Up to 15 cyclones predicted this season according to uni expert

New modelling indicates as many as 15 tropical cyclones could develop across Australia between November and April with up to six to form on the eastern seaboard.

The Long Range Tropical Cyclone Outlook for Australia model, based on new research, has been developed by University of Newcastle researcher Dr Andrew Magee and Associate Professor Anthony Kiem.

It indicates normal to above normal tropical cyclone activity Australia-wide with as few as nine and as many as 15 cyclones during the traditional cyclone season from November to April.

The modelling indicates there is a 47 per cent chance that Australia might see 12 or more tropical cyclones this season although not all will make landfall.

“The guidance suggests 11 tropical cyclones are expected, with a probable range of between nine and 15 tropical cyclones… and that’s a little bit higher than average which is 10 tropical cyclones,” Dr Magee said.

The most recent cyclone to make landfall in Australia was Tropical Cyclone Esther, the third to cross the Australian mainland coast in the 2019/20 season, when it made landfall near the NT/Queensland border as a category 1 in February.

Some of the most destructive cyclones this decade to sweep through Queensland were Cyclone Marcia, which crossed north of Rockhampton in February 2015, and Cyclone Yasi which made landfall near Mission Beach in February 2011.

The damage bill for those cyclones alone was in the billions.

Dr Magee said the modelling does not predict the severity of the tropical cyclones.

“Our model doesn’t yet look at the severity of tropical cyclones, just the number of tropical cyclones,” he said.

“The eastern region typically sees three per year, so we expect four with a probable range of between three and six.”

Although it is unlikely that all tropical cyclones will make landfall, they may still impact the shoreline or the weather.

“They may pass hundreds or thousands of kilometres from the coast, but they can still have an impact because they bring big swells and unsettled weather,” he said.

“However, four are expected for the eastern region will either make landfall or pass the eastern region.”

He said they will run a model every month until January, to consider the most recent changes in the ocean and atmosphere.

The research, though, should not replace the advice offered by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

“Our new research, the long-range tropical cyclone outlook for Australia provides us with another tool with which to prepare for the coming season.” said Dr Magee.

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South Sydney Rabbitohs score 10 tries in 60-8 thumping of Roosters ahead of NRL finals

The Sydney Roosters will have to defy history to claim a third straight NRL premiership after they were thrashed 60-8 by South Sydney at the Olympic stadium in Homebush.

No team in the game’s 112-year history has won the premiership that season after conceding 50 points in a match, with the Roosters producing their worst defensive effort in a decade.

Alex Johnston scored five tries in a match for the second time in his career, while Cody Walker posted two and set up four more as the Rabbitohs compiled their highest score against their arch rivals.

It helped the Rabbitohs earn hosting rights for next week’s elimination final against Newcastle, avoiding a trip to the Hunter after the Knights hours earlier dropped their bundle against Gold Coast.

The Roosters, meanwhile, are in tatters on the eve of the finals.

The thumping means they will have to face minor premiers Penrith to open the finals next week, provided Parramatta beat Wests Tigers on Saturday.

Alex Johnston scored five tries for the second time in his NRL career.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

But Friday night’s loss could be just one of their worries.

Jake Friend left the field in the third minute after a head clash with Campbell Graham, with his left cheekbone already ballooning as he went up the tunnel.

Any injury would come as a significant blow to the Roosters, given back-up hooker Sam Verrills is already out for the season with a knee injury.

The Roosters floundered with a 68 per cent completion rate and 34 missed tackles, while the Rabbitohs’ attacking dynamos starred.

Walker attacked on both sides of the field, regularly linking with Adam Reynolds in an ominous sign for their finals rivals.

Johnston became just the sixth Rabbitoh to reach 100 tries, going past Bob McCarthy and into their top-five try scorers.

After the Roosters crossed first through Morris, Walker had his first impact when he dummied and broke down field in the 13th minute before crossing three plays later.

He was in the thick of things again moments later when a cut-out ball helped Johnston break free, before a one-two with Bayley Sironen put the winger over.

The five-eighth was again responsible for Johnston’s second, as they again caught the Roosters short on the right and a lofted cut-out ball put the winger over.

His second half was just as impressive, putting Corey Allan over under the posts shortly after the break before running onto a Graham grubber for his second try.

Meanwhile, Johnston moved to the top of the NRL try scorers list on 20, with his last three coming in the space of five minutes.

