More raids planned in crime syndicate bust

More police raids are planned in Western Australia and Victoria as part of an investigation into a sophisticated money-laundering syndicate that exploits illegal workers.

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Police seized cash, firearms and computers and detained dozens of foreign workers at a gated market-garden compound at Carabooda on Perth’s northern fringe over the weekend.

The workers were living on the premises in sub-standard conditions and being paid below the award wage.

WA Police state crime assistant commissioner Craig Ward described the exploitation of the foreign workers as “a human tragedy”.

“These are people who are put through conditions that we wouldn’t accept,” he said.

There were also weekend raids in Victoria as part of the four-year, multi-agency investigation into the elaborate syndicate.

In the investigation to date, 32 charges have been laid against 19 people – including three West Australian brothers believed to be the leaders of the syndicate.

“We don’t believe there are people higher up the chain,” Mr Ward told reporters.

“I would say it’s probably generational. It’s not just this one particular group. It’s predominantly one family.

“They do have tentacles in other states and certainly overseas.”

Police say the complex web of money laundering and tax avoidance involves many companies in WA and Victoria, with some of the funds going offshore.

Australian federal police assistant commissioner Ramzi Jabbour said the syndicate’s activities covered “a broad range of commodities and alleged criminality”.

“These people are sophisticated,” he said.

“They do receive advice from professional entities such as lawyers, accountants and the like for the specific purpose of avoiding and evading law enforcement.”

Mr Ward said the syndicate was involved in primary produce, construction and the entertainment industry, including nightclubs and karaoke bars.

He said more raids were planned in WA and Victoria later on Monday.

It was possible hundreds of charges could be laid, Mr Ward said.

He said 130 foreign nationals had been detained over the course of the investigation, including 70 people from the Carabooda property.

Mr Jabbour said many of the foreign workers were Malaysian and had overstayed their visas.

The majority had been exploited by the syndicate, he said.

Children were found on the premises, but it was not yet clear if they had been working.

The maximum penalty for money laundering is 25 years in jail.

Many of the accused also face the charge of harbouring an unlawful citizen, an offence with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

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Do arranged marriages work?

This question originally appeared on Quora.

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Answer by Chandrima Dhar:

I don’t know if it’s too wise to consider something as sacrosanct just because a mind-boggling number of people participate in it for really long periods of time. Given any chance we are bound to see people trying to sell one concept of love over another—as more efficient, as more long-lasting, as more appealing. For a long time, we’ve all heard arranged marriages being extolled as the secret behind low divorce rates. Very interestingly, though, as we go from one year to the next, the divorce rates in urban India keep rising. And these rates will still be found to be rising, if we consider only the arranged marriages. If involving your families was the “one-key recovery” button, so to speak, that wouldn’t be happening.

We can never really know if arranged marriages work. One, because people, understandably so, find it hard to admit that outsourcing what was possibly the biggest decision in their lives turned out to be a disaster. I have never come across many men or women in their 40s to 50s who would readily admit that they have spent decades with someone they couldn’t find love for. Add to that the exhausting inertia one feels after having expended a tremendous amount of energy in trying to find some beauty in a loveless bond, day after day. A lot of people just stick with it because it’s tiring to even think of a solution in light of the deluge of family disapproval they’ll be faced with. In light of how they feel, it’s just too late. To an outsider, they might have just celebrated a silver jubilee, and to them, it could be the 25 years they lost.

It must look like I am painting arranged marriages as only a high-risk gamble, but I am not. I believe what meets the eye is seldom—and in the case of something as sensitive as marriage, rarely—the entire truth. Of course there are people who believe that if involving extended families right from the inception of the marriage process and especially during trying times saves marriages, then these arranged marriages should be deemed to be a good working solution. Support from friends and family is undoubtedly crucial. My point is that mending a “mistake” with some social disapproval and emotional blackmail does not change it literally; it will still be a mistake, and it just adds a few more years to it and ends up making it seem like the “right thing to do” to people who have no idea of what it actually entails.

Also sometimes it becomes an unfair comparison until you provide a love marriage with the same ammo. Sadly, just the reverse seems to happen in India and some other countries. We often see love marriages being turned into a war zone right from the tell-the-parents night. Almost as if the people you grew up with, and look up to, almost unconsciously, for silent approval, are praying that the biggest turning point in your life should not work out well. All because you’ve snatched away their right to find or short-list a spouse for you. In my opinion this is just one of the reasons that vitiates a love marriage even before it begins.

