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Hotels sector braces for busy times ahead

The Novotel Darling Harbour was the first Accor hotel in Australia. Accor has grown to 208 hotels across the country.There are three mega trends that are being felt in the hotel sector and operators are taking up the challenge, says AccorHotel’s Asia Pacific chief executive Michael Issenberg.
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Speaking in Sydney for AccorHotel’s 25th anniversary in Australia, Mr Issenberg said hotels had a new “dream phase” where the “before and after” experiences at a hotel had changed the sector dramatically.

AccorHotels arrived in Australia with the launch of the Novotel at Darling Harbour and now has 208 hotels under 12 brands across the country. It will expand with its latest $3.9 billion purchase of the Fairmont, Swissotel and Raffles hotel.

But Mr Issenberg said amid the new sharing economy and guests’ ability to plan and book a hotel room by themselves, and where every experience is put online immediately, its still old-fashioned service during the stay that remains the constant focus of hotel operators.

“Travel is now about the time it takes to plan and then book a holiday and select the appropriate hotel, which we call the dream phase, but once the guest arrives it’s back to offering the best service we can to make the stay enjoyable,” Mr Issenberg said.

“Everything has changed with technology and the sharing generation, so service is the differential for hotel operators.”

He said now that most people bring their own electronic devices and download movies, demand for cable TV in a room has diminished, but demand has risen for better Wi-Fi and technology outlets.

Mr Issenberg said the sector’s mega trends are the inflow of Asian travellers, the increased use of private stay accommodation, such as the group’s Onefinestay​ business, and the new sharing economy, which is not just the domain of the so-called millennials but where visitors like interacting in more relaxed lobbies and common areas.

“The growth of visitors from Asia is an important mega trend that is changing the hotel and tourism sector,” he said. “That includes having dual-speaking staff and different and more varied food, among many other services.”

This comes as the sector is bracing for an inflow of visitors for events that are now booked at the new International Convention Centre, which has been rebuilt in Sydney and opens later this year.

According to ICC Sydney, there are already more than 100 events booked and it expects to generate at least $200 million a year in economic benefits for NSW. Given the time and distance of travelling to Australia, it is expected that some guests will stay and see more of the country, which will benefit other states.

Business Events Sydney has booked 43 events to be hosted at UCC Sydney, of which 39 are international, which is its core focus.

Lyn Lewis-Smith, chief executive of Business Events Sydney, said of this pipeline 17 events will be hosted  next year, although she expects this to keep increasing over the next 12 months,

Ms Lewis-Smith said international conference delegates spend up to 6.5 times more than a regular tourist, so this super high yield traveller is the NSW government’s focus.

The chief executive and founder of Ovolo Hotels, Girish Jhunjhnuwala, said Sydney was the gateway to Australia for travellers around the world. And the opening of ICC Sydney will definitely further strengthen Sydney’s position in conventions, exhibitions and entertainment segments by attracting more international business travellers to the city.

“Hotel room demand is already at an all-time high in the city, and with the ICC’s opening, it’s going to likely accelerate rate increases, which is sure to benefit hotels in Sydney,” Mr Jhunjhnuwala said. “Overall room quality, however, continues to be a big issue, as there are limited new hotel openings and the majority of the city’s hotel room inventory is old and tired. Ovolo is well positioned with recently refurbished hotels in Darling Harbour and Woolloomooloo.”

Sarah Armstrong: books that changed me

Sarah Armstrong Photo: Donatella Parisini Journalist and producer for Foreign Correspondent: Author Sarah Armstrong. Photo: Supplied
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Sarah Armstrong has been a journalist and producer for ABC radio and Foreign Correspondent on ABC TV. Her first novel, Salt Rain, was shortlisted for the 2005 Miles Franklin Award. Her third novel, Promise (Macmillan), is about a woman who runs away with her neighbour’s son after she suspects he is being abused. She lives in northern NSW with her husband, the writer Alan Close.

