France’s Fillon rejects new revelations

“I won’t say another word about these things,” the conservative contender said on French television, condemning “successive revelations, carefully disseminated by state services.

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The revelation comes as France gears up for the first balloting in the two-stage presidential race on April 23.

Fillon, once the race’s frontrunner and who denies any wrongdoing, was charged with abuse of public funds last month in a scandal that he has blamed on the outgoing Socialist government.

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The 63-year-old is accused of giving fake jobs to his Welsh-born wife Penelope that earned her 680,000 euros (AUD$961,000) in salary payments between 1986 and 2013.

Mediapart said late Monday that “Penelope Fillon in fact benefited from public funds from the first parliamentary mandate of her husband through contracts for studies or projects that he commissioned.”

Watch: French election campaign offically begins

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Fillon, first elected to represent the central Sarthe region in 1981, went on to become prime minister under president Nicolas Sarkozy from 2007 to 2012.

Other accusations of financial impropriety have piled up since the claims first broke in January, including that Fillon failed to declare an interest-free loan and that he accepted gifts of bespoke suits from a wealthy friend.

Fillon has seen his poll numbers decline since the scandal broke to around 17-19 points, neck-and-neck with far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon and behind centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Tuesday broke with his country’s official neutrality on Tuesday by expressing a preference for Macron over Fillon, saying the conservative’s response to the scandals had “not been very encouraging”.

“Don’t put me in a difficult spot, you know who my political family is,” Schaeuble told a debate organised by the Spiegel weekly, in reference to his conservative CDU party which is affiliated in Europe with Fillon’s Republicans.

But Schaeuble added: “If I was French, if I was able to vote… I would probably vote for Macron.”

French presidential election candidates Francois Fillon, Emmanuel Macron, Jean-Luc Melenchon, Marine Le Pen, and Benoit Hamon.AAP

Why now? lawyer asks 

Fillon’s lawyer Antonin Levy confirmed that investigators seized “contracts for studies” during a raid of the candidate’s parliamentary offices in late January but said they were of “no interest” to the probe which he said reaches back only to 1997.

“The real question is why the financial prosecutor, which has known of these documents for weeks, has not spoken of them and why this information is coming out two weeks before the first round,” Levy told AFP.

Fillon was the surprise winner of the rightwing Republicans party’s November primary after campaigning on his squeaky clean image.

His two leading rivals, Sarkozy and former prime minister Alain Juppe, were both tainted by legal woes.

Fillon has said that incumbent President Francois Hollande, who decided in December not to run for re-election, headed a “secret cabinet” responsible for the explosive fake jobs revelations.

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Green holds Storm tip session at Manly

Former Melbourne five-eighth Blake Green held a tip session with Manly teammates aimed at helping them in Saturday’s NRL clash.

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Green faces his old club for the first time since switching to the Sea Eagles after playing a pivotal role in Melbourne’s grand final appearance last year.

“I had a chat yesterday actually to a few of the members of our team after training, just to give them a heads up on what’s coming,” Green said on Wednesday.

“I’ve got a fair idea of how they’re going to play, especially on the back of a loss, they’ll be quite determined to carry the ball strong, complete their sets and kick well.”

But while the seasoned playmaker is willing to divulge as many secrets as he can from his two years at the club, he just isn’t sure how much of an advantage it will be on game day.

Melbourne went undefeated over the opening five rounds before falling short against Cronulla in a grand final re-match last week.

But they could get big names Cameron Munster and Jesse Bromwich back on deck this week.

“I think everyone in the competition is well aware of what they’re going to do and how they’re going to play, but being able to stop it is a different thing,” Green said.

“They’ve obviously got some really classy players in there, the ‘big three’ as everyone refers to. Along with Jesse Bromwich, they’re a pretty handy outfit. It’s going to be a tough job for us.”

Green also said he was shocked by former halves partner Cooper Cronk’s decision to announce his intention to leave Melbourne at the end of the year and move to Sydney.

