Hunting Indonesia’s most wanted terrorist

He is Indonesia’s most wanted terrorist who has “kept Jihad alive” in the world’s most populous Muslim country.

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Despite large-scale manhunts over more than two years, Santoso and his men have been able to evade capture, pledge allegiance to Islamic State, kill police, stockpile weapons and hold claim over territory within Central Sulawesi’s dense jungle.

As thousands of military and police personnel once again scour the Poso District, AAP travelled to the remote region to get a rare glimpse into Operation Tinombala and explore how Santoso has been able to elude authorities for so long.

Santoso – also known as Abu Wardah – is the leader of Mujahidin of Eastern Indonesia (MIT), a group that emerged from the shadows of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) – infamous in Australia as the organisation behind the fatal 2002 Bali bombings.

Along with Daeng Koro (who was killed in a shoot out with police last year), Santoso has brought together more than 20 men and three women in Napu Valley’s thick forest.

Here nearby villagers dry farmed cocoa in front of their wooden homes and dogs flop lazily onto the middle of the road.

It is quiet and life is slow, but military and police are never far off.

Multiple checkpoints have been established throughout the valley, where those passing are examined by authorities in a bid to sever supplies to Santoso.

But even with this and more than 2000 personnel on the ground, Santoso remains elusive.

The terrain is steep, the forest dense, and fog obscures vision.

More than a dozen men have died in shoot outs with the group and in March at least 10 personnel were killed when a military helicopter crashed in poor weather.

Operation Tinombala spokesman Hari Suprapto said Santoso is an expert in survival.

“One of the things we found were several betel nut trees cut down. They eat the leaves of the tree,” he told AAP.

“It’s like finding a needle in a haystack.”

Director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict Sidney Jones said Santoso’s influence stretches back to 2011 when he ran two-week para-military training courses.

“There is an alumni network of Santoso’s training courses that are now spread across Indonesia and several veterans of Poso training camps are also in Syria,” she told AAP.

“Even though his capture wouldn’t significantly change the risk factor in Indonesia … many people see him as the one person who has kept Jihad in Indonesia alive.”

The only militant to have claim over territory, Santoso has carried out repeated attacks on authorities.

In May 2011, Santoso allegedly murdered two policemen during an assault in front of a bank in Palu, Central Sulawesi’s capital, while he and his men have been linked to the beheadings and kidnapping of villagers.

Last month, the US declared him a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” after it was revealed he had received funding from Syria.

With so much to loose symbolically, Hari doubts that if they do corner him, Santoso will want to come out alive.

Despite backlash, Depp and Heard’s biosecurity message ‘sinking in’

A video showing Hollywood couple Johnny Depp and Amber Heard apologising for breaking Australia’s quarantine laws “clearly broadcasts the importance of biosecurity” to the country, a Melbourne-based analyst said.

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Andrew Robinson, the Deputy Director of Melbourne University’s Centre for Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis (CEBRA), said even in the midst of a social media backlash mocking the apology, its message reinforces Australia’s strict customs laws.

“It seems to me that if people are parodying the video, they’re thinking about the content,” he said. “They’re reflecting on the consequences of the mistake these two individuals have made. 

“No doubt the message is sinking in, and the more parodied it is, the more broadcast the message is.”

In the video, Depp and Heard apologise for illegally bringing their dogs Pistol and Boo into the country last year when Depp was filming on the Gold Coast.

 Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the couple communicated with the Department of Agriculture about the recording, which he shared online after Ms Heard’s appearance in a Queensland court.  The reaction on social media has been brutal, with many comparing it to a hostage video.The Johnny Depp apology feels like a hostage video.

— Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) April 18, 2016The Heard/Depp video is now the best hostage thriller of 2016. I feel compelled to give it a star rating.

— Marc Fennell (@marcfennell) April 18, 2016Uncropped footage from the Johnny #Depp and Amber #Heard Australian apology video. Makes sense now! #dogs #doggate pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/S37Zio44MA

— Jonathan Davies (@jmdllani) April 18, 2016The Simpsons Australia episode has basically become true #Depp pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/QWLeNTx08U

— Neil Richards (@neilrich75) April 18, 2016

Youtube star Natalie Tran took the “hostage” angle one step further by editing herself into a version of video where she waves a fake gun and holds cue cards off-camera.

