Sport mourns ‘miracle’ man Mandela

Nobel Peace Prize winner Mandela won over many whites when he donned the jersey of South Africa’s national rugby team – once a symbol of white supremacy – at the rugby World Cup final in Johannesburg’s Ellis Park stadium.

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“All of our lives are poorer today at the extinguishing of the great beacon of light and hope that led the way for our country through the transition to democracy,” Oregan Hoskins, President of the South African Rugby Union, said in a statement.

“Madiba was a great man of vision, determination and integrity who performed a miracle that amazed the world as much as it amazed his fellow countrymen.

“Through his extraordinarily vision, he was able to use the 1995 Rugby World Cup as an instrument to help promote nation building just one year after South Africa’s historic first democratic election.

“Mr Mandela was also instrumental in retaining the Springbok as the emblem for our national team at a time when a chorus of voices advocated a change of the symbol, for various reasons. It was an act of reconciliation and generosity of spirit which no one could have expected.”

Ali said he was “deeply saddened” by the death of a man who inspired everyone to break barriers and reach for the impossible.

“He made us realise, we are our brother’s keeper and that our brothers come in all colours,” he said in a statement.

“He taught us forgiveness on a grand scale. His was a spirit born free, destined to soar above the rainbows. Today his spirit is soaring through the heavens. He is now forever free.”

As news of Mandela’s death went around the world, the first of what are likely to be many gestures of respect took place at sporting events.

A minute’s silence was observed before the start of the second day of the second Ashes test between Australia and England at Adelaide Oval and at the first test between New Zealand and West Indies in Dunedin.

‘TRUE STATESMAN’

Cricket South Africa offered its initial reaction via Twitter.

“RIP Tata Mandela. It is because of you that a represented Proteas team can express their talent across the globe,” it read.

IOC President Thomas Bach hailed Mandela’s role in using sport for the greater cause and called him a “true statesman”.

“A remarkable man who understood that sport could build bridges, break down walls, and reveal our common humanity,” Bach said in a message posted on the IOC’s official Twitter handle.

World soccer body FIFA ordered flags to be flown at half mast and a minute’s silence to be held before the next round of international matches.

Mandela’s last major appearance on the global stage came at soccer’s 2010 World Cup finals, the first to be hosted on African soil, when he attended the final in Soweto to a thunderous ovation from the 90,000 strong crowd.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, in Brazil for Friday’s draw for the 2014 World Cup, paid tribute in a statement.

“It is in deep mourning that I pay my respects to an extraordinary person, probably one of the greatest humanists of our time and a dear friend of mine: Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela,” said the Swiss.

“When he was honoured and cheered by the crowd at Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium on 11 July 2010, it was as a man of the people, a man of their hearts, and it was one of the most moving moments I have ever experienced.”

World number one golfer Tiger Woods also paid tribute to Mandela and recalled meeting the former South African president in 1998.

“He invited us to his home, and it was one of the most inspiring times I’ve ever had in my life,” said the American.

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly, editing by)

Bravo sends 1st NZ Test into final day

A resolute Darren Bravo scored a maiden double century to deny New Zealand and ensure the Dunedin Test against the West Indies will go into a fifth day.

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The Windies finished the day at 6-443, forging a lead of 47 over the hosts after starting the day 228 runs behind.

The 24-year-old Bravo, a cousin of the great Brian Lara, batted for more than nine hours in his unbeaten 210 to defy New Zealand’s bowlers on the lifeless University Oval pitch.

He punched the air in delight after reaching 200 and was embraced by captain Darren Sammy as he became the 26th West Indian to pass the milestone.

“It’s a great feeling. I set myself to bat out the day. I backed myself and the team was backing me as well.

“I just went out and enjoyed my game in the best possible way,” he said.

But New Zealand legspinner Ish Sodhi said they had not lost heart despite claiming only four wickets for the day and dropping three catches in the process.

“On the scoreboard, we still are on top and Test cricket’s not an easy game.

“We created enough opportunities. They were tough ones at times, and that’s what we’ve got to judge ourselves on,” the 21-year-old said.

Bravo found useful allies in Narsingh Deonarine (52), Denesh Ramdin (24) and Sammy (44 not out) to frustrate the home side seeking their first Test win of the year.

Starting the day on 2-168 after following on – having been dismissed for 213 in reply to New Zealand’s 9(dec)-609 declared – the tourists lost two early wickets to dent their hopes of saving the Test.

