Salim Mehajer poses in slippers in New Idea, as wife Aysha talks about money

Salim Mehajer and wife Aysha as they appear in the October 19 edition of New Idea. Photo: Supplied Salim Mehajer at a lectern, with his wife Aysha beside him, during his interview with Nine News. Photo: Channel Nine
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Salim Mehajer and his wife Aysha during their lavish wedding in August. Photo: Supplied

Aysha Mehajer in 2009 when she worked at beauty salons in the Illawarra and went by the name April Learmonth. Photo: David Tease

Aysha Mehajer, new wife of Auburn’s controversial deputy mayor, Salim Mehajer. Photo: Nine News

Aysha Mehajer, new wife of Auburn’s controversial deputy mayor, Salim Mehajer. Photo: Nine News

Salim Mehajer, Auburn’s controversial deputy mayor, and his new wife Aysha have thrown open the doors of their lavish multimillion-dollar Sydney home for a glossy women’s magazine, as Mrs Mehajer declared: “Money is not important to me.”

Among the extravagances on show at their swanky pad on Frances Street in Lidcombe are an indoor fountain, illuminated marble staircase, a “moss-clad outdoor sauna”, 10 luxury cars in a vast underground garage, a cinema room and a sports bar entertaining area.

Their surname is also displayed above a water feature that spills into their backyard pool.

The newlyweds pose for numerous photographs in the New Idea spread. In one photograph, Cr Mehajer is sitting at a white grand piano, while in another shot he appears to be wearing a velvet jacket and pair of designer slippers as he stares up adoringly at his wife.

But despite their ostentatious existence, Mrs Mehajer, 29, says money is immaterial.

“Money is not important to me. People can have millions and be completely miserable. What is important is to have something that’s irreplaceable with somebody. And what Salim and I have is priceless,” she said.

The newlyweds were also urged to come clean about whether their pearly whites and chiselled cheekbones were the result of cosmetic surgery.

Mrs Mehajer, described in the article as a former senior lecturer in beauty therapy, dodged the question, simply saying: “I’m not going to go there.”

Her husband, though, insisted that he hadn’t gone under the knife.

“I take it as a compliment that people think I’ve had work done, to be honest,” Cr Mehajer told New Idea.

“Do you want to see my eyebrows and teeth 20 years ago?” he asked, before the magazine said he flourished a photo as evidence that he had had nothing done.

Mrs Mehajer backed up her husband’s claims, saying he had a “great cleansing and moisturising routine”.

Cr Mehajer, 29, and his wife have not been far from the headlines since their wedding exploded into a national spectacle two months ago.

Their special day, which the proud groom described on social media as “AUSTRALIAS BEST WEDDING”, featured four helicopters, a fighter jet, a plane dragging a banner, dozens of Rolls-Royces, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, a film crew and a troupe of drummers that closed down their street and infuriated neighbours.

Mrs Mehajer previously worked as a beauty therapist in Wollongong, where she was known as April Learmonth.

At the time of the wedding, a former colleague in Wollongong said Mrs Mehajer had undergone a physical transformation, in which her strawberry blonde hair and freckles had been replaced by flowing brown locks and unblemished skin.

Cr Mehajer appeared to announce his prime ministerial ambitions last week during a bizarre television interview, in which he requested a lectern to address a lone reporter, with a single Nine News microphone in front of him.

He is facing an intimidation charge for allegedly threatening Bruce Herat, the father of Lindt cafe siege survivor Joel Herat, outside a Burwood gym last month.

Cr Mehajer was also been served with a personal violence order over the incident, and will appear in court next month. He has denied the allegations against him.

The silk road to recovery – solving the problem of burst eardrums

Dr Ben Allardyce is working on a silk skin for burst eardrums. Photo: Simon O’DwyerGeelong researchers are testing a silk membrane to fix badly perforated eardrums. Traditional materials used to repair eardrums have either provided good acoustic properties or mechanical strength that resists further tearing. It appears that the silk drum skin provides both.
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While most eardrum perforations heal themselves, chronic middle-ear infections or trauma leads to larger permanent holes. Untreated, they lead to further infection and hearing loss.

“Repairing these perforations usually means grafting material from somewhere else on the body,” says Dr Ben Allardyce, postdoctoral research fellow at Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials.

The long-time go-to material was the temporalis fascia, the fibrous covering of the chewing muscle, just above the ear. “It gives good hearing outcome because it’s thin and flexible,” says Allardyce. “The downside is it is relatively weak.”

Certain infections, such as that of the eustachian tubes that lead from the ear to the nasal cavity, can cause negative pressure – leading the grafted material to collapse. In such cases a surgeon will opt for ear cartilage as the grafting material. “It’s mechanically very strong but causes a dampening of the sound waves,” says Allardyce.

“It’s also completely opaque, which makes follow-up observation of the middle ear very difficult.”

