French rightwing party vows ‘unanimous’ support for Fillon

“The political committee, after a wide-ranging exchange, unanimously renewed its support for Francois Fillon,” Larcher told reporters after around 20 party seniors met to “evaluate” the crisis sparked by the fake jobs scandal clouding Fillon’s campaign.

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Former prime minister Alain Juppe ruled out a run for the French presidency on Monday, boosting embattled rightwing party colleague Francois Fillon whose campaign has been thrown into chaos by a fake jobs scandal.

Juppe, 71, was the most likely candidate to replace Fillon and unite their deeply divided Republicans party only seven weeks from the start of the two-stage election.

Polls suggested Juppe would be more popular with voters, but the centrist is considered too soft on immigration and other social issues for many of Fillon’s supporters on the right flank of the party.

“I confirm for a final time that I will not be a candidate to be president of the republic,” Juppe said in a downbeat statement that criticised Fillon and said France was “sick” and suffering from a “profound crisis of confidence”.

His decision removes a major rival for Fillon, who is sticking with his bid for power despite the prospect of criminal charges later this month as well as mounting criticism within the party and falling poll numbers.

The conservative 63-year-old was once the favourite to be France’s next leader but his campaign is mired in accusations he used public funds to pay his wife hundreds of thousands of euros for fake parliamentary jobs.

“No one today can prevent me being a candidate,” Fillon told France 2 television late on Sunday, emboldened by a rally of tens of thousands of supporters in Paris earlier in the day.

Party leaders met for crisis talks on Monday evening, with allies of ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy still pushing Fillon to step aside and name a replacement.

“He’s got some breathing space but he needs to ask himself if he can still win the presidential election,” one lawmaker known to be close to Sarkozy told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The infighting among Republicans and Fillon’s chaotic campaign have made an already unpredictable election even harder to call.

The disarray appears to have benefited centrist, pro-business candidate Emmanuel Macron in particular, as well as far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who are shown in polls to be the likely top two candidates in the first round of voting on April 23.

Polls suggest 39-year-old Macron would beat Le Pen in the decisive second round on May 7 — but after Donald Trump’s victory and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, analysts caution against bold predictions.

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Juppe bows out

Juppe, now the mayor of Bordeaux, voiced Monday his critical view of the state of the election campaign.

“Never under the fifth republic have we had an election in such confused conditions,” Juppe said, stressing the dangers of National Front leader Le Pen’s “anti-European fanaticism” and Macron’s “political immaturity”.

Fillon’s defiance and accusations that the government, justice system and media were plotting against him have “led him into a dead-end”, Juppe added in one of several criticisms of his colleague.

Both Le Pen and Macron — one a far-right anti-establishment figure, the other an independent who founded a new political movement last year — have tapped into widespread anger at France’s political class.

“French people want a profound renewal of their politics,” Juppe, a veteran politician with a conviction over a party finance scandal, told a press conference in Bordeaux.

“Evidently I do not embody this renewal,” he added.

National Front vice-president Florian Philippot said Monday that many French people who were thinking of voting Fillon would now opt for Le Pen.

“They want a free, safe and prosperous France, not a France that is subjected to the most brutal winds of globalisation,” he told LCI television.

Current President Francois Hollande also warned in an interview published Monday that the threat of a Le Pen presidency was real but that he would fight to prevent it happening.

Sarkozy intervenes

Fillon, a devout Catholic, beat Juppe in the Republicans’ primary in November, pulling off a surprise victory by campaigning as a “clean” candidate.

He was the frontrunner in the presidential race until Le Canard Enchaine newspaper revealed in late January that he had paid his wife Penelope and two of their children nearly 900,000 euros ($950,000) as his parliamentary assistants.

Ahead of the meeting of Republicans party leaders later Monday, Sarkozy had piled pressure on Fillon to meet Juppe and find a way out of the crisis.

The former president urged the two men to meet “to find a dignified and credible way out of this situation which cannot continue and which is creating serious problems for the French people”.

