Rosberg has the knives sharpened for Hamilton

by admin on April 29th, 2019

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The German, runner-up last year as Hamilton collected his second crown, told the official formula1.

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com website that he felt stronger than ever and was sure the new Mercedes was better.

Asked whether he already had his metaphorical knives “sharpened” for the season, Rosberg said he had started doing that as soon as the last campaign ended in Abu Dhabi.

“For now it is Lewis — and whoever else wants to have a go at the knife,” he added with a laugh when asked about the main target.

The two Mercedes team mates, who have known and raced against each other from boyhood, had a tense relationship last season as they battled for the title.

Rosberg expected more of the same.

“We have a relationship that goes up and down — and it will continue to go up and down,” he said. “It is an intense battle between us and that will not change any time soon.

“Last year’s experience helps,” he added of this year’s challenge. “It’s that ‘been there, done that’ kind of thing. All the difficult times have made me stronger. It is the difficult moments where I learn the most.”

The German said Hamilton, who won 11 races last year to Rosberg’s five, had simply performed better in 2014.

“He drove better all in all. Small bits here and there — and I need to find small steps to beat him. And I am going for it,” he said.

Mercedes will start the season in Australia on March 15 as clear favourites again and the new car has looked strong in testing in southern Spain, although Hamilton was stopped by a water leak on Monday.

Rosberg did almost 700km and 157 laps on the first day at the Jerez circuit, far more than rivals, and said the car was “even better than last year’s”.

His dream year, he said, would be a great start followed by “a tough part by mid-season when I lose touch — and then an awesome comeback in the end, winning all the races to total dominance.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

Al Jazeera’s Fahmy gives up Egypt passport

by admin on April 29th, 2019

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CAIRO, Feb 3 AFP)- Al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy has renounced his Egyptian citizenship, his family says, in a bid to follow his Australian colleague Peter Greste in being released from a Cairo jail.

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Fahmy’s surrender of his Egyptian passport is a necessary first step for him to be released and deported as a foreign national under a decree issued by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in November. He also has Canadian citizenship.

The news came after Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said Fahmy’s release was “imminent” following the freeing of Greste on Sunday.

The two men were arrested in December 2013 along with Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed, and later sentenced to up to 10 years in prison on charges of aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood.

Their jailing sparked a global outcry and proved a public relations nightmare for Sisi, who has cracked down on Islamists since toppling president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

“He signed the papers more than a week ago” giving up his Egyptian citizenship, a relative of Fahmy told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“It was very hard for him because he is a proud Egyptian who comes from a family of military servicemen.”

An Egyptian official following the case said: “The final legal procedures for his deportation are being completed.”

He said Fahmy’s renunciation of citizenship had already been finalised.

Soon after Greste’s release, Fahmy’s fiancee, Marwa Omara, said: “We are expecting Mohamed to be released in the coming days.”

Egyptian police arrested the three journalists at the peak of a diplomatic row between Cairo and Qatar, which owns Al Jazeera.

The broadcaster had been critical of the deadly crackdown on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood following the Islamist leader’s overthrow.

Qatar has since moved to mend ties with Egypt, and Al Jazeera has closed its Arabic-language Egyptian affiliate which backed the Brotherhood.

Last month, the three men’s convictions were overturned by an appeal court which ordered a retrial but kept them in custody.

After his release, Greste, who is currently resting in Cyprus before heading home to Australia, expressed hope that his two colleagues would be released soon.

“This is a massive step forward…. I just hope that Egypt keeps going down this path with the others,” he said in an Al Jazeera interview.

Greste said he felt a “real mix of emotions boiling inside” upon hearing the unexpected news that he was to be released because it meant leaving behind “my brothers” Fahmy and Mohamed.

“I feel incredible angst about my colleagues, leaving them behind,” he said.

“Amidst all this relief, I still feel a sense of concern. If it’s appropriate for me to be free, it’s right for all of them to be freed.”

Al Jazeera has vowed to pursue the campaign to free both Fahmy and producer Mohamed.

But the channel’s head of newsgathering, Heather Allan, admitted she was not confident that Mohamed would be released as he has no second passport.

“I can’t say I am confident, no. I just don’t know, honestly. Are we going to keep on fighting it? Absolutely – we are not going to leave him there,” she said.

