Australia's famously buff Kangaroo, Roger, dies aged 12

Internet-famous Roger, who was rescued as an orphaned joey and grew up to be the world’s most buff kangaroo, has died aged 12.

“It’s a very sad day here today, for we have lost our beautiful boy Roger,” wrote The Kangaroo Sanctuary in Alice Springs in a Facebook post on Saturday (Dec 8).

The sanctuary, which lies in the heart of central Australia, said that the well-loved kangaroo had died of old age.

“He lived a lovely long life and was loved by millions around the world,” the post read.

Roger became an orphan after his mother was killed in a car accident on a highway in 2006.

He was rescued from his mother’s pouch by former national park tour guide Chris “Brolga” Barnes, who went on to set up the 188-acre sanctuary to care for him, reported the Washington Post.

Eventually, Roger grew to an impressive height of more than 2m and weighed 89kg, boasting a muscular stature that set him apart from other male kangaroos.

He wielded an undeniable charm in the sanctuary, which currently has over 50 kangaroos, and soon became the alpha male of the herd with 12 partners.

In 2015, Roger shot to fame on the Internet after a video of him crushing a metal bucket with his bare paws went viral, reported the BBC.

Mr Barnes said of the famous photo that made Roger an Australian icon: “I was feeding Roger and put down the bucket to get some water.

“He maybe saw his reflection, and before I knew it he had gone crazy and bear hugged it – crushing it in a second. A big kangaroo is renowned for crushing dogs trying to kill them. They don’t mess.”

Roger ❤️ 💪🏽 When Roger was alpha boss male his height when standing was about 2 metres (6ft 7) – same height as me. The clucking noise he is making is telling me to get away from his lady kangaroos. And the red on his neck is a scent that males rub onto trees etc to mark their territory.

A post shared by The Kangaroo Sanctuary (@thekangaroosanctuary) on

But in a video a year later, the sanctuary revealed that the once sprightly marsupial was suffering from arthritis and failing eyesight, and had lost weight.

When the news of his death broke over the weekend, many netizensexpressed their sadness online, with some saying that they had regretted not making the visit to Alice Springs while he was still alive.

Mr Barnes told BBC that kangaroos can live up to 14 years old but they rarely reach that age in the wild.

“Life is much harder in the wild for an older kangaroo. When they get sick, the dingos, our wild dogs, will attack and eat them,” he added.

He said that Roger has been buried in the sanctuary, so that “he will always be here”, and be close to his family.

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Australian man jailed for brutal killing of kangaroo in filmed attack

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – A 28-year-old Australian man will spend five months in prison for brutally killing a kangaroo in an attack filmed and posted on social media, ABC News reported late on Friday.

Ricky Ian Swan was one of four men charged in September with using weapons to torture and kill two kangaroos. Swan chased one of the kangaroos inflicting more than 20 stab wounds and kicking the dying animal in the head.

“You subjected this particular animal to a savage and brutal attack,” ABC cited Magistrate Deen Potter as saying.

Potter also said that Swan’s actions amounted to cruelty to an animal and included torture, mutilation and malicious behavior.

“I don’t know what came over me,” ABC cited Swan’s remarks from one of his sentencing reports. “It’s disgusting. That person in the video is not me.”

The Joondalup Magistrates Court in Western Australia handed Swan an immediate 12-month jail term, seven months of which were suspended. Swan previously pleaded guilty to two animal cruelty charges.

Earlier in the week, the court sentenced Swan’s co-accused, a 26-year-old Perth man, to two years in prison for a series of animal cruelty offences, which the court said displayed “monstrosity”, ABC reported.

According to government statistics there are about 45 million kangaroos in Australia and the number is growing rapidly, nearly doubling the human population, now at 25 million.

Most animal welfare is regulated at the state or territory level.

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Australian bid to force tech firms to hand over encrypted data passes first hurdle

SYDNEY (REUTERS) – The Australian Parliament’s Lower House passed a Bill to force tech firms such as Alphabet’s Google, Facebook and Apple to give police access to encrypted data on Thursday (Dec 6), pushing it closer to becoming a precedent-setting law.

However, the proposal, staunchly opposed by the tech giants because Australia is seen as a test case as other nations explore similar rules, faces a sterner test in the Upper House Senate, where privacy and information security concerns are sticking points.

The Bill provides for fines of up to A$10 million (S$9.9 million) for institutions and prison terms for individuals for failing to hand over data linked to suspected illegal activities.

Earlier in the week, it appeared set to secure enough support from both major political parties, with some amendments, to secure passage. However, the main opposition Labor party said on Thursday the Bill could undermine data security and jeopardise future information sharing with United States authorities.

“A range of stakeholders have said there is a real risk that the new powers could make Australians less safe… (by) weakening the encryption that protects national infrastructure,” Labor’s Mark Dreyfus told Parliament.

