IOC issues warning over Israeli flag

The International Olympic Committee has issued a warning to the world baseball and softball federation after an Israeli delegate was barred from displaying his national flag at a recent meeting in Tunisia.

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“This is a clear signal that the IOC is not accepting any kind of discrimination,” IOC President Thomas Bach said.

The IOC opened an investigation after the head of the Israeli Baseball Association, Peter Kurz, was told he could not display the Israeli flag or Israeli name plate at the World Baseball Softball Confederation congress in Hammamet, Tunisia, in May.

The IOC executive board noted that the WBSC had taken its own “appropriate and reasonable” punitive measures, suspending the Tunisian federation for six months.

But the IOC said on Tuesday it was warning the world body “to ensure that a similar situation is not repeated in the future”.

The IOC said the measure was taken “in view of the critical importance of maintaining respect for all members of the Olympic movement and upholding the Olympic values at all times”.

Kurz was one of 150 delegates from 90 nations attending the congress in Tunisia. He said he was asked to sit without his national flag or sign “for my own wellbeing and for the sake of the host country”. He filed a complaint to the WBSC.

The warning is an embarrassment for the WBSC, which was recently formed to merge the two sports as part of a joint bid to win inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Baseball and softball have been out of the Olympics since the 2008 Beijing Games and have failed in several attempts to secure reinstatement.

Carbon tax debate to drag on

The fight to scrap the carbon tax drags on, with a number of amendments by key crossbench senators threatening to delay an outcome even further.

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The Abbott government is determined for the repeal legislation to pass the Senate as quickly as possible, but the debate on Tuesday ended without a vote.

A day after being sworn in, Palmer United Palmer senators Glenn Lazarus and Jacqui Lambie used their first speeches in the upper house to back the repeal of Labor’s climate tax scheme.

Both argued it was an impost on households and businesses, and repealing it would help struggling families with their day-to-day costs.

The three PUP senators and the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party’s Ricky Muir will deliver the government four of the six crucial votes it needs for the repeal package to clear the Senate.

Family First’s Bob Day and Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm – also newly sworn-in senators – will round out the numbers the government needs.

But Senator Muir has thrown the government a curve ball by seeking to amend the repeal package to block a provision that cuts $435 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

The agency has been flagged for abolition by the government, but Senator Muir would only require the support of three PUP senators to save it from the chopping block.

Labor and the Australian Greens also oppose scrapping ARENA, with the latter moving a virtually identical amendment to that of Senator Muir.

PUP will also move amendments as expected to ensure carbon tax savings are passed on, and that an emissions trading scheme is ready to go should Australia’s trading partners adopt similar action.

The government was able to bring forward debate on the repeal package a week early with the support of PUP senators, but there is still some way to go.

Debate will continue on Wednesday, and a vote to repeal the carbon tax is expected this week.

Cavendish faces six weeks on sidelines

British sprint ace Mark Cavendish will need surgery on his injured shoulder and faces six weeks on the sidelines, his Omega Pharma-Quick Step (OPQS) team says.

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The 29-year-old crashed badly at the end of the first stage of the Tour de France in Yorkshire, northern England, on Saturday.

Although he got up and managed to finish the stage, he went to hospital afterwards and discovered he had a separated shoulder, meaning the ligaments that hold his collarbone to his shoulder had torn.

He pulled out of the race before Sunday’s second stage.

“Cavendish underwent further examinations after his crash during the first stage of the Tour de France last Saturday,” the OPQS team statement said.

“The results underlined the need for surgery after it was confirmed that all ligaments around the AC-joint were ruptured and the shoulder separated.”

The team said Cavendish would undergo surgery on Wednesday, and the recovery time following that would be about six weeks.

Cavendish had initially hoped he’d only suffered bruising and swelling but it turned out to be worse than he imagined.

“It’s worse than I was hoping but immediately after the crash I knew something was really wrong,” Cavendish said.

“It is really painful, but at the moment all I can do is focus 100 per cent of my effort on my recovery to be able to get back racing for Omega Pharma-Quick-Step as quickly as possible.”

Cavendish had been one of the big favourites for victory on the opening stage of the Tour, which finished in his mother’s home town Harrogate.

The 2011 world champion has won 25 Tour stages.

Nike to end Manchester United sponsorship citing rising cost

United are reported to be close to finalising a 10-year agreement with German sportswear company Adidas AG that could be worth 60 million pounds a season, a record for a club deal.

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Both Adidas and United declined comment.

Nike, who had sponsored United since 2002, said on Tuesday that the 2014-15 season would be its last as a partner of the 20-times English champions. The statement confirmed what a source with knowledge of the negotiations told Reuters on Monday.

