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China and US tussle over preferred trade pacts at APEC

 Iraq focus for Abbott’s Obama meeting

US Trade Representative Michael Froman said the proposed Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) touted by China is “not the launch of a new organisation, it’s not the launch of a new FTA (free trade area).

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“It’s a reaffirmation of a long-term aspiration for the region that’s to be achieved through other ongoing negotiations,” he told reporters.

China has thrown its support behind the FTAAP idea in the lead-up to a regional summit hosted by Beijing, while the United States is pursuing a deal for its 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which excludes China.

Some Chinese analysts and official media have cast the TPP as an attempt to balance China’s stunning economic and diplomatic rise.

A draft final communique of the Beijing-hosted summit prominently mentions the importance of FTAAP.

But Froman said the TPP remained Washington’s priority and that it would serve as a “building block” for the longer-term FTAAP.

“TPP of course is the major focus of our economic pillar of the rebalance to this region,” he said, referring to the Obama administration’s stated intention to give greater attention to the Asia-Pacific area.

“And we certainly view TPP as our contribution to expanding trade and integrating the region,” he said on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) bloc.

The TPP discussions, however, have run into snags amid resistance by some prospective members — notably Japan — to opening domestic markets too widely.

Officials once voiced hopes of concluding a deal by the end of last year, but secretive negotiations have dragged on.

Froman said recent talks have made “very significant progress”, but he refused to be drawn on a timetable for completing the process.

As for specific talks with Japan, Froman said: “We have made progress at each one of these sessions but we’re not there yet; we’re not at a solution yet.”

The draft APEC summit communique calls for steps to be taken to “translate the FTAAP from a vision to reality”, and agrees to launch a “strategic study.”

But it avoided China’s calls for a “feasibility study”, which would have signified a faster track for the concept.

It also makes no mention of a 2025 target date for realising the FTAAP, which had been floated earlier.

Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post on Saturday quoted unnamed Chinese and US officials as saying Beijing had backed down on the wording after Washington objected.

China is using the summit as an opportunity to underline its growing clout, a trend that has frequently put it at odds with Washington on trade and other issues.

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White leads Australia to T20 series win

A well-paced innings from Cameron White has steered Australia to a dramatic series-clinching two-wicket Twenty20 win over South Africa at ANZ Stadium.

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Chasing South Africa’s score of 6-145, Australia reached their target with just two balls to spare on Sunday.

The result clinched a 2-1 series win for Australia, who lost the first match in Adelaide last Wednesday and then squared the series in Melbourne on Friday.

Both sides stumbled after good starts.

South Africa were well placed at 0-75 after 8.3 overs with openers Reeza Hendricks (49 off 48) and Quinton de Cock (48 off 27 balls) going well.

Australian openers Aaron Finch (33 off 25) and Ben Dunk (14 off 8) put on 40 off 4.4 overs, but were also guilty of getting out just as they looked to be asserting themselves.

The home team lost 4-22 to slump to 4-62 in the ninth over, after Nic Maddinson (4)and Shane Watson (5) fell in successive overs.

White (41 not out off 31 balls) and fellow Victorian Glenn Maxwell (23 off 15) looked to be building a potential match-winning partnership, until the latter was caught at deep midwicket, leaving the home team needing 46 off the last 43 balls.

James Faulkner (9), Pat Cummins (3), and Sean Abbott (5) perished in the 16th and 18th and 20th overs respectively , and White was almost run out in the final over.

Finch had earlier thrashed sixes over long on and long off in Wayne Parnell’s first over, the fourth of the innings, which yielded 15 runs.

The Australian captain was caught at backward square leg off David Wiese (3-21) in the next over.

Dunk, who faced just three balls in the first five overs, hit JP Duminy over long off for six.

The South African captain got his revenge the next ball, taking a sharp return catch.

In South Africa’s innings James Faulkner (3-28) was particularly effective in the closing overs, smashing through the middle order.

Paceman Pat Cummins (1-23) and spinner Glenn Maxwell (0-24) were also instrumental in dragging Australia back into the contest.

David Miller (34 not out off 26) was the only visiting batsman to make an impact in the closing overs.

Then two nations now meet in a five-match one-day series starting in Perth on Friday.

“To play a pretty messy game and get across the line, I think showed real character in the group,” Finch said.

White, who was switched from the top of the order after the first game of the series, continued the good form which recently won him a second straight domestic one-day player of the series award.

“It was good to finish not out and get the win and I feel as though I’ve been in good form for a period of time now,” White said.

“It was nice to take advantage of that, but i thought the bowling has been a real strength for us throughout the series.”

Duminy felt after their good start South Africa could have got to around the 160 mark.

“I think to defend as well as we have done in that game, I was pretty happy with that bowling performance,” Duminy said.

