Nations pledge to counter US abortion ban

Some 50 countries have signed up to attend a family planning conference in Brussels aimed at making up the gap left by President Donald Trump’s ban on US funding to groups linked to abortion.


The participants agreed to attend the conference scheduled for Thursday on short notice and will discuss using pledges from other nations and the private sector to “make sure that the impact on the field is completely taken away,” Belgian Vice Premier Alexander De Croo said on Wednesday.

“This should not be a moment where we are taking steps back into the Dark Ages for women and girls,” De Croo said.

Trump’s decision, one of his first acts as president, withholds about half a billion dollars a year from international groups that perform abortions or provide information about abortions.

Officials in many European nations and around the world say the move will hurt women and girls who need family planning most.

Belgium and several other countries already have committed to contributing at least 10 million euros ($A13.8 million) each. Beyond governments, philanthropists and private donors will be asked to contribute at the conference.

Outside of many European nations, Canada, African and Asian countries will also have representatives at the conference, as will the European Union and the United Nations.

Swedish Vice Premier Isabella Lovin told the AP that even though maternal mortality rates have declined by almost half in the last generation, “every second minute a woman or a girl dies in the world due to pregnancy”.

The US ban on funding to organisations that perform abortions or discuss the procedure with clients has been instituted by Republican administrations and rescinded by Democratic ones since 1984.

Former President Barack Obama last lifted it in 2009. But Trump significantly expanded it in an executive order he signed on his first full day in office.

Instead of containing abortions, the move would increase dangerous pregnancy terminations, Lovin and De Croo said.

Scott Hend chasing US Masters debut

Australian golfer Scott Hend says a dream US Masters debut is his source of motivation at this week’s World Golf Championship event in Mexico.


Hend is currently ranked world No.68, meaning a strong result at the 77-man event could catapult him into the top 50 golfers who receive an invitation to Augusta National.

“I really want to play the Masters; it’s been a goal I’ve been trying to achieve for a long time and hopefully I can take care of that this week,” Hend said.

The 43-year-old also has the opportunity to sneak into the top-64 players required to contest the WGC matchplay tournament in Austin, Texas – the last tournament before the Masters field is finalised on March 27.

“I’ve got a couple of weeks to force myself back into the top 60. The opportunity is right there in front of me and I control my own destiny,” he said.

“There are some good points on offer here in Mexico, I play the India Open next week and I’d love to play the match play.”

Townsville product Hend, in Mexico City courtesy of winning the 2016 Asian Tour money list, says Club de Golf Chapultepec’s location of 7800 feet above sea level has forced a conservative game-plan.

“This golf course isn’t really a driver course; it’s narrow and with the altitude carrying the ball further I’m going to play conservatively for the first two rounds at least,” said Hend.

“It’s very frustrating for me because I like to be really aggressive. It seems this golf course won’t provide a great score for someone who is ultra aggressive.”

The WGC event in Mexico City is a 77-man event with no cut and features 49 of the world’s top 50 golfers, with only world No.2 Jason Day absent, with illness.

Australian world No.7 Adam Scott is the defending champion, and is joined by countrymen Hend, Marcus Fraser, Matthew Griffin and Sam Brazel.

WA orphanage abuse aired at UK inquiry

A child sex abuse survivor has told a British inquiry “it was a feast of kids at an orphanage” for Christian Brothers pedophiles in Western Australia in the 1950s.


The 72-year-old told the child sex abuse inquiry in London on Wednesday he had been in orphanages in the UK since he was a baby before being shipped to WA in 1953 at the age of eight as a child migrant.

The witness, now living in Perth and only referred to as A4 to protect his identity, said he was sent to the boys’ home at Castledare where he was sexually abused by Brother Lawrence Murphy.

He said Murphy woke him up one night in the dormitory to say he must go to the toilet, but instead led him to his bedroom.

Holding back tears he told the inquiry Murphy had told him to take off his pyjamas.

“He got me to play with him and he started to play with me,” he said.

“He wanted me to give him oral sex and he made me do it.”

A4 said from then on he would freeze in his dorm bed at the sound of footsteps until they passed, feeling sorry for any other boy selected by the brother that night.

He said he could not tell anyone about the abuse as he knew he would just get a belting for lying.

A4 said he now knew the Christian Brothers were shielding a pedophile ring in WA.

“It was a feast of kids at an orphanage, they had their own little pool, little school of boys that they could choose from.”

