Strangulation cause of death

BATHURST teacher Peter Hughes, who was found bound and gagged in a Moscow hotel room on Monday, was strangled, according to an Australian Department of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman.
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Police identified four suspects from a hotel security video during their investigation into the death of Mr Hughes, the spokeswoman said.

The spokesperson said investigators were treating Mr Hughes death as murder.

“A preliminary autopsy report says he died of asphyxiation as a result of strangulation,” the spokeswoman said.

“The police have advised us that the motive appears to be robbery.

“They are continuing their investigation.”

Mr Hughes left Australia for Russia on September 24.

He was found dead on Monday in his hotel room near the Moscow airport.

Russian detectives have told DFAT Mr Hughes shared a drink with one or two Russian women at his hotel bar on the night of his death.

Full story in the Western Advocate.

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Tears of joy as twins share a hug with their mother

AS SO often happens in times of high emotion, the adults were overwhelmed and the child came to their rescue.So it was when the Bangladeshi mother of surgically separated twins Trishna and Krishna enjoyed an emotional reunion with the daughters she had feared would not survive.Trishna played happily in front of her mother and the twins’ legal guardian, Moira Kelly, yesterday, with a scar on the back of her head the only obvious sign of the trauma she had been through.”Trishy came up and warmed to us so beautifully and hugged the two of us, started wiping our tears and, of course, mum then just put her arms around the little girl. It gives me goosebumps now. It was a really special moment,” Ms Kelly said.”The last time she saw her children was horrific for any human being so it was very important to create a very special memory for her now because it was going to be something that was implanted in her heart and her mind,” she said.It was the first time Lovely Goldar had seen her girls since she and her husband, Karitik, handed them to an orphanage soon after birth in the hope they would receive medical care. The girls, their heads joined, survived a delicate 32-hour operation in Melbourne in November to separate them.Ms Kelly, who brought the girls to Australia through her Children First Foundation, described Ms Goldar as a ”powerful” woman. ”Her story is really compelling … when they found out they had twins, they were joined and there was a tumour they said it’s best to abort.”She refused. She even had to stand up as a young woman from a village to her own family and finally her husband – and her mother agreed and she said ‘at least my child can see the light of life’.”Ms Goldar will return to Bangladesh but will make regular visits to Australia.Both girls face continuing serious health problems, with Krishna most vulnerable due to kidney problems, seizures and post-traumatic stress disorder.AAP
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Firefighters home

EXHAUSTED but happy to be home is a five-person team from Bathurst after helping fight a series of bushfires around the Casino area. , The Bathurst team was based at Casino, along with members of the State’s Rural Fire Service, for the past 12 days battling four different outbreaks., The local contingent included Katie Collins, Stuart Brown, Ken Rich, Troy Hogan and Darrin Elbourn., Mrs Collins said yesterday most of their work involved protecting pine and eucalyptus plantations on the North Coast., “About 600 hectares of plantations and a couple of hundred hectares of bushland were lost,” she said after flying in on a charter flight., “We were called in because of our expertise in forest fires, but if we were in the same situation here there would be the same type of support for us., Full story in the Western Advocate.
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Gillard seeks citizens’ group on ETS policy

JULIA GILLARD will convene a ”citizens’ assembly” to act as a litmus test of community support for an emissions trading scheme before Labor’s final decision on implementing its centrepiece climate change policy in 2012.
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In an attempt to stamp her consensus-building style on the ETS backdown by her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, Ms Gillard will pledge to lead the case in favour of a carbon market. But she will argue that such an enormous change must be based on genuine community support.

Despite Labor having long made the case for early domestic action, Ms Gillard will stick with the terms of Mr Rudd’s decision in April to delay the ETS. She will promise not to implement a carbon market unless there is also ”credible action” on reducing emissions in the United States, China and India.

In a speech today at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, she will outline other energy saving and renewable energy policies to help Australia reach its minimum emission reduction target of 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.

But she will also reveal that heavy polluting industries will be able to continue to claim the generous concessions offered under Mr Rudd’s emissions trading deal with the former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull. These apply to their 2009 levels of emissions, so the polluters are not dissuaded from becoming cleaner in the meantime.

As well as the year-long citizens’ assembly – where participation is voluntary for the ”ordinary Australians” chosen by an independent body through the census or the electoral roll – a re-elected Labor government would also set up an independent climate change commission to explain the science and report back on international negotiations.

