(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

After eight years of construction, Singapore has officially opened a huge facility to store oil underground.

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Known as the Jurong Rock Caverns, the facility is in the seabed, underneath an artificial island just off the country’s main island.

Kristina Kukolja has the details.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

In tiny Singapore, land for any purpose is scarce.

Building the Jurong Rock Caverns at a cost of $1.7 billion was more expensive than building a storage facility on land.

But it frees up 60 hectares of land, the equivalent about 84 football fields, that can now be used for other purposes.

The Jurong Rock Caverns can store almost 1.5 million cubic metres of liquid hydrocarbons such as crude oil.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says Singapore needs to come up with innovative solutions to the problem of having a land mass of just over 700 square kilometres.

“Singapore’s land constraint is a little bit like peak oil. It exists, there is a theoretical limit, but with ingenuity and determination and technology, that limit can be quite a way off yet, and as you approach it, hopefully we can push it further off into the future.”

Mr Lee adds that Singapore will continue to develop its petrochemical industry, despite UN climate negotiations for a 2015 deal that aims to bind all nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“And we will develop the petrochemical industry because the industry provides good jobs for Singaporeans, because it contributes significantly to our economy. In fact, the chemicals industry comprises a third of our manufacturing output, and also, because we are determined to find all ways to make a living for ourselves in the world.”

The Jurong Rock Caverns are about 150 metres underground, in the seabed under the artificial island of Jurong, a heavily secured area southwest of the main island of Singapore.

Scientist Teo Tiong Yong says there’s no danger of oil leaking from the caverns to the surface.

“Because everywhere underground there are waters around, so we are making use of the water pressure underground to hold the oil within the caverns so that the oil will not leak out.”

The Jurong Rock Caverns are the first facility of their type in Southeast Asia.

 

 

 


(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

Western powers have promised to fight Islamic State militants in Iraq until they are no longer a force in the Middle East.

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The vow comes as the United States says it will seek justice for the beheading of a second US journalist by the group.

And as Santilla Chingaipe reports, Britain has also joined in the fight against the Islamic State after one of its citizens was threatened in a video.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

US President Barack Obama says Islamic State militants in Iraq will not intimidate the United States.

His comments follow the militants’ release earlier this week of a video showing the beheading of a second US journalist.

The footage shows 31 year old freelancer Steven Sotloff being beheaded in similar surroundings to those where fellow journalist James Foley was beheaded last month.

The White House has confirmed the video showing the execution of Mr Sotloff is authentic.

Mr Obama says the latest execution has left him more determined to defeat the Islamic State militants.

“Whatever these murderers think they’ll achieve by killing innocent Americans like Steven, they have already failed. They have failed because, like people around the world, Americans are repulsed by their barbarism. We will not be intimidated. Their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to take the fight against these terrorists.”

The US president has stressed the fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, will take time.

“Our objective is clear, and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL so that it’s no longer a threat, not just to Iraq, but also to the region and to the United States.”

The family of Steven Sotloff has spoken publicly for the first time since the news of his beheading.

Family spokesman Barak Barfi says Mr Sotloff was not trying to be a hero.

“He was no war junkie. He did not want to be a modern day Lawrence of Arabia. He merely wanted to give voice to those who had none. Steve was no hero. Like all of us, he was a mere man who tried to find good concealed in a world of darkness. And if it did not exist, he tried to create it.”

Britain has joined the United States on the frontline against the Islamic State.

It comes after a British hostage’s life was threatened in the video showing the execution of Steven Sotloff.

A masked militant in the video also warned a British man would be killed in response to US air strikes against militants in northern Iraq.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says British officials will look at every possible option to protect that person.

And he says it could include taking part in air strikes.

“We will look very carefully at the options available to us to support the legitimate government of Iraq and Kurdistan in defending themselves against the threat from ISIL. And if we judge that air strikes could be beneficial, could be the best way to do that, then we will certainly consider them, but we’ve made no decision to do so at the moment.”

Prime Minister David Cameron says Britain will increase diplomatic efforts to assure other countries of the Group of Eight major economies do not pay hostage ransoms.

They have an agreement not to pay, but Mr Cameron says he believes tens of millions of dollars in ransom payments are going to the militants in Syria and Iraq.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the many tens of millions of dollars that ISIL have raised from ransom payments is going into promoting terrorism, including terrorism affecting our own country. At the G8, I launched an initiative to try to get other countries to sign up to a very clear doctrine that, in the case of terrorist kidnap, no ransom should be paid. Britain continues with this policy, America continues with this policy, but we need to redouble the efforts to make sure that other countries are good to their word.”

