Mar 30

Pope leads million-strong Sri Lanka mass

A million worshippers have packed the Colombo seafront to greet Pope Francis as he canonised Sri Lanka’s first saint in the biggest public celebration the city has witnessed.

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Many had waited through the night to see the first pope to visit the island in two decades canonise Joseph Vaz, a 17th century missionary who disguised himself as a beggar to evade persecution.

The pontiff called on the sea of people, many holding umbrellas to shield themselves from the blazing sun, to follow Vaz’s example of religious tolerance as he delivered his homily on Colombo’s imposing Galle Face Green.

Francis, whose visit has focused on post-war reconciliation, said the missionary had shown “the importance of transcending religious divisions in the service of peace”, ministering to those in need regardless of their creed.

“I pray that… the Christians of this country may be confirmed in faith and make an ever greater contribution to peace, justice and reconciliation in Sri Lankan society,” he said.

“This is what Christ asks of you. This is what Saint Joseph teaches you. This is what the Church needs of you.”

Wednesday’s mass on the shores of the Indian Ocean was a colourful mix of the country’s diverse cultures, with hymns sung in both the Sinhala and Tamil languages as well as traditional dancers and drummers from around the island.

Crowds leaned in to touch Francis as he arrived in a customised open-topped car, before kissing the altar to mark the start of the service.

As a choir sang welcoming hymns, the pontiff greeted people in wheelchairs who had been pushed forward to the front of the vast crowd to receive his blessing.

Many held up mobile phones to film the 78-year-old, who smiled but appeared tired as he made his way to the specially-constructed stage.

On Tuesday Francis cancelled a meeting with Sri Lankan bishops saying he was “exhausted” after his overnight flight from Rome and long journey from the airport exposed to the hot sun.

Police estimate a million people attended the mass, making it the city’s biggest ever public celebration.

Sri Lanka’s Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith said the pontiff had brought “great joy” to the island as it struggled to recover from a long civil war that killed 100,000 people.

He asked Pope Francis to help Sri Lankans find “the strength to ask pardon from each other for the senseless violence unleashed then”.

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Mar 30

Carnage in Auckland continues

It’s been a tennis tournament of carnage in Auckland, with barely a name player left in the Heineken Open after three days.

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Illness, injury, bad luck and rusty play means only two seeds are left, and even the brief Kiwi singles success ended quickly on Wednesday.

The latest to go was the top remaining seed, second seed Ernests Gulbis of Latvia, who put in a rusty, error-ridden performance to go down 6-2 3-6 6-1 to Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely.

Tommy Robredo, David Ferrer, John Isner and Gael Monfils earlier pulled out before they hit a ball, while third seed Roberto Bautista Agut withdrew in his second round match with illness.

The tournament has also lost the top doubles pairing in the world, the Bryan brothers, after a controversial line call on Tuesday.

Gulbis’ preparation had been affected by illness, which prevented him playing in Doha last week.

It meant his play of having two tournaments prior to the Australian Open was foiled and he only had two days of practice with full health prior to Wednesday’s match.

“I’m really sorry I lost today because I’m sure second or third round would be better. But I didn’t serve well and I don’t feel my forehand yet,” Gulbis said.

“Honestly I don’t think he did much to win if you see all the breaks. I made all the mistakes.”

Vesely, 21, who said the win was the best of his career, now plays Donald Young of the United States in the quarter-finals.

Even the feelgood factor produced by New Zealander Michael Venus’ first round singles win on Tuesday didn’t last long when Venus was beaten 7-5 6-4 by Lucas Pouille of France.

But the big serve and forehand which served him well against Gonzalez wasn’t enough against 20-year-old Pouille, who retrieved well and who also served to a high level.

“He’s a younger guy that’s up and coming, he’s consistently moved up through the rankings and I’m sure he’ll keep moving up, he’s a good player,” Venus said.

The only seeds confirmed in the last eight are Kevin Anderson of South Africa and Steve Johnson of the United States, who take on each other in the quarter-finals.

