Eunji Ban ‘dragged by feet up stairs’

Alex Reuben McEwan told police a “demon inside his head” made him brutally bash a Korean woman, drag her up a set of concrete stairs and dump her in a Brisbane park to die, a court has heard.

He has pleaded not guilty to murdering Eunji Ban in the city’s centre in the early hours of November 24, 2013, but admits to her manslaughter.

In a recording played to the Brisbane Supreme Court jury on Wednesday, McEwan can be heard telling arresting officers “on the night of the murder” he “just woke up randomly and did it.”

“I was kind of waiting for it my whole life,” McEwan can be heard telling the officers.

When asked what he was waiting for, he responds: “To kill someone.”

His lawyer argues his schizophrenia left him unable to control himself when he killed Ms Ban.

Prosecutors allege the then 19-year-old punched Ms Ban repeatedly in the head, leaving her face so swollen her gender wasn’t immediately obvious to police and paramedics attending the scene.

The court earlier heard forensic evidence she was dragged feet first up a flight of concrete stairs leading from Albert Street to Wickham Park and dumped next to a tree where she drowned in her own blood.

Photos were shown to the court of items on the ground at the Albert Street site, including a smartphone and smashed prescription glasses.

There was also a square of blue fabric which looked like the pocket of a business shirt.

A blue business shirt missing its pocket was found under Ms Ban’s body.

Earlier the court was shown CCTV footage from the morning in question, showing a man running shirtless into an address at Spring Hill.

McEwan’s colleagues have also testified that he showed up to work at a panelbeaters in Brisbane’s west Monday, November 25, 2013 claiming bandages on his hand were for injuries he’d sustained during a fight at a skate park.

The trial is on Thursday expected to hear the police interview of McEwan following his arrest, along with more scientific and forensic evidence.

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California fire biggest in state’s history

Firefighters have struggled against rugged terrain, high winds and an August heat wave to slow the spread of the biggest wildfire ever recorded in California, an inferno that exploded to be nearly the size of Los Angeles in just 11 days.

The blaze, centred near the community of Upper Lake, about 160km north of San Francisco, spread fast because of what officials said was a perfect combination of weather, topography and abundant vegetation turned into highly flammable fuel by years of drought.

Firefighting efforts were also initially hampered by stretched resources, the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire, said.

When the fire started July 27, thousands of firefighters were hundreds of kilometres north battling a massive blaze that spread into the city of Redding, destroying more than 1000 homes, in addition to a dozen other major blazes.

The flames were raging in mostly remote areas, and no deaths or serious injuries were reported. But at least 75 homes have been lost, and thousands of people have been forced to flee. The blaze, dubbed the Mendocino Complex, was reported 20 per cent contained on Tuesday.

Its rapid growth at the same time firefighters were battling more than a dozen other major blazes around the state fanned fears that 2018 could become the worst wildfire season in California history.

About 3900 firefighters, including crew from Australia and New Zealand, were battling the blaze, contending with temperatures in the high 30s celsius and winds gusting to 40 km/h.

The heavily-forested area of myriad canyons where the fire is spreading has few roads or natural barriers that can serve as firebreaks or offer safe havens for firefighters to battle the flames head on.

So firefighters instead fell back to natural barriers like streams or used bulldozers to cut fire lines.

But the flames were moving so fast in spots that they blew past fire lines, forcing firefighters to retreat

In all, 14,000 firefighters were battling blazes across California, which is seeing earlier, longer and more destructive wildfire seasons because of drought, warmer weather attributed to climate change, and the building of homes deeper into the forests.

In becoming the biggest fire in California history, the Mendocino Complex fire broke a record set just eight months ago. A blaze in Southern California in December killed two people, burned 1140 square kilometres and destroyed more than 1000 buildings.

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Burqa comments: Pressure mounts on Johnson

Former UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson has refused to bow to pressure from the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party leadership to apologise for his “offensive” comments about burqas.

Mr Johnson caused outrage with a newspaper article comparing women in the face-covering veils to bank robbers, with Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis ordering him to apologise for the remarks.

But the standoff continued even after Theresa May added her voice to calls for him to apologise – although she swerved questions about whether his comments amounted to Islamophobia.

With no apology forthcoming, former Conservative parliamentary candidate Shazia Awan-Scully accused Mr Johnson of “pandering to the extreme right”, comparing his comments to Enoch Powell’s divisive Rivers of Blood speech, and said he should be sacked.

“If you cast your mind back 50 years to when Enoch Powell gave his Rivers of Blood speech, he was sacked from the shadow cabinet immediately,” she told BBC Newsnight.

“He was ostracised from his party immediately. Boris Johnson can say anything and get away with it.

“These comments are Islamophobic. They are against Muslims and I would urge any Muslims to not vote for the Conservative party because of their stance towards our community.”

But The Conservative Woman co-editor Laura Perrins, appearing alongside Ms Awan-Scully, claimed Mr Johnson’s remarks were taken out of context.

She said: “This idea the man should be run out of town is exactly the kind of authoritarian nonsense we must resist. It is not responsible.”

Conservative peer Lady Warsi accused Mr Johnson of adopting the “dog-whistle” tactics of former Donald Trump aide Steve Bannon in the hope of attracting support from right-wing Tories for an eventual leadership bid.

Before Mrs May’s intervention, a source close to Mr Johnson made clear he was not retracting his comments.

“It is ridiculous that these views are being attacked – we must not fall into the trap of shutting down the debate on difficult issues,” said the source.

“We have to call it out. If we fail to speak up for liberal values then we are simply yielding ground to reactionaries and extremists.”

Labour’s Jess Phillips tweeted that Mr Johnson was “just a racist” in response.

“Happy to arrange debate with BJ (Boris Johnson) about all the actions I’ve taken to stand up for liberal values including challenging things considered to be culturally sensitive.

“I’m not afraid to do that, I do it daily without being a racist.

“He’s done nothing to help he’s just a racist.”

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Marine microbes could track climate change

An Australian study has found that tiny marine microbes could be used to predict climate changes.Australian scientists have discovered tiny microbes living in the ocean can be used to detect and predict changes in the climate.

The study, which involved several Australian universities and research institutes, extracted DNA from more than 175,000 species of microbes living in seawater along Australia’s coastline and created a database to track the species.

Microbes, which are invisible to the naked eye, were formed nearly three billion years ago and account for more than 90 per cent of the ocean’s biomass.

Project leader Mark Brown, University of Newcastle’s senior researcher, says they function in a similar way to organs in a human body, with some acting as lungs responsible for gathering and distributing oxygen to the planet, while others act as the gut or liver to detoxify impurities.

They are sensitive to their environment and any change to conditions has the potential to dramatically reshape their community structure, Dr Brown says.

“(They) would be the first things to change,” he told AAP.

“It’s like the canary in a coalmine analogy – these sensitive indicators (microbes) detect subtle changes before you see big changes like dead fish.”

Dr Brown hopes the study, which began in 2012, will help researchers to identify the effects of climate change and pollution based on the movements of microbe communities.

After gathering monthly samples from seven marine stations across Australia, the project team will develop models to predict where the organisms will live in the future.

Report co-author Martin Ostrowski from Macquarie University said the data would be used to determine how microbes respond to different environmental conditions and how they might change depending on future climate projections.

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