The Chrysalids

John Wyndham

When I was a kid, we didn’t have a television and I read all day long, including at school where I hid a book on my lap. I discovered John Wyndham when I was about 10, and I still remember the exhilarating and disturbing experience of reading The Chrysalids. This post-apocalyptic story with child protagonists was the first time I really felt the unsettling power of fiction.

Fineflour

Gillian Mears

This is a collection of linked short stories by Gillian Mears, who, so sadly, died in May. Set on the north coast of NSW, Fineflour is her second book, and tells the stories of those living in a riverside town. Gillian’s writing is wry, melancholy and exquisitely tender. When I first read it I felt a profound resonance, as if she was articulating, in a way I couldn’t, something about how I observe the world.

Playful Parenting

Dr Lawrence Cohen

After my daughter Amelia was born six years ago I read way too many parenting books and was tying myself in knots, until I read Playful Parenting. Larry Cohen says children use play to communicate deep feelings, release tension and get close to those they love. Coming to see playfulness as an essential aspect of parenting – and not least for dealing with conflict – has made our family’s life smoother and much more relaxed.

The Turning

Tim Winton

Another collection of linked short stories! I’ve read this book many times and am always moved and inspired. There’s an economy and spare quality to his writing that is all the more admirable because he conveys so many subtle and complex layers of meaning. In The Turning, Tim Winton captures, for me, the vulnerability and beauty of being alive. I re-read it every so often for a masterclass in writing.

Moroccan feel adds to office’s internal courtyard

Six Degrees Architects designed the new office in Jessie Street, Cremorne. Photo: Alice Hutchison The exterior of the four-level building designed by Six Degrees Architects. Photo: Alice Hutchison
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This four-level office block, overlooking the railway tracks entering Richmond Station, has quickly become a landmark building in the Cremorne neighbourhood. Designed by Six Degrees Architects, the low-rise building could easily be mistaken for apartments rather than offices for the techno industry. North-facing balconies, with their concrete breezeblock screens, add a more domestic feel to the facade. “We wanted to add another layer to the facade rather than just presenting a monochromatic steel and glass office building,” says architect Michael Frazzetto, senior associate with Six Degrees Architects.

The prominent corner site, previously occupied by a single-storey 1960s warehouse, was shaped not only by the position but also, importantly, by the client’s admiration for Six Degrees Architects’ Newmarket Hotel, in Inkerman Street, St Kilda. “He loved the way we used concrete at that hotel and its general materiality,” says Frazzetto, referring to that project’s use of exposed brick, steel, tiles and more sumptuous materials such as the lush red velvet curtains. A recent trip to Morocco also captivated the client’s imagination. “He showed us images of the Riad where he stayed. There was an internal courtyard and a sense of intimacy that came with this place,” he adds.

Six Degrees Architects took their client’s brief on board and as a team looked at various courtyard-style buildings in several European cities as well as those built over several time spans, including Roman palazzi, Renaissance buildings and those found in Moorish cities. “We felt we could apply some of the same principles to this site. A number of people here came up with sketches and concepts in the initial design phase,” says Frazzetto, who sees the outcome of this project coming from the eclectic approach from various members of the design team.

The building’s concrete facade, comprising thermo panels (fully insulated to allow them to be fully exposed for the internal spaces) are complemented by floor-to-ceiling glass windows and doors and concrete brise-soleil concrete block screens to filter light, ventilation and views over the railway tracks. In contrast, the west elevation is predominantly concrete with carefully articulated windows framed in steel to accentuate the impressive city views. “The yellow (painted panels) refer to the Richmond Football Club,” says Frazzetto, who included a large concrete planter on the first level on the western facade to form sun protection over the pavement.

As with many nearby warehouses and factories, the approach to this office building is fairly discreet through a narrow passage. But it’s only until one enters that the Moorish ambience unfolds. The office on the top level, for example, taking up the entire floor plate (approximately 250 square metres), features an internal courtyard. Immediately past the steel and glass doors to the courtyard is a colonnade of arched concrete columns, evocative of the Newmarket Hotel and also the Riad in Morocco. A fireplace with a concrete hearth framed by Moorish-style tiles, completes the picture. “Eventually this area will be filled with plants, creating an oasis in this urban environment,” says Frazzetto.

