2019
01/13

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Phillipines charges clan with murder, rebellion

The Philippines said Sunday that leaders of a clan detained after martial law was imposed in their southern stronghold would be charged with rebellion, as more buried weapons were found.

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The rebellion charges are separate to murder cases being prepared against them over last month’s election-linked massacre of 57 people in their home province of Maguindanao, Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said.

“We did not see them plotting against the government, we saw the deed done. They have usurped power from the government there,” Devanadera told DZBB radio.

“This is not ordinary chaos taking place in one area, this has an armed component. And there is removal of allegiance from the republic of the Philippines by the leaders of this group.”

President Gloria Arroyo imposed martial law in Maguindanao late on Friday in an effort to rein in the Ampatuan family, a Muslim clan that has ruled the province for most of this decade with the backing of private armies.

The clan patriarch, Andal Ampatuan Snr, governor of Maguindanao since 2001, had installed many of his relatives into senior provincial posts.

Explaining the martial law move, the government said large numbers of heavily armed gunmen loyal to the Ampatuans had threatened to attack security forces and civilians if the clan chiefs were taken into custody.

One clan member previously charged

Ampatuan Snr and other clan members are accused of being involved in the November 23 massacre of a rival politician’s relatives, as well as journalists and other civilians.

One of Ampatuan’s sons, Andal Ampatuan Jnr, has already been charged with 25 counts of murder over the massacre. Police last week filed indictments recommending the clan chief and other relatives also be charged.

Police allege Ampatuan Jnr and 100 gunmen shot dead the occupants of a convoy that included female relatives of his rival for the post of governor in next year’s elections, as well as about 30 journalists.

After martial law was imposed, thousands of soldiers and police poured into the provincial capital Shariff Aguak and other Maguindanao towns to bring the Ampatuans into custody, as well as their militiamen and weapons.

Ampatuan Snr was among five clan members detained on Saturday.

A total of 32 people were picked up during Saturday’s raids, including 20 militiamen found in a warehouse belonging to Ampatuan Jnr.

Raids uncover weapons

The government alleged the Ampatuans had illegally amassed a stunning array of military hardware that it was prepared to use in the rebellion, and raids on Sunday continued to uncover hidden weapons.

About 40 firearms, including M16 assault rifles, were found on a property believed to be owned by Ampatuan Snr, military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Michael Samson told AFP at the site.

The weapons were buried on a grassy area about a kilometre (half a mile) from a police station on the outskirts of Shariff Aguak.

On Saturday, security forces retrieved 340,000 rounds of ammunition, several assault rifles and a home-made armoured car at the warehouse owned by Ampatuan Jnr where the miltiamen were detained.

The biggest reported discovery came on Thursday when the military found what it said were enough weapons and ammunitions to arm two battalions, or 1,000 soldiers, buried in a vacant lot near the Ampatuans’ compound of homes.

Violence waged since 1970s

Muslim rebels fighting for an independent homeland have been waging a rebellion on Maguindanao and other parts of Mindanao island since the late 1970s. The conflict has claimed more than 150,000 lives, the military says.

Arroyo’s government has used Muslim clans such as the Ampatuans to rule these areas, and allowed them to build up their own armies as part of a controversial containment strategy against the insurgents.

However the government now insists it did not know the extent to which the Ampatuans had built up its own militia and weapons.

Andal Ampatuan Snr and Jnr, plus another senior clan member, were expelled from Arroyo’s ruling coalition a few days after the massacre.

2019
01/13

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Nadal beats Federer in Madrid final

Nadal, who will reclaim the world number two ranking on Monday, clinched a record-breaking 18th career Masters title, beating Federer 6-4 7-6.

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The win also made him the first man to claim three major clay titles prior to the start of Roland Garros.

Federer beat Nadal in last year’s final before going on to claim the French Open and Wimbledon crowns and snatching back the world number one ranking from the Spaniard.

Nadal now heads to Paris with all guns blazing as he bids to wipe out last year’s fourth-round loss to Soderling and resume his trophy chase.

Sunday’s eagerly-anticipated match in a packed and rowdy Magic Box arena graced by Spanish Queen Sofia was their first meeting since the 2009 title match.

Home win ‘a dream’ for Nadal

It sets Nadal up for a run at regaining his Roland Garros crown when the grand slam starts next Sunday.

Nadal brought the partisan crowd to their feet when he took the first set and the noise reached ear-splitting levels as their hero fought back from 4-2 down before throwing himself face down on the clay.