But Bravo, who began the day on 72 after being given not out by the television umpire on the third day after appearing to be caught behind, dug in and mixed gritty defence with powerful drives through the off-side.

The Blacks Caps might have expected to make short work of the opposition when Tim Southee struck in the fourth over to remove Marlon Samuels.

Those hopes were further boosted when Neil Wagner took his first wicket of the Test to claim the prized scalp of veteran Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

The 39-year-old, who a day earlier became just the seventh batsmen to pass 11,000 runs in Tests, was trapped lbw for one to reduce the tourists to 4-185.

But Bravo and Deonarine combined for a 122-run stand for the fifth wicket before Corey Anderson’s first Test wicket on home soil removed Deonarine.

Bravo is averaging 59.64 away from home, the best record by a West Indian.

He added 56 with Ramdin and combined with Sammy in a unbroken stand of 80.

Defence Force concerned ‘turn back boats’ policy may be illegal

By Karen Middleton

SBS has reported exclusively that Defence representatives held a series of meetings with the Attorney-General’s office this week, detailing their legal concerns and requesting that the Government examine its duty of care to defence employees.

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To see all developments regarding Operation Sovereign Borders follow the SBS story stream.

It is understood the Government has agreed to clarify the duty-of-care issue.

But it is still requiring the Navy to turn back asylum boats at sea.

The Attorney-General’s office and the Immigration Minister’s office declined to comment. They directed queries to Customs and Border Protection, which did not provide a response.

In his weekly briefing, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison revealed that four asylum boats arrived this week, including one which ran aground and broke up at Greta Beach, on the south-east coast of Christmas Island, late on Monday night.

“This was an unusual incident,” Mr Morrison said. “There will be a post incident assessment as you would expect. It’s a big ocean. These are small boats.”

The 27 people aboard all survived but spent three days wandering in the jungle before they were found and taken into custody.

Border Protection Commander Lieutenant General Angus Campbell said the incident was another reminder of the risks.

“This is extraordinarily dangerous, people take their lives in their hands, people smugglers lie, the boats are unseaworthy in many cases and the weather is deteriorating significantly,” Lieutenant General Campbell said.

“Do not attempt to come to Australia without a visa on an open boat across the ocean.”

General Campbell said another 162 people and six crew had arrived on the previous three boats, this week.

“What we are seeing in the period of Operation Sovereign Borders is what I might describe as clustering of arrivals,” General Campbell said. He declined to speculate on what might be causing it.

But sources told SBS that the diplomatic row with Indonesia appeared to be hampering border protection efforts, with Indonesia “looking the other way” to teach Australia a lesson and another four boats expected before the monsoon season fully set in.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott hinted that the strain in relations was affecting the people smuggling efforts.

“I do expect continued cooperation from Indonesia in our anti people-smuggling campaign, because let’s face it, people smuggling is illegal in Australia,” Mr Abbott said. “And the point I’ve been making as politely as I can to the Indonesians is that as far as we’re concerned this is a sovereignty issue.”

Indonesia and Australia have agreed on a plan to restore relations, including establishing a diplomatic “hotline” to deal urgently with pressing issues.

But Mr Abbott said neither country had agreed to stop gathering intelligence on the other.

US baseball showcase comes to Sydney

(Transcript from World News Australia)

 

It’s a game that befuddles the unfamiliar like few can.

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..like cricket to anyone outside the Commonwealth.

 

Like cricket, baseball appears to have grown out of the old British folk games from centuries ago and now has grown into a national pastime.

 

But it’s a national pastime in the United States and in several other lands, not Australia, where it’s been around a long time but not in a big way.

 

Now Australian baseball officials are hoping that’s about to change as an international showcase comes to the Sydney Cricket Ground this weekend.

 

Ron Sutton has the story.

 

Ben Foster does not pretend two games in Sydney between a pair of high-profile United States baseball teams will suddenly propel the sport into any kind of dominance in Australia.

 

There is, says the Australian Baseball League boss, simply too much established competition out there on the Australian sporting scene.

 

“Australia’s one of the most densely populated sporting landscapes in the world. I’ve just come back from the US, and, even speaking to some of my counterparts over there who are involved with the major-league teams, when you tell them that a city like Sydney has some 30-plus professional sporting teams, it just blows their mind. Even a city like New York only has eight.”

 

Still, Australian baseball is hoping for a major shot in the arm when the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks face off this weekend at, of all places, the Sydney Cricket Ground.

