England skipper Morgan signs up for South African T20 tournament

Cricket South Africa (CSA) announced on Thursday that Morgan has signed up for the first two seasons of the tournament, along with two South African-born past and present England internationals, Kevin Pietersen and Jason Roy.

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A trio of leading West Indies limited overs players, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, will also feature, as well as ex-New Zealand batsman Brendon McCullum and Sri Lanka seamer Lasith Malinga.

The eight will be distributed among the as yet unnamed teams via a draft system similar to that in the Indian Premier League.Each team will have 17 players in their squad, with a maximum of four from outside of South Africa.

CSA are inviting interest from prospective team owners with the deadline for submissions April 28.

Overseas players are also able to register their desire to join the draft, with the competition set to go head-to-head with the troubled Bangladesh Premier League and Dec. 16 pencilled in for the final.

“We are thrilled with the responses we are receiving from prospective team owners. No doubt this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for both bidder and city,” CSA CEO Haroon Lorgat said in a statement.

“While the level of private investment we expect will be new to South African sport, we are also very interested in the level of expertise that owners will bring to all levels of the game in South Africa.”

There are 11 prospective venues open to the eight competing teams, with the sought-after stadiums in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban to go to the highest bidders.

“The eventual location of these franchises will be up to the bidders and the cities who see the opportunities to generate brand value and economic activity through the league,” Lorgat said.

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Alison Williams)

US, Russia agree on Syria probe

Striving to salvage ties amid a fierce dispute over Syria, the United States and Russia have agreed to work together on an international investigation of a Syrian gas attack last week that prompted retaliatory American missile strikes.

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After a day of discussions with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the former Cold War foes agreed a probe of events in northern Syria on April 4 was necessary.

More than 80 people were killed in what the US has described as a nerve gas attack that Assad’s forces undoubtedly carried out. Russia says rebels dispersed whatever chemical agent was found, which the Trump administration calls a disinformation campaign.

The news conference came after Russian President Vladimir Putin met the top American diplomat for almost two hours to see if they could rescue relations between the world’s mightiest military powers.

“There is a low level of trust between our two countries,” Tillerson said.

“The world’s two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship.”

He said working groups would be established to improve US-Russian ties and identify problems.

Tillerson was greeted frostily in the Russian capital as Lavrov began their meeting Wednesday by demanding to know America’s “real intentions.”

“We have seen very alarming actions recently with an unlawful attack against Syria,” Lavrov said.

“We consider it of utmost importance to prevent the risks of replay of similar action in the future.”

US President Donald Trump even criticised Putin on Wednesday, something he has largely left to top aides over the last several days.

“Frankly, Putin is backing a person that’s truly an evil person,” Trump said, referring to Assad. “I think it’s very bad for Russia. I think it’s very bad for mankind.”

Putin felt trust between the two countries had eroded recently.

“The level of trust at the working level, especially at the military level, has not become better but most likely has degraded,” Putin said.

Asylum seekers’ issues reflected in rising pro bono work

Lawyers in Australia are working for free more than ever before.

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The Fifth National Law Firm Pro Bono Survey shows pro bono legal work has increased by almost 10 per cent since 2014.

It shows lawyers did an average of almost 35 hours of pro bono work each in 2016.

One of the key factors driving the increase was a rise in demand from asylum seekers and refugees.

In 2016, immigration ranked third in the list of areas of law where the most pro bono work was done, moving up from 12th in 2014.

Sarah Dale is a principal solicitor at the Refugee Advice and Casework Service, (RACS) a community legal centre.

She says government cuts to community legal centres in 2014 have impacted the rise in demand for her centre’s services.

“Previously, before 2014, there was funded legal assistance for anyone who arrived in Australia by boat. And now that there is no longer that funding, we’re now seeing more and more people come to RACS needing that assistance to apply for protection because they’re unable to afford a private migration agent.”

Ms Dale says pro bono work has been crucial in meeting the increased demand.

“Given the massive cuts that we experienced, there is no way we could have met the need without pro bono support over the past couple of years. And it’s really reassuring, because we just see more and more pro bono work available. However, it’s important to note that, despite all this incredible pro bono support, we still need funding (for those) services.”

Australian Pro Bono Centre chief executive John Corker says pro bono work is a professional obligation for lawyers.

“It’s a great thing for the legal profession as a whole to have this important ethical value to give back to the community. There are very few other professions that do it to the same degree — or at all — to which lawyers do. So, yeah, it’s a positive thing.”

But despite over 370,000 hours of pro bono legal work being completed in 2016, Mr Corker says there is no substitute for government-funded legal aid.

