TIME Television

Man’s 41 Homer Simpson Tattoos Set World Record

Lee Weir's Homer sleeve Guinness World Records

"Woo hoo!" as Homer would say

Some people get drunk before they get a tattoo, but Lee Weir, a 27-year-old from New Zealand, gave up alcohol for a year while getting 41 tattoos of Homer Simpson in a sleeve on his arm—setting a Guinness World Record for the most tattoos of the same cartoon character on a single body.

The tattoo might also break a record for how many different versions of the same cartoon character it contains. Weir has Homer as a jack-in-the-box, the Grim Reaper, and a donut. There’s Homer as a baby, as an old man, and in a Hawaiian shirt.

Why Homer? Weir wasn’t allowed to watch the cartoon as a kid, but he “got into it at a later age” he told Australia’s Sunrise morning show. He considered getting tattoos of all the different Simpsons characters, but the process was too difficult. How do you choose who to include and who to leave out? Homer makes for “a great conversation starter,” he said.

TIME Australia

Malaysia Airlines Ukraine Crash: Australia Mulls G-20 Putin Ban

Tony Abbott
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, right, attends a service for victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 at St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney on July 20, 2014. Peter Parks—AFP/Getty Images

But it's unclear if Australia can unilaterally bar the Russian leader

The giant Létourneau pipe organ at Sydney’s St. Mary’s Cathedral sounded particularly somber Sunday morning as Prime Minister Tony Abbott and other Australian dignitaries joined hundreds of mourners at a service to commemorate victims of the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was most likely hit by a missile before crashing in eastern Ukraine on Thursday.

“Sister Philomene Tiernan was one of our teachers and she was killed in the crash. It has really hit our school hard,” said Kasey Brassel. Brassel was one of dozens of students from an exclusive all-girls Catholic school, Kincoppal Rose Bay, who had come to commemorate the Australian nun listed among the 298 passengers lost in the disaster. Choking back her tears, she added, “[But] we came to remember all the victims, each one of them individually.”

However, Bishop Peter Comensoli, who led St. Mary’s Sunday morning sermon, was less restrained. “The downing of MH17 was not an innocent accident. It was the outcome of a trail of human evil,” he told the packed cathedral.

Comensoli’s sentiments mirror Australia’s stern diplomatic rebuke of Russia as the country’s national death toll rose from 28 to 36 after it was revealed eight additional passengers aboard MH17 were permanent residents of Australia. “Russian-controlled territory, Russian-backed rebels, quite likely a Russian-supplied weapon. Russia can’t wash its hands of this,” Prime Minister Abbott told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation during a televised interview this weekend.

Adding fuel to the fire are reports that bodies, valuables and wreckage from the crash site are being carted off by Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists. Those separatists are also reportedly blocking inspectors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe from accessing the site, though reports Sunday indicate the rebels have recovered the Boeing 777′s black boxes and will turn them over to European aviation officials.

“No one is really in charge,” Abbott said, referring to the Ukrainian crash site. “It’s absolutely chaotic.”

Abbott has dispatched his Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, to U.N. headquarters in New York to seek a binding Security Council resolution that would ensure Russia facilitates an independent investigation into the downing of MH17. But with Moscow holding veto power over the council and pointing the finger at Ukraine, Bishop will have her work cut out for her.

“Australia has a seat on the Security Council at this time, so it is a good opportunity for Australia to communicate its unhappiness on this matter,” says Dr. Nick Economou of Monash University’s School of Political and Social Inquiry. “But the diplomacy will be quite difficult.”

It’s still unknown if Russia supplied the sophisticated Buk missile believed to have downed MH17, or if the rebels who allegedly shot it secured the weapon from a Ukrainian military depot. Nevertheless, Australian enmity for Russia is heating up, with widespread calls to ban Russian President Vladimir Putin from attending November’s G-20 summit in Brisbane. Australian Greens leader Christine Milne outright supports blocking Putin, Opposition leader Bill Shorten says a Putin ban should be considered, while Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss says it will be “difficult” to welcome Putin to Australia. Abbott stopped short of adding his voice to the chorus, but says Australia must ensure visitors “have goodwill to this country.”

However, Mike Callaghan, director of the G20 Studies Centre at Sydney’s Lowy Institute for International Policy, questions Australia’s right to ban Putin from attending.

“The G-20 is an informal economic forum. There are no rules on membership or revoking membership. So any decision has to be made on consensus, and it is questionable if it is up to (the) chair to say who can and can’t come. It would be very different to Russia’s expulsion from the G-8, when all seven other member nations acted together.”

