Oil slick too quick as fears rise over impact

OIL from the BP blowout is degrading rapidly in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and becoming increasingly difficult to find on the water surface.”The light crude oil is biodegrading quickly,” the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Jane Lubchenco, said.However, both the near- and long-term environmental effects of the release of several million barrels of oil remained serious and to some extent unpredictable, she said.”The sheer volume of oil that’s out there has to mean there are some pretty significant impacts. What we have yet to determine is the full impact the oil will have not just on the shoreline, not just on wildlife, but beneath the surface.”Her assessment came as the outgoing chief executive of BP, Tony Hayward, caused fresh US anger after he complained he had been ”demonised and vilified” after the disaster.The comments by Mr Hayward, who resigned on Tuesday after his handling of the Gulf of Mexico disaster was heavily criticised, drew renewed criticism from Washington as BP struggled to restore its reputation.”I don’t think that a lot of people in any country are feeling overly sorry for the former CEO of BP,” the White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said.Politicians called on BP to renounce any claim for a tax refund following reports it planned to cut its US tax bill by $US9.9 billion ($10.9 billion), about half the amount pledged to aid victims of the disaster, by deducting costs related to it.Mr Hayward’s departure was a drastic move by the oil giant to rebuild its image in the aftermath of the spill, which is set to cost the British group $US32 billion.Mr Hayward was also the target of anger over his decision to snub a US Senate hearing into BP’s alleged role in the release of the Lockerbie bomber.Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat, said the hearing, scheduled to take place today, had been postponed after witnesses, including Mr Hayward, had refused to attend.The Washington Post, Agence France-Presse
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Negatives worth a fortune, but family smells a rat

FRESNO, California: Old glass negatives bought by a painter for $US45 at a garage sale a decade ago have been authenticated as the work of the photographer Ansel Adams and are worth at least $US200 million ($223 million), the owner’s lawyer says.However, the family of the photographer, who died in 1984, is sceptical about the claims, with one associate saying it was an ”unfortunate fraud”.Rick Norsigian, 64, a painter and antiques collector, said that after he bought the glass negatives he noticed they resembled Adams’s photographs of Yosemite National Park.A lawyer for Mr Norsigian, Arnold Peter, said a team of experts he had assembled had concluded the 65 negatives were from Adams’s early work, which had been believed destroyed in a fire in 1937.”These photographs are really the missing link,” Mr Peter said. ”They really fill the void in Ansel Adams’s early career.”Adams is best known for his striking black-and-white photographs, mainly landscapes of the American west.An art appraiser, David Streets, conservatively estimated the negatives’ value at $US200 million, based on current sales of Adams prints and the potential for selling reproductions.One of the experts, Patrick Alt, said he believed the glass plates were shot by Adams because ”there was no one else other than Ansel in that time period doing this quality of work”.But not everyone is convinced. Matthew Adams, the photographer’s grandson and president of the Ansel Adams Gallery, said there is ”no absolute proof as to who did take them”.Mr Norsigian’s lawyer said handwriting experts had identified writing on the negative sleeves as that of Adams’s wife, Virginia. But Matthew Adams said there were inconsistencies in the handwriting and a lot of misspelled Yosemite place names.”She grew up in Yosemite. She was an intelligent, well-read woman. I find it hard to believe she would misspell those names,” he said.”It’s an unfortunate fraud,” said Bill Turnage, managing director of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. He said he was consulting lawyers about suing Mr Norsigian for using a copyrighted name for commercial purposes.Tribune Media Services,Associated Press
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All 152 aboard die as Pakistani jet crashes into mountains