A4 said he finally broke his silence about the abuse he suffered when he saw Murphy deny any wrongdoing on a 60 Minutes report about the Christian Brothers in 1993.

Murphy was arrested in 1997 on child sex abuse charges but died aged 80 before a trial could be held.

Former child migrant Oliver Cosgrove, who was sent to Australia in 1953 at the age of four, told the inquiry he too was sexually abused at Castledare.

The 67-year-old, also from Perth, said the choirmaster had got into his bed and fondled him and later forced him to perform oral sex on him in the dining room.

Mr Cosgrove, who has waived his right to anonymity, told the inquiry he still had nightmares and had been through years of psychiatric treatment.

The witnesses also told of the constant canings and strappings they received as well as beatings at the hands of “sadistic” brothers at Castledare and Clontarf Boys Town in Perth where they were later sent.

They told of the poor schooling they received and the hard barefoot labour they had to perform at the homes, including clearing trees, digging a swimming pool and building a handball court.

Both witnesses said they had been told they were orphans but they subsequently learned their mothers had been alive all along, though by the time they traced them they were dead.

Mr Cosgrove learned his father had been a priest in Ireland and his mother had been his housekeeper.

India will catch better in 2nd Test: Vijay

Indian opener Murali Vijay on Wednesday promised better catching from his side in the second Test against Australia after the hosts spilled several chances in their series-opening defeat in Pune.


Visiting captain Steve Smith hit the only century of the first Test after being dropped four times by the butter-fingered hosts who were thumped by 333 runs inside three days in the spin-dominated contest.

Smith’s 109 allowed Australia to set India an improbable target of 441 to win game one of the four-Test series and the hosts duly collapsed.

“We had a chat about it and we are working on few of the areas where we could have done much better in the last Test match,” Vijay, who spilled one himself, said ahead of the second Test beginning on Saturday in Bangalore.

“We are looking forward to this game and, hopefully, we can pull off those catches.”

Having conceded a 155-run first-innings lead in Pune, India badly needed to restrict Australia in the second dig but poor catching allowed the visitors to post 285 and effectively bat the hosts out of the contest.

“The first innings’ lead was little more than what we expected. From there on, it was always going to be tough for us to get into the game,” Vijay said.

“We had the opportunities. If we had taken those catches, maybe we would have put lot more pressure on the Australians.

“But it didn’t happen and we got to take it on our chin and move forward.”

The defeat snapped India’s 20-Test unbeaten home run, shocking fans who expected the team to steamroll Australia.

Vijay said it was a challenge for his team to show their character and bounce back in the remainder of the series.

“We have lost the game and we have to accept that fact. We have to move forward,” Vijay said. “We are looking forward to this game and start fresh. We will look to put the pressure back on the Australians.

“It’s going to be a good challenge for us as a team and test our character. That’s why we are playing cricket and, hopefully, we can play the way we have to play and we have played before.”

Warner’s simple advice for Renshaw

David Warner didn’t want to give opener partner Matt Renshaw too much advice for his maiden tour of India.


Warner was rightly wary of crowding the mind of Renshaw, who showed remarkable composure by scoring a total of 99 runs in the first Test.

But Australia’s vice-captain felt the need to step in and correct one element of the 20-year-old’s subcontinent approach.

“I actually gave him a bit of a tip the other day about taking some tablets, like gastro health and stuff, to get those probiotics into you,” Warner said.

“And make sure you have your Yakult in the morning, to make sure you line your stomach a little bit.

“Because if you have the odd hot chilli, it can definitely go through you.”

Renshaw retired hurt on the morning of day one in Pune because of a stomach bug. He raced off the field following the dismissal of Warner, shocking skipper Steve Smith.

The left-hander returned to the crease and also showed great resilience in Australia’s second innings, batting on after a nasty bouncer blow to the arm.

Renshaw has recovered from injury and illness and is in no doubt for the second Test, which starts on Saturday in Bangalore.

“The way he adapted from coming off, being sick and going back out there was credit to him,” Warner said.

“He played fantastically.

“First Test match in India, India probably didn’t expect that (from Renshaw). We’ve never seen him play in these conditions as well.

“When you have fresh people in the team, you don’t know what they’re capable of as well and it adds another string to your bow.”

Warner and Renshaw started the four-Test series by sharing an 82-run stand on a raging turner.

Both batsmen adopted conservative approaches.

“It’s good with Matt out there, to talk to him about how I thought they were going to get us out,” Warner said.