“Here and there, we let it leak a little bit, but all in all I was pretty happy with the way we fought. We never gave up.”

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China FTA just a few days away: Robb

Australia is just a few days away from securing a free trade agreement with China that has been almost a decade in the making.

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Trade Minister Andrew Robb has been leading the final stage of negotiations in Beijing before the APEC leaders summit, which starts on Monday.

“We are now at the very sharp end of our negotiations,” Mr Robb told reporters in the Chinese capital on Sunday. “It’ll be a few more days I think.”

Mr Robb concedes there are still two main sticking points. He won’t say what they are – arguing a public commentary could compromise the final stage of talks – only that they are complicated and potentially politically sensitive.

“We are nearly there but like all agreements that hardest part is probably at the end because the more difficult political issues are there,” he said.

It now appears likely Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Chinese President Xi Jinping will sign the deal when they are in Canberra in a week’s time.

Mr Xi will address the federal parliament on November 17, after the G20 summit in Brisbane.

Mr Robb says the deal will not only further liberalise trade in areas like resources, energy and agriculture – but also open up “a whole new flank” in services.

“This is huge. This is the biggest deal that we will have done by a long shot,” he said.

But he concedes not every sector of Australian industry will get exactly what it wants.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten is concerned the deal may spring some “nasties” on Australians and has urged Mr Abbott and Mr Robb to reveal the details.

“Tell Australians the truth; what’s in the deal?” he said.

Mr Shorten also accused the government of selectively leaking out good news, referring to a reported billion-dollar deal to sell live cattle to China.

Labor is concerned, too, that the FTA may open up the possibility of cheap Chinese labour in Australia – but Mr Robb insists that would not be the case.

The minister also denies that Australia’s decision not to sign up to China’s proposal for a new Asian Infrastructure Development Bank has had any effect on the trade talks.

Twenty countries joined China last month to sign an agreement to set up the body aimed at bridging a multi-billion dollar funding gap for dams, ports, roads and other important capital works across Asia.

But Australia was among a handful of countries that declined, citing governance concerns.

The issue has split federal cabinet – with some ministers concerned China will have too much control and will use the bank to further its geopolitical agenda – but Mr Robb says the government does want to be involved.

“We want to join and we think it would be a great thing for the region,” he said, adding that half of Australia’s concerns had already been addressed.

He says he has spoken about the issue with senior Chinese officials but they’re message has been clear: “Take your time”.

Honours list: Public service medal

Honours list PUBLIC SERVICE MEDAL (PSM)

AUSTRALIAN PUBLIC SERVICE

Dr Ronald Francis CAMERON

Kareela NSW 2232

For outstanding public service in the field of nuclear science and safety.

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Mr Ian CARRUTHERS

3 Welch Place, Flynn ACT 2615

For outstanding public service in expanding the scope for science to support decision making on environmental matters.

Mr Andrew Leigh CLARKE

ACT

For outstanding public service in driving significant reform of the energy market.

Ms Ellen Erika DUNNE

Braddon ACT 261

For outstanding public service in driving and leading innovation, change and improvement across Medicare Australia.

His Excellency Mr Marc INNES-BROWN

ACT

For outstanding public service as Australian Ambassador to Iraq in advancing Australia’s strategic, political and economic interests.

Mrs Coral Lee McLEAN CSC

Carwoola NSW 2620

For outstanding public service in the management of complex and sensitive human resource issues in the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research

Mr Timothy Andrew O’NEILL

SA

For outstanding public service in the development of online border protection in the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

Mr Jeffrey Richard PREISS

Peterhead SA 5016

For outstanding public service in the development and field deployment of infrastructure to provide increased protection and survivability to Australian Defence Force aircraft and personnel during operational activities.

Ms Meghan Elizabeth QUINN

O’Connor ACT 2602

For outstanding public service in the development of climate change policy.

Mr Damien John ROBERTS

Chisholm ACT 2905

For outstanding public service in the provision of advocacy services for members of the Australian Defence Force.

Mrs Olivia Fiona SHEPHERD

TAS

For outstanding public service in the development and implementation of Australia’s electronic visa programs.

Mr Brian Paul STEWART

Yarralumla ACT 2600

For outstanding public service in the development and implementation of significant reforms to information and communications technology across the Australian Government

Mr Michael Francis THOMPSON

Forrest ACT 2603

For outstanding public service in the management and handling of highly classified material for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

NEW SOUTH WALES PUBLIC SERVICE

Ms Janet Mary ANDERSON

North Sydney NSW 2060

For outstanding public service in the development and reform of policy frameworks for the use of resources within the NSW Health system.

Ms Janice CARROLL

Newtown NSW 2042

For outstanding public service, particularly for the children and young people of New South Wales who are considered to have high and complex needs.

