Swiss Franc surge puts strain on WHO’s $US4b budget

The World Health Organisation is feeling the rising salary costs at its Geneva headquarters. Photo: Denis Balibouse Health workers carry the body of an Ebola virus victim in Kenema, Sierra Leone. The WHO’s board adopted a set of reform proposals last month after criticism on its Ebola response. Photo: Umaru Fofana

After a year in which it was battered for its handling of the Ebola outbreak, the World Health Organisation is facing another rising threat: the Swiss franc. Switzerland’s currency has gained 12 per cent against the euro this year, increasing salary costs for a United Nations agency that employs almost 1900 people at its Geneva headquarters. The WHO is revising a proposed budget of more than $US4 billion ($5.1 billion) in total for 2016 and 2017 and its executive board discussed an increase to adjust for the strength of the franc at a meeting last month, according to Sarah Russell, a spokeswoman. No consensus was reached, she said by e-mail. The rising costs are complicating the WHO’s efforts to convince donors that the agency represents value for their money. The side effects of the surge in the franc, which has prompted profit warnings and job cuts at Swiss banks and manufacturers, is also rippling out through Geneva’s cluster of UN agencies and aid organisations. If the franc trades too closely to parity with the euro, there’s a risk for an exodus of jobs, said Yves Flueckiger, the vice rector of the University of Geneva and a professor of economics. “It will indeed create an incentive for international organisations and NGOs to remove part of their activities to other places,” he said. That would “reduce the level of employment in Geneva quite strongly.”

Costs foreseen

The WHO’s estimates for its next two-year budget range from $US4.17 billion to as much as $US4.38 billion, including a special adjustment for salaries, according to document published last month. The WHO doesn’t expect to go beyond the higher amount, Russell said. The Swiss National Bank abruptly ended the cap on the exchange rate with the euro on January 15, leading the franc to reach its strongest level since the common currency’s 1999 debut. The WHO receives contributions denominated in francs of 220 million francs ($300 million) a year and has expenses of 400 million francs in that currency, exposing it to an exchange rate risk for about 180 million francs, Russell said. Last year, the WHO started charging member nations half their annual fees in francs instead of dollars to reduce the currency risk. A decline in the US dollar against the franc between 2000 and 2011 reduced the WHO’s purchasing power for payroll costs by 34 per cent, according to a 2012 report. The agency has been cutting jobs and has moved about 100 positions to Malaysia. The WHO’s board also adopted a set of reform proposals last month after the criticism on its Ebola response. Headquarter staff

The agency plans to complete the budget review by April so the financing can be approved in May, the spokeswoman said. The WHO has more employees in Geneva than any UN body besides the United Nations secretariat. As of July 2014, 1888 WHO employees were based at its headquarters, about a quarter of the total. The franc has given up some of its gains against the euro since rising beyond parity last month, a development that may save the city from losing too many jobs, the University of Geneva’s Flueckiger said. Some international organisations based there are already seeking ways to cut costs. Unicef, the UN agency that works on children’s rights, said last week it will cut costs by setting up a services center in Budapest employing about 200 people. Still, others aren’t as worried. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which spends about $US4 billion a year fighting the world’s three biggest infectious killers, said all its funds are raised and disbursed in US dollars, and less than 10 per cent of its costs are in francs.

‘Waiting for the dust to settle’GAVI, which last month raised $US7.5 billion to fund vaccinations in developing countries, said about 3 per cent of its costs are in francs. Because of hedging measures, the SNB’s action “will not have any significant impact” on its finances, said Rob Kelly, a spokesman. The International Committee of the Red Cross receives most of its income in foreign currencies, but has its budget in francs. The organisation appealed for an additional 132 million francs in October to cover its 2014 budget of 1.3 billion francs as it faces increased costs associated with humanitarian responses in South Sudan, Ukraine and Syria. It’s too early to measure how the organisation’s funding will be affected by the strong franc, said Red Cross spokesman Alexis Heeb. “We will of course be affected in some way but are remaining calm and are waiting for the dust to settle.”  Bloomberg

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Meet Ruby, Australia’s newly discovered seadragon

‘Mesmerising beauty’: The ruby seadragon. Photo: Western Australian Museum ‘Mesmerising beauty’: The ruby seadragon. Photo: Western Australian Museum

Say hello to Ruby, the seadragon that until recently no one knew existed.

