Jihadists claim rocket attack on Israel

A group of jihadist fighters say they have fired a Grad rocket on the Israeli Red Sea town of Eilat in retaliation for an alleged Israeli air raid.

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The Mujahideen Shura Council said in a statement published on a jihadist forum its fighters fired the rocket at 1am (0900 AEST) on Tuesday.

The statement did not say whether the rocket attack caused any damage or injuries.

The rocket, fired from the Sinai, was “a quick response to the last crime by the Jews after one of their drones bombed the Sinai peninsula killing four mujahideen” on Friday.

Another jihadist group, Egypt’s Ansar Beit al-Maqdis which has claimed allegiance to al-Qaeda and repeated attacks on Israeli targets, has blamed the Jewish state for the Friday strike.

The group accused the Egyptian army of co-ordinating the attack with Israel, and threatened more strikes against the Jewish state.

“How can the Egyptian army allow the Zionist unmanned planes to cross into Egyptian territory,” the statement asked.

Egypt’s military has denied the claim.

“There is no truth whatsoever to any Israeli strikes inside Egyptian territory and the claim that there is Egyptian and Israeli co-ordination on the matter is utterly baseless,” military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Aly said in a statement on Friday.

Officials told AFP the strike came from the Egyptian military, as part of their campaign to curtail a surge in violence and rein in militant activity in the lawless Sinai.

The state owned Al-Ahram newspaper and the official news agency MENA reported on Saturday that Egyptian military aircraft conducted the strike, quoting anonymous security officials.

Witnesses said Egyptian military helicopters hovered above the site after the blasts.

McCullough granted compassionate leave

The death of a friend ensured Andrew McCullough was a training no show on Tuesday but the Broncos hooker is expected to run out for Sunday’s crunch NRL clash against St George Illawarra.

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Alarm bells were ringing when McCullough was not sighted at Brisbane’s afternoon session along with the club’s resting Origin contingent of skipper Sam Thaiday, Justin Hodges, Matt Gillett and Corey Parker.

However, a Broncos official revealed McCullough had been granted compassionate leave after learning upon completing the morning training session that a friend had died from an illness.

But the Broncos official remained hopeful that McCullough would play after being named as starting rake for their first afternoon home game in more than 12 months.

Along with Brisbane’s Origin contingent, ex-Test prop Ben Hannant was named in the starting side after overcoming a long running calf complaint.

Last round’s frustrating 18-all draw in Newcastle marked only Hannant’s second game in 12 weeks.

He earns a rare starting front-row berth alongside the in-form Josh McGuire after Mitchell Dodds succumbed to a knee injury.

Broncos coach Anthony Griffin brought ex-Sydney Rooster Lama Tasi into the 17 and named three more forwards on an extended bench – Scott Anderson, Jarrod Wallace and Nick Slyney.

The 12th-placed Brisbane must win their final five games to have any hope of remaining in the top eight mix.

Broncos utility David Stagg said that was enough to give his side a glimmer of hope ahead of the Dragons clash.

“We are still in a position where we are a chance,” he said.

“We will just keep putting our best foot forward and start by getting the result we need this weekend.”

Still, speculation swirling around Brisbane has focussed on next season after Bulldogs superstar Ben Barba and Canberra rising star Anthony Milford were linked to the club.

It would be a welcome selection headache for Griffin who would need to find another backline option for his in-form fullback Josh Hoffman if the two star No.1s lobbed next year.

But Stagg would not speculate on their arrival no matter how exciting the prospect.

“You know more than I do obviously,” Stagg said.

“There is plenty of speculation at the moment but that is something for 2014 – we still have 2013 to finish off.

“There is still a lot for us to achieve before we start worrying about that.”

Former Queensland utility Stagg was not so coy on his own future, saying he was keen to run around again in 2014.

“I have not had much luck with injuries over the years but I tell myself it has prolonged my career,” said Stagg, who has played 195 NRL games since his 2003 debut.

