More arrests over Kim assassination

Two women and a man have been arrested over the killing of Kim Jong Nam, the North Korean leader’s half brother who was reportedly poisoned this week by a pair of female assassins as he waited for a flight in Malaysia.

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Investigators are trying to piece together the details of a death that set off a torrent of speculation over whether Kim Jong Un dispatched a hit squad to kill his estranged older sibling.

The suspects were picked up separately on Wednesday and Thursday. The female suspects were identified using surveillance footage from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, where Kim Jong Nam suddenly fell ill Monday morning before dying on the way to the hospital.

One of the women had Vietnamese travel documents and the other held an Indonesian passport.

Indonesia’s foreign ministry has confirmed the arrest of a female national in connection with the killing.

A still photo of the airport surveillance video showed one of the suspects in a white T-shirt with “LOL” across the front.

On Thursday afternoon, police said they had detained a Malaysian man believed to be the boyfriend of the Indonesian suspect.

An autopsy has been concluded and could reveal whether Kim Jong Nam was poisoned, and possibly shed light on the tales of intrigue that have rippled since his death: the female assassins, the broad daylight killing, the estranged dictator-sibling looking to kill him.

Kim Jong Nam, who was 45 or 46, was estranged from his North Korean relatives and had been living abroad for years. He reportedly fell out of favour with his father when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport in 2001, saying he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

According to two senior Malaysian government officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Kim Jong Nam told medical workers before he died that he had been attacked with a chemical spray.

Since taking power upon his father’s death in late 2011, Kim Jong Un has executed or purged a number of high-level government officials in what the South Korean government has described as a “reign of terror.”

South Korea’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, said that North Korea had been trying for five years to kill Kim Jong Nam.

The NIS also cited a “genuine” attempt by North Korea to kill Kim Jong Nam in 2012, lawmakers said. The NIS told them that Kim Jong Nam sent a letter to Kim Jong Un in April 2012, after the assassination attempt, begging for the lives of himself and his family.

Settled Hogan to take Demons up AFL ladder

A settled and trimmed-down Jesse Hogan is ready to help launch Melbourne into the Simon Goodwin era.

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Hogan ended speculation he would seek a return home to Western Australia at the end of the season when he signed a two-year contract extension last year.

After taking over from Paul Roos, Goodwin will take the reins for the first time as the Demons’ senior coach when they take on the Western Bulldogs on Saturday.

The rookie coach spoke to reporters on Thursday and gave a glowing response when asked about the 22-year-old key forward’s preparation.

“I think Jess is now a really settled person, he’s established here at the footy club and he’s got some great work habits,” Goodwin said.

“He’s really driving his career forward. Having him signed up now is terrific … I think it gives him some clear air to really focus on what the team requires to be successful.”

Melbourne finished 11th last year and are widely tipped to play finals for the first time since 2006 in Goodwin’s first season in charge.

Hogan, the club’s leading goal kicker for the past two seasons, has slimmed down this pre-season and will play a key role if the Demons are to break their finals drought.

While Hogan’s impressive preparation gives Goodwin more options, fans can expect him to continue to anchor the forward line.

“We’ll experiment with Jess in a number of different positions but primarily he’s a forward,” Goodwin said.

“He’s on our list to play as a key forward and to really be instrumental in our forward half.

“But what Jess has been able to do is put his body shape in a great position to really launch into his season.”

Hogan will be joined by new faces Jordan Lewis and Jake Melksham when the Demons take on the Dogs at Whitten Oval.

Dom Tyson, Ben Kennedy, Michael Hibberd and Dean Kent are among the notable absentees, but all are expected to be available to play in round one of the home-and-away season.

Body found in search for Nepalese student at Sydney beach

After three days of searching, police divers have found the body of 26-year-old Sudeep Uprety under a rock ledge.

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The Nepalese student was with his friend Shristi Bhandari at Sydney’s Maroubra beach when they were swept out to sea on Monday night.

Shristi had only been in the country two weeks.

The 23-year-old’s body was found washed up on the beach on Tuesday.

Surf Lifesaving NSW Director John Restuccia told SBS this latest incident is tragic, but people need to adhere to the warnings and only swim between the flags.

