Iraq attacks kill 15, mostly police

A suicide bomber has detonated an oil tanker rigged with explosives at a police station north of Baghdad, killing seven policemen, while attacks elsewhere left eight dead.

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Iraq is mired in its worst violence since 2008, with more than 5,500 people killed this year despite major military operations targeting insurgents and tightened security measures.

In Wednesday’s deadliest attack, a suicide bomber drove an explosives-rigged tanker in front of police station in Muqdadiyah, in restive Diyala province, and detonated it at the entrance, police and a doctor said.

The attack killed seven people and wounded 11 others, all police, and caused massive damage to the station.

The bombing is the latest in a string of attacks targeting police in the past week in Kirkuk, Salaheddin and Diyala provinces.

Elsewhere in Iraq, attacks on police killed three others.

In Salaheddin province, north of Baghdad, a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol killed a policeman and wounded two others, while a gun attack left a policeman dead in the province’s north.

In Baghdad, a policeman was shot dead while on patrol in the Shi’ite slum neighbourhood of Sadr City, while two roadside bombs in the capital left three others dead, including an anti-Qaeda militiaman.

From late 2006 onwards, Sunni tribal militias, known as the Sahwa, turned against their co-religionists in Al-Qaeda and sided with the US military, helping to turn the tide of Iraq’s bloody insurgency.

But Sunni militants view them as traitors and frequently target them. The government has increasingly turned to Sahwa fighters as it combats a surge in unrest.

Meanwhile, in the northern city of Mosul, two separate shootings killed two civilians, officials said.

The level of violence in the country rose sharply after security forces stormed a Sunni protest camp in northern Iraq in April, sparking clashes in which dozens died.

Authorities have made some concessions aimed at placating the protesters and the Sunni minority in general, such as freeing prisoners and raising the salaries of the Sahwa.

But Sunnis insist they are still marginalised by the Shi’ite-led government and unfairly targeted by security forces.


Rob Ford: a hedonist, populist mayor

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, plunged into a scandal over his crack use, is a colourful character, known as much for his drunken public antics as for his populist anti-tax stance.

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In confessing to having once smoked crack cocaine – albeit “probably in one of my drunken stupors” – the rambunctious mayor of Canada’s largest city appeared unusually contrite.

Since he was elected in 2010, Rob Ford has starred in multiple escapades, most linked to his admitted abuse of alcohol.

Born on May 28, 1969 in a suburb of Toronto, a commercial and financial hub on the shores of Lake Ontario, Ford is the youngest of two brothers and a sister in a relatively wealthy family.

His older brother Doug is his most loyal supporter at the municipal council, where they are separated by just a few chairs.

At 28 years old, he ran for the first time for Toronto’s municipal council, winning a seat three years later and elected mayor a decade later.

As a politician, Ford’s strategy has been to promote a populist agenda.

Strongly linked to the right, like his father, he is close to the conservatives at both the federal and provincial levels.

At the heart of his agenda is a populist defence of city taxpayers, a stance that has won him diehard support among a section of sub-urban voters now jokingly dubbed the “Ford Nation.”

After he was caught reading work documents while driving his own car, police encouraged him to accept a driver for his own security and the safety of others on the road.

“I think that’s a waste of taxpayer’s money,” the mayor retorted.

“A million people a day go to work in the city and they drive. They drive themselves. I don’t see why I am any different.”

His many binges also have made him a target, but he has steadfastly brushed off criticism, along with drunk driving and marijuana possession charges in Florida during a break from his 1999 mayoral campaign.

The admission of crack use may be Ford’s most embarrassing crisis to date, but he says he believes in redemption.

His polling numbers remain strong and he has pledged to win back the trust and support of Torontonians ahead of his next year’s re-election bid.


Cherry-Evans starts again for Kangaroos

Daly Cherry-Evans has been handed another chance to impress at the Rugby League World Cup, this time alongside the man he one day hopes to replace as Kangaroos halfback.

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Manly star Cherry-Evans will make a second successive start for Australia after being named in the side to face Ireland in Limerick on Saturday.

The 24-year-old impressed at halfback alongside Johnathan Thurston in the win over Fiji last week and will shift to five-eighth to partner first-choice No.7 Cronk, who returns after being rested.

It comes as part of Tim Sheens’ continued squad rotation and the Kangaroos coach has made seven changes to the side that defeated Fiji 34-2 in St Helens.

Billy Slater, Brett Morris, Brent Tate, Greg Bird and Sam Thaiday all return to the side while first-choice stars Greg Inglis, Matt Scott and Darius Boyd join Thurston in being rested.

Sheens is set to pick his best 17 for the finals and Cherry-Evans is unlikely to unseat either Cronk or Thurston in the starting side.

However, another strong showing by the Clive Churchill medallist against Ireland will enhance his claims for a utility spot on the bench, with Sheens confirming he and Robbie Farah were involved in a live selection battle.

Farah has been named on the bench for the third straight match and Sheens said it was critical both players were getting game time in case injury struck later in the tournament.

“We don’t want to have an issue down the track and have anyone who’s not played any football. They’ve got to be playing,” Sheens said.

“The halves have understood that, even though they’re very competitive. Cooper and Johnathan would love to play every game.

“At the end of the day, it’s for the good of the squad.

“But obviously after the pool games I’m going to be more selective and I’m going to get down to the nitty gritty through the quarter-finals and hopefully past that.”

Captain Cameron Smith starts at hooker for the third straight match, denying Paul Gallen a chance to captain his country for the first time.

Gallen will also play a third successive match, named at prop, but both he and Smith will spend some time on the bench.

“I start with the skipper because he steadies the ship,” Sheens said of Smith, who played only a half game against Fiji.