US and European officials have said France, Spain and Italy have tolerated or facilitated ransom payments for citizens held in Syria.

 

 

 


South Korea says it will create a combined army unit with the US, reportedly tasked with destroying North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction in the event of an all-out conflict.

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The mechanised unit led by a US major general will be set up in the first half of next year, the South’s defence ministry said on Thursday, as part of elaborate preparations for any future war between the two Koreas.

“It will be the first combined ‘field combat’ unit to carry out wartime operations,” a defence ministry spokesman said without elaborating on its mission.

If war breaks out, the unit would be tasked with eliminating weapons of mass destruction in the nuclear-armed North, Yonhap news agency said.

The contingent would have a joint office of US and South Korean staff in Uijeongbu, north of Seoul, where the US 2nd Infantry Division guards a strategically important area as a deterrent to an invasion by North Korea.

In the event of a full-scale conflict, the combined unit would absorb a mechanised South Korean brigade and forces from the US division, which is armed with helicopters and other advanced weapons.

Because the Korean conflict ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty, the two Koreas are still technically at war.

Nearly 30,000 US troops are stationed in the South under a bilateral military accord.

If fresh hostilities broke out, the US commander in South Korea would assume control of the South’s 640,000 troops.

A transfer of command in a wartime setting was set for 2015, which would allow South Korea control its own troops, but the South wants a postponement, citing the increased threat from North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.

In June, North Korea announced the successful test of new high-precision, tactical guided missiles.

In the following months the North conducted a series of missile and rocket tests, raising tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Meanwhile South Korea and the US held an annual military drill in August despite condemnation by North Korea which had threatened a “merciless” retaliatory strike.

The drill simulated the response to a nuclear attack threat for the first time, according to the South’s defence ministry, using a strategy of “tailored” deterrence developed last year in the course of joint defence talks.

UN resolutions bar Pyongyang from conducting any launches using ballistic missile technology. But the North has defended its missile launches as a legitimate exercise in self-defence.


Former prime ministers, foreign and defence ministers have urged all nations to put new effort into nuclear disarmament.

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The call comes as Prime Minister Tony Abbott prepares to sign a nuclear co-operation deal with India despite that country not having signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Twenty-nine political, diplomatic, military and scientific leaders from 14 Asia-Pacific countries have signed what has been called the Jakarta Declaration on Nuclear Weapons.

The declaration urges all nuclear-armed states, and allies such as Australia who rely on their nuclear protection, to commit to “no first use” of nuclear weapons.

It also calls for a convention to be negotiated making the “no first use” a binding commitment by the US, Russia, China, India, North Korea and Pakistan.

As Asia is the only region in the world where nuclear stockpiles are growing, the group urged at least a freeze on present arsenals, and their reduction over time to the lowest levels “consistent with maintaining minimum effective retaliatory capability”.

All nuclear-armed states should also take their nuclear weapons off high operational alert and separate warheads from land and air-based delivery vehicles.

Group convenor, former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, said a renewed sense of urgency was needed to deal with the risks posed by the world’s 16,000 remaining nuclear weapons.

“It’s time for leaders to listen, and act,” he said.

The Asia Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament was formed in 2011.

The declaration text was agreed in Jakarta on August 18 and released on Thursday.

Signatories include former NZ prime ministers Geoffrey Palmer and James Bolger, former Australian PM Malcolm Fraser, former Pakistan joint chiefs of staff chairman Jehangir Karamat and former Indian foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh.


A construction manager who said he heard union officials bullying non-union workers on a worksite was in a different building three metres away from the alleged incident, the inquiry into trade unions has heard.

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Nicolas Navarrete, a project manager for construction company Smithbridge Australia, testified to the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption that he heard an organiser from the construction union threaten workers and give them five minutes to become union members.

However, Gregg Churchman, a delegate for the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) on the Gladstone Boardwalk project in Queensland, told the commission Mr Navarrete was in his office in a worksite hut three metres from the “smoko room” where the September, 2013 meeting took place.

Mr Navarrete told the commission on Wednesday he was in his office and overheard Jodie Moses, the CFMEU official accompanying Mr Churchman, threaten workers.

“I heard Moses say ‘Smithbridge employees won’t be going back to work today if you don’t sign up to the CFMEU union’,” Mr Navarette said on Thursday.

Mr Churchman told the commission the meeting was held in the smoko room with the doors and windows shut and the air-conditioning running and denied any threats were made.

“It would have been impossible, in my view, for Mr Navarrete to have overheard our conversation,” he said.

