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.

Pacific US ‘not going anywhere’: Hagel

The United States has declared it is “not going anywhere” when it comes to its diplomatic and military presence in the Asia-Pacific region and wants China to play by the rules.

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US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel held talks with his Australian counterpart David Johnston in Sydney on Monday ahead of the Ausmin discussions involving US Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Tuesday.

The meeting came after the ASEAN regional forum in Myanmar in which China rejected a motion calling for a moratorium on actions in disputed waters and arbitration under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Mr Hagel said China’s actions “speak for themselves” and the US was adamant that all of the countries involved in the South China Sea dispute needed to resolve their differences through international law.

“What we have supported is careful conduct, responsible conduct, by all nations regarding these disputes,” he told reporters in Sydney.

The US has about 200 ships and more than 360,000 military personnel in the Asia-Pacific region, which is home to five of America’s treaty obligation countries.

The US has marines rotating through Australia, and personnel and ships rotating through Singapore and the Philippines.

“We are not going anywhere,” Mr Hagel said.

“Our partnerships are here, our treaty obligations are here and are important to us.

“By any measurement of commitment it’s pretty clear the US is committed to this part of the world.”

The Ausmin partners will sign a new legal framework for the marine rotation.

There will also be discussions on a new ballistic missile defence system and developments in the region.

Wad of $100s, but no foreplay: ICAC

When embattled NSW Liberal MP Tim Owen was given a wad of hundred dollar bills in a car, there wasn’t any “foreplay” with Newcastle mayor and property developer Jeff McCloy.

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But there was a lot of seedy interaction between Central Coast MPs and developers, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has been told.

Mr Owen couldn’t remember whether it was his campaign manager Hugh Thomson or former NSW police minister and fellow Central Coast MP Mike Gallacher who arranged the December 2010 deal, which is being examined by ICAC.

Mr McCloy told Mr Owen the money was to help his campaign with printing and staffing costs as the Liberal Party wasn’t going to cover all election costs.

“I really can’t remember who (arranged the deal). Whether it was Mike Gallacher or whether it was Hugh Thomson,” Mr Owen said.

“You went down there in your own car and met Mr McCloy in his car … what happened next?” counsel assisting the commission Geoffrey Watson asked.

“He just handed over a thin envelope effectively,” Mr Owen replied.

“What, no foreplay?” Mr Watson inquired.

The ICAC heard that Mr Gallacher partially controlled the donations.

A day after Mr McCloy slipped Mr Owen the one-centimetre thick envelope, just months before 2011 NSW election, the cash was returned, he told the ICAC.

“I took it (the envelope) at the time and I must admit I thought `mmmmmm’ what do I do with this,” the former the deputy commander of the Australian forces in Afghanistan and Iraq said.

“I took it home and I thought about it and thought about it and thought about it and essentially … I went back to his house and basically dropped it in his letterbox.”

The Newcastle MP said he didn’t speak further to Mr McCloy about the money and returned it with a note saying “no thanks.”

“It just wasn’t a particularly nice look,” Mr Owen said.

Mr Watson bluntly suggested Mr McCloy was trying to buy influence.

“Yeah, I mean, you could say that but he’s a pretty generous guy,” he said.

“I agree. It does look bad. But, there’s really not anything that I as a candidate or a backbencher in the government have any influence over.”

The commission earlier heard Nathan Tinkler’s company Buildev was paying the wage of another of Mr Owen’s staffers, media adviser Josh Hodges.

Former government whip Andrew Cornwell has also admitted receiving $10,000 in a brown paper bag from Mr McCloy while sitting in the mayor’s Bentley ahead of the 2011 election.

NSW Greens MP Jamie Parker will on Tuesday move a motion in parliament to expel Dr Cornwell, saying resigning from the state Liberal Party wasn’t enough and that he should immediately quit politics.

Mr Owen and Mr Cornwell stood down from the Liberal Party last Wednesday shortly after the ICAC’s two-hour opening address into the alleged funnelling of illegal donations, focusing on the Newcastle region.

Federal Liberal MP Bob Baldwin, who supported Mr Tinkler’s plans for a Newcastle coal loader, may be called to give evidence after the inquiry heard that Buildev made donations to his campaign.

It’s not illegal for developers to donate to federal candidates.

Mr Owen will continue his evidence on Tuesday.

