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Australian Rogers takes stage 16 win

Australian Michael Rogers took victory in stage 16 of the Tour de France – the longest of this year’s race.

The 34-year-old Tinkoff-Saxo rider made his break on the descent with three kilometres remaining on the Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon route.

It was his first stage victory on the Tour and followed his two stage wins at the Giro d’Italia earlier this year.

Thomas Voeckler of Europcar took second place, while Vasil Kiriyienka of Team Sky finished third.

Vincenzo Nibali, the yellow jersey holder, and Alejandro Valverde, who is second overall, crossed the line together about nine minutes down on the leaders and retain the top two spots in the general classification.

Rogers said: “I know I’ve changed upstairs, I’m more hungry and opportunities seem clearer to me now. I’m not scared of the outcome now. Previously I was scared to try something new because I was scared of failure.

“I tried so hard to win a stage of the Tour before but this year, I’ve changed mentally. When it rains it pours doesn’t it?

“I knew once I got to the bottom of the last climb, the race had began for me. I tried a few times to drop them on the climb but I couldn’t so I knew I had to pick them off on the descent. I said to myself – ‘I have been in this position to many times and not won. I’m not going to do it again.’”

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/cycling/28422039

Australia teenager behind Iraq blast

The suicide attack happened near a mosque in Baghdad on Thursday

Australia says a man who killed himself and several other people in a suicide attack in Iraq last week was an 18-year-old from Melbourne.

The attack took place in a market near a Baghdad mosque on Thursday.

The man detonated explosives in a suicide vest, killing at least three other people and injuring dozens more.

The Islamic State (Isis) militant group, in an affiliated Twitter feed, said it was behind the attack and named the man as Abu Bakr al-Australi.

Australia’s Attorney-General George Brandis, in a statement, said the news was a “disturbing development”.

“The government deplores the violent actions being undertaken by ISIL (Isis) and other extremist groups in Iraq and Syria, and is deeply concerned about the involvement of Australians in these activities.”

The involvement of Australians posed “a significant domestic security threat to Australia when those involved return home and seek to pursue violence here”.

The man was the second Australian suicide bomber in the Iraq and Syria conflicts, the statement added.

Late last week, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the government was working hard to stop young Australians becoming radicalised.

“We’re doing all we can to prevent people going overseas as foreign fighters,” the Australian Broadcasting Corporation quoted her as saying.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-28397536#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

VIDEO: Australia’s love for barefoot bowls

Tanned 20-somethings frolicking barefoot are not the first thing that enter most people’s minds when they hear the words lawn bowls.

The sport is most commonly associated with pristine white uniforms worn by grey-haired players and a conservative code of conduct.

But lawn bowls is undergoing a youthful transformation in Australia, as the country’s 2,000 bowling clubs relax rules on membership and dress code to appeal to a new generation.

Barefoot bowls came into being over a decade ago and the sport’s popularity has been on the rise ever since.

Patrick Henningham is an instructor at Paddington Bowls club in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.

He spoke to BBC News about the appeal of barefoot bowls and gave a quick guide to how the game is played.

Video journalist: Katie Beck

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Australia shark ‘chokes on sea lion’

Beachgoers saw the shark thrashing about in shallow waters near Perth

A great white shark that washed up on an Australian beach may have choked on a sea lion, fisheries officials said.

The 4m-long (13ft) shark was filmed thrashing about in shallow waters at Coronation Beach, north of Perth.

The Western Australia Department of Fisheries said in a statement that it found “no visible signs of injury or disease” but discovered “a large Australian sea lion” in its throat.

Scientists said the shark could have been trying to dislodge the blockage.

“This could explain why the shark was exhibiting such unusual behaviour,” principal research scientist Rory McAuley said.

“Such a large object may have damaged the shark’s internal organs or impeded water flow into his gills, contributing to his death.”

“Alternatively, the shark may have accidentally become stranded in his attempts to get rid of the obstruction.”

The carcass of the Australian sea lion, the same species as this one, was lodged in the shark’s throat

Eyewitness Brad Tapper, who had been at the beach at the weekend with his family, told the Western Australian newspaper that the shark returned to shore despite efforts from some beachgoers to tow it out to sea.

“When we spotted it, it was about 50m off shore and we thought it was a diver or something,” he said.