In 2009, while attending a conference on silk powders, one of Allardyce’s colleagues, Dr Rangam Rajkhowa​, met with representatives of the Ear Science Institute  , a research and advocacy group based in Western . The institute was keen to see a fibre-based solution to the problem. Silk is particularly useful in bio-medical applications because it’s a protein that the human body can well tolerate. Issues of rejection are minimal.

“There’s a very low immune response to silk protein,” says Allardyce. “And it appears that a silk membrane offers both mechanical strength and good acoustic properties.”

The production of the basic membrane is fairly straightforward. The silkworm cocoons are boiled in an alkaline solution to get rid of gummy protein.

They’re then dissolved in a concentrated lithium bromide solution at 60 degrees. This leaves a honey-coloured solution of liquid protein, which is transparent.

Dialysis is then deployed to get rid of the salt. The remaining silk protein waster is poured into a dish to dry out. What remains is a clear membrane.

So far the membrane has been tested on guinea pigs and rats. Cell culture work shows the cells of the eardrum can attach to the membrane and grow across it. Testing of the membrane’s acoustic properties is being done using a laser doppler vibrometer – a laser that measure the vibration of an object – an audiology ear phone, a microphone and plastic ear canal tube.

All of this is looking good. “But we still don’t know how the membrane will behave in the environment of the middle ear,” says Allardyce.

Next up are human clinical trials. But given there are intellectual property and patent issues at play, it’s not clear when these will begin.

The silk skin innovation has profound implications for ‘s Indigenous children, who have the highest rates of middle-ear disease in the developed world, with around one-third suffering moderate to severe hearing loss, according to a Medical Journal of report from 2010, and a World Health Organisation red flag in 2004.

“Indigenous ns are more prone to large perforations because they have less access to antibiotics when suffering infections,” says Allardyce. “For children the outcomes include developmental problems … because their speech is significantly impacted.”

Tympanic membrane perforation, or hole in the ear drum, reportedly affects around 100,000 ns and more than 80 million people worldwide.

Dutdutan Tattoo Festival in the Philippinesphotos

Dutdutan Tattoo Festival | photos MANILA, PHILIPPINES – SEPTEMBER 26: A man gets tattooed by a tattoo artist during the Dutdutan Tattoo Festival on September 26, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The festival is the biggest tattoo exposition in Asia attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts from Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Samoa, Germany and the United States. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)
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MANILA, PHILIPPINES – SEPTEMBER 26: Participants display their tattoos during the Dutdutan Tattoo Festival on September 26, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The festival is the biggest tattoo exposition in Asia attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts from Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Samoa, Germany and the United States. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – SEPTEMBER 26: Tattoo enthusiasts gather during the Dutdutan Tattoo Festival on September 26, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The festival is the biggest tattoo exposition in Asia attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts from Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Samoa, Germany and the United States. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – SEPTEMBER 26: Tattoo enthusiasts gather during the Dutdutan Tattoo Festival on September 26, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The festival is the biggest tattoo exposition in Asia attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts from Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Samoa, Germany and the United States. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – SEPTEMBER 26: A girl displays her tattooes during the Dutdutan Tattoo Festival on September 26, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The festival is the biggest tattoo exposition in Asia attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts from Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Samoa, Germany and the United States. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – SEPTEMBER 26: Participants display their tattoos during the Dutdutan Tattoo Festival on September 26, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The festival is the biggest tattoo exposition in Asia attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts from Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Samoa, Germany and the United States. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – SEPTEMBER 26: Participants display their tattoos during the Dutdutan Tattoo Festival on September 26, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The festival is the biggest tattoo exposition in Asia attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts from Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Samoa, Germany and the United States. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – SEPTEMBER 26: A man gets tattooed by a tattoo artist during the Dutdutan Tattoo Festival on September 26, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The festival is the biggest tattoo exposition in Asia attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts from Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Samoa, Germany and the United States. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – SEPTEMBER 26: A man gets tattooed by a tattoo artist during the Dutdutan Tattoo Festival on September 26, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The festival is the biggest tattoo exposition in Asia attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts from Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Samoa, Germany and the United States. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – SEPTEMBER 26: Participants display their tattoos during the Dutdutan Tattoo Festival on September 26, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The festival is the biggest tattoo exposition in Asia attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts from Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Samoa, Germany and the United States. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – SEPTEMBER 26: A girl displays her tattooes during the Dutdutan Tattoo Festival on September 26, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The festival is the biggest tattoo exposition in Asia attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts from Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Samoa, Germany and the United States. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – SEPTEMBER 26: A girl inspects her tattoos during the Dutdutan Tattoo Festival on September 26, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The festival is the biggest tattoo exposition in Asia attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts from Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Samoa, Germany and the United States. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – SEPTEMBER 26: A man gets tattooed by a tattoo artist during the Dutdutan Tattoo Festival on September 26, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The festival is the biggest tattoo exposition in Asia attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts from Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Samoa, Germany and the United States. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – SEPTEMBER 26: A girl gets tattooed by Indonesian tattoo artists during the Dutdutan Tattoo Festival on September 26, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The festival is the biggest tattoo exposition in Asia attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts from Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Samoa, Germany and the United States. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – SEPTEMBER 26: A girl gets tattooed by Indonesian tattoo artists during the Dutdutan Tattoo Festival on September 26, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The festival is the biggest tattoo exposition in Asia attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts from Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Samoa, Germany and the United States. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – SEPTEMBER 26: Participants display their tattoos during the Dutdutan Tattoo Festival on September 26, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The festival is the biggest tattoo exposition in Asia attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts from Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Samoa, Germany and the United States. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – SEPTEMBER 26: Tattoo enthusiasts gather during the Dutdutan Tattoo Festival on September 26, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The festival is the biggest tattoo exposition in Asia attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts from Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Samoa, Germany and the United States. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – SEPTEMBER 26: Participants display their tattoos during the Dutdutan Tattoo Festival on September 26, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The festival is the biggest tattoo exposition in Asia attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts from Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Samoa, Germany and the United States. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – SEPTEMBER 26: A man gets tattooed by a tattoo artist during the Dutdutan Tattoo Festival on September 26, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The festival is the biggest tattoo exposition in Asia attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts from Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Samoa, Germany and the United States. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – SEPTEMBER 26: A man gets tattooed by a tattoo artist during the Dutdutan Tattoo Festival on September 26, 2015 in Manila, Philippines. The festival is the biggest tattoo exposition in Asia attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts from Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Guam, Samoa, Germany and the United States. (Photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images)

