Australia records hottest July: BOM

Australia has recorded it’s hottest July since records began.

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The mean maximum temperature was 2.62C above the average maximum temperature and 0.66C above the previous record set in 1975.

BOM senior climatologist Blair Trewin says the warm weather, caused by a ridge of high pressure over the sub tropics, is normal for Australia in July but what’s missing are the usual big fronts or lows hitting the south.

He said no deep southerly flows have pushed cool air up into central and northern Australia.

“That’s something that just hasn’t happened this year.”

And it’s the north of Australia that has felt most of heat, average maximum temperatures in much of Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia were the highest on record.

In Australia’s south there were no July temperature records but the average maximum was still 1C above the average.

Inland NSW and northern South Australia were the warmest, there temperatures were up to 3C above the average maximum and a warm front in late July saw record maximum daily high temperatures set in NSW, Victoria, WA and SA.

For WA it wasn’t just one episode or one region, the state saw record temperatures in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions recorded on July 14, 27 and 28, while 3000km southeast, Eucla and Forrest recorded their first maximums at or above 30C on July 28.

Mr Trewin said the long-term warming trend is “about a degree over the last century”.

He said 70 years ago exactly the same July weather patterns would have probably only resulted in a one-and-a-half degree temperature increase above the long-term average.

“But the long-term warming trend changes the risk, the sort of weather extremes you might have got once in a hundred years at the start of the last century, you may now get once in 20 years or once in 10 years now.”

Dozens killed in Afghan Shi’ite mosque attack

A suicide attack on a Shi’ite mosque in the western Afghan city of Herat has killed more than 29 people and wounded more than 64.

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Abdulhai Walizada, a local police spokesman, said there appeared to be more than one attacker on Tuesday, with witnesses describing a suicide bomber who detonated explosives and at least one other, a gunman who threw grenades at worshippers.

“Two attackers entered the mosque and started shooting and throwing grenades at people,” said Mohammad Adi, a worshipper at the mosque who was injured in the attack and taken to hospital.

Mohammad Asif Rahimi, governor of Herat, said at least 29 people were killed and 64 wounded in the incident which came two months after an attack on a 12th century mosque known as the Jama Masjid in Herat, in which seven people died.

Relatives mourn after a suicide attack on a mosque in Heart, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017 (AAP)AAP

More than 1700 civilians have been killed in attacks in Afghanistan so far this year, hitting confidence in the Western-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani.

There was no claim of responsibility. But the Taliban, fighting to install strict Islamic law and drive foreign troops out of Afghanistan, denied any involvement.

Ghani, whose government has been under mounting pressure because of deteriorating security across the country, condemned the bombing and called on religious scholars to “raise their voices against the terrorist attacks”.

Afghanistan has traditionally been relatively free of the sectarian violence common in Iraq or Syria but hardline Sunni militants from the local branch of Islamic State have repeatedly attacked the mainly Shi’ite Hazara minority in the past year.

Home ownership too tough for young: study

Home ownership among young Australians has rapidly declined and incomes have flatlined, meaning an increased likelihood of paying rent well into retirement.

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New statistics from the University of Melbourne’s long-term HILDA study show a growing wealth divide across generations, with more young people living at home than in 2001.

Home ownership among 18 to 39-year-olds has declined rapidly since 2001, from 36 per cent down to 25 per cent in 2015.

Professor Roger Wilkins authored the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey and says young people are being locked out of the housing market.

“It’s creating a lot of negative sentiment among people in this age group,” he told AAP.

“It seems aspirations for home ownership haven’t really diminished a great deal.

“The attitude is they would like to be buying homes and they are finding it much more difficult.”

Every year HILDA surveys the same 17,000 people as part of Australia’s longest-running population study.

Prof Wilkins said if the housing market stays unaffordable then young people may never live in their own property.

“We’re looking at a large proportion of this cohort never owning a home and that will have implications for their wellbeing, particularly in retirement, having to pay market rents,” he said.

