Rio Tinto a better bet than BHP Billiton: Citi

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Citi says Rio Tinto’s earnings outlook is healthier than that of rival BHP Billiton. Photo: Peter BraigRio Tinto has beatenBHP BillitonasCiti’s preferred pick among the big miners, retaining its “buy” ratingdespite a heavy reliance on iron ore.

Rio, which is currently trading at $52.23, has been given a target price of $58 by Citi.

“Rio trades on significantly lower earnings multiples than BHP on both our forecasts and spot prices,” said Citi.”Combined with a stronger balance sheet this makes buy-rated Rio our preferred diversified mining stock.”

Under the heading “tables turned”, Citi noted that Rio’s 2015 first half earnings were higher than BHP’s for the first time since the BHP and Billiton merger.

Citisaid that Rio’s underlying earnings would be higher than BHP’s for the next two-and-a-half years, aided by the South32 demerger and ongoing pressure on the prices of oil and coking coal, part of BHP’s energyportfolio.

Citi admittedits predictions for Rio, which is more exposed to iron ore than BHP,was”somewhat surprising” given Citi’sown forecasts for iron ore.

Citi expect Rio to deliver higher earnings than BHP through until 2017.

Iron ore, which has just dipped below $US50, willtrade around $US40 per tonne for the nextthree years, the bank said.

Although the iron price “appeared already priced in” for Rio, Citiconceded that “headwinds are never easy to run into”.

The key risk to the forecast was that “iron ore continues to slide into year-end driven by continued growth in seaborne production, falling cost curve and the negative steel spread.”

BHP, currently trading at $23.98, was given a $24 price target by Citi. It retained its “neutral” rating.

In terms of the medium-term outlook, Citi said that at current forecasts “we expect Rio to deliver higher earnings than BHP through until 2017, before BHP briefly regains the upper hand for two-and-a-half years.”

But following that, “Rio once again takes the title as iron ore and aluminium prices recover.”

‘Piss poor management’: ABC blasted for axing regional radio programs

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ABC’s regional radio programming will undergo a shakeup in 2016. Photo: Andrew Quilt Coalition MP Ewen Jones has attacked the ABC’s decision. Photo: Andrew Meares

The ABC has infuriated Coalition MPs by axing its regional flagship ‘Mornings’ programs from next year’s radio scheduleand rejigging its local news broadcasts.

The ABC will instead extend the ‘Breakfast’ programs and introduce a new feature-based program, with the working title Local Life, to run from 10am to 11am. More local news bulletins will also be produced externally.

Some regional stations – including those in Tasmania, Western and Newcastle – will be exempt from the changes.

Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said on Thursday the decision was “very disappointing”.

“If this is so good, and they claim it will deliver better services to regional communities, well, why not deliver better services for the people in Sydney and do the same thing for them?” he asked.

“I think the ABC has lost its way.”

The member for Herbert, Ewen Jones, said he was furious that the Mornings program on his local ABC North Queensland would no longer exist.

“I think that [ABC managing director] Mark Scott has lost the plot completely,” he said. “He won’t be happy until the ABC just becomes a bastion of the intelligentsia in Ultimo, Canberra and Melbourne.

“This is piss poor management from the ABC.”

Mr Jones said he had complained to Communications Minister Mitch Fifield about the decision, which he said had blindsided regional MPs. The ABC is beginning negotiations with the government about its next three-year funding deal.

Liberal MP Dan Tehan, whose electorate of Wannon receives ABC Ballarat as its local station, said: “This is an appalling decision that is treating regional ns as second-class citizens.”

Queensland senator Ian Macdonald said the ABC had cut regional broadcasting to pay for “yet another coffee machine at Ultimo”.

ABC head of regional Fiona Reynolds described the changes as “minimal” and said two local presenters would still be required in the mornings.

“This is about a change of format – there is no reduction in broadcast hours or budget cuts associated with this,” she said.

“ABC Regional is putting more focus on breakfast radio programming with increased production support at a time when we know audiences are strongest, according to the data and feedback from those audiences.”

The local 6.30am, 7.30am and 12pm news bulletins will still be produced locally and remain unchanged. Other bulletins will be produced externally, with local stories dropped into the bulletin.

Ms Reynolds said the changes would allow local reporters “the ability to get out of the office more to gather local and distinctive content”.

She acknowledged some presenters were worried about missing out on the longer slot, but said: “This is about our audiences.”

