NSW Government supports more culls after survey finds 14,000 wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park


The first aerial survey since the catastrophic 2019 bushfires has found that the number of wild horses in the Kosciuszko National Park has fallen by more than a quarter. 

The survey found there are now an estimated 14,000 horses — 5,000 fewer than the previous year.

The NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said while there had been some reduction in numbers, the population remained too large to be environmentally sustainable.

“We will always have wild horses in Kosciuszko but 14,000 is still too many,” he said.

“If we want to preserve this precious place and the plants and animals that call it home, we need to manage horse numbers responsibly.”

Surveys conducted between 2014 and 2019 showed that the horse population was increasing by more than 20 per cent each year.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service has long voiced concerned that the damage caused by the horses’ hooves threatens sensitive alpine ecosystems and destroys key habitat for several threatened native species.

The latest survey was commissioned by the NSW Government and carried out by helicopter surveillance over four days in October and November 2020.

Mr Kean welcomed the new data, which he said reinforced the need to manage the wild horse population.

“We can now be confident that we have the most up-to-date data as we get the balance right, protecting the Snowies and retaining the heritage value of these wild horses.”

He said several factors had contributed to the fall in numbers, including the drought, the bushfires and the fact that the 2019 survey covered the entire NSW and Victorian Alps region while this survey only looked at wild horses within Kosciuszko National Park.

Mr Kean said that more than 340 horses were removed from the park in 2020 by passive trapping and re-homing.

He said this interim program would continue, pending the finalisation of a new management plan.

The wild horses have been competing with the native wildlife for food after the fires.(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Deputy Premier John Barilaro, whose Monaro electorate covers part of the Kosciuszko National Park, had campaigned for a new survey, saying he believed the summer bushfires had significantly reduced the brumby population.

“The results of this survey show we were justified in our push for an urgent recount of the wild horses in the park,” Mr Barilaro said.

While he has previously opposed a cull of wild horses, he said he was now ready to support a plan to reduce numbers.

“I accept that the figure of just over 14,000 wild horses in the park is still too high and that active management of their impact on the park’s alpine environment must continue,” he said.

Jamie Pittock from the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University said the survey demonstrated that there has been no real change in the number of wild horses.

“The numbers in the 2020 survey, scientifically they are not statistically significantly different from the 2019 pre-fire survey,” he said.

“It’s really hard to count any large animals in a large area of bushland so statistically the numbers fall within the error range of the surveys of 2019 and 2020.”

He said the only significant change was that no horse population was found around Cabramurra, which was severely burnt in the bushfires.

Whereas, there was no reduction in numbers in the northern part of the National Park.

“In that area, the density of horses has not changed and that’s really significant because of the key habitat for threatened animals impacted by horses is in that area,” Dr Pittock said.

Calls for more aerial culling

The National Parks Association said horse numbers must be urgently controlled as alpine habitats are incredibly rare in Australia.

“All of the science says the number of horses that should be in the park is a number in the hundreds not a number in the thousands,” executive officer Gary Dunnett said.

There is a whole range of plants and animal species that cannot survive anywhere else than in those Alpine habitats, such as the stocky Galaxias, the Corrobboree Frog and the Mountain Pygmy Possum.

A creek with erosion on either side
Horse-induced erosion on Little Peppercorn Creek in Kosciuszko national park.(Supplied: NSW Government)

Mr Dunnett also does not think that rehoming the horses is the answer.

“It is really stretching credibility to think that there are enough people out there to take these animals and to make a real difference to the high level of horse numbers we have at the moment.

“There are a whole range of techniques that could reduce numbers, aerially culling is a well established technique for controlling animal numbers from an animal welfare and human safety aspect, corralling horses is also effective and so is ground shooting.”

He said when horse counting began in the early 2000s there was estimated to be about 2,000 brumbies in the national park.

The Government said the results of the survey would be used to draw up a new draft wild horse management plan, setting out how it intended to reduce the horse population to a sustainable level.

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Lone BJP MLA in Kerala supports Assembly resolution against farm laws


The MLA clarified that he had actually opposed the resolution and said the laws were aimed at protecting the farmers.

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Assembly on Thursday demanded the immediate repeal of three farm laws.

The demand was raised through a resolution passed unanimously in the state Assembly. The legislators belonging to the ruling CPM led LDF and opposition Congress led UDF vehemently opposed the farm laws during the special session of Assembly.