 

More than 40-thousand people are expected for each of the two games launching the 2014 US major-league season, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

 

Behind the fabled New York Yankees, the Dodgers rank as one of baseball’s and the world’s most visible and valuable franchises, selling for more than two billion dollars last year.

 

The Dodgers broke baseball’s colour barrier with the first black player, Jackie Robinson, in the 1940s, then signed the first big-time Asian player, Japan’s Hideo Nomo, in the ’90s.

 

And for decades, they have enjoyed a huge following down through Latin America, the other hotbed of baseball, along with parts of Asia, like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

 

The Arizona Diamondbacks are a relatively new team, born in 1998, but they became the champions of US baseball in just their fourth season.

 

Even before the two teams take the field — indeed, almost immediately after it was announced last year they would do so, says Foster — they have impacted baseball in Australia.

 

“We saw an immediate spike in our membership levels and our number of fans attending games. And so, what that led to, over the course of our recently completed ’13-’14 season, is a 20 per cent growth in ticket sales and attendance. And that was crucial for us, in our fourth year of operation, to see that continued growth and that step forward.”

 

Baseball in Australia actually is believed to date back to the 1850s, when US miners transported the game during the Victorian gold rush.

 

The first competitive series, involving a baseball club and the New South Wales Cricket Association, came in 1875, a year before the first US major-league competition began.

 

Today, the US major leagues, the US minor leagues and Japan’s Nippon Baseball League rank first, second and third in total attendance out of all sport in the world.

 

But much of that is because baseball is played daily over six months, and, even with its improved attendance, the Australian league averaged just 14-hundred people a game last season.

 

Why, then, would US baseball move its season opener 12-thousand kilometres away to Australia, something it has only tried previously in Mexico, Puerto Rico and Japan?

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Jon Deeble, manager of Australia’s national team — or head coach, as some sports would call it — sees it as a reflection on the country’s potential for producing players of that level.

 

“We had 28 kids sign (there) last year, for a total of four-and-a-half million dollars. And two of them are both left-handed pitchers, Daniel McGrath and Lewis Thorpe, they’re both big-time prospects over there. So, you know, because of the same language, because of the same living conditions as there are in America, it’s definitely a hotbed. Even though it’s a long way away, it’s a place where … it’s probably the most over-scouted country in the world. There are a lot of people employed over here to scout the Australian players. And, if we look back, usually 5 per cent of kids signed (to the minor leagues) get to the big leagues, and I think, with the Australian kids, we’re working at about 10 per cent.”

 

Over the years, more than 350 Australians have signed to play baseball in the United States, including two who became all-stars in the major leagues — Dave Nilsson and Grant Balfour.

 

Out of that total, 31 have reached the major leagues.

 

Balfour, who recently signed a new two-year, $12-million contract with the Tampa Bay Rays, is one of three or four Australians expected to start this season in the major leagues.

 

Around 60 others are playing in the US minor leagues and another hundred or so at US universities.

 

Jon Deeble, a former coach and now scout with the Boston Red Sox organisation, says Australian players have proved to be good fits for positions that accent power, like pitching.

 

“Our Australian guys, we’re built to pitch, we’re built to catch, we’re built to play the corners — the corner infield and outfield positions. We’re not really built with the speed to play up the middle (positions) like the Latin American kids. So, you know, pitching, we always say to the kids, ‘There are 15 roster spots on a major-league team, there’s one spot at shortstop, so, 30 teams times 15 pitchers, there are a lot more spots.’ But I think that’s just the nature of the beast:* the Australian kids are big and strong, and they throw the ball hard.”

 

Actually, about a dozen spots on a team’s 25-man roster go to pitchers, but the point is well-made — all of the Australians on this year’s opening-day rosters may be pitchers.

 

The interest in developing talent in Australia is strong enough that US baseball helps fund both the Australian Baseball League and a talent academy on Queensland’s Gold Coast.

 

It is a major investment for a game that barely makes the top 20 as a participation sport in Australia.

 

At Baseball Australia, chief executive Brett Pickett says the sport is hoping the Los Angeles-Arizona series can produce, above all, an awareness.

 

“Baseball, up until now, really has struggled for the sort of profile, both commercial, media and general awareness, that hasn’t really allowed us to, I guess, put the sport in the hearts and minds of Australia. And we hope this series is going to be the turning point for the sport, where we can show the hundreds of thousands of kids out there playing sport that baseball’s an option. It’s an option for them on a recreational level, and it’s an option on an elite level.”