Six Degrees Architects also included archways within the office spaces, including carving into the concrete walls. And in contrast to the Moorish “overlay”, the palette has been kept simple, with concrete ceilings and walls, the former with exposed services.

Unlike the top level, the lower levels have been segmented into thirds with plywood walls softening the concrete floors and ceilings. Ideal for tech companies searching for smaller and well-located offices, there’s been no shortage of tenants since the building was finished. “We wanted to create simple, functional and robust spaces, but also provide a building that had its own character, something that didn’t feel too corporate,” adds Frazzetto.

Ellyse Perry looks forward to Southern Stars’ first series in Sri Lanka

As the Australian men’s team’s long tour of Sri Lanka winds up, the Southern Stars are ready to fly out for their first ever tour there – a limited-overs series that demonstrates that much could be learnt from the women’s game.
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Meg Lanning’s squad are travelling to Colombo as part of the ICC Women’s Championship, with crucial points on offer in the first three one-day internationals in their bid to secure automatic qualification for next year’s 50-over World Cup in England.

The ICC is considering introducing a similar league structure for the limited-overs forms of men’s cricket in a development that could add context to standalone bilateral series.

In the women’s championship countries play each other home or away over a four-year cycle, with the top four gaining direct entry to the World Cup. The Australians, reassembling for the first time since the World Twenty20 championship in India in March, are on top of the ladder as they head to eighth-rated Sri Lanka.

“What’s been really great about this competition is it puts impetus on all nations,” Australian all-rounder Ellyse Perry said. “We haven’t toured Sri Lanka for a standalone series before. The [championship] has been mutually beneficial in that in allows us to be exposed to different conditions and some of the other countries can develop further as well.”

Perry is now keen on developing  her leadership credentials further. She led Sydney Sixers to the final of the  first Women’s Big Bash League last summer and has now been named to skipper a Governor-General’s XI at Drummoyne Oval in an annual game that was launched last season and this year will feature a touring South African XI.

“I haven’t done a lot of captaincy in my professional career, but I did quite a bit as a kid,” Perry said. “Last year was the first time I’ve really had a go at it playing at a higher level. I really enjoyed it andI guess the more experience you have doing it the more comfortable you get at it.”

Racing: Trainer Todd Smart sets up in Canberra

Todd Smart is confident he can further his career in Canberra. Photo: James HallCanberra racing has a new operation setting up camp.
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Previously based in Wagga Wagga, Todd Smart has polished the cobwebs off his new stable at Thoroughbred Park and has rehomed five of his fleet including his Commands-sired gelding, Attainment.

Despite spending much of his formative training years in Melbourne, Smart said the facilities, location and recent performances of Canberra horses make the capital the right option.

Smart said trainers such as Nick Olive and Matt Dale have proven you can win group 1 races from the territory, and he is confident the move will allow him to further his career.

“You’re not too far away from Sydney, you’re still not too far away from Wagga and all those kinds of places but the all-purpose track which is nearly finished means you can work horses all year-round,” he said.

“The facilities are second to none and I think the move will help me take my horses to another level.”

Smart boasts an impressive racing CV.

He began his career more than a decade ago working alongside Matthew Dale at John O’Shea’s stable. He then served as an assistant trainer to Colin Little at Caulfield before being Robert Hickmott’s foreman during arguably Lloyd Williams’ most decorated period.

“It was the year we had six runners in the Melbourne Cup and we actually won with Faulkner in the Caulfield Cup,” Smart said.

“There is no stone unturned with them, money is not an issue. They have the world’s best stayers and just the attention to detail was what I like and has helped me get the best out of my horses.

“And Canberra is a step in the direction … because it’s got the walkers, it’s got the swimming pool, it’s got the all-purpose track and all the things that I need going forward with my career.”

Meanwhile, Olive was the only multiple-winning trainer at Canberra on Friday.

His three-year-old Sebring filly, Cool In Black, won its maiden over 1300 metres and his other three-year-old, Fox Tales, continued his impressive run. The gelding has now won two of his three starts and placed in the other.

