Coal dumped at French president’s palace

Paris police have detained 12 Greenpeace activists who dumped a truckload of coal at the doorstep of France’s presidential palace, hours before a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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The activists also said the truck had two containers of nuclear waste with radioactive tritium inside them.

While the water inside containers had far-above-normal levels of radioactivity, it was not a threat to clean-up crews or police as long as it wasn’t spilled, Greenpeace activists said.

Police blocked the road and hauled off the activists, and clean-up crews with shovels quickly removed the coal from the street.

The publicity stunt was aimed to send a message to French President Francois Hollande and Merkel “to abandon energies that are considered dangerous – coal and nuclear – and to finally commit to a real energy transition”, Greenpeace activist Sebastien Blavier said.

The group wants European countries to commit to raising their percentage of renewable energy use to 45 per cent by 2030.

At present, France gets at least two-thirds of its electricity from nuclear power, which is one of the highest such proportions in the world. Germany, meanwhile, slightly increased its share of electricity generated from coal in 2013 to about 45 per cent.

Environmentalists have criticised the increasing use of coal, saying it is a dirty source because of the large amount of carbon dioxide released when it is burned.

The stunt was bound to raise new questions about security at sensitive sites in France. Greenpeace France has recently carried out acts including peaceful invasions of French nuclear sites in a bid to expose security dangers.

Growing medical marijuana big business

An hour’s drive south of Canada’s capital, past snow-covered pine forests and farmland, Chuck Rifici is growing marijuana at an old Hershey’s factory.

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He plans to sell it for medical use under a new government scheme starting on April 1 that will ban home cultivation in favour of large commercial greenhouses.

Rifici’s start-up Tweed Inc is one of only six companies so far to earn a growing licence from Health Canada, and will be the first in the world to be publicly traded on a stock exchange.

Security is airtight – as required by the new federal regulations. Staff must swipe ID cards each time they enter and leave a room, and the facility in Smiths Falls is under constant video surveillance.

“It’s like manufacturing inside a bank,” Rifici said during a tour of the facility. “But otherwise, it’s just like any other horticultural operation.”

Inside, workers wearing lab coats and hair nets are constantly pruning the plants. Heat, humidity, carbon dioxide, air flow, nutrients feeding and light (12 hours on, 12 hours off) are monitored and controlled by sophisticated software.

Hershey’s used to make chocolate here, but the factory closed six years ago, after five decades in operation.

Tweed, with almost Can$10 million ($A9.99 million) in “seed money”, has moved in and plans to distribute its marijuana across Canada for medical use.

When renovations are completed, the Tweed factory will contain 30 growing rooms containing 1,300 plants each, as well as a “mother room” for seedlings.

“It’ll be bright like the sun in here,” said Rifici, pointing to bulbs being installed in one room. Workers will need to wear sunglasses, long-sleeved shirts and sunblock to enter, he said.

The marijuana itself, once cut and dried and packaged, will be stored in a secure vault awaiting shipment by mail or courier to customers.

The use of marijuana for medicinal purposes was effectively legalised in Canada in 1999.

Government figures show more than 37,350 Canadians have prescriptions for medical marijuana. The typical user is male, in his 40s, and smokes 10 grams per day.

Health Canada originally tried supplying the drug, growing it in an abandoned mine shaft in the far north, but it was widely panned as weak.

Thereafter nearly 30,000 home-based growing operations were allowed to crop up. But local officials complained about a lack of monitoring, and police worried about an increase in crime.

Under the new regulatory regime, all these small gardens will be replaced by fewer but larger commercial operations.

Nash acted properly: Dutton

Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton has come to the defence of parliamentary colleague Fiona Nash as the Australian Greens join calls for the Nationals senator’s scalp.

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Labor and the Greens want the assistant health minister to relinquish her portfolio over questions of her office’s involvement in the removal of a food-rating website, which has already cost the job of her chief of staff, Alastair Furnival.

Senator Nash has admitted Mr Furnival was a shareholder in lobbying firm Australian Public Affairs, which represented junk-food industry clients opposed to the site.

Greens Senator Richard Di Natale accused Senator Nash of being dishonest with the Australian public and breaching the ministerial code of conduct.

