Australian wildlife: 2019 and 2020 bush fires caused unprecedented damage to local fauna


The wildfires that ravished large parts of Australia in 2019 and 2020 have led to unprecedented consequences on the local fauna.

According to scientists, nearly three billion animals have been killed or displaced. Some institutions in the country are trying to help through conservation and education.

Euronews spoke to conservationist and wildlife warrior Robert Irwin, who says the destruction of habitats is one of the major factors contributing to their decline.

Watch Good Morning Europe’s report in the player above.



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Russian hackers targeting state, local networks


WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. officials said that Russian hackers have targeted the networks of dozens of state and local governments in the United States in recent days, stealing data from at least two servers. The warning, less than two weeks before the election, amplified fears of the potential for tampering with the vote and undermining confidence in the results.

The advisory from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency describes an onslaught of recent activity by a Russian state-sponsored hacking group against a broad range of networks, some of which were successfully compromised. The alert released Thursday functions as a reminder of Russia’s potent capabilities and ongoing interference in the election even as U.S. officials publicly called out Iran on Wednesday night.

The advisory does not identify by name or location those who were targeted, but officials say they have no information that any election or government operations have been affected or that the integrity of elections data has been compromised.

“However, the actor may be seeking access to obtain future disruption options, to influence U.S. policies and actions, or to delegitimize (state and local) government entities,” the advisory said.

U.S. officials have repeatedly said it would be extremely difficult for hackers to alter vote tallies in a meaningful way, but they have warned about other methods of interference that could disrupt the election, including cyberattacks on networks meant to impede the voting process. The interference could continue during or after the tallying of ballots if Russians produce spoofed websites or fake content meant to confuse voters about election results and lead them to doubt the legitimacy of the outcome.

A broad concern, particularly at the local government level, has been that hackers could infiltrate a county network and then work their way over to election-related systems unless certain defenses, such as firewalls, are in place. This is especially true for smaller counties that don’t have as much money and IT support as their bigger counterparts to fund security upgrades.

Officials have nonetheless sought to stress the integrity of the vote, with FBI Director Christopher Wray saying Wednesday, “You should be confident that your vote counts. Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”

On Thursday, Chris Krebs, the head of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said officials don’t have reason to believe that hackers were looking for election infrastructure or election-related information, and aren’t aware of any activity “that would allow them to come anywhere near a vote.” He said the alert was issued in regard to the scanning of county networks for vulnerabilities, not specifically to the targeting of elections.

“The election-related risk is the fact that they were in or touching an election system,” he said.

The threat from the Kremlin was mentioned but not especially emphasized during a hastily called news conference on Wednesday night, when officials said Russia and Iran had obtained voting registration information — though such data is sometimes easily accessible. But most of the focus was on Iran, which officials linked to a series of menacing but fake emails that purported to be from a far-right group and were aimed at intimidating voters in multiple battleground states.

John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, said the operation was aimed at harming President Donald Trump, though he didn’t elaborate on how.

On Thursday, the Treasury Department announced sanctions against five Iranian entities, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, for attempting to influence U.S. elections.

Despite Iran’s activities, Russia is widely regarded in the cybersecurity community as the bigger threat to the election. The U.S. has said that Russia, which interfered in the 2016 election by hacking Democratic email accounts and through a covert social media effort, is interfering again this year in part through a concerted effort to denigrate Trump’s Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.

U.S. officials attribute the recent activity to a state-sponsored hacking group variously known as DragonFly and Energetic Bear in the cybersecurity community. The group appears to have been in operation since at least 2011 and is known to have engaged in cyberespionage on energy companies and power grid operators in the U.S. and Europe, as well as on defense and aviation companies. Aviation networks are among the entities that officials say were recently targeted, according to Thursday’s advisory.

According to the advisory, the hackers have obtained user and administrator credentials to enter the networks and moved laterally inside to locate what they felt would be “high-value” information to steal. In at least one breach, officials say, the hackers accessed documents related to network configurations and passwords, IT instructions and vendors and purchasing information.

As of October 1, the advisory said, the hackers have exfiltrated data from at least two servers.

John Hultquist, the director of threat intelligence at FireEye, said Energetic Bear moved to the top of his worry list when the cybersecurity firm observed it breaking into state and local governments in the U.S. that administer elections, due to it having targeted election systems in 2019.

Hultquist said he does not think Energetic Bear has the ability to directly affect the U.S. vote but fears it could disrupt local and state government networks proximate to the systems that process votes.