One ABC local presenter, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said: “Everyone is devastated by this – they are angry and confused.”

The changes to news coverage would result in more superficial bulletins, the presenter said.

The Abbott government last year cut the ABC’s budget by $250 million over five years. Following that decision the ABC closed down its South n production studios, axed state-based current affairs, axed the Bush Telegraph radio program and closed some regional reporting outposts. It also created a new regional division with 50 new jobs.

Labor communications spokesman Jason Clare said the Coalition MPs were hypocritical for criticising the ABC changes after cutting its budget.

In a speech earlier this month Mr Scott argued an ABC funding boost would help it deliver better regional news services.

“My central thesis tonight is that the public’s investment in news at the ABC represents better value for taxpayers than ever – and is more important than ever,” Mr Scott said.

“As commercial media operations struggle with market forces and the slow decline of their business models, the role of the ABC, particularly in respect to news, is becoming increasingly vital to the health of our democracy and culture.

“Nowhere is this being more keenly felt than in rural and regional , where news operations are contracting at an alarming rate.”

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Volvo tests technology to prevent kangaroo collisions

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Volvo animal detection expert, Martin Magnusson at Tidbinbilla during Kangaroo detection testing. Photo: Rohan Thomson There are more than 20,000 kangaroo strikes on n roads each year, costing over $75 million in claims. Photo: Jay Cronan

Swedish car maker Volvo’s plan to develop technology that can detect kangaroos to avoid collisions moves a step closer this week with tests at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve west of Canberra.

Volvo Cars safety engineers are filming kangaroos’ roadside behaviour  in their natural setting, in a nationally recognised hot spot for kangaroo collisions. The data will be used to develop ‘s first kangaroo detection and collision avoidance software.

According to the National Roads and Members Association (NRMA) more than 20,000 kangaroo strikes on n roads each year cost over $75 million in claims. The human cost of serious injuries and fatalities from animal collisions is incalculable.

To help address this, Volvo is developing radar and camera technology to detect kangaroos and automatically apply the brakes if an accident is imminent.

“Whereas Volvo’s Pedestrian Detection technology is geared towards city driving, animal detection is designed to work at highway speeds.” Volvo’s senior safety engineer, Martin Magnusson said.

“Kangaroos are very unpredictable animals and difficult to avoid, but we are confident we can refine our animal detection technology to detect them and avoid collisions on the highway.

“In Sweden we have done research involving larger, slower moving animals like elk, reindeer and cows which are a serious threat on our roads. Kangaroos are smaller than these animals and their behaviour is more erratic. This is why it’s important that we test and calibrate our technology on real kangaroos in their natural environment.”

“Volvo’s City Safety truly is state-of-the-art technology, because the brakes can be primed in milliseconds, much faster than a human,” Magnusson said. “We are only at the beginning of what is possible.”

Volvo Car managing director Kevin McCann said kangaroo detection was part of Volvo’s vision that no one is killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car by 2020.

“This type of technology is not designed to take responsibility away from drivers. If the driver is inattentive the car will warn her and eventually make a hard braking to avoid a collision.” he said.

Kangaroo research stems from Volvo earlier work to detect, cars, cyclists and pedestrians at day or night. The technology uses an advanced light sensitive, high-resolution camera to detect animals.

A radar sensor in the grille scans the road ahead to detect moving objects like animals, cars, cyclists and pedestrians. A camera in the windscreen works in parallel with the radar to detect which way the object is moving and help the computer decide what action to take, if any.

The system processes 15 images every second and can react to an emergency in half the time of a human. Volvo says it takes 1.2 seconds for an attentive driver to detect danger and then apply the brakes, compared to about 0.0.5 seconds for the computer system

Liverpool council investigated over asbestos-contaminated soil allegations

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“There could be a massive liability”: Peter Ristevski.Sydney suburbs that are asbestos dumping groundsIllegal dumping increasing in NSW

An investigation is underway into allegations Liverpool City Council knowingly supplied asbestos-contaminated soil and fill to Casula High School and a number of parks, reserves and waterways in the area.

The allegations were raised as a matter of urgency at a meeting of the council on Wednesday night in Sydney’s south-west.

The councillor who raised the issue, Peter Ristevski, said 22 sites could be affected by contaminated fill if the allegations proved correct.