A number of Sarkozy’s closest allies have already called on Fillon to step aside.

First woman in space turns 80

Russia has honoured the world’s first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, who recalled tense moments of her pioneering mission on her 80th birthday.

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Soviet officials at the time said the 1963 mission went without a hitch, and only a few years ago Tereshkova first spoke about a technical glitch that could have left her stranded in space.

“When the spacecraft reached the orbit, I realised that I wouldn’t be able to return to Earth because the ship was programed to move to a higher orbit instead of deorbiting,” Tereshkova said in remarks broadcast by Channel 1 television. “I reported the situation to the mission control, they told me how to change the parameters and everything went on without trouble.”

Soviet space officials started planning for a space mission by a woman soon after Yuri Gagarin became the first human to fly to space on April, 12 1961, seeing it as a way to cement the nation’s lead in a race for space supremacy against the United States.

Tereshkova, a textile factory worker who liked parachute jumps, was chosen for the flight after a rigorous selection from hundreds of candidates. While heading to the launch pad, she told her relatives that she was going to attend a parachute competition – a reflection of deep secrecy that surrounded the Soviet space program.

The three-day mission made her an instant global celebrity and a poster figure for Soviet space glory. Tereshkova received a hero’s welcome after the flight and was showered with awards and honorary titles.

“It was hard, but we realised that we were working to make the country’s glory shine and prevent the competitors from thrusting ahead,” Tereshkova said on Monday. “It was a great happiness to be the first in space.”

Her birthday led the news on national television.

President Vladimir Putin hosted Tereshkova at the Kremlin, praising her as “a role model for us and a symbol of service to the Fatherland.”

Tereshkova is still a member of the Russian parliament, serving as a deputy chair of committee for municipal issues.

Turnbull lands in Jakarta for trade talks

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has landed in Jakarta and is soon to meet his Indonesian counterpart where they are expected to continue talks on trade and security.

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Mr Turnbull will meet with President Joko Widodo for the second time in less than two weeks when he heads to the 20th anniversary of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) in the Indonesian capital on Tuesday.

President Widodo spruiked the waters as the “future” – with the region home to 2.7 billion people and a transport route for the majority of the world’s oil and half the world’s container ships.

During the IORA summit on Monday, and through a series of bilateral meetings with Indonesian ministers outside the forum, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop continued to talk up the two countries cooperation on countering terrorism, increasing trade and working towards increased maritime security.

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Mr Turnbull will continue to build on these talks on Tuesday.

He said he welcomed Indonesia’s proposal for an IORA Concord – that would include a commitment to international law and promoting regional economic growth.

Indonesia is keen to create a statement of governance in the region – hoping that by creating clear guidelines it will prevent the Indian Ocean from turning into disputed waters – like that seen in the South China Sea.

While in Jakarta, Mr Turnbull will also meet with Australian delegates to Indonesia Australia Business Week.

Trade Minister Steven Ciobo is also in town Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA), which both countries hope to have finalised by the end of next year.

Don’t attack Australia Day, government tells local councils

The Turnbull government is warning local councils against launching “politically motivated attacks” on Australia Day amid moves to change the date of citizenship ceremonies.

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Melbourne’s Yarra City council will on Tuesday debate a move to cease references to January 26 as Australia Day from next year.

The council will also vote on whether citizenship ceremonies will be held on that date.

It comes after Freemantle City Council in WA moved their 2017 Australia Day celebrations to January 28, over concerns about the sensitivity of the date for indigenous Australians.

Yarra Council said it had surveyed both the Indigenous and broader community sentiment towards January 26.

The broader community poll indicated a strong level of community support for the proposals.

“Taking a more active role in acknowledging the experience of January 26th of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including specifically a strong level of support for Council supporting the #changethedate campaign,” the council said.

The poll also showed that 51 per cent of multilingual respondents saw January 26 as the National or foundation day, as compared with 25 per cent of English speaking respondents.