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Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 investigation combines horror and humanity

n Federal Police Senior Sgt Rod Anderson stands where the bodies of the MH17 victims were brought once they landed in the Netherlands. Photo: Kate Geraghty AFP officers and their Dutch counterparts collect human remains from the MH17 crash site. Photo: Kate Geraghty
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The Hague: If you were at war, you’d want somebody like Rod Anderson in the trenches, right beside you. Nuggety in stature, he’s like a coiled spring. He’s taciturn, eyes darting around the room as he mulls each question, looking for the trick.

At times he’ll pinch a finger and thumb, then draw them across his pursed lips: “Ain’t saying nothing.”

Maybe he’s refusing to divulge a lapse in a challenge he accepted from his daughter to reduce his sugar intake. Or he thinks he’s being asked to reveal too much about the interior of the recovery operation and the criminal investigation into the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 – a gruelling, ongoing operation that has been kept under a tight cone of silence imposed by and other countries.

But in a series of interviews in The Netherlands and , Anderson and other n Federal Police colleagues who were on the MH17 front line have given rare glimpses into a complex international operation, in which the emotional challenge was underscored by Anderson’s AFP colleague Dr Sarah Benson, who told me: “We were there to see justice done … and we needed to find our own.”

It’s difficult to remove the “us” and “our” factor in the MH17 saga. Disasters sometimes becomes a prism through which the humanity of many is judged –  the victims; those who deal with the injured and the dead; and, particularly in times of war, that of the other side, which inevitably is portrayed in unflattering terms.

But senior AFP officers attached to the MH17 investigation seem to go out of their way to acknowledge and to defend the humanity of the Ukrainian rebels who were accused of bringing down the aircraft and of the Ukrainian emergency services that mounted a rebel-controlled recovery operation in the immediate aftermath of the crash, in which 298 passengers and crew died on July 17, 2014.

Anderson is irritated by then prime minister Tony Abbott’s “bring ’em home” sloganeering at the time of the crash – because of an implication that these n dead were more important than others and/or that the response of Anderson and his colleagues somehow would be different to how they had performed at a litany of earlier disasters.

Referring to his between-disasters role investigating fatal car crashes around Canberra, Anderson said: “I attend all  deaths on ACT roads – and I don’t think one loss of life is more tragic than another. Forty together in the air, or one on the highway – they’re all tragic.”

In The Hague I saw AFP officers break from meetings on a ghoulish aspect of the crash to make cheerful phone calls to spouses in , and to say goodnight to their children on the other side of the world. Their desks were littered with family snaps and mementos of home – stuffed kangaroos and koalas, the Aussie flag.

A gut-wrenching contrast to all this, however, was a collage of the faces of ns who would not be phoning home – the 41 MH17 victims from . Nodding to the poster, a copy of which hangs in each n workspace at various investigative locations in the Netherlands, Detective Superintendent Andrew Donoghoe said: “They’re a small group of the whole 298 who died, but just seeing them fires us up.”

More than a year on, the verdict of these n investigators on the local Ukrainian recovery operation – by the rebels and local emergency responders – is cast in kinder, more forgiving language than was apparent in an avalanche of criticism at the time of the crash.

After foreign investigators, Anderson among them, took control of a refrigerated train on which the rebels had ordered that the victims remains be stored, a Dutch official said that as many as 100 bodies were missing, fuelling angry demands by officials from the victims’ countries for the warring sides in Ukraine’s separatist conflict to allow a more thorough search by investigators from the Netherlands, , Britain and Malaysia.

