January 12th, 2012
12:22 AM ET

Australian man sentenced to prison, lashes in Saudi Arabia headed home

An Australian man sentenced to 500 lashes and a year in prison after his conviction on blasphemy charges in Saudi Arabia has been pardoned and is headed home, officials said Thursday.

Mansor Almaribe was arrested and convicted in November in the city of Medina.

"Saudi Arabian authorities have granted Mr AlMaribe a pardon from his prison sentence, and his corporal punishment was also greatly reduced and administered in a way that did not cause physical harm," the Australian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry did not elaborate on how the lashing was carried out.

It's unclear what the 45-year-old Shia Muslim from Victoria state said or did to get arrested, but Australia had appealed for leniency after his sentence.

Australian officials said they were told Almaribe made comments "insulting to prophet Mohammed's relatives."

"I don't think my dad would even survive 50 lashes not 500," his son said last month. "He goes to the doctor every week for checks ups. He has knee injuries and back injuries from a car accident and he also has diabetes and high blood pressure."

The family spent weeks searching for the Iraqi-born father of five after he went missing in early November while performing the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

Blasphemy is punishable by up to a death sentence under the strict Muslim law in Saudi Arabia.

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Filed under: Australia • Saudi Arabia • World
January 10th, 2012
12:23 AM ET

Japan to hand over detained whaling activists to Australia

Japan said Tuesday that it would hand over to Australian authorities three Australian anti-whaling activists being held aboard a Japanese vessel, but that it would press on with its annual whale hunt in the seas near Antarctica.

The activists had illegally boarded the ship, a patrol vessel supporting Japan's whaling mission in Antarctic waters, to protest the hunting of the giant marine mammals in the area.

The three men will be released without charge after being questioned by Japan's Coast Guard, an official at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday. The official declined to be identified as is customary in Japan.

"They have not been violent after getting on board and had no record of joining past destructive actions by Sea Shepherd," the official said, referring to the anti-whaling group that has clashed several times with the Japanese fleet.

He said the Japanese whaling fleet needed the patrol boat to continue with its hunt.

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Filed under: Australia • Japan • World
December 17th, 2011
07:55 PM ET

2 dead, dozens more missing after boat sinks off Indonesian coast

At least two people are dead and as many as 170 missing after a wooden boat carrying migrants to the Australian territory of Christmas Island sunk off the coast of Indonesia, a rescue official said early Sunday.

The boat was carrying more than 200 people when it left Indonesia's East Java province, according to Angipp Satoto of the Indonesian search-and-rescue team. Nearly 90 people were rescued from the water, he said.

Indonesian authorities are working with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority in the rescue efforts, Satoto said.

Most of those aboard the ship were Indonesians. Others aboard were of Afghan, Iranian, Turkish, French and Saudi Arabian origin, Satoto said.

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Filed under: Australia • Indonesia
November 1st, 2011
08:56 AM ET

Boat filled with asylum seekers capsizes

A crowded boat carrying asylum seekers capsized off the coast of the island of Java in Indonesia on Tuesday, leaving six people dead, officials said.

Another 37 were rescued, the Indonesian Search and Rescue Agency said. Some others were missing.

A total of 70 people are believed to have been on board, officials said.

Search and rescue teams from Jakarta and Bandung, West Java, are helping in the search.

The agency said the wooden ship left the town of Cilacap, West Java, and was bound for Australia. The asylum seekers were from Iraq, Iran and Pakistan, an agency official said.

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Filed under: Australia • Indonesia • Iran • Iraq • Pakistan • World
October 31st, 2011
01:55 AM ET

Qantas resumes flights

Australia's Qantas Airways resumed flights Monday after a government labor board ordered it to end a dispute with its unions that grounded the airline over the weekend.

"Qantas can confirm that all domestic and international services have resumed from mid-afternoon on Monday 31 October," the airline's website said. "We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience and stress our customers have faced over the past days and months."

Labor relations tribunal Fair Work Australia ordered an end to the labor dispute "to avoid significant damage to the tourism industry" after Qantas grounded its jets Saturday afternoon.

The airline grounded 447 flights and, ahead of the order to end the dispute, had announced it would lock out its unionized pilots, engineers, ramp, baggage and catering crews effective Monday evening.

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Filed under: Air travel • Australia • Travel • World
October 30th, 2011
06:06 AM ET

Stranded Qantas passengers await decision on labor dispute

Australian airline Qantas remained grounded for a second day Sunday, leaving tens of thousands of stranded passengers worldwide awaiting an independent watchdog's decision in the labor dispute.