 

A few hundred tickets remained available in the final days before the games, primarily because prices ranged from $69 for the worst seats all the way up to $499 for the best.

 

Pickett cites a wide array of costs to host the games, most tied to the huge revamp of the Sydney Cricket Ground to meet major-league baseball’s specific requirements.

 

There was a clay-soil mix required for the infield and pitcher’s mound, for example, not available in Australia and shipped by the tonne from San Diego.

 

But when all is said and done, Ben Foster, back at the Australian Baseball League, is hoping the collaboration helps hike his league to a new level.

 

Timed for the US offseason, when many young players have traditionally played in leagues in Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, Australia’s league could find a niche.

 

“I think what we have to offer is something very different in terms of, a) it’s a very real concern for some clubs in terms of safety and security and things of that nature that we have to offer over some of those Latin American countries, and, b) what we have to offer is something in terms of being English-speaking, which is really important for some of the US-based players who maybe don’t have a Spanish (speaking) background.”

 

 

Calls for national science strategy for Australia

(Transcript from World News Radio)

 

Australia’s Academy of Science is backing calls from the chief scientist for Australia to develop a long-term science strategy.

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In a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra, chief scientist Professor Ian Chubb warned Australia’s future prosperity is in danger because it doesn’t have a comprehensive strategy.

 

Greg Dyett reports.

 

(Click on audio tab above to listen to this item)

 

A ‘she’ll be right’ attitude, a lack of urgency and no real strategy.

 

That’s how the chief scientist Ian Chubb described Australia’s position when it comes to science.

 

Professor Chubb says it’s time for Australia to develop a comprehensive science strategy just as other countries have done.

 

“Why is it that the United States, the United Kingdom and many of the European Union countries have decided that a strategy for science is needed. Why is it that they have well articulated priorities, why is it that they look at the needs of their communities and build them into their priorities, why is it that they focus a proportion of their funding on the priority areas and not all of them.”

 

Professor Chubb says Australia as a small nation must be better at prioritising.

 

He says one way this could be done is by politicians identifying a specific budget, taking expert advice from scientists and then leaving the decisions on which projects to fund to the researchers.

 

“How can we expect to build a future prosperity with a she’ll be right attitude or, alternatively, where the person who last got into the door of a person who has the purse strings in their hand gets their support and gets funded out of context with little consideration of what the implications might be for the rest of this complex, diverse but interconnected system that science, technology, engineering and mathematics as we have it in this country.”

 

The Australian Academy of Science supports Ian Chubb’s calls for a science strategy for the longer term.

 

Professor Les Field is the academy’s spokesman on science policy.

 

He says there’s too much ad hoc decision-making.

 

“The way that we address many issues grows organically as distinct from saying here’s the problem, here’s the way we solve it properly and sustainably, it’s going to take us a long time and we need a road map of how we get from point a to point b and then we invest properly to make sure that happens.”

 

Professor Field says short-term thinking on the part of politicians has also been a problem.

 

“It has been very short sighted of previous governments in terms of not having a science strategy which actually goes beyond the term of government. I think most of our governments are very focused on the here and now as distinct from where we need to be in 10, 20 or 30 years time and many of the big issues that science and science and technology and the research community deal with are things which really will have an impact in 20 or 30 years time.”

 

This week scientists and politicians have held face-to-face meetings in Canberra as part of the annual ‘Science Meets Parliament’ initiative.

 

Professor Field says such gatherings are vital networking opportunities and he hopes scientists can become better communicators.

 

He says clear communication is vital, especially in areas that can become controversial such as climate science.

 

He says he agrees with Ian Chubb’s warning that the community must understand how scientific processes work, so that strongly-held public opinion does not override the evidence.

 

Professor Field says this exchange in May 2011 between Sydney broadcaster Alan Jones and climate scientist David Karoly is a case in point.

 

Alan Jones asked Professor Karoly where he could find empirical evidence in a United Nations Intergovernmental Report on Climate Change, proving that global warming was caused by human activity.

 

(Karoly) “Sure, you would find that evidence in the peer-reviewed scientific studies and in the data” (Jones) “But where in chapter 9? Where in chapter 9, where can I open chapter 9 because I looked at it, where can I open chapter 9 is that evidence?” (Karoly) “It’s, I can’t tell you the page number because I don’t have it.” (Jones) “No, no, it’s not there, it’s no there, it’s not there, you are the chapter review editor, it’s not there, that’s why you can’t tell me the page number, the evidence is not there.” (Karoly) “That’s not true Alan.”

