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Australia returns illegally removed tribal hunting axe to Philippines Government

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A steel and wood axe from the early- to mid-1900s that was seized under Australian legislation has been returned to the Philippines Government

The Australian Federal Police’s INTERPOL National Central Bureau (INTERPOL Canberra) returned the item after working with national and international law enforcement agencies to detect sources of illicit trafficking of cultural material.

It has made ongoing international enquiries into a US-based online vendor selling cultural heritage objects found to be illegally removed.

INTERPOL Canberra joined the Office for the Arts (OFTA), Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and the Australian Border Force (ABF) to return the axe to the Philippines in a restitution ceremony in Canberra.

It follows two other restitution ceremonies in Australia in the past year in which illegally trafficked cultural items were returned to the governments of Mexico and Peru

The axe is associated with the Igorot communities in Northern Luzon, Philippines. This style of axe is still used for woodcarving and hunting by the Igorot communities. Axes like this were also used for headhunting, a custom that the Igorots maintained until the early 1900s.

According to a police statement, the ABF intercepted the item at the border in June 2020 after an Australian customer purchased it from the US-based vendor of interest.

The ABF referred the matter to the OFTA for advice for possible contravention of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986.

The Federal Police say that OFTA consulted with Australian experts who assessed the axe to be authentic. The Government of the Philippines requested restitution of the object in January 2021, asserting that the object was protected under its cultural property laws.

The OFTA seized the axe on 17 May 2021, and it was forfeited to the Commonwealth on 28 June 2021.

The axe was returned to the Ambassador of the Philippines to Australia, Her Excellency, Ms Hellen Barber de la Vega, at a formal restitution ceremony last week.

The Office for the Arts returned the axe at the ceremony and was joined by representatives from INTERPOL Canberra, ABF and DFAT.

The US-based vendor who sold the axe was first detected during Operation Athena II, a global customs-police operation spanning 103 countries, which included INTERPOL Canberra, focussed on disrupting the illicit trafficking of cultural heritage.

Globally, more than 19,000 archaeological artefacts and other artworks have been recovered during Operation Athena II and more than 100 people have been arrested.

Enquiries into the US-based vendor who sold the axe continue with US law enforcement partners

AFP Acting Assistant Commissioner International Command Melinda Phelan said law enforcement agencies around the world were increasingly receiving reports about cultural items and art being illegally trafficked.

“INTERPOL Canberra has been working closely with our partners in Australia and around the world to retrieve and return property illegally removed from their country of origin before they reach private collections and disappear from view,”

Assistant Commissioner Phelan said.

ABF Group Manager for Customs, Vanessa Holben, said that officers are attuned to attempts to illegally import cultural items into Australia.

“Thanks to the efforts of ABF officers at the border, this item was detected and referred to the Office for the Arts. We will continue to work closely with stakeholders to combat this type of cultural theft,”

Group Manager Holben said.

The axe was the sixth item sold by the US-based vendor to an Australian customer that has been intercepted and returned to a foreign government in the past 12 months.

Anthony Lucas is reporter, presenter and social media producer with ticker News. Anthony holds a Bachelor of Professional Communication, with a major in Journalism from RMIT University as well as a Diploma of Arts and Entertainment journalism from Collarts. He’s previously worked for 9 News, ONE FM Radio and Southern Cross Austerio’s Hit Radio Network. 

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Sleepover at IKEA: dozens stranded amid snowstorm in Denmark

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Two dozen staff and six customers were forced to stay the night at IKEA as up to 30 centimetres of snow trapped them inside

A furniture showroom in the department store in Aalborg, Denmark, became the bedroom of several people who were unable to safely make it home in time amidst a strong snowstorm.

Store Manager Peter Elmose told the Ekstra Bladet tabloid that people could “pick the exact bed they always have wanted to try.”

People working in a toy shop next door also took to the department store to join in on the fun.

Michelle Barrett, one of the toy shop staff, told Denmark’s public broadcaster, DR, “it’s much better than sleeping in one’s car. It has been nice and warm and we are just happy that they would let us in.” 

“We just laughed at the situation, because we will probably not experience it again,” she added.

Another approximate 300 people had to stay the night at the Aalborg airport to keep out of the storm. 

According to Euronews, the IKEA sleepover consisted of feasting on chips and Swedish cinnamon rolls in the staff canteen before watching television.

“It was a really nice evening, enjoying each other’s company,” Elmose told AFP. 

“Everyone had a full night’s sleep, our mattresses are good.”

And when the shop reopened for business the next morning, all the bedding and sheets had of course been changed.

Unmade beds following the overnight stay at IKEA amid snowstorm. Source: IKEA Aalborg’s Instagram

This comes after 61 people were trapped in a Yorkshire pub for three nights last week.

The several people trapped in the Tan Hill Inn during the storm slept on makeshift beds on the floor, watched movies, had a quiz night and enjoyed a buffet meal.

Some guests even claimed they didn’t want to leave the the pub after enjoying the 17th century hotel’s hospitality.

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World

Hong Kong to launch China style system

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As Hong Kong and China prepare to resume quarantine-free travel, Hong Kong’s government will introduce a Beijing-style health code from December 10

The Hong Kong Health Code will take note of a user’s real name, address and identification number.

The voluntary app is designed to be compatible with systems in both Macau and Guangdong provinces in southern China.

In mainland China, a mandatory health code dictates where residents and visitors can travel to and from, sharing real-time data with authorities.

The introduction of this health code system in Hong Kong will allow Chinese officials to open back up the nation’s borders with the city-state.

Hong Kong’s chief information officer also says records “won’t be transferred to mainland authorities unless the person is infected or has been a close contact”.

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World

Meghan Markle wins latest privacy battle case

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A UK court dismissed the appeal brought on by Associated Newspapers Limited, after the company published a letter that she sent to her father, Thomas Markle in 2018.

ANL and the Mail have staunchly denied that they have done anything wrong, standing by the decision to publish the letter.

But the court rejected these claims, and says the Duchess has “a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of the letter.”

The judge continued, adding “the contents were personal, private and not matters of legitimate public interest”.

ANL says it is disappointed with the decision and is considering an appeal to the UK’s Supreme Court.

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