That still doesn’t absolve love marriages of their common delusions, and they are many—just that they exist as equally as the silent denials of an arranged marriage.

It’s one of those questions in life that no one else can really answer for you. This is partly because the issue is subjective and partly because the post-leap truths are too thickly veiled, and personal, to ever lead you to a trustworthy answer.

© Slate, 2014.

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US acrobats fall during aerialist act

A support frame collapsed during an aerial hair-hanging stunt at a circus performance in the US, sending eight acrobats plummeting to the ground.

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Nine performers were seriously injured in the fall, including a dancer below, while an unknown number of others suffered less serious injuries.

The accident was reported about 45 minutes into the Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus’ 11am Legends show on Sunday (0100 AEST Monday) at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros, said the accident happened during an act in which eight performers hang “like a human chandelier” using their hair.

He said the metal-frame apparatus from which the performers were hanging came free from the metal truss it was connected to. The eight women fell 25 to 40 feet (eight to 12 metres), landing on a dancer below.

All the performers have been doing “some variation of this act for some time”, Payne said. The current incarnation of the act began in January with the launch of the show, he said.

Providence public safety commissioner Steven Pare said officials and inspectors haven’t yet determined what caused the accident. He said none of the injuries appears to be life-threatening.

Roman Garcia, general manager of the Legends show, asked people to pray for the performers.

“Everybody’s doing fine, everybody’s at the hospital, everybody’s conscious, everybody’s doing pretty well,” he said at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center less than two hours after the accident.

Rhode Island Hospital in Providence admitted 11 patients with varying injuries, including one in critical condition, spokeswoman Jill Reuter said.

The hair-hanging stunt is described on the circus’ website as a “larger-than-life act” featuring eight female performers.

“These ‘hairialists’ perform a combination of choreography and cut-ups including spinning, hanging from hoops, and rolling down wrapped silks, all while being suspended 35 feet in the air by their hair alone,” the website says.

“In this hair-raising act, audiences will even see the weight of three girls held aloft by the locks of only one of these tangled beauties.”

Video taken by audience members shows a curtain dropping to reveal several performers hanging from an apparatus suspended from above. Seconds later, as they begin to perform, the women fall, and the metal apparatus lands on them.

“It just went crashing down,” said audience member Sydney Bragg, 14, of North Kingstown. “Everyone was freaking out. We heard this huge clatter and then we just heard the girls scream.”

She said spotlights were on the performers at the time, but all the lights went out after the fall.

Rosa Viveiros of Seekonk, Massachusetts, said she saw that the acrobats had fallen on top of at least one other performer below, a man who stood up with his face bloodied. The acrobats remained still and did not get up, she said.

“We thought it was part of the circus,” said her husband, Joe.

The couple attended the circus with their six-year-old grandson and nine-year-old niece.

“Everyone was in shock,” Rosa Viveiros said. “It was pretty overwhelming to see that.”

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Fifita ready to launch for NSW and Sharks

Andrew Fifita feels he’s on the way back to his stellar 2013 form and he aims to use his impressive representative football return as a launching pad for Cronulla and NSW.

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Dumped from the Australian team for Friday’s Test against New Zealand, Fifita was the game’s dominant forward in NSW City’s 26-all draw with NSW Country in Dubbo on Sunday.

The blockbusting Cronulla prop made more tackles (40) and more runs (19) than any other forward.

But what would have NSW and Cronulla fans most excited was witnessing Fifita striding to the line like a centre to score the try that sparked City’s late resurgence, a 25m run that revived glimpses of his epic efforts last season.

His contract dramas finally behind him after he committed to a four-year deal with Cronulla 10 days ago, Fifita said he now felt free to play his best football.

“Everything has been put behind me,” he said.

“I improved massively compared to the form I’ve been in.

“Hopefully this is just the start, like it was last year.

“I’m going to take a big confidence booster out of the game.

“Last year, I was out of the scene up until this date and I kind of ballooned from there.

“Hopefully I can do the same this year.”

A candid Fifita admitted it was difficult to watch on television as Australia enjoyed a hard-fought 30-18 win over the Kiwis in Sydney.

“It was tough watching, I was just with the (City team) boys,” he said.

