Monthly Archives: April 2019

Unions demand answers from Qantas

Qantas is again on a collision course with unions after its record loss, and the ACTU refuses to rule out industrial action if it is not given guarantees about wages and jobs.

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The nation’s peak union organisation met senior Qantas executives on Friday, a day after the airline announced a record $2.8 billion annual loss, telling chief executive Alan Joyce that workers were concerned about further job cuts.

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said he told Mr Joyce that unions still did not accept airline’s plan to shed 5000 jobs – half of which have already gone – and remained steadfastly opposed to Qantas’s wage freeze.

In December, the airline announced a wage freeze for all employees, including executives such as Mr Joyce.

Mr Oliver said he questioned why workers should be axed or face a pay freeze considering Qantas’s announcement on Thursday that it expected to return to profit in 2015.

“We’ve put it to him very clearly today that we still don’t accept the 5000 and we still want to be engaged in a process of consultation and negotiations to minimise the job cuts that have previously been announced,” Mr Oliver told reporters outside the Qantas headquarters at Mascot in Sydney.

After the meeting, the airline said there would be no movement on the job-cut plans or the wage freeze.

“We reiterated that completing the remainder of the $2 billion Qantas transformation program, including the reduction of 5000 jobs and a wage freeze for all employees including executives, is key to returning the business to profitability,” Qantas domestic chief executive Lyell Strambi said in a statement.

Mr Oliver said it was premature to speculate about industrial action but refused to rule it out.

“But as we said to the executive team today … morale is low, workers are still coming to work today not knowing if they’re going to be tapped on the shoulder and told they’re not going to have a job,” he said.

The comments came amid calls from unions and politicians and investors for Mr Joyce to be sacked, but Mr Oliver said the problems facing Qantas would remain even if Mr Joyce departed.

“I’m clearly of the view that if Alan Joyce got hit by a bus tomorrow, we’ve still got the issues that we need to confront,” Mr Oliver said.

The ACTU was also concerned about the decision by Qantas to separate its domestic and international businesses, and the possibility of sending jobs overseas.

Qantas insists the structural separation will not result in more job losses.

“We explained that the creation of a separate entity for Qantas International will have no impact on the day-to-day operations, network or staffing,” Mr Strambi said.

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How Middle East studies professors handle bias in the classroom

Dov Waxman, a professor of political science and the co-director of Northeastern University’s Middle East Center, remembers his first teaching job in Ankara, Turkey, at the beginning of the Second Intifada.

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“It was a baptism of fire,” says Waxman, who is Jewish. “When they asked me questions about the Holocaust, because they hadn’t heard about it, it was very difficult to respond as a professor without getting emotional.”

By the time I took his class a couple years ago at Baruch College, Waxman had been teaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for a decade. He makes a point of mentioning his personal background at the start of each semester.

“The first thing I try to do,” he told me recently, “is to be very honest with myself about my own biases and the way in which it may shape my outlook. Because after you do that, then you can begin the hard work of trying to free yourself from it. The most dangerous thing occurs when academics are unable or unwilling to acknowledge where they are coming from.”

When it comes to a divisive issue like Gaza, emotions run high and facts often appear out of context.

Waxman’s dispassion is especially striking at a time when so many students are getting their news through social media. Today’s college-aged demographic has access to more information than ever before, but when it comes to a divisive issue like Gaza, emotions run high and facts often appear out of context. Instead of engaging with each other, Facebook users tend to hold more tightly to their positions each time they feel they’re under attack.

Another prominent expert on the Middle East, Columbia University’s Rashid Khalidi, says his responsibility is not to tell students what to think but to make sure they have an informed view, whatever it may be. “Even if students hold positions on these issues, as is natural, they should act and speak on the basis on knowledge and not ignorance,” said Khalidi. “There is a great deal out there on this topic about which many people feel strongly but are very ill-informed, and in some cases misinformed.”

Khalidi, who is the director of Columbia’s Middle East Institute, was born in New York to a Palestinian father and a Lebanese-American mother. Like Waxman, he makes his background transparent. “I attempt to portray events as objectively as possible, giving many of the different narratives. No matter what I say in class, few students who have been exposed to only one side of the issue seem to feel I am biased, simply because I’m Palestinian.”

Even outside the classroom, academics who teach the Middle East conflict are subject to a level of public scrutiny that a professor of biology or English literature would rarely endure. Earlier this month, after Khalidi wrote a New Yorker article called “Collective Punishment in Gaza,” staff writer Philip Gourevitch criticized him for taking too soft a stance on Hamas. “The hardest line that he will allow himself against Gaza’s categorically genocidal leadership is that ‘we may not like’ it,” Gourevitch wrote. “What would he lose to say that we must not?”

