Rohingya insurgents declare month-long ceasefire in Myanmar

Rohingya insurgents have declared a month-long unilateral ceasefire to enable aid groups to help ease a humanitarian crisis in north-west Myanmar.

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Nearly 300,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh and 30,000 non-Muslim civilians have been displaced inside Myanmar after the military launched a counter-offensive following attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army insurgents on 30 police posts and an army base on August 25.

“ARSA strongly encourages all concerned humanitarian actors resume their humanitarian assistance to all victims of the humanitarian crisis, irrespective of ethnic or religious background during the ceasefire period,” ARSA said in a statement.

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The impact of the ceasefire, beginning on Sunday, is unclear. The group does not appear to have been able to put up significant resistance against the military force unleashed in Myanmar’s northwestern Rakhine state.

In the past two weeks, thousands of homes have been burned down, dozens of villagers uprooted and thousands of people are still on the move towards the border with Bangladesh.

The wave of hungry and traumatised refugees pouring into Bangladesh has strained aid agencies and local communities already helping hundreds of thousands displaced by previous waves of violence in Myanmar.

In its statement, ARSA called on the military to also lay down arms and allow humanitarian aid to all affected people.

Myanmar says its security forces are carrying out clearance operations to defend against ARSA, which the government has declared a terrorist organisation.

0:00 Rally in Pakistan against persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar Share Rally in Pakistan against persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar

Rights monitors and fleeing Rohingya say the army and Rakhine Buddhist vigilantes have mounted a campaign of arson aimed at driving out the Muslim population.

On Friday, the United Nations in Bangladesh found tens of thousands of refugees who had not been counted before, raising the count to 270,000 from about 164,000 the day before. On Saturday, that jumped by another 20,000 to 290,000.

Aid workers say a serious humanitarian crisis is also unfolding on the Myanmar side of the border.

Red Cross organisations are scaling up their operations in Rakhine after the UN had to suspend activities there following government suggestions that its agency had supported the insurgents.

Thousands of displaced people in Rakhine have been stranded or left without food for weeks. Many are still trying to cross mountains, dense bush and rice fields to reach Bangladesh.

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Nationals vote against banning burqa and other facial coverings

The Nationals MP behind a push to ban the burqa has vowed to continue the campaign despite the party’s conference voting against making it official policy.

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North Queensland federal MP George Christensen argues a ban on burqas, niqabs and other facial coverings is needed in government buildings and public spaces for security reasons – but also says his party is “bleeding to the right” on the issue.

The motion was defeated 55-51 in a vote of delegates at the Nationals’ federal conference in Canberra on Sunday.

It follows Pauline Hanson’s stunt in parliament last month, where the One Nation leader wore a burqa in the Senate.

Mr Christensen said his electorate strongly supported the ban and he would continue to push for it to become government policy.

“We bleed to the right on these issues where we do not listen to our constituents,” he told the conference.

My statement on @The_Nationals federal conference motion on banning facial coverings. #auspol pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/qtnjYGrfaJ

— George Christensen (@GChristensenMP) September 9, 2017

“Why do you think Pauline Hanson recently took up this issue? Because people support the banning of it, full stop.”

He wrote on Twitter shortly after the narrow defeat that several delegates in favour of the ban hadn’t been able to be present for the vote.

Mr Christensen’s fellow federal MPs Matt Canavan, Kevin Hogan and David Gillespie supported him during the debate.

Their federal colleagues Mark Coulton and Keith Pitt and NSW upper house member Wes Fang spoke against the motion.

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NSW party member Jessica Price-Purnell was the only non-politician to speak on the motion and she won applause for telling the elected members off for hijacking the conference.

“You guys have enough forums,” she said.

She also argued the motion went against the party’s tenets of freedom of speech and religious activity.

Mr Coulton – the only other speaker to win applause – said the conference shouldn’t be used for MPs to debate things that could be thrashed out in the party room and doubted the supporters’ insistence it was simply about public safety.

“Despite George’s eloquent introduction to this, tomorrow’s headlines will be the Nationals are banning the burqa and the Nationals … are anti-Muslim,” he said.

“I’m worried that this is part of a bigger cause where we can look as Australians and, if things aren’t going as well as we’d like, we can look to people who are different and say it’s their fault.”

If it were about security, his electorate would be banning sunglasses and hoodies.

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said his party wasn’t scared of political debate but had to make sure it didn’t insult another religion.

“In the (agriculture) sector, we do a lot of business with Islamic countries,” he told ABC TV.

“I get along with them, they get along with me, and I just want to make sure that relationship continues on.”