He is adamant he couldn’t imagine the Australian halfback playing for another club, but was unsure whether he would retire, either.

“I’m not sure what he’s got planned. He could do anything. I don’t think anyone knows what he’s going to do. I don’t know if he’s made his mind up on anything,” he said.

Sean Spicer apologises for ‘insensitive’ Hitler remark

Spicer suggested Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons on his own people, momentarily forgetting the Holocaust and prompting renewed calls for his resignation.

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During a White House briefing Spicer sought to intensify criticism of Bashar al-Assad, painting the Syrian leader’s suspected use of sarin nerve agent against civilians last week as historically evil.

“You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said, comparing Assad unfavorably.

His comments — during the Jewish festival of Passover, prompted anti-defamation groups and Democrats to call for the already embattled press secretary’s resignation.

Watch: Sean Spicer White House Media Conference Gaffe

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Spicer later took to CNN to apologise for the comments.

“Frankly, I mistakenly used an inappropriate and insensitive comment about the Holocaust and there is no comparison,” 

“For that I apologise. It was a mistake to do that.”

Top Congressional Democrat Nancy Pelosi is calling for Spicer’s resignation.

“Sean Spicer must be fired, and the President must immediately disavow his spokesman’s statements,” said 

“Either he is speaking for the President, or the President should have known better than to hire him.”

Spicer — the most public face of the Donald Trump’s administration after the president himself — has is a frequent target of ire and satirists for his angry denunciations press coverage and sometimes loose grasp of the facts.

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He was pilloried for his first appearance in the press briefing room in January, when he browbeat journalists and falsely insisted Trump had the biggest inaugural audience ever.

He later caused an international incident by claiming British signals intelligence agency GCHQ helped former president Barack Obama spy on Trump.

Furious British spies described the claim as “nonsense” and “utterly ridiculous,” forcing Spicer to explain his comments to the British ambassador.

But his latest claim brought anger from across the political spectrum and looks of astonishment from the assembled White House press corps, who offered Spicer a chance to clarify.

“I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no — he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing,” Spicer said, returning to the subject.

As journalists shouted “what about the Holocaust?” Spicer continued, “I think there is clearly… I understand the point, thank you, thank you I appreciate that.”

Hitler “brought them into the Holocaust centers, I understand that. But I’m saying in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down, to innocent — into the middle of towns, it was brought… so the use of it, I appreciate the clarification, that was not the intent.”

Steven Goldstein, head of the Anne Frank Center, described Spicer’s comments as an “evil slur” and said he now “lacks the integrity to serve.”

In a further written clarification, Spicer said he was “in no way… trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust.”

“I was trying to draw a distinction of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centers. Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable,” he said.

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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis later offered a hint at what Spicer may have meant, saying that “even in World War II, chemical weapons were not used on battlefields. 

“Since World War I, there has been an international convention on this.”

Richard Price, professor of political science at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and author of The Chemical Weapons Taboo told AFP Hitler  in fact came very close to using chemical weapons on civilian areas.

“Hitler used gas widely in the concentration camps, but they never used them against soldiers nor against cities,” he said.

“Albert Speer, munitions minister, said that during the trials of Nuremberg that Hitler gave the order to use them in the last months of the war, but his generals refused, because they knew the war was over, there was no point.”

Syria briefing 

Tuesday incident was not the first time this week that Spicer has found himself in rhetorical difficulty over Syria.

On Monday, he suggested that Trump could take military action if Assad were to drop more barrel bombs — a regular occurrence in Syria’s brutal war and a red line that would almost immediately be breeched, making US military action all but certain.

The White House privately walked back his comments.

Later in Tuesday’s briefing, Spicer also raised eyebrows when he declared Iran a failed state.

Trump’s pared-back approach to staffing has resulted in many of the apparatus around Spicer from being removed.