“It was a good wake up call.

“The selectors didn’t choose me and they’ve gone on form. My form needs to improve. I need to get back up there and improve my football.”

Fifita appears certain to be part of NSW coach Laurie Daley’s team when it is named on May 20, ahead of the Origin opener in Brisbane on May 28.

But Fifita said he also needed to help lift the Sharks off the bottom of the NRL ladder.

“I can’t wait to play some good footy and play in Origin,” he said.

“I’ve got to focus on my own team. My own priority is getting my team to the eight.”

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Brace for more cyberattacks: CSIRO

Mass blackouts, widespread healthcare fraud and prolonged outages of online services: that could be Australia’s future if cyber defences fail to keep pace with rapid digitisation over the next decade, the CSIRO warns in a new report.

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The number, severity and speed of breaches will grow exponentially as more services and utilities move online, it warns.

There will be more pathways for a wider range of attacks – from low-level pranksters to organised criminal networks – to launch increasingly sophisticated attacks.

“Our increasing reliance on digital services leaves us potentially vulnerable at unprecedented scales,” says James Deverell, director of CSIRO Futures.

“The more we rely on digital services for our basic needs like healthcare and energy, the more drastic the consequences of any breach may be.”

He says future attacks could dwarf the recent “heartbleed” scare, in which a flaw in internet encryption codes went undiscovered for two years and potentially allowed attackers to siphon data from supposedly secure websites.

The report presents a number of scenarios which, based on trends, could take place in the next 10 years.

In one, Australia’s highly automated electricity grid is brought down during a heatwave by a disgruntled contractor using a hacking kit.

In another, criminal syndicates exploit poor password security to access healthcare databases and make billions of dollars’ worth of falsified claims.

To combat the heightened risk, the report calls for stronger cybersecurity education.

“We can’t think of cybersecurity as just a technology problem that the IT guys worry about,” Deverell says.

“It’s really something we need to look at as a shared responsibility. We need everybody to have some understanding of the risks and the threats, and about how to respond.”

The report also calls for businesses and government to publicise data breaches and to invest in more secure identity protection systems.

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Reds lose Slipper for two Super matches

Wallabies prop James Slipper has been suspended from Queensland’s next two matches as the failing Reds search for a solution to their Super Rugby woes.

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Slipper was on Monday suspended for three weeks for his dangerous lifting tackle on Blues back-rower Peter Saili in their 44-14 loss in Auckland on Friday night.

Queensland, desperately looking to end their dire four-match losing streak, must now face the Crusaders and Melbourne Rebels without the in-form forward.

With the Reds’ next bye scheduled for round 15, 49-Test front-rower Slipper can make his return against the Highlanders on May 30 for one last shot at keeping his Wallabies No.1 jersey for next month’s three-match series against France.

Slipper was lucky to receive just a yellow-card for the first-half incident at Eden Park, but he pleaded guilty after being cited post-match.

SANZAR judicial officer Adam Casselden reduced a potential six-week sentence due to the 24-year-old’s good record.

Ben Daley is now set to return to the starting pack in Sunday’s home match against the red-hot Crusaders while the versatile Albert Anae is likely to move onto the bench.

Slipper is one of five Reds aiming to keep their Wallabies starting positions despite their 3-7 start to the year.

Queensland skipper James Horwill admitted Australia’s best Super franchises would dominate Test selections so the Reds quintet – including Will Genia, Quade Cooper and Rob Simmons – are under pressure.

But Horwill, a Test captaincy contender with Genia and Cooper, is only focussed on fixing his state’s problems.

“That (Wallabies) is secondary. I’m worried about trying to get the Reds winning,” he said. “That’s my sole focus.

“I have the responsibility to try and help turn the team around.

“I spend days and nights sitting there thinking about things we can do differently.

“The stupidest and littlest things you might think could make a difference, like can we change the time of the weights session.”

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Twin sisters reunite after 78 years apart

It’s been 78 years since Ann Hunt and Elizabeth Hamel were last together – in their English mother’s womb.

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The twin sisters, separated by a lifetime and an ocean, were reunited last week for the first time since birth in Southern California, thanks to a nudge from their children and help from a psychology professor, the Orange County Register reported on Sunday.

Hunt, who lives in England, was given up for adoption and only learned she had a twin when she began looking for her birth mother after her adopted mother died.