“At night time there’s no way in world to know what the rips and the waves or even the currents are doing,” Mr Restuccia said.

Mr Restuccia believes we need to get “serious” about better educating foreigners about Australian water safety and the government needs to get on board.

“They are always looking excited when they come in to Australia. The first place they want to go to is a beach so maybe some more safety messages on the aeroplanes prior to landing at Australia would possibly help the situation,” said Mr Restuccia.

There’s been 23 drownings in NSW since Christmas, four within the Nepalese community.

Non-Resident Nepalese Association Secretary Tonnou Ghothane says he is pushing for students to be taught about the dangers of water in schools and universities in Nepal and for compulsory swimming lessons when young people arrive in Australia.

“Because we come from a land locked country and try to teach them what it’s like the dangers of sea back in Australia and I hope once they are aware they’ll be more careful,” Mr Ghothane said.

Sydney Airport chaos as wind continues

Sydney Airport passengers continue to face delays, with strong winds showing no signs of easing and 50 flights already cancelled on Friday.

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The interruptions follow wild winds on Thursday which forced the grounding of more than 70 flights and the closure of two of three runways.

Gusts of 57km/h were recorded at Kingsford Smith on Friday morning and the expectation was they would increase later in the day, a spokeswoman for Sydney Airport told AAP.

Two runways were open but it was likely planes would be reduced to using a single runway by Friday afternoon, Air Services Australia spokeswoman Sarah Fulton told AAP.

The airport is already working to clear Thursday’s backlog, a process that could take days and with the effects starting to be felt across the country.

“Because of yesterday’s conditions at Sydney we are starting to see a flow-on impact on the network and that will continue today,” Ms Fulton said.

As the airport works to clear the lag, a peak industry group has called for the cap on the number of flights allowed in and out of the airport every hour to be eased.

At present, there is a federal government-imposed cap of 20 aircraft movements per quarter hour.

Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive Margy Osmond says the cap doesn’t belong in the 21st century, with its negative impacts felt far beyond Sydney’s suburbs.

“For the airport to recover after these wind events we need the capacity to get rid of the 15-minute caps at Sydney Airport so we can land the plans we need to,” she told reporters on Friday.

“It doesn’t just affect Sydney it affects the whole country, the entire national network of airports.”

Ms Osmond said the critical issue with the cap was its lack of flexibility and suggested a system more in line with that of London’s Heathrow Airport.

“Heathrow Airport has a cap on the number of planes, except it’s an annual cap, not a 15-minute cap or an hour control … we’re simply saying let’s make the airport as productive and flexible as it needs to be.”

Passengers flying out of Sydney airport on Friday are advised to check with their airline for delays and cancellations.

Cheika defends Wallabies selections

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has defended some of his puzzling Test selections saying it’s about building depth in the Australian squad and nailing the best combinations.

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Veteran lock Kane Douglas said this week he didn’t know where he stood in the Wallabies’ pecking order after being dumped from the squad to face Argentina in the Rugby Championship clash in Canberra on Saturday night.

Cheika has chosen his fourth different starting lock combination of the year in Rob Simmons and Adam Coleman and the eighth since the 2015 World Cup.

But the coach said inconsistent performances in matches and at training meant it wasn’t clear who was Australia’s best duo.

He said he axed Rory Arnold for his showing in their draw with South Africa, while he sent Douglas back to the NRC to get more game time.

“Obviously I don’t know yet because I think we’re developing and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” Cheika said.

“We’ve got some young players coming through and we’ve got some more established like Simmons and this week we’ve had Lukhan Tui in the squad as well.

“We see where our future is and right now we’re looking for players to fight for those spots.”

Cheika denied there had been a turnstile for Wallabies debutantes, who had been cast aside after only an appearance or two.

There have been 22 players, who have made their debut since the 2015 World Cup. But Cheika said only a handful, including halfback Nick Frisby and UK-based flanker Leroy Houston, were no longer part of the larger squad.

He said he needed to establish as much depth as possible in Australia’s ranks.

“You can’t create depth by clicking your fingers. You’ve got to get into a program that will set us going forward,” he said.