“We sort of reined it in together and, when we saw the opportunity to try and pounce on one or two loose balls, we did that.”

No need for spy law reform: White House

The Trump administration supports renewing without reforms a key surveillance law governing how the US government collects electronic communications that is due to expire at the end of the year, a White House official has said.


“We support the clean reauthorisation and the administration believes it’s necessary to protect the security of the nation,” the official said on Wednesday on customary condition of anonymity.

The law, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), has been criticised by privacy and civil liberties advocates as allowing broad, intrusive spying. It gained renewed attention following the 2013 disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Portions of the law, including a provision known as Section 702, will expire on December 31, unless Congress reauthorises them.

Section 702 enables two internet surveillance programs called Prism and Upstream, classified details of which were revealed by Snowden’s leaks.

Prism gathers messaging data from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and other major tech companies that is sent to and from a foreign target under surveillance. Upstream allows the NSA to copy Web traffic flowing along the internet backbone located inside the United States and search that data for certain terms associated with a target.

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have said reforms to Section 702 are needed, in part to ensure the privacy protections on Americans are not violated. The US House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee met Wednesday to discuss possible changes to the law.

Though FISA is intended to govern spy programs intended for foreigners, an unknown amount of communications belonging to Americans are also collected due to a range of technical and practical reasons.

Such collection has been defended by US intelligence agencies as “incidental,” but privacy groups have said it allows for backdoor seizures of data without proper judicial oversight.

Katter calls for Trump-style immigration ban after Young arrest

Independent MP Bob Katter has used Question Time to call for a Trump-style immigration ban.


Mr Katter referred to the recent raid in rural NSW, as well as comments made by the President of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils Keysar Trad about domestic violence, in his comments to Parliament.

“Will the minister listen to his own backbench and the United States and ban visas from North Africa and the countries between Greece and India, exempting of course persecuted minorities, namely Sikhs, Jews and Christians?” Mr Katter asked during a heated Question Time.

Australian-born citizen Haisem Zahab, 42, was arrested at his house in Young in southern NSW on Tuesday and charged with two counts of foreign incursion and recruitment, which carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

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The NSW electrician is facing life in prison and will spend at least the next week behind bars after he was arrested for allegedly aiding Islamic State to develop “high-tech weapons capability”.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said Zahab allegedly researched and designed a laser warning device to help warn against incoming guided munitions used by coalition forces in Syria and Iraq.

“We will also allege that he has been researching, designing and modelling systems to assist ISIL’s efforts to develop their own long-range guided missile capabilities,” Mr Colvin told reporters in Canberra.

The property in question in Young, NSW.Australian Federal Police

He was arrested after an 18-month investigation but Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said there was no planned domestic attack or threat to the community.

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“This highlights that terrorism, support for terrorist groups, and Islamist extremism is not limited to our major cities,” he said on Tuesday.

Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the number of Australians joining the conflict zone was concerning.

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“Since the terrorism alert level was raised in 2014 to “probable” we’ve charged 61 people in relation to 26 counter-terrorism operations, and our top priority remains keeping the Australian people safe here and also when they travel abroad.”

Members of the Young community said they were surprised the electrician who “kept to himself” had been charged with terrorism related offences.

“It’s the first encounter that country people have probably had with this and we’re lucky it’s not particularly dangerous to us,” said Zahab’s neighbour Kerry Barr.

Responding to Mr Katter’s calls for an immigration clamp-down, Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton said Zahab is not an accurate representation of the wider Muslim community in Young.

“They are hard-working people. They are doing the right thing. Like 99% of people from the Islamic community in this country, they are doing the right thing,” Mr Dutton said.

Zahab, did not apply for bail when he appeared in Young Local Court on Tuesday and it was formally refused.

He’s next due to appear in Parramatta Local Court on March 8.

-With AAP





Trump’s new travel ban to close loopholes

In formulating a new executive order limiting travel to the United States, President Donald Trump has promised to make the directive harder to fight successfully in court than the one he issued in January.


One way the administration will likely try to do that, legal experts say, is to shape the order more narrowly to undercut the opportunity for states and other opponents to sue by showing courts they have the ability to argue the president’s order causes them harm.

But legal experts said a new order, which a White House source said was expected this week, was unlikely to fully eliminate the ability of challengers to pursue legal actions.