Mr Athol Patrick COOK

Mosman NSW 2088

For outstanding public service in the NSW Public Sector over an extended period

Mr John Edward DENGATE

NSW

For outstanding public service, particularly in the public affairs arena.

Mr Sydney Hubert GRIFFITH

Pennant Hills NSW 2120

For outstanding public service, particularly in innovative and sustained contribution to the enhancement and improvement of the technical capabilities of New South Wales Police.

Ms Patricia Thelma HALL

‘Lyndholm’, Yuile Avenue, Bundanoon NSW 2578

For outstanding public service, particularly in the provision of educational and tourist information regarding the national parks and reserves in the South Coast region of New South Wales.

Ms Pauline Therese McKENZIE

Boambee NSW 2450

For outstanding public service in the provision of public housing, particularly in northern New South Wales.

Mr Barry Charles PEDDLE

41 Cabbage Tree Lane, Fairy Meadow NSW 2519

For outstanding public service in the NSW Public Sector, undertaking several strategic leadership roles within TAFE NSW.

Dr Larry VOGELNEST

Cobbitty NSW 2570

For outstanding public service as Senior Veterinarian, Taronga Conservation Society Australia.

Mr Brian Anthony WEIR 87 Shoalhaven Street, Kiama NSW 2533

For outstanding public service to the community of Shellharbour.

Mr Kevin Ronald WRIGHT

Calamvale Qld 4116

For outstanding public service to the rail industry within New

South Wales.

VICTORIA PUBLIC SERVICE

Ms Beth Maree ALLEN

Essendon Vic 3040

For outstanding public service to the safety and well-being of Victoria’s vulnerable children, young people and their families.

Ms Janette Anne BOWMAN

Doncaster Vic 3108

For outstanding public service, particularly through national leadership and excellence in environmental health and the protection of the health of Victorians.

Dr John Arnold CARNIE

Kew Vic 3101

For outstanding public service in leading the advancement and protection of the health and well-being of all Victorians.

Mr David Francis ENDEAN

39 Clarke Street, Prahran Vic 3181

For outstanding public service in the creation of an education export industry at the Holmesglen Institute, and to the TAFE sector in general.

Mrs Denise Anne HARRISON

Mount Waverley Vic 3149

For outstanding public service, particularly to vulnerable children and youth in Out of Home Care and to the community service organisations that care for and support them.

Mr Alan Douglas HOOLEY

St Kilda West Vic 3182

For outstanding public service, particularly in providing advice that has helped shape Victoria’s parks and reserves system.

Mr Robert Arthur LAMB

22 White Street, Williamstown Vic 3016

For outstanding public service and leadership within the educational community and outstanding contribution in the area of school improvement.

Mrs Hilary Jean MAKEPEACE

Yelta Vic 3505

For outstanding public service to young people involved in the justice system in Victoria.

Mr Graham John NICKLESS

114 Booth Road, Taminick Vic 3675

For outstanding public service in providing excellent leadership qualities and innovation in the field of economic development throughout north-east Victoria, and for developing innovative programs that have enhanced the economic sustainability of the

region.

Mrs Pauline Mary STUDHAM

Wonthaggi Vic 3995

For outstanding public service in the provision of police services in the Bass Coast and South Gippsland regions.

Mr Dale John WEST

Bairnsdale Vic 3875

For outstanding public service in providing access to justice to the people of Bairnsdale as the Court’s Registrar, in contributing to the Bail Justice system and the advocacy of the Koori Court.

QUEENSLAND PUBLIC SERVICE

Mr Ian Malcom LUCK

4 Haber Street, Mackay Qld 4740

For outstanding public service to Queensland education, particularly in the Mackay region, through leadership as Deputy Principal of Mackay North State High School.

Dr Ross Andrew McKENZIE

26 Cypress Drive, Ashgrove Qld 4060

For outstanding public service in the area of veterinary pathology and the breadth of research into plant poisoning.

Mrs Rosslyn Ann SIGVART

Dysart Qld 4745

For outstanding public service to Queensland Health and to the community of Dysart as Director of Nursing at Dysart Hospital.

Ms Marjorie Ann WEBER

Qld

For outstanding public service to Queensland through work on legacy issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA PUBLIC SERVICE

Mrs Kerry Pam COLBUNG

SA

For outstanding public service in the delivery of services to Indigenous South Australians.

Mr Michael John HARPER

Monash SA 5342

For outstanding public service in the conservation and restoration of South Australia’s wetlands and in environmental management.