“By seeking ways to better recognise and include Aboriginal peoples in Council’s approach to January 26, and by searching for a more inclusive way to celebrate the achievements of our nation, we bring our actions more in tune with the original inhabitants of this land and commence a long overdue healing process for the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community alike,” the council said.

Yarra Council said its moves could encourage others to follow.

“Recognition of Yarra’s position as a local government leader means that actions resulting from adoption of recommendations in this report are likely to have a high level of influence on other local governments in Victoria and beyond.”

But Assistant Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has written to councils warning them to oblige by rules around ceremonies or else they’ll lose their hosting rights.

“The government views the recent public actions of Greens-dominated councils, using their ability to host Australian citizenship ceremonies to lobby against Australia Day on January 26 as a breach of the Code,” he said in a statement.

Mr Hawke said the government considers January 26 the most appropriate day for ceremonies to be held.

“As long as Australia Day is celebrated on 26 January, this is a most appropriate date for a citizenship ceremony to take place,” he added.

“Local councils are now on notice that if they politicise Australian citizenship, the Government will see it as a breach of the code and take the appropriate action.”

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Eighteen die in Burkina Faso terror attack

Suspected Islamist militants have killed at least 18 people and wounded several others during a raid on a restaurant in Burkina Faso’s capital overnight, but security forces shot dead both attackers and freed people trapped inside the building.

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“This is a terrorist attack,” Communications Minister Remi Dandjinou told a news conference on Monday.

Burkina Faso, like other countries in West Africa, has been targeted sporadically by jihadist groups. Most attacks have been along its remote northern border with Mali, which has seen activity by Islamist militants for more than a decade.

A Reuters witness saw customers running out of the Aziz Istanbul restaurant in central Ouagadougou as police and paramilitary gendarmerie surrounded it, amid gunfire.

Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said two Canadians were among the dead and French Foreign Affairs minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said a French citizen was killed.

Lebanon’s interior ministry said three Lebanese died, including one who was also a Canadian national.

Earlier, Burkina Faso Foreign Affairs Minister Alpha Barry said at a news conference that seven Burkinabes, two Kuwaitis, a Nigerian, a Senegalese and a Turk were also among at least 18 killed.

French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the situation with Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Kabore, his office said, including the role of a new multinational military force aimed at fighting Islamist militants across the vast Sahel region of Africa.

A woman said she was in the restaurant celebrating her brother’s birthday when the shooting started.

“I just ran but my brother was left inside,” she told Reuters TV as she fled the building.

For many it was a grim echo of a similar attack on a restaurant and hotel in Ouagadougou in January 2016 in which 30 people were killed. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility.

‘We don’t have a problem’: Labor firm on citizenship, denies problems

Federal Labor is standing by the eligibility of its MPs to sit in parliament as it ramps up pressure on the prime minister to stand Barnaby Joyce aside while his fate is decided by the High Court.

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The Turnbull Government has referred its own deputy leader to the High Court over his dual citizenship. 

Under section 44 of Australia’s Constitution, dual citizens are ineligible to serve in parliament.

If he were disqualified, Turnbull Government’s one-seat majority in the lower house would be threatened.

The government is attempting to turn the tables on Labor by nominating five opposition MPs – including Justine Keay, Susan Lamb and Tony Zappia – it has questions about.

But senior Labor figures insist the party has rigorous vetting processes in place for candidates.

“We are entitled to be absolutely confident that we don’t have a problem,” frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon told ABC radio on Tuesday.

Mr Joyce broke the news himself on Monday, revealing the New Zealand High Commission had contacted him last week to advise he may be a New Zealand citizen. 

“Needless to say, I was shocked to receive this information,” he said.

“I’ve always been an Australian citizen born in Tamworth. Neither my or my parents had any reason to believe that I may be a citizen of any other country.” 

“The New Zealand Government has no record of registering me as a New Zealand citizen.”

Later on Monday, that suspicion was confirmed by New Zealand’s Prime Minister Bill English.

“Unwittingly or not, he’s a New Zealand citizen,” Mr English said. 

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New Zealand’s Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne confirmed Mr Joyce had inherited his citizenship automatically by descent, on account of his Kiwi father.

