Sheens wary of letting guard down v Fiji

15Jan

Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens admits Australia face a genuine Rugby League World Cup danger game against an ambitious Fiji in St Helens.

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The Group A teams meet on Saturday (Sunday morning AEDT), with Australia looking to take their game to the next level after a 28-20 win over England in the tournament opener.

The Kangaroos have won all three previous clashes with Fiji by more than 50 points but the Bati have never looked stronger; their squad littered with NRL talent across the park.

And while it would be a major surprise if the Kangaroos are seriously troubled, Sheens says Fiji are capable of exploiting any complacency or a lack of focus from his men.

“You can’t afford to let your guard and get beat,” Sheens said as Australia trained in drizzle at the 18,000-capacity Langtree Park on Friday.

“Realistically, from our point of view, we’ve got to come out and be aggressive, kick and chase and play what we know is our game.

“We’ll get our opportunities near their line but we don’t want to rush those opportunities.

“Ireland did that (in an opening 32-14 loss to Fiji) … we’re going to have to be a bit more clinical.”

The Petero Civoniceva-led Fijians were physical and aggressive in their opening match, with Sheens revealing Ireland and Canberra prop Brett White had told Kangaroos players he’d never been so sore after a game.

Sheens expects much of the same on what is expected to be a cold, wet night in St Helens.

“There’ll be the odd tackle that rocks the stadium,” he said.

“I think that’s what this sort of football is about.

“It’s been shown with Samoa and New Zealand, and a few of the other games, they’ve been very high impact.”

Sheens predicted debutants Josh Papalii and Boyd Corner would handle the occasion well and backed Daly Cherry-Evans to slot into the side smoothly at halfback in place of the rested Cooper Cronk.

Fiji will be without centre Wes Naiqama (back) but they won’t be lacking any belief, with tough forward Ashton Sims adamant the 2008 World Cup semi-finalists felt they could pull off what would be the tournament’s biggest ever upset.

“We’re going out there to win, there’s no two ways about it,” said Sims, one of three Sims brothers in the side.

“If there’s guys who don’t think we can win, I don’t really want to play.

“We’ve got our backs against the wall big time, I understand that, but most guys don’t player rugby league just to be competitive. We want to win.”

Russian piracy charges remain: Greenpeace

15Jan

Greenpeace says that, contrary to an earlier statement, Russian investigators have not dropped piracy charges against 28 international activists and 2 journalists detained in the Arctic city of Murmansk.

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Investigators filed hooliganism charges against all 30 detainees over the past week, but failed to withdraw the piracy charges, the environmentalist organisation said.

Among those facing charges are Tasmanian Colin Russell and Australian permanent resident Alexandra Harris.

The Russian Investigative Committee said on October 23 that it had converted the piracy charges into hooligan charges.

A woman who picked up the phone at the Committee’s press service on Friday refused to elaborate, saying that the agency would not make any further comments.

Greenpeace said that as a result, the 30 detainees stand accused of both piracy and hooliganism, which carry maximum sentences of 15 and 7 years, respectively.

The organisation’s executive director Kumi Naidoo said the detainees should be immediately released once the piracy charge is withdrawn because international law prohibits one country from seizing another’s vessels in international waters, except in extreme cases such as piracy.

“Allowing states to seize each other’s vessels for lesser trumped up charges would be a major threat to international relations and commerce,” he said.

Russia seized the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise and detained its multinational crew in September, after activists had attempted to storm an oil rig in the remote Pechora Sea.

The organisation says that oil drilling in the Arctic is irresponsibly dangerous and risks destroying the sensitive environment.

However, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday that Greenpeace themselves had damaged the environment.

“Our country cannot support activities that potentially harm the environment and endanger humans,” Medvedev said at a joint press conference with his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault, the Interfax news agency reported.

The prime minister explained that oil platforms were so dangerous that even noble-minded protests against them are irresponsible.

“Nobody has the right to break the laws related to their operation” he argued.

Medvedev promised Ayrault that Russia would handle the case “just and strictly in accordance to law”.