ISLAMABAD: A passenger jet crashed into the hills surrounding Pakistan’s capital in poor weather yesterday, killing all 152 people on board and blazing a path of devastation strewn with body parts and twisted metal wreckage.Officials said initial Interior Ministry reports that five people survived the crash were wrong.Local TV footage showed twisted metal wreckage hanging from trees and scattered across the ground on a bed of broken branches. Fire was visible and smoke rose from the scene as a helicopter hovered above. The army said it was sending special troops to aid the search.”I’m seeing only body parts,” Dawar Adnan, a rescue worker with the Pakistan Red Crescent, said by telephone from the crash site. ”This is a very horrible scene. We have scanned almost all the area, but there is no chance of any survivors.”The search effort was hampered by muddy conditions and smouldering wreckage that authorities were having trouble extinguishing by helicopter.GEO television reported yesterday evening that the flight recorder had been found.The cause of the crash was not immediately clear, but the Defence Minister, Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, said the government did not suspect terrorism.The Airblue plane left the southern city of Karachi at 7.45am for a two-hour scheduled flight to Islamabad and was trying to land during cloudy and rainy weather.Airblue is a private service based in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, and yesterday’s flight was believed to be carrying mostly Pakistanis.The crash site covered a large area on both sides of the hills, including a section behind Faisal Mosque, one of Islamabad’s most prominent landmarks, and not far from the Daman-e-Koh resort.At the Islamabad airport, hundreds of friends and relatives of those on board the flight swarmed ticket counters desperately seeking information.Pakistan last suffered a fatal air crash in July 2006, when a Pakistan International Airlines Fokker F-27 suffered engine problems and struck a power line after taking off from Multan, in Punjab province, killing 45 people.In 1989 a PIA Fokker F-27 crashed in the Karakoram Mountains, killing 54.Associated Press, Bloomberg
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Airport ‘hostile’ to women

TWO female air traffic controllers have accused their government-owned employer of allowing ”extreme” sexual discrimination and bullying, with claims a manager told one of the women to have an abortion with a coathanger.The women are seeking more than $1 million each in damages from Airservices Australia as part of an action in the Federal Court in Melbourne.”What the proceedings I think will do is to shed some light on a workplace culture that has been extraordinarily hostile [to women],” said their lawyer, Josh Bornstein, a principal at Maurice Blackburn.Mr Bornstein said a separate action would be brought in the Human Rights Commission.Both women, Jacki Macdonald and Kirsty Fletcher, have been long-time employees of the male-dominated Airservices Australia at Melbourne Airport. The women say they were exposed to pornography that a manager distributed around the office and suffered regular bullying and abuse.They also allege they were denied access to training and professional development, were belittled for being pregnant and were the victims of false allegations. When they both separately complained in April and May 2008 they were ignored.In a brief statement, a spokesman for Airservices Australia did not reject or respond directly to the claims. ”The matter is being taken seriously by Airservices management. Our investigations have only just been completed and the matter is in the hands of respective legal advisers,” he said.Ms Macdonald, who fought back tears as she spoke yesterday, said she had worked for more than 18 years at the organisation and the harassment had caused her and her family great distress.She said when she told a manager she was pregnant in 1996, he told her that did not suit the roster and that he had ”a coathanger in the back of his car”. When she later complained she was told the manager had had ”a bad day”.That manager has been sacked, but Mr Bornstein said it was too late and other senior managers should have done much more.
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Cracks appear in historic building

The historic headmaster’s residence of old Bathurst Public School in Howick Street has been evacuated by TAFE personnel after a large crack developed in the structure, most likely caused by the drought.
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Acting Bathurst TAFE campus manager Patrick Healy said there is no indication at this stage how serious the problem is and staff using the building have been moved out as a precautionary measure. Small pieces of internal plaster have been dislodged.

The building is classified by the National Trust. It’s also an item of heritage on Bathurst City Council’s Local Environment Plan and is on the National Estate Register of the Australian Heritage Commission as part of the Technical College annex group.

Department of Public Works engineers are preparing a report to determine the extent of the damage and what remedial action is appropriate.

Despite being cordoned off, Mr Healy said the historic building is not in imminent danger of collapse.

Bathurst City Council is to acquire the headmaster’s residence and the adjacent school building to house the Somerville Collection of fossils and minerals and establish a world class museum.

Bathurst City Council director of corporate services David Sherley said council does not yet own either building – the site transfer has not taken place and TAFE up until the crack appeared, still used the headmaster’s cottage.