”I will make the case in public and in Parliament. I will lead the debate and lead the advocacy for our approach in the community … I will use the carbon pollution reduction scheme as the basis for this citizens’ assembly and community consultation on the way forward … In doing so, I recommit to the need for a market mechanism,” Ms Gillard will say in her speech.

”The role of this citizens’ assembly will not be to become the final arbiter or judge of consensus, but to provide an indicator to the nation of the progress of community consensus,” she will say. But she also implies that if the assembly is unpersuaded, an ETS is unlikely to be brought in.

”If I am wrong, and that group of Australians is not persuaded of the case for change, then that should be a clear warning bell that our community has not been persuaded as deeply as required about the need for transformational change,” the speech says.

”I will act when the Australian economy is ready and when the Australian people are ready.”

With billions of dollars of investment stalled, business has been demanding a clear statement on whether Labor will introduce a carbon price. Ms Gillard’s policy does not deliver that certainty, and makes it unlikely an ETS could be legislated before the next election, due in 2013.

But Ms Gillard will argue that a true community consensus will deliver a policy that is ”durable”.

Ms Gillard has $652 million in the budget for as yet unannounced climate initiatives and recently received the report of an energy efficiency taskforce set up by Mr Rudd to help shape election policy on climate.

The Coalition has pledged to spend $3.2 billion over four years on grants and subsidies to cut emissions enough to meet the 5 per cent reduction target by 2020.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has said he will review the ”direct action” policy in 2015, but believes it is highly unlikely there will be ”a global carbon price” by that date. This would be a prerequisite for the Coalition to consider introducing a carbon price.

The government’s ETS was defeated in the Senate after the Coalition refused to back the deal brokered by Mr Turnbull. Mr Abbott was installed as leader in his place.

Canon Office Machines big guns in window dressing

A SMALL but enthusiastic staff at Canon Office Machines have won the overall and best small business award in the Bathurst V8 Window Dressing Competition., The competition results were announced on Tuesday night by mayor Ian Macintosh., “The time and considerable effort that many of you have put into your displays is to be commended,” Cr Macintosh said., “I have seen many visitors to town this week stop and take a closer look at the decorated shop windows., “Any feature that encourages people to come down from the mountain and stay a bit longer in town is important for local business.”, Cr Macintosh said the Canon display included audio-visual footage of racing at Mt Panorama projected onto the window at night., He thanked the 52 businesses that took part in the competition for their enthusiasm and the hundreds who voted in the People’s Choice Award, which went to Moodie and Blomfield Chemist., The support of sponsors the Bathurst City Centre, Westmitchell Cleaning and Bathurst Ten Pin Bowling Centre was also appreciated, Cr Macintosh said.
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Catch Brockies’ bus into town

CATCH Peter Brock on the race track and then catch his bus into town!
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Peter Brock has lent his support to a crime prevention and road safety strategy operating in Bathurst this race weekend.

The racing legend put his name behind the `Brock Bus’ which will offer racing fans transport from the mountain to the CBD and back over the race weekend.

Local Area Commander Superintendent Frank Kuiters said the strategy aims to cut down on drink driving and anti-social behaviour, the downside for which the weekend is notorious for.

Supt. Kuiters said the Brock Bus will cut down on the `yahoo’ element of the race.

“We’re talking about drink driving offences and all that anti-social behaviour like damaged letter boxes and garbage bins, things that get destroyed as people make their way into town,” he said.

Full story in the Western Advocate.

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Mozzie chokes TV presenter on air

A Taiwanese television presenter was admitted to hospital after a mosquito flew into her mouth, choking her and interrupting her live broadcast of a news program.The mosquito got so deep into Huang Ching’s mouth that it was stuck in her windpipe, touching off severe asthma, China Times media group said on Wednesday.China Television Co had to urgently put on a four-minute advert while it drafted in a replacement presenter to carry on with the news.”I never expected a mosquito to have such a great power. It really gave me a bad day,” Huang said after recovering from last week’s unlikely interruption.The senior anchor spent a day in hospital.AFP
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HSC students can now access advice on-line

WITH the first major written exam English only three weeks away, the HSC advice line has been reopened.
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The line is staffed by 700 experienced teachers answering questions about the 25 most popular HSC courses.