He asked the council what monitoring and testing regimes had been established to check the health of staff and residents who may have been exposed – and whether the school was notified – but his urgency motion was voted down.

“There could be a massive liability in terms of the health to the public,” Cr Ristevski said after the meeting.

He said the asbestos had been stored at the council’s now-defunct road base recycling facility, known as the western depot, and later mixed in with soil and other materials and used as fill.

In a letter to the council dated October 27, the United Services Union said there were at least seven locations at which contaminated fill was used, including a local high school.

The letter stated that: “At the very minimum, the union is advised that soil and fill contaminated with asbestos was used in works located at  Casula High School Craig Park Lt Cantelo [sic] Reserve McLoud [sic] ParkRickard Road Across from Harvan Park Along various waterways.”

The NSW Environment Protection Authority told Fairfax Media it was “currently investigating allegations that Liverpool Council has unlawfully disposed [of] waste at a number of properties in the Liverpool Council area”.

The union further alleged that 30,000 tonnes of contaminated soil or fill was sold by Liverpool Council to a developer working at Gregory Hills.

“The union has serious concerns that council has put the health of our members and the general community at risk of serious illness or worse,” the union’s general secretary, Graeme Kelly, wrote.

Liverpool council said it was cooperating with the EPA investigation into potentially contaminated fill at 22 sites.

“The tiny amount of asbestos located in stockpiles of material means that now we must  test and – if appropriate – rehabilitate any sites where the fill may have been used for council works,” council chief executive Carl Wulff said in a statement to Fairfax Media.

He preempted the findings of the EPA investigation and claimed there was no health risk to the public or council staff.

“Trace amounts of asbestos would not be airborne or pose a health risk to members of the public and council workers,” he said. Mr Wulff said “only a few fragments of asbestos” had so far been discovered across 10 sites.

Backfill used by the council as part of drainage works in open space between Casula High School and Myall Road was yet to be tested. “Again, this site is capped and does not pose an immediate health risk to anyone,” he said. “But the site will be tested as a matter of priority.”

A spokeswoman for the council said the accusation the asbestos was distributed knowingly was ‘scurrilous and unfounded’.

The NSW education department has confirmed asbestos was found on school grounds over the last holiday period and that the EPA was investigating its source.

“During the recent school vacation period a random contamination audit was undertaken at Casula High School,” a department spokesman said. “Once the contamination had been confirmed, the school site was cleared of contaminated material identified in the inspection.”

He said the school was declared safe by an hygienist the day before classes resumed on October 6.

“The Department of Education continues to monitor the site in order to ensure ongoing safety,” the spokesman said.

Mr Wulff said the council would remediate any site where traces of asbestos were found. But allegations that contaminated soil had been sold to a developer were not correct, he said.

Liverpool council was one of 29 Sydney councils deemed “unfit for the future” under an Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal review released last week.

Uncle Jack Charles refused cab after being named Victorian senior of the year

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Shortly after being named Victorian Senior n of the Year, Jack Charles was refused a taxi ride. Shortly after being named Victorian Senior n of the Year, Jack Charles, pictured with manager Patrice Capogreco, was refused a taxi ride. Photo: Simon Schluter

Prominent Aboriginal elder Jack Charles was refused a taxi unless he paid the fare upfront, moments after being named Victorian Senior n of the Year in Melbourne on Wednesday night.

The veteran Indigenous actor, 72, was leaving the awards ceremony in Docklands when his manager Patrice Capogreco tried to hail a cab for the pair about 9pm.

“We saw one up ahead and Uncle Jack said to me, ‘you go up and grab it, mate, you know what the cabbies are like with us Aboriginals’,” Ms Capogreco said.

“So I stopped the cab and he was fine, but as soon as he saw Uncle Jack he asked where we were going. I told him where I was going and that I would get out first, and then Uncle Jack.

“And then he demanded that we prepay. I asked why and he said ‘because he may not pay’. I told the cabbie I had a cabcharge and he said it wasn’t good enough. He said ‘I need prepay because he might not pay’.”

Mr Charles’ acting career spans more than 50 years. He co-founded ‘s first Indigenous theatre group and has starred in films including The Chant Of Jimmy Blacksmith, Blackfellas and Pan. He has also performed in many stage plays across the country and toured internationally.

On Thursday, Mr Charles said he would write a formal letter of complaint to the Taxi Services Commission.