New radio schedule reflects changing Australia

The new schedule for the SBS Radio network will officially start on April 29.

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It was announced late last year, after a review that showed there was a need for SBS Radio to introduce new language programs to reflect changing demographics in Australia.

 

The last time SBS embarked on such a review was in 1994, and SBS says the changes in programming are required so that the broadcaster can better fulfill its Charter which requires SBS to broadcast programs that reflect Australia’s multicultural society.

 

The new schedule also includes expanded programming for some communities with growing numbers of migrants, particularly from parts of Asia and Africa.

 

Peggy Giakoumelos reports.

 

 

SBS has expanded the total number of languages it offers to listeners from 68 to 74, and it continues to be the most multilingual broadcaster in the world.

 

There are three new African languages with growing migrant and refugee communities – Dinka, Swahili and Tigrinya.

 

The other three are the Asian languages Malayalam, Hmong and Pashto.

 

Pashto is the native language of the Pashtun people and is spoken in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and India.

 

Malayalam is principally spoken in the south Indian state of Kerala, while Hmong is spoken in China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.

 

SBS Audio and Language Content Director Mandi Wicks says a lot has happened since the announcement was made late last year.

 

“Since we announced the new radio schedule at the end of November a huge amount of work has gone into communicating to the community groups and to our audiences that we will be changing on the 29th of April. We’ve had many, many meetings and a lot of correspondence with our listeners and that’s really our primary focus now is to ensure that all our listeners understand the changes we’re making, when their program times will be and to ensure that we will be able to transition them across to those new times.”

 

The new SBS Radio Schedule was developed using language selection criteria supported by the 2011 Census relating to second languages spoken in the home.

 

The data shows the Mandarin and Cantonese-speaking communities have grown, which has resulted in an increase in their combined broadcasting time from 16 to 28 hours per week under the new schedule.

 

The Hindi program has also increased its broadcasting time from three to seven hours and the Punjabi program will broadcast its program five times per week, compared with once a week under the current schedule.

 

Larger languages with more broadcast hours had to have at least 20 thousand people who identified in the Census as speaking a second language.

 

The communities with the largest populations – Cantonese and Mandarin, Arabic, Vietnamese, Greek and Italian – will all broadcast 14 hours of programming every week.

 

These larger programs will now broadcast one two-hour program every day, rather than two one-hour programs in the morning and the evening.

 

They will also have a fixed timeslot every day, making it easier for listeners to remember when to tune in.

 

All languages on the new schedule have to have at least one-thousand speakers, and 21 programs will be shifting from analogue to a digital-only format.

 

Mandi Wicks says while the changes have occurred without having to shut down any existing programs, the process has still been difficult for programs which have seen their hours reduced because of changing demographics.

 

“We have spent many hours talking with community groups to explain the process and the outcome that we have reached with the new radio schedule. Hundreds of hours have been spent speaking to community groups and responding to community inquiries about the changes in hours. It has been a really difficult process but at the end of the day this is a process that hasn’t been done in 20 years. So we feel that it is very much the right thing to be doing so that we can be absolutely sure that SBS Radio reflects today’s Australia.”

 

In determining the make-up of the new schedule, SBS also looked at a number of other factors, including the level of English language proficiency in a particular language group, the level of unemployment and the proportion of recent arrivals.

 

It also factored in the number of refugees and the level of vilification faced by a particular community within Australia, based upon complaints received by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

 

The changes have been welcomed by the nation’s largest migrant community group – the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia.

 

FECCA chairman Pino Migliorino explains.

 

“I think the reality is, is that it’s been a long, long time since the last rescheduling so there was a sense that organisations and communities have actually gotten used to the amount of airtime that they have. It’s a really precious commodity. I think it stands SBS in great stead that there’s such concern about losing any hours because of such an important part of community life. So as I’ve said on other occasions in terms of FECCA’s position, we’ve certainly not taken a position on which languages should or should not be in, but more in terms of the methodology that we believe needs to reflect the population shifts and changes and I think SBS has adopted a very strong methodology as well as indicating that it will review on a regular basis, so we don’t get these longer term anomalies developing into the future.”

