Dutch air crash investigators have announced they will release next Tuesday a preliminary report into what brought down flight MH17 over east Ukraine, killing 298 passengers.

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“The preliminary report will present factual information based on sources available to the Dutch Safety Board (OVV),” investigators said in a statement on Thursday.

The highly-anticipated first report will be released on the OVV’s website at 10.00am (1800 AEST) on Tuesday, but there will be “no press conference”, it said.

“In the months to come further investigation is needed before the final report is written,” added the OVV, which earlier said it hoped to have a final report “within a year”.

The Netherlands is in charge of probing the crash of the Malaysia airlines Boeing 777, which exploded over strife-torn Ukraine on July 17, killing all on board, including 193 Dutch citizens and 38 Australian nationals and residents.

The West has blamed Russian-backed separatists for shooting down MH17, while Moscow blames Kiev.

Air crash investigators returned to The Hague from Ukraine in early August without being able to visit the crash site due to the deteriorating security situation in the country’s volatile east.

Ukrainian air crash experts – who now form part of the OVV team – did however visit the scene shortly after the crash.

The aircraft’s black boxes were shipped to Farnborough in Britain to be examined by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

The search for body parts, however, has been suspended since early August because of heavy fighting between Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels in the area.

The OVV has already announced that its preliminary report will include not only the black box findings, but also information gathered from satellite and other images, and radar information.

In a question-and-answer section on its website, the OVV posed the question whether it would be publicly releasing the content from the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, which comprise the two black boxes.

The answer given by the board was: “Investigative materials and sources of information used by the OVV in its investigations are protected by law.

“Only information relevant to determining the cause of the MH17 crash will be included in the final report.

“The available investigative information will not be released publicly in their entirety, except for what is published in the final report.”


A senior executive working for a long-time Liberal donor referred to the Free Enterprise Foundation as a “diversionary” organisation, emails obtained by the NSW corruption watchdog reveal.

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The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is investigating claims the foundation was used to disguise back-door donations to the NSW Liberal Party in the lead-up to the 2011 election.

Among the high-profile donors under investigation is Nathan Tinkler, who has told the inquiry he believed the foundation was synonymous with the federal Liberal party, not the NSW party.

Property developers have been banned from making political donations in NSW since 2009, but are free to donate at the federal level.

Robert Millner, the chairman of Brickworks, told the ICAC on Thursday that the firm was a long-time Liberal supporter and that in 2010 he was asked to direct donations via the foundation.

“They just asked could we give part of the donation to the Free Enterprise Foundation,” Mr Millner said.

“We’ve been a donor many times before and many times after those dates and I agreed, and I took that proposition back (and) both boards agreed.”

Lindsay Partridge, the managing director of the publicly-listed company, said Brickworks regularly gave donations via the foundation because it was more “discreet” than handing money straight to the Liberal Party.

“It kept it out of the press’s eyes until after the official declaration was done, which was usually after the election,” Mr Partridge told the inquiry.

“Giving money to the Liberal Party was like giving a hot chip to a bunch of seagulls.

“The seagull that’s got the chip in its mouth doesn’t necessarily get to eat it.”

One email he sent on July 29, 2010 to senior NSW Liberal fundraiser Paul Nicolaou makes direct reference to a $50,000 donation for the state.

“Via the diversionary organization there is $50 for NSW, $250k in total,” Mr Partridge wrote to Mr Nicolaou, who was then running the NSW Liberal Party’s fundraising arm, the Millennium Forum.

He said it wasn’t till 2011 that he began asking his staff questions about NSW legislation restricting political donations “to see whether it affected us as such”.


US Secretary of State John Kerry has met for over two hours with Palestinian negotiators for “constructive” talks on future relations with Israel, a US official says.

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The talks come just days after Israel announced its biggest grab of Palestinian land since the 1980s, and as a new showdown looms at the United Nations with the increasingly frustrated Palestinians planning to push a resolution setting a three-year deadline to end the Israeli occupation.

