More serious sexual allegations against UN peacekeepers

The United Nations human rights chief has described the latest reports of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Central African Republic as “sickening.

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It comes as the UN announces more than a hundred new sexual abuse cases allegedly involving international peacekeepers in the region.

The vast majority of the victims are children.

After hearing the latest reports, United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra-ad Al Hussein says an investigation must leave nothing unchecked.

The United Nations has been in the spotlight for months over allegations of child rape and other abuse by its peacekeepers.

And those allegations have especially focused on peacekeepers based in the Central African Republic and Congo.

There have been similar allegations against the French force, known as Sangaris, which operates independently in the Central African Republic.

UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, interviewed 108 alleged victims of sexual abuse by international peacekeepers in the country.

The vast majority of them, it says, are minors.

The report, by AIDS-Free World’s Code Blue Campaign, says three girls told UN staff a French military commander tied them up and forced them to have sex with a dog in 2014.

Co-director Paula Donovan says allegations dated from 2013 to last year.

“They all said that they have been sexually abused by peacekeepers. Some are operating directly under the UN. Some are French peacekeepers who are operating in parallel with the United Nations. And some are not soldiers, some are civilians and others.”

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic assumed authority from African Union troops in September 2014.

The United States ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, says there have been dozens of accusations against the mission’s soldiers since then.

She says the abuse has caused traumatised victims to become isolated from their communities.

“We talked to the families about what had happened to their daughters, who, in many cases, were raped by MINUSCA soldiers or who had relationships with MINUSCA soldiers when they were very, very young, and who are now left carrying terrible stigmas. As the soldiers have gone back to their countries with no accountability, the victims are left here, ostracised in their own communities and devastated by the experience. So we are trying to fix the problem of sexual abuse, and it was extremely important to hear directly from the people who’ve suffered these crimes.”

A spokesman for UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, Stephane Dujarric, has described the findings as shocking.

“And let me say at the outset that the Secretary General is shocked to the core at the latest allegations of abuse in the Central African Republic. His focus is on the victims and their families. We are talking about women, young children, who have been traumatised in the worst imaginable way.

The United Nations has promised to crack down on the allegations to avoid a repeat of past mistakes.

Samantha Power says measures are already in place to prevent further cases, but adds those responsible need to be held responsible.

“The leadership now has taken this very, very seriously. They’ve moved peacekeepers away from living, cohabitating, with people of the Central African Republic, so that’s an important prevention step. But the system still has to improve a lot, because those soldiers who have been accused of rape and sexual abuse, almost none of them have been held accountable.”

But Paula Donovan, with AIDS-Free World, says she is disillusioned by what she calls the UN “inaction.”

She says the United Nations requires a major shake-up to fix what she calls the “tip of the iceberg.”

“The United Nations simply cannot monitor and police itself and investigate these crimes that are committed by its own personnel. It’s just not working. It’s a terrible conflict of interest.”

 

Overpass collapse creates disaster in Kolkata

At least 23 people have been killed and more than 80 injured after a partially built overpass collapsed in the Indian city of Kolkata.

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Emergency services, along with local residents, are frantically trying to rescue the dozens feared trapped under the wreckage in a busy commercial district.

The West Bengal city of Kolkata, one of India’s busiest, has been forced into a chaotic standstill after what a local politician calls a “monumental tragedy.”

Shoppers had been heading to the city’s largest market at midday when a two-kilometre-long flyover, under construction since 2009, collapsed.

Eyewitnesses say the devastation initially sounded like a bomb blast.

(Translated) “There was a loud sound, which scared us. The concrete had been laid last night at this part of the bridge. I am lucky, as I was planning to go downstairs to have juice. When I was thinking about it, I saw that the bridge collapsed. Scores of people have been killed.”

The fortunate few were able to escape, but this woman says many remain trapped under rubble.

“What my people who are there are saying is that there are buses and the minibuses and the taxis with the passengers trapped inside. So that is terrible news: a half-built bridge collapses in a congested area, and with many poor, homeless people the victims, buses and cabs with passengers are trapped.”

Hundreds of rescue workers, led by soldiers, engineers and medics, have taken over the search and rescue efforts.

But local residents say progress has been slow, with others calling it an “uncoordinated response.”

