The Egyptian police appeared to have postponed once again their threat to begin choking off two Cairo sit-ins on Monday, where tens of thousands have gathered to protest the ouster of President Mohamed Mursi, leaving in place a tense six-week-old stand-off.
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The new military-appointed government has promised for more than a week to use all necessary force to clear out the sit-ins, which were established by Dr Mursi’s Islamist allies in the Muslim Brotherhood upon his ouster on July 3. But until now, external pressure from Western powers and internal dissent from liberal cabinet ministers appears to have persuaded General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the officer who ordered the takeover, to hold off decisive action.

As the sun rose over the main sit-in site on Monday, a small group of Mursi supporters who had gathered by makeshift barricades, breathed a sigh of relief.

Interior Ministry officials said on Sunday night that they would begin clearing out the sit-ins as early as dawn. Human rights advocates said that could lead to the loss of dozens of lives, in part, they say, because the Egyptian police are incapable of a gradual escalation – especially if they meet any friction or resistance.

”If the Egyptian police managed to intervene using responsible, proportionate force, it would be the first time,” said Karim Medhat Ennarah, a criminal justice researcher for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. ”I don’t think they have the capacity to do that,” he said, adding that the police killed at least 140 Mursi supporters at smaller demonstrations in the weeks since his ouster. ”I will be surprised if it did not start another round of lethal violence.”

Interior Ministry officials said on Sunday that they would move in gradually to surround the sit-ins to cut off any shipments of food and water. The officials said they would block any entrance but leave one exit open so that demonstrators could leave at will.

New York Times

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The University of NSW has denied it covered up distortions in research behind what was touted as a miracle skin cancer drug.
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UNSW said it had suspended a planned clinical trial for the cancer drug DZ13 “due to concerns regarding aspects of the science underpinning [the drug]”.

The ABC’s 7.30 program revealed that a researcher and an expert on research ethics had both raised questions about the veracity of the science underpinning the drug.

In May, a UNSW scientist, Levon Khahchigian, published research showing that the DZ13 drug appeared safe and effective for humans.

“[Turning off the gene] sends the tumour into a death spiral, which then triggers the body’s own natural inflammatory and immune system to go into battle and shrink the tumour,” he said in an article in The Lancet.

The drug was hailed as a great hope for skin cancer and beyond.

But Ying Morgan, a researcher on the project, had written to the university in 2009 alerting it to alleged research misconduct.

Dr Morgan said her research had shown the drug stopped working after 20 days, but this was ignored and never presented in published articles about the drug.

A university inquiry rejected the allegations and a modest and successful human trial followed.

Dr Morgan later alleged that diagrams used in publications about the drug were misleading.

Those concerns were echoed by David Vaux, from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, who said the claims of research misconduct meant the drug should never have been part of a clinical trial.

“If the results in this paper are not genuine, the [ethics committee] that approved the trial might have been misled,” Dr Vaux wrote.

After cancelling a much larger clinical trial planned for July, UNSW is now midway through its third inquiry into the drug.

“The university is adamant that it has at all times followed proper processes,” the university said in a statement. “At no stage has patient safety been jeopardised.”

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Pru Goward Photo: Kate GeraghtyFamily and Community Services Minister Pru Goward has repeatedly exaggerated the number of caseworkers helping the state’s most vulnerable children.
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Ms Goward’s consistent claim that there were more than 2000 caseworkers in the system has been contradicted by an Ernst and Young audit commissioned by her department that shows there were only 1797 in March and 1809 in April.

The report commissioned in May says ”overall there appears to be a shortfall of caseworkers compared with the 2068 funded positions” and in some areas such as child protection, this shortfall has increased.

The issue of caseworker staff shortages and failures to protect vulnerable children has come under intense focus in recent months after the mother of Tanilla Warrick-Deaves pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of the two-year-old in July. It was revealed that relatives of the toddler had made 33 reports to the Department of Family and Community Services about her welfare but no action was taken by caseworkers.