It ends with Tran saying, “I think people will think we’re real friendly.”

Mr Joyce said the apology will serve as an effective educational tool.

“We’ve got a message that is going around the world right now,” he said. “It’s going off like a frog in a sock, telling people if you come into this nation and you don’t obey our laws, you’re in trouble.”

Mr Robinson said Australia’s biosecurity laws remained among the strictest in the world.

“Dogs from the United States are known to possibly carry rabies, and numerous types of ticks with diseases that not only effect dogs, but other mammals including humans,” he said.

“When I saw the video I thought it clearly broadcast the importance of biosecurity to Australia.”

Human beings – and our offices – are crawling with microbes

Joanna Verran, Manchester Metropolitan University and James Redfern, Manchester Metropolitan University

Microorganisms are the smallest forms of life, and the human microbiome includes bacteria, viruses and fungi.

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There are more microbial cells on and in our bodies than the ten trillion human cells which make us what we are. This microbial life helps us to break down our food, provides vitamins we cannot produce and plays a big role in keeping us healthy.

On a daily basis, we walk around surrounded by our own unique microbial cloud. Given that the skin, hair and dust we shed is covered in microorganisms, it’s hardly surprising that our built environment is also full of microbial life.

This “contamination” can pose a risk. For example, in hospitals, doctors are wary of microorganisms such as Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause infection. And most people know that bacteria such as Salmonella, which might be present on food or kitchen surfaces, can give you food poisoning.

Gone to work

But what about our offices? We spend much of our working lives in office buildings, yet we know relatively little about the microbiome of these spaces. To find out what kind of microorganisms live in our work places, scientists from the American Society for Microbiology investigated the microbiome of three different surfaces (carpet, ceiling tile and wall), in three different offices, in three cities (San Diego, Flagstaff and Toronto) over a 12-month period.

This was no easy task. Normally, if they wanted to know about which microbes were present, scientists would take samples from the site, grow the microorganisms on agar plates, then count the number of colonies and identify the species present. But many microorganisms are in fact “non-culturable” using current techniques, meaning that although they multiply happily in their natural environment, we can’t grow them in the lab.

So, instead, the researchers identified the types of microorganisms present – particularly bacteria – using molecular biology, which characterises unique parts of the organisms’ DNA. Molecular identification can indicate the presence of many more different types of microorganisms, and can detect very low numbers of cells – though it can’t tell you exactly how many cells are present.

Keeping clean

The good news is, the amount of “biomass” material collected was small – indicating that the number of microorganisms in the offices is probably low. All three surfaces were essentially dry, so any microbes that attached would likely be unable to grow because of the lack of moisture. This means that any increase in biomass over time would be due to additional microorganisms being deposited, rather than the formation of a thriving microbial community.

The researchers also found no difference in the bacterial communities on each of the surface materials. This is interesting and perhaps unexpected, because the texture of the materials would vary, the numbers of microorganisms harboured would be different, and the porosity, density and chemistry of the surfaces might affect retention of moisture and dirt.

But in order to be able to control the experiments, the scientists needed to use new test materials, which were located out of the way of most of the office activity. However, they did find a greater variety of microorganisms on the floor than on the ceiling – suggesting that areas which are used more will be at greater risk of contamination.

Downtown San Diego and … looming microbial cloud? from 长沙桑拿,shutterstock长沙桑拿按摩论坛,

The origin of most of the bacteria was non-human, and it was shown that other sources in the environment – such as air, dust, animals, plants, trees – were contributing to a city-specific bacterial community. So, the cities determined the nature of the office microbiome to a greater extent than the people in the office, or the office itself. This is presumably due to their differing geography, location and extent of industrialisation. Indeed, the researchers reported that they could detect which city any given sample came from, based only on its microbial make up, to an accuracy of 85 per cent.

The fact is, most of the bacteria that you’re likely to find in offices can survive for several weeks without much nourishment. But they can only multiply if water and nutrients such as dust, crumbs and skin scales become available, and if the temperature is hospitable. So, if you’ve eaten lunch at your desk recently, or if it’s been a while since you cleaned your keyboard or phone, the chances are that your colleagues aren’t the only life forms you’re sharing your work space with.