A bright red, black-eyed bony beauty, it is only the third species of these peculiar Australian marine creatures ever discovered.

All the time, it was drifting right under scientists’ noses.

The ruby seadragon is believed to live in dark waters beyond normal scuba diving depth, and so escaped attention, unlike its relatives, the leafy and weedy seadragons.

Josefin Stiller, a marine biologist at Scripps Institution in California, led research that first uncovered the ruby seadragon, and described it as a new species of “mesmerising beauty” in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

The discovery of the first new seadragon species in 150 years was “highly unexpected,” Ms Stiller said.

Teasing out the genetics of the two better-known species, she was sent a tissue sample from a Western Australian Museum specimen, thought to be a common seadragon, but found to have clearly different DNA.

Ms Stiller, her Scripps colleague Greg Rouse, and the Western Australian Museum’s Nerida Wilson then checked on the actual specimen, which had been trawled off the Recherche Archipelago in WA in 2007.

It was a male, brooding young, as male seahorses do, about 24 centimetres long and still a vivid red when it was photographed on the research ship.

It was intact except for the waving appendages that keep seadragons hidden in their surroundings, both from predators and the tiny shrimp prey they suck up through straw-like mouths.

The scientists then scoured Australian collections and turned up several other rubies, all of them different anatomically from the leafy and common species.

“The red colour of the ruby seadragon helps to camouflage it at depth, as red light does not penetrate very deep,” Ms Stiller said. “So anything that is red is effectively black.”

She said the discovery underscored two things: how important long-term museum collections were, and how many more secrets still waited to be uncovered in the sea.

The ruby seadragon was found at a depth of 51 metres, just a few kilometres off the Austalian coast.

“Even at relatively shallow depth, which is much better explored than other parts of Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone, we still find new species,”  Ms Stiller said.

“This particular new species is relatively large, brightly coloured and charismatic – and so it is all the more remarkable that it escaped recognition until now.

“It is a sign of how much more there may be to find in shallow and deeper waters of Australia.”

The team gave it the scientific name Phyllopteryx dewysea, naming it after  Mary “Dewy” White, an American benefactor of seadragon conservation and research.

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Gallipoli’s ratings fail highlights Australia’s inferiority complex

Artful: Gallipoli’s is an accomplished production but is failing to draw in viewers. Kodi Smit-McPhee in Gallipoli.

One hundred years after the Gallipoli campaign was marked by terrible casualties, the Channel Nine mini-series is also suffering extensive losses. Gallipoli launched last week with a strong capital city audience of just more than 1.1 million, but on Monday night for the second of seven episodes the audience was virtually halved, down to 580,000. The ultimate indignity? It was beaten in the ratings by Ten’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! which drew 600,000 viewers earlier that evening.

“If you didn’t see ‘GALLIPOLI’ tonight you are truly out of your mind. Yes, it’s dark, violent, and bloody. But it is SENSATIONAL”, tweeted actor Lachy Hulme, who has a supporting role in Gallipoli as British military commander Lord Kitchener, on Monday night. And he’s right. This is a benchmark Australian television drama that captures the horror of a nation-defining moment with evocative writing, artful direction, strong performances and accomplished production values.

This actually is must-see TV, but the public doesn’t appear to be responding. The possible reasons why begin with an unwieldy timeslot – Gallipoli is screening at 9pm on Monday nights, although any show that airs after a major reality show tends to have a less than faithful relationship with its advertised starting time. And that lead-in on Nine, The Block Triple Threat, isn’t quite the ratings powerhouse of previous years. It’s been monstered by Channel Seven’s ratings behemoth My Kitchen Rules.

