Inquest final stage

An inquest into the Sydney Lindt Cafe siege is poised to enter its final stage. The final segment opening today is set to examine the siege itself, including how it was managed and responded to by law enforcement. The process is expected to span at least eight weeks. Counsel assisting, Jeremy Gormly SC, is expected to deliver his opening address before the officer in charge of the coronial investigation is called to give evidence. Witnesses to events which occurred immediately before the siege are also due to appear. So too are police officers who were first to respond to the siege. The Sydney siege began when gunman Man Haron Monis entered the central Sydney Lindt Cafe on the morning of December 15, 2014, and took 18 people hostage. Lindt Cafe manager Tori Johnson and lawyer Katrina Dawson both lost their lives in the 17-hour stand off. Monis was killed when tactical police stormed the cafe in the early hours of December 16. State Coroner Michael Barnes is expected to hand down his findings later in the year.

Bleaching worsens

Coral bleaching on the iconic Great Barrier Reef is getting worse, with authorities raising the threat level for the second time in a week after discovering it is more severe than previously thought. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has lifted its response to level three -- its highest - which means severe regional bleaching has been detected. Environment Minister Greg Hunt flew over the reef on Sunday to observe some of the hardest hit areas around Lizard Island, north of Cairns. The level-three upgrade comes a week after the authority increased the coral bleaching warning from level one to two after surveys carried out by divers over the preceding fortnight detected widespread bleaching. The surveys found reefs around Lizard Island and further north were the worst impacted. In the worst affected sites in the remote far north on inshore Cape York reefs, divers found up to half of the coral has died from prolonged higher than average sea surface temperatures.


Child returns

A Melbourne woman and her daughter, who have been prevented from leaving Egypt by a travel ban imposed by her ex-husband, have returned to Australia after an Egyptian judge cleared the way for the child to travel. Amaal Yasmin Finn, 37, and her 7-year-old daughter, Zareen, had been trapped in Egypt since the child's Egyptian-born father, Mazen Hassan Baioumy, had the ban imposed in 2013. Finn has said she was tricked by Baioumy into signing documents in Arabic, which she could not read, believing they would grant her Egyptian residency. Instead, the ban, with Zareen's name registered on an official immigration list, prevented the child from leaving the country with her mother who had been cleared to travel. After almost three years of legal action, an Egyptian appeals court handed down its verdict on February 24 clearing the way for the child to leave Egypt. But a further month was required to implement the court decision before they were able to travel late last week, returning to Melbourne on Friday.