“The disruption may have little effect on the outcome. It may be entirely insignificant to the outcome — but it could be perceived as proof that the election outcome is in question,” he said. “Just by getting access to these systems they may be preying on fears of the insecurity of the election.”

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Associated Press writer Frank Bajak in Boston, Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta and Ben Fox in Washington contributed to this report.



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Australia Post boss stood aside amid Cartier watch investigation; Canberra breaks 100-day COVID-free streak; Iran and Russia interfere with US election, FBI says; Victoria records five new cases, NSW one local case


Australia Post’s Chief Executive Christine Holgate will be asked to stand aside as an investigation is conducted into why the organisation spent $12,000 rewarding senior executives with Cartier watches.

During question time this afternoon, the Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said Ms Holgate will be asked to suspend her duties after it was revealed in a Senate estimates hearing that the service gifted four $3000 watches to senior executives.

Ms Holgate said the watches were bought from a Melbourne store in October 2018 and were for people that needed “to be rewarded” for “an inordinate amount of work” they did in setting up personal banking within post office branches.

The watches were a gift from herself, the Chair and the board of Australia Post.



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New album and their own recording label for local musos



BALLPARK Music is the sixth studio album of the band of the same name.

The album was written, recorded and produced entirely by the band in their Brisbane studio over the course of summer 2019/2020.

The ensemble is a five-piece indie rock/pop band made up of frontman Sam Cromack (guitar / vocals), Jennifer Boyce (bass / backing vocals), Paul Furness (keys / trombone), and twins Dean Hanson (guitar / backing vocals) and Daniel Hanson (drums / backing vocals).

The band is mostly formed by Northern Rivers musicians.

Frontman Sam Cromack grew up in Lennox Head and moved to Brisbane aged 18, after he finished school.

 

 

Twin brothers Dean and Daniel are originally from Goonellabah.

This will be the first album the band will be releasing on their newly-founded record label Prawn Records.

They will be launching the album with a Ballpark Music residency at the Triffid in Brisbane, with 10 shows from Friday, October 22 to Wednesday, October 28.

Three singles have been released so far from the album: Spark Up!, Day & Age and most recently Cherub.

Ballpark Music, the album, will be released on Friday, October 23.

 





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Thai court suspends local online TV amid protests


Article content

BANGKOK — A Thai court approved the suspension of the online platforms of domestic Voice TV on Tuesday, after an investigation into content alleged to have breached emergency measures aimed at ending protests, the digital ministry said.

“Voice TV will be suspended,” ministry spokesman Putchapong Nodthaisong told reporters, adding that the suspension order covered all online platforms, including website and social media accounts.

Some content also breached the Computer Crime Act by uploading “false information,” he added. (Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)



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Local Leaders | headspace: Who do you go to when you need to talk? | Goulburn Post


community,

This past year has been a historical year on many fronts from bushfires, drought, flooding, COVID-19, loss of freedoms, loss of incomes and even the loss of loved ones; the list goes on. For some, lives have been changed forever. Facing new challenges is never easy and can begin to take a toll on our personal well-being physically and emotionally. We all have our good days and our bad days, and understanding mental health symptoms can possibly help you get back on track sooner than later. October is Mental Health month and it’s important that we stop and ask ourselves “How am I going”? It’s very easy to be the “go-to” for everyone else, but who do you go to? There are some signs that maybe things are not going as good as they could be. Stop and consider: These questions are to get you thinking about yourself. READ ALSO: Walking towards a better future ‘The Goulburn Story- The Making of a City’ takes you back in time If you answered these questions in a way that raises any concerns, you must seek help to get you back on track. So, who do you go to to talk with about how you are feeling and coping in the world? If you don’t have a “go-to”, there are plenty of services out there who can help. It never hurts to talk with someone else who might be able to help or guide you to others who can help. You can talk to your GP about your concerns or you can contact services that provide phone/video/face-to-face supports. There are many options available you just need to be willing to reach out for help. Gail Davies is the service manager for headspace Goulburn.

https://nnimgt-a.akamaihd.net/transform/v1/crop/frm/hFr6g9patBg6iG57tGHW5M/7a4a1e6f-d9f0-478c-b254-33cdfa89de11.jpg/r0_101_5616_3274_w1200_h678_fmax.jpg





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Twiggy Forrest’s purchase of RM Williams shows Australian consumers want to buy local, experts say


Iconic outfitter RM Williams is back in Australian hands, with its new owner vowing the company will manufacture more of the brand’s footwear and clothing locally as support grows for Australian-made products.