It included one presented on a dime from Allan, after the fullback passed the ball back to him over the try line.

Titans smash finals-bound Knights

The Newcastle Knights endured a horror warm-up for their first NRL finals campaign in seven years, with Gold Coast dishing out a 36-6 thrashing in Robina.

The Titans rounded out their season with an impressive ninth win of 2020, which included a brilliant individual try-scoring double from young fullback AJ Brimson.

The victory means the Titans end the season in ninth place on the ladder on the back of a club-record equalling five-match winning streak.

Five Gold Coast Titans NRL players embrace as they celebrate a try against Newcastle.
The Titans celebrated seven tries in their clinical performance against the Knights.(AAP: Darren England)

The Knights have not won back-to-back matches since round 15 and will be sweating on the availability of star forward Jacob Saifiti for their elimination final against South Sydney.

Saifiti was placed on report in the first half for a crusher tackle on Titans centre Young Tonumaipea.

Under an NRL crackdown, the offence carries a minimum one-match ban even with an early guilty plea, meaning if Saifiti is charged he would need to challenge and win at the judiciary to play in next weekend’s final.

On a humid evening in Robina, the Titans made a perfect start when Ash Taylor opened the scoring in the fourth minute.

The Knights fired back to twice cross the Titans’ line, only for the bunker to rule out tries to Mitchell Pearce and Edrick Lee.

Titans hooker Mitch Rein then embarrassed the Knights by busting through some weak marker defence to extend the hosts’ lead in the 26th minute.

Lee finally got the Knights on the board late in the first half but there was time for the Titans to score again through Brian Kelly to take a 16-6 lead into the break.

With Queensland State of Origin coach Kevin Walters watching from the stands, Brimson provided the highlight of the match with a 95-metre run through feeble Knights’ defence to score a wonderful individual try.

Taylor then finished off another length-of-the-field effort in combination with Treymain Spry, before Brimson danced through the defence brilliantly in the 69th minute.

The Titans’ first win against a top-eight team this year was sealed when captain Kevin Proctor finished a long-range attacking movement to score his side’s seventh try as the Knights’ defence simply fell apart.

Victory sends Titans coach Justin Holbrook and his players into the off-season full of excitement about what lies ahead in 2021.


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Ginsburg’s Casket Leaves US Capitol

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made history as the first woman to lie in state at the United States Capitol on Friday, September 25, according to reports. Ginsburg was lying in repose at the Supreme Court on Wednesday and Thursday, and her coffin was brought to the Capitol on Friday morning. Presidential candidate Joe Biden, his running mate Kamala Harris, and other politicians attended a memorial service for Ginsburg at the Capitol on Friday, The Washington Post reported. CNN reported that a bipartisan group of female lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, lined the Capitol steps to bid farewell as Ginsburg’s casket left the Capitol. This footage, filmed by Jason Jones, shows Ginsburg’s casket being carried down the Capitol steps and loaded into a vehicle. Jones shared the footage on Instagram with the caption “Farewell Ruth.” Ginsburg, who died of pancreatic cancer complications on September 18, will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery, reports said. Credit: Jason Jones via Storyful

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After dancing around the edges on the NBN and climate change, the Coalition has charged straight through

This week the Federal Government held its nose and waded into a mire of troublesome policies.

It was quite the bog.

There was the much-maligned National Broadband Network (NBN), struggling to provide internet services at standards expected by households working (and in some cases, schooling) from home.

Then there was the intractable twin issues of energy and climate change policy that have vexed not just the Coalition government over its three terms, but preceding Labor governments as well.

The Coalition traversed both issues, in very different ways, but with the same intent: to get to through the mire as quickly as possible rather than wasting time trying to skirt around it.

Put up the money and move on

The NBN started life as a grandly ambitious Labor plan to bring fibre-to-the-home across the country.

It was radically scaled back by the Turnbull government, which preferred a low-cost, mixed technology fibre-to-the-node approach.

But it never quite delivered what it promised: reliably high internet speeds at competitive prices across the board.

The years of tinkering and justifying the fibre-to-the-node approach have now given way to acceptance of its inadequacy.

The Government has announced it will spend $3.5 billion upgrading the network in an effort to improve internet speeds for 6 million homes.

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter whether the Government changed tack because of the extra COVID-induced demand, the job-making potential, increasing competition from 5G networks or whether it was always part of the long-term plan to upgrade the NBN down the track.