For the first few hours, volunteers were using their bare hands to move slabs of concrete, but this man says efforts became more sophisticated.

(Translated) “I saw a man waving at us for help from under the debris. I gathered some other residents, some army personnel, and, with some help from a crane, we could rescue the man. The man is being sent to a hospital now.”

The director general of India’s national disaster response team, O.P. Singh, says rescuers are using thermal cameras to try and find those missing.

And he says cranes have been brought in to remove the rubble.

(Translated)”Our biggest challenge is rescuing the huge number of people who are trapped under the debris, because there is a lot of concrete, so we are using cutters of all sorts to make holes in the debris so that we can make an entry. Only once we gain entry will the situation of the people trapped become clear.”

Safety issues, including a lack of inspections and the use of inferior materials, have crippled construction projects across India for years.

While the cause of this latest disaster is still unknown, investigators have promised to determine exactly what happened.

 

Gould has no regrets signing Griffin

Penrith boss Phil Gould says he has no regrets signing coach Anthony Griffin, despite the side’s slow start to the NRL season.

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Gould stunned the league by sacking previous coach Ivan Cleary last October after his injury-ravaged side missed last year’s finals series and almost finished with the wooden spoon.

Griffin was immediately introduced with the expectation of lifting the Panthers up the NRL tree, however, he has so far just managed one win – a one-point victory over Brisbane in round three.

But Gould said the former Brisbane mentor has been a valuable asset to the club’s developing squad.

“We’ve had four games, they’ve all gone down to the last minute and we’ve been a chance of winning all four,” Gould told AAP.

“But that’s what you go through when you’ve got a young side. They’re still learning their football. That might take a couple of years yet, but we’re prepared to ride that out.”

Gould was hesitant to compare Griffin to Cleary, but said he was pleased with the current coach’s changes to the team over the opening four rounds.

He insisted Griffin was the right man for the job.

“All coaches are different. They all bring their own nuances and beliefs about the game, and the way the side has trained and prepared,” Gould said.

“To wrap Anthony doesn’t mean I’m being detrimental to anything that’s gone before him. Ivan did great work here, but right now I believe he’s the right coach for this club and for these players at this time.”

Griffin himself has been frustrated with the team’s inability to close out games, including when they held late leads in two of their past three matches.

However, he was pleased with their application in defence.

“Up until the last couple of minutes of Bulldogs and St George game, we were in a couple of those games. We’ve just got to stare that in the face and get better,” he said.

“We were a little bit loose last week, but attitude-wise, up until that last try by (Josh) Dugan, we kept Brisbane scoreless in the second half of that previous game and we kept the opposition to eight points.

“So we’re showing a lot of grit and determination there.”

The Panthers meet Parramatta on Sunday.

UN warns against refugee returns to Turkey

The United Nations has called for legal safeguards to be in place before refugees are returned to Turkey under an agreement with the European Union, while warning that conditions in Greece are deteriorating.

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Days before Turkey is due to begin taking back illegal migrants from Greece on April 4 under the deal, neither side is fully ready, with officials scrambling to be able to make at least a symbolic start as new arrivals rise.

About 51,000 refugees and migrants are in Greece, where arrivals more than doubled on Tuesday to 766 from previous days, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Friday.

“UNHCR is urging parties to the recent EU-Turkey agreement on refugees and migrants to ensure all safeguards are in place before any returns begin. This is in light of continued serious gaps in both countries,” UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told a Geneva news briefing.

The agency, which says nine in 10 of refugees arriving on rickety boats are fleeing for their lives, has voiced concerns that Turkey may deport refugees en masse to Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq where they could face persecution or violence.

“In Turkey, UNHCR has requested access to people returned from Greece, to ensure people can benefit from effective international protection and to prevent risk of refoulement,” Fleming said, using a term under the Refugee Convention that refers to unlawful deportations.

Meanwhile conditions on the islands of Lesbos and Samos – where three people were stabbed in rioting on Thursday night – and at the Athens port of Piraeus and Idomeni at the border with Macedonia are worsening, she said.

“The risk of panic and injury in these sites and others is real,” Fleming said.