There are around half the number of National Security Council’s communications staff, whose job is — in part — to brief the press secretary on international developments.

The State Department does not have a spokesperson and has stopped holding daily briefings, which often serve as an early warning system for the White House about questions and issues headed their way.

More newsWATCH: No place for Assad in Syria, Tillerson says

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Spanish artist Dali’s body to be exhumed for love child paternity test

A Spanish judge has ordered the remains of artist Salvador Dali be exhumed to settle a paternity suit, despite opposition from the state-run foundation that manages the artist’s estate.

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Dali, considered one of the fathers of surrealist art, died in 1989 and is buried in his museum in the northeastern town of Figueres.

Pilar Abel, a tarot-card reader from the nearby city of Girona who was born in 1956, says she is the offspring of an affair between Dali and her mother, Antonia.

At the time of the alleged affair, Dali was married to his muse, Gala, who died seven years before the painter. Gala had a daughter from an earlier marriage but the couple had no children of their own. Upon his death, at age 84, Dali bestowed his estate to the Spanish state.

On Monday, a Madrid court statement said that tests with DNA from Dali’s embalmed body were necessary because there were no other existing biological remains with which to make a genetic comparison.

Abel’s court litigation started in 2015 when she sued the Ministry of Finance, as the trustee of Dali’s estate, and the Gala Dali Foundation that was created to administer it.

“What she wants is to have a result of the tests with full guarantee in order to finish with this as soon as possible,” Abel’s lawyer Enrique Blanquez told The Associated Press.

If there’s a match, Abel could use Dali as her surname and pursue further legal action to claim her rights over the artist’s work and property, which according to regional laws could amount to 25 percent of all of the estate.

The Gala Dali Foundation will appeal Monday’s decision, foundation spokeswoman Imma Parada said in an e-mailed statement.

But according to Blanquez, the appeal could not immediately stop the exhuming of Dali’s remains.

What the ATO is targeting this tax time

Mark Aliprandi has been an Uber driver in Sydney for nearly three years.

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“It’s a pleasant way to earn a living and it fits in with anything else you’re doing with your career, you can slide it in whenever you need to find the money for something that you’ve got, something you’ve got to fund.”

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Anything Mark earns is considered income and needs to be declared to the tax office.

“I’m going to collate all my expenses, I’m going to use my accountant because they know how to deal with things like income – depreciation is a thing I don’t have a great deal of knowledge about.”

Assistant Tax Commissioner, Kath Anderson says, the ATO will be focusing its efforts on the rising popularity of the sharing economy this tax time.

“We are looking at people who are Uber drivers, all the way through to people who might be providing accommodation at their house or might be doing a task for someone through something like Airtasker.”

With more cars on the road and investment properties built, the ATO is taking even more notice and has these three golden rules for deductions.

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Accountant at 5ways Group Paul Meissner says ‘a record’ doesn’t always have to mean receipt.

“If you don’t have a receipt don’t always think that’s the end, sometimes if you review bank statements or your credit card statements in certain circumstances that can have enough information to still claim a deduction.”

The ATO’s Kath Andersons says there are some common misconceptions though – like claiming a standard deduction.

“You can’t claim a standard deduction, so for some reason people seem to confuse the fact that if your deduction is under a certain amount, you might not have to provide as much evidence of your spending, but the rule still stands that you can’t claim it if you didn’t actually pay for it. So that’s another misconception,” she said.

“Another misconception is that you can claim everyday work clothes like black pants and a white shirt, something like that, you can’t claim it unless it is a uniform or protective clothing or distinctive type of clothing like chefs pants.”

Paul Meissner says that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask your accountant to maximise your return.

“The biggest mistake I see for individuals is not asking your accountant whether something is deductible, you can’t claim everything you don’t at least inquire about.

“Small business the biggest mistake I see is not checking their personal bank statements, often times there is a business deduction or a business expense that they paid for personally, you don’t want to miss out on those deductions.”