Callaghan adds that a ban on Putin at the G-20 could spark a no-show from other BRICS, a loose association of five major emerging economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — which expressed serious concern in March when Australia’s Foreign Minister Bishop suggested Putin’s barring from the G-8 could be extended to the G-20.

“The G-20 is meant to be an event that brings together the largest developing economies in the world with the largest emerging economies,” Callaghan explains. “So if BRICS don’t come, what is the point of the G-20?”

Monash University’s Economou concurs, saying banning Putin from the G-20 or simply refusing him an entry visa into Australia would prove counterproductive for the G-20, as well as the investigation into the downing of MH17 and for broader global cohesion.

“Our anger with Russia must be communicated,” he says. “But with such a big and powerful player like Russia, you’re better off having them inside the process than outside it. And that will be the big dilemma for Australia further down the track.”

TIME Australia

After MH17 Ukraine Crash, Global AIDS Researchers Mourn Lost Colleagues

The cause of HIV/AIDS research will be set back because of experts lost in the Malaysia Airlines Ukraine disaster

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[UPDATE: 7/18/14, 11:52 AM EDT]

There was a pall over the 20th annual International AIDS Conference in Melbourne even before the crash of Flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine, which killed an estimated 100 delegates who were en route to the meeting. [Update: Later reports suggest that the number of delegates lost is much lower.]

In the past couple of years the vibrant showcase event—part serious science, part activist networking and carnivalhas been headily optimistic, as HIV treatments improved and the possibility of a cure no longer seemed so far off. “The mood is always an important part,” says Professor Mike Toole, an international communicable diseases veteran with Melbourne’s Burnet Institute who has been at the HIV/AIDS front line since the pandemic began some 30 years ago.

Toole remembers that the landmark Durban International AIDS Conference back in 2000 demonstrated to this eclectic crowd—a disparate crew of laboratory researchers, front-line health workers, activists and people living with the infection—their powerful potential. It was in Durban that the commitment to deliver then-prohibitively expensive antiretroviral drugs to the world’s poorest populations ignited, and was carried through over the next few years by organizations like The Global Fund and the U.S. President’s Emergency Fund for Aids Relief.

The past two International Aids Society (IAS) meetings, in Vienna and Washington DC, have been buoyed by signals that a breakthrough was close, and the expectation was that the momentum would continue into Melbourne. Then, barely a week ago, came a serious blow. For over a year many members of the HIV/AIDS community had been pinning their hopes for a breakthrough on the so-called Mississippi baby, an HIV-positive infant that had apparently been cured through aggressive drug treatment soon after birth. But on July 10, news came, that the child was showing symptoms that the virus had returned.

Although there are other programs that indicate that it might be possible to eliminate HIV infection from a human body, the apparent relapse of the Mississippi baby “depressed people incredibly,” says Toole.

Then came yesterday’s tragedy. For Toole and others HIV/AIDS experts the crash summoned up ghosts. “It reminds me of the Swissair flight, New York to Geneva, when Jonathan Mann died,” he says. Mann then the founding director of the World Health Organization’s global AIDS program was killed with several other researchers, including his wife Mary-Lou Clements-Mann, en route to AIDS meetings when the plane crashed in Canada, September 3, 1998. “I lost five friends on that flight.”

In Sydney, at a pre-conference gathering on July 18, about 200 delegates spent the day closely monitoring Twitter and exchanging snippets of news, desperate for updates on who would and would not be joining them in Melbourne. The word there was that a substantial number of the 100-plus delegates reported to be on the downed aircraft were part of the global network of activists and people living with AIDS.

With only a handful of names of the deceased confirmed by Friday, it’s difficult to measure the overall impact on HIV/AIDS research and advocacy. But the loss of internationally renowned Dutch researcher Joep Lange—a former president of the IAS—would be a massive blow. “It will have a big psychological effect,” says Toole. “He was one of the leaders in the field.”

Another known casualty was Glenn Thomas, a British media officer working for WHO in Geneva. Thomas was to be part of a media launch on July 20 revealing new tools to reduce harm to users of intravenous drugs. He was also recognized as a particularly effective communicator on the links between HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, says Toole. (The risk of developing TB is up to 20 times greater in people infected with HIV, and in 2012, of the 8.6 million new cases of TB diagnosed internationally, 1.1 million were among people with HIV.)“And the other hundred [on board]—we don’t know who they are, what it means.”

