Egypt dreads bus bomb impact on tourism

A suicide bombing that killed three South Korean tourists in south Sinai has sent shockwaves through the resorts dotting its pristine coastline, with Egypt’s vital tourism industry in the crosshairs of militants.

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The bombing of the tour bus on Sunday was claimed by an Al-Qaeda-inspired group that had previously focused its attacks on security forces since the military’s ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July.

The group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, said in a statement that the bus attack was “part of our economic war against this regime of traitors.”

Sunday’s bombing threatens to hit the military-installed government’s efforts to revive the key tourism industry, which accounts for over 11 per cent of Egypt’s GDP.

Bus driver Fekri Habib said his company has already cancelled two tourist trips to Saint Catherine’s desert monastery, one of the south Sinai destinations that South Koreans had visited before their bus was attacked near a border crossing with Israel.

The peninsula’s southern coastline, which is popular among Western tourists for its resort towns, had been spared from the violence rocking the country since an uprising toppled strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

In the past three years, “south Sinai was doing well in comparison with other areas, Cairo or Luxor for instance,” tourism ministry spokeswoman Rasha al-Azayzi told AFP.

Mohamed Hamdi, the owner of a souvenir shop in Sharm el-Sheikh, said it was to early to evaluate the impact.

He acknowledged however that a repeat of such an attack could deal a fatal blow to an already ailing tourism industry.

“If this happens in Sharm or Hurghada, you can say bye bye to tourism,” Hamdi said.

Rapper Eminem delivers thumping show

It was his Melbourne moment and Eminem owned it.

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The white boy from Detroit took to Etihad stadium on Wednesday night, spouting his rapid-fire poetry to a 50,000 strong crowd.

It might’ve been a chilly summer night, but the energy of the man born Marshall Bruce Mathers III was unstoppable as he played 90-minutes straight with barely a break or a mere breath.

He graced the stage, emerging as a silhouette behind a white screen before appearing in a black hoodie and rapping furiously to his newer song Survival as red stage lights flashed and fire balls exploded on the big screens behind.

And it was loud. Very loud.

Eminem pounced around the stage, waving his arms, beating his chest, running from side to side, delving into his dark and at times disturbing lyrics.

To deafening cheers, the rapper charmed his fans who had been with him since the beginning.

“How many mother f**king real hip hop fans do we have in this crowd tonight?” he asked.

Commanding punters to hold up their phones in the air, the stadium twinkled as Eminem made a pitch to the ladies of Melbourne.

“I’ve got a question to ask you,” he said.

“Have you ever been in a relationship like this?”

He then launched into Love the Way You Lie, a dark, tortured tale of toxic love.

Stan followed, a favourite that clearly resonated with fans.

Clear cheers were reserved for his sadistic alter ego Slim Shady, while the artist, one of the best selling in the world, dedicated his final song to those who’ve lost others to addiction.

But the multi Grammy award winner saved the best for the encore.

The crowd thumped for more and Eminen delivered with Lose Yourself – the song that won him an Academy Award – generating the biggest recognition from the masses.

Bangladesh factory inspections start

Safety experts hired by Western retailers have launched mass inspections of Bangladesh clothing factories, ten months after hundreds of garment workers died in a building collapse.

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“The inspections have begun,” said Brad Loewen, who is overseeing the scrutiny of more than 1500 plants on behalf of top retailers such as H&M and Benetton.

Dozens of fire officers and structural engineers are expected to inspect the plants and recommend safety improvements in an exercise set to last until September.

An international labour activist involved in the inspections, Roy Ramesh, said the first day went well but declined to give details of what inspectors found at the factories.

Local media reported that garment manufacturers were unhappy with some of the costly safety improvements recommended by inspectors including sprinklers, fire doors and thicker wiring systems.

Bangladesh is the world’s second biggest clothing manufacturer and the sector is the mainstay of the impoverished South Asian nation’s economy.

But it has a woeful safety track record, highlighted in 2012 by a fire at a factory outside Dhaka in which 111 workers were killed.

Many were unable to escape due to a lack of proper fire exits.

In April 2013, 1,135 people were killed when the nine-storey Rana Plaza complex collapsed on the outskirts of the capital in Bangladesh’s deadliest industrial disaster.

Experts say the complex had been constructed with sub-standard materials and without proper site surveys.