“I think the important thing is, also, that there is a limited capacity to do that (pro bono work) as well. It’s not a substitute for adequately funding Legal Aid and community legal centres. And there are signs in this survey that, for some of the better performers and the longer-serving firms that have got advanced pro bono programs, they’re getting close to capacity.”

Federal funding cuts to community legal centres are scheduled for July this year.

Ms Dale says that means there will be more people competing for limited pro bono legal services.

In March, Labor and the Greens co-sponsored a Senate motion urging the Federal Government to continue the funding.

Opposition legal spokesman Mark Dreyfus told a media conference at Parliament House community legal centres are critical to the people most disadvantaged.

“Community legal centres serve the most disadvantaged people across Australia. They serve people who cannot afford to see a lawyer. They serve people who do not qualify for Legal Aid.”

Greens senator Nick McKim also sharply criticised the Government for the impending cuts to the community legal centres. (CLCs)

“Some of our most vulnerable people in the country are going to miss out on access to justice as a result of this Government’s cruel and callous cuts to CLCs.”

But Liberal senator James McGrath responded in parliament, maintaining the Government remains committed to community legal centres.

“The Government is committed to access to justice and supports the important work of the community legal-assistance sector. In a tight fiscal environment, the Government is providing $1.6 billion for legal- assistance services, including community legal centres. … Under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services, services are directed to those who need it most. Funding for community legal centres is not a matter for the Commonwealth alone. Investment from the states and territories is also crucial.”

 

 

Turnbull boards train of Indian growth

It was an ordinary train ride, but it held extraordinary significance.

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The strength of the relationship between Australia and India was on display when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi rode three stops on the New Delhi metro.

While Turnbull is a noted public transport enthusiast, the train adventure was highly unusual for Modi, who is believed to have last riden the metro in 2015.

But the Indian leader knew of Turnbull’s passion and wanted to do something special, despite security concerns that led to bans on most media and other passengers.

Turnbull’s aim for his three-day visit to India this week was to deepen his personal relationship with Modi and country ties – and he got it in spades.

Apart from the nine-minute train ride, the two leaders spent 40 minutes in a private meeting without officials – three times longer than planned. There was another hour alone touring a temple, as well as a formal bilateral meeting and state banquet.

The key outcome of all this face time was a push from both leaders to reignite stalled trade talks – something they talked about while wandering barefoot around the Akshardham Temple.

Turnbull indicated before meeting Modi that Australia’s focus had shifted from a bilateral deal in favour of a 16-country partnership involving China, India and other Asian nations.

Now the leaders have asked their chief trade negotiators to draw up a list of each side’s requests and offers to consider.

It’s understood there are sticking points in agriculture and labour mobility.

However, the Indians are yet to set formal, clear positions in these areas, even though negotiations have gone on for several years.

Turnbull is confident that despite a long history of protectionism within Indian government ranks, the personal interest of the leaders will create the required urgency and focus.

“Because both sides have got to report back to their respective prime ministers, that’s what provides the momentum,” he told reporters in Mumbai on Wednesday.

“It concentrates the mind even in the most stately bureaucratic department.”

Nevertheless, Turnbull warned the outcome could be no deal or a scaled-down version.

While trade got come attention, back in Australia the focus was on another meeting the prime minister had with with energy billionaire Gautam Adani.

The reclusive businessman wanted to discuss his company’s plans for the massive Carmichael coal mine in Queensland – which already has government and environmental approvals – and its application for a $900 million taxpayer-funded concessional loan to build a railway as part of the project.

He also sought assurances from Mr Turnbull for the quick resolution of a native title issue raised by a Federal Court decision on an unrelated WA project.

Labor leader Bill Shorten, who was touring Queensland this, says while he wants Adani to succeed the project had to stand on its on merits.

“The Australian taxpayer should not be an ATM for Indian coal mining companies,” he said.

Turnbull shot back, saying Shorten “lacks commitment, conviction and character” on the issue.

The way the prime minister sees it, if Australia doesn’t sell its high quality, relatively clean coal to India, it will seek the mineral from other, and likely dirtier, sources.

Not only would that be a worse environmental outcome, it would damage a growing trade and economic relationship between the two countries.

And that’s one train Turnbull doesn’t want to get off.

China, Russia try to cool North Korea-US tension

As world leaders continue to talk carefully about any action on North Korea, United States president Donald Trump boasts of the military might he is mustering near the Korean Peninsula.

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“We are sending an armada. Very powerful. We have submarines. Very powerful. Far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you. And we have the best military people on earth.”