Keary set to face former beloved Broncos

South Sydney playmaker Luke Keary grew up cheering on Brisbane heroes Allan Langer and Darren Lockyer but will have no problem putting his former love for the Broncos to one side on Thursday night.

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Keary will come up against the club he barracked for as a child for the first time when the competition favourites meet the Broncos at ANZ Stadium.

Keary was born and raised in Queensland before moving to Sydney with his family at the age of 10.

He grew up aspiring to wear the Broncos’ maroon, gold and white jumper like fellow Ipswich product Langer and only shifted allegiances to the Rabbitohs when he signed with the Redfern club in 2012.

“I grew up supporting (Brisbane) but moved here when I was fairly young,” he said.

“I haven’t had a chance to play them so it’ll be a big game on Thursday night.

“They’re coming off a really good performance so we’re looking forward to it.”

Keary was never on the Broncos’ radar since he left their system in his junior days.

The 22-year-old’s season has been hampered by a pectoral injury suffered in the Auckland Nines which kept him out until late July.

He has been strong over the last two weeks since being handed the starting five-eighth duties following a knee injury to captain John Sutton.

Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire will have a dilemma on his hands when Sutton returns within the next two to three weeks over whether to continue to start Keary or shift Sutton to the back-row.

“Hopefully we get Sutto back in the next couple of weeks, so I’m just filling that void there while he’s gone,” Keary said.

“We’ll see what happens when he comes back … Sutto’s done the job for a lot of years now and he’s a special player and he’s our leader. We look forward to getting him back.”

After being described as predictable by Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett a week ago, the Souths attack looked crisp under Keary’s guidance in their win over Manly on Friday night.

Hooker Issac Luke said Keary had handled himself well since being given a spot in the starting 13.

“Obviously I had a lot of time with Renno (halfback Adam Reynolds),” he said.

“And Lukey is a player on the rise … We all get on well and when Sutto comes back hopefully we can still keep winning.”

Life stirs in Gaza as new truce takes hold

A 72-hour ceasefire has taken hold in Gaza, as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators headed to Cairo in search of a long-term solution to end over a month of deadly fighting.

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The truce, which began just after midnight (0701 AEST Monday,) was the fruit of days of Egyptian-brokered mediation to stem more than four weeks of violence which has killed 1939 Palestinians and 67 on the Israeli side since July 8.

Ten hours into the truce, the skies over Gaza remained calm, with no reports of violations on any side and signs of life emerging on the streets of the war-torn coastal enclave which is home to 1.8 million Palestinians.

As the sun rose on Gaza City, shops and businesses began opening their doors and a handful of people could be seen doing their early shopping.

Outside a UN-run school, a clutch of cars and donkey carts waited to take some of the refugees back to homes they had fled during the fighting.

“We want to go back to see what happened to our house,” said Hikmat Atta, 58, who had piled his family into a small cart and was heading back to his home in the northern town of Beit Lahiya which they had left in the first days of the war.

But with the truce still in its early stages, he was not taking any chances.

“We’re just going back for the day, at night we’ll come back here,” he said.

Egypt urged the warring sides to use the three-day lull to reach “a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire,” after efforts to extend a similar truce last week collapsed into a firestorm of violence.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it would give the two sides “another chance to agree on a durable ceasefire” while stressing the importance of addressing “the underlying grievances on both sides.”

Hamas, the de facto power in Gaza, has conditioned its agreement for any permanent agreement on Israeli lifting its eight-year blockade on Gaza.

“We insist on this goal,” Hamas’s exiled leader Khaled Meshaal said in Doha on Sunday.

“In the case of Israeli procrastination or continued aggression, Hamas is ready with other Palestinian factions to resist on the ground and politically.”

Veteran Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat arrived in Cairo late on Sunday for talks with Egyptian and Arab League officials on behalf of president Mahmoud Abbas.

Meanwhile, an Israeli team arrived in Cairo on Monday.

The team was to resume Egyptian-mediated talks it had abandoned on Friday after Hamas refused to extend an earlier truce and resumed its fire on southern Israel.

Israel had pledged to send its negotiating team back when the truce took hold.

Palestinian delegates in Cairo said they would be happy for Abbas’s Palestinian Authority to take over the reconstruction of Gaza and execute any agreement reached in Cairo.

Israel has no direct interface with Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

“The national unity government and the Palestinian Authority will take over the execution of all that will be agreed upon during the truce talks,” Azzam al-Ahmed, head of the Palestinian delegation, told reporters.

