Baird VC goes to War Memorial

A day after Governor-General Quentin Bryce presented Australia’s latest Victoria Cross to the family of Corporal Cameron Baird they have given it to the Australian War Memorial.

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It will go on display with other VCs awarded to Australians, including three awarded over action in Afghanistan.

In a brief ceremony at the Memorial’s Hall of Valour, director Brendan Nelson accepted Corporal Baird’s VC – the 100th awarded to an Australian – plus his Medal for Gallantry as an indefinite loan.

Cameron’s father Doug said this was an individual award but the family saw it as an award to all those in the 2nd Commando Regiment.

“We also think very clearly of all the parents, the mums and dads, of all the other fallen soldiers. We see it as something for them as well,” he said.

Mr Baird also had some advice for other parents of servicemen and women.

“Don’t be scared to tell `em you love `em because just don’t know what’s around the corner,” he said.

Dr Nelson said Cameron’s spirit was in the memorial and always would be.

“The generations of custodians of the memorial will forever guard his record with immense pride as we tell his story, your story and that of the very brave men of 2 Commando who have paid the highest price,” he said.

Corporal Baird was awarded the VC for heroism during an attack on a strongly defended insurgent position in Afghanistan on June 22 last year.

Three times he charged an enemy-held building to draw fire away from his comrades. The final time he was mortally wounded.

Following the presentation, family members placed red poppies next to Corporal Baird’s name on the roll of honour.

Aussie Mills earns his Spurs in NBA

San Antonio’s Australian star Patty Mills scored 16 points in the fourth quarter to guide the Spurs to a 113-103 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday as the NBA resumed from the All-Star break.

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Mills finished with 25 points and Tim Duncan had 19 points and 13 rebounds during a foul-plagued 38 minutes as San Antonio opened a 2-1/2 game lead over Houston in the Southwest Division.

Among other key games, LeBron James scored a season high to lead Miami over Dallas, Indiana beat Atlanta with Paul George hot from outside the arc, and Phoenix won in overtime against slumping Denver.

The Spurs beat LA despite being without six-time All-Star Tony Parker, whom coach Gregg Popovich said would be sidelined “for the foreseeable future” because of numerous aches and pains – including a bruised shin, a groin strain and lower back spasms.

Blake Griffin had 35 points and 12 rebounds for the Clippers, whose lead atop the Pacific Division was trimmed to four games.

Miami’s LeBron James scored a season-high 42 points as the Heat beat Dallas 117-106.

James scored the first eight points in a 14-0 run that put the Heat ahead after they trailed by one point entering the fourth quarter.

Chris Bosh scored 22 points for Miami, which has won six of seven heading into Thursday’s banner clash at Oklahoma City.

Dirk Nowitzki had 22 points for the Mavericks, who missed seven shots and had three turnovers while the Heat pulled away for their third-straight season sweep of the Mavericks – six consecutive wins – since losing to them in the 2011 NBA Finals.

Indiana’s Paul George scored 26 points, including four 3-pointers, to lead the Pacers over Atlanta 108-98, retaining a 2-1/2 game lead over Miami for the Eastern Conference lead.

David West had 17 points for Indiana, which went on a 12-2 run in the third quarter.

Kyle Korver scored 19 points, shooting 5 for 7 on 3-pointers, for the Hawks, who have lost six straight.

Phoenix’s Gerald Green scored a career-high 36 points, including eight in overtime, to guide the Suns past Denver 112-107.

Toronto broke open a close game in the third quarter and went on to beat Washington 103-93.

Memphis’ Mike Conley scored 22 points in his return after missing seven games with an ankle injury, helping the Grizzlies beat New York 98-93, weathering a second-half Knicks rally.

Charlotte’s Al Jefferson had 32 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Bobcats to a 108-96 win over Detroit.

And Milwaukee’s Brandon Knight overcame a foot contusion to score 18 points – including the sealing free throws in the closing seconds – as the Bucks edged Orlando 104-100.

Bus should’ve stopped for Daniel: witness

A woman has told court she argued with the driver of a bus about not stopping to pick a boy she later believed to be murdered teen Daniel Morcombe.

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However, the driver, giving evidence at the trial of Daniel’s accused killer Brett Peter Cowan, claims no one on the bus questioned his decision to keep going.

The 13-year-old vanished from an unofficial bus stop at Woombye on the Sunshine Coast on December 7, 2003.

The court has previously heard he was wearing a red T-shirt when he disappeared about 2pm.

Bus driver Ross Edmonds told the Brisbane Supreme Court he drove past a man and a boy in a red T-shirt, who tried to flag him down.

However, he was under orders to drive on after an earlier breakdown had delayed passengers.

“He (the boy) lifted his finger … and I pointed to him there was another bus coming,” Mr Edmonds said.

Katherine Bird, who was a passenger on the bus, said she believed the boy in the red T-shirt was Daniel although she didn’t know who he was at the time.