With no question considered too easy or too hard, students can ring the advice line with any enquiry relating to the HSC.

Gareth Smart, a year 12 student at Bathurst High School trialled the advice line in the lead up to his exams.

“It was really great. They take your student number and other details and transfer you to a teacher who can help you with your questions personally. The teacher knows all the subjects that you are taking, and they can talk you through all of it.”

“I’ll be on the line all the time now, it’s what you need at this stage of the HSC,” Gareth said.

Full story in the Western Advocate.

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Aunty’s 24-7 news no pie in the Sky

ABC director of news Kate Torney says the news channel is ‘‘an extension of what we do’’. ‘(I hope) the channel will be a place for discussion about public policy and where Australia is heading.’ CHRIS UHLMANN
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NO ONE saw it coming. The federal election was supposed to be months away. That would be the big story to announce the arrival of ABC News 24. But then, out of the blue, Julia Gillard became Australia’s prime minister.

It caught the national broadcaster off guard. While reporters Chris Uhlmann and Mark Simkin did the ABC proud by breaking the story on its 7pm news bulletin on June 23, later that night audiences might have wondered what was going on.

Those tuned to the ABC’s popular Wednesday night shows, Spicks and Specks and The Gruen Transfer, were informed of the events unfolding in Canberra via newsbreaks but, when the decision was made to break into normal programming shortly after 10pm, a series of technical glitches botched the smooth introduction to one of the most dramatic political stories in Australian history.

‘‘It was frustrating for our journalists,’’ newsreader Juanita Phillips says. ‘‘We wished we had the 24-hour news channel up and running. I think any doubts about ‘Do we need it?’ were completely pasted over,’’ says Phillips, who is something of a veteran in the 24-hour news business, having anchored such channels at CNN and the BBC.

One month later, ABC News 24 is ready for take-off.

Its raison d’etre, however, isn’t just to cover once-in-a-lifetime stories, such as the sudden rise of Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

‘‘News is a very important part of who we are as a national broadcaster,’’ says director of news Kate Torney. ‘‘A news channel is a natural extension of what we do. We produce hours of quality content each and every day. We put as much as possible online but there’s also a large sector of the ABC audience that wants to see that on TV.’’

Unlike Sky News, which is available by subscription, ABC News 24 will be free, though viewers will need to have an HD digital TV or HD set-top box (the cheapest cost less than $100). As there is no spectrum available for a new service, the ABC is using its existing HD channel to transmit the signal, meaning those programs that were simulcast in HD no longer will be. The ABC estimates at least 57percent of Australian households will be able to access the channel.

ABC News 24 will be streamed online and on the Apple iPhone. Streaming on other mobiles and the iPad are in development.

Torney says the channel will be an opportunity to air content produced for eight different 7pm bulletins that wouldn’t otherwise be seen by audiences outside that state. ‘‘In the past, we’ve had fantastic stories come out of our state newsrooms but haven’t made a national agenda for all the right reasons,’’ she says. ‘‘Half an hour is not a lot of space to fill for a news bulletin.’’

The potential loser in this is Sky News, the part News Limited-owned broadcaster that launched in 1996 and has made a name for itself largely on the back of its fleet-footed coverage of federal politics and its Canberra-based correspondent David Speers.

Managing director Angelos Frangopoulos has been critical about the public broadcaster’s push into the 24-hour news market, arguing it is not good use of public funds to duplicate a service that already exists. But on the eve of the channel’s launch, he is pulling his punches.

He says Sky News is different to the ABC’s new channel. ‘‘We’re not just a 24-hour news channel but a 24-hour business channel, a 24-hour public affairs channel, 24-hour local news for Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth and a multiview service. Our proposition is very different to that of any other 24-hour news operator,’’ says Frangopoulos.

As well as time-shifted shows from ABC1 and rolling coverage of breaking events, there will be a swag of new programs on the new channel (see above panel).

Events such as huge federal politics stories will still prompt the interruption of programs on ABC1 but Torney says the channel will help the ABC handle major breaking news by providing a news room and anchor that is always ready for broadcasting.

Head of continuous news Gaven Morris says the content produced for ABC News 24 will be used across all platforms. The onscreen ticker will be driven by the online news division and ABC online news will become the News 24 website.

‘‘It’s critical for the ABC to have that ability to cover big, live national events as they happen,’’ Morris says. ‘‘It’s the job of the national broadcaster. So far that’s only been available on Sky.’’