Ultimately, the foreign teams – sometimes a handful, sometimes as many as 80 – spent no more than 18 hours actively searching the 45 square-kilometre crash site. The Dutch claim of 100 bodies missing was perplexing, because when they unloaded what became known as “the train of the dead” at Kharkiv in Ukraine’s far north-east, the body bags in which the victims’ remains had been packed were not opened before they were airlifted to the Netherlands.

Anderson too was concerned that not all the bodies had been found – though more cautious than his Dutch colleague, the n cop figured privately that about 50 or 60 were missing. Either way, the figures were a condemnation of the local search  and recovery effort and the withdrawal of the foreign search teams was couched in terms of a worsening security threat; and conveying no sense that the much-maligned  initial Ukrainian search might have been as thorough and professional as was needed.

“We [searched] swiftly and thoroughly, while it was safe to do so,” ‘s prime ministerial envoy Angus Houston said in a statement announcing the abrupt abandonment of the first foreign sweep of the crash site early in August 2014. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who lost 193 of his countrymen in the crash, said it had become too dangerous for foreign search parties to remain in the region.

Without referring to the Dutch estimate of bodies missing, Rutte added that an opportunity to interview a Ukrainian military doctor involved in the initial response “had changed the recovery team’s perception of an earlier [search] effort undertaken by local authorities [and] fortunately more was done after the disaster than we thought until now”.

Fast-forward to mid-September 2015, and t Anderson is sitting in a conference room at the n Embassy in The Hague, telling me: “The Ukrainians were not uncaring people. It was as much a tragedy for them as for the victims. There was a lot of talk of disrespect for the dead because of the fighting – that was not the case.”

Drawing a comparison between the use of refrigerated rail wagons in Ukraine and that of refrigerated trucks in the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009, Anderson observed: “They were searching within 20 minutes of the crash and recovering remains – that’s a good response, a good job … it was done fairly well … with the level of expertise and equipment that they had, the locals did the best they could do.”

Donoghoe, now in his second rotation as head of the AFP team in The Hague, told me:  “The victims were treated with respect and dignity in difficult circumstances.”

Interviewed separately, his colleague Simon Walsh, who heads the AFP’s disaster victim identification operation, agreed – “there was no evidence to suggest otherwise”.

As shown in media reports, the Ukrainian search and recovery effort was amateurish, Walsh said, “but what we have established since is that so many victims were successfully identified on the basis of what [the Ukrainians] had collected, and subsequent searching did not reveal huge amounts of human remains that they had missed.

“The original [Ukrainian] work was done to a high standard in terms of the victims’ human remains being treated with respect and dignity.”

Were the locals and the rebels as humane as the victims’ families and friends might have expected? “From what I’ve observed, that’s a fair assessment,” he said.

The disaster victim identification process, carried out at a Dutch military base at Hilversum, near Amsterdam, also cast doubt on widespread media reporting of looting, particularly of the jewellery worn by victims.

Walsh, a member of the Identification Board that reviewed and formally ratified each identification decision, said that a regular element among what are called “secondary identifiers” was jewellery worn by the victims –  “clearly it had not been looted”, he told me.

And in cases in which the victim was not wearing jewellery described by families as proof of identification, Walsh said there were explanations apart from looting for its absence – perhaps the victim had opted not to wear the piece on the day of the flight or the jewellery might have come away from the victim as a result of the crash.

“Yes, there were cases of the jewellery being present. I can’t say if the presence was high or low; and there were cases of no jewellery, but not sufficient to substantiate claims of a high or extraordinary amount of looting.”

Through a day of interviews in The Hague, the Canberra traffic cop Anderson cloaked himself in a steely, dispassionate professionalism. But the following day, as we shared the back seat of a cop car for the drive to Hilversum, he allowed a fleeting glimpse of his own humanity.

“Mate, who do you debrief to? Who do you talk to?” he asked quietly, referring to my reporting from the charnel houses of serial wars. When I talked about the therapeutic effect of writing, he volunteered that he had taken to making audio recordings of what he saw and felt, which he’d then commit to paper as he sought to make sense of it all.

Sadly, though, some things never make sense.

Warm weather with a chance of rain in store for Canberra

A swamp wallaby eating Blooms of a wattle tree in Tidbinbilla. Photo: Philipp BrandlThe first of several possible storms for the weekend passed over Canberra on Friday evening as the Bureau of Meteorology warned of a severe thunderstorm in the region.
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Heavy rain and hail fell across Canberra and the storm was also expected to bring hail and damaging winds to the south coast, southern tablelands and the snowy mountains. Decent sized hail falling around #Canberra at the moment. pic.twitter杭州龙凤论坛m/0dV3uJXl01— Julie J (@mookaqueen) October 9, 2015

After a long weekend of genuine summer-like temperatures this weekend might feel comparatively cooler.

But a string of days peaking in the mid-20s will still be well above average alongside a chance of a shower or storm, Weatherzone meteorologist Rob Sharpe said.

Friday is forecast to reach a maximum 26 degrees before tops of 27 degrees on Saturday and 24 degrees on Sunday; five to six degrees above average.

