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Men charged with robbery and impersonating police

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Two men were charged with impersonating police and armed robbery in Blacktown on Thursday.

Police allege the two men were involved in break-and-enters at businesses and stealing goods and cash, between July 3 and August 11.

They also alleged the men were link to car-jacking incidents involving the impersonation of police officers and, on one occasion, the use of a glock-style pistol.

Strike Force Buster was established in July to investigate these crimes.

Following investigations, officers stopped a car in Glenn Street, Dean Park about 7.35pm, Thursday.

Its number plates had allegedly been stolen that day in Doonside.

Police arrested two men, 18 and 23, and later charged them with robbery while armed, impersonating police and dishonestly obtaining financial advantage.

The younger man was also charged with goods in custody.

They appear in Penrith Local Court on October 24.

FC Bendigo keen to spoil Box Hill’s party

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FC Bendigo will be out to disrupt Box Hill United’s promotion challenge when the teams clash at Truscott Reserve on Saturday afternoon.

The Towners sit in 12th position, whilst their opponents will start the weekend at the other end of the NPL1 ladder in 3rd spot.

CLASS ACT: Forward Matthew Breeze will be crucial to FC Bendigo’s hopes against Box Hill. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

The top two NPL1 teams at the end of the season are promoted to Victoria’s premier division, the NPL.

Bendigo is coming off the back of a 4-1 defeat to Dandenong City.

Coach Steve Martin is hoping his side can take its chances this week.

“Last week’s score line didn’t reflect the way the game was played,” Martin said.

“I thought we created a lot of opportunities and didn’t take them, whereas Dandenong were able to take their chances when they got them.”

Martin said team discipline would be an important factor in snapping a winless streak that has risen to six games, having faced some testing opposition in recent weeks.

“It’s been a challenge facing some mature teams over the last few weeks,” Martin said.

“Facing these strong teams has been good for our squad to see where they are at, as a bit of a measuring stick.

“We have to remain disciplined for the full 90 minutes this week, that is crucial when you are playing someone like Box Hill.”

Bendigo was comprehensively outplayed the last time these two sides met, suffering a 3-0 defeat at Wembley Park in May.

Full-back Ryan Davidson will return to the starting line-up, having missed the last week through suspension.

Goalkeeper Sebastian Mattei will again miss through injury, whilecaptain Trent Waterson is rated only a 50/50 chance of returning.

The match takes place at Truscott Reservein California Gully. Kick-off is at 3pm, while the under-20s will begin at 1pm.

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Palette: late start hasn’t deterred Ron

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LATE STARTER: Ron Bishop modestly acknowledges that he’s “won a few awards”.Picture by PERRY DUFFIN The Mercury this week launched a new weekly series, Palette, written by art-lover Marilyn Foster, that looks at some of the region’s leading artists.

Local artist Ron Bishop is living proof that it’s never too late to start.

As a young boy he always enjoyed drawing. He would have loved to paint also, but with a wife and children, plus a farm to take care of, he just couldn’t find the time to pick up a paintbrush.

Two years before retirement, Ron made the decision to attend an art course at Tamworth TAFE. This gave him the impetus he needed to begin painting in earnest.

Moving to Maitland with his wife Ivy giving him further encouragement and Ron soon became a member of the Maitland Region Society of Artists.

Since 2006, Ron modestly states that “he has been lucky enough to win a few awards”. To date he has won seven, which is a great achievement.

He works with acrylics and likes to paint scenes that offer a challenge.

He was particularly impressed when Herman Pekel (whose workshops he attended in 2010) encouraged him to introduce more colour into his works.

Ron paints on a regular basis, finding painting a very relaxing and therapeutic and encourages other artists to do the same, as that is the best way to improve.

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Cory Bernardi to defy PM by co-sponsoring bill aimed at altering ‘Bolt laws’

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Senator Cory Bernardi plans to defy the Prime Minister on amendments to Racial Discrimination laws. Photo: Alex EllinghausenLiberal Senator Cory Bernardi is set to defy Prime Minister Tony Abbott and co-sponsor a bill aimed at changing the Racial Discrimination Act, which the government abandoned just over a week ago.

Family First Senator Bob Day is planning to introduce a compromise bill, which will simply strike out the words “offend and insult” from the legislation rather than entirely overhaul the section as the government has proposed.

That proposal aims to make it no longer an offence to “offend” or “insult” someone on the grounds of his or her ethnicity. The Coalition pledged to reform the act after News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt was found to have breached the legislation in 2011.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott abandoned the election pledge after a backlash from many of his own MPs and ethnic communities who said it watered down protections against race-hate speech.

Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi had already said he would vote for Senator Day’s bill but has now told Fairfax Media he intends to go further and throw his full weight behind the bill by co-sponsoring it.

