Neighbours save baby and toddler from fire

Neighbours have been praised for helping rescue a two-day-old baby and toddler whose mother threw them down from the second-storey window after their Sydney unit caught fire.

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The fire started in the Lakemba unit when the 27-year-old woman was cooking in her kitchen about 9.30pm on Thursday, police said.

Senior Constable Jamie Wallace told AAP the woman was unable to get out the front door because of the fire so she grabbed her newborn boy and her two-year-old and rushed to a window.

She dropped the two children out the window where neighbours had placed mattresses and were holding up a sheet to catch them, Adam Dewberry from Fire & Rescue NSW told AAP on Friday.

The mother was sitting on the windowsill, surrounded by black smoke and contemplating whether she should also make the five-metre jump when fire trucks turned up, he said.

Mr Dewberry praised the neighbours for reassuring the mother that emergency services were on their way.

“There’s no doubt she would have suffered pretty serious injuries jumping down a five or six-metre fall,” he said.

A group of firefighters went inside to extinguish the fire while another crew sprayed water on the mother from the street before rescuing her by ladder.

The children were uninjured and the woman was taken to hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation and cuts to her feet.

She was discharged in the early hours of Friday, a NSW Health spokeswoman told AAP.

Firefighters are still trying to determine the cause of the fire that started in the kitchen, but Mr Dewberry said two LPG gas cylinders had been found in the house.

“They weren’t the cause of the fire. However, they did contribute to the intensity of the fire,” he said.

“They’re not safe to have inside.”

The fire spread to other units and about 50 people were evacuated from the 12-unit block.

A 19-year-old woman was treated for smoke inhalation at the scene, while a 65-year-old man, who also suffered smoke inhalation, was taken to hospital for further treatment.

‘Hearts are in pieces’ five years after tsunami hits Japan

The nine-magnitude quake struck offshore on a chilly Friday, sparking huge black waves along a vast swathe of coastline and killing nearly 20,000 people.

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The tsunami crippled the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant, where meltdowns in three reactors spewed radiation over a wide area of the countryside, contaminating water, food and air.

More than 160,000 people were evacuated from nearby towns. Around 10 percent still live in temporary housing across Fukushima prefecture. Most have settled outside their hometowns and have begun new lives.

Some areas remain no-go zones due to the high radiation.

In coastal Rikuzentakata, which was flattened by a wave as much as 17 meters (56 ft) high and lost seven percent of its population along with its entire downtown, the pain remains strong.

“Infrastructure is recovering, hearts are not. I thought time would take care of things,” said Eiki Kumagai, a volunteer fireman who lost 51 colleagues, many killed as they guided others to safety.

“I keep seeing the faces of those who died… There’s so much regret, I can’t express it.”

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Emperor Akihito will offer flowers at a ceremony in Tokyo that will include a moment of silence at the time of the quake, 2.46 p.m. (0546 GMT), when bells will ring in the city center and residents across the nation bow their heads.

Japan, one of the world’s most seismically active areas, will mark the day with prayers, anti-nuclear protests and graveside visits. All the trains on the vast Tokyo underground network will halt to mark the moment the quake struck.

Billions of dollars in government spending have helped stricken communities rise from the ruins, including elevating the earth to protect them from future waves and cleaning radiation-contaminated land, but much remains to be done for thousands still languishing in barracks-like temporary housing.

“I get the feeling that the number of people who don’t know what to do, who aren’t even trying, is increasing,” said Kazuo Sato, a former fisherman from Rikuzentakata.

“Their hearts are in pieces.”

Government spending on reconstruction is set to dip from the start of the new fiscal year in April. But Abe pledged continued support.

“There are still many people living difficult lives in temporary housing and those who because of the nuclear accident cannot return to the places they lived,” Abe told reporters on Thursday.

“We will speed up our efforts to build housing and disaster-proof towns … so they can return as quickly as possible to permanent housing and stable lives.”

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Legal aid group presses China on domestic violence laws

China’s very first law regarding domestic violence took effect at the beginning of this month.

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The landmark legislation applies to married couples as well as non-marred co-habiting couples, and defines domestic violence for the first time. The law includes both physical and psychological abuse, is designed to encourage reporting and provides victims with more opportunities for legal action, including placing restraining orders.

Domestic violence survivor Gao Xiaojun celebrated the new law’s introduction. She was severely assaulted by her ex-husband and says she, like many Chinese women, initially blamed herself.

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“Many women believe that it is their own fault if their husbands fail to treat them properly, so they are often embarrassed to speak out… The first few times he abused me it wasn’t so severe. And although I was emotionally traumatised, he showed remorse, and as women are by nature meant to be more kind and gentle, I forgave him,” says Gao.

But by the sixth time she was attacked the assault had escalated. She was left with strangle marks and bruises throughout her face and head. After that attack she finally had the courage to leave him. “He believes our marriage failed because I did not have the capacity to forgive him for small mistakes,” says Gao. “But violence in marriage is unforgivable- it’s gender inequality.”

Today Gao campaigns against domestic violence, trying to change perceptions so in future victims don’t remain silent as she did. “The traditional Chinese concept of mutual understanding and tolerance to preserve the family is, in a way, neglecting the suffering of women,” says Gao.