 

Professor Les Field from the Academy of Science says David Karoly has done a good job at explaining climate science.

 

He says other scientists should follow his lead.

 

“Karoly’s example was a prime example and he’s done a terrific job at trying to both calm down the debate because it is an emotive issue and there are high stakes for many individuals and you’ve got to be able to stand aside from the politics and the emotion and say here are the facts and I think getting that message across in a cool, calm professional way is just something that our scientists have to do both to the general public and to the government, in particular, in a much better way than we have been able to do in the past.”

 

Under Senate pressure, Sinodinos steps aside

Assistant federal Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos has stood aside from his position, amid questions over alleged links to a questionable deal involving disgraced former Labor power broker Eddie Obeid.

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(Transcript from World News Radio)

 

The Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating the activities of Australian Water Holdings and state-owned Sydney Water between 1992 and 2012 and which was chaired by Senator Sinodinos in 2011.

 

Labor successfully suspended proceedings in the Senate to move a motion to force the Assistant Treasurer to make a detailed statement about his involvement with Australian Water Holdings run by Eddie Obied.

 

(Click on audio tab to listen to this item)

 

Senator Sinidinos has stepped aside until after the ICAC inquiry is completed.

 

Senator Sinodinos told Parliament earlier this week he would appear before ICAC as a witness and would be vindicated in relation to his involvement with Australian Water Holdings.

 

However, this was not good enough for the Greens and Labor.

 

The Senate passed a motion calling on Senator Sinodinos to make a statement to parliament by noon, or to face a further motion compelling him to do so.

 

Senator Sinodinos told the Senate that the issue was becoming a distraction from important issues, and therefore he would stand aside for the time being.

 

“I do not want this sideshow to be an unnecessary distraction from the important work of the government, which I am proud to serve. Whilst this process is underway, I will therefore be standing aside as Assistant Treasurer. I thank my colleagues for their strong support and for their ongoing faith in my integrity. The ICAC is the appropriate forum for me to answer any questions in relation to this matter. “

 

Labor claims there are a number of inconsistencies between what Senator Sinodinos told parliament in February 2013 and revelations at the ICAC inquiry relating to Australian Water Holdings.

 

In that statement, Senator Sinodinos denied any wrongdoing, and said he played no role in awarding a contract between AWH and state-run Sydney Water.

 

Labor Senator John Faulkner says ICAC has correspondence between the former company chairman and Sydney Water, as well as evidence of a meeting he had called to discuss the matter in 2011.

 

Senator Sinodinos also told parliament in 2013 that donations by AWH to political parties were handled by the company and not himself.

 

Senator Faulkner told the Senate he was not accusing Senator Sinodinos of corruption.

 

But he said the Assistant Treasurer had not said enough.

 

“There is now incontrovertible evidence that that statement, the only statement that Senator Sinodinos had made about this matter, that statement of more than a year ago wasn’t a complete statement. It is not an accurate statement. We know that and as a result a further statement is required.”

 

An angry Attorney General, Senator George Brandis responded by saying Senator Faulkner knows there is no case for the Assistant Treasurer to answer.

 

“We’ve had to put up with almost two hours of the smearing and the trashing and the attack by innuendo on the reputation of a great Australian before the Labor Party, through Senator Faulkner, made the concession that discloses and reveals the hollowness of their attack when Senator Faulkner said 115 minutes into this debate ‘I am not suggesting that Senator Sinodinos acted corruptly, not for a moment.'”

 

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says Senator Sinodinos has stood aside for the good of the government until the ICAC investigation has been resolved.

 

Mr Abbott has also rejected suggestions that he asked Senator Sinodinos to step aside and says he’s looking forward to his return to the ministry after the inquiry ends.

 

“Senator Sinodinos saw me earlier and advised me of his decision to stand aside. So he made the decision. And I have to say, Madam Speaker, it is in the best and most honourable Westminster tradition that he should do so.”

 

Senator Sinodinos’s duties will be temporarily assumed by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.

 

The Prime Minister says the Senator will receive no parliamentary salary or entitlements for the time being.

 

The ICAC inquiry is expected to last thee weeks.

