Frustration as Al Jazeera verdict delayed

Australian journalist Peter Greste says the delay of a verdict in his retrial by an Egyptian court is frustrating and is putting his life, and that of his colleagues in Egypt, in limbo.

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As the court in Cairo was due to deliver a verdict in a second trial against Mr Greste and his Al Jazeera colleagues, Mr Greste – who is in Australia and being tried in absentia – learned via Twitter that the decision had been delayed.

No reason was given and while a new date of August 2 has been announced, confusion remains.

Mr Greste said the uncertainty was typical of the legal process.

The three journalists were jailed last year for “spreading false news” during their coverage of the turmoil after the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

An appeals court ordered a retrial and the men were released after spending more than 400 days in jail.

“This is really quite typical of what we have seen so many times throughout this whole process, where just when you think something is definitive, is certain, you wind up with a change,” he told ABC TV.

Mr Greste said the delay was “incredibly frustrating” and held even more serious consequences for his colleagues, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy, who remain in Egypt after he was deported.

“For all of us, we can’t move on until we end up with this verdict,” he said.

“We can’t move on with our lives, we can’t plan, our families can’t plan.

“As long as it keeps shifting, it makes it tougher and tougher to get on with our lives.”

Mr Greste said he did not know why the verdict was delayed.

“It’s possible that the judge was sick, it’s possible the judges are continuing to review some of the evidence,” he said.

“The whole process has really been very opaque.”

Egyptian state news agency MENA reported that the ruling is now expected on August 2.

Broadcaster Al Jazeera issued a statement saying: “We are outraged that the verdict has been adjourned as today was meant to be the final court hearing for our colleagues.”

In Egypt, Baher Mohamed said the postponing of the verdict was “very strange”.

“It’s disturbing that the trial was postponed without informing our lawyers,” he told French news agency AFP.

“I don’t want to predict anything about the verdict. Anything could happen.”

Mohamed Fahmy said the delay was an insult to the defendants and their families.

“We have been in a nightmare for 19 months,” he said.

Mr Greste says a conviction will effectively end his career as a foreign correspondent because it will curtail his ability to travel.

His colleagues are at risk of returning to prison.

If convicted, the journalists can appeal to Egypt’s Court of Cassation, which can uphold or cancel the ruling. If it cancels the verdict it will examine the case itself.

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I never thought I’d take 400 test wickets, says Steyn

The world’s top-ranked test bowler brought up the milestone when he had opener Tamim Iqbal caught at first slip by Hashim Amla for six and his next target is Shaun Pollock’s national record of 421 wickets.

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“I would’ve been happy if I had taken just one wicket in my international career,” Steyn told reporters after picking up three for 30 as Bangladesh ended the day on 246 for eight.

“It’s enough to play and take wickets for South Africa and then I managed to get 400. I never thought that would happen … ever in my life.”

Steyn, who is as laid back off the field as he is fiery on it, said he would not dwell on his personal landmark.

“I have never been a stats person,” added the 32-year-old. “It’s nice to have these numbers but I have had a lot better moments in my cricketing career.

“Winning games for my country has always been objective number one so the job’s not over yet.”

Steyn bowled 16.1 overs in searing heat and on a wicket that offered little pace and bounce.

“I love what I am doing right now, even if it’s in 40 degree heat and the ball is staying ankle high,” he said. “It’s not bouncing and … it’s very slow but I would rather be here than anywhere else.”

Steyn was disappointing in the 2015 Indian Premier League for Sunrisers Hyderabad but said he had benefited from spending some time away from the game.

“There was a period when I actually didn’t want to have a ball in my hand, I think I just needed maybe two or three weeks off to get that love back again,” he explained.

(Reporting by Nick Said, editing by Tony Jimenez; [email protected]杭州桑拿会所,; Reuters Messaging: nick.said.thomsonreuters杭州桑拿会所,@reuters杭州桑拿按摩,; +27 83 272 2948)

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IOC must uphold ethical standards: Bach

The International Olympic Committee needs to show it is serious about maintaining ethical credibility and staying free of corruption, IOC President Thomas Bach says.

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“We need to demonstrate that we are indeed walking the walk and not just talking the talk,” Bach said in a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the IOC’s 128th session in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

In a clear reference to the scandal that has rocked FIFA, Bach said, “These are difficult times in sport, as recent events in other sports organisations have all too clearly shown.”

“People today demand more transparency and want to see concrete steps on how we are living up to our values and our responsibility,” he said.