She said she also saw a man standing near him and as the bus drove past, she got up and told the bus driver he should have stopped.

“We actually had a little bit of an argument on the bus and he threatened to throw me off the bus if I didn’t sit down,” she said.

However, Mr Edmonds said he didn’t recall any passenger say anything about stopping.

The bus following Mr Edmonds was five minutes behind, according to bus driver Stuart Rose, who also gave evidence.

He said he said he heard an incoherent radio transmission about something under the bridge but saw no one at the overpass.

Cowan, 44, has pleaded not guilty to indecently dealing with Daniel, 13, murdering him and interfering with his corpse.

Cowan’s trial also heard from a man who claimed he saw what looked like someone being dragged into a faded blue sedan under the overpass in the late morning of December 7, 2003.

And a woman saw what she thought was a boy being violently assaulted in the back seat of a moving blue sedan in the early afternoon.

An elderly Nambour couple told the court Cowan went to their house about 1.30pm on December 7, 2003, to collect a mulcher.

The accused man had worked for their son’s sand blasting business and stayed no longer than 10 minutes, 80-year-old Frank Davis said.

The trial continues.

Australian detained in North Korea ‘knew the risks’

An Australian man being detained by North Korean authorities knew the journey was risky, his wife says.

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Christian missionary John Short, 75, originally from South Australia, arrived in Pyongyang on Saturday and was taken from his hotel by local police a day later.

“He went (to North Korea) because it is such a dark and difficult place,” wife Karen Short told AAP from the couple’s home in Hong Kong.

“Being a Christian missionary he wanted to see empathy for the people there.”

Mr Short’s travelling companion was also questioned by police, but was later released.

“They put him on the plane yesterday morning and thought my husband would follow but he didn’t.”

Mr Short’s interrogation is understood to have focused on religious documents.

It is against North Korean law to spread religious material, and interaction between locals and foreigners is also poorly viewed.

“He carried little booklets he’s written himself, that he’s had people translate into the Korean language,” Mrs Short said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has told Mrs Short her husband’s consular case is “different and difficult”.

In a statement DFAT confirmed that Australia’s consular interests in North Korea are handled by Swedish authorities.

“We are in close contact with Swedish officials in Pyongyang to seek their assistance in confirming the well-being of Mr Short and to obtain more information,” the statement said.

Shocked by the news of her husband’s detainment, Mrs Short admitted it is not the first time he has visited trouble spots, having travelled though Vietnam and Burma in more tense times in years past.

“It’s not the easy places that need help,” she said.

Mr Short’s detention continued on Monday as former Australian High Court Judge turned United Nations commissioner Michael Kirby, delivered a scathing assessment of human rights in North Korea.

Mrs Short does not believe there is any link between her husband’s interrogation and the growing international concern for rights in the republic.

In December an American 85-year-old Korean War veteran, detained in North Korean for a short time, described his custody as “comfortable”, having been kept in a hotel room and fed traditional food.

But South Korean man, Kenneth Bae, was in April sentenced to 15 years prison in the northern republic after being convicted of planning to overthrow the government.

His imprisonment includes daily hard labour, reports say.

Mrs Short asked Australians to pray for her husband’s safe return.

Sydney woman in Bali drugs arrest

A Sydney woman is being detained after Bali police raided a villa just two days after convicted drug smuggler Schapelle Corby was released from jail.

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New Zealand national Leeza Tracey Ormsby, 37, was arrested at a villa north of Kuta last Wednesday.

Police say they acted on a tip-off about drugs at a party when they allegedly found the Paddington resident in possession of a marijuana cigarette.

A police report says officers then searched a villa, where they seized six tablets of hashish, seven tablets of MDMA, electronic scales, duct tape and wrapping plastic.

It says the Rotorua-born woman is being investigated for “possessing, keeping … the narcotics of hashish and MDMA”.

At a media conference on Tuesday, Agus Tri Waluyo, the head of Denpasar’s drug squad, said Ormsby had told police there was a party at the villa, but her friends had since left Bali.

“We made the ambush on Wednesday around 8am (1100 AEDT),” he told reporters.

“In that location, we found the evidence.

“From the statement given to investigators, she admitted that several days prior to the ambush, there was a drugs party along with her five other friends.

“But they’ve gone back to their country.”

Police say Ormsby has not yet been charged, but it’s understood she has legal representation.

A report in the Bali Post about Ormsby’s arrest said it showed “the war against illicit drug trafficking in Bali, particularly in Denpasar Police jurisdiction, continues”.

Her arrest came just two days after Corby was released on parole from Bali’s Kerobokan jail.

The Australian was sentenced to 20 years’ jail but could have been sentenced to death after being arrested in 2004 at Denpasar’s airport with 4.1 kilograms of marijuana.

Corby served nine years before qualifying to serve her parole in Bali.

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: