Daily News Roundup

March 13, 2018

Tuesday, March 13

British Prime Minister Theresa May says the use of nerve agent Novichok to poison ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter makes it “highly likely” Russia was involved.

Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found comatose on a bench in Salisbury, south-west of London, after visiting an Italian restaurant and a pub.

They remain in critical condition, while a police detective who came in contact with them is in a serious but stable condition.

The chemical used in the attack has been identified as Novichok by experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, England.

Novichok nerve agents were developed in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s

That’s why they’re called Novichok — literally, ‘newcomer’ in Russian.

They have a slightly different chemical composition than the more commonly known VX and sarin poison gases, and are believed to be five to 10 times more lethal (although there are no known previous uses).

Novichok causes the heart to slow and the airways to restrict, leading to death by asphyxiation. Nerve agents are typically inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

Ms May pointed to Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations and its view that some defectors are legitimate targets for assassinations when claiming Russia was probably involved in the Salisbury attack.

The case has similarities to the killing of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with radioactive tea in London in 2006.

Ms May said there were two possibilities regarding the recent attack: it was an act of the Russian state, or Russia had lost control of the Novichok substance.


A tropical low in the Coral Sea is continuing to move towards Queensland’s south-east, but the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) says it has not yet intensified into a cyclone.

The system is about 1,300 kilometres north-east of the Sunshine Coast and will keep tracking south today.

The system is not expected to cross the coast.

If the low does not intensify into a tropical cyclone, it is still expected to bring dangerous surf from south of Fraser Island.

Forecaster Rick Threlfall said the system would move close to the south-east Queensland coast on Wednesday, bringing strong winds and dangerous surf.

“It is going to come fairly close to the south-eastern corner of Queensland,” he said.

“It’ll still be around about 300 kilometres offshore during Thursday and Friday, but we will start to feel the effects of that during tomorrow, particularly later on in the day on the Sunshine Coast and then into the evening on the Gold Coast we’ll see the surf really starting to pick up.”

Mr Threlfall said a dangerous surf warning had been issued for Wednesday, with forecasts of abnormally high tides.

“We’re looking at possibly 3 to 4 metre waves getting right onto the beach itself, and we’ll also get fairly close to the highest tide of the year on the high tide tomorrow morning, but possibly even higher tides on Thursday morning,” he said.


The pilot who survived a helicopter crash that killed his five passengers reportedly told investigators he believed a passenger’s bag might have hit an emergency fuel shutoff switch in the moments before the chopper went down.

The helicopter company has been involved in at least five accidents or other incidents in the last 10 years, according to FAA data

A federal official told AP the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is also scrutinising why an emergency flotation device apparently did not deploy properly when the tour helicopter went down in the East River.

The floats are supposed keep a helicopter upright; the Eurocopter AS350 that crashed Sunday (local time) overturned and submerged.

NTSB investigators have begun working to determine what caused the crash, which killed a Texas firefighter, an Argentine woman, a young video journalist and two others on what authorities said was a charter flight to take photos.

Pilot Richard Vance, who managed to free himself from the rapidly sinking chopper, was the only survivor.

Mr Vance is a licensed commercial pilot with seven flight time years and is also licensed as a flight instructor.

“Mayday, mayday, mayday,” he said in an emergency radio call as the aircraft foundered.

“East River — engine failure.”

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