“The guys we brought in at the start of 2016 like Dane Haylett-Petty and Rory Arnold – they’re into double digit caps and in another year they will have 20 and 30 caps and they’re going to have the right age profile.”

Cheika said he was always clear with players about where they stood and what they needed to improve on.

“We’re always communicating a clear picture of not just where they stand overall but where they stand in direct relation to their opponents.”

Chinese mandarin cider play to join ASX

A Chinese firm specialising in making cider from mandarins is seeking to list on the Australian share market with the aim of raising up to $12 million and securing access to quality Aussie fruit.

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Bojun Agriculture Holdings, chaired by former NSW National Party leader Andrew Stoner, is seeking to raise at least $7.2 million – and up to $4.8 million in oversubscriptions – through an offer of shares at 30 cents each.

Bojun Agriculture’s Jiangxi-based operating company, Bojun China, boast products including a fermented fruit-based drink produced from Nanfeng mandarins.

It also makes a fruit-based snack from strawberries, blueberries, kiwi fruit, pumpkins and the same mandarins.

Bojun believes the market for fruit-based snacks and beverages in China is growing as local consumers become more affluent and health conscious.

The company hopes to benefit from the free trade agreement between China and Australia, and Australia’s strong reputation in China as a producer of organic health foods.

“Bojun China plans to utilise the growing trade opportunities between China and Australia to establish a network of cooperation with Australian companies,” Bojun said in its prospectus.

Bojun has entered into two memorandums of understanding with Preshafood and the NSW Department of Primary Industries’ horticulture unit to test the suitability of Australian products in the Chinese market.

Bojun plans to use the funds raised through the share offer to fund expansion and research, upgrade its facilities in China, develop new products, and form collaborations with other companies.

Several other China-based agricultural companies are listed on the Australian share market, including China Dairy Corporation, fresh fruit and vegetable supplier Jiajiafu Modern Agriculture, and Dongfang Modern Agriculture

Dongfang cultivates mandarins, pomelos, oranges and camellia seeds and is also based in Jiangxi province.

The share offer closes on October 27 and Bojun hopes to start trading on the Australian Securities Exchange on November 6.

Same-sex marriage: ‘Like Love’ group to monitor anti-LGBTIQ content during campaign

A group of trained volunteers from Queensland will form ‘Like Love’, a group created to monitor forums and social media to report content that incites hatred during the same-sex marriage postal survey.

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Anti-gay posters and pamphlets have popped up across Sydney and in inner Brisbane’s West End over the last month raising fears of the types of vilification the LGBTI community will face throughout the postal vote.

Part of a poster seen in MelbourneTwitter

LGBTI Legal Service President Matilda Alexander said there was a misconception that hate speech was acceptable and part of freedom of speech.

“At the legal service we have seen an increase in hate speech online, in posters, in discussions in the media and there seems to be a misconception that freedom of speech allows you to say whatever you want and villify people on the basis of their sexuality and their gender identity,” Ms Alexander told SBS World News.

“We wanted to make sure firstly, that people know that kind of speech is unlawful and secondly, to have the tool available to be able to make a complaint and bring it to our attention so we can make a complaint to the relevant anti-discrimination body in Queensland.”

0:00 Same-sex marriage campaign laws banning vilification pass the Senate Share Same-sex marriage campaign laws banning vilification pass the Senate

Ms Alexander said the group was formed to give individuals a legal shoulder to lean on when combating homophobic slurs.

“We have noticed during the lead up to the postal vote, and even around discussions about the plebiscite, there was a lot of homophobic comments and a lot of homophobia generated in society,” Ms Alexander said.

“I think it is important because people are doing their best to combat homophobia and hate speech on an individual level, by replying to it and giving logic around it.

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“But it is heartbreaking to do that and it’s damagaing to people’s mental health. I think the support that we as a legal service can provide is to give the context that it is unlawful… that you need to screen grab it and send it into us and we will take the appropriate actions to make sure the law is enforced.”

The Federal Government passed a new law to protect anyone threatened by banning vilification, intimidation and threats, despite protests from a handful of crossbench senators who warned of a threat to free speech.

Breaking this law could cost up to $12,600.

