Coalition folds in ethics class battle

The state opposition has dumped its promise to remove ethics classes from NSW public schools if it is elected, as 57 schools prepare to start teaching the new course within weeks. In November the opposition education spokesman, Adrian Piccoli, said a Coalition government would remove the classes being offered in schools as an alternative to special religious education, or scripture classes. The announcement prompted the government, with the support of the Greens in the upper house, to enshrine the right to the classes in legislation, meaning the Coalition would be forced to legislate to remove them. Mr Piccoli told the Herald the Coalition has decided against that course of action if it is elected next month.

Cyclone Yasi wreaks havoc in Mission Beach, Tully and Innisfail

The Australian
Small Queensland coastal communities are assessing the extent of the damage this morning after Cyclone Yasi unleashed its fury with winds over 200km/h. Cairns was spared but Mission Beach, Tully, Tully Heads and Cardwell appear to have borne the brunt of the category five cyclone, which crossed the coast about midnight local time. “It does seem Cairns has been spared the worst and that's a great relief,” Premier Anna Bligh told the Nine Network.

Protesters react with fury as Hosni Mubarak announces he'll stay his term

The Australian
Protesters in Cairo have reacted with fury to a late-night address to the nation in which Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he would complete his full term in office. Mr Mubarak said he would implement a number of reforms, but protesters had been expecting him to announce his resignation. The tens of thousands of protesters who remained in Cairo's Tahrir Square went silent as Mr Mubarak began his television address - watching on a large screen set up in the square. But once he said he would stay until September, ignoring an opposition ultimatum to quit by Friday, shouts of anger rang out.

Trying to avoid being the next fall guys

The Australian
Trying not to be hit by falling dominos, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders yesterday hurried to respond pre-emptively to democratic stirrings among their people before the fallout from the Tunis and Egyptian uprisings triggers similar explosions. The Palestinian Authority announced that local council elections will be held on a date to be determined next week. The PA has not held elections since 2006, and yesterday's announcement came as a surprise. The orderly cycle of polls was disrupted by the election of Hamas in the Gaza Strip in 2007, which effectively split the Palestinian territory in two: the West Bank controlled by the PA and Gaza controlled by Hamas.

Made to listen in on God's lessons

Daily Telegraph
The education department has ordered three schools to offer separate supervision to students who have opted out of scripture classes. Parents at three schools on the South Coast complained after their children were forced to listen in on religious lessons, despite having opted out of the classes. The Department of Education and Training started investigating after the Ulladulla High School's final newsletter last year said that students in years 7 and 8 "will sit in a section of the classroom" where scripture was taught, "so minimal supervision can take place safely".