Australian politics, society & culture

The Shortlist Daily

The best reads from around the world

1st of September 2015

How 7-11 is ripping off its workers (multimedia) “The lot of the average 7-Eleven worker in Australia is as simple as it is bleak: you get paid half the $24.50 an hour award rate - or less - and if you complain your boss threatens you with deportation. It’s highly illegal and goes against the Australian tenet of giving people living in this country a ‘fair go’. A joint investigation into 7-Eleven stores by 4 Corners and Fairfax Media has found systemic underpayment of wages and the doctoring of payroll records within the country’s biggest convenience store chain. Politicians, lawyers and regulators all say something should be done to help these exploited and intimidated workers who often are international students. Doctored time sheets and rosters, store financials with possibly understated wage bills, store reviews and explosive documents relating to payroll compliance from head office are further evidence something is deeply rotten within the 7-Eleven Australia empire. Within days of the scandal breaking the company is in crisis and has announced a ‘independent review’ of wages and offered to buy out franchisees.”

The Age

31st of August 2015

Oliver Sacks, neurologist who wrote about the brain’s quirks, dies at 82 “Dr. Sacks variously described his books and essays as case histories, pathographies, clinical tales or “neurological novels.” His subjects included Madeleine J., a blind woman who perceived her hands only as useless “lumps of dough”; Jimmie G., a submarine radio operator whose amnesia stranded him for more than three decades in 1945; and Dr. P. — the man who mistook his wife for a hat — whose brain lost the ability to decipher what his eyes were seeing. Describing his patients’ struggles and sometimes uncanny gifts, Dr. Sacks helped introduce syndromes like Tourette’s or Asperger’s to a general audience. But he illuminated their characters as much as their conditions; he humanized and demystified them.” (Also: Bart Cummings dies, Wes Craven dies)

The New York Times

28th of August 2015

Border Force to join police in huge visa fraud crackdown in Melbourne CBD “The centre of Melbourne will be swamped with police on Friday and Saturday night in a huge multi-agency operation to target everything from visa fraud to antisocial behaviour. Australian Border Force, police, and transport officers will take up positions at various locations around the CBD and will be ‘speaking with any individual we cross paths with’, said ABF regional commander, Don Smith. ‘You need to be aware of the conditions of your visa; if you commit visa fraud you should know it’s only a matter of time before you’re caught out,’ he said in a statement. It was not clear if the operation – codenamed ‘Operation Fortitude’ – would involve on-the-spot visa checks or demands for proof of identity. More details were expected at a press conference on Friday afternoon.”

The Guardian

27th of August 2015

A murder on live TV “At about six-forty-five this morning, a man stood on a balcony near the Bridgewater Plaza shopping center, near Roanoke, Virginia, and fumbled with his phone and its camera. He set it straight and started to walk toward Alison Parker, a local TV reporter filming an early-morning segment about tourism in the area. About twenty seconds into the man’s footage, a gun appears, as though in a first-person-shooter video game. The man’s hand steadies, and for a few tantalizing seconds it’s hard not to want to scream for Parker, her interview subject, and the cameraman, Adam Ward, to run. But they don’t. You see the man aim—gun in one hand, mobile phone in the other. Suddenly the calm banality of a morning newscast is transformed into a horror. It’s hard to watch. But watch it is of course what many people did. The murder was broadcast live on TV, horrifying viewers trying to catch up on local events in the Roanoke region.” (Also: The US is averaging more than one mass shooting per day in 2015 and How to respond to the latest mass shooting)

The New Yorker

26th of August 2015

Tony Abbott pushed for US request to join Syria bombing “The Abbott government pushed for Washington to request that Australia expand its air strikes against the Islamic State terror group from Iraq to its more dangerous neighbour Syria, Fairfax Media has learnt. Tony Abbott confirmed on Tuesday that ‘some weeks ago’ US President Barack Obama had asked him to consider expanding RAAF strikes to Syria. But senior government sources have told Fairfax Media that the driving force for the formal request received last week from the United States for the RAAF to join the air campaign in Syria came more from Canberra – and in particular the Prime Minister's office – than from Washington.”

