Monthly archives: January, 2019

UK police can view seized items: court

Britain’s High Court has ruled that material seized from the partner of a journalist working to publish secrets from US leaker Edward Snowden can be partially examined by police.

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UK Police launched a criminal investigation over the data, claiming the files it has seen are “highly sensitive” and would be “gravely injurious to public safety” if revealed.

David Miranda, 28, the partner and assistant of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, was detained for nine hours at London Heathrow Airport under anti-terror laws as he changed planes on Sunday.

The Brazilian, who helped Greenwald work on the Snowden material, had his laptop, phone, memory cards and other electronic equipment confiscated by agents.

Lawyers for Miranda asked the High Court to prevent the government from “inspecting, copying or sharing” the data.

Instead, the court decided to allow the government to view the items on the condition the material was being examined on “national security” grounds.

Calling Thursday’s ruling a partial victory, Miranda’s lawyer Gwendolen Morgan said the Home Office and London police headquarters Scotland Yard now had seven days to prove there was a genuine threat to Britain’s security.

“The defendants are not to inspect, copy, disclose, transfer or distribute – whether domestically or to any foreign government or agency – or interfere with the materials obtained from Mr Miranda under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, save for the purposes of protection of national security,” she said outside court.

“The very chilling effect of the implications of today’s judgement are something that journalists worldwide should be very concerned about.”

Snowden, a former US National Security Agency contractor, leaked information on mass surveillance programs conducted by the NSA and Britain’s electronic eavesdropping agency GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters).

Based on the material Snowden provided, British newspaper the Guardian has published a series of reports detailing the programs.

A lawyer for London’s Metropolitan Police, Jonathan Laidlaw, told the court that a mass of data had been discovered by officers, who were still examining the material.

“That which has been inspected contains, in the view of the police, highly sensitive material disclosure of which would be gravely injurious to public safety,” he said.

Home Secretary Theresa May said before the hearing that the police were right to act if they thought Miranda was carrying material for Greenwald that could be useful to terrorists.

Separately, David Anderson, Britain’s independent reviewer of terror legislation, said Thursday he would launch an investigation to consider whether the anti-terror laws used to detain Miranda were “lawfully, appropriately and humanely used”.


Jones puts himself in frame for Presidents Cup

Jones reeled off five consecutive birdies on his way to a sparkling eight-under-par 62 in the final round at the Wyndham Championship on Sunday.

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He started his purple patch at the 12th hole and while his run came too late to contend for victory, he vaulted into a tie for fifth at Sedgefield, just three strokes behind play-off winner Patrick Reed.

Jones has finished in the top-seven in three of his past four starts – performances which no doubt have caught the attention of Nick Price, captain of the International team for October’s Presidents Cup against the United States at Muirfield Village in Ohio.

The top 10 in the standings after the next two tournaments will gain automatic selection, while Price will pick two others.

Jones remains outside the top 10 but few other International players are in good form, which may help the Australian’s cause.

Jones, 33, downplayed his chances, saying he needed to win in the next two weeks to justify selection.

“I’d need to win a tournament to feel like I’ve earned my way there,” Jones told Reuters. “Top 10s are great but I think you’ve got to handle the pressure of winning a tournament to understand what playing a Presidents Cup is like.

“This is the closest I’ve been (to making the team) and it’s great to be there because it means I’ve played well this year.”

Jones, who is 37th on the tour’s FedEx Cup points standings, has always had a good long game but putting has often been his weak link.

But he made his share of putts on Sunday, including a rollercoaster 45-footer at the 13th that he described as the best putt of his life.

“I had to nearly putt it off the green – at a 45-degree angle to the hole up one steep hill and back down another steep hill – and it went in,” he said. “It was amazing.”

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Scott in contention at PGA playoffs

FP – Australian Adam Scott has surged into contention at the weather-disrupted Barclays, climbing to within three shots of the lead after round two at the first event in the US PGA Tour playoffs.

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Masters champion Scott carded a 66 round to rise 29 places up the leaderboard into a share of fourth on seven-under 135 behind leader Matt Kuchar.

Kucher edged past clubhouse leaders Webb Simpson and Gary Woodland, firing five birdies and no bogeys through 13 holes to finish on 10-under for the tournament when play was suspended.

He’ll return on Saturday morning to try to seal the 36-hole lead.

Australian Jason Day however, couldn’t repeat his fine form of the opening round, carding three bogeys and one birdie through 16 holes to sit seven shots off the pace with compatriot Matt Jones.

Scott, Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley were all on seven-under, while England’s Justin Rose, the reigning US Open champion, was also at seven-under through 14 holes.