And in June it was revealed that murdered six-year-old Kiesha Weippeart had been allowed to remain in the care of her mother despite officials knowing of ongoing abuse.

Ms Goward declined to explain the discrepancies between the number of caseworkers she claimed to be in service and those detailed in the Ernst and Young report. Her office said ”she [Ms

Goward] has always said it is around 2000” and that caseworker numbers ”go up and down”.

Figures previously obtained by Fairfax Media under freedom of information laws show 61,308 children and young people were reported as being at risk between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012. Only 16,409 were interviewed by a caseworker and given a safety check.

The Ernst and Young report was leaked by NSW Labor during a budget estimates hearing at NSW Parliament on Monday. Ms Goward said she was not aware of its existence or the figures it contained, despite the document citing her as one of the stakeholders it consulted.

Ernst and Young released a statement on Monday evening saying it had not consulted with the minister directly to prepare the report.

The director general for her department, Michael Coutts-Trotter, who has been in the job for two weeks, described the audit as an ”excellent piece of work”. He said 176 people have been offered positions as caseworkers since the report was written.

Ms Goward said the government had provided the Department of Community Services with enough funding for 2068 positions and ”it is the department’s job to fill them”. She said she had instructed the former director-general to fill all vacancies.

Labor MP Luke Foley accused Ms Goward of lying. ”She has repeatedly lied to the people of NSW about the caseworker workforce in her department,” he said.

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One the waterfront: Robert Wiggins, with son Dan, says an underground seawall would help at Narrabeen. Photo: Jacky GhosseinIt is the Sydney homeowner’s man-versus-wild battle: erecting walls to stop the savage sea from swallowing their pricey waterfront properties.
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But Australian research says beachfront landowners have no legal right to defend their homes from the ocean, nor do governments have a duty to intervene.

Environment authorities are considering the findings as the state government overhauls coastal protection laws.

Homeowners say sea walls are one of their best defences against erosion and inundation as sea levels rise and the coast is battered by more frequent, intense storms. But environmental groups say the walls, which can be built on public or private property, cause other parts of the shoreline to recede and favour vested interests over the public’s right to the beach.

In a paper published in the Australian Law Journal, academic John Corkill claimed that while landowners once had a limited common law right to defend against the sea by building walls, that right is trumped by NSW coastal protection laws that acknowledge beaches should be preserved for the public good.

Mr Corkill, a Southern Cross University PhD candidate and former environmental campaigner, reached his conclusion by reviewing English court rulings dating back more than 130 years, as well as modern Australian and New Zealand cases.

”Landowners have to accept that [homes at threat from coastal erosion] are not safe places and they need to find somewhere else to live,” Mr Corkill said

However, Sydney solicitor Karen Coleman said the planning regime does not entirely override common law rights and government duties.

”I disagree that state and local authorities today cannot have any obligations to do coastal protection works,” she said.

”Private landowners still have individual legal rights and remedies,” she said, adding that modern High Court rulings supported her position.

The state government is reviewing coastal protection laws.

Its next stage of reforms, due next year, will help councils manage coastal erosion, through clearer policy guidance, technical advice and funding options.

A spokesman for Environment Minister Robyn Parker said the department was ”considering the implications” of Mr Corkill’s research.

The state government has allocated about $1.5 million protecting public assets with sea walls since coming to power and federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has promised a 15,000-strong ”green army” of young volunteers, which would build sea walls among other projects, should it win government.

Narrabeen property owner Robert Wiggins said the absence of a sea wall outside his beachfront home means a dangerous ”cliff” of sand is created after bad storms.

About 40 lots along Narrabeen-Collaroy beach have sea walls, however others remain exposed.

”Because we don’t have sea walls all along, some properties like mine will get ravaged when we have a massive storm,” Mr Wiggins said, adding a continuous wall built along the beach, buried under sand, would improve public safety.

