Clarke honoured as one of Aust’s greatest

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Ron Clarke has been hailed the greatest Australian athlete never to win Olympic gold.

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The 78-year-old died after a short illness early Wednesday on the Gold Coast, where he served as mayor for eight years after his stellar athletics career.

Clarke, who lit the cauldron at the 1956 Melbourne Games aged 19, set 17 world records in middle distance running, won an Olympic bronze medal and four Commonwealth Games silvers.

“He stands head and shoulders above everybody,” fellow great Herb Elliott, the 1960 Olympic 1500m champion, told AAP.

“He dominated the world for a number of years, particularly in the 10km and six miles, but also in the 5km.

“I don’t know there’s any other Australian that’s done anything like that – certainly I never did.”

Despite his dominance, Clarke never managed to bring home his own Olympic gold.

The world expected him to do so at the 1968 Games, but he couldn’t cope with the altitude in Mexico City.

During the gruelling 10,000m final, the race favourite collapsed in the thin air and had to be resuscitated at the finish line by the Australian team doctor.

Long-time sports commentator Peter Meares said Clarke used to laugh off his unattained Olympic dreams.

“But I think deep down he knew that he was the best because he broke so many world records,” Mr Meares told the ABC.

“He could win everything from a mile up to 10,000m, or even longer. He was just a machine.”

Such was the respect he commanded from his fellow athletes that one of them – after Clarke’s collapse in Mexico – gave the Australian his own Olympic gold.

Czech great Emil Zatopek, who won the 10,000m at the 1952 Helsinki Games, slipped the medal to him in a package at Prague airport, telling him: “Look after this. You deserve it.”

Clarke was part of one of the most memorable moments in Australian sporting history at the 1956 national championships, when he was helped up by rival John Landy after falling during the 1500m race.

“Ron Clarke, by his running feats inspired Australian distance runners and in a world sense, demonstrated the potential athletics achievements possible,” Landy, who went on to win the event, said in a statement on Wednesday.

The runner was also a successful businessman, politician and author, and was lauded by sport figures on Wednesday.

Athletics Australia president David Grace said Clarke will forever be a legend of the sport.

“We are grateful for his extensive contribution to the sport of athletics, as well as to public service during a life that should be celebrated,” he said.

John Bertrand, chairman of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame – of which Clarke is a member – said the athlete seemingly had no limits in what he could achieve.

“Ron Clarke set new standards of training and application that raised the bar to a level that the world of athletics at that era had never seen before,” Bertrand told the ABC.

Champion Olympic hurdler and Gold Coast resident Sally Pearson tweeted: “Ron Clarke .. star on the track, a great man off the track. Athletics has lost a true statesman. RIP Ron.”

He is survived by his wife Helen, two sons and grandchildren. His daughter, Monique, died in 2009.

Chris Lane shooter faces sentence in US

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Chancey Luna was just 16 when he fired a .

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22 calibre revolver into the back of Australian baseball player Chris Lane in a random drive-by shooting in Oklahoma.

On Tuesday (Wednesday AEST) in a courthouse just five minutes’ drive from where Lane spent his last moments of life gasping for breath face down in a ditch, Luna will hear his sentence.

District Court judge Ken Graham is expected to sentence Luna to life in jail with no chance of parole.

It was the sentence the jury of five women and seven men recommended in April after a swift three-and-a-half-day first-degree murder trial and just one hour of deliberations.

“I don’t wish to be mean, but I don’t care what he (Luna) thinks or how he feels,” Lane’s mother Donna said after the April 17 verdict.

The sentencing likely won’t end the case that made headlines around the world and led to US President Barack Obama offering his “and the first lady’s thoughts and prayers” to Lane’s family and friends.

Luna’s mother, Jennifer, told AAP his son’s lawyers are working on lodging an appeal.

The murder happened in August 2013 when Luna, who recently turned 18, was in the backseat of a two-door Ford Focus driven by his 17-year-old friend Michael Jones.

