Dissident artist Ai Weiwei says even changing leaders won't change China

Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei says that it doesn't matter whether or not China has a change in leadership, the culture and the system will always remain the same.

Ai's comments, yesterday, came a day after China's rubber-stamp lawmakers passed a historic constitutional amendment abolishing a presidential two-term limit that will enable Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely.

"China has always been, you know, emperor state. ... So a change leader or not change leader, the system and as a culture always stays the same," Ai told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Sydney, where he was launching an exhibition to highlight the international refugee crisis.

In 2011, Ai was detained by Chinese authorities for his outspoken views on human rights. Ai's passport was withheld for four years but was returned to him in July 2015.

The artist now works from a studio in Germany and has traveled the world to document the plight of refugees and migrants.

The move to scrap term limits has crushed faint hopes for political reforms among China's embattled liberal scholars and activists, who now fear even greater repression.

China allows no political opposition in any form and has relentlessly persecuted independent groups seeking greater civic participation.

Leading Chinese officials have repeatedly rejected any chance of adopting Western-style separation of powers or multiparty democracy.



World Anti-Doping Agency reinstates Russia

The World Anti-Doping Agency has reinstated Russia, ending a nearly three-year suspension caused by state-sponsored doping.

WADA says its 12-member executive committee voted to reinstate the Russian Anti-Doping Agency "subject to strict conditions."

WADA's move came despite a wave of fierce criticism from anti-doping figures — some within WADA itself — and from athletes around the world opposed to Russia being reinstated without taking full responsibility for what has been labeled systematic doping.

Russia still hasn't admitted state involvement or given access to evidence at its discredited Moscow laboratory — two key conditions for reinstatement set by WADA but eased in recent months.

The Russian Anti-Doping Agency was suspended in November 2015 after it was revealed there was a government-backed scheme of doping and cover-ups that helped Russian athletes win Olympic medals.

Vladmir Putin is walking a very fine line with his reaction to the downing of the jet, Paul Buchanan says.
Source: Breakfast


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New landslide kills 21, buries houses in Philippines

A massive landslide buried dozens of homes near a central Philippine mountain Thursday, killing at least 21 people and sending rescuers scrambling to find survivors after some sent text messages pleading for help.

The slide surged down on about 30 houses in two rural villages after daybreak in Naga city in Cebu province, city police chief Roderick Gonzales said by telephone as he helped supervise the search and rescue. Seven injured villagers were rescued from the huge mound of earth and debris.

Some victims managed to send messages after the landslide hit, Gonzales said, adding that elderly women and a child were among the dead.

Naga city Mayor Kristine Vanessa Chiong said at least 64 people remained missing.

"We're really hoping we can still recover them alive," she said.

The landslide hit while several northern Philippine provinces are still dealing with deaths and widespread damage wrought by Typhoon Mangkhut, which pummeled the agricultural region Saturday and left at least 88 people dead and more than 60 missing. A massive search is still underway for dozens of people feared dead after landslides in the gold-mining town of Itogon in the north.

Cebu province was not directly hit by Mangkhut but the massive typhoon intensified monsoon rains across a large part of the archipelago, including the central region where Naga city lies about 570 kilometers (355 miles) southeast of Manila.

Rescuers were treading carefully in small groups on the unstable ground to avoid further casualties.

"We're running out of time. The ground in the area is still vibrating. We're striking a balance between intensifying our rescue efforts and ensuring the safety of our rescuers," Naga city Councilor Carmelino Cruz said by phone.

Cristita Villarba, a 53-year-old resident, said her husband and son were preparing to leave for work when the ground shook and they were overwhelmed by a roar.

"It was like an earthquake and there was this thundering, loud banging sound. All of us ran out," Villarba said, adding that she, her husband and three children were shocked but unhurt.

Outside, she saw the house of her older brother, Lauro, and his family buried in the landslide.

"Many of our neighbors were crying and screaming for help. Some wanted to help those who got hit but there was too much earth covering the houses, including my brother's," she said.

Nearly 20 people lived in her brother's home, mostly his family and grandchildren, she said.

Villarba said she had felt sorry a few days earlier for the landslide victims in the country's north.

"I had no idea we would be the next," she said.

Elsewhere in the landslide-hit community, a father and his young daughter were found dead in each other's embrace in a house, volunteer rescuer Vic Santillan said.