Counsel assisting the commission, Jeremy Stoljar, said Mr Churchman was accusing Mr Navarrete of lying, then accused Mr Churchman of making his evidence up.

“He (Mr Navarrete) might believe that he, himself, did hear it,” Mr Churchman said.

Earlier, a former CFMEU official denied ever banning a Queensland crane company, saying email evidence of a boycott was “concocted”.

Peter Close told the commission no ban was ever placed on Universal Cranes, a business owned by Albert Smith.

Mr Smith has testified the CFMEU banned Universal from worksites in Queensland in 2012 after he refused to sign up to a union enterprise bargaining agreement.

On Thursday Mr Close repeatedly insisted no boycott existed.

However, email records submitted by Mr Smith show exchanges from 2012 as negotiations wound on.

“I refer to our recent conversations regarding the CFMEU boycott of Universal Cranes on projects where the head contractors are prepared to support your action against us,” Mr Smith wrote on August 14, 2012.

After proposing terms of agreement, including making payments to a union-run redundancy fund, Mr Smith asks if the CFMEU will “lift its ban”.

Mr Close responded from his iPhone: “Will also want you to fix the membership if we are to move forward.”

Asked what percentage of Universal’s workforce should be union members, Mr Close replied: “Ninety per cent I reckon that’s fair for me”.

Mr Close said negotiations with Universal and Mr Smith had gone on for years and had been extremely difficult.


It’s one of the world’s truly magnificent hotels, with views over the Arabian Sea and the imposing basalt archway built to commemorate King George V and Queen Mary’s arrival in British India.

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Barack Obama, John Lennon, Roger Moore, Mick Jagger and Prince Charles are just a few who have passed through the grand entrance of Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai.

But 33 years ago the hotel welcomed a far less glamorous guest through its doors.

A bedraggled Tony Abbott, just 23 years old and weary from three months backpacking on the cheap in India, decided it was time for a bit of luxury.

“I spent a lot of time in third-class compartments in railway carriages,” the prime minister told a business breakfast at the Taj on Thursday.

“I spent a lot of time in two-rupee-a-night hotels, and I thought I’m going to have to treat myself.

“So I came here to the Taj Hotel and I had the best lunch this hotel could provide.”

Much has changed since he first toured the subcontinent three decades ago.

Mr Abbott is now Australia’s prime minister, and India has evolved into the world’s second-largest nation with an economy rivalled only by China and the United States.

The bullock carts Mr Abbott watched trundling down the streets of Mumbai – today India’s busy financial hub – have faded into history as the nation charged forward.

“(India’s) clearly the emerging democratic superpower of the world and a country with which Australia has long and warm ties,” he said.

Mr Abbott wants to deepen Australia’s trade and business ties with India and its leader Narendra Modi, the country’s pro-business prime minister elevated to power in May.

But before launching into the trade agenda of this two-day visit Mr Abbott paused to remember a darker chapter of India’s history.

He laid a wreath at the Taj to remember the 31 people murdered by terrorists at the hotel during the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The grand hotel was the scene of some of the worst violence during the attacks, with gunmen massacring guests and firing on police from within its grounds.

Mr Abbott wrote a tribute in the hotel’s memorial book to the 164 people who lost their lives, including two Australians – Brett Gilbert Taylor and Doug Markell.


Sydney defender Ted Richards has hailed the focus of teammates Lance Franklin and Adam Goodes in handling the firestorms that have surrounded them this AFL season.

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The two indigenous stars are set to be key players in Saturday’s qualifying final against Fremantle, with Franklin scheduled to return from knee soreness which kept him out of last week’s game against Richmond.

He has rallied from a slow start to the season and a car accident which attracted plenty of unflattering headlines.

However, Franklin has since started to deliver in the first year of his nine-season contract, winning the Coleman Medal and garnering plenty of positive headlines.

“He copped it at the start of the year externally,” Richards said of Franklin.

“There were reports that were just so way off the mark, it was incredibly hard for him.

“But his ability to focus in on what’s important has just been phenomenal, the year he’s been able to have.”

While Franklin is a noted big game player, Richards suggested even Buddy would find it hard to improve on his recent high level.

“I’d love to say that, but to be fair to him he’s won the Coleman, he’s probably going to be All Australian,” Richards said.

“He’s at a fair level right now, so no pressure on him.”

Veteran Goodes, the club’s all-time appearance leader, found himself front and centre in the media glare this week over suggestions he dived in an incident during the Tigers game.

Australian of the Year Goodes has also had to deal with a couple of racist remarks made about him last year and two more instances this season.