Mohamed’s family has pinned their hopes on a presidential pardon or his acquittal on appeal.

Amnesty International said Greste’s release should not divert attention from the continuing imprisonment of Fahmy and Mohamed.

“All three men are facing trumped-up charges and were forced to endure a farcical trial marred by irregularities,” the rights group said.

Ombudsman dismisses bug probe critics

by admin on April 29th, 2019

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NSW Ombudsman Bruce Barbour says he questioned Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn for four days as part of his long-running investigation into a phone-tapping scandal.

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And Mr Barbour has dismissed critics, saying he has not targeted whistleblowers, including police officers who complained about being improperly bugged by rival officers in the force.

Mr Barbour appeared before a NSW parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday to defend Operation Prospect, his two-year probe into claims illegal warrants were used to bug more than 100 police officers in an anti-corruption probe 15 years ago.

The ombudsman’s appearance follows an extraordinary attack from Deputy Commissioner Nick Kaldas, who last week accused Mr Barbour of denigrating and humiliating him during questioning.

Mr Kaldas, who was bugged during Operation Mascot, said Mr Barbour was more interested in how targeted officers acquired leaked information about the warrants than investigating the complaints themselves.

Mr Barbour said Mr Kaldas had failed to appreciate how he was conducting his investigation.

Mr Kaldas had been questioned for one day, he said, while Commissioner Burn was questioned for four days.

“These raw figures are sufficient to indicate the primary focus of the inquiry,” Mr Barbour said.

Ms Burn was the team leader of Operation Mascot, the 2000 police internal affairs surveillance operation at the heart of the complaints.

“To suggest that my inquiry is focused on targeting whistleblowers is quite simply false,” Mr Barbour said.

Mr Barbour told the Upper House committee that he had not asked complainants many questions about the buggings because they would not know how decisions were made to issue warrants.

Ms Burn, who appeared before the inquiry last week, has denied any wrongdoing and said she had suspicions when her team sought a warrant to bug Mr Kaldas’s phone.

Mr Barbour has warned the parliamentary inquiry that the four-day public hearing could make his investigation, which has been conducted in secret, impossible.

The hearing continues.

RBA cuts rates to 2.25 per cent

by admin on April 29th, 2019

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Banks review rates after RBA cut

The Reserve Bank of Australia has cut the cash rate by a quarter of a percentage point to a record low of 2.

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25 per cent, in the first cut since August 2013.

RBA governor Glenn Stevens says the economy is growing at a below trend pace and is likely to remain so for quite a while longer, while unemployment will peak a little higher than previously expected.

“The board judged that, on balance, a further reduction in the cash rate was appropriate,” he said.  

“Financial conditions are very accommodative globally, with long-term borrowing rates for several major sovereigns reaching new all-time lows over recent months”.

“This action is expected to add some further support to demand, so as to foster sustainable growth and inflation outcomes consistent with the target, he said. “

Room for another cut this year: economist

“It seems they have revised their growth forecast down and their unemployment rate peak higher, and they’ve seen room for cutting rates which they’ve done today,” said Senior NAB Economist David De Garis.

 

“So there has been some change over the past three or four months overall, even though the recent data has been okay they think they can afford to cut rates to help to rebalance the economy.

 

“There’ll be room for another cut this year, how soon remains to be seen. We’ve been thinking two (cuts) and it’s hard to steer away from that at this point, ” Mr De Garis said.

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Pressure for an easing has mounted in recent weeks as prices for many of Australia’s commodity exports continued to slide, crimping company profits and national income.

The outlook for inflation had also moderated as petrol prices plunged and wage growth stayed stuck at decade lows. Core inflation is now seen near the floor of the RBA’s 2-3 per cent target band for much of this year.

And a rush by other central banks, and particularly the European Central Bank, to ease their policies meant the RBA needed to follow suit if only to stop its currency from rising and so tighten conditions.

What you’ll save on your mortgage if banks follow RBA

Repayments on a $300,000 mortgage will drop by $45 a month on average if retail banks fully pass on Tuesday’s 25-basis-point cut in the cash rate by the Reserve Bank.