In the classroom there’s no time for well-crafted rebuttals, and face-to-face conversations help keep these teachers honest. Many of them feel compelled to serve as role models for handling polarized opinions on controversial topics.

“We are not advocates for any particular position. My loyalty is to the truth, not to any particular group.”

“We have to make it clear that these things cannot be reduced to sound bites or one sided diatribes,” said Waxman. “What colleges must aim to do is show how we can have engaged, thoughtful discussions about controversial and sensitive topics and how we can learn to respectively disagree.”

Once students step away from their social media feeds, their interactions often become nuanced and interesting. Khalidi, who has been teaching for over 40 years, has seen this shift in his own classrooms. “Today’s students are far more knowledgeable and open-minded than their elders were. It’s much easier to teach them about some complex and controversial topics in Middle East history.”

As Waxman noted, today’s students are also more likely to have friends who come from backgrounds different from their own.”Older generations have grown up in much more homogeneous societies,” he said. Today’s college students, more than any before them, are required to physically sit in the same room with people who don’t share their views. 

As the fall semester begins, current events will fuel heated discussions in classrooms across the country. Waxman plans to teach the same material he’s always taught, but will use the news as a way to engage his students: “I will begin the course by asking the students how much they followed the recent war between Israel and Hamas and whether they wanted to share their personal reactions to the fighting.”

Still, Waxman knows it will be a massive challenge for those who feel emotionally closest to the issue to separate their loyalties from the course material. He’s had to run impromptu therapy sessions after his classes before, but in the end, it always boils down to his responsibility as an educator.

“We are not advocates for any particular position, he said. “My loyalty is to the truth, not to any particular group.”

This article was originally published on The Atlantic. Click here to view the original. © All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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Sims bumps Tamou, rates Scott

He’s the man keeping Test and NSW prop James Tamou out of NRL finals aspirants North Queensland’s starting side.

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But Cowboys forward Ashton Sims hopes to one day be remembered as the bloke who once rubbed shoulders with “one of the best”, North Queensland enforcer Matt Scott.

A World Cup winner and member of NSW’s drought-breaking State of Origin team, Tamou couldn’t crack the 17 when he returned from an arm complaint for a clash that should seal North Queensland’s NRL finals spot – Monday night’s home game with lowly Cronulla.

The remarkable form resurgence of Fijian international Sims – bound for England club Warrington next year – ensured that.

Sims admitted his purple patch would be fondly remembered when he regaled tales of his NRL career with his family in the future – but for a very different reason.

Asked what motivated him most about retaining his starting spot, Sims said on Friday: “Just to be playing alongside Matty Scott.

“He will hate me to say it but he will go down as one of the best forwards that Queensland have had.

“The opportunity to look back in 10 years’ time with my kids, to say I played with a guy like him, it’s definitely motivating.”

The feeling appears to be mutual.

“The last month he has been one of our best players,” Scott said of Sims.

“He has probably exceeded his own expectations.

“The amount of minutes and quality he has been playing is one of the reasons we have been winning.

“While Jimmy (Tamou) would love to be starting he knows Basher (Sims) is in some good form at the moment.

“Jimmy was just happy to be back in the side, he’s good like that – he knows he has a job to do.”

Sims said there were no hard feelings with Tamou.

“We are good mates. There are no egos in this team,” he said.

“(But) that first 20 minutes I relish. It is when everyone is all pumped up and ready to go.

“It’s sometimes hard to sit on the bench and watch all that intensity and not being out there.

“It (starting) gives me confidence that they have confidence in me – I am relishing the opportunity at this time of the year.”

North Queensland (6th; 12-10 record) can nail down a finals berth with victory over a Cronulla side without 17 regular first graders due to ASADA bans, sackings, retirements and injuries.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys have signed young Parramatta back-rower Kelepi Tanginoa on a two-year deal from 2015.

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Dream run over for Bellis as big guns advance

However, Bellis, who shot from obscurity to fame with a shock first round win over Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova, could not deliver the fairytale American tennis fans had hoped for, falling 6-3 0-6 6-2 to Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas.

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While former U.S. Open champion Andy Murray played in front of thousands of empty seats on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court, hundreds lined up at the entrances to a jam-packed Court 17, trying to catch a glimpse of “CiCi” – the teenager’s nickname.

With hoards more gathered around giant screens outside the main stadiums, groans of disappointment could be heard across the sprawling U.S. National Tennis Centre as the crowd watched the match slowly slip away.

“I think what surprised me is that I could really, like, stay with these pros,” Bellis told reporters.

“I think today if I had played a little bit better, it would have been a different result. But, I mean, just that I can play with them is really good.”