 

Even the lone BJP member O Rajagopal said that he agreed with the sentiments conveyed in the resolution. “We supported the spirit of the resolution despite having differences on certain issues pointed out in it,” he said at a press conference.

With his statement causing confusion in the BJP circles, the MLA clarified that he had actually opposed the resolution and said the laws were aimed at protecting the farmers.

Embarrassed by the Rajagopal’s statements, BJP state president K Surendran said he would look into the matter.

Earlier the resolution said that The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services ACt 2020, Framers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation ) Act 2020, Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 were not only against the farmers but also infringed into the state’s powers.

 

The resolution called for immediate solution to the farmers’ agitation. “If the agitation continues it will adversely affect a consumer state like Kerala. If food grains stop coming to Kerala, the state would plunge into starvation and it will not be able to face such a grave situation especially with no let up in Covid – 19 situation.”

The resolution pointed out that agriculture, market and fares came under state subject as per the Constitution.  The government should have convened the interstate council and discussed these issues with the states at length. Such serious matters involving agriculture were not even subjected to discussion in the Parliamentary standing committee.

 

The resolution said considering the concerns mentioned above, the Centre should accept the genuine demands of the farmers who are the backbone of the nation.

Even while supporting the resolution, the Congress led UDF hit out at the LDF Government for failing to criticize the Prime Minister’s indifferent attitude and his failure to hold with farmers in the resolution.

The opposition also took the government to task for not criticizing the Governor who had initially shot down the proposal to hold a special session of Assembly.

Congress MLA K C Joseph took a dig at the chief minister saying that he should not be afraid of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

 

Responding to the opposition criticism, the chief minister said there was no need to mention the prime minister by name as the resolution was against the central government. He rejected the opposition charge that the government was soft on Governor Arif Mohammad Khan.

“We made the Governor see constitutional sense when two of our ministers called on him at the Raj Bhavan. We clarified our position by quoting various Supreme Court verdicts on governor-state government relations,” Mr Pinarayi Vijayan said.

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Community supports family of Lincoln Browne, 2, killed in Barnawartha on Christmas Day | The Border Mail


community,

Thousands of Border residents have paid tribute to Lincoln Browne, 2, who died on Christmas Day, by sharing and donating to a fundraiser organised to support his grieving parents. More than $42,000 has been raised for the family of the ‘beautiful’ boy in just one day from more than 500 donations. Two individuals donated $5000 each and the fundraiser has been shared more than 2000 times. The gofundme is designed to support his parents, Stacey and Chris Browne, with funeral expenses and to allow them time together to deal with the tragedy. Lincoln is survived by his parents and younger brother Xander. The family’s first children, twin girls, are also deceased. The border basketball community posted messages of support and sorrow online for Lincoln whose mother Stacey Browne (née de Koeyer) played for the Lady Bandits and the North East Bushrangers before joining Wodonga Wolves. IN OTHER NEWS: On Monday, Victoria Police confirmed officers continue to investigate the death of Lincoln Browne, but would not comment on whether charges would be laid in relation to the incident. The toddler was tragically killed after being thrown from an ATV at a private property on Moss Vale Road, Barnawartha about 11.50am on December 25. He was trapped under the ATV before being freed. Previously Major Collision Investigation Unit detectives questioned a 31-year-old man, thought to be the driver of the ATV. He was released pending further investigations. From 2011 to 2019, 150 people died from quad bike related injuries including 23 children, while an additional 14 people, including three children died in the first six months of 2020. The deaths prompted the government to introduce the Quad Bike Safety Standard which mandated the introduction of rollover warning on new ATVs. By October 2021 quad bikes for sale must be fitted with a rollover bar to help prevent fatalities. To donate visit: https://au.gofundme.com/f/lincoln-browne-memorial-fund

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Government Supports Hear For You – 16 News


Young deaf and hearing-impaired Australians will benefit from a $300,000 investment to support their mental health and well-being announced today.

The Australian Government will fund Hear For You to deliver online mentoring, collaborate with mainstream youth mental health services providers, and produce a campaign to reduce stigma and encourage deaf and hearing impaired young people to seek help for mental health issues.

Announcing the funding during a visit to Hear For You’s headquarters at the Australian Hearing Hub in Sydney, Regional Health Minister – whose responsibilities include hearing services – Mark Coulton said Government is committed to ensuring Australians who are hard of hearing get the services they need.

“The Government is committed to improving the health of all Australians, particularly the most vulnerable among us,” Minister Coulton said.