He said the incident with the cab driver had spoiled his night. “I didn’t tolerate it,” he said. “I told him that he just racially vilified me. That his behaviour smacks of it.”

“We were just so high after winning the award, I was totally blown away. This dampened the spirits somewhat and I slept a sleepless night last night. But countering that was the joy of actually receiving this high honour in Victoria.”

Mr Charles and Ms Capogreco refused to pay the fare upfront and eventually hailed another cab. But a taxi driver later told them Melbourne cabs were allowed to request pre-paid fares from Aboriginals, Ms Capogreco said.

“This happens all the time to Indigenous ns and particularly to Uncle Jack,” she said. “It happened in Sydney when he was there for a play and his face was on 60 cabs around the city. Now it’s happening again.”

In 2013, Mr Charles said he was discriminated against by a Sydney taxi driver while in town to perform a play. It was reported at the time that he ordered a cab to take him from his apartment to the Belvoir St Theatre, but that when the taxi arrived the driver refused to take him.

Shortly after, Mr Charles saw the cab accepting a fare from a Caucasian couple.

Also in 2013, a group of eminent Aboriginal actors were repeatedly refused service by taxi drivers in Southbank, Melbourne.

Fairfax Media reported at the time that the group, including Redfern Now actor Rarriwuy Hick, Chooky Dancer Djamangi Gaykamangu and Ten Canoes actor Frances Djulibing, were refused fares by four separate cabs booked to pick them up from the Malthouse Theatre.

It was only after the Malthouse’s non-indigenous company manager hailed a taxi for the group, who were in town to rehearse an indigenous adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, that they were able to catch a cab back to their hotel.

Chief executive of the Taxi Services Commission Aaron de Rozario said it took complaints about discrimination very seriously and was investigating the incident.

“Everyone has the right to travel in a taxi without fear of discrimination,” he said. “We are currently investigating this matter based on the information available.”

He encouraged anyone with a complaint about their taxi experience to provide feedback to the taxi company or the TSC.

Buchanan mosque: Newcastle Muslim Association outlines plans for Maitland site

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Newcastle Muslim Association spokeswoman Diana Rah outside Newcastle Mosque at Wallsend. BUCHANAN could host the Hunter’s first purpose-built mosque if a Newcastle Muslim Association proposal revealed on Thursday wins approval.

Almost four years after the Association’s plans for a place of worship at Elermore Vale mosque were scuppered in court, the Wallsend-based Islamic group has announced it will seek approval to build a prayer space and small funeral home on a property between Maitland and Kurri Kurri just off the Hunter Expressway.

While formal plans are yet to be lodged for the site, Newcastle Muslim Association spokeswoman Diana Rah said specialist studies had been completed.

The existing Islamic community will not relocate from Wallsend, she said, but the NMA was striving to be proactive with neighbours and the wider community from the beginning.

‘‘We are confident that this site is suitable to fulfil the needs of our proposal,’’ Ms Rah said.

‘‘It is in a central position within 20 minutes from Newcastle, has a zone that permits a place of worship and ticks all the boxes.’’

Documents given to neighbours estimate 200 people will attend the site on a Friday between midday and 3pm for prayer.

During two annual festivals, that number may increase to 450 people.

An illustration on the documents features no minarets and states there will be no call to prayer.

Laurence Beveridge, one of the residents who lives opposite the proposed development site, said he and his wife retired to the area for a rural outlook and peace and quiet, which they believe would be ruined by the mosque.

“I object in the strongest terms,” Mr Beveridge said.

“I have owned the property for 30-odd years, but I would not live next door to that.”

Another neighbour, who wished to remain nameless, said he was not 100 per cent against the development but did have concerns.

“I don’t like it being so close to the road and I am worried about the traffic it will add to the area,” he said.

“We are a rural community, I don’t think it is a suitable development for the location.

“It also concerns me that it might bring vandalism and things to the area because of the reaction to buildings like this in other places.”

News of the Buchanan plan comes almost four years after a $6.8 million plan for an Elermore Vale mosque on Croudace Road was denied in court.

The Land and Environment Court ultimately quashed those plans in March 2012 when updated zoning plans prohibited a place of worship on the 8300 square metre site.

The Newcastle Herald reported at the time more than 1022 individual submissions were made against the mosque, with 32 supporting the plan.

While the Hunter Expressway has reduced travel time between Newcastle’s west and Buchanan, Ms Rah said it was not simply a matter of finding a new site for the old plan.