“The long weekend was very warm for this time of year,” he said.

“From tomorrow onwards it’s going to be well above average again. The October long-term average is 19.5 degrees.

“It looks like it’s going to be a very warm October compared to usual and it looks like it’s going to be a very dry October compared to usual.”

Mr Sharpe said the warm weather could be peppered with the odd shower or thunderstorm thanks to a low pressure trough that had formed over southern and central parts of the country.

“There is a chance of a few showers and maybe a couple thunderstorms through to next week. The risk is greater on Sunday or Monday,” he said.

“The air mass across the country is still very dry – we had very dry air moving into Canberra last weekend. Any shower or thunderstorm we do get will probably be fairly light.”

Mr Sharpe expected less than 10mm of rain over the next week.

He said maximum temperatures could dip to the low to mid 20s by Tuesday and Wednesday, before warming up again in time for the following weekend.

The warmer weather has allowed patient Canberrans to get behind the camera and snap some intimate photos of wildlife for The Canberra Times spring photo competition.

Philipp Brandl​ of Yarralumla captured a swamp wallaby eating golden blooms from a wattle tree in Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.

Competition entrants’ photos have the chance of being published in the Canberra Times newspaper or on canberratimes杭州龙凤论坛m.au.

Send a maximum of three photos to [email protected]杭州龙凤论坛m.au as attached JPEG files and include your name, address, phone number, photo title, a description of the photo and the date it was taken.

Photos must be between 150 kilobytes and one megabyte. Winners will take home a share of the $1000 prize. 

Weatherzone is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of The Canberra Times.

Bendigo’s big issue: obesity

Bendigo Health director of medicine Dr Mark Savage pictured with a bariatric bed. Picture: JODIE WIEGARDFORTY rooms at the new Bendigo hospital will be kitted out to treat patients weighing up to 300 kilograms as thewaistlines of residents of’s heaviestregioncontinue to expand.
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Bendigo Health director of medicine Mark Savage said Bendigo’s obesity problem brought with it a suite of problems.

“The more obesity you have, the more cancer there is, the more diabetes, the more heart disease, the more costs for society as a whole,” he said.

Dr Savagesaid hospital resources were being diverted to deal with obese patients.

“We need to have extra nurses on shift when we have bariatric patients,” he said.

“We need to rent special beds, we have to take nurses off other duties to help move the patients. Even if it’s only for five or 10 minutes, it disrupts their work patterns.”

Some patients presenting at Bendigo Health are so big health staff are unable to perform CT scans because the tables can’t handle their weight. Some patients can’t fitinside MRI machines.

Advanced life support educator Tracy Kidd said medical staff needed to be specially trained to resuscitate obese patients.

To give chest compressions to a normal-sized adult, health staff use roughly 40 kilograms of downward force.Obese patients can require 60 kilograms of force or more, increasing the possibility of injuries to staff.

Practising resuscitation on an obese-sized dummy. Picture: SUPPLIED

Ms Kidd said obese patients were athigher risk of needing resuscitation because they were more likely to experience cardiac arrest.

“It’s something we need to plan forward for because it requires more people. Even putting in an intravenous line isn’t as simple because we need longer cannulas,” she said.

Bendigo Health safe manual handling co-ordinator Stephen Morley has been nursing for 24 years and said patients were getting fatter all the time.

“When I started, you would be lucky to see a patient of 120 kilograms. Now we’re dealing with patients up to 200 kilograms routinely and we get patients presenting up to 300 kilograms,” he said.

“Obesity brings a whole lot of other problems as well; osteoarthritic problems, fertility problems, mobility, social problems, psychological problems, diabetes.It’s just a snowball effect and once one starts, the others follow,” he said.

In the Loddon-Mallee-Murray region, which takes inBendigo, Echuca and Swan Hill, 41 per cent of adults are obese.

Seventy per cent of adults in the region are considered overweight, with a body mass index of 25 or more.

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More than a third of world’s coral reef faces major bleaching event

A before and after image of coral bleaching in American Samoa, with the right image taken in December 2014 Photo: XL Catlin Bleaching on reefs in American Samoa. Photo: XL Catlin
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The Great Barrier Reef shown in healthy conditions. Photo: n Institute of Marine Science

A massive, global coral bleaching event is underway which could affect 38 per cent of the world’s reefs by year’s end, including the Great Barrier Reef, scientists have revealed.

The consortium of researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the US, the University of Queensland, Reef Check, and XL Catlin Seaview Survey says the mass bleaching – only the third of its kind in recorded history – is being driven by increased ocean temperatures.

NOAA has estimated the event may kill more than 12,000 square kilometres of reef worldwide.

The rise in the ocean temperatures is being caused by the background warming from climate change made worse by this year’s super El Nino weather event, and a Pacific warm water mass known as “the Blob”, the researchers say.

The extent of the damage to ‘s World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef was not yet known, but it will become obvious by early 2016, University of Queensland Global Change Institute Director, Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, said in a statement.