“We understand that for Australians who are hard of hearing, their health needs are not defined purely by their hearing challenges and can – just like the rest of us – benefit from support for their mental wellbeing.

“Life’s not easy when you’re a teenager and if you’re deaf or hard of hearing, it can be even trickier.

“Hear For You delivers a modern service, tailored to support improved mental wellbeing for young Australians with hearing challenges, and I am pleased to announce our support for the work they do.”

Minister for Health, Greg Hunt said the Australian Government recognises the cumulative impact that COVID-19, bushfires, floods, and droughts had created for many Australians.

“This funding will address the additional mental health and communications challenges that deaf and hearing-impaired young people face, such as increased levels of social isolation, loneliness, anxiety, and depression,” Minister Hunt said.

“The Government is committed to supporting all young Australians with, or at risk of, poor mental health by improving access to early intervention services and preventative mental health support.”

This announcement follows $21.2 million invested in the recent Budget to deliver key initiatives from the Roadmap for Hearing Health and an additional $485 million for mental health services and supports.

For more information about Hear For You and their work, visit hearforyou.com.au.



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Pope Francis supports same-sex unions, cardinals ask ‘Is the Pope a Catholic?’


Pope Francis has surprised and shocked many with his statement backing same-sex unions. Alan Austin assesses its significance.

THIS IS NEWS. Important news. Global leader of the Roman Catholic Church Jorge Mario Bergoglio, known to his faithful as Pope Francis, has just overturned one of the heaviest tables in the temple of human bigotry. Despite generally subdued coverage, this could eventually change the world as much as anything this year. And in 2020, that is a big call.

Why this matters

The Catholic Church is highly influential in many countries where laws punish same-sex activity and where men, women and children with same-sex orientation are routinely persecuted and killed.

Same-sex activity is still criminalised in 71 countries. These include Burundi (62.1% Catholic), Dominica (58.1%), Grenada (44.6%) and Lesotho (45.7%).

Even in advanced democracies where gay couples are physically safe, bigotry impacts their lives. Catholic institutions in Australia, the USA and other developed secular democracies still sack teachers, health workers and others for being in same-sex relationships, even when those individuals are committed Catholics and eminently qualified in every other way.
Imagine if these evils disappeared.

Long and firm tradition

In a world where religious organisations are steadily shifting on same-sex unions, the Catholic Church has appeared immovable. Catholic bishops have led opposition to marriage reform in Britain, the Philippines, the USA, Canada, Australia and elsewhere.

This is why the latest pronouncement is a shock — to gay couples and their supporters and to outraged traditionalists alike.

Bergoglio made his controversial comments in the film Francesco directed by Evgeny Afineevsky. The documentary on Bergoglio’s life and work premiered at the Rome Film Festival last Wednesday.

He said:

“Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God. You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this. We have to create a civil union law. That way they are legally covered.”

This is not the first time Bergoglio has suggested this as a Bishop, nor the first hint he has offered while Pope. But it is the first direct declaration while in the top job.

Official teaching

Roman Catholics still regard same-sex acts as wrong and homosexual attraction as “disordered”.

Point 2357 of the Catechism states: ‘…homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ Point 2358 goes further and refers to ‘This inclination, which is objectively disordered…’.

This is in contrast to many Christian denominations and other faith groups which now accept same-sex unions as equivalent to opposite-sex relationships.

It's okay to be gay — Pope Francis says so

Reactions of relief and excitement

Bishop Raúl Vera in Mexico immediately welcomed the remarks:

“It makes me very happy that a new door is opening in the church for people who still don’t have a place in it.”

Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, a Catholic LGBTQ support group, hailed Bergoglio’s comments as “historic”:

“It is no overstatement to say that with this statement not only has the pope protected LGBTQ couples and families, but he also will save many LGBTQ lives.”

Swift condemnations

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Rhode Island, USA, in contrast, rejected Bergoglio’s views in a prompt public denunciation:

‘The Pope’s statement clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the Church about same-sex unions. The Church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships.’

American Cardinal Raymond Burke, now based in Rome, also rejected the pope’s statement as ‘contrary to the teaching of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition’.

Why the religious Right needs to be victimised to know it’s alive

He said:

‘Such declarations generate great bewilderment and cause confusion and error among Catholic faithful.’

To others, Bergoglio’s comments are no great surprise, but a catch-up long overdue. Australian priest and commentator Frank Brennan has called for same-sex unions for ten years now.