A third friend, James Edwards Jr, 15, was in the front passenger seat rolling a marijuana cigarette on his Apple laptop.

Lane, 22, in Duncan visiting his girlfriend Sarah Harper, was jogging along an affluent area of the rural city, the car approached, Luna randomly selected the Australian and shot him just below the left shoulder.

Luna’s lawyer Jim Berry asked the jury to sentence the teen to life with the possibility of parole, so he would be eligible for release in 38 years.

Lane grew up playing for the Essendon Baseball Club and had a scholarship at Oklahoma’s East Central University.

Donald Trump enters 2016 White House race

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Trump wallowed in political incorrectness as he insulted everyone from Mexican immigrants to Jeb Bush and US ally

Saudi Arabia in announcing his bid for the Republican nomination.

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“I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created,” Trump predicted in a long, combative speech in the atrium of Trump Tower on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue.

The billionaire, widely seen as having almost no chance of winning the nomination, brings an outsized personality and a penchant for controversy to an unusually large group of Republicans vying for the presidency.

In highly provocative comments, Trump accused Mexico of sending rapists and other criminals to live in the United States.

“They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing their problems,” he said. “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some I assume are good people but I speak to border guards and they tell us what we are getting.”

Eleven other Republicans have announced they are running for next November’s election, the latest being former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who launched his candidacy on Monday.

Trump hit out at Bush for backing the Common Core education initiative to set national education standards, which is mistrusted by many Republicans.

“Bush is totally in favor of Common Core. I don’t see how he can possibly get the nomination. He’s weak on immigration, he’s in favor of Common Core. How the hell can you vote for this guy? You just can’t do it.”

Trump, who owns several hotels and hosts the reality show “The Celebrity Apprentice” on NBC, boasted having $8.7 billion in net worth, a number he says he released so that America understands he is not a loser.

Trump has toyed with running in past elections before deciding not to do so. This time, he said, the United States under Obama needs him to come to the rescue.

“Our enemies are getting stronger and stronger by the day and we as a country are getting weaker,” he said.

LIVELY DEBATE WITH TRUMP

Republican strategists and officials cringe at the thought of Trump grabbing attention away from the party’s more serious candidates as it tries to win back the White House after defeats in 2008 and 2012.

Trump’s first big campaign challenge will be to make it into a Fox News debate of Republicans in August that will be open to only the top 10 candidates in national polling.

He languishes in 12th place, ahead of former New York Governor George Pataki, in a Reuters/Ipsos online poll of 13 Republicans who have either declared their candidacies or, like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, are likely to. Bush leads the poll.

In other surveys, Trump has high negative ratings, with more than 50 percent of Americans saying they will never consider voting for him.

On Tuesday, he saved his wildest attacks for foreign policy, frequently accusing China of stealing American jobs through crafty business practices and portraying himself as a tough negotiator who would beat Beijing at its own game.

“Hey, I’m not saying they’re stupid. I like China. I just sold an apartment for $15 million to somebody from China,” he said.

“No, I love them, but their leaders are much smarter than our leaders,” he said. “It’s like, take the New England Patriots and Tom Brady and have them play your high school football team. That’s the difference between China’s leaders and our leaders. They are ripping us.”

He urged Saudi Arabia to be more appreciative of the military and diplomatic support it has received from the United States for decades. “Saudi Arabia without us is gone,” he warned.

Music helped me connect: Helping refugee women build bridges

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Migrant and refugee women can often struggle when forging a new life in a new country – many hold onto memories of their lives and loved ones back home.

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But a new program aimed specifically at newly arrived women hopes to ease their feelings of isolation and help them engage with women in similar situations.

It all starts with a meeting.

“People come to Australia, new, we are very isolated, and I think it’s a good way to connect the communities,” says Ajak Kwai, a project worker with the Brotherhood of St Laurence.