It wasn’t working and it needed to be fixed.

It was time to put up the money and move on.

Climate change policies rise and fall

Dealing with energy and climate change policy has another degree of difficulty attached to it, compared to the NBN.

Climate change policies have risen and fallen over the last decade in Australia with the regularity of tides.

Angus Taylor speaks at the despatch with Scott Morrison looking on behind him
The Government announced the “Technology Investment Roadmap” this week (file photo).(ABC News: Marco Catalano)

There has been the CPRS, ETS, NEG and a plethora of other proposals that didn’t make even make it to acronym stage, with the Coalition’s internal division on the issue a key cause of their collective demise.

The Coalition has needed a policy — any policy, really — that the broad sweep of the Liberal and National party MPs could support.

Hence, the Government announced the latest iteration this week, the “Technology Investment Roadmap”.

In short, it identifies five key technologies the Federal Government wants various Commonwealth agencies to invest in, hoping for breakthroughs that will lower emissions.

Just as important is what it does not do — specify an emissions reduction target beyond 2030.

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Malcolm Turnbull says the Government’s energy plan is “crazy”.

There are plenty of views about the ineffectiveness of the “roadmap” in reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, but there is no doubt the Government has succeeded in nailing down a position the Coalition backbench can live with.

It was time to put up a policy — any policy, really — and move on.

Clearing the decks

With deepest recession since the Second World War to deal with, the Federal Government has limited time and energy to continue battles of the past.

It is reminiscent of former prime minister John Howard jettisoning troublesome policies by “cleaning the barnacles” off the ship.

The Morrison Government is clearing the decks ahead of the budget, which is now a little over a week away.

The approaches were different: for the NBN, the solution was to spend more money to fix it; for climate change, it was to reduce energy policy to a bare minimum.

But the end result is the same. Wade through the mud and move on.

As well as the practical need to focus on the impending budget and enormous task of reviving the economy, there’s a political windfall to the approach.

The blowback to the NBN and climate change policy will be limited given attention will quickly switch to the budget, its record-breaking debt and deficit figures, as well as anticipated income tax cuts and massive infrastructure spending.

When walkers come across a mud puddle, they tend to skirt around it, gradually making it bigger and wider.

After years of dancing around the edges, the Coalition has charged straight through, eyes on the budget horizon rather than on the mud on their shoes.

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Justice Ginsburg Becomes First Woman to Lie in State in US Capitol

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made history as the first woman to lie in state at the United States Capitol on Friday, September 25, according to reports. Ginsburg was lying in repose at the Supreme Court on Wednesday and Thursday, and her coffin was brought to the Capitol on Friday morning. This footage shows her casket, covered in an American flag, getting carried up the Capitol steps. Presidential candidate Joe Biden, his running mate Kamala Harris, and other politicians attended a memorial service for Ginsburg at the Capitol on Friday, The Washington Post reported. Ginsburg died of pancreatic cancer complications on September 18. Credit: @u.s.grant_ via Storyful

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How the Beirut blast plunged Lebanon into a crisis ‘worse than war’

Gaby Jammal, now 57, joined a militia in Beirut at the age of 12.

He came of age fighting in Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, witnessed the mass explosion that killed ex-prime minister Rafic Hariri and saw his country invaded multiple times by foreign forces.

But the blast that shook Lebanon last month, killing almost 200 and injuring 6,000, was “the worst crisis since Lebanon was declared to be a state 100 years ago”, said Mr Jammal, who is now a journalist, filmmaker and peace advocate.

Gaby Jammal, right, joined a militia at the age of 12.(Supplied: Gaby Jammal)

He said the blast itself was more than just a tragic, fatal accident.

For Mr Jammal, who was also a political analyst and history lecturer, the explosion represents decades of political and social division, corruption and incompetence.

Nearly 3,000 tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate, “an atomic bomb just waiting to explode”, had been left to sit in a warehouse unchecked for six years in the port of Lebanon’s largest city before it ignited on August 4.

While finger pointing has ensued and dozens of arrests of port officials and employees have been made, Mr Jammal said the real problem stemmed from the top down in a failed political system.

Now experts say the explosion has crippled an already failing state.

“The blast alone would have been devastating for any nation,” said Mat Hardy, a senior lecturer in Middle East Studies at Deakin University.