“Currently well over 80 per cent of retirees own their home, which makes things a lot easier when your income declines.”

Prof Wilkins said household incomes grew strongly to 2009 and slightly between 2009 and 2012, but since then they have, on average, stopped growing.

“A society where incomes aren’t growing can cause problems, disaffection,” he said.

Even though young people will have more superannuation than current retirees, Prof Wilkins warns they may end up using a lot of it to pay off a home loan.

Young adults are also living with their parents longer: 60 per cent of men aged 22 to 25 and 48 per cent of women the same age were living with their parents in 2015.

That’s up from 43 per cent and 27 per cent respectively in 2001.

The study also found attitudes are getting more progressive, with a majority now agreeing that ‘gay couples deserve the same rights as straight couples’.

Hannah McCann, a lecturer in gender studies at the University of Melbourne, said from 2005 to 2015 men went from disagreeing to agreeing with that statement, while women went from neutral to a strong agreement.

“That’s the biggest change in attitudes towards marriage, children and parenting… in the survey,” Dr McCann told AAP.

Udderly amazing: Texas calf’s striking resemblance to KISS frontman Gene Simmons

In a post on the Facebook page of Texas tourism company Hill Country Visitor, staff noted the similarities between Simmons’ black-and-white face paint and long tongue, and the newborn calf named Genie, who was born on a ranch in the locality.

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“Gene Simmons, where were you on or about November 25, 2016?” they joked.

“This calf was born in Kerrville, Texas, on the ranch of a Heather Leonard Taccetta who works at Cowboy Steakhouse.

“Now obviously we can’t serve this fine specimen. We may just keep Genie, as we call her, as a mascot for the Steakhouse.”

Newborn calf Genie bears facial marking that resembles Gene Simmons, the frontman for the rock group Kiss.Heather Taccetta/Hill Country Visitor via AP

The calf’s owner says she listens to KISS, and the tourism company has invited Simmons himself to come and take a look at his doppelganger.

“We’ll treat you to the best steaks in Texas!” they promised.

The rocker, who’s known for hits I Was Made For Lovin’ You and Detroit Rock City, even took to social media to say “this is real folks!”

This is real, folks!!! Calf called Genie is born on Texas ranch and looks EXACTLY like Kiss rocker Gene Simmons 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/m6CcUlA7cy

— Gene Simmons (@genesimmons) July 31, 2017

And the internet loved it:

Gene Simmons trending because a baby cow has the markings of The Demon has made my entire day. pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/klUoQqTDyr

— Amanda Stark (@HTLHellcat) August 1, 2017The best thing the internet has to offer today…. a Gene Simmons barnyard doppleganger. #KISS #RockON pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/WCP3J43cFg

— Laura Warren (@LauraWRDW) August 1, 2017Stop what you’re doing and acknowledge this @genesimmons KISS lookalike cow going viral. Uncanny. #Moo pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/bLjmSR9vrL

— Jessica Dill (@JessicaLynnDill) August 1, 2017

Who are Venezuela’s jailed opposition leaders?

Both were sent back to prison from house arrest for allegedly seeking to escape and not complying with conditions forbidding political activity, according to the Supreme Court.

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Lopez and Ledezma had called on the electorate to boycott Sunday’s vote, which they denounced as an unlawful power grab.

Leopoldo Lopez

Leader of the radical wing of the opposition that believes in the necessity of street action, the 46-year-old economist was educated at Harvard.

He became one of the icons of the anti-Chavista movement (named after those opposed to the country’s late leader Hugo Chavez) following his arrest in February 2014 when he was sentenced to 13 years in prison on charges of inciting violence during protests that led to 43 deaths.

Photogenic and with an easy smile, the former mayor of the upscale Chacao district of the capital notably called for the protests that briefly ousted Chavez from power in April 2002.

His tangles with the government led to him being barred from contesting elections twice, including the presidential vote of 2012.