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Mar 30

Green Falcons take flight with big win over North Korea

Mohammed Al-Sahlawi scored a brace of second-half goals after Naif Hazazi netted before the break, and Nawaf Al-Abid completed the scoring in the 77th minute after swooping on his own botched penalty kick to fire home his side’s fourth.

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Ryang Yong Gi ended North Korea’s 23-year goal drought at the tournament with a 11th minute strike at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium but his team crumbled after halftime as the Saudi forwards attacked in waves.

With both teams desperate after having lost Group B openers, the match was played at a frenetic pace on a windy, overcast day, with North Korea midfielder Jong Il Gwan receiving a yellow card after 15 seconds for a heavy challenge on Omar Howsawi.

Ryang made the most of his chance early, swooping into the area to hammer his shot into the net after keeper Waleed Abdullah could only parry forwards a searing long-range effort from striker Pak Kwak Ryong.

Saudi Arabia drifted until the 37th minute, when a midfield interception and a chain of slick passes ended with Hazazi firing the ball low through North Korea keeper Ri Myong Guk’s legs, sparking the Green Falcons into life after they were listless for most of the half.

Al-Sahlawi scored his brace in a three-minute burst, latching on to a cut-back pass from Abdulla Aldossary in the 52nd minute and capitalising on a farcical defensive error moments later.

Jang Kuk Chol put a clearing kick straight into the forward’s chest and he duly thumped the ball into an unguarded goal.

Al-Sahlawi missed out on a hat-trick 17 minutes later when he slid the ball left of the post when clean through on goal, but Salem Aldawsari set up the fourth with fine work in the area.

After dribbling into the box, the midfielder’s chipped shot hit the crossbar and the rebound struck Ri Yong Jik’s raised arm on the goal-line.

Ri was red-carded and although Al-Abid missed the spot kick, he pounced on the rebound to seal the contest for the ecstatic Saudis.

(Editing by John O’Brien)

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Mar 30

Qld police diverted due to terror: Stewart

Queensland police commissioner Ian Stewart admits raising the national terrorism threat level has drawn police away from more traditional routine duties.

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When Australia’s alert level was elevated from “medium” to “high” four months ago, Mr Stewart asked all sworn officers to wear their service firearm whenever they were in public.

Mr Stewart also continues to carry his own firearm despite the fact that the commissioner traditionally does not.

“It’s very important that our people have the right tools to do their job and their firearm and accoutrements are part of those tools that they need on a daily basis,” he told AAP on Wednesday.

At the beginning of January, it emerged Queensland police had performed nearly 30 per cent fewer random breath tests (RBT) in the 2014 Christmas road safety campaign than in the previous year.

Senior police officers said resources had been prioritised into having a high visibility at major public events.

Mr Stewart agreed the raising of the national alert level has drawn officers away from other places.

“The logical answer to that is yes,” he said.

“Because our first priority is to keep the community safe. Safe and secure.”

But he said the overall number of RBTs undertaken during the calendar year of 2014 was higher than 2013 despite the drop-off over certain periods.

“A lot of that would be around the prioritising of our people to … mass gatherings,” he said.

“We are definitely providing more frontline police to those places and I would hope that the community would support us in that regard.”

Mr Stewart urged the public not to stigmatise particular cultures or religions after December’s Martin Place siege in Sydney and the more recent terror attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

“What I’m trying to point out is that there are crims amongst us from every background, from every culture,” he said.

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Mar 01

Gloves off as goalie Adrian strikes West Ham’s winner

The Spanish keeper had the fate of the third round replay in his hands before scoring against compatriot Joel Robles to give West Ham a 9-8 penalty shootout victory after a superb end-to-end thriller ended 2-2 after extra time on Tuesday.

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Robles had failed to beat Adrian when he struck the bar with the preceding penalty, leaving the scores level at 8-8 before the West Ham keeper slotted home the 20th penalty of the night.