Understanding the political climate that allowed a tragedy of this scale to occur requires taking a look back at Lebanon’s history of war and destruction, and the sectarian walls that divide its people.

A man stand before a projected image of war as he speaks to an audience.
Mr Jammal is now a peace advocate, filmmaker and lecturer on Lebanese history and reconciliation.(Suppied: Gaby Jammal)

‘A dilemma of identity’

This month marks 100 years since the formation of the state of Lebanon which later gained independence from France in 1943.

Political power was divided between 18 parties, representing the country’s 18 recognised religious and ethnic groups — 12 Christian sects, four Muslim and the Druze and Jewish communities.

Each have their own civil laws and court systems.

A graphic shows the break down of Lebanon's political groups.
Lebanon is politically divided into 18 official religious groups, but the population breakdown has long been disputed.(ABC news: Jarrod Fankhauser)

While in theory this political division seemed like a great way of protecting the rights of all people, in reality it has cultivated a culture of separation.

“People don’t see themselves as Lebanese. They see themselves as Maronite, Sunni, Shia, and so on.”

As the son of a Christian Maronite mother and a Muslim Palestinian father, Mr Jammal has spent his life straddling those divides.

Frustration over power divisions have led to multiple armed conflicts and political assassinations, followed by new and equally contested agreements, in an endless cycle of unrest where alliances are repeatedly forged and broken.

A woman covered in blood screams as cars burn around her
Lebanon’s deadly civil war was waged from 1975 to 1990.(Supplied: Khalil Dehaini)

Mr Jammal said Lebanon’s politicians cultivated a sense of belonging to a party, rather than a country, for their own advantage.

“Each one gives the feeling to his own group that you don’t have the right [to vote for another group], and the other sect is your enemy,” he said.

Dr Hardy agreed, and said political support was based more on religious affiliation rather than policy or “the good of the nation”.

Political affiliations were also cultivated with foreign nations, further drawing the sense of belonging away from the state of Lebanon.

The Shia hold a special relationship with Iran, the Sunnah with Saudi Arabia and Christians with the Vatican and France.

A militia fighter at 12

A women and three boys stand in the street all wearing shorts and t-shirts.
Gaby and his brothers were the children of a rare mixed marriage between their Christian mother and Palestinian father.(Supplied: Gaby Jammal)

In a country divided, a young Gaby Jammal and his three brothers struggled with their own “dilemma of identity”.

Their parents’ mixed marriage had not lasted and the young boys were raised by their father in a Sunni Palestinian region of Beirut.

Rejected by his mother’s people for not being a “real Christian”, in his father’s part of town the locals “would slap us on the face if we said we were Palestinian”.

Desperate for a sense of belonging, young Gaby joined a militia at the age of 12.

“At that time, there was no concept of child abuse, no human rights or NGOs, nothing, and we were in a culture of manhood — encouraged as boys to be stereotypical manly men,” he said.

Three boys sit next to each other looking at the camera in a black and white image.
Mr Jammal, right, with his brothers in 1975.(Supplied: Gaby Jammal)

His training included being shot at with live bullets as he ran through a field or climbed a tower 10-floors high.

“Because I was very good at the training, they gave me a Kalashnikov to sleep with. So instead of having a girlfriend I had a Kalashnikov and I was so happy,” he said with a laugh.

In 1975, the country’s longest bout of fighting ignited — Lebanon’s 15-year Civil War.

While alliances switched frequently and foreign troops played various roles, the main fight was between Christian and Muslim-led alliances which divided the city of Beirut in half along what was dubbed “the green line”.

But confusingly for the Jammal brothers, that “enemy” included their own family.

Kidnapped nine times

A young man stands holding a rifle over his soldier.
As a teen, Mr Jammal was kidnapped nine times during the war by militia groups from all sides, including his own.(Supplied: Gaby Jammal)

Despite fighting alongside the Muslims, their Christian names made Mr Jammal and his brothers targets.

He was kidnapped nine times during the war by militia groups from all sides, including his own, often to be used in prisoner exchanges.

On one such occasion, after Christian fighters kidnapped some of their men, Mr Jammal was taken by a Shia militia — a group that fought alongside his own.

“So they decided, just like that, we need to take some Christians and make exchange, so they kidnapped me and my friend,” he said.

He was again detained, but Mr Jammal was convincing, giving them his mother’s address as his own, which led not only to his release but a somewhat ironic announcement on public radio that “the Christian Gaby Jammal had been rescued from the enemy”.