Married to former TV presenter Lilian Tintori, who herself has become a senior figure in the opposition, the father-of-two is also known for his ambition and taste for confrontation.

After three and a half years behind bars, he was sent to serve the remainder of his sentence at home on July 8 on medical grounds.

Antonio Ledezma

The mayor of Caracas, who is also a lawyer, was arrested and jailed in February 2015 after being accused of conspiring against the president and associating with criminals.

The balding, bespectacled 62-year-old was sent home in April to serve the remainder of his sentence under house arrest following surgery.

Ledezma is a veteran of the social democrat Democratic Action party, the country’s most powerful political force until Chavez came to power in 1999.

He was a member of parliament (1984-1992), a governor (1992-1993), senator (1994-1996) and mayor for a district of Caracas (1996-2000).

Elected mayor of the capital in 2009 and re-elected in 2013, he was brutally arrested in 2015 in his offices by several dozen armed intelligence agents wearing balaclavas and bullet-proof vests.

The prosecutor’s office demanded that he be sentenced to 16 years in prison for his alleged support of groups deemed to want to violently destabilize the country. He is married with three children.

Almost 500 go on trial in Turkey’s biggest coup case

Forty-one of those held were marched into the court outside Ankara one-by-one in a long line in front of television cameras and the public, with each suspect held by two members of the Turkish gendarmerie and flanked by an armed soldier.

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People chanted “we want the death penalty!” — which was abolished in 2004 — and some threw nooses towards the suspects.

There were also chants of “martyrs don’t die, the nation won’t be divided”. Some people threw water bottles, an AFP reporter said.

Nazan Aytop, who came to court to make sure the blood of the 249 victims of the coup “was not given in vain” said she hoped the “accused will be given the sentence they deserve.”

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A total of 486 suspects have been indicted in the case and almost all — 461 — are held in custody while seven are still on the run and the remainder charged but not in jail.

During the tense opening hearing, veterans and relatives of those killed on the night of the coup bid booed the suspects’ lawyers, Dogan news agency reported.

Some lawyers hit tables to protest the “physical intervention” by some of the victims’ families as they walked past them, the agency said.

– ‘Order to bomb parliament’ –

The suspects are accused of running the coup bid from the Akinci air base northwest of the capital, which the authorities regard as the headquarters of the plotters where orders were sent out for fighter jets to bomb parliament.

They are charged with crimes ranging from murder, violating the constitution and attempting to kill President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

If convicted, they face life imprisonment.

Among the main suspects named in the indictment but still on the run is US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of ordering the attempted July 15, 2016 putsch.

Gulen, who is based in a secluded compound in the US state of Pennsylvania, strongly denies the charges.

Those held in custody include former air force chief Akin Ozturk who, like several suspects, is also on trial in another case related to the coup bid.

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Another chief suspect is theology lecturer Adil Oksuz, whom Turkish officials accuse of being the so-called “imam” of the plot by coordinating the action on the ground in Turkey with Gulen.

Businessman Kemal Batmaz is meanwhile accused of assisting Oksuz.

Oksuz was detained following the coup’s defeat, but was subsequently released and is now on the run.

Batmaz led the line of suspects into court wearing a cream shirt with black trousers followed by Ozturk wearing a grey shirt and black trousers.

Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar and other senior commanders were held hostage at the base during the coup attempt before they were freed on the morning on July 16.

The base was seen as the coup plot headquarters where commands were given for the F-16 fighter jets to attack and fly them above the capital.

The Turkish parliament was bombed three times by F-16s.

Paramilitary police and special force members escort outside the courthouse as the trial of 486 suspects, including a number of generals and F-16 pilots (AAP)AAP

Largest courtroom

The trial is taking place in Turkey’s largest courtroom established inside a prison complex in Sincan to hear coup-related trials and has space for more than 1,500 people.

The deputy leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Hayati Yazici, told reporters the party made a request to be a co-litigant in the trial.