“We promised to reform Section 18c at the last election and I intend to honour that promise,” Senator Bernardi told Fairfax Media, in a clear rebuke of the Prime Minister’s decision to break the election promise.

He said it was a “matter of principle” and he wanted to let dismayed “grassroots members of the Liberal party” know that there are “some members of Parliament who are absolutely committed to freedom of speech in this country”.

Senator Day said it was a “great initiative of Cory’s to get on board” and said the move could help “other Liberals get on board”.

But he said he was seeking broad support and wanted to de-politicise the debate and urged a Labor senator and other crossbenchers to also consider co-sponsoring the bill.

“It would be nice if a Labor person would join in, I’m scouting around for anyone else who might want to get on board,” he told Fairfax Media.

The bill would have little chance of ever becoming law but Senator Day said “every little bit helps”.

“Anything’s better than nothing,” he said. “If we can just remove the words ‘insult’ and ‘offend’, it would solve the Andrew Bolt problem – being hauled off to court because someone said they were offended.

John Roskam from the free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs has said Bob Day’s compromise model would be “impossible” for the government to refuse. He raised more than $40,000 from angry supporters to fund an attack against the prime minister for breaking the government’s promise.

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Daphne Unicomb: the lady in red

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MEDAL OF HONOUR: Daphne Unicomb started helping the Red Cross soon after the 1955 Maitland flood. Picture by STUART SCOTT“If it hadn’t been for the Red Cross we would have starved. Nobody else came.”

So says Daphne Unicomb, OAM, of Green Hills Lodge, whose commitment to help the Australian Red Cross started soon after the 1955 Maitland flood.

Mrs Unicomb was stranded on the family farm at Largs, the water rushing into their home, with her children, Victor and Rhonda, aged five and three at the time.

“The flood cut us off from the town. We had a farm at Golden Grove.

“There was no (town) water, no food getting through and the days were going by.

“The Red Cross came along in a helicopter and landed at the oval. The men of the town collected the parcels.

“There was flour, rice, bottled water, tins of jam and blankets and these were handed out to stranded families who had come into Largs School of Arts hall.”

Mrs Unicomb recalled with some detail the events of the flood and how it affected her family.

“Our house had been built one foot above 1893 flood levels. But six feet of water came inside in 1955.

“We lived and worked on our vegetable farm, Noel (Mrs Unicomb’s late husband) was a farmer before he went onto council.

“We didn’t expect it to get so high but the levee bank holding back the water, it broke at Bolwarra and that made it worse for us.

“The water came rushing in. We had an old wooden boat left out in the weather with grass growing through the planks.

“It was the only thing we had to get us out and we went up to Largs in it.

“My children were with me in the boat and a man was rowing. One of my children fell asleep from fright in my arms and the other screamed the whole way.

“It was such a dreadful day. This was the sort of thing that happens to very few people in their life time.”

Mrs Unicomb was terrified while in the boat, fearing the water would pour in.

“I was terrified for everybody, myself and my children. Nobody could swim back then.

“The boat should not have been used to go into flood waters. I didn’t know if the man rowing us could swim but he rescued me and my children.”

“Men were going around in boats to rescue people, getting people out.

“It was pretty horrific. The water was coming in all directions, whirling, in big waves.

“We couldn’t believe it happened. Unless you lived through it, you can’t imagine what it was like.”

She remembers having bare feet and later being treated for blisters.

“I was walking along a tar road, we had left with only what we had on, and Noel’s aunt was on her verandah and offered me a pair of shoes.

“We took the same size but I almost ended up in hospital from the blisters.

“A nurse treated my feet. She came in on a helicopter and she brought food too.”

It took weeks of work to clean out the mud from the house.

Mrs Unicomb washed by hand all the white linens which had been soiled with mud but she had to re-use.

“We didn’t have a washing machine so I used a copper to boil the sheets, ring them out by hand and hang them on a rod and stick line.

“I will never forget that. The sheets made the line so heavy I couldn’t push it up.

“It is marvellous what can be done in such a situation, when there is no one else to do it, the strength and the will power you can find.”

Meanwhile, Mrs Unicomb is proud to remain a Red Cross branch member.

“I never dreamed I would be around to see 59 years with the Red Cross in Maitland,” she said, holding up her Red Cross medals for long service, exemplary service, and 50 years service.

“I am looking forward to receiving my 60 years medal.”

It was only three months after the 1955 flood that a group of 16 women, including Mrs Unicomb, came together as the Largs Red Cross branch.

Many more joined soon after but today there are only two living founding members.

“We held streets stalls in Maitland to raise money for Red Cross. I would use eggs from our chooks on the farm, I’d bake sponges and Anzac biscuits and they would sell like hot cakes.