It’s inevitable that we’ll find germs in and around the office. And many studies are concerned about the contamination of inert surfaces by microorganisms, and their potential impacts on health. But for the most part, we can keep the office microbiome under control by ensuring surfaces are clean and dry.

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The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

France votes: Macron victory a win for the EU

There had been concerns that a rise in populist sentiments across Europe could lead to the collapse of the EU establishment.

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But many are breathing a sigh of relief.

The election of independent candidate Emmanuel Macron is being seen by some as a boost for the future of the European Union.

Mr Macron defeated nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen, taking around two-thirds of the votes.

Ms Le Pen’s campaign was largely driven by her populist sentiments, similar to those that fuelled the rise of Donald Trump and Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

Le Parisien: “39, ans et President!” #Presidentielle2017 @SBSNews pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/UIyO2RQDni

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) May 8, 2017

But Dr Maryse Helbert, a researcher in French national and international politics at the University of Melbourne, says Ms Le Pen’s resounding defeat signals a rejection of those sentiments.

“It shows that while yes, there was a wave of populism in the world, starting with Donald Trump and Brexit, it hasn’t translated in other European countries, she told SBS World News.

“This is is a good thing, it shows they’ve been able to resist it.”

Throughout her campaign, Ms Le Pen was a strong critic of the European Union, proposing to leave the euro zone and hold a referendum on membership.

But Mr Macron has vowed to remain committed to the EU.

French politics expert Professor Peter McPhee, from the University of Melbourne, says this reaffirms support for the idea of a strong Europe.

“It may well be a turning point in terms of reassertion of the political dominance of parties that are in favour of Europe rather than critical of it,” he said.

Libération: Bien Joué… Bien Fait #Presidentielle2017 @SBSNews pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/X0D8xP1LZY

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) May 8, 2017

“It will be interesting to see how it rubs off in the Italian elections that are coming up next year.”

Those elections could see the return of another young pro-European centrist in Matteo Renzi, who was forced to resign as Italian prime minister in December.

He now looks on course for a comeback after regaining the leadership of his Democratic Party in a primary vote.

SBS Europe Correspondent Brett Mason reports from Paris

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While Italy is a significant member, Ms Helbert says it’s France and Germany that are the pillars of the European Union.

She says Mr Macron’s win is a boost for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is standing firm on a strong commitment to the European bloc.

Ms Merkel is on track to win re-election in September, and Ms Helbert says Emmanuel Macron’s victory is encouraging for her supporters.

“I think it’s going to give them some kind of impetus for their own election, saying well, the European Union is still on, and still alive at least for another five years. And we are all together on that, because there is no dividing country,” she said.

“Because if France had decided to vote for Le Pen it would have decided to leave the European Union.”

The rise of populist leaders has swept through Europe in recent years but Professor McPhee says there has been a failure on their part to seize the momentum and take office.

Geert Wilders, who heads the Netherland’s Party for Freedom, and Austria’s Norbert Hofer, from the Freedom Party, were both defeated in their country’s presidential elections.

Professor McPhee says this indicates their support is perhaps not as strong as projected in the media, but it shouldn’t be underestimated.

“In the Netherlands and Austria, they haven’t been successful, but certainly it’s been a worrying sort of cancer eating away at Europe, that you have populist right wing parties that have been so hostile to the European of providing safe sanctuary for refugees, and also, fundamentally to the whole idea of a single market, which I think has Europe has been a peaceful place for the last 70 years,”  he said.

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Swans need to be aggressive, says Jones

Aggression is the key to building momentum for Sydney, according to rising Swans AFL youngster Zak Jones.

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Speedy half back-midfielder Jones was a standout in Sydney’s drought-breaking 54-point home over Brisbane on Sunday.

He notched a career-high 27 touches and galvanised the SCG crowd with a sensational goal following a sizzling run which left would-be tacklers floundering in his wake.

The big win over Brisbane brought much needed relief to Sydney after six losses to start the season.

They (the losses) are still in the back of your mind always, but it’s good to get a win,” Jones said on Monday..

“Hopefully that brings confidence for the rest of the year and we can use that to build momentum.”