The Age

25th of August 2015

Global markets dive on China contagion “World stock markets have endured another bruising day as a huge decline in Chinese equities sparked selling throughout Asia, Europe and the Americas, deepening a global stock slump. The Shanghai index on Monday tumbled 8.49%, its worst decline in more than eight years, as a worsening stock downturn adds to mounting doubts about the world's second-biggest economy. Losses in other major markets topped 4% … A short-lived rebound towards break-even territory came at midday after Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, wrote an open letter to CNBC saying the world's most valuable company was still confident in the key Chinese market. But sellers returned and the Dow finished down 3.58%, while the SP 500 lost 3.94% and the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index shed 3.82%.”

Sky News

24th of August 2015

Nauru rapes: ‘There is a war on women’ “When I call Dabal, he’s just returning from the Nauruan hospital where his 23-year-old sister lies catatonic, entering her second week being sustained only by nutrients pumped intravenously into her. Her kidneys are shutting down; her body has shrunk. In May, Nazanin left the Nauru refugee camp one morning on a day pass, happy to be visiting some friends who had been settled on the island – she and her family had been in detention for 26 months. ‘She used a bus, and I called a friend and he said she was there,’ Dabal tells me. ‘My sister was happy to leave this camp for a day.’ She never returned … Police found Nazanin naked, bruised and disoriented, about 9pm that night. She was alive, but badly beaten and numb with trauma. She couldn’t speak much. It wasn’t until 11pm that Dabal and his mother were notified. In those two hours they mulled their darkest apprehensions. They didn’t know at that time that Nazanin was taken to the police station rather than the hospital. They didn’t even know if she was alive. No one told them.” (Also: Two of Australia’s biggest super funds have dumped shares in Transfield, citing concerns about human rights in offshore camps)

The Saturday Paper

21st of August 2015

North Korea puts troops on war footing “North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un put his front-line troops on a war footing, as tensions between his nation and South Korea soar following an exchange of artillery fire. ‘Kim Jong-un issued an order of the supreme commander of the Korean People's Army (KPA) that the front-line large combined units of the KPA should enter a wartime state to be fully battle ready to launch surprise operations,’ the North’s official KCNA agency reported on Friday. The website for the outlet went offline later on Friday morning. The North Korean ruling party’s central military commission held an emergency meeting late on Thursday after North and South Korea exchanged fire across the demilitarised zone in one of the worst incidents between the two since 2010.”

The Sydney Morning Herald

20th of August 2015

Victorian Liberal Party accuses former state director of stealing more than $1 million in campaign funds “The Victorian Liberal Party has accused its former state director Damien Mantach of embezzling more than $1 million of election campaign funds. Discrepancies were uncovered during a forensic audit of the party's finances after its November 2014 state election loss.  The party alleged Mr Mantach took about $1.5 million over four years and used the money on ‘lifestyle’ spending. Liberal leader Matthew Guy said the party would ask Victoria Police to investigate. ‘The party is furious, we want our money back,’ he said.”


19th of August 2015

Inside Turkey’s revived war against the Kurds “That war is part of a complex web of regional alliances and existential struggles. Three of the most potent forces in the region today—the rise of ISIS, the Syrian civil war, and political flux in Turkey—have placed the Kurds in an especially precarious position, with consequences for the fate of one of the Middle East’s largest ethnic groups. The durability of Turkish-Kurdish peace and the very future of Turkey are also at stake in the fight … At around 40 million strong, the Kurds are the largest stateless ethnic group in the world. They stretch across Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, and have faced discrimination (and far worse) in all countries. Ever since the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923, the Kurdish minority has sought more rights. After the disintegration of the multiethnic Ottoman Empire, which led to new nation-states but not to a Kurdish one, the republic embarked on a nationalist agenda of ‘Turkification’ that eschewed pluralism. Kurds weren’t able to speak their language in public until 1991. Broadcasting in Kurdish was banned until 2002. In 2013, the government lifted a prohibition on the usage of the letters Q, X, and Y, which appear in the Kurdish but not the Turkish alphabet.”

The Atlantic