Spanish fashion chain Mango, Britain’s Primark, Italy’s Benetton, Sweden’s H&M and the sports brand Adidas were among Western brands to sign up to an accord in the aftermath of the disaster, in which they agreed to bankroll the safety inspections and lend the money for upgrades.

Recovery in rich economies stutters: OECD

Growth in advanced economies slowed down slightly in 2013 from output in 2012, the OECD says.

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The latest statistics on OECD-member countries bear out the struggling and fragile nature of recovery from recession in many countries that analysts have been underlining for several months.

“For 2013 as a whole, GDP (gross domestic product) rose by 1.3 per cent in the OECD area, down from 1.5 per cent in 2012,” the OECD, comprising 34 advanced democracies, said when it published data for the fourth quarter on Wednesday.

OECD growth flattened out at 6.0 per cent in the last three months of 2013, the OECD said, with the US and Britain being the most dynamic.

But on a 12-month comparison, fourth quarter to fourth quarter, the OECD area achieved growth of 2.2 per cent.

On this 12-month basis, Italy was the only OECD country to show shrinking output.

The overall year-end 0.6-per cent quarter-on-quarter growth in OECD members was the same as in the second and third quarters.

The data for Italy also highlights the pressures on Matteo Renzi as he tries to form a new government to carry though deep structural reforms to boost the economy.

Fourth-quarter data from OECD-member Canada was not yet available.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said the US economy achieved growth of 0.8 per cent in the fourth quarter from output in the third, and Britain 0.7 per cent.

However, for both countries this meant that output had flagged slightly from output in the third quarter.

In Japan “growth was stable at 0.3 per cent”.

For the eurozone, growth rose to 0.3 per cent from 0.1 per cent in the third quarter, and in the broader European Union by 0.4 per cent from 0.3 per cent.

In Germany, with the biggest economy in the EU, “growth accelerated slightly to 0.4 per cent, compared with 0.3 percent in the third quarter”, the OECD said.

And France achieved a rather more marked increase from a zero figure in the third quarter to plus 0.3 per cent in the last quarter.

Italian output increased in the fourth quarter, by 0.1 per cent, for the first time since the third quarter of 2011.

However, when output was compared on a 12-month basis, OECD-area growth “accelerated significantly” to 2.2 per cent in the fourth quarter, up from 1.5 per cent in the third quarter.

Serie A boss wants different sanctions for anti-Naples chants

Several clubs have been punished this season for anti-Naples chanting by fans, an offence officially termed “territorial discrimination”, even at matches at which Napoli have not been playing.

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The sanctions have been implemented as part of new guidelines which were originally intended to crack down on racial discrimination.

“The problem is not the rule, which is something we have received from UEFA, but the way it is implemented which is very limited,” Beretta told Gazzetta dello Sport.

“We are punishing the minority of uncivilised people the hard way, but we can’t continue to punish the majority of respectable fans as well.

“I’m sure they share our fight against racism which, I repeat, is something we will not back down from.

“The current system is proving to be something of a boomerang.”

Italian fans have long exchanged regional insults and some of the recent chanting has been interpreted as an act of defiance against the new rules.

In October, Inter Milan fans started a campaign inciting all supporters to break rules simultaneously with the intention of having an entire weekend where all the matches were played behind closed doors.

The most recent case involved AS Roma who were ordered to close both the Curva Nord and Curva Sud sections at the Stadio Olimpico following recent chanting.

They served the first match of the ban at home to Sampdoria on Sunday, when fans in the section adjacent to the Curva Sud, known as the Distinti, also took part in anti-Naples chanting.

That section of the stadium has also been ordered closed for Roma’s next home game.

(Reporting by Brian Homewood; Editing by Rex Gowar)

Final gang member jailed in Supreme Court

A senior member of a home invasion gang that terrorised Sydney residents and hacked a man to death with meat cleavers has been jailed for at least eight years.

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Over three years after 25-year-old Kesley Burgess was murdered in his lounge room as he tried to protect his mother, the final man to face charges in the Supreme Court relating to his death has been sentenced to a maximum 11-year jail term.

Ray Tuki, 23, was a member of a gang calling itself the United Brotherhood, which carried out a number of home invasions targeting drug dealers in 2010 – often entering the wrong houses.

He was the “right hand man” of the gang’s boss, John Khoury, who was jailed for at least 32 years last month.