Another Australia Post truck catches fire on the Hume Highway

The postal truck on fire at Woomargama on Friday morning Photo: Live Traffic NSWAnother Australia Post truck carrying parcels in transit has caught fire on the Hume Highway, destroying its contents.
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The truck was near Woomargama, about 50 kilometres north-east of Albury when the driver of the truck noticed smoke on Friday morning.

Flames were seen spreading through the trailer on the side of the northbound lanes after it caught fire about 5am.

Rural Fire Service Superintendent Patrick Westwood said it took six fire trucks and about 25 firefighters to put out the blaze.

He told the Border Mail, a blown tyre may have contributed to causing the fire.

“It started a small grass fire next to the truck as well, but both were controlled and in hand by 6am,” he said

“I do believe the trailer had postage items in it … there was very little salvageable.”

The driver pulled over and tried to put out the fire, but it quickly became “far too dangerous”, and the trailer was destroyed, the mail service said in a statement.

“Fortunately and most importantly, nobody was hurt,” it read.

The driver managed to disconnect the trailer from his prime mover and was cleared of any injuries after being examined by paramedics.

Authorities created a makeshift lane to allow traffic to continue at a slowed speed until the truck was recovered about 10.50am.

It comes after another Australia Post truck was destroyed by fire on the same highway in April last year.

It took four Rural Fire Service trucks to extinguish the blaze at the time, which resulted in a large amount of letters being destroyed that were on their way from Sydney to Melbourne.

Australia Post said it would start sorting through the parcels damaged in the latest fire when it is safe to do so, and would use machine scanning data to help contact the senders.

Customers who posted parcels in Victoria on Wednesday 7 or Thursday 8 September for New South Wales or Queensland are advised to contact Australia Post on 13 13 18 from Monday for further information.

Australia Post issued an apology to affected customers.



Norway blasts Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg for censoring ‘napalm girl’ photograph

Aftenposten’s editor-in-chief, Espen Egil Hansen. Photo: Aftenposten
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London:  Facebook is reinstating a famous Vietnam War-era photo of a naked girl fleeing a napalm attack, after a public outcry over its removal of the image including harsh criticism from Norway’s prime minister.

In a clash between a democratically elected leader and the social media giant over how to patrol the internet, prime minister Erna Solberg said Facebook was editing history by erasing images of the iconic 1972 “Napalm Girl” photograph, which showed children running from a bombed village.

The company initially said the photo violated its Community Standards barring child nudity on the site.

Earlier a furious Norwegian newspaper had taken Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to task for “abusing his power” as the world’s most powerful editor.

Espen Egil Hansen, editor-in-chief of the Aftenposten, the country’s biggest newspaper, published a long tirade against Mr Zuckerberg after receiving an email from Facebook saying the image contravened the site’s rules.

Facebook had also suspended Norwegian author and journalist Tom Egeland after he shared the image on the social networkseveral weeks ago as part of a story on seven photographs that changed the history of warfare.

Aftenposten reported on that suspension and used the same photograph in its article, which it then shared on the newspaper’s Facebook page.

But Facebook sent Aftenposten an email asking them to “remove or pixelise” the photograph.

“We place limitations on the display of nudity to limit the exposure of the different people using our platform to sensitive content,” Facebook’s letter said, adding that it allowed some exceptions for “content posted for educational, humorous or satirical purposes”.

Less than 24 hours after sending the email, Facebook unilaterally deleted the article, and the image, from Aftenposten’s Facebook page.

It also censored  Ms Solberg after she posted the photograph on her own Facebook page in solidarity.

Ms Solberg posted the picture on Friday morning but it was taken down just three hours later, Bloomberg reported.

The Terror of War, a photograph by Nick Ut showing nine-year-old Kim Phuc fleeing a napalm attack, won a Pulitzer prize and is considered one of history’s most powerful war journalism images.

“Listen, Mark, this is serious,” Mr Hansen wrote. “First you create rules that don’t distinguish between child pornography and famous war photographs. Then you practice these rules without allowing space for good judgement.