But that “rescue” had left him on the wrong side of the green line and as he tried to cross back, he was shot at and then kidnapped again, this time by a Druze militia group — his third kidnapping in less than a week.

Eventually they discovered Mr Jammal was fighting on their side, but only after several days of torture and humiliation.

Another time, during a hostage exchange, he was told to walk toward his group and their prisoner was told to walk from the opposite side to make the exchange, but as they passed each other in the middle, shooting broke out between the two groups and the prisoners both hit the ground.

When the shooting died down, Mr Jammal got up to run but the man laying next to him didn’t move. He had been killed in the crossfire.

Soldiers walk down a street damaged by explosions.
During the civil war, Beirut was split in two along ‘the Green Line’.(Wikipedia: James Case)

Other recollections are almost comical. During another kidnapping, which began with four days of torture, Mr Jammal said he finally began to “break the ice” with his kidnappers and told them why he had been near their territory.

He was on his way to watch The Blues Brothers, which had just been released in cinemas.

The party included Mr Jammal in the middle and two armed fighters on either side.

The young men “laughed like crazy” and the joking and the fun continued as they walked around town in the night singing and imitating classic lines from the film.

But at 4:00am, the fun stopped.

“They told me, we have to take you back,” Mr Jammal said.

At 7:00am, the group’s leader came and told them to beat him.

“And of course, simply, they beat me,” he said.

Disillusioned in the ‘jungle’ of Beirut

Two men drink wine as one makes a cheers gesture towards the camera.
Mr Jammal began to see flaws in his belief that they were fighting for social justice.(Supplied: Gaby Jammal)

As the war dragged on Mr Jammal said: “West Beirut became like a jungle, everybody fighting everybody.”

He saw friends die in the chaos, leaders selling weapons and getting rich like “mafia” and the country being taken over by “warlords”.

While he now saw the flaws in his former belief that they were fighting for social justice, leaving wasn’t an option. In those days everyone needed to belong to a group for protection, he said.

His father and brothers had fled to Austria after they were also kidnapped many times, and the teenaged Mr Jammal stayed for a time with his mother, while still crossing each day to fight for the other side.

A man with glasses and a moustache looks at the camera.
After the war ended, Mr Jammal turned to journalism and documentary film to find peaceful solutions for the ensuing chaos.(Supplied: Gaby Jammal)

One day he returned to find his street on fire. He had just shelled his own home.

No one was hurt, but it was a “wake-up call” and Mr Jammal began to reject the concept of war.

When the war ended, he said there was no reconciliation, no efforts to integrate fighters back into society.

“The lords of war, let’s say they shared the cheese,” he said, adding that there was no clear deal and no hope for the “new Lebanon” they had been fighting for.

“All the bloodshed, all the people killed, 1 million displaced, hundreds of thousands of houses and infrastructure destroyed led to this — a situation that was worse than before.”

With ideas about peace and politics swirling in his mind, Mr Jammal turned to journalism and documentary film to explore solutions for his struggling nation.

Invasions and Hariri’s death

Israeli troops in south Lebanon
Israeli troops entered southern Lebanon in 1982.(Wikipedia: P.mielen)

Invasions and attacks by Israel, occupation by Syria and internal armed conflicts continued to plague Lebanon, said Dr Hardy from Deakin University.

“Lebanon never really had a chance to get on its feet,” he said.

It was treated “as a cash cow” by Syria and later by Lebanon’s own ruling elite, while Hezbollah — a powerful and heavily-armed Shia militant group — filled a power vacuum in southern Lebanon when Israel withdrew in 2000.

A string of political leaders have also resigned under pressure while others were assassinated: the most significant being former prime minister Rafic Hariri, who was killed by a massive car bomb that ripped through downtown Beirut in 2005, further splitting an already fractured nation.

A huge crater in a street surrounded my men in military uniforms, a burned out car and a fire engine.
A bomb in February 2005 tore through the motorcade of former prime minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut.(AP)

Filling empty political posts often took months, while the 18 parties struggled to agree on a replacement.

As Lebanon spiralled towards becoming a failed state, desperation created the first sign of unity among the Lebanese people when civil protests erupted across the country in October last year

Traditionally, protests were held by specific religious groups and frequently led by their corresponding parties, but in October, desperate civilians marched through Beirut as one, demanding change.