 

Some of the communities that will be broadcasting on SBS Radio for the first time say they believe the move will benefit many newly-arrived migrants and refugees as they settle into Australia.

 

Originally from South Sudan, translator David Chiengkou speaks Dinka, one of the six new languages added to the new radio schedule.

 

He believes the new program is an important turning point for the Dinka-speaking community.

 

“They have always been looking for something that will engage them in terms of issues happening in Australia, in terms of news, in terms of anything to update them. So the introduction will be a milestone because it will just validate that society needs them, not just seeing them maybe as refugees, even if some of them are mostly Australian citizens. It was something that was the right decision.”

 

You can find more information about the new schedule at sbs.com.au/radio.

 

From April 29, World News Australia on SBS Radio will be broadcast at 6am and 6pm on weekdays.

 

 

 

Aust tops junior track champs medal tally

Australia’s cycling future looks bright after topping the medal tally with six gold at the junior track world championships in Glasgow.

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Joshua Harrison and Sam Welsford were unlucky to be forced to settle for a bronze medal in a crash-filled men’s madison on the final night of competition to bring Australia’s total medal tally to 12 – including one silver and five bronze.

Germany finished second with four gold, ahead of Great Britain’s three and France with two.

Welsford suffered a heavy fall moments after claiming the second intermediate sprint, forcing Harrison to carry the load while he was checked by doctors.

Despite his gallant return, Denmark and New Zealand took advantage to finish first and second respectively.

The news was just as bad for South Australian Pat Constable, who was taken to hospital with a broken collarbone after clipping the wheel of his opponent in the second heat of his men’s sprint semi-final.

Constable had looked well in contention for a spot in the gold medal final but had to take fourth.

Team manager Rik Fulcher said he was very happy with the performance of his relatively young and inexperienced group.

“It was unfortunate to end on that note, but that wasn’t really any fault of performances,” Fulcher said.

“(The falls) could have cost us two gold medals with Pat (Constable) well on his way (in the sprint), and the boys in the Madison were dominating and were far and away the most aggressive.

“But that’s racing. These things happen and overall we are very happy.”

Australia won its first three gold medals on the opening day of competition with victory in the under-19 men’s team pursuit, under-19 women’s team sprint and under-19 men’s team sprint.

Zac Shaw also claimed gold in the men’s individual pursuit, alongside Lauren Perry in the women’s 3000m individual pursuit and Jack Edwards in the omnium.

Nelson to host first ODI on West Indies tour

The city at the top of New Zealand’s South Island was one of seven venues chosen to host pool matches for cricket’s global showcase, which will be co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia.

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Nelson had never hosted a men’s international match before it was included in the tournament schedule and the West Indies tour will give the city the opportunity to test the venue at Saxton Oval.

“To bring international cricket to our region has been a goal for many years and achieving this is a moment of real pride for all those involved in developing cricket and the facilities in the region,” Nelson Cricket Association general manager Ed Shuttleworth said in a statement.

“The legacy of international cricket will be significant with participation increasing and kids being inspired by seeing the Black Caps in their home town.”

West Indies will play three tests, five one-day internationals and two Twenty20 internationals on the tour, which runs from December 3 – January 15, 2014, across the majority of New Zealand’s summer holiday period.

The timing of the tour had prompted New Zealand Cricket to schedule three of the ODIs in holiday ‘hot spots’ in Napier (December 29), Queenstown (January 1) and Nelson (January 4).

“It will be fantastic to see the Black Caps playing in these hot spots and we’re hopeful the holiday crowds will be out in force to support their national side,” NZC chief executive David White said.

All three test matches will be played back-to-back in the three boutique venues at University Oval in Dunedin, the Basin Reserve in Wellington and Seddon Park in Hamilton.

