Jews not to blame for killing Jesus: Pope

Posted on: February 4th, 2019 by • Sticky
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Pope Benedict XVI has made a sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus Christ, tackling one of the most controversial issues in Christianity in a new book.


In Jesus of Nazareth-Part II excerpts released on Wednesday, Benedict explains biblically and theologically why there is no basis in Scripture for the argument that the Jewish people as a whole were responsible for Jesus’ death.

Interpretations to the contrary have been used for centuries to justify the persecution of Jews.

While the Catholic Church has for five decades taught that Jews weren’t collectively responsible, Jewish scholars said on Wednesday the argument laid out by the German-born pontiff, who has had his share of mishaps with Jews, was alandmark statement from a pope that would help fight anti-Semitism today.

“Holocaust survivors know only too well how the centuries-long charge of ‘Christ killer’ against the Jews created a poisonous climate of hate that was the foundation of anti-Semitic persecution whose ultimate expression was realised in the Holocaust,” said Elan Steinberg of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants.

The Pope’s book, he said, not only confirms church teaching refuting the deicide charge “but seals it for a new generation of Catholics.”

The Catholic Church issued its most authoritative teaching on the issue in its 1965 Second Vatican Council document Nostra Aetate, which revolutionised the church’s relations with Jews by saying Christ’s death could not be attributed to Jews as a whole at the time or today.

Benedict comes to the same conclusion, but he explains how with a thorough, Gospel-by-Gospel analysis that leaves little doubt that he deeply and personally believes it to be the case: That only a few Temple leaders and a small group of supporters were primarily responsible for Christ’s crucifixion.

The book is the second instalment to Benedict’s 2007 Jesus of Nazareth, his first book as pope, which offered a very personal meditation on the early years of Christ’s life and teachings. This second book, set to be released March 10, concerns the final part of Christ’s life, his death and resurrection.

In the book, Benedict re-enacts Jesus’ final hours, including his death sentence for blasphemy, then analyses each Gospel account to explain why Jews as a whole cannot be blamed for it. Rather, Benedict concludes, it was the “Temple aristocracy” and a few supporters of the figure Barabbas who were responsible.

Benedict said Jesus’ death wasn’t about punishment, but rather salvation. Jesus’ blood, he said, “does not cry out for vengeance and punishment, it brings reconciliation. It is not poured out against anyone, it is poured out for many, for all.”

Benedict, who was forced to join the Hitler Youth as a child in Nazi Germany, has made improving relations with Jews a priority of his pontificate. He has visited the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland and Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

But he also has had a few missteps that have drawn the ire of Jewish groups, most notably when in 2009 he lifted the excommunication of a traditionalist Catholic bishop who had denied the extent of the Holocaust by saying no Jews were gassed during World War II.

Hundreds of Kurds protest in Iraq

Posted on: February 4th, 2019 by • Sticky
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Hundreds of Kurds staged a protest in the Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah to demand political reforms in northern Iraq.


Kurdish security guards later opened fire on the crowd, killing at least two people, officials said – showing that even war-weary Iraq cannot escape the unrest roiling the Middle East.

The protest in Sulaimaniyah was the most violent in a wave of demonstrations that extended to the southern cities of Kut, Nasir and Basra.

Iraq has seen small-scale demonstrations almost daily in recent weeks, mainly centred in the impoverished southern provinces and staged by Iraqis angry over a lack of basic services like electricity and clean drinking water.

The hundreds of Kurds demonstrating in Sulaimaniyah, 160 miles (260 kilometres) northeast of Baghdad, demanded political reforms from the regional government in the semi-autonomous territory.

Although Kurds generally enjoy a higher standard of living than the rest of Iraq, many have grown tired of the tight grip with which the ruling parties control the region and the economy.

The protesters moved from the centre of the city to the headquarters of Kurdish President Massoud Barzani’s political party, where some protesters threw stones at the building.

Officials said Kurdish security guards on the roof then opened fire on the demonstrators, sending people fleeing for cover.

A local police officer and hospital official both said two people were killed in the incident, and the medical official said that 47 people were injured.

Both the officials said the deaths and injuries were the result of shootings.