The concept of family

A clue to the intellectual journey which led to Bergoglio’s declaration may be in his references – twice – to family: “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family” and, “You can’t kick someone out of a family”.

This pope sees people not primarily as individuals, but members of a family needing to welcomed, respected and protected by that family. They, in turn, contribute to its enrichment.

This understanding was articulated at length in his encyclical letter titled ‘Fratelli Tutti’ (‘All Brothers’) released earlier this month.

This reinforced his call for all humankind – regardless of nationality, status or faith – to see ourselves as brothers and sisters first and foremost.

This is the way, he urged, to avoid the depredations of those who would harm us, including political manipulators and corporate interests:

‘We need to think of ourselves more and more as a single family dwelling in a common home. Such care does not interest those economic powers that demand quick profits.’

Rejecting the emptiness of hell

Possible ways forward

In coming months, we shall see whether the Church proceeds to revise its official teaching and praxis or get Bergoglio to adhere to official doctrine. There will be great pressure in both directions.

So this latest declaration certainly does not end the matter. This Pope will not be with us forever and his successor could reverse his reforms. ‘God always corrects one pope by giving the world another’ is a well-rehearsed Catholic proverb.

Your elders will dream dreams

Visionary observers of Catholic affairs – both inside and outside the institution – may now ponder what other once-sacred precepts could also be challenged by this pontiff. If homosexuality can be reconsidered, what next?

Doctrines reformists may wish to see revisited include gay marriage, the authority of the clergy, the belief that Roman Catholicism is the one true Christian denomination and that the Christian faith is supreme. Plus, women priests.

Don’t laugh. The pope’s encyclical letter actually says that:

‘…the organisation of societies worldwide is still far from reflecting clearly that women possess the same dignity and identical rights as men.’

Bergoglio’s letter touches on all these areas of contention. Thus, his comments on same-sex unions serve to strengthen hopes for reform well beyond this one issue.

Alan Austin’s defamation matter is nearly over. You can read an update HERE and help out by contributing to the crowd-funding campaign HEREAlan Austin is an Independent Australia columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @AlanAustin001

Support independent journalism Subscribe to IA.

 





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Protesters gather after Polish court supports almost total ban on abortion


Protesters gathered across Poland on Thursday after the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that abortion due to fetal defects was unconstitutional, banning the most common of the few legal grounds for ending a pregnancy in the largely Catholic country.

After the ruling goes into effect, abortion will only be permissible in Poland in cases of rape, incest or when a mother’s health and life are in danger, which make up only about two per cent of legal terminations conducted in recent years.
 
“[A provision that] legalizes eugenic practices in the field of the right to life of an unborn child and makes the right to life of an unborn child dependent on his or her health … is inconsistent … with the constitution,” said Julia Przylebska, president of the Constitutional Tribunal.
 
Hundreds marched toward the house of governing party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski on Thursday night after the ruling, some carrying candles and signs that read “torture.” Most wore face masks to comply with coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
 
Police in riot gear had cordoned off the house, and private broadcaster TVN showed police using tear gas as protesters threw stones and tried to push through the police line.
 

Small protests also took place in the cities of Krakow, Lodz and Szczecin.
 
“It’s sick that such controversial things are being decided at a time when the entire society lives in fear [of the pandemic] and is afraid to go into the streets,” said 41-year-old, Marianna Dobkowska.

A ‘devastating sentence’ for women

Conservative values have played a growing role in public life in Poland since the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party came into power five years ago on a promise to defend what it sees as the nation’s traditional, Catholic character.
 
Curbing access to abortion has been a long-standing ambition of the party, but it has stepped back from previous legislative proposals amid widespread public backlash.
 

Police officers in Warsaw are shown after protests broke out on Thursday against a ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal that imposes further restrictions on abortions in the country. ( Jedrzej Nowicki/Agencja Gazeta via Reuters)

A group of right-wing lawmakers asked the tribunal in December 2019 to rule on the legality of abortion when there is serious, irreversible damage to the fetus.

“Today Poland is an example for Europe, it’s an example for the world,” said Kaja Godek, a member of the Stop Abortion public initiative.
 
Women’s rights and opposition groups reacted with dismay.
 
“The worst-case scenario that could have come true has come true. It is a devastating sentence that will destroy the lives of many women and many families,” said lawyer Kamila Ferenc, who works with an NGO helping women denied abortion.
 