“I’m giving him some rest in that respect, but I’m also ticking him along and making sure he gets us to where we need to go.”

Others playing a third straight game are front rower James Tamou and interchange forward Andrew Fifita.

Boyd Cordner will start on the bench after making his debut against Fiji and appears in pole position to claim the interchange forward spot vacated by injured backrower Luke Lewis.

Twins Josh and Brett Morris start next to each other for the third time in the green and gold while Smith and Corey Parker will likely share the goalkicking duties in Thurston’s absence.

Australia: Billy Slater, Jarryd Hayne, Brent Tate, Josh Morris, Brett Morris, Daly Cherry-Evans, Cooper Cronk, Paul Gallen, Cameron Smith (capt), James Tamou, Greg Bird, Sam Thaiday, Nate Myles. Interchange: Boyd Cordner, Robbie Farah, Andrew Fifita, Corey Parker, Josh Papalii, Johnathan Thurston, Michael Jennings. (three to be omitted).


I was wrong to use cancer to boost image, says Armstrong

“It’s inexcusable; it’s embarrassing to hear that,” said Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour titles and banned from cycling for life last year after accusations that he had cheated.

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“Those are the moments you’d do anything to take back or say something different, or erase it,” added Armstrong, who in January admitted to years of using performance-enhancing drugs to help him in cycling.

“A statement like that, what it would have signified or the confidence it would have given to the community that matters, the cancer community, they took stuff like that to heart,” Armstrong told the website in an interview being published over several days.

“In my mind that’s where the foul there is times one thousand.”

Armstrong said the story of his battle against cancer built him up into a hero and he gladly sheltered behind it as he aggressively denied repeated doping allegations.

“It was a cancer survivor who was two years out of diagnosis winning the hardest sport in the world,” he told the website in an extract published on Wednesday.

“I can see why that became such a story and one turns to two and the story just builds and builds.

“Hence the reason why so much of the fallout has been so drastic. If you’re just a guy who wins the Tour seven times with no ‘story’, the fallout isn’t the same. A lot of that’s my fault. I accept responsibility for being so aggressive and stern when it came to the denials. It was a tremendous mistake. That took the fall and doubled it.”

Armstrong said he had eventually backed himself into a corner with his constant denials of doping.

“Once you say no once you’re stuck with no. So you just keep saying no,” he said. “It would have been better to have been more passive in a press conference.

“It’s one thing to not comment and get out of that question as soon as you can. It’s a whole different thing to be confrontational and combative, which was what I was.”

(Writing by Clare Fallon in London; Editing by Ed Osmond)


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Departing FECCA chair holds fears for multiculturalism

The outgoing chair of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia says he has serious concerns about the direction of multicultural affairs under the Abbott government.

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Pino Migliorino says the federal government’s migration policy, stigmatisation of asylum seekers and lack of ministerial representation for multicultural affairs are key issues.

His criticism comes on the eve of FECCA’s biennial conference on the Gold Coast starting tomorrow.

Mr Migliorino told Stefan Armbruster he hopes the conference will highlight multicultural issues often eclipsed by the asylum seeker debate.

(Click on the audio tab to listen to the full interview)

For four years Pino Migliorino has been the chair of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia, the country’s peak body for multicultural affairs.

 

During that time under the Rudd government he regularly spoke out against its policies affecting multicultural communities.

 

His concerns have not changed with the recently elected Abbott government.

 

“Leading right from the top I’m concerned about the migration program and the continual stigmatisation of asylum-seekers,” he says.

“We’re very keen for the government to reconsider its position on the migration of people with disabilities. There are many, many wonderful families who could make a great contribution to Australia but because they have a child in the family who has a disability they’re barred from accessing it.

“All of that is probably wrapped up in a far larger discussion which we wanted to have with the government which is about the positioning of multiculturalism and the appropriate status of ethnic communities within the civil society structures of Australia.”

 

Shortly after the Coalition was elected, FECCA proposed again the introduction of a Multicultural Act to enshrine services for ethnic communities in law.

 

“A Multicultural Act would not only deliver that but would be a really strong statement from government to an Australia which is predominantly migrant-based that the words Australia and diversity are indeed one and the same.”

 

But the response has been muted and Pino Migliorino fears the sector could fall victim to cuts.

 

“Yeah after long consideration I think it’s something both sides of politics have been quite negative about but I think the reality is we can’t rely on the whim of government to build or take away the infrastructure that is necessary for a culturally diverse society.”

 

Another source of concern is that the Abbott government has no minister for multicultural affairs.

 

Neither did the Rudd government when it was elected in 2007, but it did have a cabinet minister and two parliamentary secretaries with multicultural responsibilities when it went to the polls this year.

 

Mr Migliorino would like to see cabinet representation again.

 

“We have a fine parliamentary secretary in this area, Senator Connie Fierravanti-Wells, she reports to a senior minister, the minister for social services.

“She has indicated already her willingness to engage with and champion many of these issues. We’re seeking opportunities with other ministers and the prime minister himself.”

 

But for now there’s a feeling the message is being almost totally overshadowed by the asylum-seeker debate.

 

“I think what’s happening is not some much that there’s frustration that those discussions are taking place, but that they take place at the exclusion of other discussions.”

 

As for moderation in the asylum-seeker debate, Mr Migliorino says he doesn’t like the direction the Abbott government is heading.

 

“I don’t think you can have it both ways,” he says.

“I don’t think you can go really hard on irregular maritime arrivals and asylum-seekers, and at the same time reduce the number of offshore refugees from the UNHCR, because the federal government has indicated that is reducing that number from 20,000 to 13,750. Something needs to give, something needs to be a bit more humane, a bit more engaging.”

 

The FECCA conference on the Gold Coast in Queensland runs until Friday, and on Saturday a new chair will be elected.


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