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Mexico mourns 90 people killed by earthquake

“It’s 71 (dead).

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Just for Oaxaca,” said Jesus Gonzalez, a spokesman for the state civil protection authority.

At least 15 people died in the neighbouring state of Chiapas, according to local authorities, while another four deaths have also been confirmed in the state of Tabasco to the north.

The 8.1-magnitude quake that struck off the coast of Chiapas on Thursday was stronger than a devastating 1985 quake that flattened swathes of Mexico City and killed thousands.

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Relief efforts in the south continued through Saturday, with many of the people worst affected still wary of returning indoors to weakened buildings, fearing they could be brought down by ongoing aftershocks.

Teams of soldiers and federal police armed with shovels and sledgehammers fanned out across neighbourhoods to assist in demolition of damaged buildings.

Dump trucks choked some narrow streets as they began hauling away the many tons of rubble.

0:00 Death toll rises after quake devastates Mexico Share Death toll rises after quake devastates Mexico

Work by residents to clear the streets and lots that held their collapsed homes was slowed by aftershocks throughout Saturday.

There were scenes of mourning in Juchitan, where a third of the city’s homes collapsed or were uninhabitable, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said. Part of the city hall collapsed.

On the outskirts of the city, the general hospital continued to settle into its temporary home – a school gymnasium with gurneys parked atop the basketball court.

The earthquake rendered the hospital uninhabitable, so the gym contained a mix of patients that pre-dated the quake and those who suffered injuries as a result of it.

Pope Francis, addressing an open air mass on a visit to Colombia, said he was praying “for those who have lost their lives and their families”.

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Irma begins assault on Florida Keys

Hurricane Irma has begun its assault on Florida with the storm’s northern eyewall reaching the lower Florida Keys as a powerful Category 4 storm.

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Irma lashed the area with maximum sustained winds near 215km/h and the US National Hurricane Centre said it was expected to remain a powerful storm as it moved through the Florida Keys and near the state’s west coast.

As of 2100 AEST on Sunday, the hurricane was centred about 25km south-southeast of Key West, Florida, and was moving northwest at 13km/h.

The National Weather Service issued tornado warnings for a wide swath of Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward counties in South Florida. There were no immediate reports of tornadoes touching down.

Tens of thousands in Florida are huddled in shelters as the hurricane threatens to make a catastrophic hit on the state. Around 6.3 million people – about 30 per cent of the state’s population – have been been told to evacuate.

In the Tampa Bay area, access to all of Pinellas County’s barrier islands, including the popular spring break destination of Clearwater Beach, was shut off.

The leading edge of the immense storm bent palm trees and spit rain across South Florida, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses, as the eye approached Key West.

More than 500,000 homes in Florida have lost power, energy company FPL reports on its website. Irma could eventually leave millions of homes in the state without electricity, experts said.

Florida Governor Rick Scott had warned residents in the state’s evacuation zones on Saturday that “this is your last chance to make a good decision.”

But because the storm is up to 640km wide, the entire Florida peninsula was exposed. Forecasters said the greater Miami area of six million people could still get life-threatening hurricane winds and storm surge of 4m.

Irma was at one time the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the open Atlantic with a peak wind speed of 300km/h last week. It left more than 20 people dead across the Caribbean and as it moved north over the Gulf of Mexico’s bathtub-warm water of nearly 90 degrees, it was expected to regain strength.

Meteorologists predicted Irma would plough into the Tampa Bay area Monday morning. The area has not been struck by a major hurricane since 1921, when its population was about 10,000, National Hurricane Centre spokesman Dennis Feltgen said. Now around three million people live there.

Motorcycling – Marquez ties at the top with wet San Marino win

Marquez and Dovizioso are now tied on 199 points with Spaniard Maverick Vinales, who finished fourth for Yamaha, third on 183.

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The top two have both won four races but Marquez has more second places.

Vinales had started on pole position and was the sole works Yamaha rider in the race after Italian Valentino Rossi, who is fourth in the championship on 157 points, broke his leg in training last week.

However it was fellow-Spaniard and triple MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo who made a lightning start to take the lead on the opening lap for Ducati.

Lorenzo pulled away but crashed on the seventh of 28 laps, flipping off the bike at turn six and handing the lead to Petrucci.

The Italian, who has yet to win a race in the top category, then led the next 20 on his Pramac Ducati with Marquez closing in and biding his time before making the move at the start of the last lap.

“In rainy conditions you never know but I was trying to control all the race, trying to control myself because I was able to be a little bit faster but I said ‘you must be patient’,” said Marquez.

“For a moment I thought of staying in second position. Then on the last lap I said ‘I try’. This championship is really tight and five points can be a lot in the end.”