Sydney’s next two games are both at Etihad Stadium, starting with next Sunday’s clash with a North Melbourne side coming off back-to-back wins after losing their first five fixtures.

“They always bring a tough fight in every game and I think we have to bring the same aggression as we did this week,” Jones said.

Jones momentarily stole the spotlight from Lance Franklin”s eight-goal show on Sunday with his own dazzling six-pointer.

“That’s got to be the best goal I’ve kicked,” said Jones, who had only booted six in his 37 previous senior appearances.

“I was thinking about handballing to Buddy (Franklin) and then I was ‘I’m just going to take the shot.’

Asked if Franklin had anything to say to him after not getting the ball Jones said:, “No, he just got around me, everyone gets around you because you don’t usually kick goals from the backline.”

Jones conceded his effort couldn’t match Franklin’s bomb from almost 80 metres, though it came as no surprise.

“It happens all the time at training, its pretty crazy,” Jones said.

“I guess he can do it anywhere and anytime.”

‘While he describes himself as a back, Jones is now playing primarily in midfield.

The youthful energy of Isaac Heeney and himself on Sunday gave Sydney a lift and appeared to take some of the pressure of established midfielders Josh Kennedy, Dan Hannebery and Luke Parker.

“I think so, it’s good to have that versatility and throw different players in there,” Jones said.

While Sydney are still below Melbourne on the ladder, Jones hasn’t received any reminders from older brother Nathan, the Demons’ co-captain.

“We haven’t spoken about that, I think he understands where I’m coming from, we’ve both been on the down,” Zak said.

Joshua fight on track, claims Fury

Tyson Fury has claimed that Eddie Hearn has already booked London’s Wembley Stadium next year in preparation for a fight with world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.

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The 28-year-old Fury is targeting a comeback fight on July 8, providing he overturns a suspended drugs ban at a UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) hearing that opens on Monday.

Fury has not fought since beating Wladimir Klitschko for the world heavyweight titles in November 2015, due to a combination of drug issues and mental health concerns.

But in the wake of Joshua’s stunning 11th-round win over Klitschko at Wembley last month, Fury has returned to training and his intent on securing an all-British super-fight with the new champion and has revealed that Joshua’s promoter Hearn has pencilled in a fight in April 2018.

“Eddie Hearn has already booked Wembley Stadium for next April,” Fury told the Daily Telegraph.

“There isn’t another stadium where it should take place. I would fight Joshua in October but I believe Klitschko will take the rematch.

“Deep down, I don’t think they want to fight me yet. Joshua struggled with Klitschko. And I took Klitschko to school, toyed with him, put my hands behind my back, literally, while he was letting his cannons go, slipping out of the way of them. They are not ready for that.

“A lot of people have picked AJ to beat me, but I’ve said many times that we are in a sport called “the sweet science” and it’s not a body-building contest or a strongman competition. Joshua is an easy fight for me.”

Fury is now keen to focus on the future but was deeply affected by suggestions he is a drug cheat and denies ever taking any performance-enhancing substance.

He vacated the WBA and WBO titles he held last October after admitting using cocaine to cope with depression, after which the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) suspended his boxing licence.

That development came after an ankle injury had forced the postponement of his proposed rematch with Klitschko, and after Fury and his younger cousin Hughie were charged by UKAD with “presence of a prohibited substance”.

Press Association Sport understands the Fury camp are confident about the outcome for both Tyson and Hughie.

The heavyweight division now boasts four unbeaten champions with Fury, Joshua, New Zealand’s Joseph Parker and Deontay Wilder.

Fury added: “I’ve never taken a drug in my life. These people can say what they like but I’m suing them for what they have done to me. If I tested positive then why didn’t they ban me then?

“To be honest I didn’t want to live. If I had cheated, fine. But I have not cheated. I beat Klitschko on ability. I don’t need a drug. I’m a giant already. For them to say that about me, it sent me under. I did not want to live anymore. But I feel differently now.”

Housing affordability: Potential home buyers hoping budget offers relief

Housing affordability remains one of Australia’s biggest concerns heading into the federal budget on Tuesday.

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Despite house prices sitting at high levels across Australia’s major cities, some potential home buyers remain optimistic.