“It will especially force the poor to give birth to children against their will. Either they have no chance of surviving, or they have no chance of an independent existence, or they will die shortly after giving birth.”
 
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic called it a “sad day for women’s rights.”
 
“Removing the basis for almost all legal abortions in Poland amounts to a ban and violates human rights. Today’s ruling of the Constitutional Court means underground/abroad abortions for those who can afford and even greater ordeal for all others.”

Protesters gathered across Poland after the Constitutional Tribunal ruled on Thursday that abortion due to fetal defects was unconstitutional. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)

Critics allege courts are politicized     

Opponents say the Constitutional Tribunal may have acted on the ruling party’s behalf. While the tribunal is nominally independent, most of its judges have been nominated by the Law and Justice party, some to replace candidates picked by the opposition but whose appointment was refused by President Andrzej Duda, a party ally.
 
“To throw in the subject of abortion and produce a ruling by a pseudo-tribunal in the middle of a raging pandemic is more than cynicism. It is political wickedness,” said Donald Tusk, head of the main centre-right group in the European Parliament and a former prime minister of Poland.
 
PiS denies trying to influence the court or taking advantage of the pandemic to push through the changes. Its justice reforms, which included the tribunal, have attracted wide international accusations of undermining democratic norms.
 

Abortion rights activists say access to the procedure was often declined in recent years in Poland, even in cases when it would be legal.
 
Many doctors in Poland, which already had some of the strictest abortion rules in Europe, exercise their legal right to refuse to terminate pregnancies on religious grounds. Some say they are pressured into doing so by their superiors.
 
“We are glad with what the Constitutional Tribunal ruled because one cannot kill a child for being sick,” Maria Kurowska, a lawmaker from the United Poland party, said.

“This is not a fetus, it is a child.”



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Pope Francis Supports Civil Unions For Same-Sex Couples


After decades of attempts by the Catholic Church to crush marriage equality, Pope Francis has called for civil unions for same-sex couples.

“What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered,” said Pope Francis, in a new documentary when speaking about how to support LGBTQ people, according to the Catholic News Agency. “I stood up for that.”

“Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” said the pope. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable because of it.”

The new documentary by Evgeny Afineevsky, Francesco, premiered at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday and focuses on how the pope cares and helps for disadvantaged communities.

His comments in the film are the first time Francis has openly called for legal protections for same-sex relationships as pontiff.

In 2003, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — then under the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI — declared that “Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity.”

There were reports in the past that Francis privately supported civil unions in 2010, when he was the archbishop of Buenos Aires and the country was passing marriage equality laws, but they have been disputed.

The pope has never supported marriage for same-sex couples or official recognition by the church of same-sex relationships.

After Wednesday’s news, Catholic LGBTQ activists spoke excitedly but hesitantly about the news.

“If this a public recognition that same-sex couples deserve — and the church will no longer block — legal recognition of committed relationships, clearly that is an international game changer,” Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, a Catholic LGBTQ organization, told BuzzFeed News.

But although Duddy-Burke called the pope’s comments “very significant,” she wanted further clarification on exactly what the pope meant.

“I think it’s going to spike a range of emotions from jubilation to skepticism across the queer Catholic community,” she said. “Is this going to something that is going to be ‘clarified’ by the Vatican in the days ahead?”

The Vatican did not respond to a request for comment.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of Catholic LGBTQ advocacy group New Ways Ministry, said he “gratefully welcomes” the pope’s comments, although he also hopes the pope recognizes those relationships inside the church as well.

“It is an historic moment when the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, long seen as a persecutor of LGBTQ people, moves in such a supportive direction for lesbian/gay couples and their families,” said DeBernardo.

“It is no overstatement to say that with this statement not only has the pope protected LGBTQ couples and families, but he also will save many LGBTQ lives,” said De Bernardo.

Francesco makes its US premiere on Sunday at the Savannah Film Festival.



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Pope Says Supports Civil Unions For Gay Couples


Pope Francis defended the right of gay couples to enter into legally recognised civil unions in a documentary that premiered at the Rome Film Festival on Wednesday.

In the film, “Francesco” by Evgeny Afineevsky, the Argentine pope says that gays have “the right to be in a family.”

“These are children of God, they have the right to a family,” Francis says in the film, speaking in Spanish.

“What we have to create is a law of civil union, they have the right to be legally protected. I have defended that,” said Francis.