The Spaniard was so confident he was going to score, he took his gloves off as he prepared for his kick.

“I didn’t have any nerves,” he told reporters. “I thought ‘I’ll take off my gloves, this game is over’ and I struck the ball.

“It was an unbelievable game and I feel really happy. Joel made some unbelievable saves for Everton but we played well and deserved it in the end.

“I took my gloves off so quickly as I worried that the referee might blow his whistle and book me for time-wasting.

“I have celebrated my saves before, but never scoring a goal. It was my first goal in my career and it’s an amazing day.”

West Ham next play at League One (third tier) Bristol City in the fourth round after coming through what could be one of the last FA Cup matches played at the Boleyn Ground ahead of their move to the Olympic Stadium at the end of next season.

In an exhilarating match worthy of any swan song, West Ham went ahead when Enner Valencia beat Robles with an angled shot after 51 minutes.

Everton then had Aiden McGeady sent off for a second yellow card four minutes later but the 10 men equalised when Kevin Mirallas struck with a stunning free-kick after 82 minutes.

Romelu Lukaku put Everton 2-1 ahead in the seventh minute of extra time, before substitute Carlton Cole equalised with his first touch in the 113th minute.

The momentum then swung in West Ham’s favour in the shootout when Steven Naismith missed Everton’s second penalty but with the scores at 4-4, Robles saved Stewart Downing’s potential match-winning spot kick.

The next four penalties were converted before Robles cracked his effort against the bar, allowing Adrian to throw down his gauntlets and win it for West Ham.

(Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by John O’Brien)

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Mar 01

Fatal car pursuit passenger bail refused

A woman who was allegedly involved in a police pursuit that killed a 17-month-old girl in Sydney has been refused bail on other offences.

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Katie Tuite told her supporters “love youse (sic) all” at the end of her failed bid for release at Central Local Court on Wednesday.

Police say the 22-year-old was a passenger in a stolen Audi when officers began pursuing it through Constitution Hill in Sydney’s west on January 8.

During the chase, it’s alleged the driver Christopher Chandler, also 22, ploughed through a fence in the suburb where toddler Tatalena Tauaifaga was playing.

It’s unclear at this stage which car hit Tatalena but she died at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

Tuite was later arrested at Darlinghurst, in the inner city, for possessing and supplying prohibited drugs.

She has not been charged in relation to the pursuit.

During her bail application the court heard Tuite had a number of arrest warrants against her at the time of the pursuit after she allegedly failed to turn up to court in December to face a robbery charge.

She also faces several other offences, including affray.

“Despite having the weight of all those matters on her record, the defendant still continued to make choices to associate with undesirable people,” prosecutor Stewart Thompson said in opposing bail.

Tuite’s lawyer Steven Rees said she could post $900 surety and would remain under house arrest if released but Magistrate Les Mabbutt refused.

Tuite posed an unacceptable risk of failing to attend court and of committing further offences, he said.

She will return to court on January 29.

The police search for Chandler continues.

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Mar 01

Jordan striker Hayel mistreated in drug test – JFA

Hayel arrived back at the team hotel “suffering from semi‐coma, general weakness, and hypothermia”, the Jordanian Football Association (JFA) said in a statement, adding they had filed a complaint to the Asian Football Confederation.

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The 30-year-old “tired” player vomited in the doping room, which was too cold, and failed to complete the test after playing the full 90 minutes in the Iraq loss, the JFA said.

Citing evidence from their medical officer who accompanied Hayel, the JFA added the player and was only given water to drink, “without salts or electrolytes” in the four hours he spent waiting to give a sample.

“He was in a semi‐coma status suffering low blood pressure, and at the end the player was sent to the hotel by a car and not with an ambulance and carried to a wheelchair while he was unconscious,” the JFA said.

The AFC defended the anti-doping procedure and said the player should not have consumed so much water.