“It’s every man’s dream to own a house, have a family, and retire,” Indian-born Aditya Doshi, who’s been living in Australia for the past four years, told SBS 

“I don’t want to be moving from place to place every year or two years, depending on somebody else letting me stay in their property. That’s not my cup of tea.”

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Mr Doshi recently became eligible for Australian citizenship, and was now waiting for his wife’s visa to be approved.

When she arrives from India they hope to start a family while paying off a house. But despite being pre-approved for a loan of about $800,000, Mr Doshi’s near three-year house hunt has been unsuccessful.

“I would go there for an auction, make a private offer, but then get beaten at the last stage because I’m way beyond my means,” he said. 

“Prices are soaring through the roof. It’s going to cost at least another 10 to 15 per cent over your budget to buy a property in an area you like.”

Among the options being considered in next week’s budget announcement is a scheme for first home buyers to use their pre-tax income to save for a deposit faster.

So instead of paying more tax, their money would go into a savings account.

“We believe this will incentivise more first home buyers to park more money in there and save more,” said Taj Singh, co-founder of advocacy group First Home Buyers Australia.

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But not everyone is convinced, including housing analyst Dr Dallas Rogers from the University of Sydney.

“They can do one of two things in the budget,” he explained.

“They can moderate the housing affordability problem, or they can compound the housing affordability problem. 

“If you put more capital into the housing market, that will further push up prices, and that’s something we don’t want.”

The pre-tax income scheme comes after the Coalition was split over a controversial proposal to allow first home buyers to use their superannuation to raise a deposit.

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Those in favour included Treasurer Scott Morrison and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott. But others, like Malcolm Turnbull, have called it a “thoroughly bad idea”.

A better one, according to Dr Rogers, would be to rein in two measures the coalition previously vowed never to touch.

“What I’d like to see them do is wind back some of the incentives that further compound the problem,” he said.

“Things like winding back negative gearing, the capital gains tax exemptions. That would be a best case scenario.”

Taj Singh agrees, adding the federal government should work with their state colleagues to help level the playing field.

“Rather than just talking about it, they need to actually work with state governments and fast-track the release of land,” he said.

“That way there’s more supply in the market and therefore puts a downward pressure on prices.”

In any case, Aditya Doshi said he won’t give up on his dream to one day buy a home.

“These are things which help you, but they should not demotivate you if it doesn’t work in your favour,” he said.

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Yeo backed to nullify star Dog Bontempelli

West Coast midfielder Matt Priddis says he’d love to see Elliot Yeo go head-to-head with Bulldogs star Marcus Bontempelli in Friday night’s AFL clash at Domain Stadium.

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Yeo nullified Brownlow medallist Nat Fyfe in West Coast’s big derby win a fortnight ago, and Bontempelli looms as his likely match-up this week.

At 190cm and 87kg, Yeo possesses the big body and the athleticism needed to match it with Bontempelli (193cm, 92kg).

“That would be a great match-up I’d love to see,” Priddis said.

“Yeo’s probably the only midfielder who has that big body who can play on the tall, marking sort of mid.”

Yeo’s hot form has seen him rocket into early Brownlow Medal calculations, and Priddis reckons the former Lion might be flashy enough to win it.

The 23-year-old was rated a $501 outsider by one betting agency at the start of the season to win the coveted award.

But Yeo’s scintillating form has seen him wound into $21 – equal ninth overall.

Adelaide’s Rory Sloane, Geelong’s Patrick Dangerfield, and Richmond’s Dustin Martin remain the early favourites.

But Priddis, who won the Brownlow in 2014 and finished second to Nat Fyfe a year later, says Yeo boasts all the right ingredients to attract the eye of umpires.

“He’ll be right up there (in the vote),” Priddis said of Yeo, who has averaged 25 disposals and 10 marks per game this season.

“He’s great to watch. He does the flashy things, but does the hard things too.

“He’s been one of our top performers every single game.”

West Coast were left shellshocked when they were knocked out by the Bulldogs in last year’s elimination final in Perth.

Priddis danced around questions when asked if revenge would be on the minds of Eagles players this week.

“It always hurts when you exit a season earlier than you expect,” Priddis said.

“That’s the ruthless nature of AFL footy. You have to fight pretty hard and play good footy to win finals.