“Any partnership with a club or federation has to be mutually beneficial and the terms that were on offer for a renewed contract did not represent good value for Nike’s shareholders,” the company said in a statement.

Nike had the right to match any bid made by a rival but decided that the price had gone too high.

Nike, the world’s largest sportswear group, and Adidas are battling for supremacy in a football market that the German company has long dominated.

A deal with United, one of the world’s most popular teams, would be seen as an attempt to protect the German company’s leading position after Nike made strong inroads over the last two decades.

United earned around 38 million pounds from the current deal in the 2012-13 season, including its share of profit from the sale of team merchandise around the world.

United recently launched the team’s new kit for the 2014-15 season, which bears the name of new sponsor Chevrolet for the first time and will be the last shirt with the Nike swoosh on it.

United, owned by the American Glazer family, are investing heavily on new players after finishing only seventh in the English Premier League last season, missing out on a place in the lucrative Champions League.

Nike also has deals with Premier League champions Manchester City and top French club Paris Saint-Germain, as well as World Cup semi-finalists Brazil and the Netherlands.

The company has just been replaced as kit supplier to Premier League club Arsenal by Germany’s Puma, the third-ranked company in the market.

Puma is reported to be paying around 30 million pounds a year for its Arsenal deal.

(Editing by William Hardy and David Holmes)

Japan, Australia ties based on trust: PM

Japanese firms invest in Australia because of a decades-long relationship built on trust, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says.

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“Based on investment figures, after the US and UK, no one trusts Australia more than Japan,” Mr Abbott told a formal dinner in Canberra on Tuesday.

“And that trust is amply reciprocated.”

The prime minister’s comments came after he and visiting Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe signed agreements to boost trade and defence ties.

The signing of the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement comes close to the anniversary of Australia’s 1957 commerce agreement with Japan.

The pact was the springboard for the strong trade ties that now exist, and without it, Australia would not have the strong iron ore and gas industries it currently boasts, Mr Abbott said.

Mr Abe continued the charm offensive after a much-lauded speech to parliament earlier in the day, complimenting the Australian wine at the dinner held in his honour.

“I told myself I shouldn’t drink too much wine. But I couldn’t beat out with the greatest wine from Australia,” he told the gathering, adding the trade pact would now allow his country access to cheaper Australian wine and beef.

Mr Abe also touched on political issues, arguing the two countries should work together towards regional peace efforts.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten praised Japan’s post-World War II recovery to become an economic powerhouse.

Australia had much to learn from Japan’s experience going from an industrial to a more developed economy, he said.

Mr Abbott is expected to accompany Mr Abe on a tour of the Pilbara region on Wednesday, with a visit to mining giant Rio Tinto’s West Angelas mine.

Helicopter firm files complaint over Schumacher records

“Rega has no proof that one of its employees is implicated,” the Zurich-based company, which specialises in emergency medical assistance, said in a statement.

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“But out of a concern for absolute clarity in this case, Rega today lodged a complaint against an unknown person with the prosecutor of Zurich canton.”

Schumacher, who suffered severe head injuries in a year-end ski accident in the French Alps, was transferred under a pseudonym from Grenoble hospital to University Hospital of Lausanne (CHUV) on June 16 after emerging from a coma.

The 45-year-old German was taken by ambulance but Rega was also contacted when helicopter transport was being considered.

The French daily “Le Dauphine Libere” reported on Monday that leaked documents being offered to European media for some 60,000 Swiss francs (39231.14 pounds) appeared to have come from the IP address of a computer at a Zurich-based helicopter company.

Rega said it had no evidence that any of its employees violated patient privacy and medical secrecy after receiving Schumacher’s medical report from the Grenoble hospital.

Noting that it was now at the “centre of speculation”, Rega said it was making a public statement to clarify the situation following the French newspaper report.

A spokeswoman for the Zurich cantonal prosecutor confirmed the Rega complaint had been received, but said it had not opened a formal investigation for now. The prosecutor was in talks with French authorities regarding jurisdiction, she said.

Schumacher’s agent Sabine Kehm said last month that medical records purported to be his had been offered for sale and officials were investigating the theft.

Criminal charges and damages would be sought against anyone involved in the illegal sale or publication of his confidential records, she said at the time. Kehm, contacted by email on Tuesday, said she had no further comment at this stage.

Swiss and German newspapers have reported that Schumacher was semi-conscious during the ambulance trip and able to communicate by nodding his head.