It's not clear what set off the landslide, but some residents blamed limestone quarries, which they suspect may have caused cracks in the mountainside facing their villages. Villarba said a light rain stopped when the landslide hit and there was no rain on Wednesday.

The nearest quarry was abandoned about a year ago, but another government-authorized quarry is still being operated not far away, and villagers also profit from the limestone business, said Angeline Templo, an assistant to the mayor.

The Philippines is one of the world's most disaster-prone countries. It is lashed by about 20 storms each year and is located in the Pacific "Ring of Fire" that is vulnerable to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Poverty has forced many to live on or near volcanoes, steep mountains and storm-vulnerable coasts, often leading to disasters.

Rescuers dig through the rubble to search for possible survivors, with some sending cellphone text messages pleading for help, following a landslide that buried dozens of homes in Naga city, Cebu province central Philippines on Thursday Sept. 20, 2018. A landslide set off by heavy rains buried homes under part of a mountainside in the central Philippines on Thursday, and several people are feared buried, including two who sent text messages seeking help. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Source: Associated Press


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Baby squirrels in the US freed from tail tangle

Baby squirrels in the US state of Wisconsin have been freed after their tails became dangerously tangled together.

They were handed in at the Wisconsin Humane Society’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre which worked to save the lives of the five young grey squirrels.

They became entangled with grass and plastic strips their mother used to build a nest.

The squirrels were cut free with scissors while under anaesthetic.

"You can imagine how wiggly and unruly this frightened, distressed ball of squirrely energy was, so our first step was to anaesthetise all five of them at the same time," the centre told the BBC.

Then they began unravelling the "Gordon Knot".

"It was impossible to tell whose tail was whose, and we were increasingly concerned because all of them had suffered from varying degrees of tissue damage to their tails caused by circulatory impairment.

"The creatures will soon be free to resume a tangle-free life in the wild," the centre said.

Baby squirrels in Wisconsin have been freed after their tails became dangerously tangled together. Source: rnz.co.nz


Woman lucky to be alive after shark takes 'big chunck' of her leg off Queensland coast

A Tasmanian mother on holiday in north Queensland's Whitsunday Islands region is lucky to be alive after a shark mauled her leg.

Justine Barwick, 46, was snorkelling at Cid Harbour on Wednesday when the attack happened leaving her with a severe wound to her left thigh and minor wounds to her calf.

Ms Barwick, a mother of two, would likely have bled to death without the quick- thinking actions of people in nearby boats.

In a second stroke of luck a rescue helicopter scrambled to the region was just 15 minutes away from the scene due to an earlier operation they'd been undertaking.

The hovering chopper drew the attention of John Hadok, an emergency department doctor from Mackay Base Hospital, who was sailing nearby and soon joined the effort to save Ms Barwick's life.

Dr Hadok's direction ensured correct first aid was given to Ms Barwick, allowing her to be safely winched into the helicopter.

RACQ CQ Rescue Helicopter crewman Ben McCauley said the doctor and others who gave first aid to Ms Barwick before she was winched aboard had likely saved her life.

"The original first aid was actually really well done," Mr McCauley told reporters today.

"We actually didn't have to do anything with the leg, it was pretty much tourniqueted up, bandaged up and bleeding had stopped. They'd done a really good job."

Although he didn't see the wound, Mr McCauley was told Ms Bariwck had "quite a big chunk of leg taken" and had suffered arterial bleeding.

She also suffered puncture wounds to her calf muscle.

The helicopter then stopped at Proserpine to refuel, allowing blood from a local hospital to be transfused and other medical treatment given.

Just after 8pm Ms Barwick arrived at Mackay Base Hospital where she remains in a critical condition on Thursday morning after overnight surgery.

Her husband Craig is at her bedside.

Ms Barwick works for non-profit Family Based Care in Burnie and had travelled to the Whitsundays on a holiday with her husband and friends.

Family Based Care chief executive Doug Doherty said Ms Barwick and Craig were regular visitors to the popular tourist destination in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.

"It didn't surprise me, because she is such a fighter, when she was being taken off the rescue helicopter and taken into hospital she was telling them what she was allergic too and still able to give directions," Mr Doherty told AAP.

"That sounds like Justine to me."

Sharks (file picture). Source: istock.com