AUSTRALIAN POLICE MEDAL (APM)

AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL POLICE

Commander Shane Patrick CONNELLY

Federal Agent Gary Edward WYNCH

NEW SOUTH WALES POLICE

Detective Superintendent Geoffrey William BERESFORD

Detective Inspector Mark GALLETTA

Senior Constable Phillip Keith JACOBSON

Detective Superintendent Ian Winston LYNCH

Superintendent David John MEURANT

Superintendent Kyle STEWART

Sergeant Michael Allan WILLIAMS

VICTORIA POLICE

Inspector David Stanley BLENCOWE

Senior Sergeant Peter Henry GIBBONS

Superintendent Lucinda NOLAN

Superintendent Peter Anthony O’NEILL

Senior Sergeant Ronald Albert SINCLAIR

Superintendent Darrell John STEPHENSON

QUEENSLAND POLICE

Superintendent Ronald James COOPER

Detective Inspector John David HARTWELL

Detective Superintendent Brian James HAY

Senior Sergeant Paul Kevin JAMES

Senior Sergeant Monica Annette O’MARA

WESTERN AUSTRALIA POLICE

Inspector Anthony Paul FLACK

Inspector William James LEONARD

Superintendent Kellie Louise PROPERJOHN

Detective Senior Sergeant Timothy Justin THOMAS

SOUTH AUSTRALIA POLICE

Superintendent Noel Graeme BAMFORD

Superintendent Peter HOADLEY

Detective Senior Sergeant John William SCHULZ

TASMANIA POLICE

Inspector John Alfred BIRD OAM

NORTHERN TERRITORY POLICE

Commander Anne-Marie MURPHY

AUSTRALIAN FIRE SERVICE MEDAL (AFSM)

NEW SOUTH WALES FIRE SERVICES

Mr Christopher John BARRON

69 Mahonga Street, Jerilderie NSW 2716

Mr Brett Andrew BOWDEN

Orange NSW 2800

Mr Keith Darral BUTT

Young NSW 2594

Mr James Downing CHIVAS

Bullaburra NSW 2784

Mr John Matthew McDONOUGH

73 Digby Road, Erina NSW 2250

Mr Robert Thomas MURRAY

Waverley NSW 2024

Mr Gregory Charles PICKERSGILL

80 Holbrook Street, Temora NSW 2666

Mr Alfred Kenneth RAISTRICK

Cobbitty NSW 2570

Mr Mark Dennis REILLY

NSW

Mr Cecil John ROBINSON

54 Tudor Street, Bourke NSW 2840

Mr James Thomas SMITH

Dural NSW 2158

VICTORIA FIRE SERVICES

Mr Geoffrey William AUDSLEY

Colac Vic 3250

Mr Robert Petrus BRINKMAN

22 Shute Avenue, Berwick Vic 3806

Mr Liam Gerard FOGARTY

Department of Sustainability and Environment, 4/8 Nicholson

Street, East Melbourne Vic 3001

Mr David Gerrard GIBBS

19 Tasman Road, Somers Vic 3927

Mr Bruce Alan PICKETT

Herne Hill Vic 3218

Mr James Russell READ

Knoxfield Vic 3180

Mr Robert William TAYLOR

Docklands Vic 3008

QUEENSLAND FIRE SERVICES

Mr Rowen David CLEM

Kurwongbah Qld 4503

Mr John Frederick GRESTY

Alexandra Hills Qld 4161

Mr Shan Werner RAFFEL

7 Honeymyrtle Court, Capalaba Qld 4157

Mr Neil Scott REID

Kipparing Qld 4021

Mr Gordon Francis RYAN

8 Sandringham Road, Sandringham Qld 4701

WESTERN AUSTRALIA FIRE SERVICES

Mr Robert William COX

Broome WA 6725

Mr Kevin Robert POLLOCK

Glen Forest WA 6071

SOUTH AUSTRALIA FIRE SERVICES

Mr Gregory Charles FRICK

38 Dudley Avenue, North Plympton SA 5037

Mr Christopher George SMITH

5 Alison Drive, Happy Valley SA 5159

Mr Keith William TAYLOR

Taylors Road, Ashton SA 5137

Mr Neil Kenneth TURNER

Callington SA 5254

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY FIRE SERVICES

Mr Gregory John KENT

1 Bemm Place, Amaroo ACT 2914

AMBULANCE SERVICE MEDAL (ASM)

QUEENSLAND AMBULANCE SERVICE

Mr Robert Leslie MEDLIN

82 Rundle Street, Rockhampton Qld 4700

Mr Gavin John TREMBATH

Toowoomba Qld 4350

SOUTH AUSTRALIA AMBULANCE SERVICE

Associate Professor William Middleton GRIGGS AM

Medindie SA 5081

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY AMBULANCE SERVICE

Mrs Therese Suzanne MOORE

Burra Creek NSW 2620

EMERGENCY SERVICES MEDAL (ESM)