Experts at the CHUV neurological rehabilitation unit stimulate patients at its “Jardin des Sens” or Garden of the Senses by exposing them to water, scents and other elements. The area has been cordoned off to prevent media access.

Schumacher, the most successful Formula One driver of all time, has had several brain operations since his accident in the resort of Meribel and is expected to face a long recovery.

His wife Corinna and teenage daughter and son live in the family home midway between Geneva and Lausanne.($1 = 0.8926 Swiss Francs)

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; additional reporting by Joshua Franklin in Zurich; editing by Alan Baldwin)

China faces tougher sell in Winter Olympics bid

Officials spared no expense in staging a spectacular Games in 2008, with vastly improved public transport and infrastructure a worthy legacy, but some of the exorbitant venues built for the event became a drain on public finances and a magnet for public discontent.

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“If the Winter Games can be held in Beijing, the philosophy of holding a frugal Games will be put into the work from start to finish,” state news agency Xinhua said, citing Beijing vice mayor Yang Xiaochao.

“We’ll only build or renovate a small number of venues and … and do the utmost to consider their post-Games use and the use of private funds in their construction.”

Though Beijing boasts a number of large indoor venues that can readily host events such as skating and ice hockey, co-host Zhangjiakou, a little-known city some 200 kilometres northwest of the capital, will require substantial infrastructure.

Currently a three-hour drive apart, officials have slated building a multi-billion yuan high-speed rail-link to cut travelling time between the host cities to less than an hour.

A successful bid would also mean lavish expenditure on the skiing venues in the mountains near Zhangjiakou and Beijing.

The huge expense devoted to the 2008 Games was largely brushed aside by the huge swell of pride in hosting them for the first time.

Support for 2022 is also overwhelming, according to state media, which cited a survey earlier this year showing more than 90 percent of people in Beijing and the country at large backed the bid.

Some of the commentary that greeted Beijing’s confirmation on Tuesday was less enthusiastic, however.

“There still needs to be a calm economic perspective behind the hosting of an exciting sporting event,” one pundit on Internet news portal Sohu南宁桑拿网, wrote.

“According to the city government publicity, we often only see the benefits but it’s not easy to know the costs.”

Amid excited posts on government news websites, some Internet users called for a boycott.

“It’s so not necessary, what’s this frugal idea? Being the host is a huge waste of money and manpower. (China) should withdraw,” read one post on Chinanews南宁桑拿网,.

Though the IOC commended Beijing’s government and public support for the Games, the bid scored weakest among the three candidate cities on environmental impact.

The capital remains choked with smog for much of the year, while much of northern China faces huge water shortages.

Though winters are cold in Beijing, sometimes bitterly so, the mountains that surround the capital to the north and west also rarely see snow.

The problem of melting snow was overcome at both the Sochi Games and at Vancouver in 2010, and resorts near Beijing regularly employ snow cannons to keep brown hill-sides covered with ski-able terrain.

Sourcing the water in northern China, which regularly battles crippling drought, may place a strain on water supplies, according to Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a Beijing-based NGO.

“Some sort of research should be done as to where the water comes from,” Ma told Reuters.

“As with golf courses, there’s always a good way and a bad way to manage water at skiing ranges and resorts … There could be a significant impact if they don’t manage it well.”

Beijing has long pledged to clean up its air, and organisers claimed the 2008 Games would help. Smog still blankets the city on most days and the measured pollutants far exceed World Health Organisation standards.

Six years on, Fang Li, vice-head of Beijing’s environmental bureau, has returned to the same theme for the 2022 Games.

The bid should help the city “clean up the air”, state media quoted him as saying.

Beijing ordered local industry to shut down for weeks to help clean the air during the 2008 Games. The smog returned after the closing ceremony.

Ma said he hoped for more meaningful measures if the IOC elects Beijing in July, 2015.

“I hope that this time if we do host the Games, there would be more long-term solutions, not just temporary measures.”

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Additional reporting by Michael Martina in Beijing; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

Nurse charged over aged care home murders

A registered nurse has been charged with two counts of murder and one count of assault over allegations she killed two elderly aged-care patients with insulin overdoses and left another hospitalised.

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The 46-year-old woman was charged in Sydney late on Tuesday after being extradited from Victoria over the May deaths of 82-year-old Marie Darragh and 77-year-old Isobella Spencer, as well as the assault of another 88-year-old woman, police told AAP.

“She’s been charged with two counts of murder and one count of common assault,” a police spokeswoman told AAP on Tuesday night.

The woman, who will spend the night in custody after being refused police bail, is due before Sydney’s Central Local Court on Wednesday.

