Chinese labourer remains found in Peru

Archaeologists exploring Peru’s pre-Colombian past recently unearthed a glimpse of a less prominent chapter in the Andean country’s history – the remains of 16 Chinese labourers from around the turn of the last century.

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The bodies, thought to be those of indentured workers brought to Peru to replace slave labour, were found buried at the top of an adobe pyramid first used by the ancient Ichma people, Roxana Gomez, the lead archaeologist of the site, said on Thursday.

Peru was one of the biggest destinations for Chinese labour in Latin America in the 20th century, a market that thrived after slavery was abolished in the country in 1854.

The Chinese found at the Bellavista pyramid in Lima were buried in the late 1800s and early 1900s and had likely picked cotton at a nearby plantation in “very difficult” conditions, said Gomez.

In a possible sign of how the Chinese gradually emerged from dire poverty in Peru, the first 11 bodies were shrouded in cloth and placed in the ground, while the last five wore blue-green jackets and were buried in wooden coffins, Gomez said.

“In one Chinese coffin, an opium pipe and a small ceramic vessel were included in the funerary ensemble,” said Gomez.

Chinese laborers in the 20th century were generally not allowed to be buried at Lima’s Catholic cemeteries, forcing them to improvise burial sites, according to Peru’s Culture Ministry.

The remains of Chinese laborers were previously found in Lima at other adobe pyramids known as “huacas.” Built by the indigenous societies that once ruled much of Peru’s Pacific coast, huacas were used as administrative and religious centers where members of the elite were often buried with gold objects, ceramics or human sacrifices.

Gomez said the huacas had a sacred association that might have made them attractive places for burial by Chinese labourers.

The Bellavista huaca was occupied by Ichma starting in about 1000 A.D. and was later annexed by the Incan empire until the arrival of Spanish conquerors who deemed huacas blasphemous.

Italian immigrants later kept vineyards at the base of the site, Gomez added.

“The best way to understand our history is as a continuum of different cultures,” said Gomez.

Lord Mayor defends $8m ‘arch’ blowout

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore says she can’t assure ratepayers there won’t be further price increases on a controversial art project bound for city’s CBD which has already blown out by almost $8 million.

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The updated design for Cloud Arch, a massive steel sculpture that will soar over George Street, was unveiled on Friday accompanied by a revised cost of $11.3 million up from the original price tag of $3.5 million.

Ms Moore said the price hike is due to a rise in global steel prices and complex engineering problems associated with placing the artwork over a cavernous city underground but could not promise there wouldn’t be further price hikes to the project.

“Well no I can’t give assurances now but I certainly hope … the price we now have is the basis of a lot of work and a lot of engineering examination,” she told reporters in Sydney on Friday.

“These projects are a challenge and we’ve been working on this since 2014 and as you have seen it’s dramatically changed, we’re really very committed to it.”

Critics, including Labor Councillor Linda Scott have slammed the artwork.

“This is a project that is now significantly delayed and nearly triple the budget that was originally given to council and that will necessarily mean cuts for residents and business in services and important key infrastructure,” Ms Scott told ABC Radio.

“It’s just not right.”

Ms Moore didn’t respond to individual criticisms on Friday, saying Councillors would have the opportunity to voice their opinions at the next meeting.

Supporters of the Cloud Arch say it will cater to a growing Instagram generation and put Sydney on the map, with tourism and economic benefits far outweighing the initial cost.

“You go to Chicago, everyone has their photo taken next to The Bean, that’s what’s going to happen here in Sydney,” Tourism and Transport Forum’s chief executive Maggie Osmond told reporters on Friday.

“People need a photograph of themselves with the Opera House without a doubt but the next place they come will be the arch, it’s going to be glorious.”

Venezuela takes two TV networks off air

Venezuela’s government has ordered cable television providers to cut the signal of two Colombian networks, a move that critics, including Colombia’s leader, are calling a crackdown on free speech by President Nicolas Maduro.

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The country’s telecommunications regulator called for RCN and Caracol Television to be taken off the air for broadcasting a message it said incited Maduro’s murder, the office of Venezuela’s presidency said in a statement.

“The measure is within the bounds of the law, given that those stations over several months attacked Venezuela and (its) institutionality and now are openly calling for a magnicide,” the statement said, citing Andres Mendez, former head of telecom regulator Conatel.

The statement said the message in question was a comment by former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who said: “Maduro, resign or you will die.”

The decision was lambasted by Venezuelan opposition political leaders and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who called it another sign that Venezuela was descending into dictatorship.

Caracol, which earlier announced its removal from Venezuelan cable networks, blasted Maduro for engaging in censorship.

RCN said on its evening news broadcast that it categorically rejected the action and that its signal had been cut off at 5.30pm (local time) on Thursday.