The annual AIS conferences are like no other medical gathering, says Professor Rob Moodie of the University of Melbourne, a former senior WHO official and longtime Australian public health specialist. “You have this incredible mixture of scientists and clinicians, public health people, civilian organizers, human rights activists, people who have the virus … who all have some sort of sense of ownership and collective leadership.”

The energy and collaborations of these gatherings have helped drive the huge advances achieved in understanding and responses to HIV/AIDS in a relatively short time. “We learned more about HIV in the first 10 years than we did in a century with other diseases,” says Moodie. The involvement of grassroots activist groups—as well as lab researchers—has been key to that success. MH17’s toll would not only be measured in the loss of medical expertise, but of advocacy, understanding and hard-won personal experience.

“There is a black cloud on this conference,” says Toole. “I don’t think there is anything that can retrieve that.”

Still, Toole was confident that delegates would be driven to achieve as much as they could in memory of their colleagues. He welcomed the move by the City of Melbourne on July 18 to cancel fireworks that had been scheduled to kick off the conference, but was disappointed that that’s night fixture in the Australian Football League competition—to which AIDS2014 delegates had been given tickets as part of the cultural program—did not pause for a minute of silence.

TIME Australia

Australia Grieves After 28 Nationals Die in MH17 Crash

Malaysia Airlines plane crashes in eastern Ukraine
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks about the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine during a press conference in Canberra, Australia on July 18, 2014. Alan Porritt — EPA

Canberra summons Russian ambassador Vladimir Morozov for an explanation

Grief and shock rippled through Australia after news broke early Friday morning that 28 of its citizens had been aboard the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was allegedly shot down by a surface-to-air missile in southeastern Ukraine on Thursday.

Flags flew at half-mast in Canberra as Prime Minister Tony Abbott addressed the nation’s parliament on Friday morning. “The reckless indifference to modern life does not have any place in our world,” he said.

The Russian ambassador to Australia, Vladimir Morozov, was summoned following myriad reports that the plane was downed by weaponry fired by pro-Russian separatists in southeastern Ukraine. Kiev has long claimed the rebels are being supported by Moscow.

“I asked him for Russia’s explanation as to how a commercial plane could come down from that altitude over eastern Ukraine,” said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

“[Morozov] assured me Russia would do what it could to find those responsible.”

The death of 28 of the nation’s citizens is the largest loss of Australian lives during a terrorist incident — if that is indeed what it is — since the Bali bombings in 2002. Out of the 298 people killed on Thursday, approximately 100 people were also en route to Australia to attend the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne.

Security analysts say the incident will likely have immediate repercussions within the country’s security circles.

“Australia cannot afford to ignore the problems of the world, because they come back and affect us in the most horrible of ways as we’ve seen today,” said Rory Medcalf, security program director at Australian think tank the Lowy Institute.

“This reminds us that what’s happening in Ukraine has now become everybody’s business. It’s affected our security in the most awful, direct way.”

Out of the country’s population of 23 million, approximately 1 million are abroad at any given time — making Australia an unusually integrated country in global affairs despite its geographic isolation, explains Medcalf.

One such person was Perth management consultant Nick Norris, who was travelling on MH 17 along with his grandchildren, Mo, 12, Evie, 10, and Otis, 8. One acquaintance remembered Norris as an integral member in his community.

“Nick has been an important part of the club and an active member — as were his grandchildren,” David Harries, the South of Perth Yacht Club general manager, tells TIME.

The club issued a statement praising Norris as a “well loved and respected” member of the club. It said that members were “shocked by this tragic, senseless loss of family members and club members. It will have a lasting impact on the club and members.”

Others among the 28 who perished on Thursday included a nun from Sydney and a couple coming home after touring Europe.

Blowback to the tragedy was immediate as people began canceling reservations with Malaysia Airlines, which is suffering from the loss of its second plane in over four months after its Flight 370 inexplicably vanished over the Indian Ocean in early March.

“We have had several cancellations of clients booked to fly on Malaysian Airlines,” said Penny Spencer, managing director of popular agency Spencer Travel. “But because this has happened twice now it is going to make things a whole lot more difficult for Malaysia Airlines to get over this.”

TIME Australia

Top AIDS Researchers Killed in Malaysia Airlines Crash

The huge loss may stall HIV/AIDS research

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About 100 people traveling to a global AIDS conference in Australia were on board the Malaysia Airlines flight that crashed and killed 298 people in eastern Ukraine, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

The researchers, health workers and activists were on their way to the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne. Among the victims planning to attend was Dutch national Joep Lange, a top AIDS researcher and former International AIDS Society president. Briton Glenn Thomas, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization and a former BBC journalist, was also on flight MH17.