“After Silverstone this victory is really important for myself and the team,” added the 24-year-old, who retired with a blown engine in the previous round in Britain. His last lap was also the fastest of the race.

Dovizioso, who would have been the oldest rider to win three races in a row since Australian Mick Doohan in 1998 had he continued his run of success from Austria and Silverstone, said he was happy with a first podium at Misano.

“I was there, but I wasn’t feeling so good on the bike so the risk was too high. Everybody almost crashed today,” he said.

“It was a very difficult weekend but we are there and did another podium in a strange and difficult moment.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis)

Australians give $30b to charities in 2016

More Australians are giving their time but fewer are giving money than a decade ago.

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However, the amount of money those 81 per cent Australians who do donate to charity give has risen substantially, with $12.5 billion in donations made in 2016, government figures released on Monday show.

Nearly four in nine adults volunteered their time in 2016, adding up to 932 million hours in 2016 – an increase of 96 million hours in a decade.

“These are incredible figures and show just how the generosity of spirit of Australians is well and truly alive,” Social Services Minister Christian Porter said.

The figures show that more women made donations than men but men generally gave more – on average $867 compared with $671.

As well, a higher proportion of women did volunteer work and they averaged more hours during the year than men.

People who made donations were most likely to do so because they believed they were giving to a good cause or charity.

More than half of those who didn’t donate to charity said it was because they couldn’t afford it.

The government figures also show business philanthropy increased to $17.5 billion in the 2015/16 financial year – a massive jump from the $3.3 billion given a decade earlier.

Almost half of this came from small and medium-sized businesses.

“Small businesses, in particular, are very much a part of their local communities, whether it’s contributing directly to the local sporting club or seniors group with financial contributions, in kind contributions, prizes for local raffles and contributions to bigger community-focused activities like a new community hall,” Mr Porter said.

Larger businesses were moving away from one-off donations to forming partnerships with not-for-profit organisations.

THE GENEROSITY OF AUSTRALIANS

* $12.5 billion total donations from individuals in 2016

* 14.9 million people made donations (81 per cent of adults)

* $764 average donation ($200 median)

* 44 per cent of adults volunteered a total of 932 million hours

* Average time volunteered was 134 hours

* Businesses donated $17.5 billion in 2015/16

* $9 billion was from large companies and $8.5 billion from small and medium business

* Trend towards businesses forming partnerships with not-for-profit organisations

Bayliss ponders England spots for Ashes

England coach Trevor Bayliss says Ashes places are still up for grabs with a new generation of top-order batsmen yet to fully cement their places in the team.

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Mark Stoneman, Tom Westley and Dawid Malan played their part in the series victory over the West Indies, which was clinched by a nine-wicket win inside three days at Lord’s on Saturday.

However, questions remain over their readiness to face Australia in their own backyard.

Bayliss has indicated they remain in pole position, although the likes of Alex Hales, Keaton Jennings, Haseeb Hameed and Gary Ballance should not give up hope just yet.

He said: “That’s the big question, whether the three guys we have been speaking about all summer have done enough.

“They have shown they are good enough. But are they good enough for long enough? Are they tough enough, especially for an Ashes series?

“We will be discussing other players we have had in the team over the last 12-18 months. They will get a hearing, but it will be hard to go past these three guys.”

Asked if the batting line-up for the Ashes tour had been decided, Bayliss replied: “Not 100 per cent, but I am sure when we sit down in a week or two to discuss that squad, we will be talking about batters that have played for us in the last 12 to 18 months.

“There are another two or three county matches to play, and that will be a factor too.

“I think our opposition in the Ashes is far from stable either.”

Westley and Stoneman are among a group of players who will now link up with their counties, but Alastair Cook and bowler Jimmy Anderson will take a break while Stuart Broad is to undergo a scan on the heel injury which hampered him during the third and final Test.

The search for a long-term partner for opener Cook as well as numbers three and five remain priorities, but Bayliss is convinced the right candidate for at least one of those positions is already firmly on board in the shape of skipper Joe Root.

He said: “I would always have him at three. Joe is comfortable batting at four … [but] I think he will end up at three at some stage in the future.

“He is by far our best player, and personally I believe that is where your best player should be.”

England will head Down Under on the back of home series victories over South Africa and the Windies, and determined to return with the urn still in their possession despite having issues to address.

Bayliss said: “We are not going over to make up the numbers. We are going to leave here with a view to win, simple as that.”

Greek PM urges IMF to decide on bailout

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says the International Monetary Fund should decide whether it will fund Greece’s current bailout programme by the end of the year and help Greece conclude a key bailout review on time.