“We are backing the setting up of a national body to be formed by president Abbas, which will take over the reconstruction (of Gaza),” said senior Hamas official Ezzat al-Rishq.

“The president of the body should be professional, credible and one who will be accepted internationally.”

The new truce deal followed a similar arrangement last week which had brought relief to millions on both sides of the border.

Hamas had refused to extend the 72-hour lull when it expired on Friday, and Israel accused the Islamist faction of breaching the agreement in its final hours with rocket attacks.

In the gap between ceasefires, warplanes hit more than 170 targets, killing at least 19 people, while the Palestinians fired at least 136 rockets at Israel, of which 93 hit and 13 were shot down, with the rest falling short inside Gaza, the army said.

The UN says just under three quarters of those killed in Gaza were civilians. Around a third of the civilian victims were children.

Japan youth athletes on alert in China

Japanese athletes at this month’s Youth Olympics in the Chinese city of Nanjing have been warned not to wear their official tracksuits around town due to safety fears, local media have reported.

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Delegation chief Yosuke Fujiwara has told Japan’s 78 athletes to wear regular clothes outside the Games venues during the August 16-28 event to avoid any attack, with Tokyo-Beijing relations at their lowest level in years.

The teenage athletes will also be encouraged to don facemasks to protect themselves from China’s notoriously bad air pollution.

“When they are outside we want them to be aware that it might not be totally safe,” Fujiwara told Kyodo news agency.

“In the athletes’ village we want them to wear the official Japan tracksuit, but in the city normal clothes are fine.”

In an apparent attempt to avoid upsetting the Chinese before the second edition of the Youth Games, Fujiwara added: “You can get random attacks on the street in Japan too.”

Anti-Japanese resentment runs particularly high in Nanjing, where China says 300,000 people — some estimates are lower — were killed in 1937 as Japanese troops rampaged through the city during their invasion of the mainland. It became known as the Nanjing Massacre.

The massacre was the Japanese military’s worst atrocity and remains a bitter stain on the two countries’ relationship.

Fujiwara’s comments came at a time of heightened political tension between Japan and China, which are at odds over claims to islands in the East China Sea and historical grievances tied to Japan’s wartime aggression.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent decision to relax strict rules governing the country’s military has further antagonised Beijing, prompting Fujiwara to issue the warning.

But he insisted that the contestants would still be free to explore the city.

“We think it’s better for the athletes to feel the atmosphere in the city from their own perspective,” Fujiwara said.

Japanese sports teams and the country’s national anthem are frequently booed in China, most notably at the 2004 Asian Cup football final between China and Japan in Beijing which ended in a full-scale riot after Japan’s controversial win.

Japan’s delegation arrives in Nanjing on Wednesday. It features girls’ badminton junior world champion Akane Yamaguchi and Yuto Muramatsu, who won bronze in the men’s singles at the Japan Open table tennis earlier this year.

The event is open to athletes aged between 14 and 18. The first Youth Games were held in Singapore four years ago.

Typhoon Halong leaves 10 dead in Japan

As many as 10 people have died and dozens are injured after Typhoon Halong slammed into the Japanese archipelago over the weekend, with heavy rain still lashing the country’s north.

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The storm was moving over the Sea of Japan (East Sea) on Monday morning, after making landfall on the largest and most populous island of Honshu over the weekend, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The outer bands of the storm were continuing to lash northern Japan with heavy rain as officials warned of landslides, floods and possible tornadoes in the area.

The agency downgraded the typhoon to a tropical storm at 9am (1000 AEST) on Monday as it heads toward the far eastern coast of Russia.

The storm, as well as heavy rain last week, killed two people and injured 86 across the country, public broadcaster NHK reported.

But the leading Nikkei newspaper said as many as 10 deaths have been linked to the storm.

The weather agency had issued its highest warning on Saturday – meaning a threat to life and the risk of massive damage – for Mie prefecture, some 300km west of Tokyo.

The warning, which was lifted on Sunday afternoon, said there could be “unprecedented” torrential rain that might trigger massive landslides and floods.

Local authorities, mainly in western Japan, issued evacuation advisories to more than 1.6 million people in total, NHK said.

Airline services largely returned to normal with just a handful of flights cancelled on Monday after more than 700 flights were called off during the weekend, which came just as Japan began its annual “Obon” summer holiday.

In July, typhoon Neoguri killed several people and left a trail of destruction in southern Japan.