Tour itinerary:

December 3-7 1st test, Dunedin

December 11-15 2nd test, Wellington

December 19-23 3rd test, Hamilton

December 26 1st ODI, Auckland

December 29 2nd ODI, Napier

January 1 3rd ODI, Queenstown

January 4 4th ODI, Nelson

January 8 5th ODI, Hamilton

January 11 1st Twenty20, Auckland

January 15 2nd Twenty20, Wellington

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Stick with Mogg, Latham tells Wallabies

Former Wallabies fullback Chris Latham believes coach Ewen McKenzie will be well rewarded by keeping the faith in under-fire novice Jesse Mogg for Saturday night’s return Bledisloe Cup battle.

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As exciting as the prospect of Israel Folau being shifted to No.15 is, Latham says big-kicking, long-striding Mogg has the ability to develop into a long-term Test fullback, and expects him to show his true colours against the All Blacks in Wellington.

The Brumbies custodian endured a forgettable run-on Test debut in last weekend’s 47-29 loss in Sydney, highlighted by a poor missed tackle for a second-half try to Conrad Smith.

There’s been fervent calls for McKenzie to move Folau from the right wing to the fullback position for more attacking opportunities after barely touching the ball in his Bledisloe debut.

But the Wallabies coach has indicated he’ll keep his backline intact, and make just one change to his starting 15, with Brumbies lock Scott Fardy set to replace injured Hugh McMeniman (shoulder) at blindside flanker when he names his team on Thursday.

On flying into Wellington on Wednesday McKenzie backed his incumbents – also including rookie five-eighth Matt Toomua – to stand up and deliver at Westpac Stadium.

“They are all up to it,” he said. “We picked (Toomua) in the first place.

“I don’t really pick people or get rid of people on one game.”

That would be applauded by Latham, an attacking marvel of 78 Tests over a decade, who took a long time to settle in the No.15 jersey after a rocky five-year apprenticeship.

“I rate Jesse Mogg quite highly,” Latham said on Wednesday. “He’s got a lot of potential there.

“You need the backing and the confidence of the coach (to perform).

“His first Test, if anything, he was just probably guilty of trying too hard.

“In that position of fullback, and I’ve been there myself, if you make mistakes they are generally exposed and seen a lot more.

“I think it would be a bit harsh to not pick him this week.”

While Latham dismissed the option of switching James O’Connor from the left wing, he did admit Folau’s X-factor provided a luring alternative at the back.

But he also felt there was an element of risk in handing the code-hopper the No.15 jersey as he’s yet to still mastering the defensive and positional aspects of the position.

The All Blacks, even with a fourth-choice flyhalf, are experts at exposing minor weaknesses and there’s concerns Folau could be “found out” due to his lack of experience.

“It’s a tough choice,” said Latham, a member of the last Australian team to beat the All Blacks on NZ soil, way back in 2002 in Dunedin. “You’d be a silly man to question his ability to catch a high ball and kick.

“My hat goes off to him with his talent and what he’s shown thus far with the limited experience he has.”

Likely Wallabies starting team: Jesse Mogg, Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Christian Lealiifano, James O’Connor, Matt Toomua, Will Genia; Ben Mowen, Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy, James Horwill (capt), Rob Simmons, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, James Slipper.

RICARDO’S BUSINESS || A$ back above parity for how long?

After slumping around US10c in the space of a month, it just goes to show how sentiment driven our markets really are at the moment.

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The surge overnight comes on renewed hope that a solution to the European debt crisis will be found.

The leaders of France and Germany are expected to reveal details of that plan sometime next month.

But it’s interesting to see, that the Australian dollar’s relative weakness in recent weeks have actually benefited retailers.

NAB’s Business Survey released today showed a rebound in business sentiment, back into positive territory.

There’s two main reasons for this; firstly the fall in the Australian dollar over the month. But some experts say, given the rebound in our currency, it makes this survey obsolete. Furthermore, ANZ is forecasting the Australian dollar will average US$1.10 over the last six months of next year.