The Queensland Government were quick to supply $7,000 to help train members of Like Love in an attempt to reduce the impact of such vilifying material.

Same-sex marriage supporters outside the High Court in Melbourne (AAP)AAP

All information collated by Like Love will be sent to the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission for review.

Federal laws outlawing intimidation or threats will apply across all forms of communications.

“These arrangements will apply to communications of all forms, including paid advertising, social media, bulk text messages and telephony, broadcast matter … and printed material,” Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said. 

“While the government would like nothing more than for these provisions never to be used, their inclusion gives the parliament the opportunity to send a clear message that hateful and malicious conduct will not be tolerated.”

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Fortescue CEO looking forward to time off

Fortescue Metals Group chief executive Nev Power plans to take a break and help his son on the cattle station when he steps down after seven years at the helm of the mining company.

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The 59-year-old, who says he hasn’t had more than three consecutive weeks off since the age of 15, will in February end his term as only the second chief executive to lead the company in its 15 years of operation.

Mr Power, who has been chief executive since July 2011, on Friday said he had been considering leaving for a while but wanted to wait until the completion of Fortescue’s full-year results.

“I sense it is the right time for Fortescue and for myself,” Mr Power told reporters on Friday.

“It has been a very long time that I have been working, it seems, full bore.”

But Mr Power won’t be idle for long.

“I am looking forward to taking some time off and spending some time working on a few personal business interests including helping my son on the cattle station,” he said.

Mr Power said he will continue to work with chairman Andrew Forrest and Fortescue’s board to help manage the transition to a new chief executive.

He said he hopes to continue to be associated with, and to support, the company.

He said Fortescue was in great shape and on an “enormous trajectory” with a “brighter than ever” future.

The world’s forth-biggest iron ore exporter said Mr Power’s decision was consistent with its long-term succession plan to enter a period of growth in other business opportunities.

“Nev has executed his duties to the highest degree and met or exceeded the often unreasonable standards set by his board,” Mr Forrest said on Friday, revealing the company had already begun screening internal and external candidates.

“We could not be more pleased with his stewardship and respect his decision that it is time for the next chapter of Fortescue to begin.”

The news of his departure comes only weeks after Fortescue sharply lifted its dividend and promised to sustain higher payouts for shareholders as a rebound in iron prices and lower costs helped it more than double full-year profit to $US2.09 billion ($A2.64 billion) for the year to June 30.

The board declared a final dividend of 25 cents a share, up from 12 cents last year, resulting in a full-year payout of 45 cents a share – far higher than its target ratio of 30 to 40 per cent of net profit.

Fortescue shares were down 21 cents, or 3.61 per cent, at $5.60, in a lower market at 1357 AEST on Friday.

Teaching sustainability in Australian schools: who’s missing out?

Teaching Australian school children about sustainability appears to be a case of hit and miss despite a decade-long push to make it a priority across the national curriculum.

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A survey of Queensland teachers found that many were unaware of a 2008 directive by federal and state education ministers to incorporate sustainability across all subjects, while others said they did not have any spare room in a curriculum that they said was inflexible.

But schools in Victoria, NSW and ACT appear to be ahead in sustainability programs, where schoolyards are being turned into veggie patches and children are encouraged in water saving and other eco-friendly measures.

Victoria and NSW were a part of the successful pilot trial of Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSI), a federal government initiative implemented in 2005 in partnership with state and territory education and environment agencies. The scheme has since been axed.

Senior lecturer in education policy at the University of Melbourne, Dr Glenn Savage, says there is no way to ascertain whether sustainability – one of three subjects that are the focus of the Cross Curriculum Priorities (CCP) initiative – is being taught in all classrooms across Australia.

As a cross-curriculum subject, it must be incorporated within all subjects for students from Prep to Year 10. (The other CCP issues are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, and Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia.)

“But the question is, are the teachers aware how to embed a CCP subject in their teaching?” Dr Savage said.

RENEWABLE ENERGY

The president of Australian Association of Environment Education, Mark Caddey, says that there are Australia-wide inconsistencies in sustainability education.

“Since the Commonwealth Government stepped away from AuSSI standards have slipped,” he said. 

Both the federal Department of Education and the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) have put the onus of teaching sustainability on the state governments.