Hamel, who lives in Oregon, always knew she had a twin but says she never thought she would see her.

“How lovely to see you in the flesh,” Hamel said, as she embraced her sister at a hotel in Fullerton.

The women were to spend the next day undergoing testing at the Twin Studies Center at California State University, Fullerton, with Professor Nancy Segal, who researches twins who were raised apart to better understand the role of genes and environment in human development.

Both women were born in Aldershot, England, in 1936. Their mother, a domestic servant, decided to give up one of the girls after their birth father fled. Hamel said she kept her because she was born with curvature of the spine, which would have made it more difficult for her to be adopted.

Hamel grew up an only child. She met her husband – a “Yank” – while stationed with the Women’s Royal Enlisted Navy in Malta, and eventually moved to the US. The couple had two sons.

Hunt was adopted by a couple, and was also raised as an only child. She didn’t look for her birth mother until after her adopted mother died, and only learned a year ago she was a twin. Samantha Stacey, one of Hunt’s three daughters, tracked down Hamel and sent her a letter.

The two women were soon talking on the phone. Hamel’s son, Quinton, read one of Segal’s books about twins and contacted the professor, who arranged the reunion.

After undergoing testing in Fullerton, the sisters, who are believed to be fraternal twins, and cousins plan to spend a week at Hamel’s home looking at old photos and learning more about each other.

“You wonder about someone and what they’re like and suddenly they’re here,” Hamel said. “It’s a shock.”

“It’s a shock and a joy,” Hunt added.

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Holmes completes comeback at Wells Fargo

More than two years after going through brain surgery, J.

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B. Holmes is a winner again on the PGA Tour.

Holmes made it harder than he needed to on the final hole at Quail Hollow until rapping in a 3-foot bogey putt for a 1-under 71 and a one-shot victory over Jim Furyk in the Wells Fargo Championship.

Furyk had finished his Sunday-best 65 some two hours earlier.

Jason Bohn had the best chance to catch Holmes. He was one shot behind when he pulled a 4-iron into the water on the par-3 17th, making double bogey. Phil Mickelson never had a chance, missing four putts from the 4-foot range and closing with a 76 to finish out of the top 10.

The victory capped a remarkable turnaround for Holmes, who won for the third time in his career.

He was diagnosed in 2011 with structural defects in the cerebellum known as Chiara malformations, and he had surgery twice – once to remove a piece of his skull that he still keeps at home, another because of an allergic reaction to the adhesive on the titanium plate at the base of his skull.

Then, he injured his elbow by hitting too many balls in an attempt to return from the brain surgery. He didn’t bother having surgery on his elbow until last year, when he was sidelined by a broken ankle and couldn’t play, anyway.

Only last week, Holmes earned enough money to keep his card for the rest of the year from a medical extension.

Now, he’s headed to The Players Championship next week for the richest prize in golf, and more importantly, secured a spot in the PGA Championship this summer in his native Kentucky.

“It’s been a long journey for me,” Holmes said.

“I’ve had some ups and downs. It’s a great feeling to be out there and to get one done.”

His only other victories were in the Phoenix Open in 2006 and 2008.

Holmes made enough key putts to allow for some mistakes at the end. He ran off three birdies in a four-hole stretch around the turn, including a 30-footer on No. 11 that opened up a two-shot lead. He gouged a fairway metal out of the rough on the par-5 15th to set up a 6-foot birdie putt that stretched his lead to three shots.

Perhaps the biggest putt of all was an 8-foot par save on the 17th hole. That kept his lead at two shots, and he needed it. Instead of playing an iron off the tee, he drove into the right rough, came up well short of the green and chipped weakly to 45 feet.

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Iron ore miner gets $1.4b takeover offer

Chinese steelmaker Baosteel and rail operator Aurizon plan to kickstart the stalled $10 billion West Pilbara Iron Ore Project with a takeover of its major stakeholder.

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The pair have offered $1.42 billion for Aquila Resources, which has a 50 per cent stake in the project, sending Aquila’s shares to a two year high.

Analysts say the deal is attractive for Aquila shareholders, but major hurdles remain for the completion of such a large-scale mine, rail and port project.

Baosteel Resources has held Aquila shares for five years, and become frustrated with the lack of progress on the West Pilbara Iron Ore project, vice president Wu Yiming said.

