Ireland will vote on legalising abortion in 2018 referendum

The Irish government is also planning votes to remove the country’s anti-blasphemy law and to reduce the time couples must spend apart before divorcing.

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Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has previously said the eighth amendment of the constitution, which makes abortion illegal unless there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, was “too restrictive”.

His government decided on Tuesday a referendum – which must be agreed by parliament – should take place in May or June 2018 just before the pope visits in August to attend the World Meeting of Families.

Abortion has always been illegal in Ireland but was inserted into the constitution in 1983 following a referendum, in which 67 per cent of voters were in favour and 33 per cent against.

The eighth amendment recognises the equal right to life of the unborn child and the mother, and a woman convicted of having an illegal termination faces 14 years in prison.

However women are free to travel abroad for abortions and thousands do so every year, mainly to England.

Opinion polls in recent years have consistently indicated strong support for reform in Ireland, which remains largely Catholic but where scandals have dented the church’s authority.

Thousands of people are expected in Dublin on Saturday for the annual “March for Choice”, declaring: “We are ready for change.”

“We need access to free, safe and legal abortion for all who need or want it. And we need it now,” organisers said.

The Abortion Rights Campaign said it “cautiously” welcomed the announcement.

“It depends on the wording of the referendum,” spokeswoman Linda Kavanagh told AFP, fearing that it could be watered down from broad access to abortion. 

Meanwhile Cora Sherlock, spokeswoman of the Pro-Life Campaign, told AFP: “If the eighth amendment were to be amended or repealed, we would inevitably end up with a situation similar to every other country which introduced abortion on ‘restrictive’ grounds but subsequently ended up with abortion on wide-ranging grounds.”

Consideration by the people

The Irish constitution can only be amended by referendum, and in 2015 it became the first country to legalise gay marriage that way.

The government set out a timetable on Tuesday for several votes over the next two years, including on reducing the time couples must wait before a divorce from four to two years.

In October 2018, it proposes a referendum on the constitutional amendment which makes illegal the “publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious or indecent matter”.

At the same time, it proposes a vote to repeal or change a section relating to a woman’s duties in the home, perhaps to make it gender neutral and to include other caring responsibilities. 

“Any amendment to our constitution requires careful consideration by the people,” Varadkar said in a statement. 

“They should be given ample time to consider the issues and to take part in well-informed public debate,” he said.

“Setting a timetable for the referendums to be held over the next two years will allow all involved in campaigning on the issues to plan ahead and to facilitate that public debate.”

Wind, batteries in AGL Liddell exit plan

AGL Energy appears to be standing by its decision to close NSW’s ageing Liddell coal-fired power station, telling shareholders extending the life of Liddell would cost too much money, while a sale would be “challeginging” due to its complexity

AGL chief executive Andy Vesey has told the energy company’s annual general meeting AGL has been assessing options to replace Liddell since April, 2015 and is committed to present its plans to the Prime Minister and energy markets operator AMEO by early December.

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He said AGL is confident that the plans will address supply and capacity concerns raised over the Liddell closure and result in the development of new, reliable and low-emissions energy supply.

“We are designing our plan to mitigate the impact of Liddell’s closure,” Mr Vesey told shareholders at the meeting in Melbourne on Wednesday.

He said the bulk of energy lost from the forecast closure of Liddell in NSW in 2022 can come from wind power plants to be built in NSW and Queensland.

An upgrade of Liddell’s neighbouring Bayswater plant, new gas-fired power plants and battery storage will make up the balance of capacity in a plan Mr Vesey said will be presented to the federal government in December.

“It will address the 8 terawatt hours a year of energy that Liddell provides and the 1,000 megawatt reserve capacity shortfall AEMO has highlighted,” he said.

Mr Vesey reaffirmed AGL’s intention to move away from coal-fired generation.

“In the interests of reliability, affordability and meeting our obligations to reduce carbon emissions, we must begin the processs of renewal now.”

Mr Vesey said the Liddell site could be repurposed with gas-fired power or battery storage and no-one had more to lose from failing to mitigate the market impact of Liddell’s closure than AGL.

Mr Vesey said AGL’s commitment to exit coal does not hide from the fact that coal currently represents 86 per cent of AGL’s electricity generation and is likely to remain an integral part of AGL’s business for several decades.

The Turnbull government has pressured AGL to keep Liddell open beyond its scheduled 2022 shutdown or sell it to a new operator in order to shore up electricity supply

AGL chairman Jerry Maycock told the AGM that while it may be “technically possible” to extend the life of the 45-year-old plant the costs “are certain to be substantial” and selling it would be “challenging”.

Mr Maycock said the NSW government had intended to close Liddell in 2022 before AGL bought the power station from it in 2014.

New mission to stop breast cancer deaths

Understanding why some women are more at risk of dying from breast cancer than others is the focus of a major research project launched by the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

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While breast cancer has one of the highest survival rates at 90 per cent, there are hundreds of women who still die within five years of being diagnosed with the disease.

Eight women in Australia die of breast cancer every day, statistics show.