On July 1, 2010, four members of the gang stormed Mr Burgess’s Lurnea home and hacked him with meat cleavers as his mother, Tracey Burgess, sank to her knees and begged them to kill her instead.

The gang made off with a small tin of cannabis.

Tuki was not present at Mr Burgess’s murder, but he waited for the other gang members in a base they called “The Compound” where he bandaged one of the attacker’s wounds and washed blood off the meat cleavers.

Other home invasions carried out by the gang included an attack at Ashcroft on June 29, 2010, when a man was struck in the arm with a machete.

The gang also invaded a Warwick Farm unit they thought belonged to a drug dealer, but terrorised and robbed a woman instead.

After Mr Burgess’s death, gang members were intercepted in phone calls planning a further “killing spree”.

Tuki pleaded guilty to four charges, including being a member of a criminal group, being an accessory after the armed robbery causing grievous bodily harm to Mr Burgess and firearm offences.

Sentencing him in the Supreme Court in Sydney on Friday, Justice Peter Johnson said Tuki was a senior figure in the gang who helped to collect drug money and to recruit new members.

“(Tuki) was part of an organised crime group for a period of five weeks, with his involvement ceasing only because he was arrested by police, when almost at the point where a very violent crime would take place with him as an active and intentional participant,” the judge said.

Eight other gang members have previously been sentenced by Justice Johnson over the murder of Kesley Burgess, with minimum jail terms ranging from 11 to 32 years.

“I take this final opportunity to express the condolences of the court and the community for the great loss and suffering which Tracey Burgess has experienced as a result of the terrible events of July 2010,” the judge said.

Four other gang member were sentenced in the District Court for different home invasions, with two more yet to be sentenced.

Taking into account time already served, Tuki will be eligible for parole in July 2018.

Chelsea’s Terry eyes top spot, more misery for Arsenal

Chelsea and Terry head to the Emirates next Monday for the key London derby hoping to inflict a third straight defeat on Arsenal, who looked jaded in Manchester on Saturday after a midweek loss to Napoli in the Champions League.

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“We’ve got an opportunity to go away to Arsenal next week and go top of the league,” Terry told Chelsea TV on Sunday.

“They got a bit of a thumping, but they’re a really good side and really good at home as well.

“It’s going to be tough, but I think the motivation for us is to go there and beat them and go top of the league, which, just before Christmas, is a really good place to be.”

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was again critical of his side after they spurned a number of opportunities at home to a relegation-threatened Palace at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

That followed their failure to turn first half dominance into three points at Stoke City last week, where they lost 3-2.

Poor defending was also cited in the 4-3 victory over bottom side Sunderland prior to the Stoke defeat but Terry was not concerned.

“We’re clearly not firing on all cylinders at the moment,” the 33-year-old said.

“I think we’ve got another gear to go, which is still encouraging, being the position we are at the minute.

“So we’re not too disappointed, we just know as a group we can get better.”

VULNERABLE ARSENAL

Arsenal’s consistency had allowed them to open up a five-point lead at the top as Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur suffered some surprise defeats.

But the nature of their 6-3 defeat against City showed defensive vulnerability and a lack of squad depth leaving questions about their title chances ahead of the visit of Chelsea, who beat them twice in the league last season.

Chelsea host Swansea City and then Liverpool after Christmas before away trips to Southampton and Hull City then a big home match against struggling champions United. Terry believed going on a good run was crucial.

“It’s not only us who have suffered defeats and draws against teams where you would expect us to win,” the former England captain said.

“Hopefully we can knock that out of our system sooner rather than later while other teams are still struggling.

“Manchester United are still struggling, Cardiff beat Man City, there’s been all sorts of results that have been big upsets.”

Mourinho said he planned to rest Terry, if possible, for Tuesday’s League Cup quarter-final away at Sunderland after they beat Arsenal at the Emirates in the previous round.

The Portuguese played down Chelsea’s trophy chances this season after the Palace win, concerned at the lack of a killer ‘selfish’ striker but goalkeeper Petr Cech disagreed.

“It’s great to be in the position we’re in. We topped the group in the Champions League, we’re two points off the Premier League leaders and we can be in the semi-final of a domestic cup if we win on Tuesday,” he said.

“All of this, and we know that we haven’t reached our peak, so it’s great.”