‘‘The purpose of the new prayer facility is a little different to the Elermore Vale proposal and is on a smaller scale with a layout more suited to the area,’’ she said.

‘‘One of the main purposes is to accommodate for the two festivals held each year.’’

In a wider context, the Hunter proposal also follows far-right groups clashing with counter-protesters in the latest chapter of a long-running wave of ugly opposition to a mosque proposal in Bendigo.

An illustration in documents given to Buchanan residents near a planned Newcastle Muslim Association mosque. No plans have been lodged for the building yet.

Hundreds clashed in the town centre in late August, forcing police to shut swathes of the town as United Patriots Front met with counter-protests by No Room for Racism and the Socialist Alternative.

Asked whether that reaction had guided how the Newcastle Muslim Association approached its proposal, Ms Rah said the Islamic community was taking a consultative approach.

‘‘We request that whoever has a query or question to please come forward,’’ she said.

‘‘We are open and committed to any concerns of the community.’’

Maitland doctor and Muslim Fazal Moughal, who has publicly called for a prayer area to be established in the city, said the development was good but still too far away for residents.

“We still need one here in Maitland,” he said.

“I’m sure it will be very peaceful but it is too far away.”

While the national Mosque Open Day will be held on Saturday, a lack of space has forced Wallsend’s community to hold its main activities on Sunday.

The Wallsend mosque will be open between 11am and 2pm on Saturday, with tours and a broader schedule of events running between 10.30am and 3.30pm on Sunday.

North Stradbroke mining: Labor yet to bring in repeal bill for 2019 end date

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The public has been told by the Environment Minister, the Mines Minister, the Deputy Premier and by the Premier herself, that Labor will end mining in 2019, but the repeal bill has still not been introduced. Photo: Robert RoughDuring the January election campaign the Labor party promised to “act immediately to repeal the disgraceful North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability Amendment Act”.

The LNP’s amending legislation extended mining company Sibelco’s mining interests on North Stradbroke Island, potentially to 2035.

The Bligh government’s 2011 legislation extended expired mining leases to 2019 but imposed a restricted mine path of 337 hectares. Sibelco was dissatisfied and became a very substantial financial supporter of the LNP and Campbell Newman prior to the 2012 election. The subsequent “cash for legislation deal” called into question Newman’s honesty and the Quandamooka people launched a High Court challenge.

Throughout the events, Sibelco also was on trial for criminal charges connected with unlawful sand mining activities on Stradbroke.

Although Labor’s “immediate repeal” promise has been broken, the Labor government has consistently said it would repeal the LNP’s amendments and that mining would end in 2019.  But the delay in acting has been remarkable. Is Labor sliding back into old habits of spin and trickery? Or is it just too slow or incompetent to act?

The Institute’s October 8 report “Too close for comfort”, which exposed the mining industry’s undue influence over some politicians and public servants in Queensland, may also provide some insight. The institute refers to Stradbroke in its hard-hitting forward.

Labor’s inaction has led to the current situation where member for Cook Billy Gordon announced that he might not support the repeal.

The LNP’s controversial legislation extending the mining interests of Sibelco, potentially gifting the company $1.5 billion in revenue, genuinely disgusted many people. It was an election issue, with both the Quandamooka people and Friends of Stradbroke Island leafleting Ashgrove and other electorates to ensure that voters knew more about the scandal.

Jackie Trad, in a dissenting parliamentary report in 2013, said that the LNP’s legislation “had all the hallmarks of a morally corrupt cash for legislation deal”.  Labor promised to hold an inquiry into it.

Since the election, the public has been told by the Environment Minister, the Mines Minister, the Deputy Premier and by the Premier herself, that Labor will keep its election promise to end mining in 2019, but the repeal bill has still not been introduced into parliament.

Last Friday Ms Trad said the 2019 end date was “set in stone”. A few days later, Mr Gordon, whose vote is essential, announced that he had concerns about Labor’s policy. This is recent. In June I spoke to Mr Gordon and he told me he had no concerns about the repeal of the Newman amendments. He told me the repeal was supported by the majority of North Stradbroke Island Aboriginal people. I had also sent him information about the legislative favours for Sibelco, including a copy of a paper which I presented to a corruption-related conference held in Brisbane in February this year.

