I want to play in Ashes finale: Anderson

England star James Anderson is desperate to send Australia a message by playing in the fifth Test at The Oval starting on Wednesday.

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Even though the match is a dead-rubber and Anderson seems in need of a rest, the strike bowler feels he has unfinished business in this series and a point to prove ahead of the return Ashes in the summer.

Anderson took 10 wickets in a match-winning performance in the first Test at Trent Bridge.

But since then he’s struggled to back that effort up and in the fourth Test at Chester-le-Street he was particularly toothless.

Despite being the undisputed leader of the England attack, Anderson has the worst bowling average in the side, going at 31.11 with 17 wickets.

There are calls for Anderson to be wrapped in cotton wool with so much more Ashes cricket still to come, but Anderson has spoken out pleading to be retained for The Oval.

“I desperately want to play in the fifth Test, not only to finish what we started but also to try to rediscover the form that I admit has not been as I would have liked in the last couple of matches,” Anderson wrote in the Daily Mail.

“I know it is pretty impossible to perform at 100 per cent in every match, but I’m my own harshest critic and, by the standards I set myself, I did not bowl as well as I can at Old Trafford or the Riverside.

“That makes me want to play this week to try to find out what has been missing and work out how I can get it back.

“Physically, there is nothing to suggest I need a rest. I am nowhere near the state of exhaustion that hit me when I was left out of the side in the last World Cup in India and Sri Lanka, when, at the end of a winter which included our brilliant but draining 2010-11 Ashes tour, I more or less hit the wall.”

Meanwhile, Australian great Adam Gilchrist has called for Ryan Harris to be played for an unprecedented fourth-straight Test match.

Gilchrist said that unless Harris had a genuine niggle, he should play, regardless of the fact the series is over.

As Australia’s great success story for the series, along with opener Chris Rogers, Harris deserves a chance to finish strong and lay a marker for the coming series, according to Gilchrist.

“While mindful of the opportunity to rest guys who may be injured and therefore miss future matches, I think Ryan himself deep down would dearly like to play at The Oval,” Gilchrist wrote on EspnCricinfo.

“When you’ve missed as much cricket as he has through injury, and don’t know how much you have left, you want to take every opportunity to go out and play.

“Australia have a chance to show some of the resolve they demonstrated for most of the two Test matches at Old Trafford and Chester-le-Street, and try to get the kind of result that would lead to a more positive mindset when they start the return series back home.

“I’ve always felt that if they’re all fit, you pick your best XI, and under those terms Ryan is just about the first man who should be chosen.”


Nuns no longer on the run

The number of Catholic nuns in Australia has hit a hundred-year low, but of those choosing to enter religious life, a growing number are from multi-ethnic backgrounds.

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Rhiannon Elston has the details.

 

Vietnamese-born Sister Clare Dang had never met a nun before she decided to become one.

 

For Lucy Vo, an early experience boarding with nuns at a convent lead her to aspire to become one.

 

Both women belong to the Missionary Sisters of Mary Queen, a convent with Vietnamese origins in western Sydney.

 

Aged 34 and 33 respectively, they are among the few choosing to enter a life of religious devotion in modern Australia.

 

Although the two women had not met before entering the convent, they have similar backgrounds.

 

Both were born in Vietnam, and moved with their families to Hong Kong before boarding a boat to Australia.

 

It’s an experience both women say drew them closer to their faith.

 

“Many of the boat people do think they owe God something.” // “I think that journey, just fleeing Vietnam and the hardships that my family has faced, it certainly has strengthened our faith.”

 

It was trauma that led Cambodian-born sister Hun Do to discover the Catholic faith.

 

Now living as a Josephite Sister, she sees her journey fleeing her home country as a key part of her decision to join them.

 

Fleeing the Pol Pot regime, she says she didn’t know much about Christianity in the refugee camp in Thailand

 

“In the camp I worked with a Jesuit priest, and I remember at the time when I heard people call him ‘father’, I didn’t know what it was about.”

 

The number of Catholic nuns in Australia peaked in the 1960s, and has been in decline ever since.

 

There are fewer than 6,000 left in Australia, and with an average age of 74, the church is at risk of losing one of its most devout populations.

 

Around the world, the Catholic Church is experiencing a clear shift in demographic, moving away from its traditional European roots to a more multicultural following.

 

The Church’s new Pope Francis the First, a break from the centuries-old line of European-born pontiffs. brings another sign the Catholic Church is changing.

 

In Australia, more than 22 per cent of the Catholic population were born overseas.

 

Sister Ailsa Mackinnon has been with the Sisters of Mercy for more than 50 years and says the future of the Church lies in recognising diversity.