NEW SOUTH WALES EMERGENCY SERVICES

Ms Debra May SCANES

Goulburn NSW 2580

VICTORIA EMERGENCY SERVICES

Mr Colin David CROXFORD

490 Goomalibee Road, Benalla Vic 3672

Mr Brett Ian ELLIS

23 Betton Crescent, Warrandyte Vic 3113

Mrs Dianne Gwenyth MONTALTO

1085 Merriang Road, Woodstock Vic 3751

QUEENSLAND EMERGENCY SERVICES

Mr Kingsley Leonard FRASER

15 Hagman Street, Stafford Heights Qld 4053

Mr Robert Grant HARTLEY

Mitchelton Qld 4053

Mr John Graham JACOBSEN

Calamvale Qld 4116

WESTERN AUSTRALIA EMERGENCY SERVICES

Mr Arthur Barry JONES

34 Karrakatta Road, Goode Beach, Albany WA 6330

SOUTH AUSTRALIA EMERGENCY SERVICES

Mr Grant Andrew GEYER

Renmark SA 5341

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY EMERGENCY SERVICES

Mrs Tracey Annette FOOTE

Murrumbateman NSW 2582

Conservatives tighten grip in EU election

Conservatives scored victories in some of Europe’s largest countries, after beating the Socialists in the EU parliamentary elections.

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As Europe’s left failed to make leverage on widespread concerns over the global financial crisis, far right anti immigrant and eurosceptic parties capitalised on the low voter turnout to gain support.

Projected results did not augur well for embattled British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, showing his Labour Party embarrassingly beaten into third place by the United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip), which wants Britain out of the European Union.

The extreme right-wing British National Party won its first ever European Parliament seat, while Dutch anti-Islamic lawmaker Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom came second with 17 percent of the vote.

Finland’s nationalist and eurosceptic True Finns party also saw a strong rise in support, with 10 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results.

Socialist parties in power in Britain, Spain and Portugal were punished by their electorates while other left-wing parties in opposition in Germany and France suffered painful losses.

The European People’s Party secured 267 seats, making it the largest group in the 736 member assembly, ahead of the Socialists on 159 seats.

The result gives the EPP nearly as many lawmakers as they had in the last parliament, which was larger with 785 seats. The strong showing also comes despite the British and Czech conservatives deserting the group.

The Liberals came in third with 81 seats followed by the Greens with 54 seats in the parliament, the European Union’s only directly elected institution.

Some 388 million people were eligible to vote in the world’s biggest trans-national elections which were spread over four days.

Turnout slumped to 43.6 percent, down from 45.5 percent in 2004 and the lowest rate ever.

“The turnout compared to 2004 shows that this is not the time for complacency,” European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said, urging national governments to play a more visible EU role.

“It’s a sad evening for social democracy in Europe. We are particularly disappointed, (it is) a bitter evening for us,” said the head of the Socialist bloc, German lawmaker Martin Schulz.

In Britain, Brown’s ruling Labour Party was braced for a drubbing which will add to pressure on his leadership after a week of political turmoil.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives came out on top, trouncing her centre-left rivals in what was seen as a dry run for September’s general election.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP party romped home with 28 percent of the vote, leaving the opposition Socialists trailing with only 16.8 percent, barely ahead of the Greens.

Italy’s scandal-plagued centre-right Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi rode the wave, holding his lead with 35 percent of the vote.

Spain’s opposition conservatives beat the ruling Socialists, with the opposition Popular Party getting 42 percent against 38 percent for Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s party.

US considers returning NKorea to terror list

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday the United States is considering putting North Korea back on its list of countries that sponsor terrorism following Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests.

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In an interview with ABC television, Clinton also said Washington would do everything it can to stop shipments of North Korean nuclear materials and to shut off Pyongyang’s flow of money.

She was asked for a response to a letter from several US senators asking President Barack Obama to put Pyongyang back on the terror list, from which it was removed in October 2008 under former president George W. Bush.

“Well, we’re going to look at it,” she said.

“There’s a process for it. Obviously we would want to see recent evidence of their support for international terrorism,” she added. “We’re just beginning to look at it.”

Obama said Saturday that “North Korea’s actions over the last couple of months have been extraordinarily provocative.”

Nuclear tests

The North conducted its second nuclear test last month and defied international criticism by firing a volley of short-range missiles and threatening to attack the capitalist South.

At a press conference in Normandy, where Obama was visiting to mark the 65th D-Day anniversary, the president also said the UN Security Council is working toward a new resolution on North Korea.

He insisted even China and Russia, the two major powers closest to the North, were taking a tougher approach. “They understand how destabilizing North Korea’s actions are,” Obama said.

Clinton said the United States was working hard to create a mechanism that would allow for interdiction of suspect North Korean shipments, acknowledging that some countries had “legitimate concerns” about the precedent that would set.

But she said, “We will do everything we can to both interdict it and prevent it and shut off their flow of money.”