Interest in the Gallipoli centenary was expected to be high – there are several other television series in the can that now have highly nervous producers – but you could argue that the show’s qualities are better suited to the ABC, where it could have found an earlier slot on a Sunday night. The ABC did a good job of finding an audience for the last standout Australian drama, The Slap, in 2011.

But if a series is good enough, and having seen the first four episodes I know Gallipoli is, then surely the quality should transcend network logistics. The problem could run deeper, in that while the Gallipoli campaign has become a touchstone for Australians, it’s more of a symbol than a clearly defined reality. What Gallipoli makes clear, with its bloody hand-to-hand combat and no man’s land carpeted with Australian and Turkish dead, is the unchecked carnage behind the reassuring mythology.

The series is harrowing because it values reality over jingoistic sentiment and that’s not been the recent norm for Australian drama offerings. The successful diet offered by broadcasters has been a melodramatic confection of billionaires and their adversaries, led by multiple Kerry Packer offerings (including two where he’s played by the aggrieved Hulme). Channel Nine itself has only just finished serving up the overly ripe House of Hancock, a show whose pulpy appeal evaporated after a repetitive scene or two.

Australians have been eager adopters of the prestigious American cable drama series, with laudatory debates about whether The Sopranos is better than Breaking Bad and aficionados proudly boasting about being an early adopter of The Wire. But while those shows are among the medium’s very best, there’s also a part of us that bow down to imported acclaim and refuses to believe that we can make truly great television drama in this country. Presented with a worthy Australian program some television consumers prefer to wait online in case a new Game of Thrones trailer drops.

One of Gallipoli’s story strands is how the Australian military was a misused tool of wasteful British generals, and while we bowed down to the British a century ago our empire of choice now is American. Gallipoli’s falling ratings tells us that Australia’s sense of cultural inferiority is as strong as ever. If you didn’t see “GALLIPOLI” tonight you are truly out of your mind. Yes, it’s dark, violent, and bloody. But it is SENSATIONAL @Gallipoli9 — Lachy Hulme (@LachyHulme) February 16, 2015This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲美睫培训学校.

Mike Baird labelled a ‘coward’ by Senator Sam Dastyari for not attending parliamentary inquiry into electricity privatisation

Senator Sam Dastyari, flanked by independent Jacqui Lambie and the Greens’ Lee Rhiannon, criticised Mike Baird for not attending the public hearing into asset recyclling on Wednesday. Photo: Daniel Munoz Senators Jacquie Lambie and Sam Dastyari with protesters before the public hearing. Photo: Daniel Munoz

A NSW Senator has accused Premier Mike Baird of gagging senior bureaucrats and preventing them from attending a parliamentary inquiry into his centrepiece election policy of privatisation.

“Mike Baird is a coward for refusing to show up to the inquiry today,” said Sam Dastyari, a federal Labor MP. He also accused the government of gagging its economic bureaucrats. “NSW Treasury was coming today; they have been told by the government that they couldn’t attend”.

The former NSW party boss was appearing with fellow senators Lee Rhiannon of the Greens and Tasmanian independent Jacqui Lambie at a Senate inquiry into asset sales held at the state library Wednesday.

A spokesman for the NSW Treasurer, Andrew Constance, said Treasury was unaware of any invitation to attend the inquiry, which he dismissed as a “collection of Canberra’s weird and wacky identities”.

“Any outcome from this inquiry would no doubt reflect their weird and wacky views,” the spokesman said.

The issue of privatisation is set to feature prominently in next month’s state election. It involves the federal government because it has promised to make cash payments to states that sell assets, such as Mr Baird has promised to do with half of NSW’s “poles and wires” or electricity distribution networks.

But that money has stalled in the federal parliament, where legislation is locked in a stalemate, leading to calls for Mr Baird to revise downwards estimates of how much money the sale would reap.

Wednesday’s inquiry featured testimony from several critics of privatisation including economist John Quiggin and the Australia Institute think tank.