The International AIDS Society expressed sadness over the news that its colleagues were on the Malaysian jetliner.

“At this incredibly sad and sensitive time the IAS stands with our international family and sends condolences to the loved ones of those who have been lost to this tragedy,” the group said in a statement.

Friends and colleagues of those within the AIDS-research community, including UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé, also expressed shock and grief over the tragic deaths on Twitter.

While the medical field mourns the lives of those killed, experts like Associate Professor Brian Owler, federal president of the Australian Medical Association, also fear that breakthroughs in HIV/AIDS research will now be stalled.

“The amount of knowledge that these people who died on the plane were carrying with them and the experiences they had developed will have a devastating impact on HIV research,” Owler told TIME.

“The amount of time it takes to get to a stage where you can come up with those ideas cannot be replaced in a short amount of time. So it does set back work for a cure and strategic prevention of HIV/AIDS very significantly,” he said.

With reporting by Ian Neubauer / Sydney

TIME swimming

Australian Swimmer Ian Thorpe Comes Out as Gay

FILE - Olympic Swimmer Ian Thorpe Reveals He Is Gay On An Interview With Michael Parkinson On Australian Television
Olympic Swimmer Ian Thorpe Quinn Rooney—Getty Images

"I'm comfortable saying I'm a gay man," he revealed after years of denials

Australian swimmer and five-time Olympic gold medalist Ian Thorpe announced he was gay this weekend after years of denials, in a tell-interview that aired in Australia Sunday night.

“I’m comfortable saying I’m a gay man,” he told British interviewer Michael Parkinson on Australia’s Channel Ten, the ABC reports. “And I don’t want young people to feel the same way that I did. You can grow up, you can be comfortable and you can be gay.”

Thorpe, whose swimming success earned him the nickname “the Thorpedo,” had earlier denied being gay in his 2012 autobiography. “For the record, I am not gay and all my sexual experiences have been straight,” he wrote.

Thorpe now says he had wanted to come out for a long time but “didn’t have the strength,” and was concerned about reactions from friends and family, who were surprised by his news but have been very supportive.

“I’m not straight, and this is only something that very recently — we’re talking in the past two weeks — I’ve been comfortable telling the closest people around me exactly that,” Thorpe said.

Thorpe said keeping his sexuality a secret contributed to the depression he battled, sometimes by abusing alcohol, since he was a teenager. He said he decided to come out because “the lie had become so big” and he “didn’t want people to question my integrity.”

“A part of me didn’t know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay,” Thorpe said, The Guardian reports. “I am telling not only Australia, I’m telling the world that I am and I hope this makes it easier for others now.”

TIME Beer

Australia Has a ‘Beer Can Regatta’ Every Year

Check out those cans!

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Each year, Australia’s Mindil beach plays host to the Darwin Lions Beer Can Regatta, a waterborne festival that celebrates the virtues of charitable giving and one’s instinct for building seaworthy vessels out of improvised materials (as you can see from the video).

The event began on June 16, 1974, and has been held annually ever since. This year marks its 40th anniversary, and is irrefutable proof that Aussies are just better at having fun than the rest of us.

TIME space

Great Ball of Fire: Russian Space Trash Flies Over Australia

A ball of fiery space junk shoots over Australia and people think it's a meteor

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A fireball flew through the Australian sky Thursday night.

The object, approximately the size of a small truck, was debris from a Russian Soyuz rocket, CNN reports. The rocket was launched Tuesday from a base in Kazakhstan.

The fireball was traveling at about 18,000 mph when it flew over Australia, wowing people in Melbourne.Most who saw the fireball assumed it was a meteor, spawning the social media hashtag #meteor.

Even Melbourne’s Lord Mayor joined in by retweeting an image of the fireball.

@vanderpava: Awesome #meteor over #melbourne tonight!!! pic.twitter.com/eefkBT0xCY

Twitter user Katharine Nicholson was not so impressed tweeting, “so typical of that #meteor to go to Sydney & Melbourne, but snub #Adelaide.”

“What you are seeing in that fireball is it slowing down really fast. It’s belly-flopping on the world’s atmosphere at 18,000 miles an hour,” Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told CNN.

Fireballs are “not usually seen because most of the Earth is either ocean —or very sparsely inhabited. And of course, if it comes down in the daytime, you may not notice as easily,” McDowell said.