Lebanon’s largest explosion

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The huge explosion was filmed by onlookers all over Beirut.

“The country was spiralling into an economic crisis caused by unsustainable public debt, widespread corruption and lack of opportunity,” Dr Hardy said.

The value of the Lebanese pound dropped from 1,500 to the US dollar to almost 9,000, and inflation on basic products rose by up to 400 per cent, according to Mr Jammal.

And then came COVID-19, plunging Lebanon deeper into financial ruin.

Every session of government resulted in new taxes to try to curb the country’s financial problems, further angering citizens already struggling to feed their children.

Just when it seemed like it could not get worse, an explosion tore through the capital, the largest the country had ever witnessed despite its violent 100-year history.

“Half of Beirut is damaged totally or partially … I can assure you all the shops, the restaurants, coffee shops, pubs, whatever, all destroyed [in central Beirut].”

And with Lebanon’s failing economy, there was no money to rebuild.

Rescuers search in the rubble of a collapsed building as seen from an aerial view.
The August 4 explosion killed almost 200 people and injured 6,000.(AP: Hussein Malla)

The Lebanese people took to the streets again demanding reform and accountability.

The government succumbed to the pressure and resigned, leaving yet another power vacuum to fill.

Of all the conflict, destruction and death Mr Jammal has witnessed in his life, he said this was the worst crisis Lebanon had seen, and the future was more uncertain than ever.

What’s next?

A large group of protesters are gathered across a road and are throwing items
After the blast, Lebanese people took to the streets again demanding reform and accountability.(AP: Hussein Malla)

In the wake of the blast, Dr Hardy said the future was not looking good as Lebanon keeps getting poorer.

“I don’t see any significant shift in Lebanese politics despite the cabinet resignations. The system is too entrenched,” he said.

“And we know in the Middle East that when impoverishment and disenfranchisement are rife, radicalisation can occur and possibly less peaceful means of invoking political change.”

But the new-found unity among Lebanese people, drawn together by their desperation for change, has sparked a seed of hope in others.

While the crisis has “crippled Lebanon’s economy”, Shahram Akbarzadeh — convenor of the Middle East Studies Forum at Deakin University — said the financial crisis has helped Lebanese people “transcend confessional lines and unite for political accountability.”

“It has opened up the prospects of breaking out of the confessional straight jacket in pursuit of a merit-based, responsible government,” Professor Akbarzadeh said.

A man speaks into a microphone while sitting among a crowd of people.
Mr Jammal begins each lecture with an apology for his participation in the war.(Supplied: Gaby Jammal)

For Mr Jammal, while the crisis seems entrenched, he has not given up on the people’s ability to unite.

Through the group Ex-fighters for Peace, Mr Jammal and a group of 50 former fighters have been promoting unity and reconciliation through organising events, films and lectures since 2014.

They are now working harder than ever to convince the next generation that conflict and division is not the answer.

People sit in front of bus in the middle of the street.
Ex-fighters for Peace hold historical tours along the green line with fighters from multiple sides of the conflict.(Supplied: Gaby Jammal)

He has lectured to more than 24,000 students, created 14 films and held numerous reconciliation events between former militia groups.

At the beginning of each of his lectures, Mr Jammal apologises for his participation in Lebanon’s many conflicts, and acknowledges the possibility that he may have killed a relative of someone in attendance.

“We start by criticising our own participation in the war and work on reconciliation and ending the cycle of hate, distrust and blame,” he said, adding that he enjoyed seeing fighters open up to their former enemies and bond in understanding each other.

“This really gives me hope that we can go forward.”

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Families find amazing Geelong homes to wait out pandemic in style

A luxury home rebuilt after a devastating fire has found new owners as a string of top-end sales shows homebuyers are looking to wait out the coronavirus pandemic in style in the Geelong region.

Homes in Geelong and the Bellarine with lavish living areas, swimming pools or beachside views were picked up in deals between $1.25 million to more than $3 million.

The buyers include families moving to Geelong, searching for a worthy travel alternative or downsizing.

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Tara Mathuranayagam and husband Mario are leaving their four-bedroom masterpiece they built at 16 Arthur Street, Hamlyn Heights, to replace the previous home in the aftermath of the 2016 blaze, after selling this week for an undisclosed price inside the $1.25m to $1.35m range.

It’s the highest price paid for a house in the original part of Hamlyn Heights, which is dominated by mid century weatherboard and brick veneer houses with a $564,000 median price.