In April, I spoke with Labor’s Environment Minister, Steven Miles. He told me he expected to introduce the repeal Bill to parliament in May. That would have been reasonably consistent with Labor’s promise to “immediately” repeal the Newman amendments.  Miles later told me the expected date was June. He later changed this to “sometime this year”.

The delay has allowed Sibelco and its allies, the LNP and the AWU, more time to “lobby” the three crossbench MPs, all from North Queensland incidentally. Haven’t they got other issues of more concern to their electorates? Sibelco also has been allowed more time to offer “financial incentives”, at least on Stradbroke Island.

The Katter Party has been allowed to take the initiative away from the government by putting forward Sibelco’s so-called “compromise proposal” in the form of their own bill and parroting Sibelco’s exaggerated claims to justify their bill. If successful, this may permit Sibelco to mine out all the remaining heavy mineral resources. A letter to the n Securities Exchange by the mine’s former public company owner revealed this could be achieved by 2024.

2035 was an ambit claim. Sibelco’s PR company in 2012 revealed the real goal in a leaked report tabled in parliament by Ms Trad. It was to “Achieve public endorsement by the then Queensland Opposition Leader, Campbell Newman, for the continuation of Sibelco’s NSI operations until 2027” (page 4). It is no wonder that today Sibelco welcomed the Katter Party “compromise”.

Time will tell whether this Labor government was genuine in its commitments to the voters of Queensland prior to and following the January election – not just about North Stradbroke Island. But if Labor does not succeed in repealing the Newman amendments, many voters are likely to “smell a rat” and may not forget.

Richard Carew is a partner at Carew Lawyers.

Witches of Westeros: using and subverting the witch trope in Game of Thrones

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Game of Thrones … Carice van Houten as Melisandre. Photo: HELEN SLOAN Melisandre is arguably the most powerful woman in Westeros Photo: Supplied

This article contains spoilers for the Game of Thrones TV series and the books upon which it is based.

Ask people what they know about witches and the most common response is that they were burned alive during witch trials in early modern Europe and America.

But if you’re an avid fan of the HBO television series Game of Thrones (2011-), chances are you know more about witches, medieval Christianity and early modern religious iconography than you think.

George RR Martin – author of the books on which Games of Thrones is based – has openly drawn on medieval and early modern history and religion in crafting his world.

Yet just as interesting as his engagement with religious themes and ideas is his playful subversion of them – particularly when it comes to his depictions of witchcraft.

In Season 1, the Lhazereen “godswife” Mirri Maz Duur embodied all the key aspects of the witch trope: she was deceitful, vengeful and met a fiery death. When the Red Priestess Melisandre was introduced in Season 2, the series’ use of witch tropes became more complex.

Like many of Game of Thrones’ powerful women, who both embody and subvert traditional representations of gender, Melisandre challenges our perceptions of witchcraft. Melisandre: priestess or witch?

When she first appears, Melisandre burns statues of the Westerosi gods The Seven at Dragonstone. In the same scene, she becomes the Merlin to Stannis Baratheon’s King Arthur, encouraging him to pull a burning sword from a flaming statue. Through this alliance, her magical powers have been instrumental in destroying all five Kings who appeared in Season 2.

In fact, Melisandre is arguably the most powerful woman in Westeros. Across the series, her actions and influence alters the balance of power. Though she is called the “red woman”, or a “priestess”, Melisandre’s religious practices blur the lines between the mystical and the magical – a line which early modern people often understood as the divide between the Godly and the diabolic. The Seven and R’hllor: Westeros’ God and Satan?

The official religion of Westeros is worship of The Seven: the Father, the Mother, the Maiden, the Warrior, the Smith, the Crone and the Stranger.

There are several strong parallels between The Seven and the Roman Catholic Church in medieval and early modern Europe.

It is essentially a monotheistic religion as The Seven are seven aspects of one deity, invoking the Holy Trinity. The Father correlates with God the Father while the Mother and the Maiden have Marian connotations.

Without making a simplistic comparison with the Devil, the motifs used to represent Melisandre’s god R’hllor, the Lord of Light – notably fire, magic and prophecy – have counterparts in medieval and early modern religious iconography.

Historian Stuart Clark argues in Thinking with Demons (1997) that witches were viewed by early modern people as practitioners of a Satanic religion, which inverted Christian social order. It was this heresy that caused the fiery executions of witches in many jurisdictions.