He said the website’s removal raised questions about Senator Nash’s priorities on major health issues.

“We’ve got a minister who’s clearly been compromised because of the relationship her chief of staff has had doing the bidding of those in industry ahead of protecting ordinary people,” Senator Di Natale told reporters in Canberra.

But Mr Dutton said Senator Nash was an effective minister and “a very decent person”.

“It goes to credibility and the credibility that I place in this debate is with Senator Nash, and I think she has done the right thing,” Mr Dutton told the ABC.

He said he knew of Mr Furnival’s work history, “as everybody else did”.

“The appropriate declarations were made and signed, and Mr Furnival has now moved on,” Mr Dutton said.

Labor and the Greens are set to renew their attack on Senator Nash in parliament next week.

Barca make mockery of crisis talk as last eight beckons

A match billed as a possible turning point in Manchester City’s history following their glitzy cash-laden rebirth fuelled by Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mansour’s heavy investment, ended in a comprehensive Barcelona win.

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Barca, top of La Liga and in the Spanish Cup final, now look set to advance and make a mockery of the words of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who said before the match: “This is the worst Barcelona team for many, many years, so City have a chance.”

However, this is City’s best team for many, many years too but it looks like that chance has already slipped away.

While the second leg at the Nou Camp on March 12 is not entirely a formality, City will have to overcome considerable odds, as well as the weight of competition history if they are to keep alive any dream of winning four trophies this season.

Since they first met English opposition in European competition in 1960, Barcelona have lost only two of 27 home matches with Liverpool winning both of them: A UEFA Cup match in 1976 and a Champions League Round of 16 game in 2007.

HOME DEFEATS

And only twice since the Champions League began 22 years ago has a side progressed after a home first leg defeat, a rare feat at the best of times and one City are likely to have to attempt without their coach Manuel Pellegrini on the bench.

The normally taciturn Chilean launched an astonishing verbal attack on referee Jonas Eriksson after the game, questioning his impartiality and accusing the Swedish official of deciding the outcome of the game.

City went behind when Eriksson awarded a penalty to Barcelona in the 53rd minute for a foul by Martin Demichelis on fellow Argentine Lionel Messi that appeared to initially take place outside the area.

Eriksson immediately dismissed Demichelis, leaving City with 10 men as Messi scored from the spot before Dani Alves added a second goal in the 90th minute.

Angry about the penalty and frustrated by conceding a second late goal, Pellegrini said, among other things: “I spoke to the referee at the end and told him he should be very happy because he decided the match.

“The referee was not impartial. He did not have any control of the game. I think it was not a good idea to have a referee from Sweden in such an important match.

“More important football is played in Europe than in Sweden so a big game with two important teams – that kind of game needs a referee with more experience.”

WORLD CUP

Eriksson, however, was refereeing his 22nd Champions League match, officiated at Euro 2012, is on the list for this year’s World Cup in Brazil and has been a FIFA referee since 2002.

Of more immediate concern to Pellegrini, rather than where he watches the game from, will be to devise a way City can turn this tie around after conceding two goals at home without scoring themselves.

One blessing in disguise is that he will not be able to play Demichelis because the defender will be banned for the second leg and Pellegrini’s risk in playing him backfired.

Demichelis has been one of the best defenders in Europe but is not the player he was and whether his lunge on Messi was just outside the box or not, he had no chance of catching his compatriot fairly.

Despite this setback, which could yet, though unlikely, still be overcome, Pellegrini and City have had a superb season and are still in contention for an English treble of Premier League, FA Cup and Capital One (League) Cup trophies.

They matched Barcelona well for periods of the game and although the visitors dominated the game in terms of possession and goals, City never made it easy for their opposition.

Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta told reporters afterwards that despite the win, the tie was far from settled and they would be taking nothing for granted in the second leg.

“The result is fantastic for us because after the penalty and red card, they came back at us strongly, but our aim was to keep possession and we did that and won. But we are not over-confident for the second leg. A lot can happen in 90 minutes.”

Manchester City should have their Argentine striker Sergio Aguero back for the second leg on March 12, but that may be a case of too late, too late after failing to capitalize at home.