The cancellations affected more than 600 flights and 70,000 passengers, Qantas said.

At Sydney airport, columns of "canceled" illuminated the departure board. Throngs of weary passengers crowded the help desk to rebook with other airlines as suitcases lay scattered all over the floor.

"It makes me wonder whether I would book with Qantas again," said Isabelle Storer, who was stuck at the airport with her husband after a visit to the United States.

Their connection to Adelaide was canceled, leaving her frustrated because her husband needed medical treatment, she said.

Passenger Ron Fuller waited at the airport, albeit more optimistic.

"For a month or two, everyone will be anti-Qantas, there's no doubt about that," Fuller said. "But emotion probably gets in the way sometimes."

In a statement, Qantas pilots slammed the airline's chief executive for grounding the entire fleet, saying it is unfair to passengers, shareholders and workers.

"Alan Joyce obviously thinks Qantas is his personal plaything to use in his high-stakes game against pilots and other workers," said Richard Woodward, the president of the Australian and International Pilots Association.

The dispute has escalated, forcing government officials to ask watchdog Fair Work Australia to intervene.

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Filed under: Air travel • Australia • Travel • World
Due to solar energy use, power costs in Australia may go ... up?
Solar panels, similar to this one in Leigh Creek, Australia, are overloading the electricity grid, power companies say.
October 12th, 2011
04:58 PM ET

Due to solar energy use, power costs in Australia may go ... up?

Australian power companies say skyrocketing solar panel use is overloading their power lines, according to news reports.

In the wake of new limits set by Australia’s energy industry on solar panel installation, one power company said it may raise power rates to ease system strains created by the reverse flow of electricity, according to the Australian.

The issue stems from the increase in homes and businesses using photovoltaic cells, which feed electricity back into networks. The upsurge is creating “consequences for appliances and equipment in customers' homes," energy provider Ausgrid said in a letter to the New South Wales pricing and regulatory body, the Australian reported.

Ausgrid, one of the largest power providers Down Under, warned of the “significant likelihood" that costs would need to go up due to the solar craze, which has taken off in parts of Australia.

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Japan's whaling could put lives at risk, New Zealand says
Anti-whaling activists approach a Japanese whaling vessel in January in a photo from Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research.
October 5th, 2011
10:12 AM ET

Japan's whaling could put lives at risk, New Zealand says

New Zealand joined Australia on Wednesday in criticizing Japan's decision to resume whaling in Antarctic waters later this year and Tokyo's announcement that it will increase security for its whaling fleet.

"The Japanese government (is) making noises that have an ominous feel about them," New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said.

Michihiko Kano, Japan's fisheries minister, said at a news conference Tuesday that a patrol boat from the Fisheries Agency would accompany the Japanese whaling fleet when it heads for the Southern Ocean in December to "strengthen the protection given to the research whaling ships."

The addition of the patrol boat to the whaling fleet comes after last season's whale hunt in the Southern Ocean was cut short when anti-whaling activists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society blocked strikes on the animals. Sea Shepherd said its actions saved 800 whales, and it promised last week to be back in force this season.

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Filed under: Animals • Antarctica • Australia • Japan • New Zealand • Whales • World
Japan vows to resume whale hunt; activists promise fight
The Japanese whaling research vessel Nisshin Maru is approached by a Sea Shepherd vessel in the Southern Ocean during last season's hunt.
October 4th, 2011
10:29 AM ET

Japan vows to resume whale hunt; activists promise fight

Japan says it will hunt whales in the Southern Ocean this winter and will send a Fisheries Agency ship to guard its whalers against promised intervention by a conservation group.

"The Fisheries Agency will send a patrol boat and take increased measures to strengthen the protection given to the research whaling ships," Fisheries Minister Michihiko Kano said at a news conference Tuesday.

At its annual meeting in July, the International Whaling Commission passed a resolution calling on its member countries "to cooperate to prevent and suppress actions that risk human life and property at sea."

Last winter, Japan cut its planned December-to-April hunt two months short after anti-whaling activists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society repeatedly interfered with the whaling vessels.

Sea Shepherd claims it saved 800 whales by its actions during last season's hunt. Japanese whalers killed 171 minke whales and two fin whales during the Antarctic hunt, according to IWC figures.

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Filed under: Animals • Australia • Japan • Whales
Australian passports now offer gender option 'X' for intersex people
September 15th, 2011
10:32 AM ET

Australian passports now offer gender option 'X' for intersex people

In a move the Australian government hopes will help remove discrimination against intersex or transgender people, the country's passports will now offer three options: male, female and indeterminate, the government said Thursday.