 

She says Australian Catholics are once again recognising that the Church is, as its name suggests, universal.

 

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“Certainly the church has tried to accommodate the waves of migrants who have come to Australia. It’s only been since the second World War, and the stopping of the White Australia policy and the waves of migration since, that we’ve come to realise this.”

 


The US debt disaster and the failure of bipartisanship

Speaking prior to the second Presidential Debate between President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson described their proposal as “common sense solutions to this country’s problems.

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Bowles, former Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton, and Simpson, a former Republican Senator, were co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

The committee, created by President Obama in February, 2010, was instructed to find a bipartisan solution to the fiscal crisis.

In December last year, the commission took a vote on its own proposal to be presented to Congress but found itself in the bizarre situation of voting down its own plan.

While Simpson and Bowles voted for the plan, committee member Paul Ryan, now Mitt Romney’s candidate for Vice President, was among seven dissenting votes that scuppered the plan that has now returned as an election talking point.

“If we can’t get the people in Washington, in the administration and Congress on both sides of the aisle, to put aside this partisan politics then we face the most predictable economic crisis in history and also the most avoidable economic crisis in history,” said Bowles.

“There is no question that the fiscal path the country is on is unsustainable. This is a cancer that will destroy this country from within.”

Bowles outlined what he and Simpson considered the five biggest fiscal challenges the United States faces:

Healthcare

“We spend twice as much on healthcare as any other developed nation in the world,” Bowles said. “That might be alright if our outcomes were twice as good but they are not. We are somewhere between 25th and 50th in outcome measures in infant mortality, life expectancy, preventable death. Healthcare is the biggest problem we face. What are these guys [Obama and Romney] going to do about it?

Defence

“We spend more on national defence than the next 17 largest countries – combined,” Bowles said. “That includes both Russia and China. I don’t think that America can afford to be the world’s policeman. When [former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] Admiral Mullen was asked what the biggest national security danger was he didn’t say ‘terrorists’. He said deficit. America has a treaty with Taiwan that will protect Taiwan if it is invaded by the Chinese. There’s just one problem with that. We have to borrow money from China to do it.”

Tax Code

“We have the most inefficient, ineffective, globally anti-competitive tax code any man could dream of,” said Bowles. “The one we have today simply doesn’t make sense. How can our nominal rates be so relatively high but get us so little money? We only get 1.3 trillion in total income taxes. The reason is we have $1.1 billion in back door spending in the tax code – deductions and credits. We recommend that we broaden the base and simplify the code and wipe out all of this [deductions and credits].”

Social Security

“Over the next decade Social Security is $900 billion cash negative,” Bowles said. “If we don’t do something about it Social Security will go broke in 2031. When Roosevelt created Social Security, average life expectancy was 63. You got Social Security at 65. He was a really smart guy! Now life expectancy is 78 and you get Social Security at 62. We have a math problem.”

Interest On The Debt

“We spend about $230billion a year on interest now,” said Bowles. “That’s more than we spend on [the Departments of] Education, Energy, Interior, Justice, Homeland Security and State combined. And do nothing? Kick the can down the road? Think about that.”

Both Bowles and Simpson, advocates of political bipartisanship, were critical of how their plan failed to be introduced to Congress.

Simpson, an almost 20-year veteran of the U.S. Senate, used a carefully crafted description to explain his experience in government.

“I want to tell you about this word ‘politics’,” he said. “It comes from the Greek. ‘Poli’ meaning ‘many’ and ‘Tics’ meaning ‘Blood sucking insects’.

“I’m a Republican and Ernest is a Democrat,” he added. “But we are Americans first. Not a Republican first. Not a Democrat first. Americans first.”


All Blacks to get bigger bonus for retaining World Cup

The agreement also includes a significant increase in funding for both the men’s and women’s sevens programmes as the country chases Olympic gold at the Rio Games in 2016.

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Rugby will make Olympic return at Rio with the abbreviated version of the game. Both the New Zealand men’s and women’s teams won their respective world titles in Moscow in late June.

The payment pool for the men’s All Blacks Sevens team has increased from NZ$1.6m to NZ$3.5m, allowing the side to offer players full-time contracts to specialise in the game.

Most of the All Blacks sevens players supplement their income with provincial contracts. The new agreement allows for the women’s sevens team to be granted retainers and tournament fees when selected.

The new agreement with the New Zealand Rugby Players Association also reduced the salary cap for provincial teams as part of the effort to drive down costs in the semi-professional third tier competition.

The provinces have struggled to make ends meet in recent years with the Otago union having to be bailed out by the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) last year.