But the former Jorge Bergoglio has always voiced opposition to gay marriage, saying that marriage should only be between a man and woman.

“Since the beginning of the pontificate the Pope has spoken of respect for homosexuals and has been against their discrimination,” Vatican expert Vania de Luca told Rainews.

“The novelty today is that he defends as pope a law for civil unions.”





In the film “Francesco” by Evgeny Afineevsky, which premiered at the 2020 Rome Film Festival, Pope Francis says that gay people have “the right to be in a family”
 AFP / Alberto PIZZOLI

After becoming pope in 2013, Francis took an unprecedented welcoming tone towards homosexuals, launching his famous phrase, “Who am I to judge?” and welcoming gay couples to the Vatican on several occasions.

The two-hour documentary traces the seven years of his pontificate and his travels.

Among the most moving moments of the film is the Pope’s phone call to a gay couple, parents of three young children, in response to a letter they sent him saying how ashamed they were to bring their children to the parish.

Francis invites them to continue to go to church regardless of the Judgments of others.

Chilean Juan Carlos Cruz, an activist against sexual abuse within the church, accompanied the director to the film screening on Wednesday.

“When I met Pope Francis he told me he was very sorry about what happened. Juan, it is God who made you gay and he loves you anyway. God loves you and the Pope loves you too,” says Cruz in the film.

The Russian-born Afineevsky, who attended the Pope’s general audience in the Vatican on Wednesday, was nominated for an Oscar and an Emmy in 2016 for “Winter of Fire” about the 2013-2014 protests in Ukraine.

In 2018 he received three Emmy nominations for “Cries from Syria” about that country’s civil war.





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ASX follows Wall Street gains as Donald Trump supports new coronavirus assistance before election



The Australian share market has lifted in early trade on hopes of a COVID-19 stimulus deal in the United States.

US President Donald Trump backed a new deal on Tuesday (local time) and the House Speaker’s deputy chief of staff said an agreement was closer.

At 10:30am AEDT, the ASX 200 put on 0.3 per cent or 17 points to 6,201.

Oil stocks, banks and miners were among the gainers and consumer and healthcare stocks led the falls.

The All Ordinaries index added 0.3 per cent to 6,414.

Nickel miner Western Areas was up 3.5 per cent, followed by Virgin Money (+3.3pc) and real estate firm Dexus (+3.3pc).

Data centre operator Megaport led the falls on the ASX 200, down 5.8 per cent to $15.81.

Avita Therapeutics fell 2.8 per cent and Graincorp lost 2.9 per cent.

The Australian dollar fell to 70.22 US cents overnight on the prospect of lower interest rates.

At 10:30am AEDT, it had come off its lows and was buying about 70.55 US cents, up 0.1 per cent.

Brent crude oil edged up on stimulus hopes, but the threat to demand from rising coronavirus cases worldwide and increased Libyan output kept prices from moving higher.

It rose to $US43.16 a barrel.

Spot gold rose 0.3 per cent to $US1,911.20 an ounce as the greenback fell on the prospect of new coronavirus stimulus.

Wall Street rises on renewed hope of stimulus deal

Earlier, US stocks had increased on renewed optimism that Congress could reach a deal with the Trump administration over a new coronavirus relief package.

Mr Trump said he would accept a deal worth more than $US2.2 trillion despite opposition from Republicans in the Senate.

The Democratic Party Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi wants a $US2.2 trillion package, but the White House had pushed for $US1.8 trillion in economic aid.

However, Mr Trump appears to have changed his tune, telling Fox News: “I want to do it even bigger than the Democrats.”

Ms Pelosi’s spokesman Drew Hamill said she and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had moved closer to agreement on new stimulus before next month’s presidential election during a 45 minute discussion.

Ms Pelosi had set today as the deadline for a deal and the pair will resume talks tomorrow.

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Earlier Ms Pelosi told Bloomberg TV that she was confident that agreement could be reached.

Republican senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said if a deal is reached and passed by the House of Representatives, then the Senate would consider it.

“I’m aware that discussions continue between the President and the speaker about a larger package,” he told reporters.

“Obviously, if that were to come over, we’d have to consider it. And would consider it.”

The news saw US stocks rally but they came off their highs in late trade with some analysts sceptical about the prospect of a deal.

The Dow Jones index rose 0.4 per cent to 28,309, the S&P 500 put on 0.5 per cent to 3,443 and the Nasdaq gained 0.3 per cent to 11,517.