"This initiative is in line with the Australian Government’s commitment to remove discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or sex and gender identity," according to the Australian Passport Office. "The policy removes unnecessary obstacles to recording a person’s preferred gender in their passport."

Those who do not identify themselves as male or female will no longer be required to check off the "M" or "F" box under gender, but instead will have the option of checking "X," according to the new passport rules.

“This amendment makes life easier and significantly reduces the administrative burden for sex and gender diverse people who want a passport that reflects their gender and physical appearance," Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said.

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August 16th, 2011
12:52 PM ET

Australian collar-bomb suspect ordered held without bond

The Australian man accused of strapping a fake bomb around the neck of an 18-year-old woman two weeks ago will remain in federal custody until at least October 14, a U.S. District Court magistrate ruled Tuesday.

The FBI arrested Paul Douglas Peters, 50, Monday near LaGrange, Kentucky, after a joint investigation with Australian authorities that traced him to the August 3 incident in the Mosman, Australia, home of Madeleine Pulver.

Authorities say they believe Peters strapped a black box around the Pulver's neck, claiming in an attached note that it contained "powerful new technology plastic explosives" that would explode if she did not follow his instructions - which included contacting an e-mail address for further details, according to a complaint for provisional arrest filed in federal court.

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Filed under: Australia • Crime • Kentucky
August 15th, 2011
07:39 PM ET

Suspect in Australia bomb hoax arrested in Kentucky

A 50-year-old man accused of strapping a fake bomb on an 18-year-old woman in Sydney, Australia, earlier this month was arrested Monday in Louisville, Kentucky, said Australian law enforcement officials.

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Filed under: Australia • Crime • Kentucky
Whoops! $1 million worth of wine spilled
More than 5,000 bottles of Australian wine won't be in glasses after a forklift accident Thursday.
July 22nd, 2011
08:00 AM ET

Whoops! $1 million worth of wine spilled

A malfunctioning forklift dropped 462 cases of wine in Australia on Thursday, a spill with a price tag of more than $1 million.

The 5,544 bottles of 2010 Mollydooker Velvet Glove shiraz, with a price tag of $185 a bottle,  fell almost 20 feet to ground of a wharf in Port Adelaide as the forklift was loading it for shipment abroad, according to media reports.

"We just couldn't believe it," winemaker Sparky Marquis said in a report on Adelaide Now. "As you can imagine, this wine is our pride and joy. To see it accidentally destroyed, and not consumed, has left us all a bit numb.

"The container manager said that when his team came and told him what had happened, he was looking around for cameras to see if it was a 'gotcha' hoax. He realised it was serious when nobody was laughing," Adelaide Now quotes Marquis as saying.

Marquis told ABC.net that only one carton among the 462 was undamaged. His staff was searching through the others to see if any other bottles may have escaped.

"All of the bottles are in the cool store and we're just having to go through every single bottle, check it first of all to see if it has any cap seal damage to it, in which case it just gets immediately discarded," ABC.net quotes him as saying.

The lost wine represents a third of his company's output for a year.

Brett McCarthur of Kerry Logistics, the company which operated the forklift, told Adelaide Now his company moves tens of thousands of heavy containers each year.

"We move hundreds of pallets a day filled with sand and even stuff that it wouldn't matter if you dropped it from 50 feet in the air, but the only premium container had to be the one," McCarthur was quoted as saying.

Marquis said he was working with insurers to get compensated for his loss.

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Filed under: Agriculture • Australia • Food
Pirates stifling climate research, scientists say
Pirates in the Indian Ocean hold the crew of the Chinese fishing vessel FV Tian hostage in 2008.
July 15th, 2011
01:38 PM ET

Pirates stifling climate research, scientists say

Pirates in the Indian Ocean are hijacking scientists' ability to collect data on climate change, researchers say.

Ann Thresher of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, in an e-mail interview Friday with CNN, said the threat of piracy has effectively shut off a critical portion of the Indian Ocean to research.

" This is affecting weather observations," Thresher said. "All data that feeds into measurements of climate change, ocean heat content, weather prediction and the prediction of ocean currents.”

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Filed under: Australia • Climate change • Environment • Pirates • Science • Weather
July 7th, 2011
08:10 AM ET

Australian cycling star killed

An Australian cycling star died Wednesday after being struck by a car while she was riding in Italy, Australian media reported.

Carly Hibberd, 26, was killed on a morning training ride north of Milan, according to the Courier-Mail in Brisbane.

"I'm very, very sorry, I ride that road too," Australian champion Cadel Evans tweeted from the Tour de France, AdelaideNow reported.