Researchers at the Centre for Population Health Research at the University of South Australia will pull together all the data from hospitals, radiotherapy centres and tissue banks to help answer the question: Why are 10 per cent of women still not surviving beyond five years?

“What’s different about them and what can we do about it?” said Professor Ian Olver, a chief investigator on the project.

“If we can link all the data together, we can find out more about what puts people at greater risk of not doing well.”

The research, announced on Wednesday at the launch of the Pink Ribbon Breakfast fundraising campaign, will start in SA and then broaden nationally.

Some of the questions to be asked will examine survival outcomes for women living in rural towns and younger women.

Prof Olver says he’s “absolutely confident” of producing new data that will lead to tailored treatments and, ultimately, improved survival.

“What you do is look at the population to get your clues and then you can design very specific studies that will be able to translate into individual treatments, so you use the big data set and then you can design the studies then that are very specific to get answers for individual patients,” Prof Olver told AAP.

NBCF CEO Professor Sarah Hosking says they will use the information to identify any gaps in care and what changes the health system needs to do to fill them.

“Over the past 20 years, research has come so far in reducing deaths from breast cancer, but until we reach zero deaths we believe the job’s not done,” she said.

“NBCF will use this information to make data-driven decisions in setting research priorities that are focused on closing the gap on the last 10 per cent of breast cancer deaths and making it a better tomorrow for those affected.”

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Pink Ribbon Breakfast campaign held in October for International Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Funds raised this year will go towards research on the repurposing of an available drug to better treat metastatic breast cancer.

Trump praises relief effort in Puerto Rico

US President Donald Trump has hit back at complaints that he has been slow to provide relief for Puerto Rico, after the US territory was hit hard by Hurricane Maria.

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Trump instead praised his administration for “doing a really good job” with disaster relief.

He said he would pay a visit on October 3 to Puerto Rico, as well as to the US Virgin Islands, a neighboring Caribbean territory struggling to recover from two major hurricanes in a single month.

Democratic leaders in Congress and some residents in Puerto Rico have accused the administration of being more sluggish in its response than it would to a disaster on the US mainland, even though Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million inhabitants are US citizens.

The criticism was heightened by a series of Twitter messages by Trump on Monday about hurricane damage on Puerto Rico in which he also referred to the island’s $72 billion debt crisis and bankruptcy.

“Much of the Island has been destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with,” he tweeted.

Maria roared ashore Puerto Rico last Wednesday as the most powerful hurricane to strike the island in nearly a century.

The storm has claimed more than 30 lives across the Caribbean, including at least 16 in Puerto Rico.

Maria was downgraded to a tropical storm on Tuesday, far off the coast of North Carolina.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said the island needed 1,000 to 1,500 additional security personnel and at least another 200 generators, as well as fuel for them.

“With all due respect, President Trump, relief efforts are not ‘doing well,'” Schumer said.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz strongly criticised Trump for focusing on the island’s financial woes in his tweets.

“You don’t put debt above people, you put people above debt,” she told CNN.

But Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said he was satisfied with the administration’s relief efforts and called Trump’s performance “excellent.”

“They have responded very quickly,” he said.

He cited swift disaster declarations issued by Trump and a six-month waiver of FEMA’s cost-sharing requirements.

Woman writes perfect ‘husband-proof’ shopping list

Era Golwalkar, a 29 year old IT specialist, began producing detailed and illustrated lists for her husband, Gaurav, to solve a weekly problem that was causing trouble in their marriage.

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“After Gaurav and I got married three years ago we decided to split the household chores,” Era tells the BBC.

“Gaurav was very supportive and was ready to learn cooking [which is not common for a lot of men in India]. But there was one problem. I wasn’t aware of back then, he had no experience with anything related to cooking.

“When I first sent him to purchase vegetables, it was an epic fail and an argument ensued between us. The second time was no better. Nor was the third.”

This is the task I gave to my hubby last weekend!! Even U guys shud follow this list for happy customers #bigbasket #grofers #reliancefresh pic南京夜生活,/cGkPuRAvE9

— Era Londhe (@eralondhe) September 23, 2017

Era believes vegetable sellers starting taking advantage of her husband’s naivety, and began selling him spoiled and poor quality produce. 

To solve the problem, Era started sending Gaurav to the shops with meticulously written lists – including drawings of each item and size guides.

She explained he should select palak (spinach) without holes in it, long and straight mirchi (chillis), and bhindi (okra) that were not too soft and not too hard.

It was a success. Guarav returned from his shopping trips with the correct ingredients and the arguments stopped. 

When Era shared her list on social media, it quickly went viral.

Her tweet attracted more than 5,300 likes and was shared more than 1,200 times.

While many men have had a good laugh over list, Era realises not all of them would need a “husband-proof” list like this, “but mine did, so we found a solution”, she says.

“Looking at the reactions on social media, I’ve noticed that most married women globally are able to relate to this.”

And Guarav is happy with the outcome too.

“Now if I get something wrong, I have proof that it wasn’t in the specification and she can’t deny it,” he said.