Mr Sherley said council has undertaken extensive work in the former school building, but has not yet started work renovating the headmaster’s cottage.

“The issue of the cracking was raised with them [TAFE]. What they’re doing with respect to that, I don’t know,” Mr Sherley said.

He would not be drawn on the prospect of council taking responsibility for the building knowing it has developed this large structural crack.

“We would be very interested in seeing any reports about the cracking,” he said.

Margaret Glen of the National Trust said the building was of great historical significance to Bathurst and efforts must be made to restore the building.

She said discussions she had with senior council officers indicated the building could be saved.

Ms Glen said the area bounded by Howick, William, Russell and George streets was particularly significant to Bathurst and the old schoolmaster’s residence was one of the important buildings remaining in that precinct.

The building is adjacent to the old school (built in 1876) on one side and the former site of the Bathurst School of Arts Hall (later the City Theatre) where the 1896 People’s Convention was held.

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Iraqi refugee pleads guilty to people-smuggling charges

AN IRAQI woman who was granted permanent protection after coming to Australia as a refugee has pleaded guilty to people- smuggling.Samira Al Kanani pleaded guilty to three charges relating to the unlawful entry into Australia of two Iraqi men in March 2007 and February last year.She admitted taking a man’s Australian passport out of the country, knowing the travel document had not been issued to her.She also admitted taking part in bringing two non-citizens, Hassanien Mohammed and Ghaith Al Joubori, to Australia in contravention of immigration laws. Neither man has been charged with an offence.Her alleged co-offenders, who include an Australia Post employee, will face trial in coming weeks.Ms Al Kanani’s barrister, Jehane Ghabrial, told the Sydney District Court that before her client sought refuge in Australia, she had spent more than a year and a half in an Iraqi prison due to her Shiite Muslim beliefs.After she had fled Iraq her husband was also jailed and in 2000, Ms Al Kanani was told he had been murdered in prison.”Where people come from the refugee background, from places like Iraq, there are some fairly complex psychological issues at play,” she said.Ms Ghabrial said a specialist psychiatrist in the field of refugee trauma had agreed to examine Ms Al Kanani.She told Judge Greg Woods Ms Al Kanani was granted a permanent protection visa before later becoming an Australian citizen.”It is important for this court to understand her mental condition and to understand any connection between her mental condition and the offending,” she said.The judge said it was ”inconceivable” that Ms Al Kanani had been the ”mastermind” of the people-smuggling operation, but the facts suggested that she had played a significant role.”On the face of it there’s money changing hands in Iraq and somebody is making a dollar out of it,” he said. ”It doesn’t appear to be your client …”The prosecution applied for bail to be revoked in light of the guilty pleas and the strong likelihood of a custodial sentence, but the judge continued bail to allow Ms Al Kanani to get a psychiatric report.
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Catherine Hill Bay project gets go-ahead

A CONTROVERSIAL development proposal at Catherine Hill Bay will proceed but residents have been given a sweetener in the form of heritage protection for parts of the town.The Planning Minister, Tony Kelly, has proposed state heritage listing for the coastal hamlet south of Newcastle, and rezoning of land for residential development in bushland areas next to it.The town’s dilapidated jetty has not been included within the ”cultural precinct” marked for protection, but 126 19th-century properties – mostly workers’ cottages from the town’s coal mining heyday – will be considered.”If the listing is approved, major developments within the precinct will need to respect the area’s significant heritage values,” Mr Kelly said.Last year, the Land and Environment Court threw out a planned development by Rosecorp for about 800 dwellings in Catherine Hill Bay because of an unlawful land swap deal.That development will soon be reconsidered under the draft development controls for land south and west of the proposed heritage area, and for land north of the nearby town of Gwandalan. Buildings up to nine metres high could be built on those sites.Lake Macquarie Council said the government had ”still not addressed the underlying issues”. A spokeswoman for the council said ”studies have not been prepared that prove that development of this land can be accommodated without significant social and environmental impacts on the area”.One resident, Sue Whyte, was pleased about the heritage listing, but vowed to keep fighting the development.”It’s not everything we would have hoped for but … we’ve been able to push the developers away from the heritage areas.”Now that there will be a new [development application], we really hope that we have a chance to bring those dwelling numbers down. It’s still 820 houses on top of 100. We argue this is overwhelming.”A spokesman for Brian Rose, of Rosecorp, said ”the significant heritage values of the village will be further enhanced by our proposal which will be put forward in due course”.The government is rezoning the land to remove legal uncertainty and is seeking public comment. It follows the revival of the state’s biggest residential development last week, Huntlee New Town near Branxton.
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World recognition sought for reminders of our convict past

