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.

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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.

Long-odds Leishman a good bet

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Long odds aside, Marc Leishman is shaping up as a serious contender at the US Open.

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The bookmakers must have missed the memo on the affable Victorian who enters Chambers Bay as arguably Australia’s most in form golfer but opened at 126-1.

Since returning to competitive golf after almost losing wife Audrey to toxic shock syndrome, an ordeal that kept him from playing the Masters, Leishman has been building to something big.

Playing with a new, carefree perspective he contended in New Orleans, was a giant killer at the World Golf Championship Match Play, showed some flashes of brilliance at the Players Championship and Crowne Plaza Invitational and then was tied fifth in his last start at the Memorial Tournament just two weeks ago.

And with Chambers Bay setting up to have a more British Open feel than a typical US Open, the 31-year-old will also take strength from his fifth-place finish at Royal Liverpool last year.

“I definitely think I’m building to something big.

“My form’s been good, the last couple of months things are trending in the right direction, the putter feels good and I’m excited about the week,” Leishman said.

“The US Open is not usually my favourite tournament, but this is different.

“The fairways are more generous here, and the green, you’ve got to use a lot of imagination, whereas normally you’ve got to just hack it out at the US Open and hope that you judge it somewhat right.”

Leishman has braced himself for the inevitable frustration of bogeys, but while in the past he might have stewed on them for too long, these days he moves on and gets back to business.

“Obviously after what happened to Audrey, my perspective is a little different and I think I play my best golf when I don’t really care what the outcome is – just try to hit a shot and if it comes off, great; if it doesn’t, it’s not going to change my life,” he said.

“That’s going to be really good around here because there’s going to be times when you hit really good shots and it finishes in really bad positions.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if 10 over won it, so mindset is a big thing and I’m just going to try to have a really good one this week and not worry about the score.”

“Someone’s got to win it, and hopefully I’m one of those guys in it at the end.”

Adam Scott seeks spark from caddie

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Adam Scott hopes reuniting with hard-edged master caddie Steve Williams will reignite his spark and set him on the path to US Open glory.

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Scott will go in the Open at Chambers Bay on Thursday a year removed from being world No.1, now down to No.12 after a fruitless 2015 campaign thus far.

Williams and Scott, who combined at 16 majors over the last four years, notching up his 2013 Masters title and 12 other top-15 results, are back together after splitting at the end of last year.

Since then, Scott has struggled, with his best result in the last three months a tie for 24th at the Crowne Plaza Invitational, where he was defending champion, culminating in him letting new caddie Mike Kerr go.

“Obviously he (Williams) brings something out in me. The last few years have been really positive,” said Scott on Tuesday.

“Hopefully the old spark lights up again as I am just trying to get something going.

“I have just struggled with that this year and I think this will help.”

While the pair had plenty of success, by the end of their stint in 2014 frustrations were clearly evident as their differing personalities clashed.

Williams, a Kiwi who was also on the bag for 13 of Tiger Woods’ 14 major championship triumphs, is widely known as the best in the business and has a hard competitive edge.

Scott, while also competitive, is calmer in nature and when combined with the also calm Kerr was unable to fire.

“I spent four years playing with him (Williams) at a really high level and enjoying that energy,” Scott added.

“It is tough to maintain that.

“There is a lot of strain and pressure doing that and there has been a bit of a letdown on my side in the last six months from that.

“This is the thing to get me back up there.”

It was a reunion that may not have happened, given Williams was enjoying his retirement, racing cars and coaching rugby.

But he declared himself ready to be the help Scott needs for this week and also at the British Open, the WGC Bridgestone and the US PGA Championship in their limited reunion.

“Absolutely, I wouldn’t be here otherwise,” said 51-year-old Williams.

“I’ve absolutely 100 per cent enjoyed not being a caddie — just having a normal routine. When you’ve been out here as long as I have, you don’t miss that.

“But look, if you had an option to come back and work a few tournaments, it’s a pretty good four to work.

“This is a fantastic place (and) St Andrews (for the British Open) – there’s no better place than that in golf.”

Serbia to face Brazil in U-20 World Cup final

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The match grew spiteful in the final few minutes of extra time with Youssouf Kone, who had scored Mali’s goal, sent off when he received a second yellow card for apparent dissent.

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He then appeared to push Argentine referee Mauro Vigliano and needed to be ushered away by his team mates before he trudged off North Harbour Stadium in Auckland.

Andrija Zivkovic opened the scoring in the fourth minute for Serbia, though they could have had at least another three goals as Mali’s defence disintegrated.

Mali, however tested Serbia throughout on the counter attack and they got back into the game when they spread the ball to Kone who slammed it from 35 metres out past the diving Predrag Rajkovic to level the game.

The goal rejuvenated Mali and Rajkovic was forced to tip a Soulemayne Diarra rocket from 25 metres over the bar less than two minutes later.

The Serbian captain again saved his side in the 67th minute when Dieudonne Gbakle was through one on one, while the crossbar thwarted Serbia’s Milan Gajic three minutes later when his volley from 25 metres beat the diving Djigui Diarra.

In the early semi-final, Brazil, who won two successive penalty shootouts to reach the last four, ended a 244-minute scoring drought in some style with three goals in the first 20 minutes to effectively wrap up their place in the final.