If your mortgage is:

   * $100,000 – $626.09 –  $15.16 cut

   * $150,000 – $939.13 –  $22.74 cut

   * $200,000 – $1252.18 – $30.32 cut

   * $250,000 – $1565.22 – $37.90 cut

   * $300,000 – $1878.27 – $45.48 cut

   * $350,000 – $2191.31 – $53.06 cut

   * $400,000 – $2504.35 – $60.64 cut

   * $450,000 – $2817.40 – $68.22 cut

   * $500,000 – $3130.44 – $75.80 cut

   

This assumes 25-year standard variable rate loan at an average new interest rate of 5.7 per cent.

  

– With AAP, Reuters

Olympic changes won’t affect track and field – Bubka

by admin on April 29th, 2019

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The Ukrainian, who won a pole vault gold medal in the Games, six consecutive world championships and set 35 world records, is taking on Britain’s Sebastian Coe in a race to become the head of the International Association of Athletics Federations.

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Fellow IAAF vice-president Coe, a double 1,500 metres Olympic champion and chief organiser of the London 2012 Games, announced his candidacy late last year. The election is set for August.

Bubka said planned changes to the Olympics, allowing more sports at the expense of some events and disciplines of existing competitions, would not affect athletics.

“We are very proud to be the number one sport of the Olympics and we have a strong position within the movement,” the 51-year-old told Reuters in an interview.

“The IOC looks to make the programme attractive and I am confident athletics will keep its strong position,” said Bubka who is also an International Olympic Committee member.

International federations have been jostling for position since the changes were voted in late last year, with some IOC members also proposing the scrapping of athletics competitions including the triple jump.

“I think we will keep 47 events with 2,000 athletes. We will be in the same position as before but we need to look closely and cooperate,” Bubka said.

However, with a shortage of recognisable personalities, an ageing audience, a continuing struggle to attract interest in the United States and the dark shadow of doping, athletics has its work cut out.

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Much of his presidential manifesto is based on cooperation, with the Ukrainian Olympic Committee president and successful businessman wanting to empower national federations to maximise reach and profit with the help of the IAAF.

“More decentralisation and make continental associations stronger,” he said of his plans. “When we make strong national federations we can be very powerful and very successful.”

Bubka also wants to boost the fight against doping, with athletics once more in the spotlight after recent revelations regarding the use of banned substances by Russian competitors.

The Ukrainian great, who unsuccessfully ran for the IOC presidency in 2013, said an extraordinary meeting of all stakeholders, from athletes to broadcasters, would be needed to review all aspects of the sport and come up “with a road map”.

Bubka said it was positive for the sport that both candidates were former top athletes.

“I think it is good because you have a very good background for athletes. It means you have different kinds of experience and knowledge. This is very helpful to transfer to the success of the leadership of the IAAF,” he explained.

Asked whether other federations, specifically world soccer’s under-fire governing body FIFA, should follow suit, he said: “It is very positive.

“If we look at Olympic history we see more and more former athletes involved in sports administration. I think this is a good direction.”

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

Aamer to return to cricket next week

by admin on April 29th, 2019

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Pakistan paceman Mohammad Aamer is set to return to domestic cricket next month with a Grade-II team in Karachi, an official said on Tuesday, following the relaxation of a fixing ban.

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The 22-year-old left-armer will play for Omar Associates in the Patron’s Trophy Grade-II national tournament – one rung below first-class – that begins March 9.

“We have signed Aamer to play for our team in the Grade-II as we think that everybody deserves a second chance in life and career,” Associates’ chief Nadeem Omar told AFP.

The Anti-Corruption and Security Unit of the International Cricket Council (ICC) last week cleared Aamer to play domestic cricket in Pakistan with immediate effect.

The decision followed last year’s ruling that allowed all banned players to return to first-class cricket a few months before their ban expires.

The ICC banned Aamer along with Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif for five years over a spot-fixing case in England in 2010.

The trio were convicted of taking money in return for bowling deliberate no-balls during the Lord’s Test against England in August that year.

All three players along with their agent Mazhar Majeed were jailed in Britain a year later.

Omar said Aamer has fulfilled all obligations as per the ICC rules.

“We have signed Aamer because he has fulfilled everything which was required of him and the ICC and the Pakistan Cricket Board cleared him,” he said.

“He is a very good talent and can be used as an ambassador of morality in the future.”

The PCB said Aamer would be monitored on and off the field for the next few months before being cleared to play international cricket once his ban expires in September this year.

More rate cuts to come: Hockey

by admin on April 29th, 2019

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RBA cuts rates to 2.