Bach also referred to the Salt Lake City bidding scandal 15 years ago that led to the expulsion or resignation of 10 members. The IOC adopted a series of reforms to clean up the organisation, including a ban on member visits to bid cities, creation of an ethics commission and establishment of age and term limits.

“We know from our own history how long it takes to rebuild credibility and that implementing best practices with regards to good governance and transparency cannot happen overnight,” Bach said.

“Putting these changes in place has not been an easy process. But we see very clearly today just how these reforms have been for our organisation.”

The IOC has sought to distance itself from the problems at FIFA, which is the target of separate US and Swiss investigations. Fourteen soccer and marketing officials were indicted in May on widespread corruption charges.

Embattled FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who is an IOC member, is not attending the IOC assembly in Malaysia.

Bach spoke a day before the IOC votes on the host city for the 2022 Winter Olympics, choosing between Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan.

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‘Suitcase found’ near possible MH370 debris

Reports are emerging that the damaged remnants of a suitcase have been found washed ashore on the same Indian Ocean island where debris that may be from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was discovered.

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SBS is trying to verify the reports. 

Less than a day after a two-metre long object that aviation experts say is likely a wing flap from a Boeing 777 was found on the island of Reunion, a photo has emerged of a man holding the tattered remains of a bag.

French language website Linfo.re has reported that a gardener found the bag near where the debris was discovered.

There has been no further information linking the bag to MH370, a Boeing 777 that disappeared on March 8, 2014 with 239 people on board.

Picture of the suitcase found this morning at Saint-André ! (credit : @Linfore) #ReunionIsland pic.twitter杭州桑拿会所,/ZhrS3kQNF2

— Antoine Forestier (@a_forestier) July 30, 2015

Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss says it’s too early to judge whether the debris is from the flight that disappeared last year with 239 people on board.

But it is being treated as the first major lead.

“A piece of debris could have floated a very, very long way in 16 months,” Mr Truss told reporters in Sydney.

“We do know that it’s credible that wreckage could have reached the area.”

Malaysian transport officials are on their way to the remote island of Reunion, off the east coast of Africa, after the discovery of the large piece that might be a wing flap from a Boeing 777 passenger jet – the same type as MH370.

Mr Truss said the number found on the piece was possibly for maintenance, but “BB670” wasn’t a serial or registration number.

The CSIRO and Institute of Marine Research are working to identify the barnacles on the 2m-long piece, found washed ashore, to determine how long it had been in the ocean.

“(They will) assess whether the barnacles that are evident in those photographs are consistent with something that was floating in the ocean for 16 months or more,” Mr Truss said.

Mr Truss said if the wreckage was identified as being from MH370, it would be consistent with other analysis and modelling that the plane is in the southern Indian Ocean.

MH370 disappeared in March last year, with six Australians among those on board, while travelling from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to Beijing.

French and Malaysian authorities will decide how any evidence is handled, as the debris was discovered on French territory.

The families of the Australian victims have told the government they were hoping for closure when contacted with the news.

“Not knowing, not having the opportunity for closure certainly is an enormous burden for the families,” Mr Truss said.

Australian investigators will continue searching the southern part of the Indian Ocean seabed.

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Finn’s five wickets put England on brink of victory

Australia hold a lead of 23 with three wickets remaining and three days to play after Finn, recalled after a two-year absence during which his shattered confidence and bowling action were restored, ran amok.

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After capitulating to 136 all out on Wednesday and then facing a deficit of 145 after England made 281, Australia had no answer to Finn’s pace, bounce and movement at a raucous Edgbaston.

He followed up his two wickets in the first innings with figures of 5-45 from 13 excellent overs as only a defiant 77 from David Warner and an unbeaten 37 from Peter Nevill held up England’s victory bid inside two days as Australia closed on 168-7.

Australia’s fragility was ruthlessly exposed by Finn after Chris Rogers (6) was trapped lbw to Stuart Broad.

Finn repeated his feat of the first innings by snaring Steve Smith and Michael Clarke in a superb spell either side of tea.

Smith perished for eight when he top-edged to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler and Finn had his tail up again immediately after the interval.

Australia captain’s Clarke’s poor run continued when he edged Finn to Adam Lyth at fourth slip and Edgbaston went wild again moments later when the paceman dug another short one into Adam Voges who fended straight to Ian Bell.

Mitchell Marsh saw off the hat-trick ball, allowing it to pass by off stump, but had made just six when his bails were sent flying by the towering Finn.

A pugnacious Warner still carried the fight, equalling the fastest half-century by either side in an Ashes test — emulating the 35 balls compatriot Graham Yallop took in 1981 — but the opener fell to James Anderson, who later went off with a suspected side strain.