North Korea is also talking loudly, claiming it is ready to react to what it calls “any mode of war” the United States declares.

But US secretary of state Rex Tillerson is more circumspect in describing the display of power.

“(The USS) Carl Vinson strike group is routinely in the Pacific Ocean, it’s in the Pacific theatre, and its movements in the Pacific are made in a way that’s planned by the military planners. There is no particular objective in its current course. The Vincent sails up and down the Pacific routinely. And so I would not read anything into the Carl Vinson’s current locations.”

Mr Tillerson was speaking after a meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.

Mr Lavrov spoke of broad agreement between Russia and the United States on the need for a political solution to the North Korean crisis.

“As far as I understood, apart from some nuances, even some serious nuances, there is a common desire to resolve this problem through an entirely political, peaceful method and to achieve denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula through the talks.”

North Korea has angered world leaders with a series of recent missile launches and is thought to be developing a long-range missile capable of striking the US mainland.

After generating what he calls “good chemistry” with Chinese president Xi Jinping, Mr Trump says he is offering China the incentive of a good trade deal to help.

“We have a very big problem in North Korea. I really think that China’s going to try very hard and has already started. A lot of the (North Korean) coal boats have already been turned back. You saw that yesterday and today, they’ve been turned back. The vast amount of coal that comes out of North Korea going to China, they’ve turned back the boats. That’s a big step. And there are many other steps that I know about. So we’ll see what happens. It may be effective.”

And if it is not effective, Mr Trump is promising the United States will be.

 

 

There’s never too many Cooks for Souths

Damien Cook has already displaced Robbie Farah from the South Sydney No.

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9 jersey and is now turning his attention to doing the same for NSWl.

Over the past two NRL seasons, Cook has proved the catalyst behind the Rabbitohs finding their best form and coach Michael Maguire is hoping that is a trend that won’t stop anytime soon.

Maguire a fortnight ago made the difficult decision to drop incumbent Blues hooker Farah, who is on a reported $950,000 a year, for the late-blooming 25-year-old Cook.

It was only in the last month of last season when Cook usurped Cameron McInnes for the starting hooking role that the side started to fire, winning their last four straight to end an otherwise forgettable year.

And after making the hard decision to start Cook, the Rabbitohs once against bounced back to their best form of the year so far in last week’s defeat of Penrith.

Asked if he knew Cook was going to be so effective, Maguire said: “Yeah, I saw it at the back end of last season and that’s why I fought so hard to keep him.

“He probably came on a little bit later and is learning a lot from Robbie about the game.”

Cook is likely to make his representative debut for NSW Country next month.

And with Farah’s position in the Blues side looking shaky, he has been mentioned as a possible Origin contender along with McInnes, Nathan Peats and Peter Wallace.

Ahead of his showdown with his old club, Canterbury coach Des Hasler professed his deep admiration for the explosive No.9.

Cook made a name for himself in the back end of 2015 when he came in for the injured Michael Lichaa, failing to miss a beat when thrown into the deep end just three weeks before the finals.

“He’s made every post a winner,” Hasler said.

“He provides great impact for the Souths side. He’s going really well.

“We tried to keep him but there’s a thing called the cap.”

The Bulldogs pack faces a test without injured big man David Klemmer.

However winger Kerrod Holland’s return will give them a recognised kicker after Hasler last week admitted his side’s wastefulness when going for two was becoming a headache.

STATS THAT MATTER

* The Bulldogs have will be looking to win three-straight matches for the first time since round 17, 2016 when they won four straight.

* Canterbury has scored the least points per game (14.3), make the equal second least line breaks (3.7) and score the equal second least tries (2.8).

*Adam Reynolds requires just eight points to reach the 900 milestone. He will become just the third player in South Sydney’s history to reach 900 points behind Eric Simms (1841) and Bernie Percell (1126).

Even small weight loss can reduce effect of obesity ‘significantly’: study

A weight loss as small as three kilograms would significantly reduce the health risks experienced by overweight and obese Australians, a new study has found.

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The study, published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), investigated the health impact – or “burden” – of excess weight in Australia in 2011.

“The report shows that the possible health impacts of overweight and obesity are substantial,” AIHW spokeswoman Dr Lynelle Moon told SBS News.

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“And even if we stopped the rising rates of overweight and obesity in Australia by maintaining our weight, about six per cent of this burden would be avoided.”

Researchers found a loss of just one body mass index point – about three kilograms – was enough to see a significant drop in the overall health impact over being overweight or obese.

Two in three adults and one in four children are overweight or obese in Australia, according to the study, a health burden that increases the risk of chronic disease, including cancer and diabetes.