“Winning here at home is a dream,” said Nadal, who took titles over recent weeks in Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would win all three of these big events,” added the Spaniard, unbeaten this clay season with 15 consecutive victories.

Nadal, now with 39 titles to his name, leads Federer 14-7 in career meetings, winning ten of their last 12.

Missed chances for Federer

He now stands 28-2 in claycourt finals, his two losses coming at the hands of Federer, including Madrid a year ago.

Federer missed out on chances repeatedly in the final, which lasted just over two hours, converting on only one of seven break points in an hour-long opening set.

In the second, the world number one twice recovered from a break down and once into the tiebreaker, took a 4-2 lead.

But four consecutive unforced errors meant a wasted effort, with Nadal claiming victory on his second of three match points, a Federer mis-hit.

“It’s been a wonderful event for me,” said the Swiss. “I’m sorry I couldn’t defend the title. Rafa’s had an incredible clay season, he was supreme today.

“I’m looking forward to Paris, I’m happy with my claycourt game, I know I’m not Spanish but I tried to play some clay court tennis here.”

2019
01/13

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Jetstar denies flights help Burma junta

Jetstar denies its flights into Burma are assisting the military junta and its human rights abuses.

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ACTU President Sharan Burrow says international companies are withdrawing services from Burma and those businesses that stay know they are abetting human and trade union rights abuses, including child labour and forced labour.

Burma Campaign Australia says the airline’s payments to fly into the country add to the estimated $US2.8 billion ($A3.23 billion) in “blood money” to the dictatorship.

Campaign spokeswoman Zetty Brake says Jetstar’s payments to fly into the country could be used to fund more than 700 soldiers a year, Fairfax newspapers report.

“Sadly doing business in Burma only helps keep the Burmese junta in power, providing it with the critical funds and resources it needs to maintain its brutal rule,” she said in a statement.

Airline fees ‘lining regime’s pockets’

Jetstar chief executive Bruce Buchanan denies the accusation, saying Jetstar is happy to end the schedule if it thinks it’s harming the Burmese people in any way.

“Whenever we look at it and talk to the (aid) agencies that are in there, they say it’s a good thing. We are giving people access to get out and get education, aid agencies to get in there, and people reconnecting with friends and family,” he said.

Mr Buchanan told Fairfax he received a letter from the ACTU last week and has yet to reply, saying he’s disappointed the matter is now in the public domain.

Ms Burrow told Fairfax it’s a “myth” that ordinary Burmese can fly into and out of the country, and rejected the airline’s suggestion its fees to Burmese aviation authorities do not end up in the regime’s pockets.

She’ll join Burmese democracy activists in Sydney today for the beginning of a campaign to pressure Australian companies into withdrawing from Burma.

2019
01/13

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Climate change ‘unquestionably’ linked to humans

Global warming exists and is unquestionably due to human activity, the French Academy of Science said in a report published Thursday and written by 120 scientists from France and abroad.

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“Several independent indicators show an increase in global warming from 1975 to 2003. This increase is mainly due to the increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide,” the academy said in conclusion to the report.

“The increase in carbon dioxide, and to a lesser degree other greenhouse gases, is unquestionably due to human activity,” said the report, adopted unanimously by academy members.

The report contradicts France’s former education minister Claude Allegre, a geochemist, who published a book called “The Climatic Deception” which claimed that carbon dioxide was not linked to climate change.

The report was commissioned in April by Minister for Research Valerie Pecresse in response to hundreds of environmental scientists who complained that Allegre in particular was disparaging their work.

Allegre is a member of the Academy of Sciences and also signed off on the report.

“He has the right to evolve,” the academy’s president Jean Salencon said. Pecresse said: “The debate is over.”

But Allegre told AFP that the document was a compromise and “I have not evolved, I still say the same thing, that the exact role of carbon dioxide in the environment has not been shown.”

“Of course it’s a compromise, but it’s a satisfactory compromise because what I defend, that is the uncertainty in our knowledge about climate change, is explicitly mentioned, the word uncertainty appears 12 times,” he said.

In his book, Allegre questioned the work of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and criticised worldwide mobilisation around “a myth without foundation.”

He disagreed with linking climate change and an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and said clouds or solar activity had more of an influence.

The IPCC, established to sift through scientific research and produce the most authoritative report possible on climate change for world leaders, has been hit by a raft of criticisms and the UN has said it needs a major overhaul.