Fowler set a Liberty National Golf Club course record with a 64, only for Bradley to break it with a 63 – all before Woodland completed his own 64.

Scott, who hasn’t won since capturing his first major title at Augusta National in April, was happy to put in a long day. He played 12 holes of his first round before completing his second.

“I’m pretty happy with today’s effort,” Scott said. “When we went out this morning, the wind was up, and the course played a lot tougher than the few holes I played yesterday.”

Nevertheless, he had an eagle, a birdie and one bogey over his 12 holes to conclude the first round, and added five birdies and another eagle in the second.

“Playing 30 holes in a day is good – if you’re playing well,” Scott said.

Former US Open champion Simpson also made a marathon day look easy, firing a second-round 66 to take the early clubhouse lead on nine-under 133.

He was joined late in the day by Woodland, who notched a sparkling 64 that included eight birdies and a bogey.

Simpson and Woodland were two strokes clear of their nearest rivals in the clubhouse.

Among those who were unable to finish, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy had seven birdies and two bogeys through 16 holes to stand at five-under for the tournament and world No.1 Tiger Woods was one-under for the day and five-under for the tournament through 13 holes.

The top 125 players in the standings qualified for this week’s field. Only 100 will go on to the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston. Seventy will then play the BMW Championship in Chicago, with the top 30 on the points list qualifying for the Tour Championship in Atlanta.

The player topping the standings after the four events wins a $10 million playoff bonus.


Magpie Thomas tipped for VFL return

Star Collingwood wingman Dale Thomas is set to play his first game since early May, marked for a return through the VFL on Saturday.

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After finally overcoming an ankle injury Thomas is primed for a run with Collingwood’s VFL team against Sandringham.

Magpies coach Nathan Buckley said Thomas was “excellent” during the team’s main training session on Tuesday and he had maintained his fitness during the long layoff.

“The likelihood is that he’ll play VFL this week,” Buckley told the Collingwood website.

“All tests to this point have him thereabouts.”

Ruckman Darren Jolly is also putting his hand up to play in Friday night’s AFL blockbuster against Hawthorn at the MCG after overcoming a knee injury.

Jolly hasn’t played for a fortnight but according to his coach impressed in training.

In his absence youngster Brodie Grundy stood up strongly in Collingwood’s 29-point win over Sydney on Saturday night.

“We expect our big units to be animals and have a bit of white line fever,” Buckley said of Grundy.

“He’s a different cat off the field but on it he’s a massive competitor.”

Buckley said a decision on which ruckmen would be used for the remainder of the season would be made on a “horses for courses” basis.

Buckley said that veteran Alan Didak had been given compassionate leave and was with an ill friend in Adelaide.

“He asked for personal leave and we granted that late last week,” he said.

“He’ll be back at training on Thursday and will look to play (VFL) this week.

“He played a couple of really good VFL matches (before heading to Adelaide) so he’s thereabouts.

“Hell look to hit the ground running next week and well see where we go from there.”


Lomu came close to dying at World Cup

Rugby superstar Jonah Lomu has revealed how close he came to dying just days after he played a leading role at the opening ceremony of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

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The former All Blacks winger, who underwent a kidney transplant in 2004, was admitted to hospital during the tournament when it began to fail.

In his updated autobiography, Jonah: My Story, Lomu discloses he began feeling unwell hours after stepping onto Eden Park to launch the tournament that the All Blacks went on to win.

“It started out as a wonderful evening, but as the night wore on I started to feel unwell. By the time I got home I was in a bad way.

“Over the next few hours I got worse. I couldn’t keep anything down,” the 38-year-old writes.

When his condition deteriorated days later he was taken by ambulance to hospital where doctors told him he was very sick.

“My bloodstream was septic and the doctors were starting to think the worst: that my kidney had failed and my body was in total meltdown.”

His doctor, John Mayhew, said things got dicey.

“For a while there Jonah was an extremely sick man. There was a distinct possibility he could have died as a result of serious renal failure.”

Lomu is now undergoing dialysis as he waits for a second transplant.

He shot to fame in the 1995 World Cup when he trampled over England in a four-try performance in the semi-final.

It was same year that he was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome.

The book, on sale from Tuesday, also covers the breakdown in the relationship between himself and manager Phil Kingsley Jones over a story sold to a women’s magazine.

He played 63 Tests in an international career which stretched from 1994-2002, scoring 37 tries.


EU must modernise: Blair

“It is time to recognise that only by change will Europe recover its strength, its relevance, its idealism, and therefore its support amongst the people,” the British Prime Minister told the European parliament in Brussels.