“It seems like Goodesy’s name has been in the media a lot the last year or two, and he’s a bloody good bloke, a bloody good person,” Richards said.

“He’s able to just focus in on what’s important.

“It is a real strength of his, so I don’t think it’s going to distract him at all.”

Asked if he thought it necessary to defend Goodes, who has come under fire from Essendon great Matthew Lloyd and cricketing legend Shane Warne, Richards said: “I could, but I think he’ll just let his footy this week do the talking.”

Richards, who has played every game this season, is likely to renew his long-standing rivalry with veteran Fremantle forward Matthew Pavlich.

“He’s such a good player, because he is a key position forward that is unique in that it’s not uncommon for him to go into centre bounces,” Richards said.

Richards noted Fremantle’s greater offensive output of recent weeks, saying they were playing very attacking football.

He refused to blame the contentious ANZ Stadium surface for his well-publicised slip last weekend, which allowed Dustin Martin to kick the decisive goal.

“That was just poor footwork by me. I’d love to be able to blame the surface,” Richards said.

“But if I had my time again, I probably would have done things differently.”


West Coast rookie Murray Newman has the chance to revive his AFL career after being released from prison.

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Newman returned to club headquarters on Thursday after serving a six-month sentence for fracturing the jaw of a man who had sex with his girlfriend.

The 20-year-old midfielder was granted parole late last month, and was released from the Wandoo Reintegration Facility on Thursday morning.

West Coast have indicated they will keep Newman on their rookie list as long as the former first-round selection meets strict protocols.

“He will not immediately slip back into full-scale training, rather he will gradually rejoin teammates in skill drills,” West Coast wrote on their website.

“While he has been working to a club-issued conditioning program, he has had limited opportunity for exposure to football skills.

“Murray will have some very strict guidelines to follow over the next six months and, as part of those conditions, the club hopes his privacy will be respected.”

Newman played four games for the Eagles in 2012.

But his career was in limbo after breaking the jaw of Brett Marris at a Perth nightclub in November 2012.

Newman was handed a one-year prison sentence in March, but The Prisoners Review Board granted him parole late last month after noting his willingness to address his problems.

Meanwhile, West Coast have re-signed defender Jamie Bennell and forward Josh Hill.

Bennell, who played 57 games for the Demons before switching to West Coast via the 2013 rookie draft, has signed on for the next two years.

The 24-year-old made 19 appearances for the Eagles this season in his first full year back from a knee reconstruction.

“I am really grateful to the club for giving me a second chance,” Bennell said.

“Until they contacted me a couple of years ago, I thought my AFL career was over.”

Hill’s future looked bleak after he made just four underwhelming appearances during the opening 18 rounds this season.

But the former Bulldog impressed during the latter stages of the campaign to earn a new one-year deal.

“This season we certainly improved and I want to be a part of what we are building towards,” Hill said.

“All the boys are driven to succeed and we are keen to drive each other to get there.”

West Coast finished ninth with an 11-11 record this season under rookie coach Adam Simpson.


Special powers used by Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission have led to the arrest of a man over the 2013 murder of Mackay woman Shandee Blackburn.

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The 32-year-old unemployed man from Mackay was arrested in Brisbane and charged with murder and robbery on Thursday afternoon.

Ms Blackburn, 23, was walking home from work in the early hours of February 9, 2013, when she was stabbed multiple times.

Early in the investigation, it was revealed Ms Blackburn had been planning a trip to the United States with her boyfriend in the days leading up to her death.

Exactly one week after the attack, Mackay detectives retraced Ms Blackburn’s steps in a late night re-enactment.

“(It) may just jog someone’s memory” detectives said at the time.

Later that month, the 23-year-old was laid to rest with a service at Mackay’s Newhaven Chapel.

In February this year, detectives revealed a vehicle had become central to the case.

They released CCTV images of a white ute from the night of the attack and said the occupant or occupants may be able to assist with the investigation.

On Thursday, police confirmed the arrested man was the owner of the ute.

He was also known to Ms Blackburn, but Detective Inspector Karyn Murphy wouldn’t explain the exact nature of their relationship.

“He certainly came to light early in the investigation,” she told reporters in Brisbane.

The 32-year-old man also appeared before coercive hearings at the Crime and Corruption Commission in the past six months, she said.

Coercive hearings give the commission power to compel witnesses to appear and to override the right to silence and the privilege against self-incrimination.

Det Insp Murphy paid tribute to the work of dozens of officers who’ve been involved in the “long and intense” investigation.

She said police had followed hundreds of lines of inquiry.