Tingting Chen, women’s empowerment program officer at the Asia Foundation, says the law is a huge step forward in not only changing perceptions about domestic violence in China., but also providing practical support for victims.

“Many still see domestic violence as a shame. Not just for the abuser, but even more so for the victim and the family,” says Chen. “Having this law will bring about more government and funding support to help institutions improve their capacity to help victims. Chen says the law will encourage reporting from not just the victims themselves, but those around them, as well as allow them to seek support such as temporary shelters.

But many believe that while the law is great in principle, it’s vague in practice. Lawyer Lu Xiaoquan from the Qian Qian law firm has worked mainly with clients involved in domestic violence cases for seven years. He said before the law, victims had recourse through a variety of other laws, but says this new legislation raises public awareness about the issue. However, he says, there are crucial gaps. “The new law does not address sexual violence or financial restriction. This is a defect and something we should work to improve on in the future,” says Lu. He also believes that the implementation of the law remains vague, and relevant departments lag behind in training. “Even though there is a great law there, if our law enforcers and judiciary do not follow it strictly, then it’s an empty law. it wouldn’t help solve anything in real life.”

His team at Beijing’s Qianqian law firm have just submitted a report to the National People’s Congress asking the country’s leaders for urgent clarification. Some questions raised include details about the types of evidence that are required to prove incidents, as well as the distinction as to whether cases fall under criminal or civic courts.

Lu is unsure as to whether he’ll hear an answer any time soon. “There is no clear timetable,” he says. “But of course I hope this will happen soon, for example next month or two months away. That’s all our best hope and we’ll work to make this happen.”

China urges United Nations to boycott Dalai Lama

China has written to diplomats and United Nations officials urging them not to attend a Geneva event where the Dalai Lama will speak, reasserting that it opposes his appearance at all venues due to his “separatist activities”.

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In a letter seen by Reuters on Thursday, China’s diplomatic mission in Geneva raised objections about the presence of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader on the panel of Nobel laureates, being held at the Geneva Graduate Institute on Friday.

“Inviting the 14th Dalai Lama to the aforementioned event violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, in contravention of the purposes and principles of the UN

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Charter. China resolutely opposes the 14th Dalai Lama’s separatist activities in whatever capacity and in whatever name in any country, organisation or event,” it said.

The letter was dated March 8, the day that the event – being sponsored by the United States and Canada – was announced.

“The Permanent Mission of China kindly requests the Permanent Missions of all Member States, UN agencies and relevant International Organisations not to attend the above-mentioned event, nor meet the 14th Dalai Lama and his clique.”

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The Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace Price in 1989, fled into exile in India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Communist rule. China views him as a separatist, but the monk says he only wants genuine autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.

No delegation is making a formal complaint about China at the four-week session but there has been criticism recently of its mass arrests of lawyers, including from the United States.

A joint statement critical of China, sponsored by about a dozen countries including the United States, is to be read out at the forum on Thursday.

Oates injured in Broncos NRL win

Queensland State of Origin hopeful Corey Oates is set to be sidelined for a month after being injured in Brisbane’s 25-10 NRL win over a gutsy Warriors on Friday night at Suncorp Stadium.

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Oates showed why he was considered an Origin chance for Queensland this year with a stellar display before suffering a dislocated shoulder in the 71st minute.

The towering winger racked up 152m and crossed for a first-half try to put his hand up early for a Maroons call-up in front of 34,520 fans.

Brisbane later confirmed Oates had suffered an AC shoulder joint injury.

“He’s been fantastic for us. Between him, Darbs (Darius Boyd) and JK (Jordan Kahu) out the back there, they really got us out of some sticky situations,” Broncos captain Corey Parker said.

Brisbane led 12-10 at halftime before the Warriors finally wilted in the second half after losing backs Manu Vatuvei (ribs) and centre Blake Ayshford (concussion).

The limited interchanges and humid conditions ensured the match came down to a survival of the fittest.

In the end, the two injuries to the Warriors’ backs proved the difference.

“They (Warriors) were very committed. I was pleased we got away with it in the end,” coach Wayne Bennett said.

Warriors coach Andrew McFadden believed his side had answered their critics and were “well in front” at halftime despite trailing on the scoreboard.

“But when your whole forward pack has just got nothing left, it is hard to build anything – the challenge got too big for us,” he said.

Asked how tough was it to plough on with two men down with just eight interchanges, McFadden said: “I think it (rule change) has impacted on the game more than most coaches thought it would.”

The unbeaten Broncos ran in four tries to one against a Warriors side who did their best to rectify last round’s first-half capitulation.

McFadden arrived at the clash under enormous pressure.

Former coach Graham Lowe was the most-vocal critic of their first-round loss to the lowly Wests Tigers, claiming the Warriors lacked a hard edge due to their “bro culture”.

The Warriors showed plenty of fight against the 2015 grand finalists but still slumped to their 10th straight loss stretching back to the second half of last season.

Oates’ inspirational hand helped Brisbane grab the lead at halftime.

Already earmarked for Origin, Oates showed the grit needed to earn a Queensland jersey when he twice ran the ball out of the in-goal area under heavy traffic.

He also showed he had the flair, finishing off an Anthony Milford blindside play to score in the eighth minute.