Federal treasury bureaucrat Chris Legge said the federal government had determined to pay the states up to 15 per cent of the money spent on infrastructure funded through privatisations; a figure arrived at by negotiation.

Members of the Labor-dominated committee questioned why those incentives needed to be tied to privatisations. Mr Legge said it reflected federal government thinking that the states would have little money to spend on projects otherwise.

The federal government has promised about $6 billion in such incentives if they sell off assets.

But the Senate has blocked about $3.5 billion of that, which the Abbott government had planned to take from education funding. The bill to release funding has now stalled in the federal senate.

That could have serious implications for NSW: if the federal scheme does not go ahead, it could take more than $2 billion out of the $20 billion windfall the state government promises will be netted from its sell off, according to Infrastructure Partnerships Australia.

“Premier Mike Baird is promising to deliver a $2 billion federal sweetener for his poles and wires sell-off from a federal fund that that doesn’t exist,” said NSW Greens MLC John Kaye. “The Premier should be honest about his privatisation balance sheet and cut his infrastructure inducements by at least $2 billion”.

Dr Kaye accused the state government of further inflating its expected revenue from privatisation by claiming it will earn $5 billion in interest on the sale alone.

A spokesman for the Premier said he was confident the federal government would deliver the scheme in full. “We are outlining a $20 billion infrastructure plan and we’ll be delivering it.”

A Commonwealth bank analyst, William Allott, told Fairfax on Wednesday the assets may even be valued at more than the forecast $20 billion. He projected the market could pay up to $25 billion for the lease.

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie dismissed the payments as a “bribe”.

“Once you decide to sell it’s all over red rover,” Ms Lambie said of infrastructure sales.

The Tasmanian senator warned that a re-elected Baird government that sold off electricity assets would be, like its federal Liberal counterpart, “living on borrowed time”.

The NSW Labor party is gearing up for a negative campaign on the issue of privatisation, after a similar proposal turned voters in Queensland off a sitting conservative government.

The senator from NSW dismissed a report by consultants Ernst and Young, comissioned by the Baird government, that found privatisation had led to a drop in retail electricity prices in Victoria.

“They were then awarded [another government] contract,” Mr Dastyari said. “That’s the kind of thing you see in the Mugabe regime”.

Treasurer Andrew Constance also cites research from other sources such as the Grattan Institute and Frontier Economics in support of the claim.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said he believed privatisation would lead to lower prices in an August speech but in its submission to Wednesday’s inquiry the watchdog warned against structuring any deal to maximise sale proceeds to the detriment of competition in the market.   

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Fiftieth anniversary re-enactment of freedom ride goes north to fight discrimination against Aboriginal people

An original member of Australia’s freedom rides is farewelled before boarding the bus for the 50th anniversary of the original ride promoting social justice for Aboriginal people. Photo: Peter Rae Original freedom riders ready to go. Photo: Peter Rae

Freedom ride committee, 1965 – John Powles, Charles Perkins, Patricia Healy and Jim Spigelman.

Anniversary a celebration and reminder

When the first freedom ride left Sydney University to fight discrimination against Aboriginal people in 1965, it did so without Wednesday morning’s fanfare, without the university’s support and without official speeches marking the occasion.

In those days, there were no Aboriginal flags fluttering above the quadrangle, they hadn’t even been designed yet, and there were only two Aboriginal students on campus.

On Wednesday morning, the 50th anniversary re-enactment left in a flurry, with two buses carrying media, and some of the original freedom riders including Eileen Perkins, the widow of the late Aboriginal politician and activist, who initiated the original ride with Bill Ford, who had come back from the freedom rides in the United States inspired to bring about change in Australia.

With a new generation of 29 students on board along with some of the original freedom riders, the four-day bus trip will retrace much of the original route to northwest NSW, including Dubbo, Walgett, Kempsey and Moree. It will hold community forums, meetings and concerts.

As well as this week’s re-enactment of the original ride, Sydney University will mark the 50th anniversary of the freedom rides – a group of 30 students who took direct action to highlight discrimination against Aboriginal people in swimming pools, clubs and restaurants across NSW – with a new scholarship fund and a promise to lift the number of Indigenous students 65 per cent by 2016.