Neither wanted to be identified because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Iraqis have a long list of grievances against their leaders, including electricity that sometimes works only a few hours a day, unemployment that runs as high as 30 percent and rampant corruption.

Gaddafi forces hammer rebels on two fronts

Posted on: February 4th, 2019 by • Sticky
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Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi have hammered rebels with rocket barrages and airstrikes, trying to check their advance out of the opposition-held east of Libya toward the capital Tripoli.


At least 20 were wounded, some of them seriously.

On another front, government forces were reportedly battering down resistance in the closest rebel-held city to Tripoli, Zawiya.

A government official claimed Gaddafi loyalists had recaptured the city, but some residents reported that rebels still held the city’s main square amid a heavy barrage of residential areas.

The city was sealed off and phone lines have been cut, making it impossible to verify the account.

All told, the government seems to have gained the upper hand for now in its counteroffensive against the rebels over the past few days.

But the battle is far from over and could be drawn out into a long and bloody civil war.

Gaddafi’s forces have brought overwhelming force from the air to try to beat back the rebels in the east seeking to march on Tripoli and on the ground to try to retake control of Zawiya, just 50km west of Tripoli.

The one thing that seems to hold potential to tip the scales in the rebel’s favour is international intervention.

The US says it has not ruled out using some type of military force against Gaddafi and with its allies, it is considering imposing a no-fly zone over the North African country to stop air attacks on the rebels.

In the east on Tuesday, government forces unleashed a heavy barrage of rockets on a rebel contingent that tried to move out from their position at the oil port of Ras Lanouf.

At least 20 wounded were rushed to the hospital in the town, some of them with legs lost and other serious injuries.

“I was hit in the arm and leg, my friend was wounded in the stomach,” Momen Mohammad, 31, said while lying in a hospital bed.

The fighting began when the rebel forces advanced west out of Ras Lanouf toward Bin Jawwad, a small town 600km east of the capital, fighters said.

Earlier in the day, warplanes launched at least five new airstrikes near rebel position in Ras Lanouf, one hitting a two-story house in a residential area, causing some damage.

None of the strikes appeared to cause casualties, suggesting they were intended to intimidate the fighters, according to an Associated Press reporter who saw the strikes.

The anti-regime forces were not taking any chances and were spreading out deep inside the desert around the area in small groups.

Over the past few days, rebels moved out of their stronghold in the east, capturing with relative speed the oil ports of Brega and Ras Lanouf.

But they were met with superior firepower and airstrikes when they tried to push westward and beat a fast retreat to Ras Lanouf over the past two days.

The rebels seem to have reached a point of their campaign where they need to figure out how they could organise resupply lines and avoid becoming easy targets for warplanes in their march across the open desert region with little cover.

The extent of their westward reach is a checkpoint about 10km west of Ras Lanouf.

Zawiya, on Tripoli’s western doorstep, is the most significant position the opposition has held in the largely Gaddafi-controlled northwest of the country.

After repelling several attacks the past week, the city has come under the heaviest onslaught yet since the weekend, believed to be an elite brigade commanded by one of Gaddafi’s sons, Khamis.

One resident, who fled the city on Monday, reported that pro-Gaddafi forces had taken the city’s main square, where rebels and protesters had been camped out for weeks, after bombardment that caused heavy damage.

Mohammed Hamza, an adviser in Libya’s Foreign Ministry in Tripoli who is originally from Zawiya, said on Tuesday that government forces were in control, raising the green flag of Gaddafi’s rule in the square.

But a resident of the nearby town of Sabratha said people who fled from Zawiya on Tuesday afternoon told him fighting continued, with rebels back in control of the square.

He said the residents reported government forces controlling the entrances to the city were heavily shelling residential neighbourhoods with tank and artillery fire.

They said the city hospital was overwhelmed with dead and wounded and many homes had been damaged.

The various reports could not be independently confirmed.

Electricity, phone and internet services have all been cut in the city, making it impossible to reach witnesses in Zawiya.

Accuracy the key to Ko’s dominance, says Euro number one

Posted on: August 7th, 2019 by
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“I’ve played quite a few times with Lydia.