But the report found the burden of obesity and overweight impacted some groups more than others.

Men were at greater risk than women and so were poorer Australians.

“People from the lowest socioeconomic groups had burden rates 2.3 times higher than those from the highest,” Dr Moon said.

She said the most common diseases linked with obesity and overweight were cardiovascular disease, cancer and coronary heart disease.

The study also looked at the health impacts of obesity on people under 25 and found overweight and obese children and teens were more likely to develop asthma.

Adolescents aged between 15 and 24 were also more likely to develop some cancers and gallbladder disease.

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Learning beach safety when the tide’s 1,200km out

The remote Indigenous community of Amata is 1,200 kilometres from the nearest coast.

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Located in central Australia near the South Australia-Northern Territory border, it’s an unlikely place for a beach safety session.

Andrew Henry, a water safety instructor with Surf Life Saving South Australia, has travelled from Adelaide for exactly that purpose.

But why?

“Yeah, it’s a question we get asked a lot, mostly when we stop to get petrol at places, but generally we find most people go to the beach at some point in their life, and we want to make sure people are ready and understand the dangers when they do that, be that next week – next year or in ten years’ time.

A small team of Surf Life Savers make the 2,400-kilometre round trip to the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands – the APY lands – three times a year, with similar trips to other remote communities.

It’s part of the ‘beach to bush’ program.

Andrew Henry says it was developed after studies showed people who live a long way from the beach were more at risk of dying in waterways.

A report published by Royal Life Saving in 2008 looked at 13 years of data on drowning deaths collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics — and found the drowning death rate was 1.7 times higher for those in rural and regional communities, compared to their urban counterparts.

With its desert climate, where summer temperatures regularly climb above 40 degrees, Mr Henry says the visit has multiple purposes.

“There are dangers with all sorts of waterways, and we are not only about the beach, we are about all waterways. Currents on the beaches there are also currents in pools and rock holes.”

Amata is one of three communities in the APY lands that has a swimming pool.

Ken Hamilton is the manager there.

He says water safety awareness could be improved in the community.

“At the moment it isn’t good, like I’m the only qualified person, so that’s why it’s really great that Surf Life Saving are here, to help train up some of the locals.”

Jasmine is among four young women at the pool to get some training.

“We’re doing the lifeguard training …. Keeping the children safe in the swimming pool.”

Like most people in Amata, Jasmine speaks English as a second language.

She sees lifeguard training as a community service, but also a pathway to employment in a town where there are very few jobs.

Amata Pool Manager Ken Hamilton, who lives in the community as a temporary resident, says having more locals trained would help bridge a language and cultural divide.

“It gives the locals an opportunity to get a qualification which could lead to employment in Amata. It’s also a real benefit for the community as well, because the more locals we can get trained, the longer hours we can open the pool for. And it’s pretty well a win-win situation for everyone.”

One that could ultimately save lives.

 

 

China warns against force over N.Korea

Military force cannot resolve tension over North Korea, China says, while an influential Chinese newspaper has urged the North to halt its nuclear program in exchange for Chinese protection.

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With a US aircraft carrier group steaming to the area and tension rising, South Korea says it believes the US will consult it before any pre-emptive strike against the North.

Fears have been growing that the reclusive North could soon conduct its sixth nuclear test or more missile launches in defiance of UN sanctions and stark warnings from the US that a policy of patience was over.

China, North Korea’s sole major ally and benefactor, which nevertheless opposes its weapons program, has called for talks leading to a peaceful resolution and the denuclearisation of the peninsula.

“Military force cannot resolve the issue,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing.

“Amid challenge there is opportunity. Amid tensions we will also find a kind of opportunity to return to talks.”

While US President Donald Trump has put North Korea on notice he would not tolerate any provocation, US officials have said his administration is focusing its strategy on tougher economic sanctions.

Trump has diverted the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group towards the Korean Peninsula to deter North Korea from conducting another nuclear test or launching more missiles to coincide with important events and anniversaries.

Speculation about US military action grew after the US Navy fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airfield last week in response to a deadly gas attack.

Wang warned that history would hold any instigator to account.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se told parliament in Seoul he believed Washington would consult Seoul if it was considering a pre-emptive strike.

A Washington-based think tank that monitors North Korea, 38 North, said satellite images on Wednesday showed activity around the North’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site indicated it was ready for a new test.

South Korean officials said there were no new signs to indicate a test was more likely, although they also said the North appeared ready to conduct a test at any time.