Mr Caddey said: “ACARA draws a line where it will not mandate to pedagogy or implementation of sustainability education.

“And because the implementation of a CCP subject is left to the states, there is a lack of consistent policy on sustainability education, depriving the new teachers of education on integration of climate education in the curriculum.”

Research by Jennifer Nicholls at James Cook University revealed that primary and secondary school teachers in Queensland did not feel supported by curriculum materials that included climate change and sustainability. Consequently, many did not include the issue in their lesson plans, relying instead on incidental conversations and discussions with students.

The survey of 300 teachers found that those who did tackle the issue did so through personal investigation and self-learning.

But Queensland’s department of education says its “Curriculum into the Classroom (C2C)”, which is a variant of the Australian curriculum, allows specific opportunities for sustainability education.

RECYCLING E-WASTE

Dr Savage says that while variations of curriculum across Australia might allow flexibility for a state to adapt a subject such as sustainability to its own requirement, it makes implementation inconsistent.

“Are the states really using that flexibility to their advantage?” he said.

Whether education on climate and sustainability extends beyond the classroom is often dependent on individual principals.

“Some schools have a broader commitment towards sustainability than others,” Dr Savage said. “The whole school is geared around it. In most cases it is up to the principal’s interest.”

Victoria’s Banyule Primary school in Melbourne’s north-east is a standout.

It was named school of the year by Resource Smart, an initiative of Sustainability Victoria, and is one of more than 1000 schools in Victoria that have committed to putting sustainability front and centre of their programs.

Principal Sharon Marmo joined Banyule at a time when there were empty garden beds and little drive in the staff to be green.

“I felt that I had to do something for the environment,” she said. “I don’t want us to get to a day when there are no birds waking you up at five in the morning.”

The school’s effort is led by 10 teachers and 24 student leaders, who ensure every student participates and learns about sustainability. The school community comes together four times a year to participate in environment-friendly activities.

Banyule Primary School Prep teacher Courtney Deacon in the school’s veggie patch and kitchen garden.Supplied

Rainwater tanks, solar panels, a greenhouse, a veggie patch, a chicken coop made from recycled bed frames, a gardening club and a wicking pot have mad a “huge difference” in the children’s awareness, says prep teacher Courtney Deacon.

She says that kids from Prep to Year 6 willingly join the gardening club during lunch time to help water garden beds and feed the chooks.

Resource Smart’s Michael Birt says it’s not about the money that the schools put in.

“It could be a simple thing such as having litter guards during lunch time,” he said.

“This school has shown leadership specifically across biodiversity, water and energy savings, waste reduction, student and wider community engagement – this is no small task for a school of 579 students.”

A school in Tasmania also put their small country town of Huonville on the map, winning $133,000 in an international competition by incorporating a range of sustainable solutions, including retro-fitting a school building to improve its energy rating from half a star to six stars.

But these success stories are sporadic. Dr Savage says there is a significant disparity in the way in which sustainability concepts are incorporated in the curriculum and teachers do not receive enough professional development to help them embed CCP subjects in their teaching.

The Australian Sustainable Schools initiative ended in 2011. Though there are multiple organisations offering resources on sustainability education, academics say that the government is failing to provide adequate support at a national level.

Australia does not rank highly in UNESCO’s report on nations that are leading in climate change education.

Mr Caddey says Australia has a long road to travel in sustainability education in comparison to Scandinavian countries, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong and North America where sustainability education is far more explicit and has a strong and ongoing emphasis on nature education.

Hillary Whitehouse, Deputy Dean of the Graduate Research School at James Cook University, describes the situation as “disgraceful”.

“State governments and the national government are in complete denial about the need for systematic climate change education,” she said. “It is not funded and this absence is putting communities and populations at severe risk.”

Climate Council chief executive Amanda McKenzie says that when she goes out to schools to talk, most children seem to be aware of climate change and global warming.

“Young people just get the issue, that it needs to be addressed,” she said. “But what they ask is what do we do about it, what next?”

Ms McKenzie, who is the co-founder of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, says more needs to be done to educate young people about how to make changes in the community.