“We hosted concerts and a country and western day was held twice.”

As some of the women got older and members were “dying off”, Largs and Maitland branches combined with East Maitland.

“We have achieved a lot, the Red Cross branch is still going, and a lot of people in this area have supported it.”

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United coach praises US star Lori Lindsey

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Elisabeth Migchelsen returns as Canberra United coach. Photo: Graham TidyCanberra United coach Elisabeth Migchelsen wants to send retiring star Lori Lindsey out on a high and says the American veteran’s work ethic makes her the perfect example to young players.

Migchelsen also claims the short W-League season contributed to star goalkeeper Lydia Williams’ serious knee injury, and that no spot is guaranteed as United aims to make amends for crashing out in the semi-finals last season.

Lindsey announced on Friday she would call time on her terrific career at the end of the 2014 season with United, finishing in late December.

The 34-year-old midfielder, who is playing for Washington Spirit in the US Women’s National Soccer League, made 31 appearances for her country, including at the 2011 World Cup.

She was an influential figure in guiding United to the top of the W-League table before it was eliminated by Brisbane Roar.

Former Dutch international Migchelsen, who returned to Canberra this week to start preparations for her second season in charge, said Lindsey would be sorely missed.

”She’s a very good player, brings balance to the team and is useful for our young players,” Migchelsen said.

”She is 34, so I understand why it’s her last season in the US and last season in Canberra.

”It’s a loss because a lot of players could learn a lot from her with the way she plays and trains as a professional.”

United will start as one of the favourites for the title despite having a couple of changes to last season’s squad.

Young Matildas representative Georgia Yeoman-Dale has joined the Newcastle Jets, while Chantel Jones has been recruited from Perth Glory to replace Williams.

The Matildas custodian is in a race to be fit for next year’s women’s World Cup after tearing her anterior cruciate ligament while playing for the Western New York Flash during the W-League off-season.

While acknowledging the difficulties in balancing the different competitions around the world, Migchelsen said Williams could have had more accurate treatment if she played at just one club.

”Those things can happen when you don’t have a full competition in Australia,” Migchelsen said.

”If the players are here, you can manage your players.

”They train very different in the US, sometimes they train twice [a day].

”They come from our competition straight into another competition and people can be very badly injured.”

For the second straight season, United will have three Americans in its squad – Lindsey, Jones and attacker Stephanie Ochs – while Kendall Fletcher will return as a guest player.

Yeoman-Dale, 20, has joined the Jets in search of greater playing opportunities.

She was used anywhere from defence to midfield and in attack for United during her 29 appearances, many of those as a substitute, since making her debut in 2011.

United will next week announce its full roster for the upcoming W-League season starting in September, but Migchelsen said everyone would have to work for their positions.

“Every player starts at zero again, there are no guarantees,” she said.

”Everyone challenges each other and the best 11 will start in the first round.

”We have a young squad and it’s great to be back in this environment.”

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Barnett government refusing to release ‘worrying’ leak report: Greens

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The Barnett government is refusing to release details of a ruptured pipeline at BHP Billiton’s Nickel West Refinery in Kwinana, six years after it poisoned 14 trees, according to Greens MLC Lynn MacLaren.

On June 18, 2008, the pipe burst releasing ammonium sulphate and other trace elements killing the trees along the pipeline near the corner of the old Mandurah Road and Gilmore Avenue.

The leak saw a Department of Environment and Conservation ­– now the Department of Environment Regulation investigation.

Ms MacLaren is demanding the WA government release the DER groundwater report into the incident after it was revealed in parliament recently the pipeline spillage went undetected for 24 hours.

Environment minister Albert Jacob said a technician didn’t respond to the Baldivis Leak Detection System Alarm because he believed it was a false alarm.

“Findings from a then Department of Environment and Conservation investigation indicated that at the time of the refinery shut down, the Baldivis Leak Detection System alarm notification was exposed to a higher than normal number of triggered alarms in general, some of which were false alarms,” he said.

Mr Jacob’s said he’s not required to release the report under Ministerial Statement 377.

Ms MacLaren said the environmental minister’s refusal to hand over the report suggested it may contain some worrying results.

“The public have the right to know the impacts of ground water in the affected region,” she told Fairfax Media. “The death of the 14 trees is one of the more visible outcomes; I suspect the impacts that are out of sight are just as concerning and ongoing.”

Ms MacLaren said if the Barnett government wasn’t going to release the report it should at least fess up and explain why the technician ignored the alarm.

“This is a human error that has had potentially dangerous impacts, such errors should not be occurring when it comes to contaminated industrial water spiling through leaky pipes into the environment,” she said. “We must ensure that our environmental regulators are doing their job to protect our environment and enforce environmental protection laws.”