Remember, the digital world has made it easier for the ATO to cross check claims, so it’s best to get it right.

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Australians urged to move to Queensland

According to the latest census data many have already done so.

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Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt travelled to Sydney to launch an advertising campaign targeting “skilled and innovative individuals” as well as families, citing the state’s lower cost of living and business incentives.

“We will be showcasing Queensland’s extensive list of advantages when compared to our interstate counterparts,” Mr Pitt said.

“Queensland is much more than mining, tourism and agriculture — we are nation- leaders in a diverse range of fields, have the country’s most innovative and dynamic trading economy, and are open for business.”

The campaign comes as the latest census data shows Brisbane’s population has increased by almost 10 per cent over the last fiveyears.

The data, released on Tuesday, shows Brisbane’s population grew from 2.07 million in 2011 to 2.27 million in 2016, an increase of 9.9 per cent.

Queensland overall saw an 8.6 per cent increase in population over the same period, with fully half of the state’s estimated 4,883,739 residents living in the capital.

Mr Pitt said the campaign would focus on all of Queensland, with an emphasis on getting people to move to regional centres, not just Brisbane and the southeast.

The Treasurer said before the end of the year Queensland’s population was estimated to hit five million, with interstate migration a large factor.

“We are keen for this to continue. Strong population growth supports growing markets that in turn give business the confidence to invest and employ new workers.”

May pays out £1b for ‘grubby deal’ with DUP

The deal reached with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) was slammed by opposition parties as political bribery, amid concerns about its impact on the province’s delicate peace process.

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It comes after May lost her parliamentary majority in the general election on June 8, which she had called to boost her support ahead of Brexit talks on Britain’s divorce from the European Union.

“I welcome this agreement which will enable us to work together in the interests of the whole United Kingdom,” May said in a statement.

Under the terms of the agreement, Northern Ireland will receive an extra £1.0 billion (1.1 billion euros, $1.3 billion) from the state over two years.

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The DUP said it would back the government in any confidence votes and to pass budgets, as well as supporting it on Brexit-related legislation.

For any other parliamentary votes, the DUP – which has 10 MPs – said its support would be given on a case-by-case basis.

‘Not in national interest’

The pact’s first test in parliament will come with a post-election confidence vote expected on Thursday.

There was consternation from the opposition at the alliance, which has also attracted concern from some Conservatives over the DUP’s hardline stance on social issues.

“This Tory-DUP deal has not been done in the national interest but in the interest of @Theresa_May and the @Conservatives’ own political survival,” Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted.

Gerry Adams, leader of the republican party Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, said the deal “provides a blank cheque for a Tory Brexit which threatens the Good Friday Agreement”.

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That agreement in 1998 helped end decades of bloodshed between Northern Ireland’s Protestant and Catholic communities. Cooperation between Britain and EU member Ireland lies at its heart.

On Twitter, Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon said “any sense of fairness sacrificed on the altar of grubby DUP deal to let PM cling to power”.

The DUP supported Brexit but has emphasised the need to keep the border with the Irish republic open, and its leader Arlene Foster said the deal would back a Brexit process “that supports all parts of the United Kingdom”.

‘Hell of a mess’

The DUP was founded by the late Protestant firebrand Ian Paisley, who for decades brooked no compromise with Northern Ireland’s Catholic minority before entering into an unlikely power-sharing deal with Sinn Fein.

The DUP opposes gay marriage and abortion. Some representatives have been criticised for homophobic comments and for denying climate change.

There is particular concern over the peace process. London’s neutrality is key to the fragile balance in Northern Ireland.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney was in Belfast Monday as part of negotiations aimed at restoring a power-sharing alliance between the DUP and Sinn Fein nearly four months after local elections in Northern Ireland.

If the parties cannot come to an agreement by Thursday, Northern Ireland may be returned to direct rule from London.