Greenpeace said on Friday it understood from diplomatic sources that the 30 are being moved from a detention centre in Murmansk to a jail in St Petersburg.

Naidoo said: “The detainees shouldn’t be in jail at all, they should be free to join their families and to restart their lives.

“St Petersburg has some daylight in the winter months, unlike Murmansk, and families and consular officials will now find it easier to visit the 30.

“But there is no guarantee that conditions inside the new detention centre will be any better than in Murmansk. In fact, they could be worse.

“There is no justification whatsoever to keep the Arctic 30 in any prison for a day longer. They are prisoners of conscience who acted out of a determination to protect us all, and they should be free.”

Afridi, Irfan bowl Pakistan to win over SA

15Jan

Leg-spinner Shahid Afridi and paceman Mohammad Irfan shared six wickets as Pakistan thumped South Africa by 66 runs in the second day-night cricket match in Dubai on Friday.

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Afridi took 3-26 and Irfan finished with 3-53 as Pakistan defended a low total of 209 to square the five-match series at 1-1.

South Africa pulled off a sensational one-run win in the first match in Sharjah on Wednesday.

The remaining matches will be played in Abu Dhabi (November 6 and 8) and in Sharjah (November 11).

Saeed Ajmal (2-15) also shared the bowling spoils as South Africa were bowled out for 143 in 40.4 overs with Ryan McLaren top-scoring with 29 not out.

“It was a really good performance, especially after getting out for a low score, our bowlers did the job for us again,” said Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul Haq.

South African captain AB de Villiers admitted his team’s batting was a concern.

“We have a few issues in the batting and it’s up to us to turn it around. I’m very disappointed. Pakistan were too good for us.”

Misbah attacked with slow bowlers as early as the fifth over, introducing Mohammad Hafeez who dried up the runs after Colin Ingram fell for four in the second over of the innings.

Ajmal accounted for Graeme Smith (14), who was bowled off his legs with South Africa on 43.

Six balls later Jean-Paul Duminy, who struck three boundaries in his 25, fell in paceman Mohammad Irfan’s second spell, caught in the slips.

When on 21, Duminy completed 3,000 one-day runs in his 106th match.

Afridi struck with his first ball, trapping Faf du Plessis for 12 and in his next over he had dangerman De Villiers caught behind for 10, leaving South Africa reeling at 5-73.

It became 6-83 when Hafeez caught David Miller, who had made 11, in front of the wicket with a sharp delivery.

McLaren and Wayne Parnell (21) put on 35 for the seventh wicket but it only delayed the inevitable as South Africa slumped to their second lowest total against Pakistan, behind the 101 they made in Sharjah in 2000.

For Pakistan, Ahmed Shehzad was the mainstay with an 85-ball 58.

Hafeez (26), Afridi (26) and skipper Misbah (25) failed to capitalise on good starts as McLaren (4-34) and Morne Morkel (3-38) ran through the innings.

Shehzad had steadied the innings during a 48-run second wicket partnership with Hafeez and another 60 for the third wicket with Misbah before McLaren derailed the innings with a double strike.

Hafeez played on and was bowled in McLaren’s first over.

When he had made eight, Misbah completed 1,000 one-day runs in 2013, becoming the third batsman to achieve the milestone after Australia’s George Bailey and India’s Virat Kohli.

But Misbah perished in rather soft fashion, flicking McLaren straight into the hands of mid-wicket. He hit a boundary and a six off 44 balls.

Dortmund flatten Stuttgart 6-1 with Lewandowski hat-trick

15Jan

The Poland striker, who is top of the scorers’ list with nine goals, scored three times in just 18 minutes to lift Dortmund to 28 points, two ahead of Bayern Munich who are in action on Saturday.

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Stuttgart, who suffered their first defeat in eight league games under coach Thomas Schneider, took an unexpected early lead when Karim Haggui headed in an Alexandru Maxim corner but any joy was shortlived.

Dortmund, who host Arsenal in the Champions League next week, reacted almost instantly, scoring twice in three minutes to go in front leaving the Stuttgart defence in tatters with their pace.

Defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos levelled with a well-taken header in the 19th minute before Marco Reus slotted in his sixth league goal after a solo run.

They picked up where they left off nine minutes after the restart with Reus turning provider to flick the ball through to Robert Lewandowski to slot in.

The Poland striker added another two minutes later when he chased down a through ball from Henrikh Mkhitaryan to beat keeper Sven Ulreich.

He completed his hat-trick in the 72nd after Jakub Blaszczykowski’s shot was palmed onto the bar by Ulreich and Lewandowski beat Stuttgart’s defenders to the ball to tap in.

Substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang got his seventh goal of the campaign when he lobbed the ball over Ulreich in the 81st minute as Dortmund matched their own club record of six straight home wins since the start of the season.

Treble winners Bayern travel to Hoffenheim where they will look to stay unbeaten for a 36th straight game and equal a 30-year-old Bundesliga record set by Hamburg SV in 1982/83.

Third-placed Bayer Leverkusen take on bottom-placed Eintracht Braunschweig.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Toby Davis)

Mowen backs new Brumbies model

15Jan

The selfless attitudes of Laurie Fisher and Stephen Larkham will ensure the Brumbies’ new co-coaching model will continue their Super Rugby rise, according to Wallabies skipper Ben Mowen.

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The Brumbies No.8 has endorsed the European-style structure which sees “director of rugby” Fisher take over from Jake White as the main man and Larkham become “head coach”.

The appointments were announced in Canberra on Friday and newly-appointed Test captain Mowen could not have been happier as he prepared for Australia’s clash with England in London.

He confirmed the buck would stop with Fisher but the pair would continue to work hand in glove as they did under South African White for the past two years.

“It’s definitely the best way forward for us,” the Brumbies captain said. “You definitely didn’t want to lose one of those guys.”

“I think it’s very fitting that we get the best of both worlds from both those guys.”

Under White, who controversially cut short his four-year contract to return to South Africa, breakdown guru Fisher was the forwards coach while former Wallabies playmaker guided the backs.

The partnership had an immediate impact last year by helping take the ACT team from 13th to seventh, before losing a tight Super Rugby decider to the Chiefs this season.

While Fisher’s new role will see him take up more off-field responsibilities, he will also remain a hands-on mentor.

Fisher was Larkham’s former coach at the Brumbies for three seasons before the five-eighth retired in 2007.

“The important thing the players were really happy with making the shift to that formation it enables the contact hours to remain the same for those two guys,” Mowen said.

“The final word will be with Laurie as director.

“But I know the way those two guys operate is always back and forth.

“They’re very selfless people so the direction of the team will always come first. They have the right formation there.”

The Queensland Reds carried the same sort of model in 2013 with Ewen McKenzie in charge as director of rugby and assistant Richard Graham titled head coach.

Wall St rebounds as Bernanke prospects brighten

15Jan

US stocks posted modest gains, rebounding from last week’s heavy sell-off as prospects improved for the confirmation of Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke for a second term.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 22.98 points (0.23 per cent) to 10,195.96 at the closing bell, coming off the market’s worst weekly losses since last March.

The Nasdaq composite added 5.68 points (0.26 per cent) to 2,210.97 and the broad-market Standard & Poor’s 500 index advanced 4.96 points (0.45 per cent) to a preliminary close of 1,096.72.

Market calms

Analysts said the markets had calmed down after several days of nervous trade during which President Barack Obama launched a series of initiatives to restrict the banking sector and senators raised doubts about Bernanke’s confirmation.

“The market got some early encouragement from reports that Fed chairman Ben Bernanke will be confirmed to a second term in a Senate vote this week,” said Scott Marcouiller at Wells Fargo Advisers.

The mood was tempered by news that sales of US existing homes fell more than expected in December, by nearly 17 per cent, following a three-month surge driven by a government tax credit.

Joel Naroff at Naroff Economic Advisers said the report was not unexpected but still showed the economy and the housing market remain fragile.

“This report also makes it clear that while housing may be out of intensive care, it is not yet ready to leave the hospital,” he said.

“There is no need to panic but thoughts of a strong economic recovery should be tabled for a while.”