(Writing by Patrick Johnston; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Seahawks rout Giants in NFL

Seattle embarrassed the New York Giants 23-0 on Sunday in a performance the Seahawks hope was a sign of things to come in the Super Bowl at the same MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

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The playoff-bound Seahawks intercepted Giants quarterback Eli Manning five times and took another step toward securing the National Conference post-season top seed.

Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell had two interceptions apiece and the Seahawks limited the Giants to 181 total yards in what New York coach Tom Coughlin called “a pathetic offensive performance”.

“It felt great to us,” Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said. “The biggest thing is how much fun we had. Guys were out there playing free like it was backyard football.”

It was the first time in 18 years that the Giants were shut out at home.

The venue took on even more significance since it is where the Super Bowl will be held on February 2, in what promises to be a chilling climax to the NFL season.

Marshawn Lynch added 120 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown for the Seahawks, who went into the contest one game in front of New Orleans in the race for home field advantage.

The Saints stumbled on Sunday in a 27-16 loss to the St Louis Rams.

The Green Bay Packers kept their playoff hopes alive as they matched the biggest comeback in club history in erasing a 23-point halftime deficit to edge Dallas 37-36.

Eddie Lacy’s one-yard touchdown plunge with 1:31 to play completed the Packers’ epic comeback, achieved with starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers still sidelined by a broken collarbone.

With back-up Matt Flynn guiding the offense, the Packers scored touchdowns on their first five possessions of the second half.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, meanwhile, threw interceptions on Dallas’ last two possessions.

The Cowboys remained a game behind NFC East division leaders Philadelphia, who fell 48-30 to Minnesota.

The Kansas City Chiefs locked up their playoff spot with a 56-31 victory over Oakland.

The Miami Dolphins boosted their bid for an American Conference wild card spot with a 24-20 upset of the New England Patriots.

New England missed a chance to clinch the AFC East crown and opened the door for Denver to claim the top seed in the conference.

Jay Cutler returned for Chicago after four games sidelined by injury and led the Bears to a key 38-31 victory at Cleveland.

The Bears are a half-game ahead of Detroit atop the NFC North.

AFC South division winners Indianapolis rebounded from a loss at Cincinnati last week with a 25-3 victory over the reeling Houston Texans.

In other games, San Francisco moved closer to a playoff berth with a 33-14 win over Tampa Bay, Atlanta edged Washington 27-26, and Buffalo beat Jacksonville 27-20.

In Pittsburgh, Antonio Brown had a receiving touchdown and returned a punt for a score to lead the Steelers to a 30- 20 win over Cincinnati, who lead the AFC North.

Comment: Let’s not sign away the deaf community

Last week’s furore over the fake sign language interpreter at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela has been unfortunate on many levels; not least that it has diverted attention from the most important person in the whole event – Nelson Mandela himself.

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However, this issue and associated media coverage has given us an opportunity to start the conversation about the importance of interpreter qualifications and getting the right person for the job.

Most people have never given any thought to interpreters and the vital job they do in society. They expect that during their lives they will get the information they need, when they need it, and in a language they can understand. But the reality of life for most deaf people is that they are the only person in the crowd who doesn’t have access to the emergency broadcast and therefore doesn’t know where the bushfires are likely to go next, or which parts of Brisbane have been restricted because of flooding.

Professional sign language interpreting of public information and events transforms deaf people from confused and frustrated, sometimes frightened ‘second class’ citizens into confident independent participants in society. The interpreting on TV emergency broadcasts during the 2011 Queensland floods and cyclone Yasi as well as recent NSW bushfires was enormously beneficial for deaf people. They didn’t have to wonder and worry; they were as well informed as their hearing neighbours and could confidently prepare alongside them.

I was saddened to see comments on social media last week from people who seemed to think the issue with the fake interpreter was not a big deal because they personally had not enjoyed the content of the speeches themselves. The point is, though, that hearing people have the opportunity to make a judgement about the things they hear and listen to as a matter of course every day, whereas deaf people rely on interpreters to give them the information they need to make choices about their lives. Even if that choice is to decide a public speech is interesting or boring.

Sign language interpreting is complex. Even a person who is fully fluent in a sign language is not automatically able to act as an interpreter. It is a highly skilled profession that requires training, accreditation, experience, and ethical standards.

Interpreters must be appropriately matched to particular interpreting assignments. Interpreting between one deaf person and one hearing person for an everyday bank transaction is very different from interpreting at a major event televised worldwide.

So what should have happened at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service? And what should happen at public events in general?