But it’s not only the synergies between online and TV that are being recast in readiness for the channel’s launch.

The TV news market, contends Morris, has remained virtually unchanged for 30years. Compare that with other TV genres, such as drama or sport, whose coverage, style and scope, have changed radically, he says.

The biggest consumers of ABC online content are 25- to 40-year-olds, yet the demographic that watches the major bulletin at 7pm on ABC1 is older.

‘‘We have to present news in a way that fits those who want to consume it. We’re a very relaxed country, yet our news services are very formal,’’ Morris notes. ‘‘This is not just an opportunity to reassess our news reporting but to think about different production techniques.’’

To that end, the channel’s launch will also see subtle changes to the graphics and other elements of the 7pm bulletin.

For Uhlmann, who swapped his high-profile job on The 7.30 Report to work at the fledgling news channel, ‘‘ABC News 24 will not just be political talkback. Sky News has cornered the market of journos talking about Canberra. We will be talking to players more than journos.’’

He hopes the channel won’t just be about 24-hour news reporting and will become a place ‘‘for deeper discussion about public policy and where Australia is heading’’.

Uhlmann says the channel is an opportunity for the ABC to move beyond its footprint in Australia’s major cities and for regional stations to become significant contributors of content.

Unlike the children’s channel, ABC3, there is no additional funding for News 24. That has raised concerns within the rank and file of radio and TV reporters about the effect ABC News 24 will have on resourcing and job intensification, particularly in the regional newsrooms that will be called upon to provide fuller stories for the news channel.

Torney acknowledges there has been significant workplace change at the ABC during the past two years. ‘‘It has forced us to look at how we manage and use resources … We need to be very clear about our programming priorities; how we approach a story to ensure our outlets are covered quickly. We need to make sure how we structure this still allows journalists to get out there and gather news.’’

Others have doubts. Senior industry player and media buyer Steve Allen of Fusion Strategy, questions the ABC’s ability to provide a service any better than Sky News without providing significant extra resources, particularly in view of the way overseas bureaus have been scaled back during the past 10 to 20years. He points to the plethora of news-related programming that consists of journalists talking to other journalists.

‘‘Unless the channel provides something different, what’s the point?’’ he asks.

Torney won’t be drawn on questions of resources, the technical glitches on the night of the challenge to Kevin Rudd, or indeed the broadcaster’s priorities for news and current affairs, given ABC News 24 is the last of three digital channels to be launched on the ABC.

‘‘The introduction of News Breakfast,’’ she says, referring to ABC2’s morning show, ‘‘opened up opportunities for TV viewers wanting to tap into news.’’

While News Breakfast’s average audience of about 28,000 might seem modest, it’s regarded as decent for a specialised show in the multichannel environment (by contrast, First Edition and AM Agenda on Sky News attract averages of 14,000 and 20,000 each in the same timeslot and Sunrise (Seven) and Today (Nine) hover at a year-to-date average of 366,000 and 319,000 viewers respectively). ‘‘Our role is to remain relevant and as part of that we need to make sure our content is available when people want it,’’ Torney says.

‘‘We have a reputation for delivering quality news and what we can do is extend that reputation into a 24/7 news market.

‘‘I think there’s a great sense of ownership of the ABC, as there should be.

‘‘There is debate and discussion about our performance, our capacity to break news and that’s fabulous because it focuses what we do.’’

ABC News 24 launches tonight at 7.30pm on Channel 24.

Storm declared a natural disaster

A FREAK storm that hit Wattle Flat early last month has been declared a natural disaster.
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The declaration announced on Friday by the Minister for Agriculture, Richard Amery, clears the way for affected land and property owners to apply for financial aid.

Mr Amery said under natural disaster relief arrangements producers and small businesses may qualify for loans of $130,000 over a term of 10 years at a concessional interest rate of 3.5 per cent.

Evans Shire Council director of corporate services Brian Dwyer reported on the Wattle flat storm damage at the September 27 meeting of council.

Mr Dwyer showed photographs of the devastation saying it was hoped the buildings blown away by wind were covered by insurance and could be replaced.

“It was a localised storm at Wattle Flat racecourse,” Mr Dwyer said. “It was fascinating to visit the area after the storm and work out where the wind went.”

Full story in the Western Advocate.

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