The proposed laws could also scupper cooperation with US authorities because they lack sufficient privacy safeguards, Mr Dreyfus said. Labor voted the Bill through the Lower House but was still negotiating with the government on the issue and would debate it in the Senate, he said.

Thursday was the last parliamentary sitting day of the year until a truncated session in February, meaning the impasse could delay the laws for months.

The government has said the proposed laws are needed to counter militant attacks and organised crime, and that security agencies would need to seek warrants to access personal data.

“I will fight to get those encryption laws passed,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra after Mr Dreyfus spoke. “I want to see our police have the powers they need to stop terrorists.”

Technology companies have strongly opposed efforts to create what they see as a back door to users’ data, a stand-off that was propelled into the public arena by Apple’s refusal to unlock an iPhone used by an attacker in a 2015 shooting in California.

Representatives of Google, Amazon and Apple did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Apple has said in a public submission to lawmakers access to encrypted data would necessitate weakening the encryption and increase the risk of hacking.

A Facebook spokesman directed Reuters to a statement made by the Digital Industry Group Inc (DIGI), of which Facebook as well as Apple, Google, Amazon and Twitter, are members.

“This legislation is out of step with surveillance and privacy legislation in Europe and other countries that have strong national security concerns,” the DIGI statement said.

“Several critical issues remain unaddressed in this legislation, most significantly the prospect of introducing systemic weaknesses that could put Australians’ data security at risk,” it said.

If the Bill becomes law, Australia would be one of the first nations to impose broad access requirements on technology companies, although others, particularly so-called Five Eyes countries, are poised to follow.

The Five Eyes intelligence network, comprising the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, have each repeatedly warned that national security was at risk because the authorities were unable to monitor the communications of suspects.

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Australian scientists develop '10-minute' cancer test

Researchers report 90 percent accuracy when test is used to identify cancer cells in blood or biopsy tissue.

    Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia have developed a new test that can detect the presence of cancer cells in the body.

    The 10-minute test, announced in a study published by Nature on Tuesday, can determine whether a tumour is present in the human body by identifying a unique DNA nanostructure that is common to all types of cancer.

    It is designed to detect cancer from blood or biopsy tissue by analysing methyl group changes at the genomic level.

    Methyl groups, which are tiny molecules of DNA, were found to be significantly altered in cancer patients.

    Researchers noted that the methyl groups are spread out across the genome in healthy cells, but were present only in particular places in the genome of individuals with cancer.

    Matt Trau, a professor at the University of Queensland, said: “Discovering that cancerous DNA molecules formed entirely different 3D nanostructures from normal circulating DNA was a breakthrough that has enabled an entirely new approach to detect cancer non-invasively in any tissue type including blood.

    “This led to the creation of inexpensive and portable detection devices that could eventually be used as a diagnostic tool, possibly with a mobile phone.”

    The new diagnostic test demonstrated an accuracy of up to 90 percent when tested on 200 human cancer samples and normal DNA, according to the researchers.

    “We certainly don’t know yet whether it’s the Holy Grail for all cancer diagnostics, but it looks really interesting as an incredibly simple universal marker of cancer and as an accessible and inexpensive technology that doesn’t require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing,” Trau added.

    The technology, however, requires further development as it can currently only determine the presence of cancer, but not the disease type or stage.

    Earlier this year, scientists at John Hopkins University in Baltimore analysed more than 1,000 cancer patients who had shown symptoms of cancer, to see whether a similar test, called CancerSEEK, would accurately confirm the diagnosis.

    Researchers had discovered that for certain tumours, CancerSEEK was up to 98 percent accurate.

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    Arrest in Australian cold case made famous by podcast

    SYDNEY (AFP) – An Australian man whose life was laid bare in a popular crime mystery podcast about the disappearance of his wife nearly 40 years ago was arrested on Wednesday (Dec 5).

    Ex-first grade rugby league player Chris Dawson, 70, is expected to be charged with the murder of his former wife Lynette, who went missing in Sydney’s northern beaches in 1982, authorities said.

    The body of the mother of two has never been recovered.

    Dawson denies killing his wife, and says she left home at the time of her disappearance to get some time to herself.

    The cold case is the subject of popular podcast “The Teacher’s Pet”, which details a troubled marriage leading up to the disappearance and examines the shortcomings of the police response.

    The podcast, by journalists from The Australian newspaper, has been heard by some 27 million people worldwide, according to the paper.

    An inquest in 2003 found that Chris Dawson, a former high school teacher, had started an affair with a 16-year-old student who moved in with him within days of his wife’s disappearance.

    Police have been criticised for not investigating the disappearance properly.

    New South Wales police commissioner Mick Fuller, who recently apologised for police failings on the case in the 1980s, said detectives had revisited the disappearance three years ago and a “fresh brief” of evidence had led to the arrest.