She just hits it dead straight every time and holes a few putts,” fellow LPGA player Charley Hull told Reuters recently at Turnberry, site of the Jul. 30-Aug. 2 Ricoh Women’s British Open. “She doesn’t make the silly mistakes. She’s very mature for her age.”

Ko, who turned 18 last week, earlier this year became the youngest player of either sex to hold the number one ranking. Last Sunday she notched her seventh LPGA victory when she won the Swinging Skirts Classic in San Francisco.

While the most recent trio of world number ones in the men’s game – Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and Tiger Woods – have dominated by crushing the ball off the tee and setting up numerous birdie opportunities, Ko seems more of a throwback to the days of Nick Faldo, who won six majors by relentlessly eliminating mistakes.

Almost as impressive as Ko’s seven LPGA wins is the fact she has never missed a cut in 50 LPGA starts.

She made only four bogeys in the first three rounds last week to stay in contention, before surging to victory with an unusually topsy-turvy round that included four bogeys.

Englishwoman Hull, at only 19, is barely a year older than Ko, who heads the field for the LPGA’s North Texas Shootout starting on Thursday.

And while Ko has already compiled a magnificent professional resume, Hull’s record is not too shabby. She topped the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit last year and is third on this year’s money list after top-10 finishes in four starts.

She has some way to go to catch Ko, but hits the ball further. Her potential is undoubted, if only she can harness that power while emulating Ko’s accuracy.

And what can she learn from watching Ko?

“How straight she hits it,” said Hull. “I didn’t hit it very straight towards the end of last year but now I’m hitting it straight again, which is good.”

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

Puma highlights performance with Red Bull F1 deal

Posted on: August 7th, 2019 by
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Puma, which previously sponsored Red Bull in 2007-2010 and already has deals with Mercedes and Ferrari, announced on Tuesday a long-term partnership from 2016 to provide the Formula One team with racewear, footwear and teamwear as well as licensed replica, fanwear and lifestyle products.


Puma declined to give financial details.

Since taking over as chief executive in July 2013, Bjorn Gulden has turned Puma’s focus back onto sports gear after sales were hurt by a shift into fashion and lifestyle products, He launched a marketing drive last year dubbed “Forever Faster”.

“Motor sport is the fastest sport that exists, Formula One being the fastest of the fastest. It fits our DNA,” Bavaria-based Gulden told Reuters in a telephone interview. “Red Bull is the most fun in Formula One.”

Gulden said the deal would allow Puma to showcase its investment in innovative products, such as shoes for drivers which weigh a third what they did five years ago as they are made with far fewer seams and lighter fabric.

“Weight is crucial for us,” said Red Bull team head Christian Horner. “The lightweight materials that Puma are now using in the suits, in the footwear, in the gloves, save us grams but they all add up.”

Gulden said sales of merchandise suggested the popularity of Formula One is increasing in emerging markets such as China and India: “It is one of the few sports that is really, really global.”

Puma is a distant third in the sportswear market behind Nike and Adidas, but Gulden’s efforts to revive the firm are starting to pay off. Majority owner French luxury goods group Kering said last week Puma’s first-quarter sales rose 4.5 percent on a comparable basis. [ID:nL5N0XI4A7]

Puma reports full quarterly results on May 8.

Under Gulden, a former Adidas executive and professional soccer player, Puma has struck several high-profile deals, including with English soccer side Arsenal and pop star Rihanna.

“We will continue to over-invest in marketing,” he said.

As Puma seeks to rebuild its business, it has focused on the world’s most popular sports such as soccer, running, golf and motorsport, pulling out of sailing and rugby at a global level.

“We don’t have any short-term plans for adding anything to that portfolio,” Gulden said, although Puma is analysing a possible medium-term move into American sports, a drive German rival Adidas has been pushing of late.

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Ex-Premier League player jailed at fixing trial

Posted on: August 7th, 2019 by
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Facey, who made 10 top flight appearances for Bolton Wanderers in a journeyman career that included a stint at West Bromwich Albion and ended at Hereford in 2012, was convicted at Birmingham Crown Court after a three-week hearing.


Former non-league player Moses Swaibu was also found guilty and handed a 16 month sentence.

Facey, 35, had been arrested in November 2013 and pleaded not guilty.