“We went to look at it, it started kicking and thrashing around again so we thought it was time to leave.”

The shark, which officials said had been fitted with an acoustic tag in South Australia this year, was found washed up on the sand on Tuesday.

While great white sharks are protected in Australian waters, a controversial cull has been under way aimed at reducing attacks on humans.

Critics argue that a shark cull is not the answer and will damage the sea’s delicate ecosystem.

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Australia votes to repeal carbon tax

Australia has one of the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emission rates in the world

Australia’s Senate has voted to repeal the carbon tax, a levy on the 300 biggest polluters passed by the Labor Party when they were in power in 2011.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose Liberal-National coalition beat Labor in an election last year, had made the repeal a central aim of his government.

Politicians have been locked in a fierce row about the tax for years.

Labor says it helps to combat climate change, but the Liberals claim it penalises legitimate businesses.

The Australian Senate voted 39 to 32 to repeal the tax, which charges the highest polluters A$23 (£13;$22.60) for every tonne of greenhouse gases they produce.

Protests

Australia is the developed world’s worst polluter per head of population.

The repeal of the bill is a victory for Australian prime minister Tony Abbot

But critics, including Mr Abbott, said that the tax cost jobs and forced energy prices up.

There were widespread protests against the introduction of the tax in Australia.

The repeal of the tax formed a major part of Mr Abbot’s election manifesto.

The leader of Australia’s Green party, Christine Milne, said the vote against the tax was an “appalling day for Australia”.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-28339663#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Bessborough House, where this photo was taken, was closed in the 1950s on a doctor’s orders because so many babies were dying there

The Republic of Ireland is to investigate the homes for children born outside marriage and their mothers, run by religious institutions for most of the last century. It follows concerns over the deaths of almost 800 children at a convent-run mother-and-baby home in Galway over several decades and controversy about whether they were given proper burials.

The BBC’s Fergal Keane considers what the inquiry might mean for survivors, and for Ireland.

Growing up in Cork, I was acutely aware of the stigma attached to unmarried motherhood. What teenager in Ireland could avoid the shame attached to pregnancy outside marriage? It was the dreaded scenario in all our minds, but for girls it could mean banishment and anguish.

This photo shows Teri Harrison aged 18, when she was taken to Bessborough House

In 1973, the same year that I moved to the Cork suburb of Blackrock, a young Dublin woman was driven through the gates of a large house about 10 minutes from where I lived. Teri Harrison was 18 years old and arrived at Bessborough House heavily pregnant.

In the language of the time her child was “illegitimate”. The choice for an unmarried mother usually fell between giving the child up for adoption or taking the boat to England for an abortion. Secrecy was paramount.

Teri says that at Bessborough, and in another church home where she finally gave birth, she was stigmatised.

“Do you know the one thing that got to most of us, was the times they would say to you: ‘You’re here because nobody wants you. You’re here because nobody cares about you. You’re here because you have sinned.’”

This photo from the 1950s (courtesy of Brian Lockier) shows a nun and children at the Sean Ross Abbey – one of the institutions likely to be covered by the inquiry

Some nuns feel their efforts to help the children in their care have been forgotten

This baby was buried in a marked grave but many more were interred with no headstone

‘Black pit’

Thousands of babies were adopted over the decades from the network of mother-and-baby homes operated by the Catholic religious orders. A much smaller number of Protestant-run homes may also come under the focus of the inquiry.

From the Catholic homes, hundreds of babies were sent to America, with allegations of children being trafficked to wealthy Catholic families seeking white children.

In Teri’s case, her son was adopted at three months by an Irish family. She claims that she did not give her permission .

“He vanished into a black pit. Just a black pit. It’s like… it’s like his life was stolen and mine… I had three beautiful children after him. They are all adults now with their own children. And I look at them and I say: ‘He should be here.’ His birthday is every October on the 15th. He was born at 6.30 in the morning, he weighed 6lb 6oz (2.9kg) and he was beautiful. He was beautiful.”

Many children were given up for adoption – some in Ireland, some bound for the United States

After decades of silence around the issue of unmarried mothers, Ireland is confronting the pain that touches families across the country.

Helen Murphy was adopted from Bessborough in 1962 and spent years trying to find her birth mother. Her own childhood was happy but she was conscious of an untold narrative in her past.