“We were beaten by a better side on that night.”

The Bulldogs enter Friday night’s crunch clash without star forward Jake Stringer (knee) and Josh Dunkley (shoulder).

Both West Coast and the Bulldogs boast 5-2 records after seven rounds.

Everybody loved US actress Doris Roberts

Everybody loved Doris Roberts.

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The spunky actress who played the tart-tongued, endlessly meddling mother on TV series Everybody Loves Raymond received an outpouring of praise on Monday following news of her death.

Phil Rosenthal, the sitcom’s creator, called her “a wonderful, funny, indelible actress and friend” on Twitter.

CBS said in a statement that Roberts “will be remembered for lighting up every room she walked into with an unparalleled combination of energy, humour, warmth and even a little bit of grit.”

Roberts died in her sleep, spokeswoman Janet Daily said. She was told of the death by Roberts’ son, Michael Cannata. Roberts was 90.

The cause of death was not immediately known. Roberts had been healthy and active, Daily said.

Last month, Roberts appeared at an actors’ union event that focused on the scarcity of female directors in entertainment. The outspoken critic of age discrimination asked the panel why there were so few roles for elder actors.

Roberts won four Emmy Awards for her portrayal of Marie Barone on CBS’ Everybody Loves Raymond, receiving a total of seven nominations as best supporting actress for the sitcom.

The 1996-2005 sitcom about an affectionate but bickering extended family also starred Ray Romano, Brad Garrett and Patricia Heaton. Peter Boyle, who played husband Frank Barone opposite Roberts, died in 2006.

“She was funny and tough and loved life, living it to the fullest,” Heaton tweeted. She recalled Roberts as a “consummate professional.”

Comedian Denis Leary tweeted that Roberts “made me laugh so hard so many times.”

Roberts also was known for her role in the 1980s TV detective series Remington Steele. She appeared on stage and in a variety of movies, including The Rose, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and Madea’s Witness Protection.

But it was the hugely successful Everybody Loves Raymond that “put my career over the top,” Roberts told The Associated Press as the show wrapped its run.

Roberts, then 74, fretted openly about what she would do next. “Who knows after this? Nobody writes for older people,” she said.

Yet her list of TV and movie credits continued to grow, with projects from 2015, including the TV movie Merry Kissmas, and others slated to be released this year.

Roberts was born on November 4, 1925, in St. Louis and grew up in New York.

The actress began her stage career on Broadway in the 1950s, amassing credits that eventually included Neil Simon’s The Last of the Red Hot Lovers and Terrence McNally’s Bad Habits.

In early TV appearances, she was seen in episodes of Studio One, The Naked City and The Defenders.

Roberts received her first Emmy Award in 1983, for her supporting role on the series St. Elsewhere. She received a total of 11 nominations for her TV work overall, including her bids for Everybody Loves Raymond.

An enthusiastic cook, Roberts co-wrote Are You Hungry, Dear? Life, Laughs, and Lasagna, a memoir with recipes, in 2005.

Besides her son, she is survived by her daughter-in-law, Jane, and three grandchildren, Kelsey, Andrew, and Devon Cannata.

Election means real reform unlikely: BDO

The likely July 2 federal election has put the prospect of any real tax reform on the backburner, an accountancy firm says.

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BDO expects the election will overshadow the May 3 budget and the federal government’s promised wide-ranging tax reform package that will be unveiled with it.

“I think the thing that is more likely than not to get put on the backburner is a serious conversation about tax reform,” BDO tax partner David Blake told AAP.

He said the consistent message from business has been the government needs to get on with it.

“Our clients are saying `we’re a little bit sick and tired of all this reform being proposed and then nothing happens’.”

The election is also expected to limit any real measures in the federal budget.

“The forthcoming election casts a very big shadow over this budget, so I’m expecting we will see a lot of rhetoric but not much in the way of real reform on 3 May,” BDO tax partner Mark Molesworth said.

Mr Blake said the real tax reform being sought by business meant rate reductions and removing the duplicity in the federal and state tax systems in terms of state imposts such as stamp duty, land tax and payroll tax.

“If you’re going to reform the system you ought not have so many layers of taxation,” he said.