In May, Ms Darragh and Ms Spencer were found unconscious in their beds at the St Andrews Village Aged Care facility at Ballina and died a short time later.

Police allege a 46-year-old nurse, who was arrested in the southern Victorian town of Seaspray, administered fatal doses of insulin to Ms Darragh and Ms Spencer in the middle of the night.

They also claim the unnamed 88-year-old woman was woken in the middle of the night when the nurse tried to give her “unscheduled medication”.

Police say all three victims had complained about the nurse.

The nurse was away on days off after the deaths.

She then resigned and fled to Victoria, where she had previously used, homicide squad boss Detective Superintendent Mick Willing said.

The Melbourne Magistrates Court, where the nurse appeared on Tuesday to be extradited to NSW, heard she had never previously been in police custody and was taking medication for severe depression.

Following the arrest, St Andrews Aged Care CEO Pip Carter said the news was devastating.

“I want to reassure residents and the community that the safety and care of St Andrews’ residents always has been and always will be a priority,” Ms Carter said.

According to the Australian practitioners’ registry, the accused woman was first registered as a nurse in 2012.

Ukraine rejects truce talks

Ukraine has brushed off strong European pressure and rejected talks with pro-Russian rebels on a truce to halt a bloody insurgency convulsing the ex-Soviet nation.

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The unconditional stance reflects a new confidence in Kiev that it is on the verge of quashing an uprising it views as Moscow’s retribution for the ouster of a Kremlin-backed leader and the decision to pursue a historic alliance with the West.

But it is also bound to frustrate EU leaders’ push for a diplomatic solution as well as the Kremlin’s own efforts to force Kiev to make compromises that would preserve the Russian-speaking east’s links to Moscow.

“Now, any negotiations are possible only after the rebels completely lay down their arms,” Defence Minister Valeriy Geletey said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

Ukrainian forces have scored a string of surprise military successes since the weekend that forced most of the militias to retreat to the sprawling eastern industrial hubs of Donetsk and Lugansk – both capitals of their own “People’s Republics”.

President Petro Poroshenko has ordered his troops to blockade the insurgents inside the cities and cut them off from any further arms supplies.

The new Western-backed leader said during an unannounced visit to Slavyansk – a former rebel bastion reclaimed by Kiev on Saturday – that talks with the uprising’s commanders were impossible because most were now hiding in Moscow.

Poroshenko told reporters he would only speak “to the real masters of (the easter region of) Donbass – the steel workers and miners, people who hold the most power” in the conflict zone.

But it was not immediately clear how he intended to force the militias to give up their three-month campaign to join Russian rule.

Lugansk separatist leader Valeriy Bolotov claimed his men had managed to actually push back Ukrainian troops from part of the Russian border city and receive fresh supplies of anti-aircraft and artillery guns.

Poroshenko tore up a 10-day ceasefire on July 1 because of uninterrupted rebel attacks that claimed the lives of more than 20 Ukrainian troops.

Uneasy EU leaders are hoping a new truce and a Kremlin promise not to meddle can take pressure off the bloc to adopt sweeping sanctions that could damage their own strong energy and financial bonds with Russia.

French President Francois Hollande said he intended to press Poroshenko on Wednesday during a joint call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Senators should find savings: Abbott

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has challenged cross bench senators to come up with savings to match the holes they are punching in the federal budget.

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The Senate will resume debate on the carbon tax repeal on Tuesday, after the government successfully brought on the package of bills on Monday.

Palmer United Party senators threw the government temporarily off balance when they initially voted with Labor and the Greens not to bring on the bills until next Monday.

The coalition, which holds 33 seats in the new upper house, is confident of securing the six extra votes it needs to pass the bills as early as this week.

But Clive Palmer, whose party holds three crucial votes, insists the government should keep a number of costly Labor climate programs.

Mr Palmer also says the government should not go ahead with at least $9 billion in cuts to spending out of Labor’s mining tax scheme.

Mr Abbott said the coalition promised at the September election to scrap the SchoolKids Bonus, the low income support payment and the low income superannuation payment because they were funded by the mining tax which is to be abolished.

“Obviously, we will keep talking to the cross bench senators but, in the end, if they want to keep spending this money presumably they are going to have to find savings to pay for it,” Mr Abbott told the Nine Network on Tuesday.

“We will push on with implementing our program. That’s what we were elected to do.”

He described the debate in the Senate as a “bit of argy-bargy”.

The repeal of the mining tax will be the immediate next order of business for the Senate after the carbon tax repeal bills are passed.

The Senate will resume at 12.30pm (AEST) after senators join with House of Representatives members to listen to a speech by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.