Barry Nelson, from the now defunct Kwinana Progress Association, said he’s been trying to get to the bottom of the leak for the last six years.

“It’s been really poorly handed by the government and at the time an asbestos pipe was dug up and left on the ground,” he said.

“It’s criminal and someone should be held accountable.” Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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As the dust settles in Gaza, devastated families mourn their dead

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Mohamed Bakr, 52, and his wife Sahar, 46. Their son Mohamed, 10, died on the beach with his three cousins, hit by Israeli shells on July 16. Photo: Ruth Pollard Mohamed al-Hajj. His sister and her family were killed in an airstrike on their house in Khan Younis on July 10. Photo: Ruth Pollard

The damage caused by a heavy artillery shell. Alian Abu Jarad, 62, who lives next door, tried to rescue his family following the airstrike on July 18. Photo: Ruth Pollard

Alian Abu Jarad, 62, survived an attack that left eight dead. ”We have no fighters in our family.”. Photo: Ruth Pollard

Basem Abu Jame, 31, with his sister. He is one of only three people who survived an airstrike on his house in Khan Younis on July 21 in which 26 people died. His leg is broken in three places. Photo: Ruth Pollard

The remains of the Abu Jame family’s three-storey apartment block destroyed in an airstrike, in which 26 people died. Photo: Ruth Pollard

Dalal Siyam, 67, with baby Myar, 16 months. Photo: Ruth Pollard

Mahrous Siyam, 67, holding a handwritten list of his family members. Photo: Ruth Pollard

Nabil Siyam, 33, lost his left arm in the attack on July 21 in which his wife and four children were killed. A fifth child is dangerously ill in hospital. Photo: Ruth Pollard

Salah al-Najjar, 34, who lost eight relatives in one airstrike on July 30, but the Najjar family itself lost 37 in total. Photo: Ruth Pollard

The Najjar house. The family has lost 37 members, eight in one airstrike on July 30. Photo: Ruth Pollard

Gaza children mourn

Nabil Siyam, 33, lost his left arm in the attack on July 21 in which his wife and four children were killed. A fifth child is dangerously ill in hospital. Photo: Ruth Pollard

Dalal Siyam, 67, with baby Myar, 16 months. Photo: Ruth Pollard

Mohamed al-Hajj, whose sister and her family were killed in an airstrike on their house in Khan Younis on July 10. Photo: Ruth Pollard

Mohamed Bakr, 52, and his wife Sahar, 46. Their son Mohamed, 10, died on the beach with his three cousins – hit by Israeli shells on July 16. Photo: Ruth Pollard

Alian Abu Jarad, 62, who lives next door, tried to rescue his family following the airstrike. Photo: Ruth Pollard

Salah Najjar, 34, who lost eight relatives in one airstrike on July 30, but the Najjar family itself lost 37 in total. Photo: Ruth Pollard

Gaza City: It is raining dust and shrapnel, and the night is alive with the sound of screaming.

In the darkness, as the world explodes into pieces and concertinas into the ground, the first battle is to breathe through the fear and choking air.

Buried beneath the sea of grey rubble, dozens of Gazan families have met their death; mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, babies and grandparents.

This carnage has played no favourites. Initial estimates indicate up to 80 per cent of the victims have been civilians in a war Israel says was aimed only at militants.

Fairfax Media has interviewed eight families who lost multiple members in single Israeli attacks over the past month, mostly in airstrikes in the dead of night.

The numbers are almost incomprehensible – the Abu Jame family lost 26 people, including 19 children and five women, in one air strike; the Najjar family lost 20 people, including 12 children and six women.

Preliminary analysis of figures collected by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, based in Jerusalem, as well as the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights, both based in Gaza, indicates at least 54 families lost four or more members in Israeli attacks.

The list is not complete. Bodies are still being pulled from the rubble as the ninth ceasefire negotiated since the war began on July 8 continues. While initial assessments indicate the majority of victims were civilians, there is no doubt some of those killed were affiliated with militant groups fighting in Gaza.

According to the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, at least 1965 Palestinians have been killed since Israel’s Operation Protective Edge began.

”Of the initially verified cases, 1417 are believed to be civilians, including 458 children and 238 women, and 226 members of armed groups. There are 322 persons who could not be yet identified or their status established,” UNOCHA says.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 9986 Palestinians, including 3009 children and 359 elderly, have been injured.

Despite the high number of child and civilian casualties and the dozens of families who lost multiple members in the attacks, the Israel Defence Forces denies it targeted civilians.

”As an absolute rule the IDF never targets civilians under any circumstance,” an IDF spokesman wrote in response to a list of questions sent by Fairfax Media.

The Israeli military was invited to explain why it had targeted the eight families profiled here. Instead it provided the following statement: ”While Hamas indiscriminately targets Israelis, the IDF considers any civilian loss deeply tragic and regrettable and … the IDF categorically and emphatically rejects in the strongest terms any assertion of targeting families.”