Authors sign anti-Google books petition

15Jan

American fantasy fiction author Ursula K.

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Le Guin is to submit a petition to a US judge signed by 365 other writers opposing the legal settlement that would allow Google to scan and sell millions of books online.

Le Guin’s petition on Tuesday will ask Judge Denny Chin to exempt the United States from the revised legal settlement reached between Google and US authors and publishers over the internet giant’s vast digital book-scanning project.

Chin is scheduled to hold a hearing on the revised agreement on February 18.

Amid objections from France, Germany and others, the revised deal narrowed the definition of books covered under the settlement to those registered with the US Copyright Office by January 5, 2009 or published in Australia, Britain, Canada or the US.

Google and the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers reached the settlement last year to a copyright infringement suit they filed against the Mountain View, California, company in 2005.

Under the settlement, Google agreed to pay $US125 million ($A138.49 million) to resolve outstanding claims and establish an independent Book Rights Registry, which would provide revenue from sales and advertising to authors and publishers who agree to digitise their books.

Exempting the US from the settlement — as demanded by Le Guin and the other signatories to her petition — would effectively torpedo the agreement.

In her petition, which is available on her website, ursulakleguin.com, Le Guin said the settlement was negotiated by the Authors Guild “without consultation with any other group of authors or American authors as a whole”.

“The guild cannot and does not speak for all American writers,” she said.

“Its settlement cannot be seen as reflecting the will or interest of any group but the guild.”

She said the National Writers Union, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America were among those opposed to the settlement.

“We ask that the United States also be exempted from the settlement,” she said.

Opponents of the settlement between Google and US authors and publishers have until Thursday to lodge objections with Chin’s Southern District of New York court.

The US Justice Department, whose copyright and anti-trust reservations about the original agreement forced the parties to go back to the drawing board, has until February 4 to make its views known.

Last week, the heirs of American author John Steinbeck and folk singer Woody Guthrie dropped their opposition to the settlement, which Google says would make millions of books, including many which are now out of print, available online.

Lazio put pressure on after Inter loss

15Jan

Lazio joined reigning champions Inter Milan at the top of Serie A on Sunday after a second-half goal from Argentine striker Mauro Zarate brought a 1-0 win at fellow high-riders Chievo.

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Zarate, who had a spell in the English Premier League with Birmingham, ought to have calmed the visitors’ nerves prior to his neat low finish past keeper Stefano Sorrentino with a brace but missed a simpler early chance from point blank range.

Chievo had been looking for a win which would have taken them top after winning three of their opening four games – but Zarate instead ensured that Lazio moved onto ten points from four games, level with Inter after the latter’s 1-0 loss Saturday to Roma.

Chievo stay third, a point off the pace, as do promoted Brescia, whose own hopes of snatching top spot were dashed by a 2-1 reverse at Bari, Emanuel Rivas and a penalty from Brazilian Barreto cancelling out a Panagiotis Kone strike.

Much of the weekend talk centred on contrasting fortunes on Saturday for the two Milan clubs as Rafa Benitez’s champions and Champions League holders Inter slumped to a stoppage time header from Mirko Vucinic who gave Roma their first win of the season in dramatic fashion.

“It can happen that you concede a late goal but we just didn’t play with enough intensity,” opined Benitez, while Inter defender Maicon added: “Three points were there for the taking but the way we played we didn’t deserve one.”

Not everyone in the Roma camp was happy as skipper Francesco Totti was visibly angered at giving way to Vucinic and left the ground early.

Coach Claudio Ranieri preferred to gloss over that fact.

“Totti fought like a lion out there. Totti will see that the essential thing was to beat Inter. We are now on the right road,” said the former Chelsea boss.

AC Milan meanwhile moved to within two points of the top after new arrival from Barcelona and former Inter favourite Zlatan Ibrahimovic settled Saturday’s game at the San Siro against Genoa with a delightful 49th-minute chip, following on from his goal in Wednesday’s draw at Lazio.

“Milan are not all about one player,” said the Swede modestly afterwards, while insisting that “if we work hard we can be top come season’s end.”