In his 30-minute speech, he described himself as being “a passionate pro-European”, rebutting critics who claim he’s only interested in Europe as a free trade zone.

“I believe in Europe with a strong and caring social dimension,” he said. “I would never accept a Europe that was simply an economic market.”

With Britain to take on the rotating EU presidency on July 1, he said Europe must meet the challenge of globalization.

Trumpeting Britain’s social and economic model as a success, he called on the EU to gradually reduce the share of its budget spent on farm subsidies.

In a public rebuttal of those who accuse Britain of wanting to replace the European social model with an “Anglo-Saxon” economic free-for-all, he asked: “What type of social model is it that has 20 million unemployed in Europe?”

Mr Blair has been bitterly criticised for the acrimonious collapse of last week’s Brusssels summit, especially his refusal to discuss Britain’s budget rebate unless wider reforms, including agricultural subsidies, were discussed.

On Wednesday French President Jacques Chirac criticised British “intransigence”, telling a French cabinet meeting that Europe was going through a “serious crisis.”

But the British leader urged calm, saying “the debate over Europe should not be conducted by trading insults or in terms of personality. It should be an open and frank exchange of ideas.”

But in a clear swipe at his French and German peers, he also said the EU was facing a crisis of political leadership.

He claimed economic stagnation made it hard to win voter support for the bloc’s troubled constitution in most of its 25 countries, implying European politicians had lost touch with the people.

“The people are blowing the trumpets round the city walls,” he said.

“Are we listening? Have we the political will to go out and meet them so that they regard our leadership as part of the solution not the problem?”

Despite the occasional cat call, his speech received a broadly warm reception, surprising some who had expected more leftist taunts.

“At this time the European Socialists will be at Tony Blair’s side,” said Martin Schulz, head of the European Socialists. “We must lead the necessary debate… Naturally we must reform the CAP.”

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder welcomed what he said was Blair’s call for the EU to be a “political union.”

Mr Blair’s speech “clearly said he was for a political union,” he said, before adding “We shall see if it succeeds.”

In another twist in the debate, France’s influential newspaper Le Monde on Thursday called for the partial “renationalisation” of EU subsidies to farmers.

In a departure from long-standing French policy, the paper’s editorial said the only way to find the funds needed for EU research and technology was to cut spending on agriculture.

“France can accept a progressive renationalisation. Because in an enlarged Europe it is not justifiable that (France) receive 21 percent of the Common Agricultural Policy”.


US ‘winning in Iraq’: Rumsfeld

“Any who say that we’ve lost this war, or that we’re losing this war, are wrong. We are not,” Mr Rumsfeld told a hearing of the US Senate Armed Services Committee.

His comments follow stinging rebukes from members of the US Congress, among them members of the governing Republican Party, about the performance of the US military in Iraq.

Earlier this week, top Republican Senator Chuck Hagel slammed the Bush administration’s Iraq policy as “completely disconnected from reality.”

Republican Representative Walter Jones is leading calls for a deadline on when US troops will return home and introduced legislation earlier this month demanding a timetable be set.

But Mr Rumsfeld told the Senate Committee the idea of a timetable would be counterproductive and embolden insurgents.

“It would throw a lifeline to terrorists, who in recent months have suffered significant losses and casualties, been denied havens and suffered weakened popular support.”

Operation Lightening, launched in late May, represents the strongest recent crackdown on insurgent militants.

More than 1,000 suspects were detained.

The US military has just wrapped up a five-day offensive against insurgents in the town of Karabilah, near the Syrian border.

According to officials, 47 militants were killed and one suspect detained.

However, the past two days have seen a deadly string of bombings of Shi’ite targets in the capital killing at least 35 people.

In the latest attacks, four bombs in quick succession were detonated in the densely populated Baghdad district of Karradah.

Two mosques, a police patrol and a male bath complex were hit by the blasts which left 17 people dead and 69 injured, according to an interior ministry official.

Amid the fresh violence, Mr Rumsfeld and leading US military officials have repeated criticisms made by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice against Syria.

‘It is a fact that terrorists come across the Syrian border. It is also a fact that Syria is a dictatorship with a very large intelligence community. And one has to presume they know what is going on in their country,” Mr Rumsfeld stated.

“In addition there are Baathists that came from Iraq and have established themselves n Syria, and the Syrians have not apparently taken any action against them as they support the insurgency,” said General John Abizaid, the commander of US forces in the Middle East.


Rau treatment wrong: report

In a draft report tabled on Tuesday, former federal police commissioner Mick Palmer found the immigration department breached its own guidelines for dealing with detainees.