“If we do not take significant and effective action against the North Koreans now, we’ll spark an arms race in Northeast Asia.”

“And so part of what we’re doing is, again, sharing with other countries our calculus of the risks and the dangers that would lie ahead if we don’t take very strong action,” Clinton said.

Sixteen Republican senators called Wednesday for placing the communist regime back on the terror list, saying the North’s “provocative actions must have immediate consequences.”

Ailing North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il’s “regime has never stopped supporting terrorism or joined meaningful negotiations,” said Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina. “In fact, North Korea has done just the opposite and moved closer to equipping terrorists with nuclear weapons.”

DeMint and seven other lawmakers had sent a letter to Clinton a day earlier urging her to “immediately” place North Korea back on the blacklist.

Reinstating North Korea on the watchlist would reactivate sanctions liftedin October, when the United States said North Korea had agreed to steps to verify its nuclear disarmament and pledged to resume disabling its atomic plants.

Obama would be able to waive the designation if he certifies to the congress that North Korea has fully disclosed its nuclear activities, has not illegally spread nuclear or missile know-how, has not supported any terrorist groups, and has met other conditions.

North Korea was added to the blacklist on January 20, 1988, following the bombing by its agents of a KAL plane on November 29, 1987 which killed all 115 on board.

The State Department said late last year that the North was not known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since that bombing.

Supreme Court asked to delay Chrysler sale

A group of Indiana pension funds opposed to Chrysler’s sale to Fiat has filed an emergency appeal with the US Supreme Court to immediately halt the sale.

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The emergency stay request was filed shortly before midnight on Saturday and came after the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York approved the acquisition of most of Chrysler’s assets by a group led by Italy’s Fiat.

The stay request asks for the extension of a temporary hold on the sale put in place by the appeals court until 4pm on Monday (0600 AEST on Tuesday) or when the high court decides whether to intervene.

Absent a stay, the court will be deprived of the opportunity to decide critical, nationally significant legal issues relating to management of the economy by the United States government,” the pension funds said in their application.

Sale ‘unconstitutional’

They argued that the sale is unconstitutional because it puts the rights of junior creditors ahead of the rights of senior lenders.

The three state pension and construction funds also said the US Treasury Department has overstepped authority granted by the congress under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a $US700 billion ($A873 billion) bailout intended for the financial industry, by financing Chrysler’s restructuring.

“The public is watching and needs to see that, particularly, when the system is under stress, the rule of law will be honoured and an independent judiciary will properly scrutinise the actions of the massively powerful executive branch,” lawyers for the funds and the Indiana attorney-general wrote in their filing.

“The issues presented by this case are of immediate — and enduring — national significance.”

On Friday, a three-judge panel from Second Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the challenge from the state pension funds and upheld a decision by a New York bankruptcy judge approving the US government-backed plan to create a new entity to buy the assets of the troubled number three American automaker.

Under the planned tie-up with Fiat, the new firm would be majority owned by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, with small stakes by the US and Canadian governments, which would contribute about $US10.5 billion ($A13 billion) to the venture.

Delay may compromise deal

Emergency stays are rarely granted by the Supreme Court. But if the request were approved, the Chrysler deal with Fiat could be delayed for weeks or months while the issue is pending at the high court because a stay extension would buy time for the pensions funds to lodge a formal appeal at the high court.

Fiat can pull out of the deal if it does not go through by June 15.

It could also have an impact on General Motors, once the world’s biggest automaker, which is seeking a quick sale similar to that of Chrysler for its bankruptcy filing in a New York court.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would handle the filing, as emergency motions from the appeals court in New York fall under her authority.

She could rule herself or refer the motion to the entire court. Ginsburg can also reject the appeal outright or request other parties involved in the case file briefs.

FBI to observe Carradine probe

Thai prosecutors said that the FBI can observe the investigation into the death of US actor David Carradine, as long as it did not interfere with proceedings.

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Thai police say they suspect the star of the 1970s television series “Kung Fu” died in a sex act that went wrong after his naked body was found Thursday in his Bangkok hotel room with rope tied around his neck and genitals.

Family appealed to FBI

Police here defended their handling of the case at the weekend, after the 72-year-old’s family met US Federal Bureau of Investigation officials to ask for help to discover exactly how Carradine died.

“The FBI can observe or ask Thai investigators to investigate certain points but it cannot run its own investigation or collect evidence,” said senior attorney general Sirasak Tiypan.

Sirasak said there was no reason to deny such a request by the FBI, adding that Thailand had granted permission for several such observations by US officials in the past.

Bangkok police are still awaiting the results of laboratory tests which will take between three and four weeks before they can make an official conclusion about the cause of Carradine’s death.

Further findings pending

An initial autopsy report revealed that the actor died from a sudden lack of oxygen and his body showed no signs of struggle.