PRISONS aren’t the obvious thing that comes to mind when the term ”world heritage” is mentioned.Robben Island, perhaps, home to Nelson Mandela for 27 years? The gulag where Alexander Solzhenitsyn lived One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich? The Bastille, if it hadn’t been demolished in 1789 by property developers one step behind the French revolutionaries?But 11 of Australia’s best preserved convict heritage sites are being reviewed this week by a UNESCO meeting in Brazil to determine whether they deserve World Heritage listing. The decision is expected to come on Saturday morning.NSW sites include Hyde Park Barracks, Cockatoo Island and the Old Great North Road around Wisemans Ferry.The federal government’s 2008 submission said the 11 properties represent ”an extraordinary example of global ideas … associated with the punishment and reform of the criminal elements … during the Age of Enlightenment”.But it is Paramatta’s Old Government House and Domain which yielded the most recent evidence of why our convict past merits international acclaim. In May, workmen renovating the drainage system uncovered the footings of outbuildings which date to 1793, when Australia’s first governor, Arthur Phillip, was using convict labour to create the newest administrative centre of the British Empire.”It was like joining the dots of a building,” says Michael Ellis, of the National Trust of NSW, which now takes care of Old Government House. ”A very exciting time.”The footings are significant finds. They match the Phillip-era bricks in the house itself. The mortar doesn’t have any lime in it. At that early stage, they obviously didn’t have the facilities to burn shells to make lime.”On conservation advice, the old footings have been reburied, but Mr Ellis says the shape of the outbuildings will be reflected in the new sandstone paving.But not all historians are entirely happy with the focus on the 11 sites. David Roberts, senior lecturer in Australian history at the University of New England, says, ”There’s a lot of rhetoric about what makes something worth of World Heritage significance. But essentially, it has to be something that is large, physical and imposing.”In a recent paper, Dr Roberts argued that the chosen sites did not reflect the common experience of convicts, most of whom led lonely and blameless lives far away from the emerging cities.Granting World Heritage status for the 11 might mean less obvious, but no less deserving, convict sites were effectively categorised as second class, simply because nothing much remains.THE CONTENDERSOur 11 convict sites nominated for world heritage listing:Old Government House and Domain (NSW)Hyde Park Barracks (NSW)Cockatoo Island (NSW)Old Great North Road (NSW)Kingston and Arthur’s Vale Historic Area (Norfolk Island)Brickendon-Woolmers Estates (Tas)Darlington Probation Station (Tas)Cascades Female Factory (Tas)Port Arthur Historic Site (Tas)Coal Mines Historic Site (Tas)Fremantle Prison (WA)
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Cabcharge accused of bullying its competitors