Coveney said May’s deal with the DUP was a matter for those parties, but stressed that a restored local government was Northern Ireland’s best bet to ensure its “unique circumstances” are recognised at Westminster.

The Conservatives have 317 seats in the 650-seat parliament after the June 8 election and need the support of the DUP’s 10 MPs to be able to govern.

Foster said: “This agreement will operate to deliver a stable government in the United Kingdom’s national interest at this vital time.”

She said the extra money would be spent on infrastructure, health and education, benefitting the whole of Northern Ireland, after concerns voiced by Sinn Fein.

Discussions on a deal between the Conservatives and the DUP began immediately after the election, stirring up further resentment against the embattled May who was left weakened by the political setback.

Conservative grandee Chris Patten described events leading up to the power-sharing deal, including last year’s Brexit referendum called by May’s predecessor David Cameron, as “the most damaging thing that’s happened politically during my lifetime”.

“It sees us now in a situation where thanks to the pretty calamitous decisions of two Conservative prime ministers, we’re in one hell of a mess,” he told reporters.

Donald Trump hosts ‘true friend’ Modi for first one-on-one

Despite differences over issues such as immigration and climate change, Modi is expected to assure Trump that the United States has nothing to fear from India’s growing economic clout.

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After they began their afternoon talks in the Oval Office likely to center on issues such as trade and war in Afghanistan, the two leaders are expected to give a joint statement to reporters.

Trump, who described Modi as a “true friend!” on Twitter after his weekend arrival in the US, should find much in common with the Indian leader, with both men having won power by portraying themselves as establishment outsiders.

While ties with some traditional allies have been strained by Trump’s complaints that Washington has been the loser in trade agreements, Modi appears alert to his host’s sensitivities and emphasis on transactional diplomacy.

Writing in a Wall Street Journal editorial published just ahead of their meeting, Modi said that in “an uncertain global economic landscape, our two nations stand as mutually reinforcing engines of growth and innovation.”

India is currently the world’s fastest growing major economy, a status that Modi is hoping to cement by drawing in more foreign investment – in part by encouraging manufacturers to do business in Asia’s third-largest economy.

“The transformation of India presents abundant commercial and investment opportunities for American businesses,” said Modi whose government is about to implement a new nationwide tax system designed to scythe through red tape.

“The rollout of the Goods and Services Tax on July 1 will, in a single stroke, convert India into a unified, continent-sized market of 1.3 billion people,” he wrote.

Busy day of meetings

Ahead of his talks with Trump, Modi met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as India eyes the purchase of more military equipment from the US.

Although there are not expected to be any major defense announcements, the California-based contractor General Atomics said it had been given clearance by the US government to sell drones to the Indian army.

The State Department also announced that it was slapping sanctions on a senior figure in the Kashmiri separatist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen.

The designation of Syed Salahuddin (also known as Mohammed Yusuf Shah) as a global terrorist marks a diplomatic victory for India which has been battling a decades-long insurgency by separatist groups in Kashmir, a Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan and claimed in full by both.

Relations between India and the US were generally cool until the 1990s but they warmed under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, as India sought greater foreign investment and trade ties.

But it was not long after Trump’s election that obstacles emerged on issues such as trade and visas for Indians wanting to work in the United States.

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Then Trump accused India of seeking to profit from the Paris climate accord as he announced the US withdrawal from the deal this month – drawing sharp denials from New Delhi.

A proposed overhaul of H-1B visas – used by thousands of Indian software engineers to work in the United States – has caused concern in New Delhi.

But Indian officials have played down those differences, insisting that Modi was sensitive to his counterpart’s concerns over American jobs and trade, and there were “no major sticking points” that could sour the talks.

“If there’s one thing we want (from the talks), it’s chemistry… If the chemistry is good, then frankly everything else gets sorted,” a senior Indian official who is traveling with the prime minister told reporters in Washington.