Glaring errors were revealed in the panel’s landmark 2007 Fourth Assessment Report — notably that Himalayan glaciers which provide water to a billion people in Asia could be lost by 2035, a claim traced to a magazine article.

The Academy’s report said that “solar activity, which has dropped slightly on average since 1975, cannot be dominant in warming observed during this period” even if the mechanisms involved “are not yet well understood.”

“Major uncertainties remain on how to model clouds, the evolution of marine ice and the polar caps, the connection between the oceans and the atmosphere, the biosphere’s evolution and the carbon cycle,” the report said.

Allegre wrote that it was impossible to predict the climate’s long-term evolution, but the Academy said that “climate evolution predictions of 30 to 50 years are little affected by uncertainties on modelling slow evolution processes.”

“These predictions are particularly useful in responding to society’s current concerns, worsened by the predictable population growth.”

The IPCC’s deputy head, Frenchman Jean Jouzel, welcomed the report.

“Even if in this text lots of space is given to the arguments put forward by climate change sceptics, I note that the document clearly reaffirms the IPCC’s broad conclusions,” he told AFP.

“Clearly sceptics will find some things to make their case. It says that not all is clear about the sun’s role. The debate is never over,” he said.

The report was the result of written contributions as well as closed-door discussions held at the Academy on September 20 and subsequent exchanges, the Academy said.

2019
01/13

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Red wine packed with antidiabetes compounds

Red wine is a potent source of antidiabetic compounds – but they might not get past your gut.

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The finding is sure to enliven the ongoing debate over the drink’s health benefits.

Alois Jungbauer and colleagues at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria, tested 10 reds and two whites to find out how strongly the wines bound to a protein called PPAR-gamma, which is targeted by the antidiabetic drug rosiglitazone. (This drug is marketed under the brand name Avandia and, while still available in the US, has been withdrawn in Europe because of fears over side effects.)

PPAR-gamma is a type of protein called a receptor. Among other things, it regulates the uptake of glucose in fat cells. Rosiglitazone targets PPAR-gamma in fat cells to make them more sensitive to insulin and improve the uptake of glucose. It is used as a treatment for type 2 diabetes, a condition where people either do not make enough insulin to keep their body’s glucose levels down, or become resistant to normal insulin levels.

Several studies have shown that moderate consumption of red wine can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. So Jungbauer and colleagues determined the wines’ binding affinity for PPAR-gamma and compared the results with the effects of rosiglitazone. They found that the white wines had low binding affinities, but all the reds bound readily: the tendency of 100 millilitres of red wine – about half a glass – to bind to PPAR-gamma is up to four times as strong as the same tendency in the daily dose of rosiglitazone.

Red and green

“It’s incredible. It’s a really high activity,” says Jungbauer. “At first we were worried it was an artefact, but then we identified the compounds responsible in the wine.”

The flavonoid epicatechin gallate – which is also present in green tea – had the highest binding affinity, followed by the polyphenol ellagic acid, which comes from the oak barrels the wine is kept in. The researchers think that some of the antidiabetic activity of red wine could be due to these compounds activating PPAR-gamma.

But Jungbauer warns that these compounds don’t make red wine a magic bullet. The compounds in a glass of wine may have other antidiabetic effects and in any case, not all of the compounds will be absorbed and available to the body to use. “Wine also contains ethanol, which will add to your calories,” he says.

Véronique Cheynier, research director at the department of oenology at the University of Montpellier 1, France, says that most polyphenols do not pass through the digestive tract unchanged and may not be absorbed at all.

True temperance

The next step for Jungbauer and his team will be to measure the metabolic effects of the wine compounds on healthy people.

Jungbauer stresses that moderate consumption is the key to health benefits from wine. “It is important to limit the intake of wine. Obesity is one of the major problems of our society,” he says.

Paras Mishra of the University of Louisville, Kentucky, who was not involved in the study, warns that drinking too much wine “could be bad even in diabetes”.

2019
01/13

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‘Mystery missile’ has conspiracies firing

The US military said Tuesday it has detected no launch of a foreign military missile off the coast of California and offered assurances that whatever happened there posed no threat to the United States.

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KCBS television caught on camera what appeared to be a missile vapor trail as it arced into the evening sky west of Los Angeles, sparking reports of a possible missile launch.

“At this time, we can confirm that there is no threat to our nation and from all indications this was not a launch by a foreign military,” the US Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Command said in a statement.

The Pentagon, however, said it had no explanation for the sighting and was trying to get to the bottom of it.

“While there is nothing at this time that leads the Department of Defense (DoD) to believe this is a missile launch, the department and other US government agencies with expertise in aviation and space continue to look into the condensation trail (CONTRAIL) seen and reported off the coast of southern California on Monday evening,” Pentagon spokesman David Lapan said in a statement.

“All DoD entities with rocket and missile programs reported no launches, scheduled or inadvertent, during the time period in the area of the reported contrail,” he added.

Lapan said Federal Aviation Administration “radar replays” from a large area west of Los Angeles “did not reveal any fast-moving, unidentified targets,” adding that the FAA also did not receive reports of any unusual sightings from pilots in the arae.

ContrailScience.com, a website that debunks conspiracy theories linked to contrails, suggested the sighting was an optical illusion.

It said an approaching aircraft can leave a horizontal vapor trail that looks like a missile shooting vertically from the ground or sea.

What creates the illusion that it is rising from the ground is that the end of the plume is hidden by the curvature of the earth.

Ordinarily, a missile test would involve closure of air space and notifications to mariners of when to stay clear of the area, but none were known to have been made in this case, Lapan said earlier.

He said it was “implausible” that a military exercise would have been conducted so near Los Angeles’ busy international airport.

“That’s why at this point the operative term is, unexplained,” Lapan added.

2019
09/15

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Aust rugby needs Mowen: Alexander

Veteran Test prop Ben Alexander says the Wallabies and Brumbies need to keep a player of teammate Ben Mowen’s calibre in their ranks.

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Having only made his Test debut this season – and already captained the Wallabies – loose forward Mowen is reportedly considering his playing future with a move offshore an option because of a pay dispute with the Australian Rugby Union.

Mowen, who has started all eight Tests this year, didn’t want to speak to the media about his contract situation at the Wallabies camp in Argentina, with a Wallabies spokesman only saying that “negotiations are continuing”.

Australia can ill-afford to lose a player with such obvious leadership qualities that he was made captain in only his sixth Test in the absence of injured regular skipper James Horwill – leading them to the gutsy win over Argentina.

He also led the Brumbies to the Super Rugby final earlier this year.

Mowen isn’t receiving a top-up contract from the ARU despite being a regular starter in the team since making his debut against the British and Irish Lions in June and now a vice-captain.

The cash-strapped ARU is limiting top-ups and has introduced a policy where players only get the extra payment if they have played for more than two years with the Test team.

With the Wallabies struggling under new coach Ewen McKenzie and the shock departure last week of Brumbies mentor Jake White, Mowen’s value to both teams has sky-rocketed.

“You just need all the players you can get,” Alexander said of his national and Super Rugby teammate.

“Benny has done a great job on field speaking with referees, organising our line-out with Brumbies and Wallabies.

“He’s done a great job in tandem with the coaches in turning the Brumbies around and led us to within a whisker of winning the whole comp.

“It is is up to Benny to sort out what is the best decision for himself and his family and whatever that is, we will support him.”

Following White’s surprise departure, Wallabies legend Stephen Larkham and Laurie Fisher have both been promoted from assistant coaches to custodians, with one to be given the Brumbies top job permanently.

Alexander, who has 80 caps with the side, said he hadn’t been contacted by Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan for his opinion and wasn’t waiting to be.

“I shouldn’t expect we would be,” the prop said.

“We are the players, not the bosses.

“We will leave it up to the board … that’s their decision and we will back whoever they pick.”

2019
09/15

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Why do terror groups use social media?

Kenya’s police force had been on Twitter just four days when gunmen entered the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi armed with grenades and automatic weapons.

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Officials wasted no time putting the platform to use, relaying updates about the attack, asking witnesses to come forward and encouraging citizens to donate blood.

At almost exactly the same time — most likely in Somalia — al-Shabab militants were also using the social media site to claim responsibility for the attack and release details about it.

The account was quickly shut down as Twitter executives enforced their guidelines blocking “unlawful or illegal” activities. It was at least the third time in less than a year an account run by al-Shabab operatives had been set up and forcibly shut down.

Collecting information: A tweet sent by Kenya’s police chief David Kimaiyo during the Westgate siege

Good morning, we are still held up at Westgate. Kindly share information of the families who have been shopping and have not been traced.

— David Kimaiyo (@IGkimaiyo) September 22, 2013

 

RECRUITMENT, FUNDRAISING AND INFORMATION CONTROL

David Malet, international security specialist at the University of Melbourne, says experts have known about al-Shabab’s social media presence for at least two years.