“Of course these putschists will be given the punishment they deserve,” Yazici added.

Erdogan, Akar and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) also applied to be litigants, Turkish media said.

The courtroom has previously hosted mass trials related to the coup bid including one which opened in February of 330 suspects accused of murder or attempted murder.

And in May, 221 suspects were put on trial accused of being the ringleaders of the failed coup.

There was heavy security including 1,130 security personnel inside and outside the courtroom, according to state-run news agency Anadolu, as well as snipers, armoured security vehicles and a drone.

The trial is one of several held across Turkey judging coup suspects, in the largest legal process in the country’s modern history.

Over 50,000 people have been arrested over alleged links to Gulen in a wide-scale crackdown under the state of emergency imposed following the coup.

Trump ‘weighed in’ on son’s statement, White House says

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump had “weighed in, offered suggestions, like any father would do.

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Trump’s personal intervention, first reported by The Washington Post, casts doubt on claims he knew nothing about a meeting during the 2016 campaign that is now central to a federal investigation.

It also paints a picture of a president acutely aware of the scandal — and determined to manage it down to a minute level.

Allies fear that such a level of involvement, if proven, could put the Republican billionaire leader in legal jeopardy.

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Politically, it will only intensify allegations that the White House is trying to cover up connections with a foreign government accused of trying to tilt the November election in Trump’s favor.

“This was… unnecessary,” one presidential adviser told the Post on condition of anonymity.

“Now someone can claim he’s the one who attempted to mislead. Somebody can argue the president is saying he doesn’t want you to say the whole truth.”

Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow dismissed the report as “misinformed.”

Emails show that Trump’s eldest son Donald Jr, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his then campaign manager Paul Manafort met Kremlin-connected officials in June 2016 in the hope of getting dirt on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

On the other side of the table were government-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Russian real estate player Ike Kaveladze and Rinat Akhmetshin, who has denied long-standing allegations that he works for Russian intelligence.

A British middleman pitched the meeting as an opportunity for the Trump campaign to obtain “very high level and sensitive information” as “part of Russia and its government’s support” for the now president.

In a statement — allegedly dictated by Trump on Air Force One coming back from a Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany — Don Jr said the meeting “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children.”

Trump’s lawyers had claimed he was not involved in the meeting or its aftermath, and the Republican billionaire had rushed to his son’s defense, accusing the media of a political “witch hunt.”

One Republican congressman, Lee Zeldin of New York, told CNN: “I would be really interested in knowing what the president knew at that time.”

Twitter ‘only way to get truth out’ 

Possible Trump-Russia collaboration is the subject of several Congressional investigations as well as a sweeping federal probe led by special counsel and former FBI director Robert Mueller.

The scandal has overshadowed Trump’s first six months in office and threatened to ensnare his whole administration in a legal thicket.

In recent weeks, the scandal has taken a back seat to White House chaos amid the departure of Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus, his short-lived communications director Anthony Scaramucci and press secretary Sean Spicer.

This latest drip-drip of Russia-related information has overshadowed what the White House was hoping would be a fresh start with new chief of staff John Kelly.

The four-star retired Marine general on Monday began his quest to impose order on an administration careening out of control.

On Tuesday, Trump focused on the American economy, a bright spot on the otherwise gloomy political landscape.

“Stock Market could hit all-time high (again) 22,000 today. Was 18,000 only 6 months ago on Election Day. Mainstream media seldom mentions!” he said on Twitter.

Later in the day, he participated in a White House event with small businesses, at which he reiterated his comments on Wall Street.

But just in case there were any illusions that Kelly could tame Trump’s Twitter venting, the president was at pains to dispel them. 

“Only the Fake News Media and Trump enemies want me to stop using Social Media (110 million people). Only way for me to get the truth out!” he tweeted.

During his meeting with small business leaders, Trump jokingly complained out loud that Kelly had not made journalists give him credit for a years-long economic recovery.