The owners worked with designer Charles Maccora and builder First Earth Construction on the home with two living zones (one showcasing a 5m marble kitchen bench), an outdoor entertainment area and a swimming pool on a 849sq m block.

Whitford, Newtown agent Dale Whitford said Melbourne and Sydney parties competed for the property, although neither personally inspected it.

“One had a buyer’s advocate act for them and they were the people that bought it,” he said.

“The people from Sydney had a Facetime walk-through with their brother-in law.

“People realise they don’t need to live in Melbourne any more to work remotely and maybe commute a couple of days a week for work,” Mr Whitford said.

“They can probably come down, enjoy a better lifestyle and have less debt, if any.”

A five-bedroom transformation of a Federation house at 351 Shannon Avenue, Newtown, sold for an undisclosed price near the $2.45 million range, Mr Whitford said.

A Ballarat family, relocating to Geelong for business, awaited the sale of their house before concluding the sale.

The resort-style retreat perfectly blends old and new, with period details like pressed metal ceilings, timeless fireplaces and elegant ceiling roses brought back to life.

But behind a stylish barn door, a new extension offers the ultimate modern living domain, with a sleek marble kitchen and luxe polished concrete floors.

It flows to an easy-care backyard with a pool accompanied by an outdoor fireplace on the deck.

The top sale was an enormous clifftop waterfront house at Rippleside, which appealed to buyers downsizing from the Bellarine Peninsula.

The four-bedroom house at 31 Balmoral Crescent sold inside the $3.3 million to $3.6 million price guide.

Mr Whitford said the market is starting to free up as COVID-19 restrictions ease.

“I think people are growing in confidence, both sellers and buyers.”

The region is also starting to see families heed warnings that international travel could be shut for several years.

Bellarine Peninsula homes are in the radar as an alternative to travel, Bellarine Property agent Ben Roberts said.

Mr Roberts closed a $1.445 million deal with regional Victorian buyers who wanted to be in the three-level house at 132 The Terrace, Ocean Grove, by summer.

“There is definitely a lot more inquiry from Melbourne, but not all of that is transacting yet,” he said.

“But there is a lot of people from country Victoria, Ballarat, Bendigo and the Western District and a lot from Geelong.

“They’re looking for a holiday house. People will realise that they’re not going to be travelling for the next few years, so they’re happy to spend good money to have a good house down in Ocean Grove.”
Mr Roberts said locals were also searching to improve their position, while strong rental returns — especially for coastal holiday rentals — was motivating other buyers.

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Russian Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny thanks pilots and paramedics after suspected poisoning

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said he owes his life to the pilots who made an emergency landing when he collapsed on a flight and the paramedics who diagnosed his poisoning and injected him with atropine.

Mr Navalny thanked his “unknown good friends” in the latest of a series of Instagram posts charting his gradual recovery from the poisoning, which German, French and Swedish laboratories have established was carried out with Novichok nerve agent.

Russia denies poisoning him and says it has seen no evidence that he was poisoned with Novichok.

“As far as I understand … the killer’s plan was simple: I will feel bad 20 minutes after take-off, after another 15 minutes I will pass out,” said Mr Navalny, who collapsed shortly after his flight took off from the Siberian city of Tomsk on August 20.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has often been criticised by Mr Navalny.(AP: Alexei Nikolsky/Pool Sputnik Kremlin)

Though he has not been allowed to form a political party, Mr Navalny has been a thorn in the side of Russian President Vladimir Putin for the past decade, using YouTube and Instagram to publish stinging investigations of official corruption.

The 44-year-old thanked the pilots for diverting the plane to Omsk, despite a bomb warning that was phoned through to the airport there.

He also credited the airport medical officers and ambulance team who “did not say any lies about diabetes, etc., but immediately clearly said: ‘this is toxic poisoning’ and gave me a dose of atropine.”


Contradictory accounts have emerged of when and where Mr Navalny was given atropine, a drug used to treat nerve agent or pesticide poisonings.

Medical experts have said it probably saved his life.

Sources had previously told Reuters that paramedics gave him injections, but not of atropine, and that this was administered later when he was admitted to hospital in Omsk.

Mr Navalny was discharged from a Berlin hospital earlier this week and has said he will undertake daily physiotherapy as part of his recovery.

The latest Instagram post showed him hugging his wife Yulia and gazing straight into the camera with a neutral expression.