The EU must provided greater support, as promised, to boost Greece’s creaking asylum system, she said. “Limited hours of registration, daily ceilings on registrations, a lack of access to the Skype system for registration set up by the Asylum Services, are at present adding to the anxiety”.

Hardwick laments unintelligent Tigers

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick accused the Tigers of playing unintelligent football after Friday night’s last-gasp one-point loss to Collingwood.

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A sloppy, error-riddled match culminated in a frantic finale, in which Magpies’ ruckman Brodie Grundy kicked the game-winning goal with just four seconds left on the clock.

Despite losing Dylan Grimes to a hamstring injury in the first quarter and kicking a wasteful 1.6 in the second, Richmond had their noses in front at every change and led by 17 points late in the game before losing their grip on the contest – partly through Collingwood’s play and partly because of their own mistakes.

“You can be in front for a period of time, but unfortunately (when) you probably beat yourself with smarts, it’s really disappointing. I thought we played some really unintelligent footy towards the end,” Hardwick said.

“The players know better, we just didn’t make the right decisions at the right time.

“It’s easy to individualise, but we should’ve been better in that situation.

“We missed gettable shots on goal, we leave the door open and good sides bounce back and take the four points from you.”

Young Pie Darcy Moore set up Grundy’s winner with a long ball from out near the 50m arc after a deliberate out-of-bounds call paid against Nick Vlastuin.

Hardwick had no problem with the umpire’s call in that instance, but took issue with his players’ response.

“I would have thought we’d have spoiled the ball through, but credit where it’s due,” he said.

“It was a smart kick from Moore – we probably thought it was going to be that type of kick, but they just got the better of the contest.

“We just wanted to get that ball through for a point or a long spoil, but got neither.”

Hardwick admitted Grimes would likely join Brett Deledio, Ivan Maric and Shaun Edwards on the sidelines for next week’s clash against Adelaide, but was hopeful it wouldn’t prove a major issue.

Mum of four killed in Qld stabbing

Four young children will grow up without their mother after she was allegedly killed by her husband in a frenzied stabbing attack at their southeast Queensland home.

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Sandra Peniamina’s children, aged between five and 10, were believed to be sleeping at the Kippa-Ring house when she suffered multiple stab wounds and died on the driveway.

Paramedics, who described the scene as one of the worst they’d seen, did everything they could to save the 29-year-old New Zealand citizen.

She allegedly suffered wounds to her chest and arms, wounds to her neck and substantial facial traumas.

Her husband Arona, also from New Zealand, was calm when police officers found him at the front of the home late on Thursday night.

The 35-year-old sustained hand injuries and was taken to Redcliffe Hospital, where he was charged with murder at a bedside hearing on Friday before undergoing surgery.

Police have taken statements from the children, who are now in the care of relatives.

It was only three weeks ago that Ms Peniamina put a cover photo on her Facebook page that had the simple message: “Blessed.”

Her horrific death has shocked relatives and friends.

“Broken Hearted! Cant (sic) believe that any of my family will go out the way she did. Feel for my nephews, aunty and cuzzyz (sic),” one wrote on Facebook.

Peniamina was described as “a really good man” by the wife of his uncle.

“He never drink (sic), never smoke, all he does, he just wants to build a future for his family,” the woman, who did not want to me named, told Fairfax media.

Neighbours reported hearing yelling and some rushed to help Ms Peniamina before authorities arrived to the house.

Ambulance service spokesman Brad Hardy said paramedics were confronted with a terrible scene.

“It is certainly a very graphic (scene) and is one of the worst situations that we’ve seen around this are for quite some time,” he told ABC radio.

It is still unclear what prompted the stabbing.

“The cause of the incident is still under investigation, so I can’t go into exact details at this stage,” Detective Senior Sergeant Ben Fadian said.

Peniamina remains in Redcliffe Hospital and has been remanded in custody until April 18 when he will appear at Redcliffe Magistrates court via videolink.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk drew on the incident to make a public appeal at Friday’s COAG meeting in Canberra for more to be done to stop domestic violence.

“The neighbours witnessed it, heard it, and she died on the front driveway,” she said.

“This has got to stop.

“Women are still getting murdered and killed behind closed doors in all different sections of our community and we’ve got to do more.”

National domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT. In an emergency call triple-zero.