The Australian cattleman’s brand was sold offshore in 2013 to LVMH Group, which owns French luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton. LVMH Group was rolled into a private equity firm L Catterton several years later.

After years owning RM Williams and trying to market it to an overseas audience, L Catterton tried to sell it again in mid-2019.

Investment company Tattarang, owned by mining magnate and Australia’s second-wealthiest person, Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest, and his wife Nicola Forrest, announced on Monday it had bought the brand, returning it to Australian ownership.

RM Williams is based in Adelaide and was founded by bushman Reginald Murray Williams 88 years ago.

Tattarang chief investment officer John Hartman confirmed the company had been circling the bootmaker for close to a year.

Andrew and Nicola Forrest own the Tattarang investment firm.(ABC Great Southern: Tom Edwards)

“I was fortunate enough to go to the workshop in Salisbury in Adelaide back in December before coronavirus started to have its impact,” he told the ABC.

Mr Hartman said Tattarang had no plans to close any of RM Williams’ 63 Australian stores.

It also has one store in New York and one in London.

Mr Hartman said Tattarang decided to buy the luxury brand in the middle of Australia’s first recession in decades due to the opportunity it presented.

“In business, sometimes you have to take an approach to get a reasonable deal,” he said.

“We all are aware it’s a challenging time for many in the community.”

Calls for manufacturing of textiles to return to Australia

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has taken to social media in the wake of the purchase, describing it as “great news for local manufacturing and local jobs in SA”.

RM Williams has a factory in Salisbury where its boots are made. The factory expanded last year to hire 100 more people.

While some production has moved offshore in recent years, Mr Hartman said most of its products were still made in Australia.

An RM Williams store sign.
RM Williams stores have reopened after closing temporarily due to the pandemic.(ABC News: Nic MacBean)

“There are a few products made offshore but it’s only 1 or 2 per cent,” he said.

“In this time of reflection on our manufacturing base, we’re certainly committed to maintaining the Australian manufacturing focus.”

There’s also an affordability challenge — people often will need to pay a bit extra for Australian-made products.

Mr Hartman said Tattarang would “work through” the idea of moving manufacturing entirely back onshore in “coming months” but made no firm commitment to going 100 per cent Australian made.

“The business strategy is one of growth.”

After decades of seeing Australian brands moving production offshore, RMIT design and technology teacher Andrew Robinson said he was happy RM Williams was back in Australian hands.

He said it could become the catalyst for the growth of local manufacturing and help Australia bounce back from the COVID-19 recession.

“Governments need to invest in onshore manufacturing to skill up a new generation,” he said.

“It would be fantastic to bring manufacturing back here.

“It’s been dwindling for the last 25 years and going offshore, but with COVID-19 pandemic people are starting to realise we need to bring it back.”

Mr Robinson said there was talk of several Australian brands bringing manufacturing back onshore.

Consumers show support for Australian-made products

Australia Made chief executive Ben Lazzaro said the coronavirus pandemic had created demand for goods that would support Australian jobs — despite the extra cost of buying Australian-made products.

Research by Roy Morgan in July found 90 per cent of Australians surveyed wanted more products produced locally, up from 88 per cent in January.

The most common reason given was the pandemic had “highlighted Australia’s reliance on other countries”, the second was new employment opportunities needed to be created in Australia.

Mr Lazzaro said there was “a very pro-Australian sense in the marketplace at the moment”.

Mr Lazzaro said since state-based closures associated with the pandemic began in late March, Australia Made’s social media platforms had reported a 300 per cent increase in traffic.

“Consumers are taking time to consider the impact of their purchasing decisions given what we are going through,” he said.

RMIT marketing lecturer Marian Makkar said there was “a lot of potential” to sell the luxury product locally and overseas, even during a global recession.

“People aren’t going anywhere so they’re are shopping online, and the brand experience of RM Williams is really highlighted online,” Dr Makkar said.

“This brand is powerful and there’s an Australian trust that goes with the brand.

“People want to support their country, especially when so many have lost their jobs.”



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Zero new local COVID cases, up to 30 people allowed to gather


NSW Health is also calling on people in south-east Sydney with any COVID-19 symptoms to get tested as soon as possible. A positive case in the area was first identified late last week, but no specific venues of concern have been identified, the department said.