Colombian cyclist Diego Tamayo was riding with Hibberd but was not hurt, the Courier-Mail reported.

Hibberd won the women's Cycling Australia National Road Series in 2008 before moving to Italy the following year, according to the Courier-Mail.

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Filed under: Australia • Cycling • Italy • Sports
On the Radar: Afghanistan speech, U.S. role in Libya, flooding, fires, Anthony trial
President Barack Obama plans to withdraw 30,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, an administration official says.
June 22nd, 2011
08:27 AM ET

On the Radar: Afghanistan speech, U.S. role in Libya, flooding, fires, Anthony trial

Afghan troop withdrawal - President Barack Obama will deliver a highly anticipated speech on the U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday. He is expected to announce that 30,000 U.S. "surge" forces will be fully withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, an administration official said. Obama has been mulling how many troops should be withdrawn this summer and by the end of the year. The president is expected to stress the importance of preserving flexibility in force levels on the ground so commanders can adjust as conditions warrant, the official said.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Air travel • Australia • Casey Anthony • Fire • Flooding • Libya • On the Radar • Politics • Volcano
Kissers explain famous riot photo
June 18th, 2011
11:20 AM ET

Kissers explain famous riot photo

[Update 8:45 a.m. Saturday] Canada's most famous lovebirds have come forward to explain the kiss photo that made them famous.

Australian Scott Jones and his girlfriend, Alexandra Thomas of Vancouver, British Columbia, told the Canadian network CBC that they were not making out in the street during the Vancouver hockey riot as it appeared in the widely circulated photo by Getty Images photographer Rich Lam.

The two were trying to find a way out of the turbulent downtown area when they were overrun by a phalanx of riot police, they said.

"They started charging at us, and we tried to run away, but Alex couldn't," Jones explained.

"I just tripped up," Thomas interjected. "I'm not sure, but I was starting to get really frightened because I'd never experienced anything like that before. And it's really scary, you know? ... I was upset, and he was there to make sure that I got out OK."

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Filed under: Art • Australia • Canada • Crime • Hockey • Protest
Blimp pilot dies saving passengers from fiery crash
A Goodyear blimp plunges to the ground after catching fire over Germany on Sunday.
June 14th, 2011
07:54 AM ET

Blimp pilot dies saving passengers from fiery crash

An Australian blimp pilot killed in a crash of his airship was being hailed as a hero Tuesday for saving the lives of three other people aboard the doomed craft.

Michael Nerandzic was trying to land a Goodyear blimp at an airfield in Reichelsheim, Germany, when his passengers, three journalists, smelled fuel and heard a loud noise from an engine, according to news reports, including one in the Daily Telegraph in Sydney, Australia.

Realizing the ship was in danger, Nerandzic lowered it to just two meters (6.5 feet) off the ground and told the journalists to jump, according to the news reports.

Time.com: Harrowing photos as blimp catches fire, crashes

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Filed under: Australia • Aviation • Germany • World
Farting camels on carbon hit list
Camels have no natural predators in Australia.
June 9th, 2011
02:42 PM ET

Farting camels on carbon hit list

OK, so apparently Australia's interior desert is overrun with more than a million camels that nobody owns.

Furthermore, Australia is looking for ways to reduce its agricultural greenhouse gas emissions under something known as the Carbon Farming Initiative.

How are these facts related, you say? We're glad you asked.

It seems these feral camels are known to, well, emit a lot of greenhouse gases, if you get our meaning.

In response, an Australian entrepreneur has submitted a proposal to the initiative to improve the air down under by shooting the dromedaries where they stand.

Or, as a headline on the Australian blog The Register concisely put it: FARTING DEATH CAMELS MUST DIE.

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Filed under: Animals • Australia • Camels • Climate change • Earth • Environment
Love, Down Under: Dating agency matches single women to farmers
"Brides" pursue a single male on a race track as part of a radio promotion in Brisbane, Australia.
May 28th, 2011
02:59 PM ET

Love, Down Under: Dating agency matches single women to farmers

Pop singer Beyonce told single ladies to put their hands up, but maybe she should have directed them Down Under.

A dating agency is shuttling busloads of single women to rural areas in hopes that they’ll find lonely farmers, according to an article in the London Telegraph.

Contacted by CNN late Friday, Brie Peters said she got the idea for the single women tours from a chance encounter.

“I’m lucky enough to have some friends that live in the outback of Australia,” she said, “and we were at a pub one night and the pub owner said, ‘Brie, you’ll be interested in this, ‘I know a lot of single women that send me letters’ ” looking for rural men, she said.

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Filed under: Australia • World
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