Mr Blake said business also wanted the government to take a long-term view.

“If you’re taking a long-term view it seems to us that infrastructure would be the one place where you could make a serious productivity change.”

He said an infrastructure bond would provide a mechanism for direct investment in infrastructure by all superannuation funds for the long-term benefit of the country.

Cairns petrol probe ‘overdue’: RACQ

A probe by the consumer watchdog into high petrol prices in Cairns is long overdue, Queensland’s peak motoring body says.

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on Tuesday revealed the far north Queensland city would become the fourth location for a petrol price investigation.

The average unleaded petrol price was 146.4 cents per litre (cpl) in 2014-15, which was 12.3 cpl higher than prices in major cities including Sydney and Brisbane.

“Understanding why petrol prices in Cairns are so high will help us identify the steps that could be taken to increase transparency and promote competition in the Cairns’ fuel market,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

“It should also provide some explanation of why petrol prices are high in other regional locations around Queensland.”

RACQ spokesman Michael Roth said the study would be welcomed by Cairns motorists who have been ripped off for years.

“We’re hopeful this study will make a real difference to ULP prices in the area,” he said.

“When a market study was carried out in Darwin prices dropped, and they remain significantly lower now than they were prior to that study.”

State Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the ACCC had the tools and expertise to bring “real scrutiny” to the Queensland market.

“As we have seen in recent weeks, Cairns, in particular, regularly experiences more expensive petrol prices than its neighbours which is unfair for local motorists,” Mr Bailey said.

“We need to be satisfied that market prices are fair and reasonable wherever you live in Queensland, and this ACCC investigation is a positive step forward.”

The federal government tasked the ACCC with monitoring petrol prices, costs and profits in December 2014 and it has so far looked at the markets in Darwin, Armidale and Launceston.

Ecuador quake: Death toll climbs as search for survivors continues

But the traumatized survivors Correa met on his rounds two days after the magnitude 7.

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8 quake had much more immediate concerns: many asked him for water.

With the death toll likely to rise further and swaths of flattened homes, roads and bridges coming to light, a visibly moved and grim-faced Correa warned that Ecuador’s biggest disaster in decades would put a big toll on the poor Andean country.

Another 231 people are still missing and presumed to be trapped or buried under buildings that collapsed.

“Reconstruction will cost billions of dollars,” said Correa in the hard-hit city of Portoviejo, where survivors swarmed him asking for aid. The economic impact “could be huge,” he added later.

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Growth in the country of 16 million, which is largely dependent on oil and exports, was already forecast near zero this year due to plunging oil income.

The energy industry appeared to have dodged damage although the main refinery of Esmeraldas was closed as a precaution. However, exports of bananas, flowers, cocoa beans and fish could be slowed by ruined roads and port delays.

Michael Henderson, at risk consultancy Maplecroft, said Ecuador was less well equipped to recover than Chile, where a 2010 earthquake caused an estimated $30 billion in damage.

“Whereas Chile’s economy was rebounding strongly from the global financial crisis …, Ecuador has been slowing sharply recently as lower oil prices depress activity,” he said.

“But total damage to assets in dollar terms may be quite a bit lower than in Chile due to the smaller magnitude of the earthquake and the fact that Ecuador is a much poorer country.”

Pleas for aid amid sporadic looting

The quake struck Saturday night along the northwest coast, while Correa was in Italy.

Vice President Jorge Glas – a potential candidate to succeed Correa in elections next February – flew into the disaster zone within hours to oversee rescue and relief efforts.

But some survivors complained about lack of electricity and supplies, and aid had still not reached some areas. The number of injured rose to over 2,600.

Shaken Ecuadoreans lined up for food and blankets, slept in the rubble of their destroyed homes or congregated in the street after the most destructive quake since a 1979 magnitude 7.7 quake killed at least 600 people and injured 20,000, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Fears of looting spread as in Portoviejo people stole clothes and shoes from wrecked buildings and police tried to control crowds. A former social security building was ransacked for aluminum window frames and cables by people hoping to sell the materials.

“I have to take some advantage from this horrible tragedy. I need money to buy food. There’s no water, no light, and my house was destroyed,” said Jorge Espinel, 40, who works in the recycling business.

