Morning mail: protests over corpses in bodies exhibition | Australia news


Good morning, this is Eleanor Ainge Roy bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Wednesday 25 April.

Top stories

Lawyers, academics and human rights campaigners have called on the federal government to shut down an exhibition they say could be displaying the bodies of executed Chinese political prisoners. Protesters in Sydney have urged a boycott of Real Bodies: The Exhibition, which showcases bodies and anatomical specimens that have been preserved through plasticisation. The exhibition is billed as featuring the largest collection of dead bodies and human specimens to be viewed in Australia.

Vaughan Macefield, a professor of physiology at the Western Sydney University, said it was “appalling” that in 2018 such specimens from China were being displayed to members of the public who were unaware of their origin. “Strong evidence supports the bodies and organs being exhibited having come from executed prisoners in China,” he said. “These are mostly young males on display – quite different to the older donated bodies used to teach anatomy in Australian medical schools.”

Alek Minassian, 25, has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder for Tuesday’s van attack in Toronto. Canadian authorities have yet to suggest any possible motivation for the attack. The prime minister, Justin Trudeau, downplayed any possible link to terrorism. Minassian was a computer software student at a Toronto college and had handed in his final project just a few weeks ago. People that knew him said he was socially awkward but well spoken, and was someone who kept to himself. Minassian was not previously known to police, said Toronto’s police chief Mark Saunders. “We need to identify if there are more people, if he’s working in concert with anyone, or if this was just a lone act on his own doing.”

French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed negotiations on a “new deal” aimed at curbing Iran’s military power and regional activities, to exist alongside a three-year-old agreement that restricts the country’s nuclear program. The offer seemed calculated to appease the US president’s discontent with the current agreement by proposing a broader initiative to tackle other elements of Iran’s challenge in the region, particularly its ballistic missile program and its military role in Syria. Saving the Iran nuclear deal would be a diplomatic coup for Macron, who has taken a political gamble in befriending a US president who is deeply unpopular in Europe. The two presidents have gone out of their way to stress their personal chemistry.

Facebook’s claims to be outraged over the Cambridge Analytica scandal were simply hollow words in “PR crisis mode”, the academic at the centre of the dispute has told the UK parliament. Aleksandr Kogan, the Cambridge University researcher whose Facebook app extracted the data of millions of users from the platform said: “I think they realise that their platform has been mined left and right by thousands of others and I was just the unlucky person that ended up somehow linked to the Trump campaign,”. “I think they realise all this, but PR is PR and they’re trying to manage the crisis, and it’s convenient to point the finger at a single entity and try to paint the picture this is a rogue agent.”

Australia’s university admissions test is “outdated” and “largely irrelevant”, but experts say the system is unlikely to change while it remains the cheapest and most convenient system to rank students. The chief scientist, Alan Finkel, this week called for a complete overhaul of the Advanced Tertiary Admission Rank system, or Atar, saying it encouraged students to game the system by aiming for higher scores by doing less demanding subjects. But experts said while there were problems with Atar, universities were unlikely to move away from what is a cost-effective admissions system unless they were forced to. Tim Pitman, a senior research fellow at Curtin University’s school of education, said: “It needs to be replaced with a portfolio approach where Atar is just one of a series of factors that universities consider.”

Sport

His AFL career spanned just three games in the late 1990s, but Matthew Banks holds the curious distinction of having played two of those in Anzac Day clashes. Craig Little speaks to the former Essendon player as the Bombers prepare to meet Collingwood in this year’s edition. And join Kate O’Halloran on the Guardian’s liveblog for full coverage of today’s big game at the MCG from 1450 AEST (for a 1520 bounce).

Football team Leeds United will play two matches in Myanmar in a tour sponsored by a bank with close links to the regime accused of ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses against its Muslim Rohingya minority. Their decision has been denounced as “disgraceful” by human rights activists.

Thinking time

Crowds gather during the Dawn Service at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, Wednesday, April 25, 2018.



As the Anzac 100 commemorations draw to a close, Paul Daley tries to make sense of what the day has become. “So eager was I for clarification about this Anzac myth and of what it might tell me about Australia that I’ve visited many times the important first world war battlefields … where the Australians died in the heat and the dust or drowned slowly in the mud while screaming for their mothers. And I’ve also traipsed around this country visiting the places where, by some accounts, just as many tens of thousands of Indigenous people died fighting the British redcoats and their proxies,” he writes.

In 2012, a team of researchers and academics from the UNSW Canberra put out a call to Vietnam veterans: Operation Wandering Souls sought to reunite artefacts, memorabilia and ephemera from the Vietnam war with their Vietnamese owners. In some cases, it was hoped, items such as photographs, diaries, letters or documents might help trace the whereabouts of the graves of some of Vietnam’s 300,000 soldiers missing in action from the conflict. Vietnam veteran Derrill de Heer says it has been deeply emotional – on all sides – for objects to be returned to the descendants of soldiers.

The film-maker Warwick Thornton will hand-deliver a copy of his critically acclaimed Australian western, Sweet Country, to the community of Dubbo this Friday, following a months-long campaign to bring the film to the regional New South Wales city. More than 400 tickets have been sold to the one-off screening. “Sweet Country is a cinematic experience that should be seen on the big screen, in order to do it justice. I felt this was important particularly for the Dubbo community, due to our high Indigenous population,” says screenwriter Kellie Jennar, who spearheaded the campaign. “This is a culturally important film and they are the closest cinema within a three-hour round trip.”

What’s he done now?

Donald Trump has dismissed a query about whether he is considering pardoning his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, as “a stupid question”. The longtime Trump subordinate has come under increased scrutiny after the FBI raided his New York office, home and hotel room on 9 April. Trump called the raid “an attack on our country in a true sense”.

Media roundup

front-page west australian April 25, 2018

The Australian has a long read by Caroline Overington into the untold story of a black hawk helicopter which crashed in Afghanistan in 2010, killing three Australian commandos and wounding 11. What really happened that day – and what became of the wounded soldiers? The West Australian has a striking front page, recreating a painting of the battle of Villers Bretonneux, where Australian diggers turned the tide of the first world war. It also report on how the City of Perth has been criticised for its poor emergency management plan, and instructed to install emergency sirens at strategic locations. And the ABC investigates whether your local cafe’s surcharge is actually going to the staff working on a public holiday.

Coming up

The prime minister will attend the centenary of the first world war battle at Villers-Bretonneux with an Anzac Day service and wreath-laying ceremony. Dawn services will be held at cenotaphs across the country.

Collingwood and Essendon will take to the field in round five of the AFL, and in the NRL, St George Illawarra will take on the Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm play the NZ Warriors.

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