Firstly, I’d like to applaud the organisers, presumably the South African Government, for being aware that sign language interpreting was required. Deaf people often have to fight to have the same rights as everyone else to access public information and events. Here in Australia it is an ongoing battle for deaf people to convince governments that they should automatically provide Auslan interpreters on emergency broadcasts and at important events.

Organisers need to know how to book the right person for the job. Booking agencies have a responsibility to ensure that their interpreters are appropriately qualified and experienced and should match suitable interpreters with assignments. They should give advice about requirements, including the importance of providing briefing documents such as copies of speeches, lists of names and jargon that will be used.

Interpreters have a responsibility to ensure they only accept assignments for which they are qualified, experienced and where they have no conflicts of interest.

Interpreters often work as a team of two or three to prevent fatigue and support each other to ensure accuracy. For the Mandela memorial service, which lasted for around four hours, involved speeches by world leaders, and was televised, three interpreters working in a team would have been appropriate.

The fake interpreter, Mr Jantjie, has claimed that he experienced a schizophrenic episode. If this is true then we certainly should have some sympathy for him. A team of interpreters would have solved this issue. If Mr Jantjie were a genuine interpreter, his interpreting team mates would have recognised that things were going wrong and would have been able to take over.

If all of these conditions had been met – and it is not hard to do so – Nelson Mandela’s memorial service would have been the moving and respectful event it should have been for everyone including deaf people; not only deaf South Africans but to some extent deaf people around the world. It is such a shame that this debacle happened. Yet if it leads to improvements in sign language interpreting of public information and at public events, then deaf people will have reason to continue to thank Nelson Mandela long after his passing.

Karen Lloyd is Executive Officer of Deaf Australia, the peak national body representing the interests of deaf people who use Auslan. A deaf person herself, she is bilingual in English and Auslan and regularly works with sign language interpreters.

Deficit, debt blowout in Hockey MYEFO

Treasurer Joe Hockey is set to announce a budget deficit of just under $50 billion as he lays out a roadmap back to the black.

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Labor says the government is using scare tactics to disguise the fact it has added $20 billion in spending since the September election and is no longer on track to deliver a budget surplus in 2016/17.

It is understood the midyear economic and fiscal outlook (MYEFO) will outline four years of deficits totalling $100 billion, with no return to surplus until 2018.

Treasury had forecast a $4.2 billion surplus for 2016/17 in its independent pre-election fiscal outlook (PEFO).

Marking 100 days since his September election win, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the MYEFO would be, in effect, “Labor’s last budget statement”.

“Having laid out the scale of Labor’s fiscal disaster, the repair job begins,” Mr Abbott said.

He said if the coalition was to deliver on its promise of lower taxes and restoring economic growth it would have to get spending under control and live within its means.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said the Treasury’s independent forecast released during the election campaign showed the 2013/14 deficit on track for $30.1 billion.

“Every dollar above that, Joe Hockey has to take responsibility for,” Mr Bowen said.

The treasurer had yet to justify why he gave the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) $8.8 billion to top up its reserve funds, Mr Bowen said.

Lower revenue forecasts and extra government spending on roads, schools and other measures will make up the remainder of the blowout.

Before the election Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey promised to get the budget back to surplus “at least as quickly” as Labor.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the government had been preparing Australians for Tuesday’s budget review to break its surplus promise.

“They have got to start fighting for Aussie jobs and stop saying it is all Labor’s fault and life is too hard,” Mr Shorten said.

Economists expect gross debt to climb above $420 billion within three years and growth to moderate before recovering in 2014/15.

The average jobless rate is expected to rise to 6.25 per cent in 2013/14 and remain that high for another year.

The government has flagged 12,000 public service jobs to go through natural attrition, a higher efficiency dividend for departments and agencies, the sale of Medibank Private and no extra spending on trades training centres in schools.

It is waiting on the national commission of audit and other independent policy reviews before revealing all the savings in the May budget.

ANZ chief economist Shane Oliver said the budget was likely to return to balance in 2017/18, before edging to a surplus the following year.

Mr Oliver said half of the deficit blowout for this 2013/14 financial year was likely due to the $8.8 billion given to the RBA and conservative revenue assumptions.

“It will be a fairly political document,” he told AAP.

“I suspect they may be putting numbers in there to look as bad as possible and come the budget they will show how good they are at turning it around.”