“[al-Shabab] consider it a cornerstone of their strategy to try to reach out to youth in western countries,” he says.

Dr Malet believes the main motivation for their online presence is recruitment, and their target is young westerners.

“They’re trying to reach millennials, they’re trying to reach teenagers who they think might be active on social media sites who might not be familiar with the politics behind al-Shabab,” he says.  

“If they can reach them [and] convince them of some noble cause out there that they’re fighting for… then they can persuade people to come join the cause.”

LISTEN: Click the orange play button below to hear an extended interview with Jake Wallis

 

Whether the approach actually boosts numbers for the group is “difficult to say,” he adds.

“There’s been some evidence of a few westerners who have joined al-Shabab, who have joined al-Qaeda because they’ve been in internet chatrooms or somebody has groomed them or recruited them, but for the most part recruitment among westerners has taken place face-to-face at community centres or mosques,” he says.

Information specialist Jake Wallis from Charles Sturt University says in the Westgate example, control over how the group is portrayed is also a key factor.

“The Kenyan authorities were using social media platforms such as Twitter to assert their control over the situation, and almost in real time, al-Shabab was able to generate a counter-narrative that asserted its position within the conflict,” he says.

“This is really important in terms of reaching out to that potential audience, in terms of recruitment and financial support.”

SHOULD ONLINE EXTREMISTS BE SHUT DOWN?

Most social media sites, including Twitter, allow anonymous users to set up accounts and run them however they like – until they break the rules.

Al-Shabab was able to continue running new Twitter accounts despite being continually shut down; a point that highlights the difficulty a company that hosts 200 million users worldwide has in policing its entire user base.

It also poses the question: can extremists ever be completely shut down?  

Jake Wallis says probably not.

“It’s a significant problem for the platforms that are becoming the de-facto media environment in a digital age,” he says.

“What’s happening is platforms like Twitter, like Facebook, like YouTube, are having to make decisions about what constitutes acceptable engagement with a global audience, and in many ways engagement with a democratic political process.”

On the other hand, a social media presence can help authorities and experts understand and collect information about extremists and their movements, a fact that came to light through the PRISM project made famous by the leaks of Edward Snowden.

“Many of the digital gateways that we use on a regular basis, like Facebook, like Twitter, are supplying whole data sets to agencies who can then sift through that information and put together a picture of the kinds of relational networks that individuals considered security risks are engaged in,” says Mr Wallis.

2019
09/15

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SBW opened my eyes to potential: Jennings

Michael Jennings admits it took Sonny Bill Williams to make him fully understand he’d been wasting his talent in a comfort zone.

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NSW centre Jennings has scored a career-best 19 tries in his first season with the Sydney Roosters – surpassing his previous biggest haul of 17 in 2009 – and stands on the verge of winning a premiership in Sunday’s NRL grand final against Manly.

The 25-year-year-old left Penrith to join the Roosters this season after Panthers coach Ivan Cleary and general manager Phil Gould decided he wasn’t doing enough to earn his hefty $600,000 a season salary.

Jennings’ relationship with Gould had also disintegrated after he was sanctioned on two occasions for alcohol-related incidents.

Gould threatened his star player with the sack if he crossed the line again and Jennings concedes some of his actions were unprofessional.

“I think maybe I was in the comfort zone at Penrith,” Jennings told AAP.

“I’d been involved with the club since I was eight, and I always thought I would be there for the rest of my career.

“Looking back now, I realise my attitude probably wasn’t the best and I could have done some things differently but I always gave my best for Penrith.”

Jennings’ arrival at the Roosters was overshadowed by superstar dual international Williams’ high-profile return to the NRL and the addition of James Maloney from the Warriors.

And he said seeing how Williams trained and prepared for games was a huge eye opener.

“It was a bit like starting school when I first came here,” he said.

“I knew some of the boys like Mitchell Pearce, but I very much had to start again and prove myself to my teammates.

“Sonny came in after me but straight away you could see he did everything so professionally. The way he trained and how he prepared for games.

“When you see a guy as good as he is having to work hard it does rub off on you and make you think ‘am I doing enough?’

“I was hurt when Penrith said they were happy to let me leave as it’s my club and the club my family support.

“But coming to the Roosters has been the best move of my career and I am so happy with how this season has gone for me.”

A place in the Kangaroos squad for the Rugby League World Cup is also on the horizon with long-serving centre Justin Hodges ruled out after rupturing his Achilles.