The second player in business confidence is fresh speculation of an interest rate cut. Last week, the Reserve Bank revealed that it may cut the official cash rate if it needed to stimulate the economy. The market has clearly taken that to mean interest rates will come down soon.

CommSec today noted that a rate cut on Melbourne Cup day may be on the table, if inflation numbers released on October 26th shows that consumer prices are moderating.

ANZ meanwhile, has two interest rate cuts priced in over the next six months.

But let’s not forget the man who went out on a limb when most other commentators and economists were not even considering the possibility of loosening monetary policy.

Bill Evans from Westpac predicted back on July 15, following Westpac’s Consumer Sentiment Survey that there’d be 100bps worth of cuts coming our way, starting with the first in December.

Times have changed.

Exciting backline adds new dimension to Springbok challenge

Exhibitions of flair-filled, free-flowing rugby in three June tests have encouraged hopes that South Africa have a strong chance of success in the four-nation competition, starting with the weekend’s opening test at home to Argentina in Johannesburg.

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The six tests between now and the beginning of October are also about continuing to build for the Rugby World Cup in 2015 as coach Heyneke Meyer looks to find a settled side he can polish up over the next 24 months.

Backs Bjorn Basson, JJ Engelbrecht, Willie le Roux and Jan Serfontein have been the subject of much excitement and have also come in for hefty praise from Meyer after the impact they had in wins over Italy, Scotland and Samoa two months ago.

They are likely to lead a more flamboyant attacking style as Meyer this week challenged them to “take a step up and show they can do it against the best teams in the world”.

“We have very exciting backs at the moment and when we created scoring opportunities (in June) we finished them,” he told reporters in the build-up to the first international at Soccer City on Saturday.

Le Roux was one of the revelations of Super Rugby with the Cheetahs, where his unpredictable play catapulted him into the national team set up.

Engelbrecht and Serfontein are explosive midfielders while speedy winger Basson has shown a clean pair of heels to many opposing defences.

DOMINANT PACK

Any platform for expansive midfield play will come from a dominant pack with the Springboks showing a marked improvement after the disappointment of last year’s Rugby Championship, where they won only two of six matches and were comprehensively beaten at home by New Zealand in their final test.

Meyer says the set piece is a source of pride now with lineouts and scrumaging much improved. Extra work on the new scrum laws formed a large part of this week’s preparations, with a powerful pack still central to the game plan.

“We are a much more settled side and a much better side this year,” he insisted.

Areas of concern, however, remain, as evidenced by the recall of Japan-based scrum half Fourie du Preez, a 62-cap veteran who last played for the Springboks at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

South Africa is also grappling with the exodus of key players to club rugby in England, France and Japan and the potential implications on player availability over the next two years.

A third of the 30-man squad now turn out for overseas clubs, a source of major concern for the South Africa Rugby Union who are to look at ways of curbing the exodus even though stalwarts like Bryan Habana and Morne Steyn are part of the 2015 plans.

“Players playing locally will always get first consideration,” SARU chief executive officer Jurie Roux told reporters last week. “Provided that the selectors have faith in their abilities.

“However we are in a unique situation with six players who were part of the Bok squad last year now deciding to go overseas.

“You can’t just replace so many players in the middle of the season.”

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

European stocks push higher

Europe’s main stock markets have mostly risen as traders responded to positive economic data and the latter stages of the current earnings season.

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London’s FTSE 100 index of leading shares dipped 0.02 per cent to 6,618.46 points approaching midday on Tuesday, as heavyweight miners retreated in value, offsetting news of a strong rebound for British manufacturing.

Frankfurt’s DAX 30 advanced 0.30 per cent to 8,423.63 points after official data showed that German industrial orders had risen by 3.8 per cent in June.

The CAC 40 in Paris climbed 0.17 per cent to 4,056.86 points.

“After a decent run up in recent weeks, blue-chip mining stocks have cooled as lower metals prices take the steam out of the rally,” said Matt Basi, head of UK sales trading at CMC Markets.

