Govt edges towards Syria mission

The government appears to be edging towards expanding the role of the RAAF's air task group in the Middle East to include bombing terror group Islamic State inside Syria.Currently Australian F/A-18 Hornet aircraft conduct air strikes inside Iraq right up to the border with Syria but don't intrude into Syrian air space.Prime Minister Tony Abbott said IS was just as evil and dangerous on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border."That's why I can understand why there is some interest on the part of our partners in Australian airstrikes," he told reporters in Canberra.Mr Abbott said the government had so far received no formal request from the US to extend air combat missions and had made no decision.Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said Australia's aim was to destroy Daesh and that was…
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Vic man jailed for murder, dumping body

A Victorian drug addict who shot a man in the back of the head, stole drugs from his car and dumped his body in an abandoned gold mine will spend at least 20 years behind bars.Ricky Lee Ganly was missing for about eight months before his decomposed body and car were found in the flooded Avoca Lead Dredging Site early last year.He had been shot at close range with a cut-back rifle by Maryborough man Jesse Willis, 30, who later lied and said he killed the 48-year-old in self-defence.Willis claimed Mr Ganly stood over him, cut him with a scissors, and demanded Willis give him a gun after the pair had scored drugs and driven to Avoca.He claimed he later grabbed the gun and fired the shot as Mr Ganly…
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Huge blasts at Chinese port kill 44, firefighters missing

At least 520 people were injured, more than 60 of them seriously, the Tianjin government said on its Weibo microblog, and the People's Daily newspaper said four fires were still burning. Wednesday night's blasts, so large that they were seen by satellites in space, sent shockwaves through apartment blocks kilometres away in the port city of 15 million people. Internet videos showed fireballs shooting into the sky and the US Geological Survey registered the blasts as seismic events.Vast areas of the port - the 10th largest in the world - were devastated, crumpled shipping containers were thrown around like match sticks, hundreds of new cars were torched and port buildings left as burnt-out shells, Reuters witnesses said."I was sleeping when our windows and doors suddenly shook as we heard explosions outside.…
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Online profile fakers may be charged in UK

Internet trolls who set up fake profiles in the name of their victims to post damaging or embarrassing material can face criminal charges, according to new advice for British prosecutors.Social media guidelines are being updated by the Crown Prosecution Service to cover cases where offenders create false online accounts and websites.The CPS said: "For example, it may be a criminal offence if a profile is created under the name of the victim with fake information uploaded which, if believed, could damage their reputation and humiliate them."In some cases the information could then be shared in such a way that it appears as though the victim has themselves made the statements."Such conduct could amount to an offence such as grossly offensive communication or harassment.Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said: "Offenders…
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Sanctions on North Korea among toughest ever

North Korea has been further isolated after the United Nations voted for harsh new sanctions described as some of the toughest ever imposed by the international body.In a move designed to starve North Korea of nuclear-program funding, all cargo going in and out of the country will now be inspected and fuel imports banned.The new sanctions follow a nuclear test in January and last month's rocket launch that the United States suspects used banned ballistic missile technology.The measures, aimed at curbing North Korea's military ambitions, have received overwhelming support from the United Nations Security Council.Council president Ismael Gaspar Martins announced the historic outcome."The result of the voting is the following: The draft resolution received 15 votes in favour. The draft resolution has been adopted unanimously as Resolution 2270, 2016."The resolution…
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Openly gay Liberal MP pleads for end to prejudice

Australia's first openly gay federal Member of Parliament says the country can be proud of how far anti-gay discrimination has been broken down.But he says the journey is not complete.Trent Zimmerman, the New South Wales Liberal Party president, replaced former treasurer Joe Hockey in the seat of North Sydney late last year. Mr Zimmerman has used his first speech in parliament to deliver an emotional plea for Australians to see discrimination over sexuality like discrimination based on race or gender. The speech comes after he won the seat of North Sydney in a by-election in 2015 following former federal treasurer Joe Hockey's departure from politics.Mr Zimmerman says some people had told him this was not the time to reflect on the issue and surely a person's sexuality was irrelevant in…
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Walker a natural at five-eighth: Barrett

Manly coach Trent Barrett has hailed Dylan Walker as a natural five-eighth ahead of the former South Sydney centre's debut in the Sea Eagles' halves.One of the key talking points in the NRL's opening round is how off-season recruit Walker can combine with Daly Cherry-Evans in their first match together at the scrumbase in Friday night's clash with Canterbury at Brookvale Oval.After missing the finals for the first time in 11 years last season, Manly are expected to be one of the NRL's big movers in 2016.Under new mentor Barrett, Manly embarked on an impressive spending spree that included the acquisition of Rabbitohs premiership winner and former Kangaroos centre Walker and Test stars Nate Myles and Martin Taupau.A former Australian and NSW five-eighth, Barrett believes Walker, who played at pivot…
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Service sector growing, but fragile