“I think there is a piece missing which is about civic duty,” she said. “There isn’t enough knowledge on community engagement.”

The latest survey of Global Environment Change shows that one-in-five Australians do not believe in climate change – the highest percentage in the world of climate sceptics.

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Women ’emboldened’ by burqa ban: Lambie

Crossbench senator Jacqui Lambie insists her move to ban the burqa from public places has emboldened oppressed Muslim women previously afraid to speak out.

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The upper house on Thursday is debating the senator’s private bill banning full-face coverings in commonwealth jurisdictions such as airports, as well as the ACT and Northern Territory.

It also makes it an offence to force another person or child to wear a full face covering, punishable by imprisonment.

Senator Lambie insists full face coverings make Australians fearful and the right to feel safe must outweigh the right for expression of religious freedom.

She says people hide their identity when they commit crimes.

She’s been told Muslim women have been emboldened by her proposed ban, and her public comments on Islam.

Thousands of women in Australia were oppressed and fearful, with lives full of abuse and control by men, Senator Lambie told parliament.

“They are told what to wear and how to dress in public,” she said.

“They can’t speak out. They are voiceless.”

The ban is linked to the national terrorism threat level, kicking in when the terror threat reaches `probable’.

Given the threat level is already at `probable’, it would start immediately.

Liberal frontbencher Concetta Fierravanti-Wells says while the burqa was “confronting at times”, she’s rarely seen women wearing them in Australia.

“I have very rarely seen women whose faces are fully covered,” she said.

The most common head covering she has seen is the hijab, which leaves most of the face uncovered.

“Women have told me that they do so because it’s their choice,” she said.

“It’s what they feel they would like to wear as a demonstration of their beliefs.”

Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm rejected the idea that banning the burqa would improve security.

“I can scarcely think of anything you could do to put security on higher alert than wearing a burqa, other than carrying a neon sign with an arrow pointing at you that says ‘potential terrorist’,” he told parliament.

Anyone considering a terrorist attack would not be inconvenienced by a burqa ban.

“It’s just as easy to hide a bomb under a loose gown as under a burqa,” he said.

“And if you are planning to blow yourself up, you won’t be worried if a surveillance camera captures an image of your face before it gets blown to bits.”

It was more important to ensure immigrants were compatible with Australian values, he said.

Fossils show quick rebound of life

Fossils including sharks, sea reptiles and squid-like creatures dug up in Idaho reveal a marine ecosystem thriving relatively soon after Earth’s worst mass extinction, contradicting the long-held notion life was slow to recover from the calamity.

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Scientists on Wednesday described the surprising fossil discovery showing creatures flourishing in the aftermath of the worldwide die-off at the end of the Permian Period about 252 million years ago that erased roughly 90 per cent of species.

Even the asteroid-induced mass extinction 66 million years ago that doomed the dinosaurs did not push life to the brink of annihilation like the Permian one.

The fossils of about 30 different species unearthed in Bear Lake County near the Idaho city of Paris showed a quick and dynamic rebound in a marine ecosystem, illustrating the remarkable resiliency of life.

“Our discovery was totally unexpected,” said paleontologist Arnaud Brayard of the University of Burgundy-Franche-Comte in France, with a highly diversified and complex assemblage of animals.

The ecosystem from this pivotal time included predators such as sharks up to about two metres, marine reptiles and bony fish, squid-like creatures including some with long conical shells and others with coiled shells, a scavenging crustacean with large eyes and strangely thin claws, starfish relatives, sponges and other animals.

The Permian die-off occurred 251.9 million years ago. The Idaho ecosystem flourished 1.3 million years later, “quite rapid on a geological scale,” according to Brayard.

The mass extinction’s cause is a matter of debate.

But many scientists attribute it to colossal volcanic eruptions in northern Siberia that unleashed large amounts of greenhouse and toxic gases, triggering severe global warming and big fluctuations in oceanic chemistry including acidification and oxygen deficiency.

The Idaho ecosystem, in the earliest stages of the Triassic Period that later produced the first dinosaurs, included some unexpected creatures. There was a type of sponge previously believed to have gone extinct 200 million years earlier, and a squid-like group previously thought not to have originated until 50 million years later.