The charges were part of an investigation that has already secured the convictions of Singaporean Chann Sankaran, Sri Lanka-born Briton Krishna Ganeshan and Michael Boateng for paying footballers to influence the outcome of games.

Sankaran and Ganeshan were both jailed for five-years in June 2014, while Boateng received a 16 month sentence for conspiracy to bribe.

National Crime Agency lead officer Adrian Hansford said in a statement on Wednesday that the syndicate had deliberately targeted lower leagues “believing that because players earn less they could be more susceptible to taking a bribe.

“The NCA is in no doubt that this was the beginning of a concerted attempt to build a network of corrupt players in the UK,” he said.

“That network included Facey, who acted as a conduit for potential targets, and Swaibu, who was recruited to expand the network further.”

The court heard that Facey had acted as middle-man for the syndicate led by Sankaran and Ganeshan, although there was no evidence of any matches actually being fixed.

Facey had claimed he was “humouring” the syndicate and did not take them seriously.

However the jury was read transcripts of text messages from Facey to a non-league Hyde FC player, urging him to make some “easy money”.

“You guys can’t win for shit so you may as well make some peas,” Facey had said.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Justin Palmer and Toby Davis)

Real, Atletico dismiss reports of FIFA ban

Posted on: August 7th, 2019 by
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FIFA had decided to sanction the pair after a similar investigation that last year led to a ban for La Liga rivals Barcelona, according to the reports, which did not identify their sources.


“Real Madrid reiterates that the club has always scrupulously adhered to FIFA regulations,” Real said on their website (南宁夜网.realmadrid广西桑拿,).

“Real Madrid is once again saddened by these reports, some of which are intended to cause harm, the only aim of which are to implicate the club in supposed infractions that have not been committed,” they added.

“Real Madrid reiterates once again its absolute commitment to the defence, protection and the correct and healthy development of minors, which take precedence over sporting interests and, as a consequence, confirms its total support of these FIFA regulations and the club’s adherence to them.”

Atletico said they were unaware of any possible FIFA sanction.

“We have no information regarding that,” an Atletico spokesman said.

“We collaborated with FIFA in the investigation at all times,” he added.

“We are sure that we acted correctly. Because all the licenses were processed after approval from the Madrid soccer federation and the Spanish soccer federation.”

A FIFA spokesperson said: “We are not in a position to comment on any proceedings that are ongoing. No further information can be provided for the time-being.”

Soccer’s world governing body announced last April it had banned Barca from the transfer market for two consecutive windows and fined them 450,000 Swiss francs ($471,550).

Barca denied wrongdoing but their appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was rejected and they will not be able to register any new players until January next year.

($1 = 0.9543 Swiss francs)

(This version of the story recasts with the Real statement)

(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Ed Osmond)

Swifts’ coach defends netball draws

Posted on: August 7th, 2019 by
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NSW Swifts coach Rob Wright remains a fan of draws, despite three of them threatening to derail his team’s trans-Tasman netball finals push.


For the first time in the eight-year history of the competition no overtime is being played if matches are tied after four quarters.

Swifts’ captain Kimberlee Green says she can’t stand draws, but appreciates matches can’t last for more than 60 minutes because of broadcasting demands.

The Swifts head into Sunday’s home game against Melbourne Vixens knowing it’s quite possible one of these two traditional powerhouses of Australian netball won’t play finals this year.

Only the top three in each of the Australian and New Zealand conferences will make it through.

West Coast Fever (17) and Queensland Firebirds (13), who square off in another Australian blockbuster in Perth on Friday, look likely to claim two places.

The Vixens (10), Swifts (9) and Adelaide Thunderbirds (8) could all be battling for just one spot, unless the Firebirds lose form.

All but two of the ten teams have drawn at least one game, with Thunderbirds and Mystics having two and Swifts three.

“I’ve always been a fan of the draw and I still am, but it is frustrating to have three of them,” Wright told AAP.

“I think what it shows is how tight this competition is, with so many draws.

“The one beauty of the draw is the fans probably leave wanting more because they probably want a result.

“The table may come down to one point separating teams from being in or out.

“I think it’s going to have a real bearing on how this table ends up, so that’s exciting because I think it’s going to be a bit of an unknown.”

Veteran midcourter Green isn’t as enthusiastic about drawn games.