Joe Root with 63 top-scored for England who were boosted by an entertaining eighth-wicket stand of 87 between Moeen Ali (59) and Broad (31).

Mitchell Johnson took his 300th and 301st test wickets in a rip-snorting second over of the morning, dismissing Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes.

(This story corrects the Marsh total to six in the ninth paragraph)

(Editing by Toby Davis)

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Many property investors still keen to buy

Many investors are undeterred by lenders making it harder for them to get a property loan although some off-the-plan buyers may end up unable to complete their purchase.

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A Mortgage Choice survey shows that 54 per cent of potential investors would still go ahead with their plans despite lenders making sweeping changes to their lending policy and pricing.

Many lenders, including most of the major banks, have hiked interest rates on investment property loans in the past week but Mortgage Choice chief executive John Flavell says the majority of investors still view property as a lucrative investment strategy.

“When we asked potential investors whether or not now was a good time to invest, more than 70 per cent said yes, which goes some way to explaining why so many potential investors are not deterred by the spate of pricing and policy changes being made by many of Australia’s lenders,” he said on Thursday.

But, Mr Flavell said, the changes did represent a fundamental shift for people who had purchased property off the plan and had their loans approved on the basis of lending policy and pricing at that time.

“There’s potentially some issues in relation to people not being able to complete transactions by virtue of the shifting sands,” he told AAP.

Smaller mortgage player AMP Bank has temporarily stopped lending to new property investors and has raised rates on its existing loans to landlords by 47 basis points. That’s well above Commonwealth Bank, ANZ and Macquarie’s 27 percentage point increase.

National Australia Bank hiked variable rates on interest-only home loans – the predominant structure for investors – by 29 basis points, leaving Westpac as the only major bank not to have raised investment loan rates.

Ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service expects Westpac, Australia’s largest lender to landlords, to follow its peers in repricing its investment mortgage book.

“Increased lending rates are credit positive for the banks because they rebalance their portfolios away from the higher-risk investor and interest-only lending toward safer owner-occupied and principal amortising loans,” Moody’s vice president Ilya Serov said.

“They also help preserve net interest margins and profitability amid higher capital requirements and increased competition from smaller lenders.”

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Bishop says sorry but won’t resign

Speaker Bronwyn Bishop says she’s sorry over the expenses scandal and will pay money back, but won’t be quitting.

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Her apology on Thursday came as two independent MPs flagged a no-confidence motion when parliament returns on August 10.

“I want to apologise to the Australian people for my error of judgment and to say sorry,” a contrite Mrs Bishop told 2GB on Thursday.

“I feel I’ve let them down.”

Clive Palmer told SBS that he would move a motion of no confidence against the Speaker if she refused to step down before parliament resumed.

The Palmer United Party leader also posted the below video on Facebook, with a caption citing the impending motion which will be seconded by Independent Andrew Wilkie.

Mr Palmer has also launched an online petition. 

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told AAP if Mrs Bishop was genuinely sorry she would not have waited nearly three weeks to say so.

“There’s a difference between saying sorry because you mean it and saying sorry because you’re about to get the sack,” he said.

“She’s only saying sorry to save her job.”

Independent MP Clive Palmer has demanded Mrs Bishop’s resignation regardless of the apology.

He has challenged Liberal MPs to cross the floor, insisting parliament cannot function with her still in the role.

Liberal Senator Zed Seselja said the Speaker had apologised and he would not be joining the witch hunt against her.

“I’m not sure what more she can do in those circumstances,” he told Sky News.

Labor has yet to decide whether it will back the motion proposed by Mr Palmer and fellow independent Andrew Wilkie.

Mr Shorten says if the Speaker does not step down before parliament resumes, the Australian people could have “no confidence in what’s happening in parliament”.

“They hope that the whole thing will move on, but it’s been lodged in the minds of the Australian people,” he told ABC radio.

Former Labor Speaker Anna Burke said Mrs Bishop should at least stand aside, if not resign.

She accused her successor of bringing parliament into disrepute, saying her position had become untenable.

Mrs Bishop claimed taxpayer-funded expenses to attend the weddings of three Liberal figures – in 1999, 2006 and 2007.

She insists the claims were made within the rules, but other Liberal members, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott, have paid back their expenses claimed for weddings.

The Finance Department is now investigating Mrs Bishop’s entire expense claim history, not just chartered transport that included a $5200 helicopter charter, which she has paid back.

“There are lots of grey areas and I think it would be helpful to have certainty,” she said of the expanded investigation, which she had approved.