Like witches, R’hllor’s priests and priestesses are clearly viewed by servants of the Seven as a subversive threat to the religious conformity of Westeros.

Early modern witches were believed to be part of a religious inversion of Godly society. In Game of Thrones Melisandre is in many ways the early modern Christian’s nightmare made real. She has tangible magical power, political authority, and she is winning (at least early in the series) new converts to her cause. Not the wicked witch

In Westeros, as in early modern Europe, not all witches resemble the Halloween stereotype of the old witch – an ancient crone covered in warts. Westerosi witches do, however, recall other stereotypes about the power of sex, blood and magic.

Medieval and early modern witches had many faces. Francesco Maria Guazzo’s Compendium Maleficarum (1608) contains images of men and women, young and old, participating in acts of Devil worship – such as The Obscene Kiss (1608).

Since one of the primary concerns about witches was that the lustful nature of women – especially young women – put them at a greater risk of being tempted into sin by the Devil, it is unsurprising that early demonological works took those fears a step further, into actual sex with the Devil.

The Malleus Maleficarum (1487), one of the most significant texts for the period of the great European witch-hunt, claimed that witches “persistently engage in the Devil’s filthy deeds through carnal acts with incubus and succubus demons”.

German printmaker Hans Baldung Grien’s 1514 drawing, alongside dramatic works, such as The Witch (c.1609-1616) and The Late Lancashire Witches (1634), depicted witches of all ages acting lewdly. In Thomas Middleton’s The Witch, one character declares:

What young man can we wish to pleasure us But we enjoy him in an incubus?

Like these witches, Melisandre is highly sexualised. In only her second episode she encourages Stannis to “give himself to the Lord of Light” by sleeping with her, in betrayal of his marriage vows. Bloody Rites

Melisandre also requires blood for her strongest magic, and this is the motivation behind many of her most atrocious acts (more on this below). Blood magic has a long pedigree in historical depictions of witches.

In early modern England, many witch trials depicted witch’s familiars demanding blood from witches. Bodily fluids such as blood and hair were also used by both cunning-folk (good witches) and malefic witches (bad witches, who committed acts of maleficium, or harmful magic).

In season 5, Game of Thrones introduced its third representation of a witch, Maggy the Frog. Maggy explicitly uses blood magic. But unlike Martin’s description in A Feast for Crows (2005) – ancient, warty, terrifying yellow eyes – the television adaptation morphs Maggy into a young, attractive woman.

When Maggy sucks the young Cersei Lannister’s blood, this recalls the familiars in English witch trials who suckled witches in return for acts of magic. It also recalls the way cunning-folk used urine for scrying, or telling the future. Subverting our preconceptions

The depiction of witchcraft in Game of Thrones therefore engages with many historical witch tropes. But Melisandre is at her most powerful, and compelling as a character, when she subverts these tropes and becomes the facilitator of ritualistic burning.

R’hllor might not be an evil god, but his servants do terrible things in his name. The most striking is when Melisandre convinces King Stannis to let her burn his daughter Princess Shireen alive in exchange for a “miracle”.

Melisandre also orders the burning of wildling leader Mance Rayder, as pictured in the main article image. Her authority is strong enough to order his execution despite strong opposition on several fronts.

The orchestration of these two deaths is the most dramatic demonstration of Martin’s subversion of the traditional “witch” role. Instead of practising her magic quietly for fear of persecution, like Maggy the Frog, she wields her magical abilities as an integral part of her religious and political power.

Melisandre, Mirri Maz Duur and Maggy the Frog embody familiar tropes about witches and witchcraft. But Melisandre also subverts and plays with our preconceptions of her role in this world – which is exactly what Game of Thrones does at its finest.

Sheilagh O’Brien, PhD Candidate, Early Modern History, The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Bowe Maddigan in court over murder of Wangaratta schoolgirl Zoe Buttigieg

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ACCUSED: Bowe Madigan is led into a vehicle by police officers outside Wangaratta Magistrate’s Court. Picture: MARK JESSERThe man accused of the sexual assault and murder of 11-year-old Zoe Buttigieg has faced court.

Bowe Maddigan, 29, of Mildura sat in the Wangaratta Magistrates Court with a straight face as his case was heard, closing his eyes multiple times.

He has been charged with murder, sexual penetration of a child under 16 and indecent act on a child under 16.