Police Colonel Somprasong Yenthaum, who is leading the probe, said on Sunday he was “confident we are working on the right track” and added that US embassy representatives had witnessed the examination of the hotel room.

Carradine’s body was repatriated early Saturday. The “Kill Bill” star was in the Thai capital to shoot a film called “Stretch” when he was found dead in the wardrobe of his luxury hotel room.

Mark Geragos, a lawyer for Carradine’s brother, Keith, said on Friday that the actor’s family rejected early reports that the actor had committed suicide and had met with FBI officials.

French aerospace industry appeals for state aid

The French aerospace industry has called for more state aid to help it weather the global economic crisis that has left aviation giants struggling with order cancellations.

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The president of the GIFAS French aerospace industries association, Charles Edelstenne, said small businesses especially needed a boost from the government to help them secure access to credit and avoid job cuts.

A 1.7 billion euro (2.4 billion dollar) rescue package earmarked for the industry is an “excellent initiative,” Edelstenne told a news conference, but he added that “more must be done.”

“As an economic regulator, the state can intervene in a significant way,” said Edelstenne, who is also the chief executive of Dassault Aviation.

Aviation giants like Airbus and Boeing are predicting a drop in world demand for new aircraft of up to 60 percent in 2009 due to the global economic crunch and tight credit.

Edelstenne was speaking amid gloom ahead of the Paris air show opening next Monday which this year is expected to announce fewer orders.

Organisers are nevertheless hoping to make a splash to mark the 100th anniversary of the trade event held in Le Bourget, just outside Paris.

Edelstenne said the state had yet to make clear the terms for access to easy credit designed to help airline companies maintain their plane orders and warned the delay could be costly.

“Without this, we are going to lose markets and our customers are going to cancel or delay deliveries scheduled for 2009 and 2010,” he said.

The Dassault CEO said there would be no announcement at the air show concerning the long-awaited sale of Rafale fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates.

The worst global slump in decades has devastated the airline industry, with passenger numbers plunging more than 11 percent in March compared to a year earlier, according to data from the International Air Transport Association.

Obama speeds up stimulus spending

Acknowledging that the US economy remains in a “very deep recession”, President Barack Obama has announced plans to accelerate stimulus spending to save or create 600,000 jobs over the next three months.

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Obama’s candid assessment of the state of the economy followed the loss of another 345,000 jobs in May, which pushed the US unemployment rate to 9.4 per cent, a 26-year high.

“It’s a reminder that we’re still in the middle of a very deep recession that was years in the making and that’s going to take a considerable amount of time for us to pull out of,” said on Monday before meeting with his cabinet.

Obama said the job losses were less than expected, a sign that his $US787 billion ($A980 billion) economic stimulus plan was moving in “the right direction,” but not quickly enough to ward off concerns of a “self-reinforcing” downward spiral.

“Our whole task here with the recovery act is to reverse that negative cycle into a positive cycle and it’s going to take some work,” he said.

Accelerate stimulus spending

Obama said the government was ready to accelerate stimulus spending with the goal of creating of saving 600,000 jobs over the next 100 days through summer youth programs, school and public works projects.

In a statement, the White House said the 600,000 jobs represented “four times the number created or saved in the first 100 days” since the plan was signed into law on February 17 — about 150,000 jobs.

So far, $US135 billion ($A168 billion) have been obligated under the stimulus plan, which Obama has said would create or save more than three million jobs over two years, a number critics have charged is difficult to verify.

A new Gallup poll released on Monday showed that while 67 per cent of Americans viewed Obama favorably, only 45 per cent approved of his handling of federal spending — with a 51 per cent majority disapproving.

New projects

The 10 new projects announced included improvements on 98 airports and more than 1,500 highways, federal funding for 135,000 education jobs and maintenance work at 359 military bases and other facilities.

“The only measure of progress is whether or not the American people are seeing some progress in their own lives,” Obama said.

“And so although we’ve seen some stabilising in the financial markets and credit spreads have gone down, we’re seeing a reduction in the fear that gripped the market just a few months ago,” he said.

Obama’s plans have been criticised by some economists, who accuse him of increasing an already record public deficit, and by his Republican foes, who doubt his plans will effectively turn the tide on the economic slump.

White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee warned that the unemployment rate was likely to continue to rise as more stimulus projects receive federal funding.

“I don’t think there’s any question it’s going to be a rough patch not just in the immediate term, but for a little bit of time,” he told the Fox News Sunday program.

Aussie cities high in liveability ranking

Australian cities occupy five of the top 20 places in a British survey ranking the liveability of 140 of the world’s major centres.

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Melbourne ranked third in the world, behind Vancouver in Canada and the Austrian city of Vienna in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2009 Liveability survey.

Read The Economist article here.