 

 

Camilla Franks’ Vic show full of theatrics

Models brandishing swords, flags and crosses looked like they were off to perform a ritual killing in the Camilla Franks showcase at the Melbourne Fashion Festival.

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The show, staged in collaboration with composer Jonathan Dreyfus and brass and percussion musicians from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, celebrated a decade of Camilla Franks’ contribution to the Australian fashion industry.

Actress and L’Oreal ambassador Eva Longoria looked on from the front row as models dressed like warrior princesses strode down the catwalk.

The floaty kaftans, tops and pants in Franks’ And God Created Woman collection featured a kaleidoscope of patterns like skulls and leopard print.

Beading, studs and bling embellished the garments that were accessorised with headdresses, thick gold necklaces and floral chokers.

Model Montana Cox closed the show after Georgia May Jagger cancelled.

Jagger left Australia on Tuesday after the death of her rock star father Mick Jagger’s girlfriend, L’Wren Scott.

Franks said she created the And God Created Woman collection after a year of self reflection.

“I had a year of looking at myself and all the different voices … love, insecurity, peace, the different hats that I wear and I thought it would be a really interesting thing to do a gallery of prints that reflect those voices,” she said.

Franks, 37, says the Camilla brand has evolved as she has matured and now includes cushions, children’s wear and swimwear.

“It’s just really celebrating a full lifestyle.”

Franks has reportedly recently battled a debilitating auto-immune infection, Bell’s palsy, which causes paralysis to one side of the face.

UK jobless drop in pre-budget boost

British unemployment is falling and the number of people in work has struck a record high, official data shows, boosting the government ahead of its latest budget announcement.

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The number of unemployed fell by 63,000 people to 2.33 million in the three months to January, compared with the three months to October, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced in a statement.

Employment jumped to 30.19 million in the same period, which was the highest level since records began in 1971, it added.

The number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance fell in February to 1.17 million people in the 16th consecutive monthly reduction.

The bright labour market data, coupled with Britain’s strengthening economic recovery, sets the stage for British finance minister George Osborne’s annual budget due at 1230 GMT.

The ONS added on Wednesday that the unemployment rate held steady at 7.2 per cent in the quarter to January, from the three months to December.

The jobless rate is no longer linked to the Bank of England’s pledge to keep interest rates at record lows, after governor Mark Carney unveiled new forward guidance.

The central bank had previously pledged not to consider a rate rise until unemployment fell to at least 7.0 per cent.

However, the BoE tweaked its forward guidance policy after official data showed the unemployment rate had struck a near five-year low of 7.1 per cent in the three months to November.

Under the amended guidance, the BoE will seek to absorb all the spare capacity in the economy as it looks to keep inflation close to a government-set target of 2.0 per cent, before moving to hike its key lending rate.

New flood of dead pigs in Chinese river

Chinese authorities have found 157 dead pigs in a river, a year after 16,000 carcasses were discovered in Shanghai’s main waterway, underscoring the country’s food safety problems.

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The dead porkers were recovered from the Gan river in Jiangxi, which supplies drinking water to the provincial capital Nanchang and is a tributary of the Yangtze, one of China’s main waterways, the official news agency Xinhua said.

But tests showed that the tap water remained “safe for drinking”, it said, citing Nanchang authorities.

“Another 20 pigs have been fished out of the Gan River, for a total of 157,” state broadcaster CCTV said on an account on Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter.

Photos posted by CCTV showed staff in white clothing and face masks looking over carcasses lined up on a river bank.

Ear tags indicated the animals came from Zhangshu city in the central Chinese province, CCTV said, citing Jiangxi’s agriculture department.

Zhangshu authorities could not be immediately reached for comment.

A year ago China was stunned by the appearance of more than 16,000 dead pigs floating along parts of the Huangpu river which flows through Shanghai – one in a series of food-safety scandals in recent years.

No official explanation was given for the incident, which hugely embarrassed China’s commercial hub.

Last May, police detained 900 people for crimes including selling rat and fox meat as beef and mutton.

And in 2008, six babies died and 300,000 others fell ill in a massive scandal involving contaminated milk powder.

Public concern about food safety is high and in his address to China’s parliament this month Premier Li Keqiang pledged to “apply the strictest possible oversight, punishment and accountability to prevent and control food contamination and ensure that every bite of food we eat is safe”.

Trauma study targets 300 Vietnam veterans

Haunted by images of mangled bodies, Vietnam veteran Tony Dell hasn’t slept for more than four hours a night during the past 40 years.