“It’s automatically passed on, I don’t know whether he [Mr Joyce] knew or not,” Mr Dunne reportedly told Radio NZ.

“He says he didn’t know, he says he was under the belief his father had renounced the New Zealand citizenship.

“But the fact is it is all irrelevant – if he was eligible to receive the citizenship at the time, under our legislation he does, regardless of his subsequent circumstances,” he said.

Turnbull confident Joyce will survive legal challenge

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the government was “very confident” about its legal advice that Mr Joyce would survive the High Court process. 

The government has received advice from the Solicitor-General on the matter. 

The High Court is already considering the cases of two resigned Greens senators – Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters – as well as LNP Senator Matt Canavan and One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts, who are both remaining in their jobs until the cases have been heard. 

Senator Ludlam was revealed as a New Zealand citizen, while Senator Waters discovered she was a Canadian citizen.

The court is considering whether Senator Canavan, who stepped down as from his frontbench post as resources minister but not from the Senate, should be disqualified because of his dual Italian citizenship. 

Senator Roberts has been accused of once holding British citizenship, though he claims he renounced it before he was elected. 

Labor demands Joyce stand aside 

Labor is ramping up pressure on Mr Joyce to follow the lead of his Nationals colleague Senator Canavan and resign from his ministry until his eligibility case is settled. 

The opposition has also seized on the prospect that Mr Joyce’s dual citizenship may threaten the Turnbull Government’s slim hold on the majority. 

Labor’s Tony Burke said, “We don’t know whether this government has a deputy prime minister eligible under the Australian Constitution, and we don’t even know whether we have a majority government in this country.”

Mr Burke said the government should force Mr Joyce to immediately resign from cabinet. 

Mr Joyce said he was so confident in his legal grounding that he would continue to serve as deputy leader until the court decides his political fate.

“Given the the strength of the legal advice the government has received, the prime minister has asked that I remain deputy prime minister and retain my ministerial duties,” Mr Joyce said. 

Labor pressed the government on why Senator Canavan was expected to stand aside from ministerial duties, but the same did not apply to Mr Joyce. 

“It’s up to Matt Canavan, and I guess up to Barnaby Joyce, to explain what the distinction is between his case and Senator Canavan’s case,” Labor MP Anthony Albanese said. 

Mr Turnbull has written to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, offering Labor the “opportunity” to refer any of its own MPs or senators. 

But Labor has again reasserted its confidence that every Labor member was properly elected. 

New Zealand lawyers say Joyce’s consent not required

Several New Zealand lawyers specialising in citizenship law told SBS World News that Mr Joyce would not need to sign a form or register for New Zealand citizenship to receive his rights through descent.

“It’s very possible that Barnaby became a citizen, even though he never knew anything about it and has never registered or had a passport or anything like that,” according to Anna Hood, an international law expert at the University of Auckland.  

Migration lawyer Jack Cheng at the Queen City Law firm, also in Auckland, agreed that Mr Joyce would not need to consciously agree to become a citizen. 

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Jury finds radio DJ assaulted Taylor Swift, awards her $1

A jury in Denver federal court deliberated for four hours before allowing her complaint that David Mueller had fondled her buttocks during a photo opportunity in 2013.

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Swift was awarded the nominal $1 in damages she had asked for, capping an emotional day for the “Bad Blood” singer, who had broken down in tears during the closing arguments.

The 27-year-old diva issued a statement thanking the court and acknowledging her  legal team for “fighting for me and anyone who feels silenced by a sexual assault.”

“I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this,” she said.

“My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard. Therefore, I will be making donations in the near future to multiple organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves.”

In this Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, file courtroom sketch, pop singer Taylor Swift speaks from the witness stand during a trial, in Denver (AAP)AAP

The singer had turned away from the public gallery to wipe her eyes earlier in the day as Mueller’s lawyer Gabriel McFarland questioned whether his client would have any reason to assault the star. 