Brazil were 2-0 up in the first seven minutes with Anda Correa conceding an own goal after a Joao Pedro cross deflected off his leg before Guilherme doubled the advantage.

Boschilia put the game beyond any doubt in the 19th minute when Senegal goalkeeper Ibrahima Sy parried a cross into the midfielder’s path before defender Jorge completed the first half scoring in the 35th minute.

Senegal, who had been unfortunate not to score when Sidy Sarr’s 19th minute shot cannoned off the crossbar, were reduced to 10 men just before halftime when Elimane Cisse received a second booking.

With the match settled in the first half, the game meandered after the break with neither side creating any real chances until Guilherme put a gloss on the victory with his second goal in the 78th minute.

“We’ve had some good games and we’ve had some problems, but as a team we’ve grown through those difficult matches,” Brazil coach Rogerio Micale said. “Today everyone played perfectly.

“I am very happy with my team as a whole. When no one scores against us that shows that our defence is working well and it has been a whole team effort.”

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Nick Mulvenney/Amlan Chakraborty)

Security lapses left US system vulnerable

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US officials say years of cybersecurity lapses have left its governmental personnel agency wide open to hacks that have exposed the private information about nearly every federal employee.

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Democrats and Republicans on the House oversight and government reform committee were united on Tuesday in heaping scorn upon the leaders of the Office of Personnel Management, the agency whose data was breached last year in two massive cyberattacks only recently revealed.

“You failed utterly and totally,” said the committee’s chairman, Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican.

The criticism came from within, as well. Michael Esser, the agency’s assistant inspector general for audit, told the committee of a years-long inability by OPM to meet federal cybersecurity standards.

For a long time, he said, the people running the agency’s information technology had no expertise. These shortcomings made the agency especially vulnerable to cyberattack, he said.

In November, an inspector-general’s audit recommended that the agency shut down some of its networks because they were so vulnerable, Esser testified. The director, Katherine Archuleta, declined, saying it would interfere with the agency’s mission.

The hackers were already inside her networks, she later acknowledged.

“They recommended it was so bad that you shut it down and you didn’t,” Chaffetz said.

Archuleta, stumbling occasionally under withering questions from lawmakers, sought to defend her tenure and portray the agency’s problems as decades in the making. She appeared to cast blame on her recent predecessors, one of whom, John Berry, is the US ambassador to Australia.

Offered chances to apologise and resign, she declined to do either.

Chaffetz said the two breaches “may be the most devastating cyberattack in our nation’s history”, and said OPM’s security policy was akin to leaving its doors and windows unlocked and expecting nothing to be stolen.

“I am as distressed as you are about how long these systems have gone neglected,” Archuleta said, adding at another point, “The whole of government is responsible and it will take all of us to solve the issue.”

Archuleta and the other witnesses offered few new details about the breaches in the public hearing, deferring most questions about methods and damage to a later, classified session.

After that session, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the committee’s ranking Democrat, demanded that the committee hear testimony from two OPM contractors, KeyPoint and USIS, that fell victim to hacks last year. Earlier, Cummings and other lawmakers questioned whether the OPM network was compromised first through hacking of the contractors, and OPM officials declined to answer.

During the open hearing, Donna Seymour, the agency’s chief information officer, confirmed that personnel information on 4.2 million current and former federal employees had been stolen, not just accessed.

The number of security clearance holders whose data has been taken is not yet known, she said. But the records go back to 1985 and include contractors as well as federal employees. Some government officials estimate the number could be up to 14 million.

And because their security clearance applications contain personal information about friends and family, those people’s data is vulnerable as well.

Bournemouth host Villa, Chelsea start against Swansea

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The Cherries, close to liquidation in 2008, follow up their opener with a trip to Liverpool a week later, according to the 2015-16 fixtures released on Wednesday.

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Champions Chelsea begin the defence of their title at home to Swansea City, while runners-up Manchester City kick off at West Bromwich Albion.

With 12 wins from their last 13 opening-day fixtures Chelsea boast the best record in the league.

The first big clash between those clubs expected to fight for the title sees Chelsea visit Manchester City on the second weekend of the new season.

Arsenal, who finished third last season, host Slaven Bilic’s West Ham United in an all-London opener, as Manchester United, whose opening to the season will be complicated by a Champions League playoff tie, take on Tottenham Hotspur at home.

Liverpool have an immediate opportunity to avenge a 6-1 loss to Stoke City on the final day of last season with a return to the Britannia Stadium on the opening weekend.

Bournemouth will provide the novelty factor though after they were promoted as Championship title winners under up-and-coming young manager Eddie Howe.

Their fans will already be pencilling in a home date against Manchester United, who they famously beat as a third-tier side in 1984, although they will have to wait until the second half of the season to welcome Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea to the 12,000-capacity Goldsands Stadium.

Other key fixtures include the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Oct. 24, Chelsea hosting Arsenal on the weekend of Sept. 19 and a heavyweight festive meeting between Manchester United and Chelsea on Dec. 28.

The Premier League season starts a week earlier than last season because of the Euro 2016 Championship next June.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Angus MacSwan)