“Finally you even censor criticism against and a discussion about the decision – and you punish the person who dares to voice criticism.”

Mr Zuckerberg has denied that Facebook is a media company.

However Mr Hansen said that Mr Zuckerberg was “the world’s most powerful editor” as Facebook was “offering us a great channel for distributing our content”.

“You are restricting my room for exercising my editorial responsibility,” Mr Hansen wrote.

“I think you are abusing your power and I find it hard to believe that you have thought it through thoroughly.”

Free and independent media must sometimes publish unpleasant images, he said.

“If liberty means anything at all, British George Orwell wrote in the preface to Animal Farm, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.

“Editors cannot live with you, Mark, as a master editor.”

Rolv Erik Ryssdal, CEO of Schibsted Media Group, which owns the newspaper, told Fairfax Media it was “not acceptable” for Facebook to “stop Aftenposten from publishing one of the most important photos of our time”.

“Facebook’s censorship is an attack on the freedom of expression – and therefore on democracy,” he said.

In an email to the newspaper, a Facebook spokeswoman said that while they recognised the image was iconic, it was hard to distinguish between cases where naked pictures of children should be allowed, and when they should not be.

“We are trying to find the right balance between people having the opportunity to express themselves, and maintaining a safe and respectful experience in our global community,” the email said.

“Our solutions will not always be perfect, but we strive to further improve our policies and the way we enforce them.”

In a statement to Fairfax Media, Facebook said it had “looked again at how our Community Standards were applied in this case”.

“An image of a naked child would normally be presumed to violate our Community Standards, and in some countries might even qualify as child pornography,” the statement said.

“In this case, we recognise the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time. Because of its status as an iconic image of historical importance, the value of permitting sharing outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal, so we have decided to reinstate the image on Facebook where we are aware it has been removed.

“We will also adjust our review mechanisms to permit sharing of the image going forward. It will take some time to adjust these systems but the photo should be available for sharing in the coming days.

“We are always looking to improve our policies to make sure they both promote free expression and keep our community safe, and we will be engaging with publishers and other members of our global community on these important questions going forward.”

In an email to Fairfax Media, Mr Ryssdal also disputed Mr Zuckerberg’s claim that Facebook was not a media company, saying that the social media giant was taking more than $200 million from the Norwegian advertising market but – along with Google – paid “only crumbs in taxes back to society”.

Facebook uses an anti-child exploitation software tool by Microsoft known as PhotoDNA which constantly crawls through its pages looking for, matching and deleting exploitative photos of children. It also reports them to child protection agencies.

Ms Solberg said Facebook’s ban had put unacceptable limits on freedom of speech.

with Reuters

Company woos researchers with free offers and product discounts

Photo: Louie DouvisAustralian researchers have reaped hundreds of dollars in freebies from a company in exchange for mentioning its product in academic papers.
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Researchers from the Lowy Cancer Research Centre at the University of New South Wales and the University of Queensland have referenced products by US-based cell culture manufacturer Cyagen.

The company, which produces transgenic mice embryos and stem cells, offers vouchers worth hundreds of dollars, redeeable of future purchases, if researchers mention their products.

University of New South Wales researchers were awarded a $650 credit voucher after mentioning the company’s name in a 2011 article published in Molecular and Cellular Biology. 

The voucher was not disclosed.

A university spokesman said the researchers only became aware of the voucher after the paper was published, and used the voucher to pay for products in other unpublished research, he said.

They initially mentioned Cyagen as it was standard practice to mention suppliers in academic journals.

“There was no personal benefit to any individual researcher,” the spokesman said.

“Researchers have an obligation to use public funds in the most cost-effective manner and this includes taking advantage of discounts when they are offered,” he said.

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One of the University of Queensland researchers who worked on a paper that cited Cyagen, Professor Carol Wicking, said she and her colleague were not responsible for using Cyagen.

“The UQ research did not use Cyagen products or services  for this work and we did not receive any incentives from this company,” she said.