It assessed 140 cities based on stability, health care, education, infrastructure and culture and environment, giving each one a rating out of 100.

Perth ranks high

Perth was equal fifth with Calgary in Canada, with Sydney sharing ninth place with Zurich in Switzerland, Adelaide in 11th place and Brisbane 16th on the list.

As well as Vancouver and Calgary, Canadian cities also featured strongly in the top 20, with Toronto (4th) and Montreal (17th).

The New Zealand cities of Auckland and Wellington finished 12th and 23rd respectively.

US centres were well down the list. Pittsburgh ranked highest, in 29th place.

The highest-ranked Asian city was Osaka in Japan (13th). The next highest was Hong Kong (equal 39th with Madrid, Spain) followed by Singapore (54th) and Seoul, South Korea (58th).

Harare bottom of the list

The worst city to live on earth is Harare, the strife-torn capital of Zimbabwe.

“The performance of Asian cities reflects the diverse levels of development throughout the region,” EIU spokesman Jon Copestake said.

“Australian cities represent many of the best aspects of liveability, while instability in countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh means that cities in South Asia fare much worse.”

The Economist Intelligence Unit is a branch of The Economist Group, which publishes The Economist, a weekly news magazine, in London.

Mums turn to internet to find breast milk

Australian mothers are turning to the internet to find breast milk for their babies as part of an international move back to wet nursing.

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Human breast milk contains antibodies that help prevent illness and may boost intelligence and resistance to allergies.

But mothers using unscreened breast milk risk passing on illnesses including HIV and hepatitis, the newspapers said.

One woman who was unable to feed naturally used the internet to buy frozen breast milk, said other mothers abused her despite her insistence the milk was medically checked.

“I got lots of mothers telling me it was disgusting, (asking) how could I give another woman’s milk to my baby,” she said.

“Knowing she was sick when she was born, you just want to give them the best.” she said.

Breast milk banks

Marea Ryan, who runs the Gold Coast’s Mothers Milk Bank, one of only two recognised breast milk banks in Australia, said new mothers were forced underground to get breast milk because her bank and the other, in WA, offered only local supply.

“They (interstate mums) have to have a donor as a private arrangement; another mother who is happy to give them milk,” she said.

Breastfeeding Australia national spokeswoman Carey Wood said the association did not condone private milk-sharing arrangements and asked a Senate inquiry for a national network of breast milk banks in 2007.

“We’d recommend that people do not go through unauthorised breast milk donors,” Ms Wood said.

In the US, breast milk has sold online for up to $1.90 for 20ml.

Woman in Zappia row breaks silence

The woman at the centre of damning allegations against besieged Cronulla chief executive Tony Zappia says she is willing to meet with NRL boss David Gallop to explain her version of the incident that left her with a black eye.

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On the same day Zappia voluntarily stood down from his post to weigh up his legal position, former Sharks community liaison officer Jenny Hall told the Seven Network Zappia had accidentally hit her before telling her not to talk to anyone.

Hall maintained her silence after leaving her position at the club several months after the incident – with reports of a $20,000 payout – but said she was now prepared to discuss the incident with the NRL.

“If David (Gallop) wants to talk to me I’m more than happy to talk to him,” Hall said.

The NRL said it had always been willing to meet with Hall, but talks are unlikely to take place before the Sharks have determined Zappia’s future later this week.

Among a long list of allegations, Hall repeated claims that Zappia had offered to let her spank him as punishment for the black eye and had opened pornographic material on his computer while Hall was in the room with him.

“There I am, your employee that you have just given a black eye to who is in tears and there you are focusing on a pornographic picture,” Hall said of the incident.

After standing down on Monday, Zappia was given until Thursday to save his job following an emergency meeting of the football club’s board.

“The board has requested a response from Tony Zappia and his legal team by Thursday,” outgoing chairman Barry Pierce said from the steps of Sharks leagues club.

“He’s entitled to his due process and being a long weekend, he can’t do anything today.

“He’s standing down and I can’t say much more at this stage.”

Asked whether Zappia’s position was in jeopardy, Pierce said: “A lot will depend on what comes back from his legal advice and there’s a lot to look at I believe.”

The Sharks board will also request a copy of the recordings from the Seven Network in a bid to establish its authenticity and the context in which a number of the statements attributed to Zappia were used.

Sharks staff members will also be interviewed to provide background information on the incident.

Zappia did not return news agency AAP’s calls on Monday, but News Limited reports on Monday said Zappia believed the recordings may have been a set-up.

“I don’t remember saying it and who knows whether it was a cut and paste recording,” Zappia said.

Hall also lifted the lid on allegations that players had been given sex toys, a claim the Sharks board denied last week following allegations made in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Although admitting she never saw the toys, Hall said she was certain they were distributed.

“They were handed out at training,” Hall said.