Selection in Tim Sheens’ Australian squad would cap a remarkable turnaround for a player who was picked to play on the wing in the 2010 NSW City Origin team – a year after scoring a hat-trick in his single Test appearance on the 2009 Four Nations tour against France.

“It would be nice to go to World Cup, but I haven’t really thought about, I am just focused on winning the grand final and if it (selection) happens, it happens,” he said.

2019
09/15

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America’s Cup ‘vultures’ already circling Team NZ – Dalton

Team New Zealand (TNZ) were beaten by defenders Oracle Team USA, backed by software billionaire Larry Ellison, in a winner-takes-all final race on San Francisco Bay last week and the future of the syndicate has come under scrutiny.

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TNZ’s campaign, put in excess of NZ$120 million ($99.08 million), was partially funded by a central government injection of NZ$36 million, and politicians have wavered about committing more funding from the public purse.

“Really the priority is the guys and securing the guys because, it’s just a cycle of the America’s Cup and the poachers are out hard,” Dalton told reporters upon his return to New Zealand from San Francisco on Wednesday.

“There’s plenty of billionaires out there that would like to strip us bare quickly.

“We’ve really got to hold onto the guys, then all of us can plan our own futures, but you’ve got to hold the guys if there’s any chance of keeping the team together.

“So that’s a priority. Once that’s done we then think about the next step.”

Australia’s Hamilton Island Yacht Club, owned by wine tycoon and sailing enthusiast Bob Oatley, have already been confirmed as the Challenger of Record and will work with the defenders to determine the format of the next regatta, likely to be in 2016.

After New Zealand’s previous challenge in 2007, the government pledged the money early to lock up talent for the next America’s Cup cycle before sponsors were found for more funding.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key told local media that he and Economic Development Minister Steve Joyce, who was in San Francisco for the final stages of the Cup, were open to meeting skipper Dean Barker to discuss another challenge.

“We understand the pressures that they’re under,” Key told Television New Zealand. “We’ve also said, ‘look, the government’s view is we’re more than happy to talk to Team NZ’.

“When they’re in a position to talk and they felt it makes sense to come and speak to us, pick up the phone and give me a ring or call Steven Joyce.”

Both Key and Joyce have said any public money offered would be only a part of the team’s overall funding, which would again be expected to be secured mainly through commercial sponsorship.

Barker said the window for securing a sailing and design team was shrinking and that Swedish challenger Artemis, who suffered a fatal accident in the lead-up and were knocked out in the Louis Vuitton Cup, had already approached members of TNZ.

“It is tough, it is really tough, when you are still trying to regather yourself, or compose yourself after what we have been through, and the vultures are already circling,” he told local broadcaster TV3.

“We have a very small window of opportunity. Without the money to be able to get going again very quickly we lose the people, and if we lose the people there is no Team New Zealand.”

($1 = 1.2111 New Zealand dollars)

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Ian Ransom)

2019
09/15

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Gillard jokes about wedding at The Lodge

Julia Gillard’s thoughts on a wedding at The Lodge was just one of the lighter moments of the second part of an interview that marked the end of her silence since being ousted by Kevin Rudd as prime minister.

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Ms Gillard promptly answered “no” when asked by a woman in the audience if she ever considered marrying her partner Tim Mathieson to get the media off her back.

“It doesn’t matter to us, we’ve chosen what we want and if it doesn’t matter to us than I don’t think it should matter to anyone else,” she said.

Ms Gillard was speaking to Anne Summers at the Melbourne Town Hall in the second part of an interview forum that had been in Sydney the previous night.

She also joked about the media circus a wedding at the lodge would have created.

“Could you imagine the carry on there would be about what she was going to wear, is she going to trip up when she walks down the aisle,” she said.

On feminist Germaine Greer’s infamous comments that Ms Gillard wore unflattering jackets and had a “big arse”, the former prime minister said: “more than anything else I was disappointed for her”.

“I grew up thinking Germaine Greer was amazing,” she said.

“For everything she’s done and everything she is and the great worth she’s brought to our understanding of gender I just thought, it just let her down as much as it let me down. So I was sad for that.”

But, she said she was not personally hurt by the comments.

“To the extent that I ever got upset about people commenting on my appearance, boy I’m through the pain barrier,” she said.

In a warmer moment, Ms Gillard made special mention of Victoria’s first female premier Joan Kirner, who was sitting in the front row of the audience on Tuesday night.

Ms Kirner revealed in August that she was receiving treatment for oesophageal cancer.