The euro climbed to $US1.3278 from $US1.3255 late in New York on Monday.

The US dollar edged up to 98.25 yen from 98.22 yen.

Sterling was steady against the European single currency, while it jumped to $US1.5376 from $US1.5352 on Monday.

Britain’s manufacturing output rebounded with a bang in June, official data showed on Tuesday, providing further evidence of the country’s broad-based economic recovery.

Output jumped 1.9 per cent in June from May, when it had fallen by 0.7 per cent, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement.

Traders also digested further earnings updates, which along with improving European and US economic data, have helped to lift stock markets over the past month.

The DAX and CAC indices have each rallied by about 8.0 per cent in value since the start of July.

On Tuesday, shares in InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) jumped 3.0 per cent to 1,966 pence after the company announced a 25 per cent increase in first-half net profits thanks to a strong showing by its US operations.

Profit after tax jumped to $US340 million ($A381.98 million) in the six months to the end of June compared with net earnings of $US271 million in the first half of 2012, said the company that owns the InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn hotel chains.

IHG added that it would pay shareholders a special dividend totalling $US350 million.

Asian stock markets closed mixed on Tuesday as investor concerns lingered over a potential tapering of US monetary stimulus, analysts said.

Hong Kong was dragged lower by a near five-per cent tumble for the share price of heavyweight HSBC Holdings.

On Monday, the banking giant announced a 22-per cent rise in half-year net profit on lower costs and falling bad-debt charges, slightly below analysts’ estimates.

It warned that slower Chinese growth was affecting its main market Asia.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, the price of gold slipped to $US1,293.12 an ounce on the London Bullion Market from $US1,304.75 on Monday.

Spain nabs paedophile pardoned by Morocco

Spanish police have arrested a convicted paedophile who had his pardon revoked by Morocco’s King Mohamed VI after it sparked angry protests in the north African country.

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Daniel Galvan Vina, a Spaniard found guilty of raping 11 children aged between four and 15 in Morocco and sentenced in September 2011 to 30 years in prison there, was detained in Murcia in southeastern Spain, a Spanish interior ministry spokesman said on Monday.

Galvan, who once worked at the University of Murcia, will be taken to Madrid to appear before Spain’s top criminal court, the National Audience, which will decide his fate, the spokesman added.

The 63-year-old was among 48 Spanish prisoners who were pardoned by King Mohamed VI and freed last week from jail following a visit in mid-July to Morocco by Spain’s King Juan Carlos.

A royal palace statement said the king had been unaware of the nature of Galvan’s crimes and had ordered a probe into his release.

Earlier on Monday, the Moroccan monarch dismissed the director of prisons after an inquiry blamed his department for Galvan’s release under royal pardon.

“The inquiry concluded that the said administration inadvertently provided erroneous information about the criminal record of the prisoner in question when requested by the royal court,” a palace statement said.

The pardon sparked outrage in Morocco, which has seen several high-profile paedophile arrests in recent months.

Galvan was convicted after videos he made of his crimes at his home in Morocco were used as evidence.

On Friday night, baton-wielding police dispersed several thousand people who tried to rally in front of the parliament in Rabat.

“We still don’t understand what is behind this affair,” said primary schoolteacher Fatima Imelouane, who took part in a protest held on Friday in the Moroccan port of Kenitra where Galvan once lived.

“Why this pardon? Why the revocation? Who is responsible and what are the government and the justice minister (Mustapha Ramid) doing?” she asked.

New demonstrations were planned for Casablanca on Tuesday and Rabat on Wednesday.

The Moroccan justice ministry said Galvan and the 47 other Spanish prisoners received the royal pardon in response to a request from Spain’s king.

But Spain’s royal household said Juan Carlos had not asked for the release of Galvan or any other Spanish prisoner during his visit and had only shown interest in the wellbeing of Spanish nationals held in prisons in the north African country.