An influential state-backed Chinese newspaper said the best option for North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Un, was to give up its nuclear program, and China would protect it if it did.

“As soon as North Korea complies with China’s declared advice and suspends nuclear activities … China will actively work to protect the security of a denuclearised North Korean nation and regime,” an editorial in the Global Times said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe underscored fears about threats from North Korea, telling parliament in Tokyo that Pyongyang could have the capacity to deliver missiles equipped with sarin nerve gas.

Scores of foreign journalists gathered in Pyongyang for North Korea’s biggest national day, the “Day of the Sun”, were taken to what officials billed as a “big and important event” early on Thursday.

It turned out to be the opening of a new street in the centre of the capital, attended by leader Kim.

North Korea marks the 105th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung on Saturday.

Human Rights court finds ‘serious failings’ by Russia in Beslan massacre

The court said although Russian authorities had information that an attack was being planned on a school in North Ossetia, they failed to do enough to disrupt the plot and had not sufficiently protected the hostages.

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Russia reacted furiously to the judgement, saying it was “absolutely unacceptable”.

The school was stormed on September 1, 2004 by militants demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops from the war-torn republic of Chechnya.

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The attackers herded 1100 people including 800 children into a gymnasium and rigged the building with explosives.

After three days of fruitless negotiations, explosions in the school prompted Russian security forces to storm the gymnasium.

A total of 184 children were among the 334 dead as the siege came to a bloody end.

‘Insufficient steps’

Russian authorities argue they took the best course of action faced with armed extremists, but many of the survivors and their relatives believe the security services were to blame for the firefight.

The case was brought to the Strasbourg-based court by more than 400 Russians either involved in the incident or whose relatives were taken hostage or killed.

“The authorities had been in possession of sufficiently specific information of a planned terrorist attack in the area, linked to an educational institution,” the court said.

Ossetians weep over the coffins of hostages killed in the school siege during a funeral in Beslan, Northern Ossetia, Russia. (AP)AP

“Nevertheless, not enough had been done to disrupt the terrorists meeting and preparing.”

The judges found that “insufficient steps had been taken to prevent [the attackers] travelling on the day of the attack; security at the school had not been increased; and neither the school nor the public had been warned of the threat”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia found it “impossible” to agree with the wording of the judgement.

“Such phrasing for a country that has suffered an attack is absolutely unacceptable,” he told journalists.

The court ruled that Russia must pay compensation to 409 surviving hostages and relatives of the deceased.

A representative for the Mothers of Beslan group of victims’ relatives, Aneta Gadiyeva, told TASS news agency that the amounts of compensation awarded were small.

“Some will receive 5000 euros, some will receive 20,000 euros. Those are small sums for the compensation of moral damages,” said Gadiyeva, who lost a daughter in the siege.

A lawyer for the victims, Sergei Knyazkin, told TASS that “we are not fully satisfied by the ECHR ruling,” citing “very small amounts of compensation.”

The Kremlin said the court did not understand “the full seriousness of the situation in Beslan after the seizing of the hostages” and the “risks of the process of carrying out a rescue operation by law enforcement authorities”.

The court’s findings over the use by Russian special forces of indiscriminate weapons while hostages were still in the building were “baseless,” the ministry said.

‘Lethal force’

The court found that through its actions, the Russian state had violated Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which guarantees a right to life.

There was an additional violation in the use of “lethal force by security forces”.

“In the absence of proper legal rules, powerful weapons such as tank cannon grenade launchers and flame-throwers had been used on the school,” which had contributed to the casualties among the hostage, the court said.

The judges also said there were “serious shortcomings” in the investigation into the attack, especially that there had been “no proper examination of how the victims had died”.

The claimants in the case say the authorities were primarily seeking to eliminate the attackers with little care taken to avoid deaths of hostages.

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Their lawyers have particularly criticised the lack of in-depth autopsies on the bodies of 116 victims found burned in the gymnasium.

The massacre was one of a string of brutal attacks Russia suffered in the 1990s and 2000s stemming mainly from an insurgency in Chechnya that morphed from a separatist rebellion into an Islamist campaign.

Russian and international experts describe Beslan as a political shock for Russia comparable to the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and say it marked a turning point for the Kremlin’s policy in the Caucasus.

There were two separatist wars in Chechnya in the 1990s and 2000s, but violence in the region has largely been suppressed under the iron-fisted rule of strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

However, the overwhelmingly Muslim Russian North Caucasus has emerged as one of the major sources of foreign jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq.

In January, Kadyrov said his forces had detained more than 50 insurgents linked to the Islamic State group in a security operation.

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