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When he returned home in 1968 after serving a year in Vietnam he became introverted, edgy, angry, had difficulty sleeping and his marriage broke down.

It wasn’t until 2008, when he began talking about the war, that he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“I still get flashbacks … bullets whizzing over your head and mangled up bodies,” the former Australian Test cricketer told AAP from his home on the Sunshine Coast.

“The problem is it sinks into your subconscious and stays there and it ferments and eventually it comes out as PTSD.”

Keen to create more awareness around the disorder which affects five to 10 per cent of Australians, Mr Dell on Wednesday became the first of 300 Vietnam veterans to take part in a new Queensland-based research project into PTSD.

The Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation and RSL Queensland study will look at the health risks of PTSD such as heart disease and cancer, and the role genetics plays.

“We think that stress is interacting with genes that predispose people to these diseases,” lead researcher Queensland University of Technology Professor Ross Young told AAP.

Of those veterans involved in the study, half suffer from PTSD.

Prof Young is hopeful the year-long study will improve diagnosis, treatment and potentially prevention.

Mr Dell treats his symptoms by exercising and talking about his war experience, and has spent the past several years encouraging others to speak to out.

“If I’d talked about the war when I first got home things wouldn’t have been so tough,” he said.

Worker kills six at Turkish govt agency

A disgruntled former employee has burst into a government agency in eastern Turkey, shooting dead six staff before taking his own life.

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The gunman took his one-time colleagues hostage at the Turkish Statistical Institute in the city of Kars and then embarked on a shooting spree that has also left many others injured, officials said.

“We unfortunately lost seven people,” Development Minister Cevdet Yilmaz said.

Yilmaz said the assailant was a former employee who had been blocked from any promotion after facing administrative sanctions.

“Someone who was dismissed from his job ran amok and killed six people before committing suicide,” Kars governor Eyup Tepe said in a statement.

He said the assailant, identified as Veysi Erim, had received treatment for “psychological problems”.

Specialist police teams rushed to the scene but the staff were killed before their arrival, media reports said.

“He first took the bureau head hostage,” the main opposition party’s mayoral candidate Naif Alibeyoglu, from the Republican People’s Party, was quoted as saying by the Hurriyet newspaper.

“Then he randomly fired here and there, killing six.

“There are also many people injured.”

The assailant had recently travelled to the Kurdish-majority southeastern province of Diyarbakir and brought a gun from there, he said.

Tensions are running high in Turkey ahead of key local elections on March 30, but the governor’s office said the incident had nothing to do with “politics or any terrorist activity”.

* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Zuma told to repay home renovations

South Africa’s public ombudsman says some of the $US23 million ($A25.

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28 million) taxpayer-funded refurbishments at President Jacob Zuma’s luxurious residence are unlawful and has ordered him to repay part of the cost.

“Some of these measures can be legitimately classified as unlawful and the acts involved constitute improper conduct and maladministration,” Thuli Madonsela said in a much-awaited report released just weeks ahead of the May presidential election.

The scathing report, which also implicated several ministers, found that Zuma violated the executive ethics code by failing to protect state resources.

The ombudsman ordered that Zuma “pay a reasonable percentage of the cost of the measures” which are not related to security at his sprawling homestead.

However, the exact amount to be reimbursed was not disclosed and Madonsela said it would be up to the Treasury to determine a figure.

Zuma’s residence in the rural southern village of Nkandla cost South African taxpayers 246 million rand ($US23 million) in a project touted as a security upgrade.

Some additions include a visitors’ centre, swimming pool, an amphitheatre and even a chicken coop.

“The expenditure incurred by the state… went beyond what was reasonably required for the president’s security, was unconsciously excessive and caused a misappropriation of funds,” the report said.

Madonsela also ordered Zuma to “reprimand the ministers involved for the appalling manner in which the Nkandla project was handled and state funds were abused”.

Zuma of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is running for re-election in South Africa’s May 7 vote.

Asian shares mixed as eyes turn to US Fed

Asia’s markets were mixed in edgy trade after Russia ratcheted up tensions in Eastern Europe by formally absorbing Crimea from Ukraine.

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Investors are also awaiting the end of the Federal Reserve’s latest policy meeting, hoping for some guidance from its new head Janet Yellen on her plans for interest rates.