The singer’s mother, Andrea Swift, also had tears in her eyes during the session as she handed her daughter tissues.

“I don’t know what kind of person grabs or gropes a music superstar, but it’s not that guy,” McFarland told the court.

He repeatedly said the singer was wrong in her assertion that Mueller had stuck his hand under her skirt and “grabbed her bare ass cheek” during a meet-and-greet before Swift’s gig at the Pepsi Center.

Related reading’No means no’ 

Swift’s aides complained to the DJ’s radio station of the incident and he lost his job.

Mueller launched a $3 million lawsuit against Swift in 2015 for loss of earnings, arguing it was her allegations that had got him sacked, while the popstar counter-sued for sexual assault.  

US District Judge William Martinez scaled back the case on Friday, ruling that there was no evidence for Mueller to be entitled to damages from Swift personally. 

The six woman, two-man jury ruled Monday that Swift’s mother and radio consultant Frank Bell weren’t liable for damages either.

Doug Baldridge, Swift’s attorney, had told the jury in his closing arguments that the sole issue to be determined was whether someone like Mueller should be allowed to humiliate or assault a woman.

“Should aggressors like Mr. Mueller be allowed to sue their victims?” Baldridge asked the jury.

The dollar in damages Swift sought “is of immeasurable value,” Baldridge said, adding: “It says ‘no means no.’ It tells every woman that they will decide what happens to their bodies.”

Baldridge told reporters outside the courthouse that the jury had “knuckled down and did the right thing.”

“Something really big happened here today. It took someone as prominent as Taylor Swift to stand up and say no,” he said.

“This really means something for the one in four women who are victims of sexual assault.”

Transgender US military ban not a done deal, Mattis hints

In a series of tweets, Trump last month upended an Obama-era policy of more than a year that allowed transgender troops to serve openly.

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But in the weeks since the July 26 tweets, the White House has not issued formal guidance to the Pentagon explaining how a ban would work, or what would happen to those transgender troops who have already come out.

Mattis said he had “no doubt” that the White House would be providing additional guidance, and said the Pentagon is giving military input as it studies the issue.

“The policy is going to address whether or not transgenders can serve under what conditions, what medical support they require, how much time would they be perhaps non-deployable, leaving others to pick up their share of everything,” Mattis told Pentagon reporters. 

“There’s a host of issues… it’s obviously very complex.”

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The current Obama-era policy remains in place for now. When pushed on whether the Pentagon will still employ transgender troops, Mattis said: “We are going to study the issue.”

He added that the Pentagon had received no White House directions that would “indicate any harm to anybody right now.”

In a lawsuit filed in federal court last week, five transgender women from the Air Force, Coast Guard and the Army said they faced uncertainty about their futures, including whether they would be fired or lose post-military and retirement benefits.

The number of transgender troops among America’s 1.3 million active duty service members is small, with estimates topping out at 15,000.

Trump’s tweeted announcement came with little apparent coordination with the Pentagon and landed while Mattis was on vacation.

Several senior military officials have voiced unease over the policy shift, with the head of the Coast Guard saying he would not “break faith” with transgender personnel.

Trump last week said he did the Pentagon a “great favor” by banning transgender troops, saying the issue had been “complicated” and “confusing” for the military.

Swift justice in radio DJ groping lawsuit

US pop star Taylor Swift has won $US1 and long-awaited vindication after a jury decided in a civil trial that a radio host groped her during a pre-concert photo op four years ago.

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After a week-long trial over duelling lawsuits, jurors determined that sacked Denver DJ David Mueller assaulted Swift by grabbing her backside during a backstage meet-and-greet.

After the verdict was handed down Swift hugged her crying mother, reiterating her desire to stand up for other women.

“My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard,” Swift said in a statement.

“Therefore, I will be making donations in the near future to multiple organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves.”

The six-woman, two-man jury also found that Swift’s mother and radio liaison were within their rights to contact Mueller’s employer about the groping.