He said the duty of care attended to German-born Cornelia Rau, who was wrongly detained for 10 months as an illegal immigrant and suffers from a mental illness, was “demonstrably inadequate.”

Ms Rau, a former Qantas flight attendant who at the time claimed to be a German tourist named Anna, spent six months last year in a Queensland women’s prison because there was no immigration detention centre in the state.

Immigration officials failed to check up on Ms Rau, who displayed confused, but not violent, behaviour while in jail, the inquiry found.

This behaviour “should have triggered a response and action to remove (Ms Rau) from prison detention much earlier,” said the report.

The Palmer inquiry, which was expanded to include other wrongful detentions and a deportation, described 39-year-old Ms Rau as “simply a person who desperately needed help.”

The poor level of care given to Ms Rau continued after she was transferred to the Baxter Immigration Detention Centre in South Australia where she spent four months until her real identity was discovered in March.

“Lacking continuity of care and assertive clinical leadership, the
detainees at Baxter are vulnerable and exposed to aggravated risk of mental illness,” the report said.

Australia’s immigration policy allows for the mandatory and unlimited detention of illegal immigrations including children and has been widely criticised by rights groups.

The government recently softened the laws to release into the community children and long-term detainees who cannot be sent home.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said the government would not respond until the final report was completed, which is expected to be late next week.

But federal Health Minister Tony Abbott said the wrongful detention of Ms Rau had embarrassed the government and said the right lessons should be learned from the “unhappy episode”.

“As far as the federal government is concerned we will carefully study the (Palmer) report, we will learn the right lessons and we will act upon them,” the minister said.


US flag burning bill approved

Supporters said the measure to outlaw the desecration of the stars and stripes was meant to particularly discourage demonstrators burning or otherwise damaging the flag during a protest.

“Freedom of political speech does not include the destruction of a physical object – especially one that thousands of soldiers have sworn and fought to protect,” said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

The top House Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, spoke against the measure.

“To truly honor our flag, we should honor what the flag ultimately symbolizes – our commitment to freedom and democracy, including free speech, even speech that we find distasteful,” she said.

The bill now moves to the Senate where its supporters believe it will finally be approved, ending years of rejection.

“It’s going to be really close (in the Senate), within a one or two vote margin,” said Terri Schroeder of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has lobbied against the measure.

It must also be ratified by the states to become law.

The increasingly conservative nature of the Republican-led, 100-member Senate along with a renewed sense of patriotism fanned by the Iraq war have made proponents optimistic.

While supporters argue the legislation is needed to protect a symbol of American democracy, opponents warn it would infringe on the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech.

The US Congress has voted repeatedly for such a measure since a 1989. Supreme Court ruling that flag burning was protected as an act of free speech.

The Senate has rejected the proposed amendment in the past, most recently in 2000 by four votes.

Republicans expanded their Senate majority in last year’s elections by four to 55.

To become law, a proposed constitutional amendment must be approved by two-thirds of the House and Senate, and then ratified by three-fourths, or 38, of the country’s 50 states.

Political analysts are predicting a close Senate vote, with lawmakers facing re-election likely to come under pressure to approve it.

“It’s tough to vote against because if you do it’s automatic you’ll face an attack ad in your next campaign,” said Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia.

“The First Amendment is not easy to defend.”


Syria urged to seal borders

The gunbattle on Mount Qassioun overlooking the Syrian capital was the second fire-fight with extremists in recent days and comes amid intense US pressure on Syria to stop militants slipping over its border into Iraq.

“The clash took place early on Monday on Mount Qassioun with a group of people wanted for terrorist crimes, some of whom were former bodyguards of Saddam Hussein,” the SANA agency said.

“Two terrorists were arrested after the clash,” which also claimed the life of a security forces officer.

Quoting an information ministry official, SANA said the two people arrested were a Jordanian named Sharif Aied Saif Smadi and the wife of his brother Mohammed.

The Smadi brothers are wanted in Jordan for a series of petty crimes including armed robbery.

The new clash came a day after SANA reported two Syrian security personnel and an “Arab extremist” were killed in a firefight while trying to cross the border from Lebanon, during which several militants were captured.

The authorities also announced last month they had dismantled an “Islamic fundamentalist group” which they said had been plotting attacks against targets in Damascus.

The latest clash comes as US stepped up pressure on Syria to seal its borders to insurgents.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last week the Syrian government must know that foreign fighters are being funnelled through its territory into Iraq and “at a minimum are tolerating it.”

The US has also frozen the assets of Syria’s Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan and top military intelligence chief Rustum Ghazali, accusing them of abetting terrorism.