“As a player, I can’t stand them,” Green said.

“But knowing how we need to grow our sport and we know that there’s not a lot of time in between games, and it’s really tough for the broadcasters to go into extra time.

“The amount of extra times this year, it would have really stuffed them up, so I completely understand that side.

“But as a player, it’s really tough because you walk away feeling like you’ve lost.”

“I was speaking to (Pulse player) Katrina Grant after the (47-47 draw) the other day and she was like ‘I can’t believe that, I didn’t know what to feel’.

“(I said) ‘Mate try having three (draws), that’s your first, this is our third!’

“It feels like we’ve lost five, as opposed to two at the moment.

“We have to keep reminding ourselves that’s not the case.”

Neither Wright nor Green were fussed that the Swifts’ points tally would place them second in the NZ conference.

Berlusconi meeting Thai businessman over Milan stake sale

Posted on: July 7th, 2019 by
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A source close to Berlusconi said the meeting may not be decisive but would be “certainly very important”.


A report in Italian financial daily Sole 24 Ore on Wednesday said Bee, who travelled to Italy earlier this week, planned to present a 500-million euro ($550 million) offer for a 51 percent stake in AC Milan.

The Thai businessman is part of a consortium that includes other investors from China and the United Arab Emirates, the paper added. A source close to Bee confirmed Wednesday’s meeting without elaborating.

The Gazzetta dello Sport daily published pictures of Bee arriving at Berlusconi’s residence at Arcore near Milan in a black minibus with darkened windows.

One of Italy’s most prestigious clubs, seven-times European champions AC Milan helped burnish Berlusconi’s image during his 20-year career at the top of Italian politics. Sale of the club would represent the end of an era.

Speculation that the 78-year-old billionaire, who has increasingly stepped back from frontline politics, is preparing a sale of one of the crown jewels of his empire has increased amid speculation he may divest other assets including broadcaster Mediaset.

His son Pier Silvio denied on Wednesday that his family’s controlling stake in Mediaset was for sale but both French group Vivendi and Rupert Murdoch’s Sky have been reported to be interested in some of its television assets.

Berlusconi, who modelled the name of his political party Forza Italia (Go Italy!) on the cheers of football fans, has always held football close to his heart, both as a club owner and an entrepreneur whose TV stations were built on the back of televised football.

But AC Milan, which last won the Serie A championship in 2011, has struggled to compete financially with the top teams from other major European leagues. They have since been selling some of their best players and are having a particularly bad season, standing 10th in Serie A.

Bee, executive director of south-east Asian private equity group Thai Prime Company Limited, said in February he had held talks about buying a stake in the Milanese club after media reports that he had made an offer of one billion euros for a controlling stake.

Milan, which has debts for about 250 million euros, is owned by Berlusconi through his Fininvest holding company that also controls broadcaster Mediaset.

The club lost 91.3 million euros in 2014.

If a deal on selling AC Milan is reached, the club would follow their city rivals in being bought by south-east Asian investors after Indonesian tycoon Erick Thohir headed a group that acquired a 70 percent stake in Inter in 2013.

($1 = 0.9095 euros)

(This version of the story adds the background and details)

(Additional reporting by Elvira Pollina in Milan; Writing by Agnieszka Flak and James Mackenzie; Editing by Giselda Vagnoni and Tom Heneghan)

Business as usual with Indon

Posted on: July 7th, 2019 by
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Australia won’t be walking away from its long-term relationship with Indonesia, its ninth largest trading partner.


That’s the response of business and economists to the execution of two Australians in Indonesia in the early hours of Wednesday.

Social media erupted with both outrage and sorrow after the execution of the two convicted drug-smuggling Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, calling for a boycott of its nearest neighbour.

Business Council of Australia president Catherine Livingstone refused to speculate what actions individual businesses might take but urged a cautious approach.

She said business plays an important role in the ties between two countries.

“Life goes on and business will go on,” she told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

Twitter hosted tens of thousands of tweets in response to the deaths, with more than 5000 urging a boycott of both Indonesia and its island province Bali.

“Don’t agree with the death penalty? Don’t travel,” wrote @em_farrelly, while @krrabeckley said, “You gave them 10 years rehabilitation and took their lives away. I know 1 place I’ll never visit, condolences to the family.”