Ms Gillard said she had known Ms Kirner for 30 years and recalled working with her to introduce affirmative action rules in the ALP.

“I was the junior burger in that conversation, I was the one who took the notes and had to follow things up as the leading women thought through the strategy, but that was a fantastic way to learn,” she said.

2019
08/15

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Vic court upholds terror trio’s jail terms

Three Islamic extremists who planned to gun down as many Australian soldiers as possible in an attack on a Sydney army base have lost their bid to overturn their convictions and jail terms.

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Wissam Mahmoud Fattal, 36, Saney Edow Aweys, 30, and Nayef El Sayed, 29, had their appeals dismissed in the Victorian Court of Appeal on Wednesday.

The trio planned to go on a shooting spree at Holsworthy Army Base to advance the cause of Islam, which they believed was under attack from the West.

They were jailed for 18 years with a non-parole period of 13 and a half years in 2011.

Each of the men’s failed appeals relied on claims that sentencing judge Justice Betty King erred in her directions to the jury, and that a build-up of errors caused a miscarriage of justice.

But Justices Geoffrey Nettle, Peter Buchanan and Pamela Tate unanimously rejected the grounds of appeal.

The Crown had counter-appealed against the lenience of the sentences but that was also dismissed on Wednesday.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) criticised Justice King’s sentence as inadequate for a plot which it said could have had devastating consequences.

“Her Honour arrived at an inadequate sentence by focusing on the steps taken and giving insufficient weight to the nature of the plan which could have had devastating consequences, involving as it did a planned attack on a selected target with the intention of killing as many soldiers and others found there as possible,” the DPP submitted.

The DPP argued the offending fell into the worst class and the men should have been punished with life in jail.

But the justices said the trio could not be sentenced as if the terror plot had actually been carried out.

They also noted that extremists prepared to commit attacks which involve suicide as a form of martyrdom were unlikely be deterred by harsh prison sentences.

“In our view the sentences imposed were severe but quite properly so,” the justices said.

“We consider that the maximum penalty ought to be reserved for the worst class of case.

“The offending here, regrettably, was not of the worst class.”

The men were arrested in pre-dawn raids at homes across Melbourne in August 2009.

Their group was infiltrated by undercover police officers in February of that year.

Two other men were acquitted of involvement in the plot.

2019
08/15

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Large scale visa fraudster jailed

A fraudster who earned millions by contriving sham marriages, fake university degrees and false English test results for immigrants seeking Australian visas has been jailed.

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Gary Zhou was sentenced to four years and seven months’ jail in the County Court of Victoria on Tuesday after he was identified as a facilitator of large-scale migration fraud.

It’s estimated Zhou charged between $10,000 and $100,000 for counterfeit documents and dealt with more than 1000 clients – most of whom are suspected of receiving forged paperwork.

An exact figure earned by Zhou was not available when AAP contacted the Department of Immigration.

Following a joint Immigration and Australian Federal Police investigation, Zhou was charged with offences relating to conspiracy to defraud and control of forged documents.

Search warrants uncovered evidence of false documents in applications for visas under the general skilled migration program and other visa programs, a statement from the Department of Immigration said on Tuesday.

The scam involved the provision of false Australian university degrees, including statements of results and letters of completion.

Other fraudulent documents included false international English language test results, false work references and documents in relation to arranging contrived marriages for immigration purposes.

Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison said the conviction was a reminder the department and courts will act against those who attempt to defraud the nation’s migration programs.

“Anyone found to have obtained a visa based on fraudulent information can expect to face visa refusal or cancellation and prosecution,” he said.

2019
08/15

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Greenpeace protesters interrupt Champions League match

Play was halted for around five minutes when four protesters wearing orange boiler suits and helmets descended slowly on ropes which they had dropped from the roof after a few minutes of play.

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The banners said “Gazprom, don’t foul the Arctic” and “Free the Arctic 30” and had Greenpeace written at the bottom. The protesters then hauled themselves back onto the roof while officials watched from the touchline and the match continued.

Russian authorities detained all 30 members of the pressure group who were aboard icebreaker the Arctic Sunrise when they broke up attempts to scale state-run Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya offshore oil platform on September 18.

All 30 have been remanded in custody for two months.

Among there are Australian Colin Russell and a British citizen who lives in Sydney, Alexandra Harris.

DFAT says consular officers from the Australian Embassy in Moscow have been in Murmansk since September 26 seeking access to the detention centre. The met Mr Ruseel on Monday, passing on care packs. They confirmed Mr Russell has legal representation.