    “That information enabled New South Wales Police to get an arrest warrant for a 70-year-old man currently living in Queensland,” Fuller told reporters on Wednesday.

    Fuller acknowledged that media reports had contributed to police obtaining additional statements relating to the case.

    “What is important to me was justice for Lynette Dawson and her family, and today is an important step forward in that,” he added.

    Dawson was due to be extradited from Queensland state to New South Wales, where police said he would be charged with homicide.

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    Brother of Australia cricketer arrested over fake terror 'hit list'

    SYDNEY (AFP) – The brother of Australian cricketer Usman Khawaja was arrested on Tuesday (Dec 4) by counter-terrorism police over an apparently fake list of terror targets that included former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

    A police source told AFP that Arsakan Khawaja, 39, was arrested in suburban Sydney and is being questioned in relation to allegations he attempted to pervert justice by making a false document.

    “The arrest relates to documents allegedly found on University of (New South Wales) grounds in August this year containing plans to facilitate terrorism attacks,” police said in a statement.

    The Australian newspaper reported that Arsakan Khawaja is a university colleague of Mr Mohamed Kamer Nizamdeen, a 25-year-old who was arrested in August over the purported terror list, but later released, as the script did not match his handwriting.

    It did not appear from the charges that the list was linked to any credible assassination plots. The motivation for writing the list is unclear.

    Pakistan born Australian batsman Usman Khawaja is due to make a return from injury this Thursday against India in the first of a four-match series.

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    Massive cow named Knickers has been deemed too large to eat

    A massive Australian cow named Knickers has been spared the slaughterhouse and the dinner table thanks to its sheer size.

    The behemoth bovine hails from a farm in the town of Myalup in Western Australia and was recently saved from the barbecue because of its size, standing nearly two metres tall and weighing more than a car.

    “He was too big to go into the export plant’s chain,” Geoff Pearson, the steer’s owner, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). “We have a high turnover of cattle, and he was lucky enough to stay behind.”

    According to Pearson, the cow stands 194 centimetres tall and weighs about 1,400 kilograms, double the weight of an average dairy cow and about a 50 centimetres taller.

    “It was too heavy. I wouldn’t be able to put it through a processing facility,” Pearson told Perth Now. “So I think it will just live happily ever after.”

    The farmer said the cow has been put to work since being saved from the dinner table, leading and coaching other cattle.

    “You’ll put him in a paddock and all the other cattle seem to get attracted to him,” Pearson told ABC. “Whenever he wants to get up and start walking, there’s a trail of hundreds of cattle following him.”

    “We all know when Knickers in on the move,” he said.

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    Suitcase murder: Singaporean sentenced to life in jail for murder of ex-wife in Perth

    SYDNEY – A Singaporean businessman, Ban Ah Ping, was sentenced to life in prison in Australia on Thursday (Nov 22) after murdering his former wife and stuffing her body in a suitcase before dumping it in the Swan River in Perth.

    The couple’s 27-year-old daughter, Tiffany Wan, was acquitted of murder but jailed for four years and 10 months for attempting to cover up the crime.

    Ban, now 69, flew from Singapore to Perth on June 30, 2016, then bashed his 58-year-old former wife Annabelle Chen to death at her home. Two fishermen found the remains of her half-naked body in a suitcase floating down the river two days later.

    Justice Joseph McGrath of the Western Australia Supreme Court said Ban had shown no remorse for the crime, and jailed him for life, with a minimum of 20 years in prison.

    The judge said Ban showed “callous indifference” to the body of his former wife and then engaged in “orchestrated lies over an extended period” to try to cover up the crime.

    Ban, who divorced Ms Chen in 2000, pleaded not guilty but was convicted after a three-week jury trial earlier this year. He and his daughter turned on each other during the trial, blaming the other for the murder and claiming they were each only accomplices.

    The jury spent four days deliberating and found Ban guilty of murder and Wan was an accessory after the fact.

    Ban had wanted to attend his daughter’s university graduation in Melbourne and had flown to Perth to reveal to his former wife that – despite her wishes – he had been secretly in touch with Wan for several years.

    During an argument on the upper floor of Ms Chen’s home, he struck her on the head with a “blunt instrument”. She had 25 head injuries when she died.

    Wan, who had been downstairs during the attack, later claimed her father said he hit Ms Chen with an iron paperweight during an argument about money.

    After Ban dumped the body, he and his daughter returned to their homes in Singapore and Melbourne. Wan helped to wash her father’s clothes and remove footprints from the home. She continued to send text messages to her mother’s phone and reported her missing only two months after the murder.

    Wan’s lawyer, Mr Simon Freitag, told the court she was not present when the body was dumped and had lied to protect her father.

    Justice McGrath said Wan had repeatedly lied to police, family and friends over a “protracted and sustained period of time” and that she appeared to be motivated by “a daughter’s misguided loyalty to her father”.