Maduro often criticises neighbouring Colombia for being part of a right-wing conspiracy to bring down socialism in oil-rich Venezuela. He says Venezuela is the victim of an “economic war” led by adversaries with the help of Washington.

Critics say Venezuela’s ruling Socialist Party, which this year led a campaign to create an all-powerful legislative superbody, is seeking to limit coverage of rampant inflation, product shortages and a crackdown on opposition politicians.

“One more channel off the airwaves! Has that made crime go down? Is inflation any lower? Is there more food? More medicine? Has any problem been solved?” opposition leader Henrique Capriles said on Thursday.

Maduro alleges he is fighting well-financed coup plotters with links to the United States and hostile foreign media.

Sims boosts dividend on return to profit

Metals recycler Sims Metal Management expects to further improve performance in FY18 after swinging to a solid full-year profit in a booming scrap market.

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Sims reported net profit of $203.6 million for the year to June 30, compared to a $216.5 million net loss a year earlier.

Revenue for the year was up 9.1 per cent to $5.09 billion.

It said underlying earnings before interest and tax, which strips out significant items, surged to $182 million – more than three times the previous year thanks to stronger metal margins and internal streamlining initiatives.

External market conditions have continued to improve, the company said.

“Steel exports from China have continued to decline since the start of 2016,” it said in a statement.

“Lower export volumes have eased competitive pressures on steelmakers outside China which, in turn, is supporting higher global demand for ferrous scrap metal.”

Sims is one of the world’s largest metal recyclers with over 200 facilities spread over 20 countries.

The company said stronger demand and rising prices have already contributed to a 15 per cent lift in ferrous scrap prices since July 1.

Based on current market conditions and expected internal efficiencies, it is targeting an underlying return on capital of 10 per cent in FY18, up from 8.0 per cent in FY17.

It has also allocated $180 million to $200 million in capital for sustaining and growth projects in the current year.

The strong result comes just weeks after the company abruptly announced chief executive Galdino Claro and chief financial officer Fred Knechtel would leave with immediate effect, spooking the market and sending its shares down by more than 12 per cent.

Alistair Field, the former head of its Australian and New Zealand metals business, took over as CEO.

On Friday, Sims declared a fully franked final dividend of 20 cents, taking full-year dividend to 40 cents a share.

It also announced an unfranked special dividend of 10 cents a share.

By 1415 AEST, Sims shares were up 3.8 per cent at $14.75 in a weak Australian market.

SIMS FY PROFIT SURGES

* Net profit of $204m vs $217m loss

* Revenue up 9pct to $5.9b

* Final dividend up 8.0 cents to 20 cents, plus special dividend of 10 cents

Demons eye Magpies, not AFL finals

Melbourne can seal their first AFL finals berth since 2006 with a win over Collingwood, but the Demons dare not look beyond Saturday’s clash with the Pies.

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Melbourne, who enter round 23 in seventh spot, can still lose to Collingwood and make the top eight, but it would make for a nervous Sunday for Simon Goodwin’s men.

Essendon (eighth) host Fremantle and ninth-placed West Coast take on ladder-leaders Adelaide and could knock the Demons out of the eight if they both win and overtake them on percentage.

Goodwin has steadfastly refused to discuss his side’s finals destiny, perhaps partly out of fear a lack of focus against Collingwood will help that doomsday scenario unfold.

“It’s always hard to know exactly what’s going through the players’ heads in relation to (thoughts of the finals),” assistant coach Jade Rawlings told AAP.

“But I think our coach has done a great job of being able to keep the direction to our players pretty strong that it matters where we are after round 23.

“It’s been the same line internally, we’d be foolish not to know what’s on the line for us if we can get the job done, but we do have a pretty narrow focus.”

Rawlings said the Demons are wary of the 13th-placed Pies, who have played excellent footy at times this season and will be looking to finish strongly in what could be embattled coach Nathan Buckley’s last game in charge.

Jack Watts and Christian Salem returned to the side for the MCG clash after spells in the VFL.

Co-captain Jack Viney missed last weekend’s tight win over Brisbane and won’t feature against Collingwood as he continues to battle a foot injury.

“Jack is irreplaceable but we keep asking more of the players in that part of the ground,” Rawlings said.

“There have been various times when we haven’t had leaders or influential players available, but we’ve found ways to combat that.

“We lose a bit out of Jack not being there but it’s been pleasing that others have been able to fill the void.”

Collingwood were strengthened with the return of Brodie Grundy from a two-week suspension and also regained Tyson Goldsack after he missed last week’s loss to Geelong.

But the Pies suffered a blow on Friday when important swing man Ben Reid withdrew with soreness.

However his departure allowed exciting forward Kayle Kirby to make his AFL debut.