Related readingAfghanistan on agenda

Regional security is expected to be high on the agenda as Washington considers deploying up to 5,000 extra troops in Afghanistan to help local forces fighting insurgent groups and seeks to encourage what an administration official describes as India’s “positive role” in the country.

Trump’s administration has meanwhile indicated it could take a tougher stance on Pakistan, which India has long accused of harboring militant groups.

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Brazil’s president charged with corruption

Brazil’s top federal prosecutor has charged President Michel Temer with accepting bribes, the first of what is expected to be a series of formal graft charges against the deeply unpopular leader in the coming weeks.

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Prosecutor-General Rodrigo Janot delivered the charges to the Supreme Court on Monday, marking a stinging blow to Temer and the first time the public prosecutor has presented charges against a sitting Brazilian president.

Under Brazilian law, the lower house of Congress must now vote on whether to allow the tribunal to try the conservative leader, who replaced impeached leftist President Dilma Rousseff just last year.

Lawmakers within Temer’s coalition are confident they have the votes to block the two-third majority required to proceed with a trial. But they warn that support may wane if congressmen are forced to vote several times to protect Temer – whose popularity is languishing in single-digits – from trial.

Temer’s office and his lawyer, Antonio Mariz, did not respond to requests for comment. Temer has repeatedly said he is innocent of any wrongdoing.

Temer was charged in connection with a graft scheme involving the world’s largest meatpacker, JBS SA. Executives said in plea-bargain testimony the president took nearly $US5 million ($A6.6 million) in bribes for resolving tax matters, freeing up loans from state-run banks and other matters.

Joesley Batista, one of the brothers who control JBS, recorded a conversation with Temer in which the president appears to condone bribing a potential witness. Batista also accused Temer and aides of negotiating millions of dollars in illegal donations for his Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB).

For more than three years, investigators in Brazil have uncovered stunning levels of corruption enveloping the political class and business elites. Much of it centred on companies paying billions of dollars in bribes to politicians and executives at state-run enterprises for lucrative contracts.

Temer and one-third of his cabinet, as well as four former presidents and dozens of lawmakers are under investigation or already charged in the schemes.

Donald Trump wins cut-down travel ban victory after Supreme Court decision

US President Donald Trump praised the Supreme Court’s decision to review the legality of his temporary ban on travellers from six Muslim-majority countries and all refugees, and to allow it to be partly implemented in the meantime.

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“Today’s unanimous Supreme Court decision is a clear victory for our national security,” Trump said in a statement released by the White House.

“Today’s ruling allows me to use an important tool for protecting our Nation’s homeland.”

 

Very grateful for the 9-O decision from the U. S. Supreme Court. We must keep America SAFE!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 26, 2017

The Supreme Court earlier announced it would allow a cut down version of Trump’s ban on travel from six mostly Muslim countries take effect before the justices will hear full arguments in October.

In the meantime, the court said that Trump’s ban on visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen can be enforced as long if those visitors lack a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

Trump said last week that the ban would take effect 72 hours after being cleared by courts.

Opponents say the ban was an unlawful based on visitors’ Muslim religion. The administration review should be complete before October 2, the first day the justices could hear arguments in their new term.

Three of the court’s conservative justices said they would have let the complete bans take effect.

The court’s opinion explained the kinds of relationships people from the six countries must demonstrate to obtain a US visa.

“For individuals, a close familial relationship is required,” the court said.

“For people who want to come to the United States to work or study, the relationship must be formal, documented and formed in the ordinary course, not for the purpose of evading the travel ban.”

The opinion faulted the two federal appeals courts that had blocked the travel policy for going too far to limit Trump’s authority over immigration.

The president announced the travel ban a week after he took office in January and revised it in March after setbacks in court.

The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, said the ban was “rooted in religious animus” toward Muslims and pointed to Trump’s campaign promise to impose a ban on Muslims entering the country as well as tweets and remarks he has made since becoming president.