    “You told persistent lies to the police… You knew your mother was dead,” the judge said.

    Ban’s lawyer, Mr David Brustman, said there was no evidence that his client flew to Australia with any murderous intent.

    Justice McGrath accepted that Ban’s age meant that he would face challenges in prison as he grew older, and had no real chance of a “reasonable life after his release”. He said to Ban: “You had full appreciation of what was occurring… You appear to have shown no remorse at any time.”

    Outside court, Mr Freitag told reporters: “The matter is now resolved, Tiffany would like to get on with her life.”

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    Released Bali Nine drug-smuggler returns home to more legal woes

    SYDNEY (AFP) – An Australian woman held in Indonesian prisons for 13 years for being part of the “Bali Nine” drug-smuggling gang returned home on Thursday (Nov 22) but faces more possible jail time for crimes committed before her overseas ordeal.

    Ms Renae Lawrence, 41, flew into Brisbane shortly after dawn following her early release. She is the only member of the group to find freedom.

    Ms Lawrence was met by a crowd of reporters and photographers at Brisbane airport, but ignored their questions as she walked with family members through the arrivals area to an airport shuttle.

    She was due to catch a domestic flight to her home city of Newcastle, where police want to question her about outstanding arrest warrants dating from before her ill-fated departure for Bali in 2005.

    Australian Police Commissioner for the state of New South Wales Mick Fuller told The Australian newspaper that there were two outstanding arrest warrants for Ms Lawrence, reportedly relating to a high-speed chase involving a stolen vehicle.

    It was unclear if New South Wales police would pursue the charges, but federal Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton argued that she should not be given “credit” for her time in Indonesian prison.

    “If you’ve committed offences in our country, you need to face the justice system here,” he said prior to her return.

    Ms Lawrence, the only female member of the Bali Nine, was caught with 2.6kg of heroin strapped to her body as she tried to board a flight back to Australia from Bali.

    She was initially handed a life term, but her sentence was later reduced to 20 years and then further cut due to good behaviour.

    Of the nine in the original group, ringleaders Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were executed by firing squad in 2015, sparking a diplomatic row between Australia and Indonesia, which has some of the world’s strictest drug laws, including the death penalty.

    Another member, Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, died in prison in June from stomach cancer, while the remaining five are currently serving life sentences.

    Some critics have lashed out at the Australian police for tipping off their Indonesian counterparts about the gang and putting its members at risk of execution in Indonesia.

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    Australia flags migration cuts over urban pressures

    SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia needs to slash its permanent migration intake to battle congestion and high property prices in the country’s main cities, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

    “Australians in our biggest cities are concerned about population – they are saying: enough, enough, enough,” Morrison said in a speech late Monday (Nov 19) as his conservative government rolls out policy promises ahead of national elections.

    “The roads are clogged, the buses and trains are full. The schools are taking no more enrolments. I hear what you are saying. I hear you loud and clear,” he said.

    The centre-right leader, who heads a minority government, is facing a general election by May 2019 at the latest, and is trailing in opinion polls behind the opposition Labor Party.

    Immigrants accounted for 54 per cent, or six million, of Australia’s population increase in the 20 years to 2016 for an annual growth rate of more than 1.6 per cent – one of the highest among OECD countries.

    Some seventy-five per cent of new arrivals have moved to Sydney, Melbourne and south-east Queensland where Brisbane and the Gold Coast are located.

    Nearly half of Australia’s 25-million-strong population was either born overseas or has at least one parent born abroad.

    While the country has an overall intake of migrants that has been officially capped at 190,000 annually over the past few years, a crackdown by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has seen that number fall to around 160,000 over the past year.

    The call for further cuts comes ahead of national elections that have to be called by mid-May, with critics of the government saying it was pandering to the views of its conservative coalition’s right-wingers and other far-right politicians.

    Anti-immigrant firebrand Pauline Hanson – who comes from Queensland state where the government fears losing voters to her One Nation Party – earlier this year called for migration levels to be more than halved.

    Morrison did not give details about the size of the cuts he would impose, how they would be carried out or their impact on reducing congestion.

    He said he would consult Australia’s state and territory governments before any changes.

    Experts said a yearly 30,000 reduction would do little to ease urban pressures.

    “If you cut 30,000 migrants to Australia – say 15,000 to Sydney and 15,000 to Melbourne – that would make absolutely no difference to congestion in Sydney and Melbourne,” University of Melbourne’s Peter McDonald told national broadcaster ABC.

    McDonald said both cities were investing in infrastructure expansion, but that such projects were still at the development stage.

    Meanwhile, the migration cuts would hurt the labour supply, he added.

    Population Minister Alan Tudge said last month the government was also considering requiring migrants to temporarily settle in regional and rural areas that are “crying out for more people”.

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