TAXI drivers and owners who have tested alternative payment terminals in their cabs claim they have been bullied by the industry’s most powerful player, Cabcharge Australia, in a bid to protect its $450 million stranglehold over the market.The companies behind the new payment systems, Live Payments and the Transport Australia Xpress System, accused Cabcharge of trying to keep them out of the market as they prepared to launch their products this week.Tom Varga, chief executive of Live Payments, said Cabcharge-owned taxi networks – which in Sydney include Taxis Combined, Silver Service and Yellow Cabs – had refused to allow their drivers to use his firm’s terminals despite a 2006 ruling by the competition regulator designed to break Cabcharge’s monopoly over the electronic taxi payments system.”We have experienced first-hand where drivers and operators have come to us and said that their network has told them they are not allowed to have another terminal,” he said. ”We have seen evidence of messages from networks where they have displayed messages [on the dispatcher] that Live Payments is not an endorsed method.”Almost all of Sydney’s 20,000 taxis are fitted with Cabcharge terminals, while about 25 per cent contain secondary terminals.The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is pursuing Cabcharge in the Federal Court over alleged anti-competitive behaviour on the grounds that it created barriers to entry by new players and used its ”substantial degree of power” to discourage competition.Live Payments is one of six companies expected to give evidence in the trial, which is set down for October 4 in Melbourne. Cabcharge declined to comment when contacted by the Herald yesterday.Live Payments, which held a launch on Tuesday, will enable passengers to pay using its own brand of cards and vouchers that can still be used on Cabcharge terminals where a Live Payments one is not available. Live Payments will still charge a 10 per cent processing fee, but unlike Cabcharge, which doesn’t pass on any of the fee to drivers, Mr Varga said drivers using Live Payments would receive a 30 to 40 per cent cut.The Transport Australia Xpress System, developed by the breakaway industry group the Australian Taxi Drivers Association, will broadcast jobs and accept payments using mobile phone technology. It will undercut both Cabcharge and Live Payments by charging 8.5 per cent commission for credit card payments and 5 per cent for payments from debit accounts. Passengers will also receive the driver’s name, taxi and phone numbers at the time of booking. ”In Sydney there are 14 million bookings over the network each year,” a spokesman for Xpress, Michael Jools, said. ”From that only 9 million get picked up.”He said Cabcharge had used ”regulatory stealth” to secure a deal that gives it exclusivity over payments for government subsidy schemes, such as taxi trips for the disabled.
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Dead man’s claims denied by crime commission

THE NSW Crime Commission has denied interviewing an accused drug dealer found dead in his prison cell last week, who had claimed that the crime body had intimidated him.Czaba ”Chubby” Magyari told someone close to him a week before his death that he had just been hauled before the NSW Crime Commission.He claimed the threats were worse than in his native Hungary where he had already spent time in prison. He said he was told to plead guilty and inform on his co-accused in an alleged sophisticated drug supply syndicate or his former girlfriend and best friend would be targeted.But above all, Mr Magyari claimed, the officers wanted to find the money of the suspected large-scale syndicate which allegedly distributed cocaine and heroin in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.The Crime Commission is one of the few government agencies whose revenue raised usually matches its expenses.Mr Magyari said he had refused to co-operate, and his best friend, Tamas Czako, and girlfriend, Lilla Toemoeskoezy, were charged that same morning. He was upset by the trouble he thought he’d caused them and insisted they did not understand what was going on.But yesterday the Crime Commission, which has initiated proceedings in the Supreme Court to seize Mr Magyari’s assets, denied it had conducted any interviews with him.Police have claimed that Mr Magyari, 42, who was found dead in his cell in Parklea Prison on Friday, was the head of the criminal syndicate that had used highly sophisticated technology to escape detection.Covert pinhole cameras hidden in a picture frame, a smoke detector and elsewhere in his Drummoyne home, and in an alleged drug safe-house in Bexley North, could be remotely activated, police claim.When any motion – such as from covert police activity – was detected the men would be informed by email and SMS, while all cameras could also be monitored remotely, police claim in documents tendered in court.They also allege Mr Magyari used GPS trackers on the cars used by other syndicate members and had their cars bugged so he could listen to their conversations.The court heard that Mr Czako, who is in Australia on a visitor’s visa, was unemployed and shared phones, bank accounts and computer passwords with his long-time friend Mr Magyari. He allegedly installed the electronic devices and monitored the security systems.”His only means of making money was through assisting the criminal syndicate members by installing such devices in order to avoid detection by police,” police claim.They have so far charged at least eight people, seized more than 2 kilograms each of cocaine and heroin – worth more than $1.5 million – and intercepted 1400 phone calls.But while most are charged with drug supply or being part of a criminal organisation, Ms Toemoeskoezy was accused of dealing with the money from the alleged drug business.An inquest will be held into Mr Magyari’s death in custody.Lifeline: 131 114
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