes…

• Zero-Tolerance Immigration and Suicidal Children: A reporter made it to Nauru for us and found, firsthand, the effects of Australia’s offshore detention policy. Part of what’s intensifying the desperation? Refugee rejections from the Trump administration.

• Geoffrey Rush’s Defamation Trial Becomes a #MeToo Reckoning for Australia: Does defamation law in Australia keep more women from coming forward?

• ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ and the History in Historical Fiction: Most readers haven’t noticed or been worried by omitted details or factual mistakes in the book. But is there a greater imperative for novels about the Holocaust to get basic facts correct?

If you’re wondering about Australians and the world…

• He Helped People Cheat at Grand Theft Auto. Then His Home Was Raided. A gamer in Melbourne has had his assets frozen in connection with a popular video game cheat. He’s one of many being sued by game companies worldwide, raising questions about copyright and freedom.

• Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., Trump’s Pick for Ambassador to Australia, Offers Direct Line to President: Mr. Culvahouse is the third candidate the White House has selected to fill the post.

• Another Trump Scoop, a Giddy Reaction and a Reporter Under Fire: Jonathan Swan made a name for himself in Canberra, and is now a reporting star in Washington. But is he too quick to choose access over detachment?

• Australia Likely to Block Hong Kong Company’s Bid for Gas Pipeline: Citing national security concerns, Australia said it would probably block an effort by CK Group from acquiring the country’s largest gas and pipeline company.

• Robyn Denholm Succeeds Elon Musk as Leader of Tesla Board: Tesla said Ms. Denholm would step down from her role at Telstra once her six-month notice period is complete.

If you’re looking for something to smirk or smile about…

• What Sydney Can Learn About Dining From Another Sunny City: Our restaurant critic in Australia wishes that Sydney could take a few lessons from Los Angeles.

• Virgin Australia Airline Seeks to Thank Veterans for Their Service. Vets Say, ‘No, Thanks.’ Critics said the policy was too American, and at odds with Australia’s egalitarian ethos.

• Crossing Paths With Meghan and Harry, and Missing the Plane to Paradise: In New Zealand, our columnist immerses herself in Maori culture. Then rain, traffic and a lost (and found) passport complicate what should have been an easy Fiji trip.


… And We Recommend

It’s time for our monthly Netflix guide. I started watching the new “House of Cards” — not sure how I feel about it yet.

We’ve also pulled together all the guides from previous months, putting them on a single collection page for easy browsing and so past recommendations don’t get lost.

Are there other things in media or life you’d like to see Times guides for? Let us know.

Here, for inspiration, are some other Times guides that aim to help you live a better life.

Damien Cave is the new Australia bureau chief for The New York Times. He’s covered more than a dozen countries for The Times, including Mexico, Cuba, Iraq and Lebanon. Follow him on Twitter: @damiencave.

Source: Read Full Article

Rotten fruit causes university evacuation

More than 500 students and teachers were evacuated from a university in Melbourne, Australia, as a result of a smell initially suspected to be gas.

But it turned out the “gas” that students smelt at the RMIT’s library was a rotting durian that had been left in a cupboard.

The durian is a tropical fruit known for its strong, stinky smell.

Firefighters said the smell had moved through the building via the air conditioning system.

The building has now been reopened, Melbourne’s Metropolitan Fire Brigade said in a statement.

‘Turpentine and onions’

After staff and students at the university reported a smell they thought to be gas in a library building, they were evacuated by the local police force.

The fire brigade said the building stores potentially dangerous chemicals, triggering an investigation into the source of the smell.

After what the fire brigade described as a “comprehensive search”, they discovered that the smell was not a chemical gas but rather that it came from a durian that was going off.

Durians are a prized fruit in South East Asia with a sweet and creamy flesh, but their smell can take some getting used to.

The Smithsonian magazine described it as akin to “turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock”.

What is a durian?

Source: Read Full Article

Australia teen is drone racing champion

A 15-year-old Australian boy has been crowned overall champion at the FAI Drone Racing World Championships.

Rudi Browning beat more than 120 competitors at the event run by the World Air Sports Federation (FAI) in Shenzhen, China.

His success also helped the Australian team win the group title ahead of Sweden and South Korea.

An 11-year-old racer from Thailand, Wanraya Wannapong, won the women’s title.

In drone racing, participants steer crafts at high speed around a race course with obstacles.

Pilots control the drones through special headgear connected to their craft’s cameras.

Mr Browning beat three other pilots in a final on Sunday to win the gold medal for overall champion. He also received a $24,000 (£18,000) cash prize.

“I’m still shaking actually. I have had a lot of ups and downs in races, like everyone, and this is definitely one massive high,” he said after the race, according to a statement from the FAI.

The overall championship was contested by 128 people, and included both men and women.

Wanraya Wannapong was one of 13 female contestants in the competition and had been coached by her father.

“I fly every day, and all day when I am not at school,” Miss Wannapong said in a statement.

Drone racing is a one of the world’s fastest growing sports, says the FAI. There are a number of different competitions staged around the world.

Broadcasters ESPN and Sky also televise the US-based Drone Racing League, a professional division.

Races for the inaugural FAI Drone Racing World Championships were streamed online and broadcast across China’s Tencent network.

Source: Read Full Article

Sydney ‘squatter’ wins house after 20 years

Two decades ago, Australian property developer Bill Gertos found a house sitting empty in Sydney. So he changed the locks, repaired the property – and began leasing it to tenants.

Now Mr Gertos has won a legal battle to be declared the official owner of the house – which is estimated to be worth A$1.6m (£0.9m; $1.1m).

It followed a court battle with descendants of its previous owner.

Mr Gertos was granted ownership under a law recognising squatters’ rights.

Squatting is when someone occupies an empty or abandoned property which they don’t own or rent, and without the owner’s permission.

In New South Wales, squatters can be awarded ownership if they have occupied a property for more than 12 years.

The court granted Mr Gertos those rights because he had repaired and maintained the property since 1998.

Australian media outlets described the case as “bizarre” because the relevant law is typically used by those who move into a property themselves.

‘I decided to take possession’

Mr Gertos told the Supreme Court of New South Wales that he first became curious about the house, in the suburb of Ashbury, because it was in “disrepair”.

He said he went to the property in late 1998 and determined that it was unoccupied and uninhabitable.

“I left the property and then decided to take possession of it myself,” he said in a court affidavit.

Mr Gertos spent nearly A$150,000 on repairs and renovations before installing tenants, the court heard.

But the descendants of previous owner Henry Thompson Downie, who died in 1947, launched a legal challenge last year after Mr Gertos applied for ownership.

Mr Downie’s relatives testified that the family had vacated the house before World War Two due to an ant infestation, after which it was rented to a sole tenant. That tenant leased the home until her death in April 1998.

The family argued that Mr Gertos had not acted in an “open” manner, meaning he should not be able to claim ownership through squatting laws.

But Justice Rowan Darke disagreed, ruling: “Mr Gertos succeeded in taking and maintaining physical custody of the land, to the exclusion of all others.”

Mr Downie’s relatives intend to appeal against the decision, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

Source: Read Full Article