Google shares gain despite lawsuit

Shares in Google parent Alphabet put on 1.4 per cent to $US1551.08 despite the US Department of Justice launching a case against the internet giant for allegedly using its market power to unlawfully dominate web searches and search advertising.

But Neil Campling from Mirabaud Securities in London said it was too late to take action to limit Google’s market position.

“It’s like locking the proverbial door after the horse has bolted,” he said.

“You can’t simply unwind a decade of significant progress, or create new alternative powerhouses or tech ecosystems out of thin air.”

Netflix runs out of pandemic steam

More companies have released their third quarter earnings results, with Netflix reporting after the closing bell.

The streaming company posted its weakest rise in new subscribers in four years amid more competition in the streaming market, the easing of pandemic restrictions and as live sports returned to television.

Netflix gained 2.2 million paid subscribers globally during the September quarter, missing analyst estimates of 3.4 million.

Its shares dropped 6 per cent in after-hours trading.

From January to March, Netflix saw 15.8 million new subscribers as people stayed home at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

It said the results reflected the big surge in customers earlier in the year.

Revenue rose by more than one fifth to $US6.44 billion in the third quarter and net profit increased to $US790 million.

Property and accident insurer Travelers Companies gained 5.6 per cent as it beat quarterly profit expectations.

International Business Machines (IBM) posted double digit quarterly growth from cloud revenue.

But it said customers had deferred some projects because of the uncertain economic outlook.

Revenue from the cloud business rose 19 per cent to $US6 billion in the third quarter.

Its shares fell 6.5 per cent after it said total revenue fell nearly 3 per cent to $US17.56 billion over the quarter.

Consumer firm Procter & Gamble said sales of home cleaning products jumped by one third because of coronavirus.

Its shares rose 0.4 per cent.

European shares lose ground over coronavirus lockdowns

European stocks fell as worries about coronavirus restrictions and Brexit offset optimism from strong earnings, including from Swiss bank UBS.

Italy, Spain and Britain imposed curbs to limit the spread of new coronavirus cases that threaten to derail a budding economic recovery.

And the European Union and the UK struggled to make progress on a trade deal to avoid a disruptive departure for Britain from the EU.

In London, the FTSE 100 put on nearly 0.1 per cent to 5,889, the DAX in Germany fell 0.9 per cent to 12,737, and the CAC 40 in Paris dropped 0.3 per cent to 4,929.



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Mitt Romney says he supports moving ahead with Trump Supreme Court nominee


Sen. Mitt Romney said on Tuesday that he supports the Senate in moving forward with a Supreme Court nominee from President Trump ahead of the presidential election, further tipping the nomination math in favor of Republicans who want to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a conservative.

“My decision regarding a Supreme Court nomination is not the result of a subjective test of ‘fairness’ which, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder,” Romney, R-Utah, said in a statement. “It is based on the immutable fairness of following the law, which in this case is the Constitution and precedent. The historical precedent of election year nominations is that the Senate generally does not confirm an opposing party’s nominee but does confirm a nominee of its own.”

The senator, who voted to remove Trump from office earlier this year, continued: “The Constitution gives the President the power to nominate and the Senate the authority to provide advice and consent on Supreme Court nominees. Accordingly, I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the President’s nominee. If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications.”

REPUBLICAN SENATORS FALL IN LINE TO BACK MOVING AHEAD WITH TRUMP SCOTUS PICK: ‘WE’VE TO THE VOTES’

Romney expanded on his logic in subsequent comments to the press on Tuesday.

“We may have a court that has a more conservative bent,” than it has had in recent decades, Romney said after his announcement. “But my liberal friends have over many decades gotten used to the idea of having a liberal court. And that’s not written in the stars.”

He added: “It’s also appropriate for a nation that’s if you will center-right to have a court which reflects center-right points of view. Which again are not changing the law from what it states but instead following the law and following the Constitution.”

Romney also said that the timing of a vote on a Trump nominee would not influence his decision-making, indicating that if the confirmation vote is delayed until after the presidential election, and Romney judges that the Trump Supreme Court nominee is qualified for the bench, that he would support nominee even if the Republican Senate and Trump are lame ducks.

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Romney joins potential swing vote Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; and others in backing the Senate in advancing a Trump nominee. The only two Republicans who have said they oppose moving ahead with a nomination are Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Republicans can lose up to three votes and still be able to confirm a Trump nominee with Vice President Mike Pence as the tiebreaker.



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