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“When the (original) freedom riders set out, the university wasn’t exactly the most supportive institution,” said Shane Houston, the deputy vice-chancellor, indigenous strategy and services. The1965 bus trip had been inspired by the American freedom riders in the deep south. The Australian students headed to the deep north, with the goal to “expose segregation and the shameful treatment of Aboriginal people.” The original freedom ride was led by Sydney University student Charles Perkins, who was to make history the year after the freedom rides by becoming the first Aboriginal man to graduate from an Australian university.

“The freedom ride really was a remarkable contribution to social consciousness in Australia,” said Mr Houston. It had brought Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues into the public gaze over a sustained period of time for the first time ever, he said.

“Up until that time, it was out of sight, out of mind largely (for Aboriginal people).”

One of the original riders who will join the 2015 bus ride in Moree this week is Jim Spigelman, now ABC chairman and a former chief justice of the NSW Supreme Court. He was 19 and a student at Sydney University when he left to fight racial discrimination that he knew firsthand from his parents and brother’s experience as Jews at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust.

This week he recalled it was the first time that Aboriginal issues had ever been on the front page for a continuous period.

What the students uncovered across rural NSW was a shock to them and to many Australians. “We did not know before we got there that a number of local government councils had formal resolutions on the books prohibiting Indigenous Australians from swimming in the pools. We had heard that there were some kinds of discrimination in one or two places, but we didn’t know it was as formal as that. And a number of Australians didn’t know they (these racial bars) existed, ” Mr Spigelman said.

Mr Houston said the new freedom ride scholarship fund had been designed as a flexible fund that could be used to support and retain Indigenous students. In addition, the university had implemented a range of new policies to address institutional racism.

“A lot of people don’t understand that there are different forms of racism. Everyone gets the blatant acts,” he said, citing a time when he was banned from the front bar of a pub in Burke and told to ring a cowbell from out the back to order. “But what they don’t often get is the institutional racism, often unintentional, where we construct a way of behaving or a set of rules that has an unintended consequence that it disadvantages a group of people.”

To address this less obvious racism, the university had made thinking about and serving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders part of its core business affecting every part of the university. It was reviewing how it taught every subject, and it had made cultural competency a priority for every part of the university.

“If the Uni of Sydney could do what it is doing, there is no excuse for any other university. “

There are currently 383 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at the university. And he said the goal of increasing that number to 600 was ambitious but the university was hungry for change.

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RSL Anzac Flame on final leg of journey

RSL Anzac Flame on final leg of journey Picture: Supplied

Picture: Supplied

Picture: Supplied

Picture: Supplied

TweetFacebookState Presidents, Sub Branch Presidents and representatives from RSLs across Australia, including Newcastle RSL Sub Branch President Mr Ken Fayle, joined the Camp Gallipoli Foundation on Saturday to celebrate the final leg of the RSL ANZAC Flame’s journey ahead of the historical ANZAC Centenary.

The Flame’s journey began in Albany, Western Australia, and will now travel from the Australian War Memorial to city and regional townships, who are representing Camp Gallipoli across the nation.

Victoria Cross recipients Ben Roberts-Smith VC and Daniel Keighran VC along with Director of the Australian War Memorial, Dr Brendan Nelson, attended this significant ceremony that was emceed by Ray Martin.

During the ceremony the Australian Federation Guard presented the RSL ANZAC Flame to state and regional RSL representatives who have become the custodians of the flame, ahead of Camp Gallipoli events on 24th to 25th April this year.

Victoria Cross recipient Daniel Keighran conducted the symbolic flame lighting ceremony at Albany, Western Australia in September 2014: “The flame has journeyed from Albany, the departure point of our 11,410 brave ANZACs 100 years ago.

As a soldier, this flame doesn’t just represent the sacrifice of our ANZACs, it reflects the journey of the ANZAC Spirit that was forged at Gallipoli, and is still alive today.