‘Pies left it late, but didn’t steal win’

It was ugly, his side were well below their best and it came with just seconds to spare, but don’t tell Nathan Buckley Collingwood’s heart-stopping one-point win over Richmond was an act of thievery.

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On the back of Alex Fasolo’s career-best six-goal haul, the Magpies stunned the Tigers when Brodie Grundy hacked the game-winner out of heavy traffic at the top of the goal square at the MCG with just four seconds left on Friday night.

“No, it’s not a steal – the game goes for the full whack, you don’t stop five minutes before (the final siren),” Buckley said.

“It was admirable the way that we were able to stay with it long enough. It’s a 124-minute game and it took every one of those minutes, but the attitude and effort was a lot better, otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to take advantages of the breaks that we got in the last five minutes.

“I don’t think either side played particularly well. We gave them chances, they gave us chances and in the end, we finished on top.”

The win will surely soothe frayed Magpie nerves after a horrendous start to the season that included an 80-point loss to Sydney, that saw Dane Swan knocked out with a career-threatening injury and Steele Sidebottom suspended for two games, and an illicit drugs controversy.

Buckley, however, denied those factors made the win any sweeter.

The coach was more effusive in his praise for Fasolo, who played arguably the best game of his 71-match career after a period of soul searching late last season.

“The growth in Faz personally, has seen growth in his footy,” he said.

“It’s only early in the year, but the last six to eight games last year he really set himself up.

“He adjusted his attitude a little bit towards footy and where he fits at the footy club, and it’s just brought him to another level. It’s good to see him get the rewards tonight.

“He’s a better teammate than he’s been before. He’s more invested in what’s going on around him than he was before and that’s a significant shift.

“All credit to him because it takes courage to do that and he’s given himself a chance to find out where he can go with his footy career, let alone changing his perspective on the rest of his life.”

Patient Eagles give Jetta time to grow

West Coast coach Adam Simpson won’t be expecting miracles from Lewis Jetta when the former Swan lines up against Hawthorn in Sunday’s grand final re-match at the MCG.

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The Eagles traded in Jetta and former Brisbane midfielder Jack Redden during the off-season, with the pair slated for key roles in the club’s push for premiership success this year.

Redden made a successful Eagles debut in last week’s 64-point win over Brisbane, tallying 25 disposals to go along with a goal.

Jetta missed the round-one clash after injuring his calf during the pre-season, but the 26-year-old will be unleashed against the injury-hit Hawks.

The speedster booted 45 goals in Sydney’s premiership season of 2012, and also showed his star qualities through the midfield in his 127 games for the Swans.

But Simpson predicts it will take time for Jetta to find his feet at the Eagles.

“The brand Sydney play is slightly different to us, and running patterns are different,” Simpson said.

“We have to be patient with Jetts on that one.

“We just can’t assume he’s going to come in and be this 25-possession, 40-plus goalkicker.

“When you play that role, it’s going to take time to adapt.”

Hawthorn thrashed West Coast by 46 points in last year’s grand final, but Simpson insists revenge isn’t on his mind heading into Sunday’s re-match.

Instead, the Eagles are intent on developing a brand of football that will win games anywhere.

West Coast have only won three of their past 13 matches at the MCG, but Simpson said that record meant nothing.

“I can’t look back 13 years, because what’s the point?” Simpson said.

“Let’s look at the current era and the current coaching panel and players.

“We’re not worried about playing at the MCG.”

The Hawks have already been hit hard by injury, with skipper Luke Hodge (broken arm) joining Bradley Hill, Liam Shiels, and Jarryd Roughead on the sidelines.

Hawthorn lost to Geelong by 30 points in their season opener, putting them at risk of recording successive defeats for the first time since early in 2014.

Tesla unveils $45k Model 3

Tesla Motors has given a sneak preview of its Model 3 sedan, saying more than 130,000 people have ordered the car, even though it is more than a year away from production.

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Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk unveiled a prototype of the Model 3 in Hawthorne, California on Thursday, to hundreds of Tesla owners and the media, saying the vehicle will go into production in 2017 at a starting price of $US35,000 ($A45,641).

The Model 3 is critical to the Silicon Valley carmaker’s growth plans and to sustaining its lofty stock price. Tesla shares have jumped in recent days in anticipation of the Model 3 launch.