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the airline had not seen any evidence of customers boycotting Indonesia so far.

“It’s a personal decision what people decide to do and how people accept their views,” Mr Joyce said.

“But at the moment there are no signs of any impact and our expectation is there probably won’t be a significant impact on those operations.”

Market Economics managing director Stephen Koukoulas said trade between the two countries was not “insignificant” at about $11 billion a year.

Australia’s major import from Indonesia is oil and petroleum products, while Indonesia imports educational services, tourism and beef.

But Mr Koukoulas said a boycott could affect broader issues, such as wanting Indonesian support at international gatherings like G20 and APEC.

“It can’t help,” he told AAP.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott did immediately recall Australia’s ambassador to Jakarta, but he indicated he wouldn’t be boycotting the country.

“We do not want to make a difficult situation worse and the relationship between Australia and Indonesia is important, remains important, will always be important, will become more important as time goes by,” Mr Abbott said.

It was a “dark moment” in the relationship, but Mr Abbott was confident that the relationship would be restored for the benefit of both countries.

You are entitled to be angry, PM says

Posted on: July 7th, 2019 by
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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has sought to tread a fine diplomatic line as he expresses Australia’s official anger at the executions of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.


The Bali Nine ringleaders were among seven foreign nationals and one Indonesian shot dead by firing squad on the island of Nusakambangan early Wednesday morning.

With Foreign Minister Julie Bishop by his side at Parliament House in Canberra hours later, a grave Mr Abbott described the executions as both cruel and unnecessary.

While he respected Indonesia’s sovereign right to uphold tough domestic laws against drug smugglers, the prime minister said it could not be business as usual between Canberra and Jakarta.

For that reason Australia’s ambassador Paul Grigson will be recalled for consultations with the government.

Mr Abbott also revealed the government had suspended ministerial contacts with Indonesia once it became clear the executions would proceed.

They would remain suspended for a period, he said.

Whether Australia will cut any of the $650 million in foreign aid it provides to Indonesia annually will be left to the May budget.

Mr Abbott was at pains to stress the relationship between Australia and Indonesia was very important.

“But it has suffered as a result of what’s been done over the last few hours,” he told reporters.

The decision to recall the ambassador was “very unusual, indeed unprecedented”.

“So I don’t want to minimise the gravity of what we’ve done.”

The prime minister avoided making any personal criticism of the Indonesian president Joko Widodo who rebuffed personal pleas for clemency from Mr Abbott.

“I don’t want to personalise it, but obviously I do regret that while my representations have been listened to patiently and courteously, they have not been heeded.”

Leader-to-leader contact will continue.

Mr Abbott said it was his devout hope that all the promise and high hopes that came with the election of President Widodo in 2014 would be fulfilled because it was in Australia’s best interests that he succeed.

“While this is a dark moment in the relationship I am confident that the relationship will be restored for the great benefit of both our countries.”

Mr Abbott cautioned Australians from taking their own action in protest against the executions, even though he understood people’s anger.

“I would say to people yes, you are absolutely entitled to be angry but we’ve got to be very careful to ensure that we do not allow our anger to make a bad situation worse.”

Personally, Mr Abbott expressed grief at the deaths of Sukumaran and Chan and the impact they were having on their families.

“Whatever people think of the death penalty, whatever people think of drug crime, the fact is that these two families have suffered an appalling tragedy.

“As a parent, as a family member myself, I feel for these families at what is a very, very difficult time.”

Angry Australians plan Bali boycott

Posted on: July 7th, 2019 by
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Australians outraged by the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are cancelling their travel plans to Bali.


Melbourne father Malcolm Sheridan had been planning to visit the popular tourist destination with his family in June, but he’s now keeping his travel plans local.

Mr Sheridan said it was the only thing he could do to send a message to the Indonesian government.

“It’s quite barbaric what’s happened over there,” he told AAP on Wednesday.

“I felt the Indonesian president wasn’t going to listen to me and the only thing I could do was cancel my holiday.”

Mr Sheridan, like thousands of others, has taken to social media to call for a boycott of Bali, angered by the overnight killing of the two Australians.