“The AFC Medical Officer always recommends players selected for doping control to drink water as per normal practise, especially for the player who has played for 90 minutes,” said doctor Paisal Chantarapitak who attempted to conduct the test.

“It is at the player’s discretion to follow the recommendation or not. The player is not forced to drink plenty of water in short time.”

The AFC added that the doctor decided to cancel the test after Hayel experienced “some dizziness, felt nausea and vomited after his second attempt, which was an hour after his first”.

Earlier, a JFA spokesman said Hayel had been ruled out of Friday’s Group D match against Palestine in Melbourne after the “cancelled” doping test but the player could yet feature.

“Due to the previously mentioned conditions that resulted in Hayel’s bad health condition and the lack of medical care at the doping room, the player might be unable to play Jordan’s next match against Palestine,” the body said.

Experienced striker Hayel has represented his country more than 60 times and plays his club football in Kuwait with Al Arabi.

FIFA presidential candidate Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, the head of the JFA, wished Hayel a speedy recovery, the body said.

(Writing by Patrick Johnston; Editing by John O’Brien)

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Mar 01

Ex-bikie Mitchell’s Vic bail bid denied

A man who says he was being harassed by former Bandidos enforcer Toby Mitchell took his two-month-old daughter to a meeting with the ex-bikie for protection, a Melbourne court has heard.

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After punching and threatening to shoot the man – who cannot be named – Mitchell said he’d shoot the baby, too, prosecutors allege.

Mitchell faced court on Wednesday seeking bail for a string of charges, including making threats to kill, laid over an alleged confrontation in a South Melbourne cafe on Saturday.

Magistrate Franz Holzer denied bail, saying the nature of the alleged offending was of concern.

Detective Acting Sergeant Chris O’Brien said Mitchell punched the man in the face and said: “I’ll shoot you ya c*** if you don’t give me the money.”

And: “Take the kid away or I’ll shoot it as well.”

The threat was delivered as Mitchell pushed a gun into the man’s stomach during a meeting over $300,000 Mitchell had allegedly demanded from the man, Acting Sergeant O’Brien said.

He said the man had taken his daughter because he thought her presence would provide him some protection.

“He didn’t think he would be in any immediate physical harm if he had his child with him,” Acting Sergeant O’Brien told the Melbourne Magistrates Court.

Prosecutors opposed Mitchell’s bail application, saying he posed an unacceptable risk to the public, and he or his associates could interfere with potential witnesses.

Prosecutor Jelena Malobabic said a Mitchell associate had already visited the cafe and had asked them to clean up any blood.

Acting Sergeant O’Brien, from Victoria Police’s anti-bikie Echo taskforce, also said a Mitchell associate had approached a friend of the victim while she was walking his dog.

“All of the witnesses and victim have expressed their fear,” he told the court.

“‘Petrified’ was the word that was used.”

Defence barrister Chris Dane argued both the allegation Mitchell had demanded money, or that he had a gun, relied entirely on the word of the victim.

Mr Dane told the court the victim had a prior conviction for making a false report to police.

Mr Dane said Mitchell, who quit the Bandidos in 2013, has only one kidney which was operating at 30 per cent, and required complex daily medical treatment to avoid dialysis.

He said the matter was unlikely to be resolved before the end of next year.

“When you marry the delay to his medical condition, we say he will be adversely affected by such a long time in custody,” Mr Dane said.

Mr Dane said the alleged victim had misrepresented his relationship with Mitchell, and he was “in fact infatuated to the point of stalking Mr Mitchell”.

Mitchell was remanded to return to court in May.

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Mar 01

Milk price falls no threat to Aust farmers

Australia’s peak dairy bodies insist the local industry is not under threat from a crash in global milk prices.

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The halving of milk prices in the past 12 months has left Britain’s dairy industry in crisis, with many farmers facing the prospect of not being paid by a major co-operative.

But Dairy Australia says the local industry is strong enough to weather the price falls, largely thanks to demand from export customers.