After finally discovering the identity of her birth mother, she found out that the woman had died three weeks previously. Her birth sister told her how her mother had wandered the streets of Cork trying to find her.

Helen explained: “There was this yearning in her to find her child. So I suppose she always knew she wasn’t going to find me, somewhere deep inside. But she was looking for somebody who looked like the baby she had given up. I don’t know because I’ve never been able to ask her: ‘Did you really believe that you’d see me?’”

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We gave our lives to looking after the girls and we’re certainly not appreciated for doing it”

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Sister Sarto Harney
Former Mother Superior, Bessborough House

Some of the issues the commission of inquiry may look at include:

  • The high mortality rates in mother-and-baby homes: Bessborough was closed for a period in the 1950s by public health authorities because of concerns over the health of babies
  • The circumstances and location of the burial of babies who died in the homes
  • The use of infants in clinical drugs trials at some homes: Glaxo Smith Kline, whose predecessors ran the trials, has promised full co-operation with any inquiry
  • The number and manner of adoptions from the homes: thousands were adopted and hundreds were sent to America. The inquiry will want to know whether legal guidelines were followed

Among defenders of the Catholic institutions, there is a feeling that the good work done by religious orders has been forgotten in a rush to expose and condemn.

A former Mother Superior at Bessborough, Sister Sarto Harney, said there had been good staff at the home who had done their best to help the girls who came there.

Teri Harrison feels her son’s life was stolen, as was her own

“I don’t think it’s fair… I think it’s sad that is has come to this. We gave our lives to looking after the girls and we’re certainly not appreciated for doing it.”

Ireland has seen a plethora of inquiries over the last two decades from political corruption to sexual abuse in church run institutions. There is a certain weariness among the public at the prospect of more revelations. However, human rights campaigners, as well as the survivors of the institutions, believe the past cannot simply be pushed away.

Mairead Enright of the Faculty of Law at the University of Kent said the inquiry could help to create a new Ireland in which the attitudes of shame and exclusion could never again be fostered.

“There are plenty people in Ireland not much older than me who remember girls who were sitting next to them in school who weren’t there the next day because they’d gotten pregnant and they’d been shipped off somewhere,” she said.

“These homes were still operating in the 80s and 90s and it is faintly ridiculous to talk about the whole operation of the mother-and-baby homes in the past. That continues.

“It has had influence in families, it has had influence in how parents raised their daughters, in how women were perceived and how women conducted themselves, and it’s also a set of issues that needs to be addressed in the present.”

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-28298236#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

VIDEO: Meet Ireland’s new ultimate fighter

You may never have heard of it, but mixed martial arts is said to be the fastest growing sport in the world.

This weekend some of its best-known fighters, including rising star Conor McGregor, will compete at a major event in Dublin.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship regularly attracts sell-out crowds but some doctors have raised serious concerns.

Chris Buckler reports.

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Record payout over Australia fires

A total of 173 people died in the Black Saturday fires in Victoria, Australia

Survivors of one of the worst bushfires in Australia have won a payout of almost A$500m ($470m), in the country’s largest class action settlement.

Some 10,000 plaintiffs sued a power company for negligence over the fire.

The case centred on the most deadly blaze on Black Saturday, on 7 February 2009, when wildfires swept across several areas in the state of Victoria.

This fire, in the Kilmore East area north of Melbourne, killed 119 people and destroyed more than 1,000 homes.

A 2009 Royal Commission found that the fire began when an electricity line failed between two poles. Contact between the live conductor and a cable stay supporting the pole caused arcing that ignited vegetation, the report said.



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Footage from 2009 showed wildfires tearing through parts of Victoria

The plaintiffs accused SP AusNet of failing to adequately maintain its power lines.

They also sued Utility Services Corporation Ltd, the line maintenance contractor, and the Department of Sustainability and Environment for inadequate prevention measures.

The group were awarded a settlement of A$497.4m ($467m, £274m), of which SP AusNet will pay A$378.6m.

The settlement represented “a measure of justice and some real compensation to help ease the financial burden of their suffering,” lawyer for the plaintiffs Andrew Watson said.



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Aerial footage showed devastated Australian communities

SP AusNet said the settlement came without an admission of liability by the company.

