Malaysians defend cost of Commonwealth Games mauling

“It is unfair to say that it is a waste of funds to send the team there as this is a great avenue for us to expose our team to some playing against some of the best teams in the world,” MRU secretary general Suhaimi Zainuddin told the New Straits Times on Monday.

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“Where else can we can we get this opportunity?”

The Malaysians suffered 50-point defeats by Wales and Samoa in group play at last month’s event at Ibrox Stadium and registered their only try of the pool stage in a 36-7 loss to Papua New Guinea.

They were then thrashed 35-0 by Uganda in the Bowl Competition before almost registering a first win in the semi-finals of the Shield, only to be denied 15-10 by Trinidad and Tobago.

Only Barbados (248) conceded more points in the 14-minute long matches for teams of seven players on a full-size pitch but Suhaimi said the experience would stand them in good stead for next month’s Asian Games and the 2015 Southeast Asian Games.

“Yes we did not do well in Glasgow but it was not our worst ever performance,” he told the paper. “We expected the competition to be tough and had not in any way set lofty targets before the tournament.

“What experience we gain from competing may not help that much at future editions of the Commonwealth Games but it will help us at competitions such as the SEA Games and Asian Games where we have a much more realistic chance of winning medals.

“If we just stayed at home to save money that will not help us very much. It would mean we are just content to stay at the level we are.”

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

Dance mum ‘ashamed’ at lewd child photos

A mother who took “confronting” naked images of her young daughters for the sexual gratification of their dance school teacher says she became “obsessed” with furthering their careers.

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“I was so caught up in this world,” the tearful mother told Downing Centre District Court on Monday.

“I’m ashamed. I’m embarrassed. I regret the pain I have caused my family.”

The woman, who cannot be named, was charged with producing and disseminating child abuse material following an investigation into alleged sexual and indecent assaults on dance students by their teacher Grant Davies.

Davies ran a studio in Sydney’s inner west and trained performers for hit productions, including Billy Elliot.

From the moment her two daughters started dancing at his studio, the mother said they were constantly photographed and filmed performing.

“Then he (Davies) started saying, ‘I don’t want them to be concerned about their bodies’,” the mother told her sentence hearing.

Although she knew it was wrong, the mother said she became “obsessed and focused totally on the girls” and Davies’ dance studio.

Over the course of almost three years the mother admitted to taking numerous photos of her daughters, some of which depicted them naked and performing lewd acts.

She would dress the girls up in specific costumes and then direct them to pose in particular ways.

In one of a series of text message exchanges read out to the court, Davies is alleged to have asked the mother on November 8, 2011 “are the girls naked”, to which she responded “how about on the weekend they do you some more special G-shots?”

When he replied “why wait?”, the mother sent sexually explicit photos half an hour later of her daughter.

“Now that has made me excited. I’m so lucky,” Davies allegedly wrote.

Psychiatrist Antony Milch said the mother thought the images would be “the factor” in promoting her daughters’ dance careers after her own had faltered when she with anorexia as a 10-year-old.

Her own failure meant she had “somewhat of an obsession” with ensuring her daughters were successful, Dr Milch said.

Describing the images as “extremely confronting and distressing”, he said “it is difficult to understand how any mother could take such images and provide them to other parties to disseminate the material.”

Judge Peter Zahra revoked the mother’s bail after the hearing, foreshadowing a jail term.

The hearing will continue later this month. She has pleaded guilty to two counts of using a child under the age of 14 for the production of child abuse material and two counts of disseminating child abuse material.

Davies is facing more than 50 charges, including child sex and child pornography offences.

Stokes prepares for $135m mining pay day

Media magnate Kerry Stokes is preparing for a $135 million pay day after BC Iron snapped up a mining company owned by the Perth-based businessman.

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Mr Stokes’ private company Australian Capital Equity plans to accept an offer from the Pilbara iron ore miner worth $250 million, or $1.59 per share.

The deal will deliver $135 million to Mr Stokes and more than double BC Iron’s potential production.

Australian Capital Equity owns a 53 per cent stake in Iron Ore Holdings (IOH).

IOH is developing the $744 million Iron Valley mine in the Pilbara which is expected to produce eight million tonnes of the steel making commodity each year once production begins in the coming months.

BC Iron managing director Morgan Ball said the deal would bring together two long-term assets and complement the company’s productive assets.

“In a year you’ll see us continuing to operate Nullagine at good cash flows, receiving Iron Valley cash flows and probably having made a decision on the best solution for a Buckland development,” Mr Ball told AAP.