The IDF went out of its way to warn families that their house was about to be hit in an air strike on ”legitimate and dangerous terror targets”, the spokesman said.

He described Hamas as a terrorist organisation that ”exploits its civilians as human shields and callously embeds its terror infrastructure within the urban environment, including in schools, homes, hospitals and mosques”.

”The IDF holds itself to a strict ethical code and continues to thoroughly investigate any alleged civilian casualty or claim of malpractice, including those you have outlined in your question.”

However, B’Tselem says the scope of Israel’s airstrikes in Gaza indicate they were authorised by senior military and political officials, and granted advance sanction by the Military Advocate General Corps and the Ministry of Justice.

”That is not something that would have taken place unless it was pre-authorised by a senior official,” says Hagai El-Ad, director of B’Tselem.

”Even compared to previous bouts of fighting in Gaza, the number and frequency of incidents this time around was unusually high, with many people killed each time, mostly civilians who did not take part in the hostilities.”

The policy of bombing these homes may not be legal, Mr El-Ad says, because the mere fact that someone from Hamas or Islamic Jihad lives in a home does not make it a legitimate military target.

In the cases where a house might be a legitimate military target, it comes down to a question of proportionality, he says.

”Does the military threat supersede the expected civilian casualties and destruction? In many of these cases there is no question that the actions of the IDF were not proportional.”

The Military Advocate General – the highest legal office of the IDF – has both the authority to approve these ”aerial home demolitions” and is the body responsible for investigating whether they were legal, he says.

”There is no mechanism in Israel that allows an independent investigation of these actions … we are in exactly the same situation as we were in [Operation] Cast Lead [in 2008/9]  – there are serious questions being asked about the actions of the IDF and there is no independent body to investigate them.”

The deputy director of the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Hamdi Shaqqura, says the month-long onslaught on Gaza was not a war against militants but a targeted attack on families.

”We have dozens of families smashed under the rubble of their houses,” he says. ”There has been complete disregard for civilian life in general and a complete disregard for the principles of international law, which requires Israeli forces to distinguish between military and non-military targets, and combatants and non-combatants.

”It was a deliberate attack on the fabric of Palestinian life – our families,” he says.

July 10: Hajj family – Khan Younis – eight dead

The drones above the tightly packed Khan Younis Refugee Camp were persistently noisy in the early hours of July 10, as families chatted together on another long Ramadan evening.

Mahmoud, 55, and his wife Basmah, 52, were sitting with six of their eight children when, without warning, two missiles fired from an F-16 hit their modest apartment block.

At the sound of the explosions, Mohamed al-Hajj, Basmah’s brother, who lives next door, ran outside to see what had been hit.

”I followed the sound and the dust and I found my sister’s place blown apart,” he says, standing in the jumble of concrete, wire, clothes and school books that now mark a scene of such sorrow.

”I found my sister lying here, she was not dead yet but her leg was cut off,” he says. ”I took her in my arms and carried her to the car and drove her to Nasser Hospital. Half an hour later, as they were trying to save her, she died.”

Mahmoud and Basmah’s son, 25-year-old Yasser, was at his friend’s house nearby when the missiles hit.

”I could not see through the dust and smoke – as I got closer and went into the dust cloud, I saw that it was my place and I started to scream.”

His parents, along with six brothers and sisters, died in the attack.

”They were all excellent people – I do not know why this has happened to them. My parents were only focused on making sure we did well at school and at university,” he says, sobbing.

”They were innocent civilians living in a refugee camp.”

July 16: Bakr family – Gaza City – four dead

Ten-year-old Ismail was playing soccer on the beach when he was torn down by a shell fired from an Israeli gunship stationed in the Mediterranean just off the beach in Gaza City.

The desperate attempts of Ismail and his three young cousins, Mohamed, 11, Zakaria, 10, and Ehad, 9, to run from the attack were captured in footage that shocked the world.

”He was growing up one centimetre by one centimetre and suddenly in one second, a missile hit him and he was cut to pieces,” Ismail’s father, Mohamed al-Bakr, 52, says.

”He went out to play and he came back in pieces. Why were they killed? Was Israel defending itself by killing our boys?”

The family – like so many visited by Fairfax Media in Gaza – are in agony over their loss, angry, weeping, bewildered.

One boy, 12-year-old Saeed, who survived the attack on the beach that killed his brother Mohamed, sits at his mother’s feet, his arms wrapped around his knees, his head resting on his hands.

His small body is filled with shrapnel from the attacks, but Gaza’s hospitals are too overstretched to deal with his pain right now – when it is quieter they will schedule the surgery needed to remove the deadly shards of metal.