The global dairy market has been disrupted by several factors, including Russia’s partial import ban on food from various western nations – Australia among them – in retaliation for sanctions against Moscow over its policy in Ukraine.

Also, Chinese demand has been subdued while production has risen in Europe, New Zealand, the US and Australia.

But Dairy Australia analyst John Droppert says it’s unlikely local farmers will find themselves facing a similar crisis to their British counterparts.

“We’re quite an export-oriented industry to begin with, so Australian companies have dealt with these market movements for quite some time,” he told AAP.

“Although the crash we’ve seen in the past few months has been fairly dramatic, our pricing system (payments to farmers) is a bit more attuned to that.”

Mr Droppert said demand for Australian dairy products overseas was strong, with buyers willing to pay a premium.

China and other southeast Asian customers were also keen to source products outside of New Zealand, the world’s top milk exporter, so they weren’t so reliant on one supplier.

“We’ve got quite a number of companies in Australia that are desperate for more milk, and in fact even when the market’s down at the moment, they’re keen to build their supplier base and goodwill,” Mr Droppert said.

“The upshot of that is if a company doesn’t pay its farmers on time or they change the rules half way through the season, farmers can pick up the phone and tomorrow they can have a milk tanker come from a different company and pick up their milk.”

Australia’s largest dairy foods company, Devondale Murray Goulburn, said the local industry was structured differently to the UK, which was more domestic-focused, with a narrower product range.

The president of United Dairyfarmers of Victoria, Tyran Jones, said Australian dairy processors exporting overseas had absorbed the drop in global prices.

The major concern for them now was how far the prices offered by milk processors might fall when new season pricing is implemented in July 2015.

For the 2014/15 season, dairy farmers have been receiving a base price of around $6/kg of milk solids.

“At this stage, the prospect on July 1 will be a significant price drop from where we are at the moment,” Mr Jones said.

“There are still hopes that the market will turn around and, with the Australian dollar dropping, that will put us in a better position, and we may well finish the 2015/16 year at the same place we are now.”

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Jan 28

Qld murderer mocks judge during sentencing

A Queensland prisoner mocked a judge and swore at a prosecutor as he was sentenced to life for bashing an inmate to death with a chin-up bar.

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Gregory George Glebow, 39, treated Supreme Court judge David Boddice with contempt as he was given a 30-year non-parole punishment for murdering Leonard Gordon on October 9, 2012.

Justice Boddice said Glebow showed no remorse for hitting the 22-year-old inmate in the head in the exercise yard of Maryborough Correctional Centre.

Gordon, who had been jailed for a non-violent crime, had only two days before he was due for release.

The judge described the killing of a slightly built, unarmed victim with a metal pole as a “cold, calculated act of callousness”.

From the dock, Glebow shouted: “He wasn’t a 10-year-old boy who got raped and murdered.”

Justice Boddice said Glebow had no prospects for rehabilitation, to which he replied: “That’s exactly right, your honour.”

Crown prosecutor Ben Power told the court Glebow had offered no motive for the murder, which was captured on CCTV.

He also cited victim impact statements from Gordon’s younger sister, who was 11 when her brother died, and his mother, who had battled mental health problems.

This prompted Glebow to shout expletives at Mr Power.

“If I had to, I’d do it again, you f***ing grub,” he said.

Glebow also invoked God as he accused the prosecution of making up a story for the media despite having pleaded guilty.

“I gladly plead guilty,” he said ahead of his sentence.

“There’s only one thing I’d like to say: next time, your honour, can you take off that silly wig off your head.”

Glebow was already serving a life sentence for bashing to death a man in Brisbane in March 2000, who members of Glebow’s drunken social group targeted because they thought he was gay.

Michael Christopher Greer, a 26-year-old father with a young daughter, died nine months after he was bashed and kicked in the attack.

In 2007, Glebow was given a nine-year sentence for assaulting another inmate.

In sentencing Glebow for the 2012 prison murder, Justice Boddice took into account his guilty plea.

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