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Michaela Banerji was sacked last year from her job after she criticised her department via an anonymous Twitter account. Photo: Jay Cronan NewsMichaela Banerji was sacked late last year from her job at the Immigration Department after she criticised the department via an anonymous Twitter account.[MICHAELA DID EXPRESS THAT SHE DID NOT WANT THE PHOTOS PUBLISHED IF SHE LOST THE CASE. WOULD HAVE TO CONFIRMED IF THIS IS STILL THE CASE AT THE TIME OF PUBLICATION]The Canberra Times09 August 2013Photo Jay Cronan Photo: Jay Cronan
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A court has paved the way for a public servant who criticised the government on Twitter to be sacked, even though she did not reveal her name or her job to her readers.

In a decision likely to curtail bureaucrats’ use of social media, Federal Circuit Court Judge Warwick Neville rejected Michaela Banerji’s application for a stay on her dismissal.

The case is linked to one of the government’s most prolific official tweeters, Immigration Department spokesman Sandi Logan, who heads the communications team in which Ms Banerji worked.

Ms Banerji had accused Mr Logan of bullying her, and argued the department’s decision to discipline her over her Twitter comments was a retaliation against her complaint.

Her application for an injunction on her sacking was decided last week after a lengthy investigation of whether the constitution protected public servants’ freedom of speech.

Judge Neville found Australians had no ”unfettered implied right (or freedom) of political expression”.

He also declined to grant a stay on Ms Banerji’s dismissal, noting she had not yet been sacked.

Ms Banerji, a public affairs officer, used microblogging website Twitter under the name @LaLegale. She had more than 700 ”followers”, or readers, when her department investigated her comments.

She regularly posted critical tweets about Australia’s immigration detention policies, the security company that works at detention centres, and government and opposition frontbenchers.

Ms Banerji initially denied the Twitter account was hers, but in October last year her investigator, Robyn White, wrote she was ”satisfied that, on the balance of probabilities, the evidence provided, although circumstantial, does support the conclusion that the LaLegale account is yours”.

Ms White found the comments were ”highly critical of the government, the minister, the immigration portfolio and … Sandi Logan”.

In one exchange on Twitter, Mr Logan had praised an African refugee, Garang Dut, who graduated as a doctor in Melbourne.

@LaLegale replied: ”Perhaps Dut can now make up for deaths and agonies of unlawful, immoral and destructive [immigration detention centres]. Different kind of ‘refugee camps’.”

Ms Banerji had also continued to work in a second job as a psychoanalyst, beyond the period for which the department had permitted.

Ms White recommended Ms Banerji be dismissed as a result of the two breaches of the Australian Public Service’s code of conduct, noting bureaucrats must avoid making ”harsh or extreme” criticisms of politicians or their policies.

However, Ms Banerji, who has a law degree and represented herself in the case, argued none of her tweets were ”offensive or damaging to individual persons, but instead, they are expressions of political opinion, to which all Australian citizens have a constitutionally implied right”.

”It is evident that they are a simple expression of political opinion, made in [my] own time away from work.”

She said any finding of misconduct against a public servant ”for expressing a political opinion contravenes the implied constitutional freedom of political communication”.

She also said she had been subjected to a ”history of victimisation” in the department and had made a ”whistleblower complaint” against Mr Logan, accusing him of ”covert surveillance of an employee’s social media account without her knowledge”.

However, Judge Neville said the High Court had found that citizens’ implied rights of political expression were limited.

”Further, even if there be a constitutional right of the kind for which [Ms Banerji] contends, it does not provide a licence … to breach a contract of employment,” the judge said.

He pointed out Ms Banerji was still able to request a review of the department’s recommendation to sack her, and encouraged both sides to enter mediation.

The Immigration Department would not comment on Monday on what action it would take against Ms Banerji, citing privacy concerns.

Public servants have the same notional political freedoms as other citizens, though the Public Service Commission warns them to avoid making comments that may raise questions about their impartiality.

The commission advises staff to uphold the service’s values and code of conduct ”even when material is posted anonymously, or using an ‘alias’ or pseudonym, and should bear in mind that even if they do not identify themselves online as an APS employee or an employee of their agency, they could … be recognised as such”.

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