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Euro zone governments in June approved another 11th-hour credit line for Greece, worth nearly $US10 billion ($A12 billion), after the IMF said it would join the country’s current bailout, the third since 2010, in principle.

“We can live with or without the IMF presence,” Tsipras said in a press briefing at a trade fair in Thessaloniki on Sunday. “What we cannot do is live with the IMF setting one foot in and leaving one foot out.”

The end of the year would be a “reasonable timeframe” for the Fund to decide, he said. Athens intends to wrap up its next bailout review quickly, he said, adding that Greece would be financially independent in 2018.

The euro zone and the IMF have loaned Greece about 260 billion euros ($A387 billion) since 2010. In return, Greece has imposed austerity measures that have cut its output by a quarter and eliminated thousands of jobs. The lenders review Greece’s progress quarterly before approving loan payouts.

Tsipras’ government and the IMF have often locked horns over Greece’s fiscal progress, its economic targets and reforms in the labour market. Greece adopted more austerity measures for 2019 and 2020 to convince the Fund to join its programme and push for further debt relief.

Tsipras came to power in 2015 promising to end austerity but then signed up to the new bailout, worth 86 billion euros. He said on Sunday the government would assess fiscal progress for 2017 and offer handouts to the vulnerable, if Greece exceeded its targets.

Greece exceeded its goal for a primary budget surplus – which excludes debt servicing – in 2015 and 2016.

N Korea requires global response: NATO

North Korea’s “reckless behaviour” is a global threat and requires a global response, the head of the NATO military alliance says.

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NATO has not been directly involved in the crisis, which saw Pyongyang carry out its sixth and most powerful nuclear test a week ago, but has repeatedly called on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

“The reckless behaviour of North Korea is a global threat and requires a global response and that of course also includes NATO,” NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview with BBC television.

Asked whether an attack on the US Pacific territory of Guam would trigger NATO’s Article 5, which requires each member of the alliance to come to the defence of any other, Stoltenberg said: “I will not speculate about whether Article 5 will be applied in such a situation.”

“We are now totally focused on how can we contribute to a peaceful solution of the conflict,” he said.

“There is no easy way out of this difficult situation, but at the same time we have to … continue to work for political solution, continue to press also the economic sanctions.”

The United States and its allies had been bracing for another long-range missile launch in time for the 69th anniversary of North Korea’s founding on Saturday, but no fresh provocations were spotted while the North held numerous events to mark the holiday.

Throughout last week, South Korean officials had warned the North could launch another intercontinental ballistic missile in defiance of UN sanctions and amid escalating tensions with the United States.

Thousands of homes wrecked by huge Mexican quake, death toll at 90

The 8.

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1 magnitude quake off the coast of Chiapas state was stronger than a 1985 temblor that flattened swathes of Mexico City and killed thousands. However, its greater depth and distance helped save the capital from more serious damage.

Late on Saturday, authorities in the southern state of Oaxaca said there were 71 confirmed fatalities there, many of them in the town of Juchitan, where the rush to bury victims crowded a local cemetery on Saturday.

Television footage from parts of Oaxaca showed small homes and buildings completely leveled by the quake, which struck the narrowest portion of Mexico on the isthmus of Tehuantepec.

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Aftershocks continued into Sunday, and scores of people were wary about returning to fragile buildings hammered by the initial tremor, sleeping in gardens, patios and in the open air.

Piles of rubble lay strewn around damaged streets, where the shock was still visible in the faces of residents.

Oaxaca Governor Alejandro Murat told Mexican television the quake hit 41 municipalities and had likely affected around one in five of the state’s 4-million strong population.

“We’re talking about more 800,000 people who potentially lost everything, and some their loved-ones,” he said on Sunday.

Soldiers remove debris from a partly collapsed municipal building after the earthquake in Juchitan, Mexico.AP

In Juchitan alone, more than 5,000 homes were destroyed. Hundreds and thousands of Mexicans were temporarily left without electricity or water, and many in the south were evacuated from coastal dwellings when the quake sparked tsunami warnings.

At least 15 people died in neighboring Chiapas, and its governor Manuel Velasco said some 41,000 houses were damaged, estimating nearly 1.5 million people were affected. A further four deaths were also registered in Tabasco state to the north.

President Enrique Pena Nieto declared three days of national mourning, and pledged to rebuild shattered towns and villages.

However, some residents interviewed expressed frustration that the poor southern regions were still not getting the help they needed from the richer north and center of Mexico.

0:00 Dramatic vision of earthquake hitting a shopping centre in Mexico Share Dramatic vision of earthquake hitting a shopping centre in Mexico