“If conditions continue to worsen, the Great Barrier Reef is set to suffer from widespread coral bleaching and subsequent mortality, the most common effect of rising sea temperatures,” Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

Coral bleaching occurs when stressed corals exude an algae, zooxanthellae, which lives inside their tissue. After it is expelled, the bright, white skeleton of the coral is left exposed. They can, but do not always, die as a result of the bleaching.

According to the NOAA-led researchers, coral reefs support one quarter of all marine species and a mass bleaching event can “severely deplete” the ecosystems that rely on them.

In 1998, more than half of the Great Barrier Reef experienced bleaching and up to 10 per cent of its corals died. That was the world’s first, major recorded event of its kind and it killed 16 per cent of the globe’s corals.

The second event, five years ago, did not affect the Great Barrier Reef partly because two local cyclones helped to drive down ocean temperatures.

But this year so far, bleaching has already been recorded across the northern Pacific, Indian, and western Atlantic Oceans. It is expected to become obvious in the Caribbean in the next few weeks.

Bleaching only reaches a “global event” stage when all three major ocean basins are affected across multiple reefs spanning 100 kilometres or more, XL Catlin Seaview Survey said.

“This is only the third time we’ve seen a global-scale bleaching event,” NOAA Coral Reef Watch coordinator Dr Mark Eakin said in a statement.

Dr Tyrone Ridgway, from UQ’s Global Change Institute, said the severity of any impact on ‘s iconic Great Barrier Reef will depend on how long the higher-than-average ocean temperatures last.

“As we move into summer, these temperatures are expected to rise even more,” he told Fairfax Media.  “If we get coral mortality, the health of the system will decline.”

As corals are the “builders” of the Reef, this would affect fish stocks as well as tourism.

Surface waters of the equatorial central and eastern Pacific – where the El Nino has formed – are as much as 4 degrees warmer than average, while deeper gauges are detecting anomalies of 7 degrees.

Daughter charged stabbing murder of mother, 73

A WOMAN, 73, allegedly killed by her daughter at Redhead on Saturday was an advocate and volunteer for mental health services in the Hunter.
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Gail Parnell was found dead inside her home at The Sanctuary mobile home park on Kalaroo Road about 6.30pm. She had suffered multiple stab wounds in an alleged frenzied attack by her daughter, Keren Parnell, 36.

Gail’s husband, John Parnell, suffered minor injuries, including scratches and bruises to both arms, police said. He was taken to John Hunter Hospital but later discharged.

Keren Parnell, of New Lambton, was arrested at the home and later charged with murder, using an offensive weapon with intent to commit an indictable offence and detaining a person with intent to obtain an advantage and cause actual bodily harm.

She did not leave the courthouse cells or apply for release in Newcastle Bail Court on Sunday morning.

Her legal aid solicitor said Keren Parnell had ‘‘significant mental and physical health issues’’ and asked for her to be seen by a nurse while in custody.

Her matter was adjourned to Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday.

Police have also applied for an apprehended violence order on behalf of Mr Parnell against his daughter. Both parents had been board members for the Association of the Relatives and Friends of the Mentally Ill (ARAFMI) Hunter.

The Redhead house where a woman, 73, was stabbed to death.

The organisation aims to provide support services for the families and carers of people with a mental illness.

ARAFMI committee treasurer Garry Fowkes was deeply shocked to hear of Gail Parnell’s death.

Mr Fowkes said she had been a board member for some years and had acted as a carer to two of her children and her husband after he had a stroke a few years ago.

‘‘She was a beautiful, gentle, caring person,’’ Mr Fowkes said. ‘‘That’s the best way to sum her up.’’

Saturday was World Mental Health Day and October is Mental Health Month in NSW.

Mr Fowkes said ARAFMI had been organising the annual mental health walk of pride for October 24.

‘‘We start at Pacific Park and walk down Hunter Street into Civic Park to celebrate how far we’ve come with destigmatising mental illness,’’ Mr Fowkes said.

‘‘For this sort of thing to happen to one of our members so close to that event is going to be heartbreaking,’’ he said.

It’s believed Mr and Mrs Parnell moved to the Redhead mobile-home park from Swansea about five months ago.

Residents of The Sanctuary park said it was generally Redhead’s most peaceful place.

Popular with retirees, it is home only to permanent residents.

It’s the sort of place where residents leave their doors unlocked to go for a walk. When a throng of ambulances burst through the park gates on Saturday afternoon, residents thought someone had suffered a heart attack.

Then word spread that a crime scene was being set up. ‘‘It was such a shock,’’ one resident said. ‘‘I feel so sorry for the family. It’s a very sad situation.’’

The park encourages a social atmosphere, but the Parnells preferred to keep to themselves during the few months they lived there, neighbours said.

‘‘If you walked past them they would say g’day and that’s about it,’’ one resident said.