(This story has been refiled to fix typo in second par)

(Editing by John O’Brien)

Australian naval incursions blamed on errors

A Defence and Customs Review has found Australian ships inadvertently breached Indonesian territorial waters six times.

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The breaches occurred between December last year and January and went against Australian government policy and operational instructions for Operation Sovereign Borders.

The review found each incursion was accidental and arose from incorrect calculation of the boundaries of Indonesian waters rather than as a deliberate action or navigational error.

“On each occasion the incursion was inadvertent, in that each arose from incorrect calculation of the boundaries of Indonesian waters rather than as a deliberate action or navigational error,” the review says.

It examined all patrols conducted by Navy and Customs vessels on Operation Sovereign Borders between December 1 and January 20.

 

Australia has apologised to Indonesia for the unintentional incursions.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says the review has identified the errors and he is confident the naval incursions won’t happen again.

“One [issue] was how the territorial waters were measured from the coastline rather than from the baseline,” he told the ABC. “There was [also] an issue in terms of some of the geographic information that was available to those at the time being provided. And thirdly in the post-operation period, that the places where people were hadn’t been identified. Now all of these things have been addressed and we’ve ensured that in terms of future operations that those types of errors won’t reoccur.”

The Opposition has called for the full report to be made public. Minister Morrison says that decision is up to Customs and Defence.

“It is not for me to make that call,” he said.

Mr Morrison disputed comments made by an Indonesian Navy spokesperson that with modern technology the incursions could not have been an accident.

“The findings of the report completely contradict those comments,” Minister Morrison said.

Read the full report below:

Clarke diplomatic, SAfrica reject claims

Michael Clarke was diplomatic as the divisive issue of pitch doctoring reared its head, while Graeme Smith denied he held sway over the curator for the second Test in South Africa.

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Shane Watson is expected to remain sidelined as Australia take an unchanged XI into the match at Port Elizabeth, which will start on Thursday.

It is understood Proteas coach Russell Domingo was disappointed with the bouncy Centurion surface for the first Test, which Mitchell Johnson took advantage of to claim career-best match figures of 12 for 127 and guide Australia to a 281-run victory.

Another defeat for the Proteas would trigger the ignominy of the nation’s first Test series loss since 2009, leading to claims St George’s Park curator Adrian Carter was being controlled by Domingo and Smith.

“I had a chat to the groundsman. At the moment the grass is 8mm high,” Michael Clarke said on Tuesday of the strip.

“He said he’s going to speak to their captain and coach before he makes a decision (on what to do with the grass).

“Hopefully it does (stay as is).

“If the wicket stays like it is today it will be a three-dayer, especially with two fantastic bowling attacks.”

Carter confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that he had thoughts on what to do with a “furry and green” surface that scared him, but would not act without Domingo and Smith’s approval.

Smith, Domingo and his assistant coaches inspected the pitch and had lengthy discussions with Carter before South Africa started training on Tuesday.

Smith rejected claims they made any demands.

“One thing I’ve learned is that when you ask for things you generally don’t get them,” he said.

“We just requested a good Test wicket.”

Clarke was not keen to cry foul about Carter’s apparent lack of independence.

“It doesn’t bother me, that’s a big part of playing international cricket,” the Australia captain said.

“It’s a big part of our game that the captain, especially, can communicate with the groundsman in his home country and produce the wicket that is best suited to their team.”

Carter will find it hard to create a strip that makes Johnson easy to play.

“Slow wicket, quick wicket – if a guy’s bowling at 150km/h it’s quick,” Morne Morkel said.

Johnson holds the key to Australia posting a victory that would seal their first Test seres win on foreign soil since defeating the West Indies 2-0 in April 2012.

The left-armer was often unplayable at Centurion, but his brutal blows to the head and body would have featured just as much in Domingo’s post-match analysis.

Ryan McLaren, left bloodied by a Johnson bouncer, will miss the second Test due to post-concussion syndrome.

Left-armer Wayne Parnell is favourite to replace fellow all-rounder McLaren, however Clarke expected selectors may opt for a batsman.

Regardless of Domingo’s instructions, St George’s Park is set to be a slower pitch than Centurion and not offer as much uneven bounce.