“I know that I’ve disappointed and let down the Australian people.

“I won’t be resigning.”

Labor waste watch spokesman Pat Conroy said there was no guarantee the Finance Department investigation would be impartial, because the department’s secretary had publicly commented on the matter.

Secretary Jane Halton told a Women in Focus function in Canberra on July 15 the helicopter claim would not have been a story if it had involved a male MP.

A Labor referral to the Federal Police has been passed back to the department.

Mr Shorten later told reporters in Sydney that Mrs Bishop’s position as Speaker was untenable despite her reluctant apology.

“They’ve been dragged kicking and screaming to a forced apology with no understanding or comprehension of what they’ve done wrong,” he said.

Asked whether Labor would move a no-confidence motion against Mrs Bishop, Mr Shorten said the opposition did not have confidence in her as Speaker.

“I don’t think anyone has confidence in Mrs Bishop as Speaker anymore,” he said.

Later on Thursday Mrs Bishop addressed a function in the regional Victorian town of Sale, reiterating her apology.

“I should have said sorry earlier … I’ll be working very hard to make amends,” she said.

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England have first-innings lead of 145

Moeen Ali struck back against Mitchell Johnson at Edgbaston, hammering home England’s advantage in the third Ashes Test.

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Ali put on a 87-run stand with Stuart Broad on day two in Birmingham, boosting England’s first-innings lead to 145 runs.

Josh Hazlewood dismissed the pair in the space of four balls as England were bowled out for 281.

Ali, who looked scratchy in the morning session, scored 36 runs off 33 balls after lunch.

The allrounder was particularly aggressive against Johnson, whose three-over spell in the second session went for 27 runs.

Ali was embarrassed by a Johnson bouncer in the second Test, where Australia stormed to a 405-run win at Lord’s.

Johnson looked similarly potent on Thursday, but this time Ali helped himself to six boundaries off the left-armer.

Johnson had spearheaded an Australian comeback by dismissing Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes in a sensational opening over, both men gloving bouncers to wicketkeeper Peter Nevill.

England held a six-run lead at that point and were somewhat vulnerable at 5-142.

Joe Root’s 63 and Ali’s 59 ensured the hosts remained in the box seat to go 2-1 up in the five-Test series after skittling the tourists for 136 on day one.

There was a heightened sense of tension at the ground throughout Johnson’s first spell of four overs.

The left-armer troubled Root and Jos Buttler, but couldn’t force another breakthrough after grabbing his 300th and 301st Test wickets.

Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Mitch Marsh all failed to bowl with the same control as Johnson.

Starc was particularly erratic, but managed to remove Root with a wide ball that the in-form batsman reached at and edged to Adam Voges at first slip.

Buttler was out for a nervous nine as England crashed to 7-190 and Nathan Lyon made it three wickets from three overs.

Ali and Broad made it to the meal break then unleashed against Lyon and Johnson, with Broad scoring 31.

Marsh claimed a catch at mid-on to dismiss Broad, while Ali picked out David Warner at third man.

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Olympic sailors, rowers shrug off reports of Rio’s polluted waters

“We’ve spent a lot of time there the past few years and haven’t had any issues with the water,” said Railey.

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“Honestly, Rio has been doing a great job with the water, we haven’t had any issues. I think it’s fine. I even swim in it, it doesn’t bug me at all.” The waters along Rio’s Atlantic coast have been polluted for years and successive governments have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on supposed clean-ups to little effect. Parts of the bay’s coastline are littered with garbage such as tires, sofas, old televisions and plastic detritus.

Biologists last year said rivers leading into the bay contained a superbacteria resistant to antibiotics that cure urinary, gastrointestinal and pulmonary infections. When Rio de Janeiro bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games, the city trumpeted the clean up and said it would cut the amount of raw sewage flowing into the bay by 80 percent.

But it has since admitted it is unlikely to meet that target, something Mayor Eduardo Paes called a “lost opportunity” for the city.

Earlier this year, the Rio de Janeiro state government said the amount of sewage treated before reaching the bay had risen to 49 percent from 17 percent. The state environment secretariat on Thursday rejected the study reported by the AP. It guaranteed an acceptable level of water quality in the race lanes, although not at the marina where the boats would set sail.

“By both European and American standards, the quality of the water is appropriate for the events,” the secretariat said in a statement.

(Reporting by Jeb Blount, Pedro Fonseca, Andrew Downie, Caio Saad, Steve Keating, Karolos Grohmann; Writing by Andrew Downie; Editing by Dan Grebler and Grant McCool)

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