“Thank you, good unknown friends. You are good people,” he said.


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Fears of panic buying as cases soar in the UK

UK supermarkets are reintroducing buying limits on products to stem a potential wave of panic buying as cases start to rise again

On Friday a national survey carried out by the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed there were an estimated there were 9,600 new cases a day in England in the week to 19 September – triple what was being picked up by tests.

This is a 60 per cent increase on the previous week with the virus growing in London and the north west of England.

It has seen supermarket giant Tesco ration items like toilet paper, baby wipes, flour and dried pasta.

A Tesco spokesperson said: “We have good availability, with plenty of stock to go round, and we would encourage our customers to shop as normal.

“To ensure that everyone can keep buying what they need, we have introduced bulk-buy limits on a small number of products.

“To help our customers shop safely, we will also have colleagues at the entrances of our larger stores to remind customers about the safety measures we have in place, including the legal requirement to wear a face covering.”

Morrisons has already introduced rations for toilet roll and disinfectant to avoid future shortages.

“Our stock levels of these products are good but we want to ensure that they are available for everyone.”

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Growing under glass

Flower Dome Conservatory, Gardens by the Bay in Singapore.Credit:Bewitch/ Shuttercock.com

And they chart how these “workable miniature conservatories” of ancient Rome have been enlarged, modified and tweaked until we arrive at the sort of carbon-neutral, rainwater-harvesting, pollutant-removing, plant-filled glass domes that have been built in Singapore over the past decade.

It’s a story that brings together the worlds of engineering, architecture and horticulture. Food, fashion, plant collecting, power, prestige, science, public education and environmental stewardship all play a part.

While Stein and Virts take us to conservatories that look like palaces, jewel boxes and bubbles, the first rooms of light – 17th-century “orangeries” – were more about function than form. Driven by the need to keep subtropical orange trees alive through brutally cold European winters, these structures (that again contained no glass) were more bunker than beauty spot.

But the ambitions inevitably grew. Soon it wasn’t enough to simply have healthy fruiting Citrus sinensis. The structures that housed them had to be ornamental too.


CoverCredit:Princeton Architectural Press

Over the centuries, increasingly extravagant conservatories for everything from pineapples and bananas to mature palms, water lilies and Australian tree ferns were built.

Stein and Virts, who have been running their own conservatory building business in the US for almost 30 years, describe how designers have devised ways to use ever less masonry and more glass. Composting manures (once used to generate heat), fires, flues and air vents have given way to solar panels, geothermal installations and computerised temperature regulation.

Bicentennial Conservatory in the Adelaide Botanic Garden.

Bicentennial Conservatory in the Adelaide Botanic Garden.Credit:Sharon Wills/ Shutterstock.com

Public display has been one driver for all this conservatory construction but so has scientific research. Almost no plant has been too big, too small or too specific in its needs to dissuade the interest of a botanist somewhere.

While the study of medicinal plants and those geared toward economic gain were early focuses, Stein and Virts say that securing biodiversity in the face of climate change and habitat destruction has become more of a driver.

Palacio de Cristal in Madrid designed in 1887 to exhibit flora and fauna from the Philippines but now an art exhibition space.

Palacio de Cristal in Madrid designed in 1887 to exhibit flora and fauna from the Philippines but now an art exhibition space.Credit:Alan Stein

When it comes to Australian conservatories, Stein and Virts don’t mention the glasshouse at Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens where, twice in the past decade, thousands of people have queued to get a rare glimpse of the huge, smelly flower of the titan arum that otherwise grows in Sumatran tropical rainforests.

But they do discuss two South Australian glasshouses built more than a century apart in the Adelaide Botanic Garden. The Palm House, designed by German architect Gustav Runge and imported from Bremen, Germany in 1875, reflects a time when conservatories were as lavish and opulent as palaces. By contrast the dramatic 100-metre-long arch that is the Bicentennial Conservatory, designed by South Australian architect Guy Maron and opened in 1989, is the largest single span glasshouse in the southern hemisphere.

Both contain plants that are endangered in their natural habitat and operate as scientific centres as well as public amenities, which is typical of the way Stein and Virts say there has been a “renaissance of the conservatory” to help us understand our changing environment.

When it comes to growing under glass, germinating vegetable seeds is just the beginning.

The Conservatory: Gardens Under Glass, Princeton Architectural Press, distributed by Books at Manic, $120

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