Other teams have also needed funding help from the national body with NZRU chief Steve Tew stating several times that unions needed to get their books in order if the game was to survive.

The maximum retainer has been lowered to NZ$55,000 from NZ$60,000. The salary cap will go down from NZ$1.35 million this year to NZ$1.025 million in 2015.

Last week, an independent review of the 14 provincial unions indicated a turnaround in their financial performance with a small overall surplus of NZ$500,000 across all of the teams as they cut their costs.

Costs had dropped from NZ$85 million in 2007 to NZ$66 million last year, the Deloitte ‘State of The Unions’ report showed. ($1 = 1.2540 New Zealand dollars)

(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)


Terror plotters set to appeal convictions

An appeal hearing for five men convicted of conspiring to commit an act of terrorism has started under tight security at the NSW Supreme Court.

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About a dozen police officers and the dog squad were at the court and the media were kept behind black and yellow tape for the hearing, which was adjourned after less than an hour.

Mohamed Ali Elomar, Khaled Cheikho, his nephew Moustafa Cheikho, Abdul Rakib Hasan and Mohammed Omar Jamal were jailed for maximum terms of between 23 and 28 years in 2010.

The men, who were found guilty of conspiring to commit an act or acts in preparation for a terrorist act between July 2004 and November 2005, are appealing their convictions.

The plot included stockpiling firearms, ammunition, chemicals and laboratory equipment.

The men also had recipes for making explosives, as well as other instructional material including the “Sniper Handbook”.

During Monday’s brief hearing, Chief Justice Tom Bathurst said there was no summary of the trial available and they were in effect “starting from scratch”.

In order for the appeal hearing to run smoothly, he asked that a summary and additional material be provided.

The matter was adjourned until Tuesday.

It is understood the men will be appealing their convictions on a number of grounds, some of which will be shared.

Khaled Cheiko’s barrister, Gregory James QC, said the verdict regarding his client was unsatisfactory and the combination of events raised at the trial “do not amount to a circumstantial case”.

In sentencing the five men in 2010, Justice Anthony Whealy said they had a “vast quantity of extremist or fundamentalist material” including images glorifying the 9/11 hijackers and images of “heroes of the jihadist movement”.

He also said the evidence did not establish that any firm conclusion had been reached by the conspirators about the nature of the action or its target.


Cambodian farmers killed by anti-tank mine

Six Cambodian farmers were killed when their truck hit an old anti-tank mine planted by Khmer Rouge guerrillas during the country’s civil war, police say.

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The men were driving through a flooded field in northern Preah Vihear province on Wednesday evening when the explosion occurred, provincial police chief Sy Kiri said.

A seventh man was seriously injured.

“The anti-tank mine was left over from the civil war and it was planted by the Khmer Rouge soldiers to defend their area from the government forces,” Sy Kiri said, adding the area was a major battle field in the 1980s and has not yet been demined.

The farmers had been driving through the flooded area on the way to inspect their paddy fields, which have been left inundated by recent heavy rains.

Nearly three decades of civil war gripped Cambodia from the 1960s onwards, leaving the poverty-stricken country as one of the world’s most heavily mined places.

The brutal hardline communist Khmer Rouge regime was responsible for the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, disease, overwork or execution during the “Killing Fields” era in the late 1970s.

After they were ousted from power by the Vietnamese in 1979, they continued to wage a savage guerrilla war until the 1990s, with remote parts of Preah Vihear acting as their last holdout.

In 2012 leftover landmines and other unexploded ordnance killed 43 people and caused 142 injuries, according to official statistics.

Late last month, two Cambodian children and a man were killed when their buffalo cart hit an anti-tank mine left over from the country’s civil war in northwestern Oddar Meanchey province.


Argentina not so far from first championship win as feared

But South Africa coach Heneke Meyer, whose side inflicted that big 73-13 wound, had no doubts Argentina are where they should be after the Springboks narrowly escaped defeat to win 22-17 in Mendoza on Saturday.

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“When (Argentina) play this way, it’s very difficult to get the ball and I’m not saying this as an excuse, they played very well and deserve to be in this kind of competition,” Meyer told reporters.

South Africa were scrappy but this was due in good part to Argentina making it very hard for them to play, unlike the previous clash.

Argentina were never behind after an early Juan Manuel Leguizamon try and led until eight minutes from time, however indiscipline allowed fly-half Morne Steyn to steal victory for South Africa with two penalties, taking his tally to 17 points.

The Pumas set about recovering their identity as a team that has an iron defence and never-say-die attitude in the short week between the two tests.