Ajak herself arrived in Australia 16 years ago, fleeing the devastation her family encountered in South Sudan.

She’s involved in the Brotherhood’s ‘Bridging Women’s Worlds’ program, which is run in partnership with the Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre and is aimed specifically at refugee and migrant women.

Ajak says the women are encouraged to share their stories, and find ways to help them make Australia feel more like home.

For her, it was music.

“I cope a lot through music and I love music, I love singing, since I was very young.”

“Music has been very, really, been my survival.”

And it’s been her way of reaching out to the broader community.

“It helps me to connect with Australian people and to be able to share stories with them, stories they don’t have.”

Born in Bor, in South Sudan, Ajak moved to Juba with her uncle and brothers then lived in Khartoum in Sudan.

She spent eight years in the Egyptian capital Cairo before settling in Melbourne, via Hobart.

“I have been moving all my life,” Ajak said.

“Because I came from a very broken background, like, really war-torn country. And I see a lot of bad things happen. And I see what hatred can do.”

Music, she believes, can unite people.

Nepalese migrant Madhuri Maskey too, felt isolated when she first arrived here in January with her two daughters.

Her husband has lived in Melbourne for eight years, after leaving Nepal when his job as a political advisor became too risky following the civil war.

Madhuri says her work helping develop programs for women and children was a job she loved and didn’t want to leave.

“I never stayed at home, and came here, staying whole day at home doing nothing, and then I was missing so much of my country. So much of the people out there, so much of my work, that liveliness.”

She craved a professional, engaging life, and feared starting from scratch.

“I was so sad, even my husband got frustrated, ‘why are you so sad? You are with your family’,” she recalled.

“My mind was going to Nepal, all of the time, most of the time, and I was missing it.”

Then, she found the Bridging Women’s Worlds program.

“And I was so happy, I felt like, you know, I am accepted here, I got some place so that I can really thrive, I can enjoy being myself in Australia.”

It’s prompted her to enrol in a University course, which she hopes will lead to a job similar to the one she held in Nepal.

Labor to support some pension changes

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After accusing the federal government of selling out pensioners, Labor now says it will support some parts of the government’s pensions deal with the Greens.

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Through this deal, about 170,000 pensioners will get an extra $15 a week, while about 91,000 home-owning retirees will lose their part pension and another 235,000 will have their pension reduced.

Opposition families spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said this was the latest move in Tony Abbott’s relentless campaign to cut the pension.

She said this was another broken promise from a prime minister who vowed before the last election that he would not touch the pension.

But, she said Labor acknowledged tough decisions needed to be made and Australia couldn’t afford to continue providing generous tax breaks to millionaires with millions of dollars in their superannuation.

“That is why we will agree to certain measures in this bill,” she told parliament during debate on the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Pensions) Bill 2015.

Ms Macklin said Labor would agree to abolish the seniors supplement and changes to social security treatment of defined benefits.

But Labor would not agree to changes to the assets test or to pensions portability arrangements.

“We will certainly not agree to the cuts to the pensioners education supplement or the education entry payment. We have fought these cuts for a year and we will fight them once again,” she said.

The surprise deal came about after Labor declared it wouldn’t support proposed pension changes which aim to save $2.4 billion.

Social Services Minister Scott Morrison brokered an agreement with the Greens in exchange for looking at retirement incomes as part of the tax white paper process.

“I felt I had an obligation to support what was one of very, very few decent measures in the Abbott budget,” Greens leader Richard Di Natale said on Wednesday.

But the deal outraged seniors who vowed to vent their anger at the next federal election.

National Seniors Australia says it will be middle Australia not millionaires who will be affected by the tightening of the pensions assets test.

“They will be deeply disappointed with the proposal the government and the Greens have put through – that will be reflected at the ballot box,” chief executive Michael O’Neill told AAP.

The government’s bill will likely pass the House of Representatives on Thursday and be debated in the Senate next week.