Mueller sued the Swifts and their radio handler, Frank Bell, seeking up to $US3 million ($A3.8 million) for his ruined career. On Friday, the judge dismissed Taylor Swift from Mueller’s lawsuit, saying he failed to prove that she sought to have him sacked or had any reason to believe that someone else may have assaulted her.

“I’ve been trying to clear my name for four years,” Mueller said after the verdict.

“Civil court is the only option I had. This is the only way that I could be heard.”

The singer-songwriter said in her countersuit that she wanted a symbolic $US1.

Swift’s side have always portrayed the encounter as sexual assault despite not reporting it to police. Swift’s mother testified that she asked Bell to reach out to Mueller’s employer to avoid exposing the singer-songwriter to publicity.

Bell contacted a station vice president and sought an investigation into Mueller. He also sent the station executive the photo in question of Swift, Mueller and Mueller’s then-girlfriend at the meet-and-greet.

In her testimony last week, Swift blasted a low-key characterisation by Mueller’s lawyer, Gabriel McFarland, of what happened. Mueller testified he never grabbed Swift, but she insisted she was groped.

“He stayed attached to my bare ass-cheek as I lurched away from him,” Swift testified.

“It was a definite grab. A very long grab,” she added.

Mueller emphatically denied reaching under Swift’s skirt or touching her inappropriately, and said he only toucher her ribs and may have brushed the outside of her skirt.

The photo shows Mueller’s hand is behind Swift, just below her waist. Both are smiling. Mueller’s then-girlfriend is standing on the other side of Swift. The jury saw the image but it was never publicly released.

Swift testified that after she was groped, she numbly thanked Mueller and his girlfriend before moving onto others waiting in line.

But she said she immediately after the media op was over she went to her photographer, retrieved the image and said what had just happened.

Woods had five drugs in system at time of DUI arrest – report

It is not known if Woods had prescriptions for all of the medications.

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Medical marijuana is legal in Florida.

A request made by Reuters to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for a copy of the toxicology report was not returned.

Woods, who is second on the all-time list with 14 major titles, checked into a clinic in June for treatment to help deal with prescription drugs.

He said last month he had completed treatment.

“As I previously said, I received professional help to manage my medications,” Woods said in a statement.

“Recently, I had been trying on my own to treat my back pain and a sleep disorder, including insomnia, but I realise now it was a mistake to do this without medical assistance.

“I am continuing to work with my doctors, and they feel I’ve made significant progress. I remain grateful for the amazing support that I continue to receive and for the family and friends that are assisting me.”

Police found Woods stopped on the side of a Palm Beach-area road in his Mercedes-Benz at about 3 a.m. (0700 GMT) on May 29.

He had “extremely slow and slurred speech” after being awakened by a police officer but was cooperative and told officers he takes several prescriptions, including Xanax, according to a police report.

Woods, who had been heading away from his home, could not remember where he was going and told police he was returning from Los Angeles.

A blood test showed he had the painkiller Vicodin and the antidepressant Xanax in his system but no alcohol. He was charged with driving under the influence and improperly stopping his vehicle.

In a statement after his arrest, Woods apologised to fans and blamed the incident on prescription medication he was taking to manage pain from a recent back surgery.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

WA police to increase industrial action

The WA Police Union has instructed members to escalate industrial action by not seeking police costs in court and closing stations if only one officer is present.

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The union said in a statement on Tuesday it had told prosecutors in magistrates courts to not seek costs associated with arrests and summonses, which it said would cost the government up to $100,000 a day.

Handing out fewer traffic infringements over the past month had already amounted to more than $230,000 a day in lost revenue, according to union president George Tilbury.

The WA Labor government says it can only afford a flat $1000 wage increase for public servants over the course of a year due to the state’s budget woes.

The union was responding to the McGowan government’s inaction over pay, conditions and additional police officers, it said in a statement.

Police officers would also be instructed to close police station doors if two police officers were not available to attend front counter duties at night.

If a member of the public attends a police station during these times and requires immediate assistance for a life threatening matter, backup will be requested from the nearest car to protect officers but community safety would not be compromised, Mr Tilbury said.