Some said they were disgusted by the executions while others vowed to never travel to Indonesia.

“Civilised countries do not execute people. My family will never holiday there now,” said one.

“Australians will never forget this. You’re dead to us, Indonesia,” tweeted @timfrench.

Others are suggesting aid money to be diverted to earthquake-ravaged Nepal, or are diverting their tourism dollars to alternative destinations, like Fiji.

“That’s $10K of my hard-earned the Indonesians won’t be getting,” said one man on Twitter.

However, detractors of the boycott campaign said it would do nothing to help matters but simply punish innocent Balinese who relied on tourism dollars.

“People who are all #BoycottBali yet have holidays booked to Thailand. Pretty sure they do the same thing there too,” said Kirsty McConnell.

Australia, thanks for making pho and Cabramatta trendy

Posted on: July 7th, 2019 by
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I was about six or seven when I saw someone shoot up heroin for the first time.


It was late in the afternoon and I was gazing out of the window when I suddenly saw a man scurry behind the old wooden fence that separated our communal driveway from the white brick flats next door. Although he was on the other side, I had a pretty clear view from the second floor of our townhouse.

I’ve grown up seeing used syringes and overdosers lying around on the streets. As kids, we always wore closed shoes and were careful not to step on needles as we went grocery shopping with the adults. Going to the local park or a public toilet was completely out of the question.

So that day, when I saw the strange man on the other side of the fence, I was curious to see what the fuss was all about with syringes. So I watched on. I wanted to tell someone about what I saw after he ran off, but even as a child, I remember thinking, “Well, it’s what happens around here. Who cares?”

They’re memories that I’ve come to realise are quite abnormal for most people living in a developed country.

I grew up in the western Sydney suburb of Cabramatta during the 80s and 90s when it was the heroin capital of Australia – way before it was trendy and frequented by young hipster-types and food bloggers who go there to Instagram photos of fruit shops and pho restaurants. I never thought our cheap Sunday lunches at Pho Tau Bay or munching on hot chips from Red Lea would become a ‘thing’. 

Back then, I was so embarrassed by my steamed BBQ pork bun breakfasts, and packed lunches which consisted of Chrysanthemum tea drinks and $2 banh mi’s that my granny bought from the local Vietnamese bakery. 

Even telling people I lived in Cabramatta made me feel inferior at times. Demonised. Pitiful. Poor. And it certainly didn’t help when some politicians felt they were being swamped by Asians who formed ghettos and didn’t assimilate. 

My family – like most families in that area – were refugees from Indochina. My grandparents had moved from China to Hanoi in Vietnam after the Second World War hoping to start a new life. Little did they know they would have to flee again to Saigon when the Vietnam War erupted in 1962.

When the North Vietnamese eventually captured Saigon in 1975, scores of Southern Vietnamese people, include the ethnic Chinese community like my family, were forced to leave the country.

My uncle John’s family ran a jewellery business in Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City. Their business operated from a multi-level building that they owned and lived in. When the communist regime took over, their business and property were seized by the government.

“They took everything,” he said, when I asked him why he and his family decided to leave Vietnam. John said his family had to sleep on the street and said the injustice of the situation was overwhelming.

“We would have no life. No freedom,” he said, adding that people who were – or were perceived to be – sympathetic towards western governments were routinely imprisoned or killed.

His wife, my aunty Anita, said my grandmother’s brother was one such person. I never knew about him, but Anita said he was locked up for 30 years in Hanoi for being able to speak French, Chinese and English.

When my great-uncle was finally released, his little sister (my grandmother) had already fled to Saigon during the War, and then subsequently to Australia. They were never to be reunited again. By the time my family tracked him down in the UK, he had already died, not knowing whether his little sister escaped Vietnam or died trying.

It’s a story that gets my aunty Anita quite upset. She told me that in her final years, my grandmother would often look at photos of her long lost brother – her only sibling – and wonder if they would see each other again. Not in this lifetime, it seemed.

Death and tragedy are common themes around our family dinner tables. It’s what happens when you grow up in a refugee family. If we ever whinged about school, Saturday school tutoring, Chinese school, karate lessons, Sunday school or life in general – well, don’t bother.