It will be a very special and emotional moment when the flame arrives at Camp Gallipoli events, to light the memorial cauldrons, honouring the spiritual return of our fallen soldiers.” Director of the Australian War Memorial, Dr Brendan Nelson, said he was honoured to host Camp Gallipoli on the grounds of Australia’s central place of wartime commemoration.

“One hundred years after these events that convulsed our young nation we have an opportunity and responsibility to honour them, their courage, service and sacrifice. Every nation has its story. This is ours. Camp Gallipoli is one powerful way to express our pride and gratitude.

It is fitting to host it at the Australian War Memorial.” Rear Admiral Ken Doolan, the National President of the Returned and Services League (RSL), is honoured to be involved with Camp Gallipoli:

“This bold initiative has the potential to do a great deal to educate young Australians and New Zealanders about the sacrifices our forebears made during the First World War. Those who paid the supreme sacrifice, those who fought at sea, on land and in the air and the families who supported them, have left a wondrous legacy – the freedoms and great strengths of our vibrant and enviable democracies.”

Camp Gallipoli is a once in a lifetime opportunity for all Australians and New Zealanders to come together on the 100th Anniversary of Gallipoli to sleep out under the same stars as the original ANZAC heroes did 100 years ago.

In a series of major locations around Australia and New Zealand families, schools and community groups are invited to join in a special night of remembrance, entertainment, mateship and the birth of the ANZAC Spirit.

Emirates airline pilot answers the questions you always wanted to ask

Think you could land a plane? Photo: iStock Think you could land a plane? Photo: iStock

Think you could land a plane? Photo: iStock

Think you could land a plane? Photo: iStock

Could I land an A380 in an emergency? Why does no one ever ask if there’s a doctor on board? What’s the worst airport in the world to land at?

As a total plane nerd, there are plenty of things I’ve always wondered about the people with the hats and epaulettes sitting up the front of the plane. What are their lives like? How the heck did they get that job?

So when I had the chance to chat to Ian Haines, a pilot and trainer on the Emirates A380s, I jumped at it. (And yes, I could totally land a plane.)

How do you go from never having flown a plane to piloting A380s for Emirates?

The way I did it was by taking what they call a “trial introductory flight”, which you can do at most little airports in Australia. That’s a half-hour flight with an instructor in a little Cessna, and you go up and just have a play really, flying the aircraft around the sky. The instructor lands the aircraft for you. After that I was hooked. I thought, I like this. I then worked for Australian Airlines for five years, then Swiss Air for 13 years, and then I came to Emirates in 2002.

Do you ever get nervous while you’re flying?

No, not at all! As a pilot you understand what’s going on, and that’s your job. Why would I be scared? I understand flying, I know what’s happening, and it’s my job to make sure it’s a safe operation.

Last year there were a few highly publicised air crashes. How much control do you as a pilot have over where your plane flies?

As the captain, you’re responsible for the operation of the flight. We have a flight dispatch team, who have state of the art equipment, and they provide us with a routing for the flight. So Sydney to Dubai, they would optimise the route for the best winds, and avoiding the worst of the weather – for example up over the Bay of Bengal, we would be routed around that. At the time prior to the flight I would look at the weather situation and decide if I’m happy with the routing, and if I have no concerns I accept the flight plan. If that’s not the case I contact the flight dispatch people and we come up with a solution.

It happens all the time on movies, but in all the flights I’ve ever taken, no one has ever asked if there’s a doctor on board. Have you had to do that?

You’d be surprised, it’s a more common event now – especially with the A380, we’ve got 550 people on board the aircraft, so you can imagine the chances of having a sick passenger on board are much higher than on an A320 or something like that. And if we have an option of speaking to a doctor on board then that makes our job a lot easier.

Say there’s an emergency, and I, a complete novice with no flying experience, end up in the cockpit. Could I land an A380?

If an instructor could talk to you, then yes, you’d be able to do it. The aircraft is capable of autoland – all you need is an airport, and we could talk you down very easily to land the aircraft. It wouldn’t be a big drama. It wouldn’t be perfect, but it would be safe.