“It is believed this case visited the Kingsford and Ramsgate areas while potentially infectious in the first two weeks of October, including several cafes for short periods of time while ordering take away,” a NSW Health statement read.

From Friday, hospitality venues can take group bookings of 30 – a tripling of the previous 10-people rule.

The four-square-metre rule between tables indoors and the two-square-metre rule outdoors still apply.

“This is good news and allows people to prepare for Christmas and their celebrations over summer,” Ms Berejiklian said.

The maximum number of people allowed to gather outdoors for picnics or barbecues has also been raised, from 20 to 30, from Friday, but gatherings inside private homes is still capped at 20.

The Premier recommended people consider eating out for their Christmas lunch.

“I do want families and friends to consider having their Christmas lunches and other festive events … booked in a COVID-safe environment,” she said.

“The health experts have given us advice that it could actually be safer to go to a restaurant or somewhere which is COVID-safe to have your Christmas lunch than indoors in a confined space and we want everybody to think about their plans and to plan ahead.

“We have to be really careful in our social distancing, so unless you [live] in the same household please maintain a level of social distancing and also, in particular, protect the elderly, protect the most vulnerable.”

From December 1, weddings will be able to have up to 300 people as long as guests are sitting down and organisers have a COVID-safe plan.

Since last Friday, corporate events can have 300 people at any hospitality venue so long as it complies with restrictions. Businesses must use electronic methods, like QR codes, to record and keep contact details.

The “no-mingling” rule applies across all settings, with groups needing to remain seated at restaurants, and the 20-person cap on wedding dance floors still in place.

On Monday the Hillsong pastor fired of a string of tweets critical of the NSW government’s decision not to relax restrictions for churches.

“So interesting that the NSW govt are about to allow 300 people to attend an indoor wedding, and things are being relaxed for the hospitality industry, but still no changes for churches,” Mr Houston tweeted.

“We have a building with space for 4000 people yet can only have 100 in there. Reason given is “church ppl know each other (are to friendly)

“Do you think people are not friendly at weddings? It’s getting to the point where it is discrimination,” he tweeted.

On Instagram, Mr Houston captioned a screenshot of his tweets: “It’s time church leaders unite to take a stand. We are all committed to keeping people safe, but it seems churches are not even being considered for a steady easing of restrictions.”

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At Monday morning’s press conference, Ms Berejiklian said complacency was still a concern.

“I can sense too much relaxation – people are getting back into normal life,” she said.

“Please know that, until the end of the pandemic, none of us can have a normal life. But what we can do is make sure that we maintain COVID safety and make sure that, within the rules, we have as good a time – as free a time – as possible.”

In the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday, 6952 tests were reported, a significant drop from the 12,985 in the previous 24 hours. Testing levels have decreased for six consecutive weeks, the latest surveillance report shows.

Four people in Sydney’s quarantine hotels have been newly diagnosed with COVID-19.

NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said she was still concerned there were undetected chains of transmission, particularly in western and south-west Sydney.

“If you have the most minimal of symptoms, please come forward and get a test. This is critical,” she said.

“We can have more confidence in easing restrictions if we achieve very low or no levels of community transmission and everyone has a part to play.”

There are still two active clusters with no known source, as well as a separate mystery case under investigation. Dr Chant said the origins of these chains of transmission might never be identified.

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NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he was “a little confused” by Victoria’s reaction to New Zealand arrivals coming into Melbourne from Sydney.

Since Friday, travellers from New Zealand arriving in Sydney can skip hotel quarantine.

The federal government confirmed these arrivals would be allowed to travel to other Australian states and territories if their borders were open to NSW.

But Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said his state was not part of the trans-Tasman bubble and something had “gone wrong at Sydney”, resulting in NZ travellers flying to Melbourne.

Mr Hazzard said, “The advice I had was that Victoria had actually accepted that arrangement,” noting Victoria’s own Health Department website said New Zealanders were allowed to travel on from Sydney under the bubble arrangement.

“From our point of view, NSW Health and Border Force have done everything that we were asked to do,” he said.

“And the fact that NSW has always been the gateway to the rest of the world, and the gateway to the rest of Australia is exactly what Victoria did know. So, hopefully Victoria can sort out their issues.”

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NSW reports one local coronavirus case as south-west Sydney outbreak continues to grow


NSW has recorded just one new locally acquired case of COVID-19 — another infection linked to the Great Beginnings childcare centre in Oran Park, in Sydney’s south-west.