”I do not know why they were attacked,” Sahar, Ismail’s mother, says. ”I do not want Jewish mothers to feel the pain that I feel.”

July 18: Jarad family – Beit Hanoun – eight dead

Alian Abu Jarad pulled the body of his eight-month-old nephew Musa from the rubble of his family’s lounge room as other relatives dug through the debris with their hands in a desperate search for survivors.

It was just after iftar – the meal to break the fast during the holy month of Ramadan – and families in each house were settling in for the evening.

Without warning, a barrage of shells hit, Alian says, first his nephew Abdulrahman’s place and then his own next door.

Eight died and 12 were injured in the attack.

”I saw bodies cut to pieces, people without their arms, without their legs – the shrapnel was so big,” he says, picking up a piece of metal from the floor to show me.

Despite Israel’s insistence that it alerted families prior to attacks on their homes, Alian, 62, says there were no warning leaflets, no phone calls and no text messages.

”We have no fighters in our family, we are not affiliated with any faction or party,” he says. ”All we care about are our families and our small factory where we make bricks.”

July 20: Ziyada family – al-Bureij refugee camp – six dead

”You don’t know if at the end of this war you will be a victim or a survivor,” says Dr Hasan Ziyada, a trauma psychologist who is dealing with his own terrible loss.

His mother, three brothers, a nephew and his sister-in-law were killed when an airstrike demolished their home in al-Bureij in central Gaza.

Along with his own four children, he is caring for five grief-stricken nephews.

He sees signs of trauma in himself and also in his children, who are terrified every time he leaves the house that he will not return alive.

Any child who is nine years old or above will have active memories of the three recent Gaza wars – Cast Lead in 2008-09, Pillar of Defence in 2012 and this conflict, which is not yet over.

They are the traumatised generation and this war, which has attacked the two main pillars of Palestinian society – the extended family and religion – is ”more intensive, more brutal” than the ones before it, he says.

”Children are severely frightened during the shelling, drones, airstrikes, and the scenes on the television of the chaos … some wet the bed, they are easily provoked, their tolerance is very low and they are easily distracted.

”The thoughts and images are so intrusive, they cannot control them.”

He describes his seven-year-old daughter’s behaviour when she watches television: ”She puts her hands over her ears and her eyes so she can avoid the sounds and sights of the shelling.”

Ultimately, he says, the reality for Gazans is this: there is nowhere safe to take shelter.

July 21:  Qassas family – Gaza City – 10 dead

The leaflets dropped from the sky warned families in their neighbourhood to leave – that the Israel Defence Forces were about to expand their ground invasion – so Shadia al-Qassas, 34, and her husband Saad al-Qassas, 36, gathered their children together.

”We have no car, so we walked all together to my father’s place once the shelling started,” Shadia says.

One day later, as her two eldest daughers, Lamyaa, 13, and Nasmah, 12, were on the fourth floor making pizza with their cousins, a missile hit the fourth-storey apartment and in an instant, they, along with eight relatives, were dead.

”I took the rest of my kids and ran down the stairs to get out of the building as we were expecting more rockets,” Shadia says.

”I thought whoever is still alive would be downstairs by now, and I knew my two daughters must be dead.” Lamyaa had wanted to be a teacher when she grew up, Nasmah a hairdresser.

Her husband continues the story as their surviving children mill around his wife, severely traumatised and desperate to stay close.

”They were cut into pieces. We could not recognise their faces, only their clothes,” Saad says.

”We buried nine bodies together in the one grave – they were cut into so many pieces we could not separate them.”

July 21: Abu Jame family – Khan Younis – 26 dead

There is a gaping hole in the ground where the Abu Jame family home once was. Smashed concrete, a shoe without a pair and a pool of muddy water is all that’s left of the three-storey apartment block that was home to three brothers and their extended families.

I am standing with Basem Abu Jame, 31, on crutches with fresh plaster on his badly broken leg as he contemplates, in silence, the magnitude of his loss.

One of only three survivors of the airstrike that killed 25 family members and one young adopted boy, his fierce grief is reverberating from every fibre of his being.

Suddenly an F-16 roars through the sky and a missile screeches past. We scatter, Basem hopping on crutches and the rest of us running for the nearest house as the missile slams into the ground near by.

A neighbour brings its remains – searingly hot chunks of metal – on a piece of cardboard for us to inspect, and Basem, who owns a small fruit and vegetable shop, tries to describe what life is like without Yasmin, his 24-year-old wife, and his three daughters, Batul, 4, Suelia, 3, and Besan, 18 months.

”We will not ever recover, it is like a wound, it will heal but it will leave a scar.

”Why were we targeted? I do not know – they hit trees, animals, homes, they hit everybody.”