What do you guys actually do in the cockpit for, say, the 14 hours it takes to get from Sydney to Dubai?

We’re not at the cockpit for 14 hours. We have two crews, so two captains and two first officers. The crew that takes off also does the landing. So say I’m the commander of the flight, the captain on board. We’d have a briefing before the flight, which is about an hour and 15 before take-off. We then go to the cockpit and set up the cockpit. The other crew will do the walk around the aircraft and check that for me. We then take off, climb up to top of climb, at which point the other crew will go back and rest. They will have about five hours’ rest. We will then fly for about five, five-and-a-half hours, then we change control teams. We’ll go back and have a sleep for about six hours, and then come back to the cockpit about an hour before descent and prepare the aircraft for arrival.

Is it hard sleeping in the air?

No, I have no problem sleeping. It’s a nice bunk, comfortable, the right temperature and everything. You have to manage your sleep, which is part of your job.

How do you deal with jetlag?

You just learn to live with it. It’s part of the job. You learn to sleep when you need to. That’s one of the downsides of international flying. It never gets easier, you just get used to it.

How long do you get for a stopover?

Generally most stopovers are 24 hours. So some of that time you have to look at managing your sleep, and other times, sure, you get the opportunity to go and see the sights of the city. By the 15th or 20th time you visit a city though, you might be less interested than you were the first time.

Are any airports particularly hard to land at?

Not so much difficult to land at, but it’s challenging if you have a lot of air traffic, a lot of other aircraft around. I would say coming into the United States can be very challenging, in terms of traffic, and also the weather, if you get a bad snowstorm. O’Hare, JFK, San Francisco… But it’s part of the job.

Have you ever flown a plane? Have you ever heard a call for a doctor on board? Is this a dream job for travellers?

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Driver charged over death of Illawong man Fred Dib

A driver has been charged over the death of Sydney man Fred Dib, who was found lying critically injured in the middle of a busy road on Tuesday morning.

The 30-year-old Indian national was arrested at Sutherland police station early on Wednesday and charged with negligent driving causing death and failing to stop and assist after a crash.

Police say they are continuing to investigate exactly how Dib, 45, came to be lying in the middle of the south-bound lanes of Alfords Point Road in Illawong with critical head, stomach and leg injuries just before 6am on Tuesday.

Police believe Dib, who lived a short distance from where he was found, was struck by two cars, but only the second vehicle stopped to help him and waited for emergency services to arrive.

Sutherland Police Superintendent Julian Griffiths said on Tuesday that Dib was believed to have suffered serious injuries to the right side of his head before he was run over the second time.

Dib was taken to St George Hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery and died on Tuesday morning.

Detectives will allege that the Indian national, from Engadine, crashed into Dib in his white Toyota Camry before driving away.

Police are also investigating possible bikie gang links to Dib.

Dib was killed a few weeks before he was to be sentenced for an aggravated break and enter and a stalking and intimidation charge.

Court documents reveal he was also due to be sentenced on March 26 for resisting an officer in the execution of his duty at the Sydney Downing Centre.

The 30-year-old driver charged overnight was refused police bail and is due to appear in Sutherland Local Court on Wednesday.

Police are also appealing for the male driver of a white Pantech truck, which stopped briefly at the crash scene before emergency services arrived, to contact them.

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Man on murder charge, who blamed boy’s death on fall from pogo stick, denied bail

A man accused of murdering his girlfriend’s seven-year-old son and later blaming it on an accidental fall from a pogo stick has been denied bail.

The man, 29, who cannot be identified, is charged with 28 offences, including murder, common assault, inciting an act of indecency, and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The boy’s mother, 25, is also charged with murder.

The couple told police the boy died after he fell off a pogo stick at a home in Sydney’s south on May 21, 2013.

But it is alleged the couple abused the boy for months before he died.

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The man made an application to be released from jail on Monday, arguing the case against him was weak and he needed to be free to prepare for a complex murder trial.