The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research states that an academic publication must disclose “all sources of financial and in-kind support for the research” and any potential conflicts of interest.

Fairfax Media does not suggest the academics’ research was influenced by the discount, nor is it suggested the academics improperly received or misspent funds from Cyagen.

Canberra University’s assistant professor, Dr Wendy Bonython, who sits on multiple research ethics committees and writes about academic integrity, said citing a service which offers inducements set a worrying precedent.

“If we’re starting at this thin edge of the wedge, where is it going to go next?”

Dr Bonython, who works in the university’s School of Law, said junior researchers and low-budget laboratories were more likely to be lured by freebies – a situation oozing an “unethical aroma”.

“This is not appropriate in an environment where you want to be making decisions based on individual verified tests, not commercial factors.”

“It risks the independence and integrity of research.”

Public health expert Dr Ken Harvey, who quit La Trobe University after it signed a deal with Swisse Wellness to fund a Complementary Medicine Research Centre in 2014, said he was not opposed to industry funding research.

However, all funding should be clearly disclosed on the paper or on the university’s website, he said.

“Transfers of value such as financial discounts for using Cyagen’s cell lines should be made publicly available.

“The concern is that this may impede consideration of alternative products which may be equally if not better,” the adjunct associate professor at Monash University’s department of epidemiology and preventive medicine said.

9/11: I saw the first plane hit

 
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Fifteen years ago this weekend I was sitting at my desk in my loft a few blocks north of New York’s World Trade Center when I heard an almighty engine roar above my head and looked up to see a plane smash full throttle into one of the twin towers.

That first image – the cookie cutter impression the plane left as it entered the building, white paper and debris raining down like glitter – wasn’t captured front-on by cameras, but it’s seared in my brain forever.

How could I forget it? My neighbours poured into the street, confused. The cops were dazed, frozen. Groups of people massed on the side streets, running away from the towers, screaming.

Survival instinct made me leave our building before the south tower fell – I was half-way up to Fourteenth Street when I saw the debris billow up West Broadway. It was only when I reached a friend’s safe haven in Chelsea that I knew the tower had collapsed.

After 15 years, the turmoil set in motion by those attacks and the military and political reaction to those attacks forms a tragedy still being played out in many parts of the world. But New York bounced back, more expensive and exclusive than ever. There’s a shiny new Freedom Tower, magnificent reflective pools in the footprints of the two towers, and an astonishing new transport hub, the $US4billion Oculus, with its ribs of steel like an open pair of wings, making the site a compelling destination for tourists.

For me, the shock of the event and the heartbreak associated with it has worn off. The human heart is an amazing thing; it can heal itself if it is given time.

But mine still has a tender spot, which is why in trips to New York recently, I’ve been ambivalent about visiting the 9/11 museum that has been built in the bowels of the buildings.

Friends who shared my 9/11 experience call the reflective pools, which are such an emotional touchpoint for tourists, the ‘drains of doom.’ That gives you an idea of how raw the experience still is.

A couple of months ago, in New York for a few days, I finally gathered up enough courage to visit the museum. To be truthful, I was seeking a reaction, as I’d buried so much these past years.

The museum tells the story of the events of 9/11 through more than 11,000 artefacts, 40,000 images and oral histories told by families of victims, volunteers and survivors.

As you descend into the building, there are various galleries and, finally, the historic museum. The first galleries, which exhibit salvaged parts of the buildings, are quite majestic, if you can detach their content from the spectacular space. Objectively, the twisted lengths of steel and the smashed vehicles are as beautiful as an exhibition of the works of the great sculptors Richard Serra and John Chamberlain.

The slurry walls, which held back the Hudson River, have been left as they were, stripped and rough. It did feel very much like going into a tomb. I thought of the unknown man in the newsstand that once existed there, who illegally sold cigarettes to my 13 year-old daughter and her friends. Where is he now?

The museum itself contains a wealth of memorabilia for history buffs, such as a display featuring the terrorists and their backgrounds. I didn’t much care for that, thinking it inadvertently made icons of them, and I also didn’t care much for the sheer number of artefacts collected, room after room of them, including an entire shopfront covered in debris. I thought it made a fetish of it all and I was looking for the exit doors sooner than I expected.