As well as the Iron Valley project, IOH is also developing the Buckland project in the west Pilbara, which is in its feasibility stage.

The project includes plans to develop a mine, private haul road and a port at Cape Preston East, with the aim of producing eight million tonnes of iron ore each year.

BC Iron still expects its Nullagine joint venture project to produce six million tonnes of iron ore per annum over the next six years.

Mr Ball said Mineral Resources would continue to operate Iron Valley while BC Iron would prefer to operate Buckland which had a stand-alone infrastructure solution.

But it would consider alternatives if rail operator Aurizon built a rail line with Baosteel in the west Pilbara.

He also ruled out further acquisitions in the short-term amid iron ore price weakness.

Mr Ball added that both BC Iron and IOH ran relatively lean teams and had good staff synergies.

Under the takeover deal, IOH shareholders will receive 0.44 new BC Iron shares and 10 cents cash for each IOH share they own.

Based on BC Iron’s recent average share price of $3.39, the offer values IOH at $1.59 per share.

IOH’s board includes Kerry Stoke’s son Ryan Stokes and former West Australian premier Richard Court.

The price of iron ore is trading at around $US95 per tonne, but the BC Iron deal can be cancelled if the price falls below $US90 for more than 20 days in a row.

CMC markets analyst Michael McCarthy said the deal looked to be an opportunistic move.

“Given the structure of the deal and the opportunistic nature it is also quite a risky step in that they risk drawing attention to this one and might be outbid by someone with more firepower,” Mr Mcarthy said.

He said the shares were lower as investors sold the seller and bought the target.

BC Iron shares lost 10 per cent to close at $2.99, while IOH was up 39 per cent, at $1.32.

Australia backs US in Iraq

Australia has pledged support to the United States to ensure further atrocities are not carried out in Iraq.

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The offer came ahead of AUSMIN talks between the US and Australian defence and foreign affairs ministers in Sydney.

Australia is planning the deployment of military aircraft to drop aid packages in northern Iraq following a request from the US.

The Australian Defence Force has not been asked to play a combat role to back up US fighter jets bombing Sunni extremists who are laying siege to Iraqis on Mount Sinjar.

But Defence Minister David Johnston said ADF personnel could support US efforts to defend the city of Irbil from the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS.

“With respect to muscling up, we don’t telegraph our punches in any shape or form and there’s been no request for us to participate in combat,” he said on Monday.

“What the future holds in what is clearly a very troubled, confused and difficult situation in Iraq anybody can guess.”

But Senator Johnston said right-minded countries could not simply sit back and watch as atrocities unfolded without taking any action.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who will receive security briefings in London after a visit with MH17 investigators in the Netherlands, said the Islamic State is a terrorist “army” which poses extraordinary problems for the world.

He pointed to new pictures of an Australian child holding up the decapitated head of a slain Syrian soldier published in Australian papers on Monday.

“We see more and more evidence of just how barbaric this particular entity is,” Mr Abbott said.

The Labor opposition supports the ADF humanitarian effort in Iraq, but has not been consulted on any need to commit troops.

“The government has not spoken to Labor about that at all,” Labor leader Bill Shorten said.

“But when it comes to humanitarian relief, Labor is signed up for that.”

Mr Shorten said all Australians would be “shocked to their core” by the picture of the boy.

He demanded an explanation from the government as to how Khaled Sharrouf, a convicted terrorist wanted by Australia police for crimes in Syria and Iraq, was able to bypass the passport system to travel to Syria under its watch.

US military planes have conducted a fourth air drop of food and water to the displaced civilian refugees from the Yazidi religious minority, who have been cornered on the mountain by Islamic State forces.

The US on Friday began a campaign of air strikes aimed at halting the advance of the militants.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters in Sydney on Monday the air strikes had been “very effective” and the US was considering further requests for support from the Iraqi government.

“We are working through specific areas of where the Australians can help,” he said, adding the US was co-ordinating a group of partners.

Senator Johnston and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will meet with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Sydney this week.

Iraq and Syria are expected to be on the agenda, while the ministers will also sign a new legal framework for the presence of US marines based in Darwin.

Australian diplomatic officials remain in Baghdad, but the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it is closely monitoring developments.

DFAT is advising Australians not to travel to Iraq and has closed the Baghdad embassy to the public, the Smart Traveller website says.

“We will retain a small diplomatic presence in Baghdad, but due to the security situation the embassy will remain closed to the public until further notice,” the website says.

Consular assistance is no longer available within Iraq.