He appeared in the NSW Supreme Court via audiovisual link to hear the decision on Wednesday, wearing prison greens and rosary beads, and waving at relatives sitting in the court.

Justice Lucy McCallum, in denying his application, noted the strength of the Crown case and the risk that he would not comply with bail conditions.

“The charges alleged in brief summary are a series of acts committed by the applicant towards a seven-year-old boy,” Justice McCallum said.

“He appears to have earned [his partner’s] trust and converted her to a style of parenting which many would find offensive.

“In short … the murder charge is based in a contention that the applicant forced the boy to stand for a lengthy period of time on a coffee tin.”

Autopsy results cast doubt on the man’s version that the injuries were caused by an accidental fall from a pogo stick, Justice McCallum said.

The court heard that an alternative approach to the murder charge would be that he showed “reckless indifference” to the boy’s life by not getting immediate help when it was obvious the boy was suffering serious head injuries.

“I do not accept the submission that there’s a weak Crown case so far as the charge of murder is concerned,” Justice McCallum said.

The man grinned and gestured wildly on screen upon hearing the decision, before the audiovisual link was cut off.

He and the co-accused are due to appear in court later this month.

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Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry at vigil for Bali nine duo

A Supreme Court judge who this month visited the Bali nine duo on death row says they have completely redeemed themselves in prison.

Justice Lex Lasry, who visited Australian men Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran while in Bali over the last three weeks, spoke at a vigil for the pair outside the County Court on Wednesday.

“When I have been there over the years, I have witnessed their courage. I have seen them with their families and their supporters. These are two remarkable young men and their lives are valuable,” Justice Lasry said.

“This morning you are here because you support these two men and because you recognise the tragedy that it would be for them to be executed after almost 10 years of complete redemption.”

About 500 of Melbourne’s legal fraternity observed a minute’s silence for the pair, including Chief Justice Marilyn Warren, County Court Chief Judge Michael Rozenes and a number of magistrates. Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, QC, was also at the vigil, which was hosted by the Law Institute of Victoria.

Justice Lasry previously represented Australian man Nguyen Tuong Van – who was convicted of drug trafficking and executed in Singapore in 2005 – before he joined the bench. He has also spoken in defence of Chan and Sukumaran on social media network Twitter.

The judge’s speech followed Indonesian Attorney-General HM Prasetyo’s announcement on Tuesday that Chan and Sukumaran’s transfer to the island of Nusakambangan would be postponed and would no longer take place this week. Justice Lasry said this provided a “glimmer of hope” their executions could be avoided “and they can be given the chance to live and to continue to serve Indonesia in Kerobokan Prison in the way that they have been doing for years”.

“Let’s hope that with more work and more reasoned argument and discussion the lives of these men can be spared.”

Justice Lasry said the pair would now have more time to pursue their scheduled hearing in the Administrative Court on Tuesday and the Australian government could continue to make their case to the Indonesian government on their behalf. “It gives Indonesia clear air to seek to rescue their citizens on death row internationally.”

Chan and Sukumaran’s families were very moved by support they had received from Australia, Justice Lasry said: “There is no question but that it helps them cope their most difficult and uncertain situation.”

Mr Dreyfus told Fairfax Media: “Along with every other Australian, I think we’re hoping that the Indonesian government will show mercy towards these two men.”

Anti-death penalty campaigner and former science minister in the Hawke government, Barry Jones, said he was deeply concerned about the “ambiguous role” of the Australian Federal Police in Chan and Sukumaran’s case.

The AFP, he said, needed to reconsider their guidelines so that police did not pass on information that led to Australians being arrested in other countries for offences that carried the death penalty.

“They could have been apprehended either leaving Australia or when they arrived in Australia,” Mr Jones said. “Because it’s our practice not to extradite people to a death penalty jurisdiction it seems inconceivable to me that … we pass the information on so that they can be arrested and tried in a death penalty jurisdiction. That’s very troubling as a matter of public policy.”

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