The San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals said the travel policy does not comply with federal immigration law, including a prohibition on nationality-based discrimination.

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SA sites to proceed in nuke dump selection

Two proposed sites in South Australia for a low-level radioactive waste dump will proceed to the next phase of assessment, the federal government says.

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The government has accepted the nominations of land at two sites near Kimba, on Eyre Peninsula, and one at Lyndhurst, in SA’s mid-north. under the National Radioactive Waste Management Act.

Resources Minister Matt Canavan says the decision to progress the Kimba sites was made after considering direct representations, the results of an independent postal ballot and submissions during a 90-day consultation process.

“Progression to phase two does not constitute a final decision, rather, we now know that across the community there is broad support for continuing this conversation, and that is what we will do,” the minister said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mr Canavan said phase two in regard to the Kimba sites would engage people with all views allowing the local community to have another chance to express their opinions on the suitability of both locations.

In-depth consultation and technical assessments of the Kimba sites would also be undertaken along with allocation of a $2 million community benefit package to fund local projects.

A site at Wallerberdina Station near Lyndhurst, in South Australia’s mid-north, has also progressed to phase two.

At Wallerberdina Station, a process including a heritage assessment, technical studies and community consultation is continuing.

The federal government’s decision in relation to the Kimba sites has disappointed a local group opposed to the location of a nuclear waste dump.

They said the community ballot revealed only 57 per cent support, well below the 65 per cent previously cited as evidence of broad approval.

“Minister Canavan has repeatedly promised that he will not impose this facility on a community that doesn’t want it,” the group said in a statement.

“Yet has progressed nominations in Kimba where it is proven that 42 per cent of us do not.

“It is impossible to find words to properly describe how utterly disappointed we are.”

Mr Canavan said radioactive waste produced from nuclear medicine was currently stored in more than 100 locations around the country.

“International best practice is that it be consolidated into a single, safe and national facility,” he said.

Cricket helping beat the waiting game blues for asylum seekers

As most clubs hang up the pads for winter, the All Nations Cricket team is just getting started.

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Operating year round, the majority of the team’s players are in Australia currently seeking asylum.

Founder of the program Abdul Razzaq said each player has a tale of hardship, but united in cricket, they don’t face it alone.

“We are here together in one unit. Whatever their culture, whatever their religion, we are together like a family.”

Cricket tournament participants, among them, the All Nations Cricket teamSBS

Abdul Razzaq started the team with Monash Health and Cricket Victoria in 2015, and continues to run it voluntarily.

An asylum seeker from Pakistan, Mr Razzaq wanted to create a space and an opportunity to socialise for new arrivals at risk of depression, as they wait for answers on asylum applications.

“All those asylum seekers who are like me, I know it’s a big anxiety and stress like if you don’t have work rights or Medicare, and especially if you lose your income support.”

He said the cricket club can be the only inroad to the wider Australian community for many of the players.

Cricket Victoria multicultural participation coordinator Hussain Hanif, said a sport like cricket is uniquely placed to help bridge a cultural gap for many asylum seekers in Australia.

“I think it is integration at the end of the day, creating those inclusive spaces where all of us can integrate and use sport as a vehicle.”

Playing indoor cricket tournamentSBS

The All Nations Cricket program runs throughout the winter, when social isolation and depression for asylum seekers can be at its worst.

The group trains indoors during the colder months, with 60-80 players getting involved.

Community development co-ordinator at Monash Health, Rob Koch said while training and competition provides a bit of fun, it’s much more than just a game for the participants.

“It’s giving them the opportunity to do something they do know, they can play cricket. It’s allowing them to shine when everything else seems to be dark.”

Mr Koch said the All Nations Cricket club also helps to direct players into mainstream local clubs.

“Some of the fellows come in to our program and then get signed up for a local club and move through the ranks to get to even turf one.”