Juventus, coming off a dreadful home loss to Palermo, moved into midtable in Sunday’s late match after a hat-trick from Milos Krasic gave them an exciting 4-2 home success over Cagliari, a result which took the Old Lady into midtable after having taken only four points from their opening four games.

Serbian playmaker Krasic, signed from CSKA Moscow in the summer, was on fire with goals in the 13th – a piledriver past keeper Michael Agazzi – 34th and 70th minutes while Leonardo Bonucci also hit the target for the hosts.

Alessandro Matri hit a brace for Cagliari as Juve warmed up in style for their midweek Europa League meeting with big spenders Manchester City, coached by former Inter Milan boss Roberto Mancini.

In other Sunday action, Fiorentina won 2-0 against Parma to win for the first time in the league this season while Udinese managed their first point of the campaign with a goalless draw at Sampdoria but remain bottom.

Plane plot was a ‘terrorist attempt’

15Jan

A incident aboard a US plane Friday involving a passenger who tried to ignite an explosive was “an attempted act of terrorism,” a senior US official told AFP.

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The official, who spoke of condition of anonymity, made the statement hours after the incident unfolded aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam that was about to land in Detroit.

Despite the incident, the Department of Homeland Security’s terror threat level has not been raised, the official said.

“There are additional security measures that can be taken without raising the threat level, which is what is happening now,” the official said.

Susan Elliott, a spokeswoman for Delta, Northwest’s parent company, told AFP that a passenger attempted to light what was initially described as a firecracker.

“The passenger was immediately subdued and Delta is cooperating with authorities in the investigation,” she added.

US Representative Peter King told Fox News that the passenger was a 23-year-old Nigerian who “definitely has terror connections.”

King said the man had attempted to light a “fairly sophisticated device” aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253, which was carrying 278 passengers and arriving from Amsterdam.

“This could have been catastrophic,” said King, the most senior Republican on the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee.

President Barack Obama was informed of the incident and held a secure conference call with his national security team, the White House said.

“He asked to arrange a subsequent secure call and… instructed that all appropriate measures be taken to increase security for air travel,” the White House said in a statement.

“The president is actively monitoring the situation and receiving regular updates,” the statement read.

U.S. teens text 100 times a day

15Jan

The study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which offers a glimpse into teen culture and communication, found that texting has risen dramatically even since 2008, eclipsing cell phone calls, instant messaging, social networks — and talking face-to-face.

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The Pew Research Centre said that three-fourths of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 now own cell phones and of those that do, girls typically send or receive 80 text messages per day and boys, 30 per day.

“Texting is now the central hub of communication in the lives of teens today, and it has really skyrocketed in the last 18 months,” Pew researcher Amanda Lenhart said, attributing the rise in part to payment plans that allow unlimited texting.

The study’s authors also say that, unlike phone calls, text messaging can be quietly carried out under the noses of parents, teachers or other authority figures and, unlike computers, it can be done almost anywhere.

“We’ve kind of hit a tipping point where now teens expect other teens to respond to text messaging and to be available,” Lenhart said. “There is definitely an element of text messaging that fits so seamlessly into their lives.”

Text messaging has become so much a part of teenagers’ lives that 87 percent of those who text said that they sleep with, or next to, their phone.

Study author Scott Campbell said focus groups conducted by Pew also offer insight into the subtleties of teen communication and culture, revealing for example that, while boys don’t typically use punctuation, for girls such nuances are critical.

“If a girl puts a period at the end of a text message (to another girl) then it comes across as she’s mad,” Campbell said, which explains the prevalence of smiley emoticons.

“They have these practices because they’ve learned that texts can lead to misunderstandings,” Lenhart said. “It’s a deliberate thing and it’s also part of a culture that’s interested in differentiating itself from adult culture.”

The percentage of teens with cell phones who sent at least one text message a day increased from 38 percent in 2008 to 54 percent in September 2009, according to the study.

Meanwhile 38 percent of teens said they daily make at least one cell phone call, 30 percent said they talk on a landline phone and 24 percent said they used instant messaging.

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