“We are going to get things started and if our bid is successful our intention is to progress development,” Ms Wu told reporters on Monday.

Both Baosteel and Aurizon could fund the West Pilbara Iron Ore Project, she said, which has an estimated price tag of $10 billion.

Approval has been granted for the development of the project’s Anketell Port, but environmental approval for mines and rail infrastructure is yet to be secured.

Morningstar analyst Gareth James said Aquila had a track record of disputes with project partners, and had already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the West Pilbara Iron Ore Project.

“This does look like quite a good solution for Aquila shareholders,” he said.

“There doesn’t seem to be another alternative as the projects aren’t really progressing.”

Despite recent iron ore price weakness and pessimistic forecasts, Baosteel said it was confident the West Pilbara Iron Ore Project could cope with iron ore prices as low as US$80 per tonne.

Aurizon chief executive Lance Hockridge said his company was yet to have any formal discussions with other potential users of the project’s rail lines, such as Atlas Iron and Mineral Resources.

“There are tens of deposits that are within reach of the infrastructure,” he said.

Aurizon and Baosteel had been considering a takeover move on Aquila for several months, he said.

Aurizon, formerly QR National, and Baosteel are offering to pay $3.40 per Aquila share, which is 38 per cent above Aquila’s closing share price on Friday of $2.45.

Aquila shares soared on Monday, gaining 36 per cent to $3.34.

Aurizon shares fell 4.9 per cent to $4.92.

Aquila said it would consider the takeover proposal and update shareholders in due course.

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Olympic relay medals in jeopardy after Tyson Gay’s ban

Still to be determined is whether his team mates – Trell Kimmons, Justin Gatlin and Ryan Bailey – will also lose the Olympic silver medals they won in London in 2012.

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“Although our rules say clearly ‘team forfeits medals’, the IOC has control of the medals for the Olympics,” Nick Davies, deputy secretary general for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), said by email.

Athletics competitors must follow rules of the IAAF in the Olympics but the IOC has the final say on matters including medals.

Gay was banned by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) subject to appeal by the IAAF or the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Davies said the IAAF would reserve comment on Gay’s suspension until its doping review board had a chance to see the judgement from USADA and either accepted or rejected the reduced sanction.

Gay, the joint second fastest man of all-time, could have been suspended for two years for his first doping offence but received a shorter ban because of his substantial assistance in the investigation of his case, USADA said.

“There’s a lot for me to tell, my side,” Gay, 31, said on Saturday in an interview with his hometown newspaper, the Herald-Leader of Lexington, Kentucky.

“But under the rules of USADA, they didn’t want me to speak on the case. But they definitely understand what happened, and USADA understands that it was a mistake. That’s why they’re allowing me to run this year.”

The American 100 meters record holder is eligible to race again beginning June 23 and, Reuters has learnt, is making plans to return to competition in July.

The IOC welcomed the decision to suspend Gay.

“We will take all necessary steps with regard to the Olympic Games in line with our zero tolerance policy, and our full commitment to the protection of the clean athletes,” it said in a statement.

The IOC is expected to wait for the IAAF to make a decision on disqualifying the U.S. team before taking action on the medals.

Should the Americans lose their medals, third place Trinidad and Tobago and fourth-place finisher France could move up in the London results.

VARYING DECISIONS

The IOC has varied in the past on stripping medals from relay squads.

All members of the U.S. men’s 4×400 meters relay at the 2000 Olympics lost their medals after doping cases involving Antonio Pettigrew and Jerome Young.

But the Olympic committee allowed U.S. runners in the 2004 Olympic women’s 4×400 meters relay final to keep their gold medals even though squad member Crystal Cox, who competed only in the preliminary round, was stripped of hers after admitting in 2010 she had used anabolic steroids.

The IOC had also stripped the U.S. women’s 4×100 and 4×400 relays of their medals at the Sydney Games after Marion Jones’ doping admission but the Court of Arbitration for Sport reinstated medals for all but Jones after an appeal.

The IAAF rule in place in 2012, however, stated clearly that all relay members would lose their medals if there was a doping violation.

USA Track & Field will not decide whether the U.S. team’s performance of 37.04 seconds in London will be considered a national record until the IAAF and IOC have determined the status of the medals and results, spokeswoman Jill Geer said.

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina and Karolos Grohmann in Berlin, editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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