More than two dozen lawsuits were filed in US courts against the initial travel ban, which temporarily barred travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. In one case, which got the order temporarily suspended, the state of Washington claimed the ban affected Washington residents living and working legally in the US as permanent residents known as green card holders.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling in the Washington case, said the ban likely violated the state’s due process rights and suspended it.

The 9th Circuit also ruled that Washington had legal standing to challenge the ban, over objections from the Department of Justice.

By excluding legal permanent residents from a new order, something the administration said is likely, the president would make it harder for opponents to challenge the ban.

Trump says travel limitations are necessary to protect the United States from attacks by Islamist militants. Americans were deeply divided over the measure.

Stephen Legomsky, former chief counsel for US Citizenship and Immigration Services under President Barack Obama, noted that, “in general the Constitution does not apply to people outside the United States, but that is not iron clad”.

Home loss to South Africa galvanised Australia, says Warner

Australian cricket plunged into a crisis after a 3-0 whitewash in Sri Lanka was followed by successive home defeats to South Africa.


After a national outcry forced wholesale changes, Steve Smith’s men recovered by winning the final test against South Africa in Adelaide before beating Pakistan 3-0.

In Pune, they took just two-and-a-half days to secure a first test triumph in India since 2004, handing out a 333-run thumping to a side that had gone 20 tests without tasting defeat on home soil.

“It was obviously quite painful, that loss at home. South Africa outplayed us, but we’ve moved on from that and Smudge (Smith) got us all together and we galvanised well,” Warner told reporters ahead of Saturday’s second test.

“I think it takes a loss like that at home sometimes to really get guys going. It’s not that we needed that, it’s just the fact it’s a bit of a reality check that you can have one bad session, and it can be taken away from you even on home soil.”

Warner made 38 and 10 in Pune but opening partner Matt Renshaw made an eventful India debut as Australia went 1-0 up in the four-match series.

The 20-year-old battled a stomach bug and raced off the ground while batting to take a toilet break. He returned to hit a 68 and then another 31 in the second on a difficult pitch for batting.

“He played fantastic,” Warner said. “It could have been a different story if he stayed out there or he didn’t come off but the way he played and the way he adapted from coming off, being sick and going back out there was credit to him.

“We’ve never seen him play in these conditions as well, so we know how he can play and that’s the good thing about this game.”

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Perth go 2-0 up in NBL grand final series

The Perth Wildcats are on the cusp of a second straight NRL championship after an 89-77 defeat of the Illawarra Hawks in game two of the grand final series in Wollongong.


American duo Bryce Cotton (20 points) and Casey Prather (18) spearheaded Wednesday night’s win, while captain Damian Martin nailed three clutch three-point shots in the final quarter.

Illawarra were led by sharpshooting guard Rotnei Clarke (21) and centre AJ Ogilvy (21) at WIN Entertainment Centre.

Hawks import Marvelle Harris played 12 minutes off the bench after missing game one to be with his dying father in America.

Harris rushed back to Australia on Wednesday morning, playing 12 minutes off the bench but missing all four of his shots.

Perth were down at quarter-time and halftime, before taking the lead late in the third period and never trailing again.

The Cats won by the same 89-77 score as they did in game one, setting up victory with a strong rebounding effort in the second half.

A win in Sunday’s game three in Perth would give the Wildcats their eighth title and push them four championships clear of their nearest rival.

It was only a month ago the Cats were no guarantee of qualifying for the finals.

They won their final two games to clinch their 31st consecutive playoff appearance.

The Hawks are in their fourth grand-final series in 38 years and chasing just their second championship.

Ogilvy set the tone for his team with a dazzling opening period, tallying seven points, four rebounds, two blocks, two assists and a steal.

The Hawks charged to a 20-9 lead before the Wildcats cut the margin to 24-18 at quarter-time.

Perth pulled to within a point early in the second period, but Illawarra responded again, building a 45-40 halftime lead.

The Wildcats suffered a setback when rugged forward Matt Knight was helped off after copping a head knock in the first minute of the second half.

The Hawks pushed the margin back up to eight, only to lose their lead for the first time since the game’s opening minutes.

When the siren sounded to end the third quarter, the Cats had worked their way to a 63-59 lead.

They answered every Hawks challenge, silencing the hometown fans en route to a well-deserved win.

With the Wildcats leading 2-0, the best-of-five series shifts back to Perth on Sunday afternoon for game three. Game four (if required) is scheduled for Friday week (March 10) in Wollongong.