In the summer, the group trains near the Dandenong train station in Melbourne’s east to attract new members as they walk past.

Mr Razzaq said while the program is free, the benefits of participation can be priceless.

“Please come out. You can be the best in the community you can be a role model. So please come out and make a difference. Don’t give up, give back.”

China rejects US criticism over Nobel laureate’s treatment

The US embassy in Beijing joined a growing chorus of Chinese human rights lawyers and activists demanding Liu’s unconditional release amid concerns about his wellbeing.

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With three years left to serve in his 11-year sentence, the 61-year-old democracy campaigner was granted medical parole days after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer on May 23, his lawyer Mo Shaoping said.

The US embassy said Tuesday it was “working to gather more information” about Liu’s legal and medical status after authorities confirmed his transfer from prison to a hospital in northeast China.

“We call on the Chinese authorities to not only release Mr Liu but also to allow his wife Ms Liu Xia out of house arrest,” spokeswoman Mary Beth Polley told AFP.

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Liu Xia, a poet, has been under house arrest since 2010, when her husband won the Nobel prize. She suffered a heart attack in 2014, when she was also diagnosed with depression, a rights group said at the time.

Su Yutong, a Chinese activist exiled in Germany, shared a video on Twitter showing Liu Xia sobbing during a video call with a friend and saying her husband “can’t have surgery, can’t do chemotherapy”.

Friends of the couple told AFP that Liu Xia has been allowed to visit him at the hospital.

China should “provide them the protection and freedom such as freedom of movement and access to medical care of his choosing to which they are entitled under the Chinese constitution and legal system and international commitments,” Polley said.

But China’s foreign ministry hit back, saying “no country has the right to interfere and make irresponsible remarks on Chinese internal affairs”.

“China is a rule-of-law country, where everybody is equal in front of the law. Any other country should respect China’s judicial sovereignty, and shouldn’t use individual cases to interfere,” spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing after being asked about the US statement.

US-based Dui Hua Foundation rights group said a person granted medical parole in China was not “free or released” — they would be “supervised by local public security bureaus”.

Under Chinese law, it said, medical parole lasts six months after which the person’s condition is assessed. Depending on the result, parole can be extended or the person sent back to prison to serve the rest of their sentence.

‘Sentenced him to death’ 

Hundreds of Chinese lawyers, activists and friends signed a petition calling on authorities to give Liu “complete freedom” and allow his wife to “have contact with the outside world”.

They also demanded Liu be allowed to choose where he receives medical treatment and for authorities to carry out a “thorough investigation” into the circumstances that led to the deterioration of his health.

Wu’er Kaixi and Wang Dan, former student leaders at the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protests who now live overseas, also posted a joint statement on Twitter saying China had “deliberately sentenced him to death”.

Prison authorities said Monday Liu was being treated by “eight renowned Chinese oncologists” at China Medical University No 1 Hospital in the northeast city of Shenyang.

But international human rights groups and supporters demanded that Liu be granted the best medical care in China or abroad and criticised his treatment.

Citing two other cases of critics who died in detention, Human Rights Watch’s China director Sophie Richardson said the government “needs to be held to account for permitting yet another peaceful critic to fall gravely ill while unjustly detained.”

History of arrests 

The writer was sentenced in 2009 for “subversion” after spearheading a bold petition for democratic reforms. 

He was awarded the Nobel prize while in jail a year later and was represented by an empty chair at the ceremony in Oslo.

Liu is one of only three people to have won the Nobel award while jailed by their own government.

China strongly condemned the prize as foreign interference in its internal affairs.

Liu was arrested in 2008 after co-writing Charter 08, a petition posted online that called for the protection of basic human rights and reform of China’s one-party Communist system.

Liu is also known for his efforts to help negotiate the safe exit from Tiananmen Square of thousands of student demonstrators on the night of June 3-4, 1989 when the military bloodily suppressed six weeks of protests in the heart of Beijing.