Asked if he has any pictures of his wife and daughters, Basem says: ”I have no pictures, everything has been destroyed – I do not even have an ID card any more, there is nothing left.”

July 21: Siyam family – Rafah – 11 dead

Tears brimming in his eyes, Mahrous, 67, takes a carefully folded, handwritten note from his pocket and begins to read.

Listed are the names, ages and ID numbers of his family members – dead and alive.

After the Israeli drone strike that killed 11 of his family on July 21, that piece of paper is the only place – apart from his memory – that his family will ever be intact.

His wife Dalal, also 67, sits down with 16-month-old Myar, who lost both her parents and her brother in the drone strike and is in a full-body cast to try to stabilise her broken pelvis, leg and hand.

Their son Nabil, 33, joins us. He has just been released from hospital after a second round of surgery on his left arm, which has been amputated above the elbow. He earned an income farming, but the challenge of doing that with only one arm pales into insignificance as he speaks about the loss of his wife and four children in the attack. A fifth child is dangerously ill in a hospital in Egypt.

Everyone is crying.

Nabil still sees the attack as vividly as if it were happening right now. It was 6am and there were three airstrikes close to the house. Shrapnel was flying everywhere and the family decided it was time to evacuate.

He ran to the left to warn his neighbours, his family ran to the right. Two missiles fired from a drone hit in between them, killing 11 and injuring nine.

”The air was full of dust, I could not see,” Nabil says. ”My son was just a few metres from me, I could feel his body next to me.

”I felt my arm – it was just connected by some skin, so I was holding my arm beside me, I saw my eldest daughter cut into two pieces. I passed the dead bodies on the road, I saw my wife, who’d been carrying our son – he had been blown 10 metres away in the attack, out of her arms.”

Despite Israel’s promises, there was no warning before the attack, he says.

”There is no reason our family should have been killed – they [Israel] have the technology, they watch us with their drones – they could have seen there were just kids here, people sleeping, nobody holding any weapons.”

July 30: Najjar family – Khan Younis –  8 dead in one airstrike, 37 in total

It was 3.30am when the airstrike hit, says Salah al-Najjar, 34.

”It was totally black, I had a torch and I could hear my nephew calling me for help, but I couldn’t see him because of all the dust and the darkness.

”The neighbours came and we rescued three by ourselves. Another had to be dug out by a bulldozer. Slowly, slowly, bit by bit, we picked out the rubble by hand so we could pull them to safety.”

Nafjas al-Najjar, 45, was one of those rescued from the rubble.

She is lying on a bed in a small room in her brother’s house, covered in a blue checked sheet. Her pelvis is broken, her left eye black.

”We were sitting at a low table in the living room, having food and watching the news on television,” she remembers. ”Suddenly there was huge thunder, the electricity went out and it was completely dark. Bricks were flying, they were covering my body.

”It was really, really terrifying – we were trapped between life and death.”

A large bag of painkilling medication sits on the end of her bed, while her 10-year-old daughter Naama, who was also rescued from their shattered home, sits on the floor beside her. She has barely left her mother’s side since the attack that killed her father and her siblings.

”What is our guilt? What is the guilt of my husband and children?” Nafjas asks.

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Tagger: Six steps from Joe Hockey to Paul Roos

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1. Well, at least everyone’s getting on just fine. Nobody agrees with a single thing anybody else says, but they’re getting along a treat, thanks for asking.

2. People say the Hirds have been stubborn and foolish, but as Herald Sun readers could tell you, Tania wore a lovely coat to court the other morning that was both fashionable and a practical garment to combat Melbourne’s winter chill. Very sensible indeed.

3. Of the following possible 2015 MCG fixtures, which is likely to feature the least number of goals?

a) Manchester United v Barcelona

b) Real Madrid v Chelsea

c) Melbourne v GWS

4. And to the five or six Fremantle fans who haven’t emailed or tweeted to say Steve Johnson obviously hurt his foot on Lachie Neale’s head, it’s his other foot.

5. Once again, at the end of another busy week, we pause to quietly give thanks that from changeroom to boardroom, to courtroom, to media workroom, the game is clearly on drugs.


Were you relieved to hear that, having paid millions to get him, Carlton is pleased Dale Thomas has been getting a kick lately in a team that’s going to finish 13th? Did you hear Mick say the Blues had “crossed the Rubicon” and wonder if Mitch Robinson figured that’s just one more nightclub he isn’t allowed in? Stop kicking Carlton and have a game of Armchair Footy Bingo! Rack up more points than there are teams Jonathon Patton’s going to be linked to but never end up at, and you win!

This weekend’s targets:

– “Bombers boss wants end to drugs saga” beats “Sun comes up in morning, goes down at night” and “Joe Hockey is a clown” as most bleeding obvious headline of the year – No shit, Sherlock points.