“With it’s oil drilling projects, Gazprom is putting the fragile Arctic ecosystem on the line,” said Nadine Berthel of Greenpeace’s Arctic campaign.

“Gazprom has no experience on the high seas and is playing Russian roulette with the Arctic. The question is not if, but when, Gazprom will make history with a full-scale oil disaster in the Arctic.”

Gazprom are sponsors of both the Champions League and Bundesliga club Schalke.

Basel could be disciplined for inadequate organisation after the protesters managed to get on the roof with their bulky equipment.

“With this action, the defenders of the Arctic showed the red card to the Russian sponsors of the Champions League and German club, and to their oil-drilling and dirty tricks in the Artic,” said Greenpeace in a statement.

2019
08/15

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Bail for alleged Qld bikie brawler

Bandidos members who entered a Gold Coast restaurant on Friday could simply have been looking for a bite to eat, the lawyer for an alleged bikie rioter says.

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Senior Bandidos member Jacques Teamo, 44, faced Southport Magistrates Court on Wednesday charged with entering a premise with intent, and rioting.

Teamo was granted conditional bail despite a prosecution objection and will return to court on November 14.

The court was shown video from CCTV, despite an objection from Teamo’s lawyer Chris Hannay, which showed Teamo leading a group of up to 20 Bandidos into Aura restaurant at Broadbeach.

Mr Hannay said the footage failed to reveal any intent other than a group of people looking for somewhere to eat on a Friday night.

“There’s no evidence they went there for anything other than a feed,” Mr Hannay told the court.

Mr Hannay said a brawl that broke out as Teamo and the other men left the restaurant was not his client’s fault.

The brawl involved Jason Trouchet and Matthew Sward, who were granted bail on charges of affray on Monday.

During their court hearing, it was alleged Trouchet had initiated the fight when he realised dozens of bikie gang members were waiting outside the restaurant.

“A person punched him in the back of the head,” Mr Hannay said of his client Teamo.

“He’s got a right to defend himself.”

In opposing bail police prosecutor Sergeant Jim Pedlow told the court Teamo – who was shot during a dispute with another rival bikie gang member at a Gold Coast shopping mall last year – posed a significant risk to the community.

“He went to confront two persons with a gang, putting the whole public at risk,” Sgt Pedlow said.

Magistrate Kerry Magee agreed footage of the incident was “alarming” and made Teamo’s bail conditional on him not having any contact with other Bandidos members.

“It does look quite frightening in the footage,” Ms Magee said.

Mr Hannay said his client’s appearance, which includes several facial tattoos, was intimidatory by itself but is not a sign of any malicious intent.

“It’s intimidating just to look at him,” he said.

“That’s not his fault … that doesn’t make this man number one in the bikie world, as he’s being made out to be.”

Teamo was arrested and charged along with three other members of the Bandidos gang on Tuesday.

The other three men, who are facing riot charges, were all granted watch-house bail and will appear in court later this month.

2019
08/15

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Mechanical fault suspected in tanker crash

A mechanical fault is believed to have caused a fuel tanker to overturn and explode on Sydney’s northern beaches, killing two people.

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Emergency crews have removed the charred remains of the truck from Mona Vale Road where it lost control on Tuesday, ploughing into a power pole and four cars before erupting in a fireball.

Two men, one a local and one from Western Australia, died in the blaze and six people were taken to hospital.

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner John Hartley told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday it appeared the roadway was not at fault.

“It appears to be a mechanical fault, not the fault of the roadway,” he said.

As investigations continued Superintendent Ian Krimmer of NSW Fire and Rescue said the clean-up at the site of the accident was going smoothly.

He said about 300 litres of petrol spilled onto the road in the process of getting the truck upright but the spill was contained by an earth dam.

Energy and traffic authorities were working on repairing powerlines and cleaning up the road, he said.

Fuel contamination has been contained within a 1.5km radius of the crash site.

An unknown amount has run into local drains, but does not pose a threat to residents, Supt Krimmer said.

He said the clean-up could be complete within days.

“Petrol is one of the easiest contaminants to deal with because natural forces such as warm weather and wind will evaporate the fuel very rapidly,” he said.

Police said the truck appeared to have lost control, hit a power pole and four cars before turning on its side and dousing the road in fuel.

It’s likely the huge explosion that followed was caused by a spark from the friction of the crash, Supt Krimmer said.