The Herald, Newcastle

need2know: Weak lead from Wall St

Local shares appear set to open lower to start the week as the global rally lost some momentum in trading on Wall Street on Friday.
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What you need2know

SPI futures down 18pts at 5249

AUD at 73.34 US cents, 88.07 Japanese yen, 64.51 Euro cents and 47.81 British pence

On Wall St, S&P 500 flat, Dow +0.2%, Nasdaq +0.%

In Europe, Stoxx 50 +0.8%, FTSE +0.7%, CAC +0.5%, DAX +1%

Spot gold up $US17.52 or 1.5% to $US1156.53/ounce

Brent crude down 51 US cents or 1% to $US52.54/barrel

Iron ore adds 0.1% to $US56.01/tonne

What’s on today

lending finance, credit and debit card lending; US Columbus Day holiday – US stock markets open, bond markets closed; The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries publishes its Monthly Oil Market Report in Vienna; London Metal Exchange Chief Executive Officer Garry Jones and Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing CEO Charles Li are among speakers at the LME Metals Seminar, kicking off LME Week in London.

Stocks in focus

Bell Potter has a “buy” on Macquarie Group and a target price of $91.50 a share, both unchanged. Goldman Sachs retains a “neutral” on Macquarie Group.

Goldman Sachs has a “neutral” recommendation on Medibank Private and a target price of $2.65 a share, up 6 per cent. “We expect MPL to remain focused on reducing the growth in claims given the demographic headwinds it faces. We forecast gross margin to improve only modestly in the medium term (13.9 per cent in FY18, up from 13.6 per cent in FY15).”

Macquarie Wealth Management has an “outperform” on Westfield Corp and a price target of $12.13 a share.

Currencies

A “persistent” weakening of the yuan would be inconsistent with the fundamentals of the world’s second-biggest economy, and the country is committed to making its currency regime more flexible and market based, said People’s Bank of China deputy governor Yi Gang said at the International Monetary Fund annual meetings in Lima.  The yuan has fallen 2.1 per cent against the US dollar since August 11, when the central bank announced steps to put the currency more in line with market forces.

The Bank of England suggested that inflation could remain below 1 per cent until the spring of 2016, which is longer than anticipated, writes Kathy Lien, managing director of FX strategy for BK Asset Management.

Commodities

Iron ore capped the biggest weekly increase since the start of August as traders and steel mills in China sought to replenish inventories after returning after a week-long break. Ore with 62 per cent content delivered to Qingdao rose 5.4 per cent this week, the largest gain since the five days to August 7, according to Metal Bulletin Ltd. Prices climbed 0.1 per cent to $US56.01 a dry metric ton on Friday.

Zinc surged 12 per cent to a two-month peak on Friday and other base metals also rose strongly after commodities group Glencore said it would cut its zinc output by a third, sparking a short-covering rally across the board. Zinc’s jump, its biggest one-day gain in at least a decade, followed Glencore’s announcement that it will cut 500,000 tonnes of annual zinc production, equivalent to around 4 per cent of global supply, in its latest response to weak commodities prices.

London Metal Exchange three-month zinc shot up to an intraday peak of $US1875 a tonne, a gain of 12.5 per cent. That was its highest price since August 11 and its biggest single-day gain in Reuters data, which goes back to mid-2005. It closed up 10.1 per cent at $US1835. Zinc prices sank to their lowest in over five years at $US1601.50 late last month, partly on an overhang of inventories.

United States

US stocks rose, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index posting its strongest weekly gain this year, as equities continued to rebound from their worst quarter since 2011. The S&P 500 had a weekly gain of 3.3 per cent, its best week since December. For the week, the Dow rose 3.7 per cent while Nasdaq rose 2.6 per cent.

Shares advanced Friday without the help of energy and raw-material companies, the two best-performing groups so far this month, as energy snapped its longest winning streak in six years. Apple added 2.4 per cent to boost technology shares. Alcoa slumped 6.8 per cent to weigh on commodity related companies.

“Policy makers are trying to be prudent with policy, but not panicking over the global outlook,” said Brian Jacobsen, who helps oversee $250 billion as chief portfolio strategist at Wells Fargo Advantage Funds in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. “We’ll see whether or not we can hold above 2,000 in the S&P 500 and build from here ahead of earnings.”

Europe

A rally in mining shares buoyed European stocks on Friday, sending them to their biggest weekly gain since July. Commodity companies climbed for a ninth day, the longest streak since 2000. Zinc producer Boliden jumped 13 per cent after Glencore cut its output of the metal by a third, while ArcelorMittal and Anglo American gained 6 per cent or more. Glencore gained, taking its weekly surge to a record 36 per cent.

In London, BHP Billion added 4.32 per cent and Rio Tinto rose 3.15 per cent. Miners represented six of the top 10 performers on the FTSE 100.

Norsk Hydro gained 5 per cent after signing a letter of intent to acquire Vale’s 40 per cent stake in Brazilian bauxite producer Mineracao Rio do Norte.