[CNN]

TIME Sri Lanka

Hundreds of Tamils Have Simply Vanished on the Perilous Sea Voyage to Australia

Australian Navy boat comes alongside a boat carrying 50 asylum seekers after it arrived at Flying Fish Cove on Christmas Island
An Australian navy boat, front left, comes alongside a boat carrying 50 asylum seekers after it arrived at Flying Fish Cove on Christmas Island, about 2,600 km (1,600 miles) northwest of Perth, on Aug. 7, 2011. © Stringer Australia / Reuters—REUTERS

According to one eerie estimate, 800 asylum seekers — men, women and children — have set off for Australia in the past three years and have simply never been heard from again

Antonyamma, a Tamil refugee from Sri Lanka living in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, last heard from her daughter Mary more than a year ago when the younger woman had boarded a boat heading for Australia, along with seven other members of her family, including four children aged under 9.

In total, 63 people from their community were on the same boat, which left the Indian port of Kochi on May 1, 2013. None have been heard from since.

“They didn’t tell me they were going until they were on the boat, because they knew I’d stop them,” said Antonyamma, in between sobs, on the phone from her home in the city of Madurai.

One rights group — the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), which works extensively with Sri Lankan Tamils in India — estimates that 800 asylum seekers have disappeared over a three-year period, while trying to travel from South India to Australia by sea. It’s an appalling and largely unpublicized figure, if true.

Most of those who make the perilous journey have lived in India for years, having fled the decades-long Sri Lankan civil war, which ended in 2009, or the persecution of Tamils that persists in the war’s aftermath. However, while they are free from violence in India, they mostly live below the poverty line and are denied citizenship rights. The desperate hope of a new life is what drives them to pay exorbitant fees — around $2,500 — to smugglers who promise them safe passage to Australia and who vow that, after a year or two in a detention camp, they will be free to gain Australian citizenship.

However, successive Australian governments have taken a hard-line approach to asylum seekers. While arrival numbers are relatively small by international standards, it’s a stance that wins favor from voters.

Last week, the conservative Australian government returned, for the first time, a boatload of Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka, even though the vessel had sailed from India, and even though the asylum seekers could face imprisonment or even torture upon arrival.

A second boatload, said to be carrying 153 people, is now in limbo on the high seas because Australia’s High Court has imposed an interim injunction against the repatriation of any more asylum seekers until the matter can be heard fully by the court. Lawyers acting on behalf of the 153 argue that the Australian government will be in breach of international law if it returns refugees to Sri Lanka.

“There’s no authentic data, but we’re told that people [who return to Sri Lanka] are put in prison,” says Valan Satchithananada, the Chennai-based project director of ADRA.

Based on sources inside India’s refugee camps, ADRA claims up to 1,000 Tamils have set sail to Australia from India since 2009. Of those, only 120 have been heard from.

“Everyone desperately wants to know what’s happened to all those hundreds of people who have left India and disappeared,” says Satchithananada.

The UNHCR’s Indian office provides a much lower figure, saying that deaths by drowning are hard to verify. “We have received around 40 representations on missing Sri Lankan refugees, and these have been forwarded to the International Committee of the Red Cross,” its spokesperson stated.

The Indian Red Cross says that according to its records, 110 people are missing. However, it admits that its figures are based on inquiries in just 35 of Tamil Nadu’s 112 refugee camps.

There are suspicions that some of the missing might be in the hands of Somali pirates, as family members have received calls from Somali phone numbers. “We’re taking the claims seriously and investigating with support from the Red Cross in Somalia and Kenya,” says Red Cross tracing officer Nagarajan Krishnamoorthy.

Many family members, however, will never hear anything. Senthura Selvan hasn’t seen her elder sister Mayura since the 26-year-old classical-dance teacher boarded a boat in Chennai bound for Australia in September 2012. Their brother sailed on a separate boat and is now in Australian detention. But nothing has been heard from Mayura, Senthura says.

“We could have eaten just kanji [rice gruel] but stayed happy in India, all together,” said her mother, who declined to give her name. “Bring my kids back. Please, bring my kids back.”

TIME Family

Children of Same-Sex Parents Are Healthier: Study

91063707
Getty Images

Children of same-sex parents have above average health and well-being, research by the University of Melbourne shows.

The research was based on data from the Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families, which involved input from 315 same-sex parents and a total of 500 children. Of these participating families, 80 percent had female parents while 18 percent had male partners.

“It appears that same-sex parent families get along well and this has a positive impact on health,” said Dr Simon Crouch from the Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program, Centre for Health Equity at the University of Melbourne.

Read the rest of the story at NBC News

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