Australia's services sector expanded in February, but growth was patchy and fragile.The Australian Industry Group's Performance of Services Index (PSI) lifted 3.4 points to 51.8 points, with a move above 50 indicating the sector is growing.The growth was driven by health and community services, which includes health, welfare and education.Household consumer spending in the sub sector has been robust, as shown in Wednesday's December quarter GDP figures, which economists have put down to Australia's ageing population.The Ai Group report said the low Australian dollar has also benefited personal and recreational services because consumers have been spending more on local services instead of buying imported goods or overseas holidays.Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox says the result is encouraging."The bounce in the services sector in February is a tentative yet positive…
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Bangladesh down Pakistan in T20

Bangladesh qualified for the final of the Asia Cup after beating Pakistan by five wickets on Wednesday.Pakistan recovered from 4-28 to post 7-129, before Bangladesh reached a winning total of 5-131 in 19.1 overs.Mahmudullah secured victory, and a place in Sunday's final against India, with a deep mid-wicket boundary.Mahmudullah was unbeaten on 22, but Soumya Sarkar (48) provided the platform for the victory.Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Amir had figures of 2-26 and kept his side's hopes alive until Mashrafe Mortaza (12 not out) hit him for two consecutive boundaries in the 18th over.Those two boundaries off a searing yorker and a bouncer came after Shakib Al Hasan perished to a reverse sweep shot, piling the pressure on Pakistan.With 18 runs needed in the last two overs, fast bowler Mohammad Sami…
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He wanted to stay in bed. His family wanted him at school. So he shot them, police say

Sure, many schools start too early. And, sure, getting out of bed can be hard sometimes.But one Tennessee teenager had an extreme reaction to his family's request on Tuesday morning that he get up and get ready for school: He shot them, according to Nashville police.The teen, who has not been publicly identified, became angry when his grandmother, Earline Hill, and mother, Sheryl Williams, told him to get his day going, police said in a statement. He threatened the pair and then retrieved a handgun no one knew he had before firing multiple shots in the family apartment, police said."There was a quarrel about getting up and getting ready for the day when [at some point] the 16-year-old ran to a closet, got a 9mm handgun and started firing," Nashville…
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Libs at war, Shorten says of sub leak row

Cabinet ministers are refusing to draw a link between the leaking of classified defence documents and former prime minister Tony Abbott.But Labor has used the leak to say the Liberal Party is at war with itself."What is wrong with the Liberals that they have this born-to-rule mentality where they think their civil war is more important than the issues affecting the nation," Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.Mr Abbott insists he wasn't the source of leaked sections of a draft copy of the Defence white paper which indicated the first of Australia's new submarine fleet would be delivered in the late-2020s.The white paper, released by the Turnbull government last week, says acquisition of the 12 new subs would start later this year with the first entering…
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SBS Arabic radio set to go 24 hours a day

SBS is set to launch a new 24-hour, Arabic-language radio channel.Those behind the new service say they hope it will promote social cohesion and be an important source of information for Arabic-speaking migrants settling in Australia.Arabic is one of the most widely spoken languages in Australia, rivalling Mandarin and Cantonese.It is also one of the fastest-growing.Another 12,000 asylum seekers from Syria and Iraq will be settled in Australia over the coming years, in addition to the regular humanitarian intake.To cater to this growing audience, SBS will launch a new 24/7 Arabic-language radio service next week.Heba Kassoua will host the new Drive program in the afternoons.She herself moved to Australia from Syria when she was 16 years old."I had to learn English from scratch, which was the biggest challenge. I feel…
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IS offshoot in Egypt claims beheading of Croatian hostage

The authenticity of the picture could not independently verified, which carried a caption that said: "killing of the Croatian hostage, due to his country's participation in the war against Islamic State, after the deadline expired."Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said authorities were examining the image. "It is my duty to break the silence and tell the Croatian public that we cannot confirm with 100 percent certainty that it is true what we see, and which is horrifying," he told a news conference. "I don't know if we will be able to do it in the coming days, but what we see does not look good ... I'm afraid that for the first time, what has happened to the citizens of other countries has happened to a Croatian citizen." The photograph,…
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