It was not all bad news for the home fans as five-time U.S. Open champion Serena Williams sailed through brisk winds to land comfortably in the third round of the year’s final grand slam.

Gusty breezes led Williams to misfire for three double faults in her first service game before the two-time defending champion found her bearings to swat aside fellow American Vania King 6-1 6-0 in 56 minutes.

“It’s so hard to play in the wind,” said the world number one, seeking her 18th career grand slam singles crown. “I’m very happy to get through a solid match with the conditions today.”

Wimbledon champion Djokovic followed Williams onto the Arthur Ashe Stadium court and was equally efficient, gliding past French veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-1 6-3 6-0.

Djokovic echoed Williams’ sentiments after advancing.

“It was very windy but I was able to adjust. I used my serve efficiently, getting them in,” said the Serb, who pounded in 75 percent of his first serves, including 13 aces, without a double fault.

ON COURSE

Most of the other leading seeds remained on course for an expected journey into the second week of the tournament.

Eighth seed Murray, who overcame cramping in his first-round victory, roared past unseeded German Matthias Bachinger in three sets to reach the third round.

Murray, the 2012 U.S. champion and 2013 Wimbledon winner, looked fresh and strong in cool, breezy conditions as he rolled to a 6-3 6-3 6-4 victory.

Canada’s hopes of first grand slam winner also stayed alive as men’s fifth seed Milos Raonic blasted his way into the third round with a 7-6 (4) 5-7 6-4 7-6 (3) win over Peter Gojowczyk while women’s seventh seed Eugenie Bouchard, trying to reach a fourth consecutive grand slam semi-final, scored a 6-2 6-7 (4) 6-4 decision over Romania’s Sorana Cirstea.

Ninth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France cruised by Aleksandr Nedovyesov of Kazakhstan 6-3 6-4 6-4 and big-serving American John Isner, the 13th seed, beat German Jan-Lennard Struff in straight sets.

Tenth seed Kei Nishikori of Japan had a shorter trip through to the third round as he advanced after Spain’s Pablo Andujar retired while trailing 6-4 6-1.

Philipp Kohlschreiber, the 22nd seed, had an even quicker time booking a place in the third round as France’s Michael Llodra retired after dropping the first set 6-2, due to an ailing elbow.

Hard-hitting American Sam Querrey limited his time spent on court against a healthy Guillermo Garcia-Lopez with his racket, beating the 28th-seeded Spaniard 6-3 6-4 6-4.

Querrey’s win earned him the dubious honour of advancing to face Djokovic in the next round.

“Sam is one of the top Americans,” noted Djokovic. “He has a big serve on any surface. If he serves well, he is dangerous.”

A former world number one failed to survive the second round, however, as error-prone eighth seed Ana Ivanovic of Serbia was ousted by 42nd-ranked Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 7-5 6-4.

Also shown the door was Australia’s 2011 U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur, who lost a third-set tiebreaker 10-8 to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.

Third seeded Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova booked her expected place in the third round, however, with a 6-4 6-2 victory over fellow Czech Petra Cetkovska.

(Editing by John O’Brien)

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LG, Samsung introduce new smart watches

South Korean tech giants Samsung and LG have introduced their latest models of wearable tech devices: the G Watch R and the Gear S smart watches.

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The unveiling comes just days before the IFA Berlin 2014 event, one of the world’s largest consumer electronics fairs.

LG introduced the G Watch R, a watch with a circular 1.3-inch display and a resolution of 320 by 320 pixels, creating a similar “look” to that of classic wristwatches.

The material out of which the screen is made, OLED plastic, allows the user to take advantage of the entire screen area, LG said on Thursday.

The G Watch R, which will go on sale in the fourth quarter in the colour black with a stainless steel frame and an interchangeable leather strap, is water-resistant up to a depth of 1 metre for as long as 30 minutes.

Equipped with Google Android Wear, the watch will advise the wearer of incoming calls and messages, will be able to record meetings, provide local weather forecasts and register the physical activity of the user and their heart rate, among other features.

Samsung’s Gear S is a device with a curved 2-inch display screen that works on the Tizen operating system.

Its most noteworthy characteristic is that it has 3G connectivity such that the user can “make and receive calls directly from their wrist, or get calls forwarded from their smartphones”, according to the company.

It has a rectangular “Super AMOLED” screen with a resolution of 360 by 480 pixels, and its touch keyboard will allow the user to answer messages directly “from the wrist”.

The Gear S is also outfitted with GPS, an accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, barometer and a heart-rate sensor.

Also water-resistant, the Gear S will go on sale in early October.

Neither of the companies has announced the selling price of their devices.

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