“We changed the way we went into the match, fundamentally in our minds. And we accompanied that with a good game since we had a lot of moments in their half and scored points,” coach Santiago Phelan said.

“We don’t talk about winning or losing but of the way we can play and end a match with our heads held high. Today I think we saw a solid team and the way we lost gives us confidence to be able to work and grow as a team,” added captain Felipe Contepomi.

The first Argentine try caught South Africa cold and although the Springboks hit back through wing Bjorn Basson, the Pumas’ strong first-half momentum kept them going forward.

Their best attack took them through several phases until a darting run in the middle by wing Gonzalo Camacho brought them close to the line and scrumhalf Martin Landajo fed centre Marcelo Bosch who crashed through the defence to touch down.

DRY SECOND HALF

With Contepomi´s second conversion and a penalty reply by Styen, Argentina led 17-13 at the interval, but that is where their scoring stopped. Like last year’s 16-16 draw in Mendoza, South Africa had a more disciplined staying power to come back into the match.

“This is a team with a lot of pride, our captain tells us over and over that this group (of players) cannot be broken. Sadly, last Saturday we were broken and that hadn’t happened in recent years and it was a terrible coming down to earth,” said Bosch.

“(But) we all contributed from Monday to change our image, luckily it worked out and we’re proud of what we gave today,”

Argentina recovered some of their renowned scrummaging power, with loosehead prop Marcos Ayerza, who missed the Soweto match through injury, saying: “Our scrum was good, maybe we didn’t get all we should have (from it) but I think we were solid and a constant source for attack.”

Fullback Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, another player who came into the team on Saturday for the injured Juan Martin Hernandez, said Argentina must learn to maintain their discipline for the 80 minutes if they want to win such matches.

“In the last 10 minutes we had two balls in their 22 and we had to retreat with a penalty against us. It’s very hard for us to get to the last metres and when we do we must score,” he said.

However, the Pumas will feel they are themselves again when they play New Zealand and Australia away in their two matches next month.

(Editing by Mark Pangallo)


Eagle Dean Cox on track for club record

West Coast ruckman Dean Cox has declared he wants to play on next year, and says he would jump at the chance to play finals football this season – even from the unusual position of ninth spot.

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Cox will sign a new one-year deal in the coming weeks, extending his decorated career into a 14th season.

The 270-game veteran is on track to surpass Glen Jakovich’s club record of 276 games next year, and the six-time All-Australian hasn’t ruled out playing on in 2015.

And with Essendon in danger of losing premiership points over their controversial 2012 supplements program, Cox would have no qualms if the Eagles qualified for this year’s finals series from ninth spot.

“I’d be happy with it,” Cox said on Monday.

“It wouldn’t bother me. I think that’s out of everyone’s control.

“If we play finals because we come ninth, and the AFL allow you to do that, well so be it.

“We’ll be playing fifth and we’ll give them a good crack.”

The Eagles sit just 1.2 per cent behind the ninth-placed Blues, and would likely need two wins from games against Geelong (Patersons), Collingwood (MCG) and Adelaide (Patersons) if they are to leapfrog the Blues.

Cox is just one of three Eagles who have played every game this season, along with youngsters Andrew Gaff and Jack Darling.

The 32-year-old premiership ruckman said his body had held up well despite taking on an increased workload in the absence of ruck partner Nic Naitanui, who has missed most of the year with groin issues.

Cox had a bit of a chuckle when asked whether he could reach the 300-game mark.

But he said it would be a humbling experience if he could beat Jakovich’s club games record.

“When I was young I certainly idolised the way Jacko played,” Cox said of the two-time premiership defender.

“I was fortunate enough to play three or four seasons with him.”

The Eagles are set to be boosted by the return of midfielder Luke Shuey for Saturday night’s home clash with Geelong.

West Coast received a big confidence-boost in Sunday’s 53-point win over Essendon, but Cox said the team would need to take their game to an ever higher level against the second-placed Cats.


US to lower prison sentences for drug offences

In remarks to the American Bar Association, Attorney General Eric Holder was to call minimum jail terms “counterproductive,” according to excerpts from his speech released in advance.

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Holder says the United States should remain strict but be smarter about tackling crime.

And he warned that, while the total US population has increased by a third since 1980, the prison population has soared by 800 percent.

The United States accounts for five percent of the world population but nearly a quarter of all people imprisoned, he said.

“Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem, rather than alleviate it,” Holder was to say.

And of 219,000 people jailed in federal as opposed to state-run prisons, nearly half were convicted of drug-related offenses.