“I keep telling General Kelly, ‘General, come on, let’s go, you’re chief of staff’,” Trump said in a subtle dig.

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US senator says Trump ready for war with North Korea

Influential lawmaker Lindsey Graham, a foreign policy hawk, told NBC’s Today Show: “There is a military option: To destroy North Korea’s program and North Korea itself.

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Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un boasted that his country could now strike any target in the United States after carrying out its latest intercontinental ballistic missile test.

World powers have been trying to stifle Pyongyang’s weapons program through United Nations-backed sanctions, but have failed to daunt the regime and Washington is growing frustrated.

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Graham said that if diplomacy, and in particular pressure from the North’s neighbor China, fails to halt the program then the United States will have no choice but to take devastating military action.

“They’ve kicked the can down the road for 20 years. There will be a war with North Korea over the missile program if they continue to try to hit America with an ICBM,” he said, describing his discussions with Trump. 

“He’s told me that. I believe him. If I were China, I would believe him, too, and do something about it. You can stop North Korea, militarily or diplomatically. 

“I prefer the diplomatic approach. But they will not be allowed to have a missile to hit America with a nuclear weapon on top.”

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Trump ‘close to decision’ on Chinese trade

US President Donald Trump is close to a decision on how to respond to what he considers China’s unfair trade practices, a senior Trump administration official says.

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Trump is considering encouraging US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to initiate an investigation of Chinese trade practices under the 1974 Trade Act’s section 301, the official said.

An announcement could come as early as this week, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 allows the president to unilaterally impose tariffs or other trade restrictions to protect US industries from “unfair trade practices” of foreign countries, such as trade agreement violations, or “discriminatory” actions that burden US commerce.

The United States has a long list of grievances about China on trade, including accusations of steel dumping and theft of US intellectual property.

Trump has long been a critic of Chinese trade practices but his interest in penalising Beijing has risen due to his concern at what he perceives to be Chinese inaction on reining in increasingly belligerent North Korea.

China’s Foreign Ministry said this week the North Korean nuclear issue did not arise because of China and that everyone needed to work together to seek a resolution.

Section 301 was used extensively in the 1980s to combat Japanese imports of motorcycles, steel and other products – an era during which Lighthizer served as deputy US trade representative.

But the statute has been little used since the World Trade Organization was launched in 1995.

The WTO provides a forum for resolving trade disputes, but Lighthizer and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross have complained that this is extremely slow, often taking years to reach a conclusion, and that the Geneva-based organisation has an inherent anti-US bias.

‘We respectfully disagree’: 56 retired generals slam Trump’s transgender ban

Fifty-six retired US generals, admirals and other senior officers have voiced opposition to President Donald Trump’s announcement of a ban on transgender military service, saying it would be disruptive and degrade readiness.

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Also on Tuesday, the US Coast Guard commandant, Admiral Paul Zukunft, offered support for transgender members of his service.

The letter and comments were the latest push-back from retired or active military members after Trump said on Twitter he would ban transgender people from serving in the military “in any capacity”, reviving a ban that had ended in 2016.

Trump’s announcement appealed to some in his conservative political base, but it created vast uncertainty for active-duty and reserve transgender service members, who say they number in the thousands.

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The retired officers said in their open letter that the ban “would cause significant disruptions” and deprive the military of talent or force members to live a lie.

The retired officers said the move would “degrade readiness” even more than the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy implemented in 1994 under President Bill Clinton that lifted a ban on gay people serving in the military but called for them to be circumspect about their sexuality.

“Patriotic transgender Americans who are serving – and who want to serve – must not be dismissed, deprived of medically necessary health care, or forced to compromise their integrity or hide their identity,” the former officers wrote.

The ban would also force non-transgender members to choose between reporting comrades or disobeying policy, they said.

The letter was released by the Palm Center, a public policy think tank. Signatories included retired Marine General John Allen, who formerly led US troops in Afghanistan, and retired Army Major General Antonio Taguba, who investigated abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

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