Tokyo rose 0.36 per cent, or 51.25 points, to end at 14,462.52 and Sydney added 0.21 per cent, or 11.0 points, to 5,355.6.

But Seoul lost 0.13 per cent, or 2.53 points, to close at 1,937.68 and Shanghai finished 0.17 per cent lower, giving up 3.46 points to 2,021.73.

Hong Kong ended virtually flat, edging down 14.81 points to 21,568.69.

President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty taking Crimea into Russia’s fold following a weekend referendum which Western leaders slammed as illegal.

The move comes less than three weeks after Russian troops seized control of the strategic peninsula in response to the ousting of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow government.

Kiev’s new leaders warned the showdown had entered a “military stage” after soldiers were killed on both sides following a shootout in Crimea.

Despite the continuing crisis in Europe, traders are focused on the Fed’s two-day meeting which ends later on Wednesday.

On Wall Street on Tuesday the Dow rose 0.55 per cent, the S&P 500 shot up 0.72 per cent – to end just short of a record high – and the Nasdaq climbed 1.25 per cent.

“Putin indicated he isn’t seeking ‘a partition of Ukraine’, soothing market fears (for now) that the crisis will escalate further,” National Australian Bank said.

“It gave investors the chance to start focusing on the (Fed) meeting tonight.”

While analysts expect a further cut in the bank’s stimulus program as the economy picks up, they also predict it will scrap its unemployment rate threshold.

The Fed previously said unemployment must fall to 6.5 per cent before it considers raising interest rates.

On currency markets the dollar traded at 101.61 yen against 101.42 yen in New York Tuesday afternoon.

The euro bought $US1.3924 and 141.49 yen compared with $US1.3932 and 141.29 yen.

The Japanese currency hardly moved after official data showed Japan’s trade deficit expanded 3.5 per cent year-on-year to 800.3 billion yen ($A8.68 billion) in February.

It was the 20th straight shortfall but well down from a record deficit in January.

The median forecast by economists was for a smaller deficit of 595 billion yen, according to a poll by the leading Nikkei business daily.

Oil prices dipped. New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate for April delivery, was down seven cents to $US99.63 in afternoon trade, and Brent North Sea crude for May dropped 23 cents to $US106.56.

Gold fetched $US1,346.53 an ounce at 1055 GMT (2155 AEDT) compared with $US1,362.05 late on Tuesday.

In other markets:

— Bangkok lost 0.64 per cent or 8.81 points to 1,364.27.

Telecoms company Total Access Communication (DTAC) rose 2.65 per cent to 116.00 baht, while Siam Cement fell 2.38 per cent to 410.00 baht.

— Jakarta ended higher 0.33 per cent, or 15.85 points, at 4,821.46.

Palm Oil producer Astra Agro Lestari rose 1.44 per cent to 26,425 rupiah, while cement maker Indocement Tunggal Prakarsa gained 0.21 per cent to 24,050 rupiah.

— Kuala Lumpur’s main stock index gained 5.54 points, or 0.36 per cent, to 1,820.70.

Financial firm CIMB Group Holdings rose 0.7 per cent to 7.05 ringgit, while Telekom Malaysia added 1.2 per cent to 5.87. Axiata Group lost 0.2 per cent to 6.49 ringgit.

— Mumbai’s benchmark index ended almost flat at 21,832.86 points.

Petronet LNG shares gained 5.80 per cent or 7.40 rupees to 135.05 rupees per share. Tata Steel rose 4.58 per cent or 15.60 rupees to 356.30 rupees per share.

— Singapore closed down 0.42 per cent, or 13.09 points, at 3,080.75.

Real Estate developer Capitaland eased 0.73 per cent to Sg$2.72 while United Overseas Bank gained 0.60 per cent to Sg$20.19.

— Manila was flat, edging down 4.06 points to 6,462.49.

Aboitiz Power rose 0.38 per cent to 39.90 pesos while International Container Terminal Services fell 0.88 per cent to 101.10 pesos.

— Taipei fell 0.49 per cent, or 42.48 points, to 8,689.46.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was unchanged at Tw$114.5, while leading chip design house MediaTek shed 2.87 per cent to Tw$440.0.

— Wellington rose 0.37 per cent, or 19.05 points, to 5,154.72.

Meridian Energy closed 1.4 per cent higher at NZ$1.11, while Mighty River Power added 1.5 per cent to NZ$2.10. But Telecom was off 0.62 per cent at NZ$2.42.

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