Altogether, inmates in local, state and federal prisons cost the government $80 billion dollars in 2010 alone, he added, saying it was time for reform.

“We can start by fundamentally rethinking the notion of mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related crimes. Some statutes that mandate inflexible sentences — regardless of the facts or conduct at issue in a particular case — reduce the discretion available to prosecutors, judges, and juries,” Holder said.

He added: “They breed disrespect for the system. When applied indiscriminately, they do not serve public safety. They have had a disabling effect on communities. And they are ultimately counterproductive.”

The mandatory minimum sentences were included in the penal code by Congress in 1986 and 1988.

Holder said he hoped Congress would pass new legislation but in the meantime he has mandated a modification of the Justice Department’s charging policies.

Holder said that under the changes certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs, or cartels will no longer be charged with offenses that impose draconian mandatory minimum sentences.

“They now will be charged with offenses for which the accompanying sentences are better suited to their individual conduct, rather than excessive prison terms more appropriate for violent criminals or drug kingpins,” he said, according to a draft of his speech.

In a further effort to ease the prison population, Holder announced a change to allow for early release of elderly inmates who did not commit violent crimes and have served significant portions of their sentences.

The American Civil Liberties Union welcomed the changes enthusiastically.

“Today, the attorney general is taking crucial steps to tackle our bloated federal mass incarceration crisis, and we are thrilled by these long-awaited developments,” it said in a statement.

“While today’s announcement is an important step toward a fairer justice system, Congress must change the laws that lock up hundreds of thousands of Americans unfairly and unnecessarily,” the ACLU added.

In 2010 President Barack Obama won passage of a law establishing more equality in sentences for convictions for possessing crack and cocaine. They were stiffer for crack, and most of those convicted of this were black.

That law also did away with mandatory minimum sentences for first time crack possession offenses. It was the first such minimum sentencing elimination since the 1970s.


Pearson back in form in nick of time

After having her aura of invincibility sorely tested during a string of recent defeats, Sally Pearson is feeling like her old self again.

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Which is very good news for the Pearson-led Australian team at the world athletics championships starting in Moscow on Saturday.

And extremely bad news for the powerhouse four-pronged American lineup hoping to end the reigning world and Olympic champion’s dominance of the 100m hurdles.

Two hamstring injuries meant Pearson wasn’t able to start her 2013 racing program until June.

The first five of her meets produced several uncharacteristic losses and some pretty mediocre times.

But a July 26 return to the London Olympic stadium – the venue of her unforgettable 2012 Games triumph – produced a welcome change in fortune.

The time of 12.65 seconds was still nothing special by her lofty standards, but it was still vitally important to claim the win, sending a clear message to her rivals in the process.

“Hopefully I put that into their minds and reminded them who I am and that I am a competitor when I go into a major championships,” said Pearson.

“I think I have just as big a chance as everyone out there and I just can’t wait to see what I can produce because everyone knows I am a big-time performer and that is what I thrive on.”

Pearson, 26, drew further confidence from a chat with American 110m hurdler Aries Merritt in the wake of her most disappointing run of the year, when she trailed home in fifth spot in 12.75 at the Monaco Diamond League meet.

Like the Australian, Merritt was also hampered by injury after winning the London Olympic title.

“He just said that he believed in me,” said Pearson.

“He has obviously been through the same thing I have, except he has done his hamstring three times.

“He said just start believing in yourself now and make sure that you get to those world championships in the best state possible and that sometimes mental strength is far more beneficial than physical strength.”

Pearson’s long-time coach Sharon Hannan saw clear improvement in her star charge during the London Diamond League win, with those gains consolidated during the recent Australian team camp in the English town of Tonbridge, where the final touches were also put on her 2012 Olympic campaign.

“I am really happy with how she is coming along now,” said Hannan.

“I have been seeing some good stuff over a few weeks.

“It still felt a bit messy to Sal because putting that sort of speed over hurdles has always been a challenge but I told her to back herself and know that I knew she was on target.”

The formidable US challenge in Moscow will be led by rising star Brianna Rollins, who moved above Pearson to equal third on the all-time list with her blistering time of 12.26 seconds at the US trials in June.

Rollins has deliberately avoided racing against Pearson in the intervening couple of months – a tactic questioned by Australian head coach Eric Hollingsworth.

The other American big gun is Dawn Harper, who won Olympic gold ahead of Pearson in 2008, only for the Australian to reverse the result four years later in London.

The remaining two US representatives, Queen Harrison and Nia Ali, sit second and third on the 2013 rankings.

Pearson is back in equal 10th – for now.

But – with self-belief restored and another major title on the line – almost certainly not for much longer.