“When we were living in Vietnam, your grandma had to wake up when it was still dark, to sell street food on the side of the road to pay for us to go to school. We lived in a small shack. Don’t take your education for granted,” my uncle Minh would say. “And don’t do drugs.”

My mum Rose was also particularly good at guilt-tripping. “I wasn’t ever allowed to learn English in Vietnam because my mother didn’t want me associating with Americans. You’re lucky you get to do what you want to do,” she would lament. In Cantonese, of course.

As a kid, I would tune out and roll my eyes. Here we go again. Bring out the violins.

My brother Luke was born at sea, somewhere near Malaysia. My mum remembers placing him in a bucket and pushing him to shore when they were finally let into the country. 

War stories were common too. And of course, the traumatic boat journeys out of Vietnam would crop up from time to time. But asking my relatives specific details about the war, or getting them to talk openly about the boat journey is – understandably – not an easy feat. “What do you want to know? You already know what happened,” my dad said to me the other day. Even now as adults, my siblings, cousins and I don’t really know what they went through – and probably never will. 

It was only this year, during our annual Lunar New Year celebration, that I found out my uncle John’s father had died while they were fleeing Vietnam by boat.

John was 18 when their fishing boat was attacked by Thai pirates off the coast of Singapore in 1979. They were escorted onto the Thai ship, robbed, and forced back onto their sinking fishing boat. John said they had no choice but to attack and kill the pirates to save the 157 Vietnamese refugees on board.

“Some of the older men sacrificed themselves by grabbing onto the pirates and hurling themselves into the ocean,” he said. John’s dad died during the attack. After floating at sea for 11 days when the ship’s engine failed, they were eventually rescued by British ship Entalina, and brought to a refugee detention centre in Darwin.

His wife, my aunty Anita, said young girls were often raped and kidnapped by pirates on these boat journeys. She didn’t elaborate any further, and I didn’t have the heart to press her for more information, like I normally would as a journalist.

Sometimes I laugh at the absurdity of our situation with my siblings and cousins – if you don’t laugh, you really will cry.

My two older sisters Anne and Cecilia were four and two, respectively, when they left the coastal town of My Tho in a fishing boat in 1979.

My brother Luke was born at sea, somewhere near Malaysia. When the Malaysians finally let them into the country, my mum remembers placing the infant in a bucket and pushing him to shore. 

When I asked my mum about Luke’s miracle birth and survival, she laughed and said, “I have no idea how I did it. My brain was foggy and I was so sick during labour. It just happened.” 

No-one really knows how my brother survived that perilous journey as a newborn. We still, to this day, laugh at the fact that none of my siblings or relatives died on the journey. (I’m aware it’s an odd thing to joke about, but like I said, we’re not ‘normal’.) 

Like the thousands of Vietnamese refugees who fled by boat, my family were towed back out to sea, shot at by coast guards in Malaysia and Indonesia, attacked by pirates, unwanted and turned back by neighbouring countries.

Somehow, my mum, dad, siblings and grandparents ended up at Kuching refugee camp in Malaysia. Around the same time, my aunty Anita and her brother Minh, made it to Air Raya refugee camp in Indonesia. Both parties had no idea whether the other had already left Vietnam, and whether they survived the journey at sea.

The radio was their lifeline and the only way to track down missing relatives. Refugees in detention centres would write letters to radio stations informing them of their whereabouts, which would then be broadcasted around the world. Relatives would then write back to the radio station if there was a match.

“No Facebook back then,” Anita said, laughing. “That’s how we knew your dad, mum and grandma and the children were alive.”

After months of waiting, my family were given humanitarian visas and flown into Australia. My sisters and brother don’t remember anything about Vietnam or the journey out. I became the first in my family to be born in the lucky country.

It’s been 40 years since the end of the Vietnam War, and the beginning of the Vietnamese diaspora. Though it’s taken decades, this community has gradually become part of the fabric of Australia; a country that so generously accepted a broken group of refugees and helped them heal from the trauma of their war-torn past, through their heroin-fuelled days, triad gangs and troubled youths. 

So Australia, on behalf of my family, thank you.

And thank you for making Cabramatta, banh mi and pho something to be proud of – and trendy enough for Instagram.