There are now six cases associated with the centre.

The infections are connected to a known case linked to Oran Park cluster, which now has a total of 19 cases.

NSW Health said anyone who attended the Great Beginnings centre between October 2 to 13 needed to get tested immediately and self-isolate for 14 days.

The centre has been closed since October 13 and will stay closed until October 28, health authorities said.

The Great Beginnings centre at Oran Park has been linked to coronavirus infections.(Supplied)

On Saturday, NSW Health reported four new cases connected to Great Beginnings — three in a family who attend the centre and another in an educator.

Another case reported on Saturday was a student at Oran Park High School.

Staff and students have been told to self-isolate and the school is being cleaned.

Later on Saturday, authorities issued an alert for new venues visited by the cases from the Oran Park cluster.

The warning included the Gregory Hills Hotel, the United Cinema in Narellan, and the Woolworths at Oran Park.

People have been told to monitor for symptoms and get tested if they develop.

Oran Park Town sign on a grassy area, traffic light in foreground
Oran Park has seen nearly 20 COVID-19 cases develop.(ABC News: Rani Hayman)

Four COVID-19 cases in the latest update were reported returned travellers in hotel quarantine.

There were 12,985 tests reported to 8:00pm last night, compared with 14,378 in the previous period.

NSW Health is currently treating 73 COVID-19 cases, with one patient in intensive care.



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US stimulus and RBA minutes to keep local investors interested


US politics

Speculation about US politics, as well as negotiations within US Congress regarding a US fiscal stimulus bill, will be the major drivers in the global financial markets. Polling continues to
suggest a Joe Biden victory in the US general election, with the balance of probabilities seemingly indicating a so-called ‘blue wave’, which would see Democrats seize control of both houses of congress, with the markets also positioning for a subsequently bigger spending government after the election. The markets also appears to be less concerned about the possibility of a contested election result. Although it remains inverted, the US VIX Futures curve has flattened considerably in recent weeks.

Australian markets
SPI Futures are suggesting that the ASX200 ought to kick-off the week with a 0.63 per cent
rally, following a neutral lead from Wall Street on Friday. It backs up what was a positive
week for Australian equities, with the ASX200 briefly challenging post-virus-crisis highs
during the week and closing trade 1.22 per cent higher. The highlight for the local trading
week this may prove to be the RBA’s minutes from its last meeting. The minutes will be read for how close the RBA came to cutting rates last month, as market participants price-in a
likely easing of monetary in November, along with the increased likelihood of a more
conventional quantitative easing program from the central bank in the near future.

Virus and lockdowns
Second and third waves of the coronavirus in several major economies is weighing on
market sentiment. A spike in infections in the UK and parts of Europe cast doubt over the
global economies recovery last week, the UK and France two notable countries to reimpose
fresh lockdown measures. The need for a vaccine has become more pronounced for the
markets, as it becomes clearer that the global economy faces a slow journey to normalcy
without one. Hopes were bolstered at the end of last week that a vaccine may come sooner
than expected, after US pharmaceutical company Pfizer flagged it could release its vaccine
by as soon as November.

US earnings season
The reporting period for US corporates has so far been a positive one. According to financial
data company FactSet, of the 49 companies that have reported profits, 83 per cent have
exceeded expectations, with the market now tipping a contraction in earnings this quarter
of -18.5 per cent. Better than expected results from financial sector firms were largely
responsible for the outperformance, with some of America’s biggest banks surprising
investors by reporting lower provisions, and continued strong revenues in trading divisions.
Attention will turn to US tech in the week ahead, with Netflix and Tesla reporting
their Q3 results.

Economic data
A raft of economic data will deliver a health check on the global economy’s recovery this
week. China will publish its GDP data for the quarter, with economists tipping the figure will
reaffirm the view that the Chinese economic rebound is on strong footing. GDP is projected
to have expanded by 5.5 per cent on a quarter-over-year basis, up from 3.2 per cent last
quarter. Global PMI surveys will also be closely watched to get a live pulse on global
business activity. Estimates are suggesting a plateauing of both manufacturing and services
activity across the world economy, with special concern directed to the services surveys this
week, as fresh lockdowns roll-out across several major economies.

Listen to the Short Squeeze, our weekly markets podcast produced in conjunction with IG here. Episodes last for about 10 minutes and are also available through Spotify and Google Podcasts.

This column was produced in commercial partnership between The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and IG. Information is of a general nature only.



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