I have my own memorabilia – a check that floated down from the towers onto my window box, the dress I wore on the day, a video I took of the second plane hitting. They’re in a box somewhere.

I understand it’s important for people to acknowledge the human cost of 9/11 and grieve. Those who directly lost their lives in New York and Washington D.C. are mourned generously here. It’s a poignant place, even if I have misgivings about it.

My personal reflection is about the aftermath, which is ongoing, in refugee camps and destroyed cities elsewhere. On other shores, hundreds of thousands of people died and many are still dying from 9/11’s consequences.

How will we mourn them?

Defence considers paying for town water connections in cove

TAPPED IN: Defence is considering paying for town water connections for residents outside of the Williamtown contamination zone.THE Department of Defence is considering paying for residents outside of the Williamtown contamination“red zone” to be connected to town water after the chemicals at the centre of the scandal were found 300metres south of the investigation area.
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TheNewcastle Heraldunderstands that elevated concentrations of perfluorooctane sulfonateand perfluorooctanoic acid–or PFOS and PFOA–were foundat two propertieson Fullerton Cove Road during Defence testing in recent weeks.

According to the EnvironmentProtection Authority the samples were taken from boreand tank water at the request of the residents.

And while the EPA is insisting that“no changes to the investigation area are warranted” as a result of the discovery, theHeraldhas confirmedthat Defence is considering paying for connections to town water for residents outside of the investigation area.

“Yes, Defence is investigating the possibility of paying to connect some residents to town water outside the investigation area,” a spokesman said on Friday.

“Defence is examining options and will make a decision once the options have been considered.”

The spokesman insisted that Defence was “already examining options to connect a limited number of residents on the outside edge of the investigation area”.

However theHeraldunderstands the discovery of what Defence called“low level detections” so far from the red zonemay influence the area considered for connection.

Officials wouldn’t be drawn on the issue on Friday, butthe stategovernment’s parliamentary secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald, saidthe government was “continuing to work with Defence, and pursue Defence” on the issue of town water connections.

Asked if Hunter Water was considering connecting residents to town water, spokesman Jeremy Bath did not rule it out, but said itwould“only expand the current project to provide free connection to properties inside the investigation area, if directed to do so by the NSW Government”.

GREAT NEWS: Newcastle Greens Councillor Michael Osborne.

In December the Baird government announced $3.5 million topay to connect residents within the red zone to town water.

But those outside on the edge ofthe investigation area were not part of the package, andNewcastle Greens Councillor Michael Osborne has been contacted by residents who live outside of the investigation area in Fullerton Cove who had been quoted costs of between 10 and 15 thousand dollars to connect to town water.

When he raised the idea of those residents having their connections paid forin a meeting with Defence officials earlier this year he said they“pushed back hard”.

“It’s great news thatthey are considering it now,” he said.

The test results from the two properties in Fullerton Cove were received on August 21.According to the Environmental Protection Authority the samples were taken from boreand tank water at the request of the residents.

While it saidPFOS–the main chemical of concern at WIlliamtown–was detected below the enHealth guidance for PFAS, as well as the US EPA criteria, it didnot comment on the level for PFOAor other compounds known to exist within the pollution plume.

“TheEPAis writing to Defence to request that further sampling be conducted in this area to gain a clearer picture about the significance of these results and their relationship to the broader contamination issue and the investigation area,” a spokeswoman for the environment watchdog said.

“It is important to note that due to their wide-spread use over many decades, PFAS are commonly found in the environment at low levels and their presence does not necessarily indicate a risk to human health.”

Also on Friday, the Department of Premier and Cabinet dismissed concerns that there are plans to abolish the Community Reference Group–set up as a conduit between the EPA, Defence and Williamtown residents.

A spokesmansaid the group would“continue”, despite a planned review.

“The upcoming review of the CRG will ensure improvements in delivering better community consultation in line with the next stage of work,” he said