Elsewhere, armed men robbed two trucks carrying water, clothes and other basics to quake-hit beach locality Pedernales.

There, survivors curled up on mattresses or plastic chairs next to flattened homes. Soldiers and police patrolled the hot streets while rescuers searched for survivors.

Earlier, firefighters entered a partially destroyed house in Pedernales to look for three children and a man apparently trapped inside, as a crowd gathered to watch.

“My little cousins are inside. Before, there were noises, screams. We must find them,” pleaded Isaac, 18.

Tents sprang up in the intact stadium to store bodies, treat the injured, and distribute water, food and blankets. Bruised and bandaged survivors wandered around while the more seriously injured were evacuated to hospitals.

Over 300 aftershocks rattled survivors huddling in the streets, worried their already cracked homes could topple.

“We’re scared of being in the house,” said Yamil Faran, 47, in Portoviejo. “When … the aftershocks stop, we’re going to see if we can repair it.”

Some 130 inmates climbed over the collapsed walls of the town’s low-security El Rodeo prison, although more than 35 were recaptured.

International support

The government has mobilized about 13,500 security personnel to the affected areas.

Nearly 400 rescue workers flew in from various Latin American neighbors, along with 83 specialists from Switzerland and Spain. Cuba was sending a team of doctors.

Two Canadians were among the dead. Jennifer Mawn, 38, and her 12-year-old son, Arthur, died when the roof of their coastal residence collapsed.

One U.S. citizen is also confirmed to have died in the quake, the State Department said on Monday. And Britain’s Guardian newspaper said Sister Clare Theresa Crockett, 33, a missionary nun from Derry in Northern Ireland, also died.

To get finance the costs of the emergency, some $600 million in credit from multilateral lenders was immediately activated, the government said.

But the disaster may also push Correa, a leftist, to seek help from the International Monetary Fund, consultancy Eurasia said.

“Such dynamics increase the odds of Correa turning to an IMF Program for support, an option he has so far resisted, and the earthquake could provide him with political cover to do so,” it said.

Racism case is ‘legal blackmail’: Senator

Crossbench senator David Leyonhjelm has labelled a high-profile racial discrimination case against a group of Queensland university students “an attempt at legal blackmail”.

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The Liberal Democrats senator said the lawsuit – sparked by a Facebook comment posted when students were kicked out of an indigenous-only computer lab – was being used to constrain free speech.

Senator Leyonhjelm said it also demonstrated why the Racial Discrimination Act’s controversial section 18C needed to be repealed.

Cindy Prior, an indigenous woman and administration officer at QUT, is suing the university and three students under 18C for almost $250,000 in lost wages and general damages, plus future economic losses.

Two other students have already accepted an offer from Ms Prior’s lawyers to settle for $5000, reportedly because they couldn’t afford the legal costs and did not want to be linked with racism.

The remaining students – Alex Wood, Jackson Powell and Calum Thwaites – could face up to $500,000 in legal bills if the case goes to trial.

Senator Leyonhjelm, a free speech advocate, described the case, and particularly the offer to settle for $5000, as “a blatant attempt at legal blackmail”.

“It’s another case of people using the legal system for what amounts to political purposes,” he told AAP.

“Had I been one of the respondents I would have replied with a very short, two-word reply beginning with `get’.”

Tony Abbott had promised to repeal 18C as opposition leader, which became known as the Andrew Bolt law, after a high-profile case involving the conservative columnist, but backed down as prime minister following public criticism .

The QUT case dates back to May 2013 when Ms Prior asked Mr Wood and two other students to leave the university’s Oodgeroo Unit, which is reserved for indigenous students.

Mr Wood later posted on Facebook: “Just got kicked out of the indigenous only computer lab. QUT stopping segregation with segregation?”.

The post attracted a number of comments, some of which were critical of the lab’s existence.

Ms Prior is not mentioned in any of the posts but went on sick leave following the incident, later saying she felt unsafe leaving her home because she feared verbal abuse and was unable to return to work due to face-to-face contact with white people.

QUT and the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) have come under fire over their handling of the case after it was revealed the students weren’t told of Ms Prior’s complaint for more than a year.

The students only learned of the complaint days before a key AHRC meeting that paved the way for the federal lawsuit.