There had been major incidents at Perth police stations this year, including an officer being stabbed at Gosnells and drive-by shootings outside Armadale and Rockingham.

That action would target Labor’s election promise to extend the opening hours of certain police stations, without fully resourcing them, he said.

“The cost of sorting this out would have been significantly less than the financial loss it has suffered to date, which will only get worse,” Mr Tilbury said.

Girl dies as car drives into French pizzeria, terrorism ruled out

The episode came just five days after a terror-linked car attack on soldiers, the latest in a string of assaults in France since early 2015.

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Investigators have “ruled out the terrorist hypothesis” behind the latest incident, which took place in the town of Sept-Sorts, 55 kilometres (34 miles) east of Paris, a source close to the inquiry said.

The man, who was arrested, said “he had tried to kill himself yesterday (Sunday) without success and decided to try again this way,” the source said.

In Paris, interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said the fatality was a girl aged 13, and not aged eight as initially reported.

Four people were seriously hurt, after a preliminary figure had been given of six. 

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The driver, born in 1985, “is not known to the intelligence services and has no criminal record,” Brandet said.

One of the four was the girl’s younger brother, police said.

Earlier, the public prosecutor’s office in the town of Meaux said investigators believed the act was “deliberate… but apparently has no connection with a terrorist act.”

France is on edge after suffering a string of terror-related attacks, including the use of cars as weapons.

On August 9, six soldiers were injured after they were hit by a rented BMW in the western Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret. A BMW was also involved in Monday’s incident.

The suspect, a 36-year-old Algerian man, was later shot and wounded after a dramatic motorway chase.

The death toll from jihadist attacks in France has exceeded 230 since January 2015.

The country has been under a state of emergency since the Islamic State group attacked in Paris in November 2015, leaving 130 people dead.

Concerns follow China’s successful GM puppy clones

Of the two beagles playing inside a lab located north of downtown Beijing, one – puppy Longlong – looks like the offspring of the older beagle, Apple.

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But he’s not.

Longlong is Apple’s clone.

Mi Jidong is the General Manager of the Beijing biotech company behind the clones, Sino Gene.

“These two dogs, Longlong and Apple, are 99.9 per cent the same. Longlong’s birth is a breakthrough in terms of genetic modification and cloning and its application to dogs.”

Two other puppy clones, Qiqi and Nuonuo, were born a month later.

Sino Gene says the dogs will be used to study gene-based diseases – such as heart disease and diabetes.

The reason this breakthrough is so significant is because dogs – though they may not look like it – are more genetically similar to humans than other animals.

Apple’s DNA was altered so he would have higher levels of blood lipids – a trait associated with high cholesterol, says Mi Jidong.

“This will be helpful in the development of new medicines and studying the mechanism of certain diseases.”

The company also wants to produce ‘super dogs’ for police search and rescue teams: puppies born with a superior sense of smell and intelligence.

It says cloning a genetically-edited animal makes that more efficient.

But animal welfare groups are concerned.

Peter Li is the China Policy expert of Humane Society International and based in the United States.

“Cloning has many problems. Large numbers of animals are used as donors and surrogate mothers. But the success rate is very small. So it’s a huge waste of animal life.”

Mr Li says the experimentation has also raised ethical questions around cloning.

“If we see cloned animals as a testing object, I wonder how soon this work will be applied to humans.”

Fabiene Delerue is an animal geneticist at the University of NSW.

He believes the breakthrough is impressive, but says the lack of transparency in Chinese labs is worrying.

“Doing it on animals doesn’t mean it can translate with the same outcome in humans, but obviously once you’ve allowed this technology to do something it may well be more complicated to say no, you should not use it for something else.”

But Zhao Nanyuan, a retired professor from Beijng’s Tsinghua University, believes western ethical standards hold back scientific progress.

“I’m sure other countries will lag behind china when it comes to human genetic research because of their concerns.”

Apple and these puppies may be the world’s first genetically modified canine clones, but they’re probably not the last.