The accused wore a white shirt and black pants, his long hair tied into a bun and his beard kept neat.

Three police guarded Maddigan in the dock, but the man had not been any trouble in the holding cells so they did not place him in handcuffs.

Maddigan did not have any support in the courtroom, while one person representing the victim’s family did attend.

The case was adjourned until February 11, 2016.

Police prosecutor Leading Senior Constable Heath Dosser said he was unsure of Maddigan’s health.

“He was released by Kerferd (mental health unit at Wangaratta hospital) and arrested immediately after his release,” he said.

“It’s not known if there are any drug or alcohol or mental health issues.”

Solicitor Joe Battiato did not make an application for bail.

The court requested extra security on Thursday.

Police checked bags and used metal detectors to scan everyone walking into the courtroom.

The man charged with murder of 11yo girl has arrived at Wangaratta court. @bordermailpic.twitter杭州龙凤论坛m/NQuPOLK0hp

— Shana Morgan (@shana_morgan) October 28, 2015Bowe Maddigan has been remanded until February 2016 over the alleged murder of a Wangaratta girl. Said nothing in court.

— Shana Morgan (@shana_morgan) October 28, 2015

There wasa party at the house on Saturday night, and an altercation is believed to have occurred after midnight.

Neighbours had reported a loud wailing scream about 11am on Sunday before police and paramedics arrived at the home.

The grieving family has asked for privacy as they prepare for the funeral.

Border Mail

Glue Society’s comedy-horror Watch with Mother is a sketch show like no other

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Watch with Mother will have you laughing while gripping the edge of your seat. Photo: SuppliedWhen you hear the word “sketch”, inevitably you think of comedy. And there are laughs to be had in Watch with Mother. But really this is a sketch show of an altogether different kind. Sketch horror.

The six-part, n-made series features 10 regular storylines, and the action within any one episode zips speedily and disconcertingly between them. One minute we’re in a basement with a middle-aged man who’s recording the screams of the much younger man he’s torturing (he’s composing a symphony of terror); the next we’re on a deserted country road at night, where an elderly woman is attacked by a back-from-the-dead killer kangaroo; then we’re in the garage of a suburban house, where a man is dragging the body of a young woman from the boot of his HR Holden.

“The challenge for us really was to make this series both comedy and horror, says Peter Baker, director of Watch with Mother and member of The Glue Society, the seven-man team that made it.

“We really wanted to make something that didn’t exist. We wanted moments where it’s horrific to watch, but also with humour in there as well.”

It’s a difficult line to walk, Baker admits, but one he thinks they’ve managed, citing one sketch featuring the “chicken dance torture scene”.

Clearly, this isn’t your standard television half hour.

In fact, Watch with Mother didn’t start as a television half-hour of any sort.

Originally released in September 2012, the show was originally produced as a piece of interactive content for tablets.

“It was self-funded, and we set out to create something experimental,” says The Glue Society’s Jonathan Kneebone.

It was a big production, with Oscar-winning cinematographer Russell Boyd shooting it, and a crew of 100 and a cast of 80 reportedly on board.

The show was released via Google Play and Apple’s app store, and much was made of the fact the app allowed viewers “to watch each episode in a ‘Shuffle’ mode – as well as including behind the scenes material, plus image galleries and character biographies”.

“I’m really surprised other broadcasters aren’t doing this,” Baker says. “I mean you can buy episodes of other series, we packaged this up as a ‘virtual box set'”.

Kneebone won’t reveal how many copies were downloaded, but concedes that, “In reality I think we were somewhat ahead of the curve, with people only now coming to terms with content on their devices.”

In retrospect, he says, “this kind of idea might best be launched as a YouTube channel finding its audience that way”.

But an audience there certainly appears to be. The Glue Collective were invited to take the program to the annual TV salesfest Mipcom​ in Cannes, where Sony picked it up for the US (to be screened on the now-defunct cable channel Fearnet). Locally, SBS bought it, and Kneebone is especially excited about the idea of people watching it via the network’s On Demand service.

Over this past weekend, he says, the trailer has been viewed 100,000 times on Facebook.

Still, it’s been a long journey from bold idea to finding a wider audience. But Kneebone and co are anything but discouraged.

“We are already in development of new characters for online sketches – some horror, some simply comedic – to unveil on our own channel,” Kneebone says. You have been warned.


Watch with Mother


SBS On Demand and iTunes, available now

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