– Richmond fans are swiftly disabused of the consolation that playing a “mini-final” against Adelaide counts as having made the finals – Not even if you say it fast points.

– Ross Lyon’s vow that the Dockers would “like to get a scalp” against Hawthorn leaves Sam Mitchell wearing a deeply concerned look at the first bounce when Ryan Crowley picks him up armed with a tomahawk – Give him an inch points.

– The Essendon-West Coast clash ends in farce when the Bombers appeal a free kick for a push in the back to a full bench of the Federal Court – It’s never over points.


Six steps from Joe Hockey to Paul Roos.

1. Joe Hockey is the Treasurer of our great country and maybe that’s who Hirdy meant when he said there’d been a lot of silly things said in the paper and there’s been sad things too, but we tend to gloss over people killing each other en masse to wail over the death of …

2. Robin Williams, who was Mork from Ork long before he was the teacher who liked dead poets or Mrs Doubtfire or Aladdin’s Genie or the voice of a penguin, but now he’s gone and that’s a Shazbot shame because goodness knows we could use a laugh just ask …

3. Mark Thompson, who’s the coach of Essendon just at the minute and he’s been chuckling away all year and then last week he said his players needed to know when to get serious, which sounds like the sort of mixed message that had everyone on the wrong bus about …

4. Chris Judd, who isn’t finished after all, which is great news for footy fans and makers of shoulder strapping and he’ll face tougher opposition than Gold Coast minus Gary but he’s still a player we’ll never forget, which happened a bit this week in the testimony of …

5. Aurora Andruska, who’s welcome in the sports pages on name alone and we’d be happy to see “In – Aurora, out – Jarryd/Jared/Jarrod/Jarrad”, but we’re getting sidetracked  and if you spend so much time talking about stuff that happened in the past you’ll sound like …

6. Paul Roos, who used to coach the premiers but now he coaches blokes who can’t kick or handball, but he’s going to hang in there trying to do something with a poor team with little drive, as distinct from poor people who drive little, like the ones referred to by Joe Hockey.


Another serve of a different version of the truth from the bloke who’s looking forward to a couple of hours on the terraces at Denis Arm Field in Preston on Saturday arvo:

“Let me just say, any contract talk that gets put on hold until the end of the season is not going to be good for one of the parties concerned and screams of someone having something to hide. A little bit like going to court because you didn’t like the outcome of your confession, really.”

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ANU ranking slides on respected global research league table

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ANU Vice-Chancellor Ian Young: “We do take rankings seriously.” Photo: Alex EllinghausenThe Australian National University has fallen eight places on the most rigorous global research league table.

The Academic Ranking of World Universities produced by China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University places the ANU at 74 this year, down from 66 last year.

Meanwhile, the University of Melbourne continues its climb up the rankings, clawing another 10 places to reach 44 and breaking a record for an Australian entry.

Just six years ago, the ANU held the top Australian ranking at 57, compared with Melbourne at 79.

the University of Queensland, has held on to 85th place.

Vice Chancellor Ian Young said the ANU remained committed to “making permanent our place as one of the great universities of the world, and I’m pleased to see we remain in great company amongst the top 1 per cent of universities globally”.

“While rankings do move around, and we have been affected by a change this year in the methodology used, we do take rankings seriously as one of the comparative measures of performance.”

Those changes to methodology relate to the timeframe for calculating highly cited researchers – reducing the time frame for measuring the number of highly-cited papers from the past 30 years to 10 years – between 2002 to 2011.

“We are committed to fostering excellence and to performance development – one of the reasons ANU started an academic renewal program last year focused on creating opportunities for high-potential early career staff was to ensure we build a future on a foundation of solid academic excellence,” Professor Young said.

He noted there was a lag in ranking systems, so he expected it would take some years before the initiatives put in place would be reflected in the rankings.

Overall, Australia lost an entry into the world’s top 500 in La Trobe University but gained another in Deakin University.

The University of Western Australia was 88th – up from 91st place last year – while Sydney University came in in the 101-150 bracket – down from 97th last year. The Academic Ranking of World Universities is widely recognised as the most reliable list which rates universities on objective research performance indicators. It assesses prestige research using indicators such as the number of citations by a university’s researchers in top journals and the number of Nobel prizes and Fields medals won by a university’s academic staff and alumni.

ANU ranked No.50 in the world when the ranking was first published in 2003. This is the fourth successive year Melbourne has been ranked top in Australia.

Harvard University remains the number one in the world for the 12th year running. The rest of the top 10 are: Stanford, MIT, Berkeley, Cambridge, Princeton, Caltech, Columbia, Chicago and Oxford. The University of Tokyo (21st) and Kyoto University (26th) top other universities in Asia.

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