What happened on Friday

The ASX rose for the fifth straight day to enjoy its best week since December 2011, thanks to a stunning reversal in fortunes among energy stocks and bets the US Federal Reserve will delay its interest rate hiking cycle. The S&P/ASX 200 added 69 points, or 1.3 per cent, on Friday to close at 5279.7, or 4.5 per cent higher for the week. The broader All Ordinaries index gained 1.3 per cent on Friday and 4.3 per cent over the five sessions at 5309.2.

Among the blue-chips, BHP was up 2.4 per cent on Friday and 13.3 per cent for the week to $25.60, while Rio Tinto was up 3.7 per cent for the day and 13.2 per cent for the week.

The El Nino crisis you’ve never heard of

You’d think that with the Ebola outbreak, the Syrian refugee crisis and the Nepal Earthquake we’ve had enough gut-wrenching humanitarian emergencies for one year. But a fresh crisis is brewing in the Horn of Africa and the cause is very familiar to ns: El Nino.
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The warming sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean – dubbed El Nino – is causing dryer than usual conditions in eastern . On Thursday the Bureau of Meteorology warned its impact is likely to intensify in the months ahead stoking the risk of drought and bushfire. This El Nino is so strong it has been described as “Godzilla” and much of the country has already experienced scorching October temperatures. But El Nino is also playing havoc in the Horn of Africa. It has been blamed for the failure of crucial mid-year rains across vast swathes of Ethiopia triggering what the United Nations calls a “slow onset” emergency.

The number estimated to be in need of emergency food assistance in drought-stricken regions of Ethiopia has surged from 4.5 million to about 7.5 million since August. More than 300,000 children are already severely malnourished and the UN warns that 15 million people could need assistance by next year. Food shortages are set to worsen over the next six months as the El Nino event keeps large parts of the country dry well into 2016. In neighbouring Somalia a further 855,000 people are reportedly in need “life-saving assistance” and the UN warns 2.3 million more people there are “highly vulnerable”.

It’s only four years since I witnessed first-hand how devastating drought in the Horn of Africa can be. In mid-2011 I travelled to the Dadaab refugee camp near Kenya’s border with Somalia to report on the food crisis gripping the region. The massive camp had been swamped by tens of thousands of destitute Somali farming families desperate for food and water. I was shocked by how many malnourished children were not receiving help.

In an attempt to highlight this I visited a group of newly arrived families living in makeshift humpies on the outskirts of the camp and asked if I could check the nutritional status of their young children. I did this by measuring the circumference of the children’s mid-upper arm – one indicator of undernourishment.

Within a few hours I had identified about a dozen badly malnourished children under five years who were not receiving any medical treatment. It was frustrating that better assistance was not available – if I could find these needy children surely the international humanitarian system could? But the lack of resources in the camp was symptomatic of the sluggish donor response to the 2011 Horn of Africa food crisis.

That year aid agencies issued warnings months in advance that drought-affected communities were becoming more and more vulnerable. Yet the response was slow and indecisive. Things got so bad that famine was eventually declared in parts of Somalia. A report by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health found more than 260,000 died during the food crisis, the majority of them children.

It looks like the trauma I witnessed four years ago is being repeated. The Ethiopian government is responding to the worsening food crisis but most international donors are yet to heed the warnings.

“It’s like everything we witnessed in 2011 is coming back again,” one frustrated aid worker in Ethiopia told me. “How on earth are we going to feed 7½ million people for six months because the next harvest is not until June? And how do we treat 300,000 kids with severe acute malnutrition? Not only is there no funding but we haven’t procured any food. Even if we had the money, the food procurement pipelines are long and slow … so we’ve found ourselves looking down the barrel of a gun – there’s simply no money and no food in the pipeline.”

Images of malnourished children and parched landscapes in the Horn of Africa are all too familiar. The great Ethiopian famine of 1984 shocked the world and even spawned a new style of celebrity activism with Band Aid in 1984 and the Live Aid concerts in 1985. But Ethiopia is a very different country to the one convulsed by famine in the mid-1980s. Like many other African nations it has experienced years of rapid modernisation and rising living standards.

Even so, the combination of a burgeoning population – which has grown by more than 40 per cent to about 100 million in the past decade – and a critical dependence on rain-fed agriculture means the country is still very exposed to drought. Aid workers based in the Horn of Africa say they can already see a trend towards weather extremes and are alarmed that its just four years since drought triggered a major humanitarian crisis in the region. It underscores how vulnerable the region is to the long-term effects of climate change.

“Parts of the Horn of Africa are already some of the driest places on Earth and they are likely to get dryer over time due to climate change,” said Robert Glasser, the former director general of aid agency Care International. “We’re seeing evidence of these changes already.”

The looming crisis in the Horn of Africa will put additional pressure on an international humanitarian system that is already overstretched. Aid groups are grappling with the enormous refugee crisis triggered by the Syrian conflict along with major emergencies in South Sudan, Iraq, Yemen and the Central African Republic. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are struggling to rebuild after the worst Ebola outbreak in history while in Nepal tens of thousands are still homeless and dependent on assistance following April’s devastating earthquake.

But a repeat of the 2011 Horn of Africa famine must not be allowed. It will test the generosity of wealthy nations like .