“SP AusNet’s position has been, and continues to be, that the conductor which broke and which initiated the fire was damaged by lightning, compromising its fail-safety design in a manner which was undetectable at the time,” it said in a statement.

“It is a tragedy that the conductor eventually failed on one of the worst days imaginable.”

A total of 173 people died in the Black Saturday fires.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-28305127#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

VIDEO: Australia rejects mistreatment claim

Claims by Sri Lankan asylum seekers that they were mistreated by the Australian navy are “offensive”, the country’s immigration ministers says.

Scott Morrison rejected the allegations during a visit to Colombo – one day after a group of migrants who had been sent back to Sri Lanka by Australian officials appeared in court.

A second group of 153 people also intercepted at sea are the subject of ongoing court proceedings in Australia. Some of them – it is not clear how many – are reported to be Tamils.

Phil Mercer reports from Sydney.

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Australia visit amid Sri Lanka row

On Monday 41 Sri Lankans were handed over by Australia and returned by the navy to the port of Galle

Australia’s immigration minister is visiting Sri Lanka amid an ongoing row over asylum seekers.

On Monday Australia confirmed it had passed 41 asylum seekers intercepted at sea to the Sri Lankan navy.

Rights groups and the UN have expressed deep concern at the move, saying screening of asylum seekers at sea could deny them basic protection.

The returned group, meanwhile, say they were treated poorly – claims Australia rejects.

A second group of 153 people also intercepted at sea are the subject of ongoing court proceedings in Australia. Some of them – it is not clear how many – are reported to be Tamils.

Rights groups say Tamils can still face intimidation and violence in Sri Lanka, five years after the end of the civil war, which pitted the majority Sinhalese Sri Lankan military against Tamil separatists.

‘Deeply disturbed’

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison is in Sri Lanka to mark a gift of two coastal patrol boats. He and President Mahinda Rajapakse will formally commission the boats during the visit.

Australia is seeking closer co-operation with Sri Lanka on people-smuggling, as it takes an increasingly tough stance on the issue.

The adults among the group of 41 people returned to Sri Lanka, meanwhile, have been charged with leaving the country illegally. Most of them have now been released on bail.

They told the BBC their boat was intercepted near the Cocos Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean. They were then screened, reportedly via video-conference.

Australian Customs officials “treated us like dogs”, one man said. “We were kept like prisoners. They didn’t give us enough food or water.” Another said he was sworn at and insulted by the Customs staff.

Mr Morrison reacted angrily to the claims, telling journalists in Sri Lanka: “I find those allegations offensive and reject them absolutely.”

Conditions in Australia’s processing facility in PNG have been severely criticised

Australia and asylum

  • Asylum seekers – mainly from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq and Iran – travel to Australia’s Christmas Island on rickety boats from Indonesia
  • The number of boats rose sharply in 2012 and the beginning of 2013, and scores of people have died making the journey
  • The previous government reintroduced offshore processing in Nauru and Papua New Guinea (PNG). Any asylum seekers found to be refugees will be resettled in PNG, not Australia
  • The new government has toughened policy further, putting the military in charge of asylum operations and towing boats back to Indonesia
  • Rights groups and the United Nations have voiced serious concerns about the policies. Australia says no new asylum boats have arrived for 200 days

Australia asylum: Why is it controversial?

The migrants said they had wanted to go to New Zealand but ran out of diesel, food and water.

Although they had sought asylum, those who spoke gave economic reasons such as job-seeking for their attempts to migrate, reports the BBC’s Charles Haviland in Sri Lanka.

The Australian government says, of the 41 people returned, only four were Tamils and only one person, a Sinhalese, was recommended for further assessment but chose to return to Sri Lanka.

But in a statement, the United Nations human rights office said it was “deeply disturbed” by Australia’s actions.

Screening asylum claims was “not something that can or should be done hurriedly, remotely and on high seas”, said Ravina Shamdasana, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

“It is unclear whether the Australian government has been given any assurances that the returnees will not face ill treatment upon their return to Sri Lanka, nor is it clear how the Australian government plans to monitor their treatment,” she said.

Australia has said that it will give 72 hours notice before it hands over the second group currently being held at sea to Sri Lanka. The Australian High Court is to continue considering the case on Friday.

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