The Model 3 will enter a crowded field of luxury and electric cars that includes petrol-fuelled models such as the Audi A4 and BMW 3-Series, and electric models such as the forthcoming Chevrolet Bolt EV from General Motors Co.

“Do you want to see the car?” teased Musk, to screams from the audience in the hangar-sized facility inside a Tesla design centre.

“We don’t have it for you tonight – just kidding!”

Three Model 3s were driven onstage. The compact sleek four-door car with no grille features a roof that is a panoramic pane of glass from front to back.

Musk said that 115,000 pre-orders had already been taken on Thursday alone for the car. Within a half hour, that number reached 137,600 in a rolling scroll projected onto a screen.

Fans had camped out overnight, queuing outside Tesla stores across California to put down deposits on the car in scenes reminiscent of the launch of Apple Inc products.

The Model 3 is crucial for Tesla to reach its goal of selling 500,000 cars per year by 2020. The success of Tesla’s Gigafactory, its battery factory near completion in Nevada, is also contingent on the Model 3.

Tesla says scale from the massive facility will cut the cost of its battery pack by 30 per cent to enable the lower-priced vehicle.

High expectations ahead of the unveiling have restored Tesla’s shares to around the $US230-mark, recovering from a year low of $US141.05 in February after analysts cut price targets and revenue expectations.

“It is important to the industry because it will signal whether or not Tesla Motors is a major threat to the status quo or just another wannabe car company with a fleeting chance for long-term success,” said Kelley Blue Book’s Jack Nerad.

GM is on track to beat Tesla to the market with its Chevrolet Bolt electric car, which GM says will launch late this year, offering about 200 miles of electric driving range and a starting price of around $US35,000.

A new generation of Nissan Motor Co’s Leaf electric car is also expected to offer more driving range at a similar price.

The Model 3 and others in the new generation of electric vehicles face challenges from low petrol prices, high battery costs and uncertain investment in recharging infrastructure.

Through the first two months of this year, sales of all-electric and hybrid vehicles are down nearly nine per cent to 60,384 vehicles, data from trade group the Electric Drive Transportation Association shows.

That’s fewer hybrid and battery electric vehicles sold in two months than Ford sold of its F-series large utilities in February alone.

Several short-term concerns, such as that Model 3 production will be delayed, and the slow ramp of the Model X will continue, go hand-in-hand with sceptics’ longer-term worries that the unprofitable company will continue to bleed cash.

In February, Tesla said it would start generating positive cash flow this month.

Wild tiger population could treble

Tigers could soon be making a roaring comeback according to the latest forecast by experts.

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Scientists say the striped predator’s global population could almost treble in the next two decades if sufficient action is taken to restore its habitat.

In the past century, tiger populations have been decimated as a result of logging, agriculture, and deforestation to make way for roads, railways and towns.

Today, only around 3200 wild tigers still live in Asia – 97 per cent fewer than there were 100 years ago, according to conservation group the WWF.

Four of the remaining sub-species of tigers are considered endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and two are listed as “critically” threatened.

However, the tiger could now be turning a corner, according to scientists who have conducted a new satellite image study.

The findings show that enough wild habitat remains to allow a doubling of tiger numbers by 2022, the next “Year of the Tiger” in the Chinese astrological calendar.

In the next two decades the global population “could approach a trebling” if essential corridors are restored in the most deforested landscapes and other steps taken, said the researchers led by Dr Anup Joshi from the University of Minnesota, US.

Conservation “corridors” are regions of preserved habitat that connect different areas, allowing animals to extend their territories and avoid interbreeding.

Countries harbouring tigers have committed to doubling wild tiger numbers by 2022.

To estimate the progress made towards this goal, the researchers analysed 14 years of images taken by satellites tracking forest loss in 13 countries where tigers live.

They expected habitat loss to be much higher than the 7.7 per cent actually observed.

Writing in the journal Science Advances, Dr Joshi’s team concluded: “Our analysis indicates that enough wild habitat remains to allow a range-wide doubling of the wild tiger population … The global population could approach a trebling in the next two decades.”

Two key measures needed to protect the animal were re-introduction in some regions and near real-time monitoring of tiger habitats, said the authors.