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25 per cent

Treasurer Joe Hockey believes even lower interest rates are on their way.

His prediction the Reserve Bank has room to move follows its decision on Tuesday cut the cash rate by 25 basis points to an all time low of 2.25 per cent.

Homeowners can expect a reduction of around $45 per month on an average $300,000 standard variable mortgage as long as the cut is passed on in full by the banks.

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Mr Hockey described the cut as good news for families, business, the economy and jobs.

“The Reserve Bank does have more room to move,” he told reporters in Canberra.

The government will no doubt be hoping the first rate cut in 18 months will take the spotlight off Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s leadership woes, at least in the short term.

However, RBA Governor Glenn Stevens has warned economic growth will be below trend for “somewhat longer” and the unemployment rate will peak higher than previously expected.

“The board judged that, on balance, a further reduction in the cash rate was appropriate,” he said in a statement.

Mr Stevens, who briefed a federal cabinet meeting on Tuesday for the first time in 10 years, expects inflation will remain consistent with the RBA’s two to three per cent target band over the next one to two years.

The most recent consumer price index is at its lowest pace for several years due to a sharp decline in oil prices and the impact on energy prices from the removal of the carbon tax.

Mr Hockey said the rate cut coincides with the drop in petrol prices which are providing the typical family with a monthly saving of $80 from six months ago.

However, cheap petrol and the talk of an interest rate cut in the run-up to the RBA’s first board meeting of 2015 failed to lift consumer confidence.

The ANZ-Roy Morgan confidence gauge fell by a further 0.7 per cent in the past week.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said leadership speculation and destabilisation in the government is damaging the economy through lower confidence.

That was despite Mr Abbott’s promise of an adrenaline charge for consumer confidence on the election of a coalition government, he said.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry boss Kate Carnell said the RBA’s decision recognised government policy uncertainty was making planning difficult.

West Australian premier Colin Barnett weighed into the federal leadership debate, blaming the treasurer for the government’s instability.

“I don’t think the treasurer’s done a great job and that last budget was flawed,” he said.

As a result, “the leader ends up wearing it”.

Mr Hockey declined to respond to “comments like that”.

UN court rejects Balkans genocide claim

by admin on April 29th, 2019

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The UN’s highest court has rejected rival claims of genocide by former foes Croatia and Serbia in landmark rulings over the bloody Balkans wars of the 1990s.

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International Court of Justice chief judge Peter Tomka dismissed Zagreb’s claim that Serb forces committed genocide during Croatia’s war of independence.

He made a similar ruling in a counter-claim by Belgrade over a Croatian counter-offensive that forced 200,000 Serbs to flee after the last major battle of the 1991-1995 war.

The case had been described by Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic as perhaps one of the “most important events” determining his country’s relations with Croatia.

Zagreb dragged Belgrade before the ICJ in 1999 on genocide charges linked to the war in Croatia during the bloody break-up of the former Yugoslavia.

Serbia was accused of ethnic cleansing as a “form of genocide” in the town of Vukovar and other areas, leading to large numbers of Croats being displaced, killed or tortured and their property destroyed.

About 20,000 people died in the conflict, one of several bloody wars that shook the Balkans in the 1990s.

Vukovar was captured after a three-month-long attack by the Yugoslav army and Serb rebels.

After its fall, about 22,000 non-Serbs were expelled, and about 350 people from the Vukovar region are still reported missing.

Zagreb had wanted the ICJ judges to order Belgrade to pay compensation.

Belgrade responded with a counter-suit in 2010, saying about 200,000 ethnic Serbs were forced to flee when Croatia launched a military operation to retake its territory in 1995.

Following Zagreb’s counter-offensive, called Operation Storm, the proportion of ethnic Serbs in Croatia shrank from 12 per cent to four per cent.

Belgrade was outraged in 2012 when Operation Storm’s Croatian military commander, Ante Gotovina, was acquitted on appeal before the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

“The irony is that Croatia … which with its forceful separatism, triggered an avalanche of the horrid civil war in the former Yugoslavia, is accusing someone else of genocide,” Serbia said in a statement as the case was being heard last year.

The decisions in the current case, which was heard in March last year, were reached by a 17-judge bench.

Both Belgrade and Zagreb had said ahead of the verdict that they would accept the ruling.