Det Insp Murphy also acknowledged the “terrible offence” has had an impact on the Mackay community and said her thoughts were with Ms Blackburn’s family.

“I don’t think I can explain the range of emotions that go through your mind and your body,” her mother Vicki told a media conference.

“You just take a deep breath and try to deal with it.”

Earlier this year, police offered a reward of $250,000 for information that led to the conviction of Ms Blackburn’s killer.

The reward will not be issued.

Shandee Blackburn’s accused murderer will appear in the Brisbane magistrates court on Friday.


By Ian Kerridge, University of Sydney and David Isaacs, University of Sydney

The news that Hamid Kehazaei, a 24-year-old Iranian asylum seeker detained on Manus Island, has been diagnosed as brain dead following his transfer to the Mater Hospital in Brisbane is a tragedy.

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That it is a tragedy for this young man and his family is unquestionable – but the extent of this tragedy may be much more pervasive than we realise.

If the emerging details of his case are correct, Kehazaei developed septicaemia as a complication of cellulitis (skin and soft-tissue infection) arising from a cut in his foot. This, in itself, is disturbing.

Severe infection can result in brain death – either from infection of the brain itself (meningitis, encephalitis or brain abscess), or from brain injury due to a lack of oxygen resulting from cardiac arrest (as appears to be the case here), or from reduced blood supply to the brain. Yet it is very uncommon, especially in a young, previously healthy man.

Such a case could occur in Australia and has been described in 2012 in young Indigenous adults in Central Australia. Nevertheless, severe sepsis resulting from a foot infection is preventable. And a case like this occurring in an Australian national would raise serious questions about the appropriateness of the antibiotics used and the timeliness of care.

Most cases of brain death result from traumatic brain injury, stroke or lack of oxygen to the brain following asphyxia, near-drowning, or prolonged cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

What happened to Hamid Kehazaei raises concerns about the adequacy of care provided to him during initial treatment, including wound care and antibiotics, and how soon he was transferred to expert medical care, first to Port Moresby and subsequently to Brisbane.

If this young man became ill and had his brain die while seeking asylum in Australia and while in our care, then we must examine the details of his case and ask ourselves not only whether it was preventable but whether our policies and processes actually contributed to his death.

But how can we even begin to ask these types of questions when we know so little about the circumstances in which he became ill, and his subsequent care?

Protestations that this is due to the necessity of respecting privacy and confidentiality, ethical principles that are core to the health professional-patient relationship, are to some extent correct. But they also obscure important features of this case.

The government is simply wrong to claim that this issue should not be “politicised”. What is ultimately at issue here is the way in which domestic politics and border policy impose norms (rules of behaviour) that are antithetical to medicine and health care and, fundamentally, to democracy.

Medicine, like biomedical science, requires transparency and honesty to be clinically and ethically sound. Peer review, clinical audit, root-cause analysis, family conferences, conflict-resolution strategies, case consultation, multidisciplinary team meetings, mortality and morbidity meetings, open disclosure policies: all rest on the importance of transparency and respect.

In contrast, we know very little about the people who seek asylum in Australia. Everything is secret – their arrival, their situation, their medical need, their illnesses, and their death.

This requirement for secrecy has largely overwhelmed efforts by many good people – legislators, human rights lawyers, refugee advocates, health workers, politicians and ordinary citizens – to shine a light on what is happening to people in detention.

The Immigration Health Advisory Group has been disbanded, restricting the degree to which the health professions can critique the care available to asylum seekers. And even those tasked with providing medical care to asylum-seekers struggle to advocate for the people under their care.

Policies restrict the degree to which they can care for their patients or refer them for specialist care not available in the detention centres. Contracts bind them to secrecy and many, often shocked by what they have seen, are prevented from speaking out by legal threats and intimidation long after they’ve returned to the mainland.

The language of “border control” has been used to excuse political secrecy. But such secrecy is what we usually associate with autocratic governments and is the antithesis of democratic ideals.

What this case illustrates, yet again, is that the asylum seekers detained on Manus and Christmas Islands and Nauru have been excised not only from the laws that determine access to Australia but from the care we should provide any vulnerable person for whom we are responsible. And from the ethical principles upon which medicine and our health system are based.

If we care about these people, and if we truly believe in the humane values that ground medicine and the moral principles that ground democracy, then we need to do two things. The first is to hold a truly independent inquiry into the care of people in detention. And the second is to end off-shore processing.

David Isaacs is head of the Health Assessment for Refugee Kids (HARK) clinic at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

Ian Kerridge does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.