The researchers found bones from what could be the earliest-known ichthyosaur, a dolphin-like marine reptile group that prospered for 160 million years, or a direct ancestor.

“The Early Triassic is a complex and highly disturbed epoch, but certainly not a devastated one as commonly assumed, and this epoch has not yet yielded up all its secrets,” Brayard said.

Marcs, David Lawrence: 13 stores to close

Thirteen David Lawrence and Marcs fashion stores will close and 20 staff will lose their jobs as administrators attempt to strike a deal with a buyer to save the famous fashion labels.

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The job cuts and store closures come a fortnight after the troubled businesses were placed in voluntary administration.

Nine David Lawrence stores and four Marcs outlets will close by February 21 and 10 full-time staff and another 10 part-time staff will be made redundant.

Another 50 staff will be offered jobs in other stores and have the option of taking redundancy payouts.

Geoff Reidy, a director of administrators Rodgers Reidy, says the stores identified for closure had already been earmarked to close before his firm was appointed to see if David Lawrence and Marcs could be saved from collapse.

More than 40 individuals and companies have so far expressed interest in possibly buying the fashion labels.

“We’ve been buoyed by that,” Mr Reidy told AAP on Thursday.

“The majority are local players but there are some overseas interests as well.”

Potential buyers for the businesses have until February 22 to lodge their interest, with the administrators hopeful of finalising a sale soon.

The fashion retailers, which are two of Australia’s best-known labels, employ about 1130 staff in Australia and another 42 in New Zealand across their 52 stores, 11 outlets and 140 concessions.

Staff learned about the store closures and job losses on Wednesday during meetings with the administrators and local area managers.

When the businesses were placed in administration earlier this month, the sole director of the companies behind the labels, Malcolm Webster, blamed deteriorating sales, poor cash flow and market conditions.

David Lawrence and Marcs are among a string of retailers hit by tough times in the Australian retail market.

Rhodes and Beckett, and Herringbone were placed in voluntary administration last week, leaving the futures of about 140 workers in doubt.

Payless Shoes and Howards Storage World appointed administrators two months ago, while children’s retailer Pumpkin Patch entered receivership last October.

DAVID LAWRENCE STORE CLOSURES

* Fashion Spree, NSW

* Indooroopilly, Qld

* Queens Plaza, Qld

* Carindale, Qld

* Highpoint, Vic

* Eastland, Vic

* Little Collins Street, Vic

* Bridge Road Richmond, Vic

* Perth Enex, WA

MARCS STORE CLOSURES

* Canberra, ACT

* Fashion Spree, NSW

* Pacific Fair, Qld

* Eastland, Vic

Trump’s iffy grasp of autism research

US President Donald Trump has weighed in on child autism, apparently without a complete grasp of the research.

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Trump in the past has promoted debunked theories linking vaccines to autism, and shortly before his inauguration was considering a commission on the matter.

Such comments have alarmed health professionals.

Just last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics and dozens of other health organisations signed a letter to Trump saying claims that vaccines aren’t safe “have been disproven by a robust body of medical literature,” and offering to meet with him to explain that science.

A look at his statement at a forum Tuesday and what is known about the prevalence of autism in children:

TRUMP: “Tremendous increases … really a horrible thing to watch the tremendous amount of increase.”

THE FACTS: About 1 in 68 school-aged children has autism or related disorders, a rate that has stayed about the same for two years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in March.

That’s far more than in 2000, when the CDC estimated that about 1 in 150 children had autism. That increase is explained in large part by more awareness of the developmental disorder and changes in practice that broadened the definition for an autism diagnosis.

WHY IT MATTERS: While Trump during one primary debate insisted he was “totally in favour of vaccines,” he has subscribed in the past to theories unsupported by scientific evidence linking vaccines to autism. He tweeted in 2012: “Autism rates through the roof–why doesn’t the Obama administration do something about doctor-inflicted autism. We lose nothing to try.” In 2014: “If I were President I would push for proper vaccinations but would not allow one time massive shots that a small child cannot take – AUTISM.”

A similar assertion in a 2015 presidential primary debate brought a rebuke from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which said it is “dangerous to public health” to suggest that vaccines are linked to autism.