It was Kerry’s first face-to-face talks with Palestinian negotiators since the US found itself sidelined from the Gaza ceasefire talks in July, when the top US diplomat failed to broker a truce in the war between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

“Kerry met with Saeb Erekat and Majid Faraj for about two hours this afternoon,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

“It was a constructive conversation that covered a range of issues, including Gaza, Israeli-Palestinian relations, and recent developments in the region,” she said, adding they had agreed to talk again in coming weeks.

Kerry had also spoken on Tuesday by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when he expressed his concerns about new Israeli plans to confiscate about 400 hectares of land in the occupied West Bank for settlement building.

The US has called on Israel to reverse the decision.

State Department officials say the Palestinians had requested Wednesday’s meeting “to brief the secretary on current Palestinian plans on the way forward and next steps in Gaza”.

More than 2100 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip, nearly 70 per cent of them civilians, which ended last week with an open-ended ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militant groups, brokered by Egypt.


A Queensland woman who was bashed and robbed in a sleepy island town by young men she knew is still too scared to leave her house.

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It’s been more than two years since Stradbroke Island couple Brian and Hetty Conlon’s post office and adjoining home were razed by fire and Mrs Conlon was kicked in the head during a violent robbery.

Five men charged over the July 21, 2012, incident at Dunwich appeared in the District Court in Brisbane on Thursday for sentencing.

The Conlons weren’t there because Mrs Conlon was still too traumatised by the cowardly attack, crown prosecutor Ron Swanwick told the court.

Her husband’s victim impact statement said the couple had put their business on the market because Mrs Conlon no longer felt safe in the town.

“She’s now constantly afraid of several young adolescent males that roam the streets of our township with no parental control,” he said in the statement read by Mr Swanwick.

“She no longer ventures into the main shopping area of the town for fear of meeting these people.”

The attack sent shock waves through the community and widened racial divides in Dunwich, home to a large indigenous community to which the offenders belong.

Tiege Lanczy Kalen Burns, 26, Tama Moearara Teoting Edwards, 25, Jacob Warren Martin, 20, Hunter Gabriel Murray-Costelloe, 19, and Bruce Issiah Walker, 20, must wait until Monday to learn their punishment after Judge Terence Martin reserved his judgment.

The court heard the gang was high on ice, cannabis and alcohol when they hatched the plot to set fire to a school in the early hours and lure Mr Conlon, a citizen firefighter, from his house.

With faces masked, Burns, Edwards, Murray-Costelloe and another man, Michael Coghill, broke into the home and forced the terrified Mrs Conlon, 45, to open the post office safe.

As the gang made off with about $23,000 in notes and coins, Murray-Costelloe kicked the slightly built, Indonesian-born woman hard in the side of her face and Burns used petrol to torch the house.

Mrs Conlon escaped, but suffered serious injuries to her face and eye from the attack, which Mr Swanwick said started out as “a nasty version of a Secret Seven adventure”, but ended as a “heavy duty crime”.

Coghill was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment last year.

Burns, Murray-Costelloe, Edwards and Walker have pleaded guilty to robbery and arson-related charges, while Murray-Costelloe has also pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm.

Martin has pleaded guilty to damaging evidence.

Their respective barristers told the court the men were sorry for their crime, with several submitting that substance addictions played a role.


Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles looks north for a population top-up and south for a business influx, and says his reliant state is on the path to pulling its own weight.

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Investment in key infrastructure is needed to unlock the territory’s potential, he also says, and to support the growth of industries which underpin neighbouring states.

“It’s weird when you think about the mining and development that has occurred in WA and Queensland … I’m no geologist, but I’m sure that there are rocks and hydrocarbons that flow beyond those borders,” Mr Giles told AAP.

“We need to transition ourselves from a receiver of commonwealth money to producing our own income, on a broader scale than what we already do, so we can contribute to the rest of the nation.

“To do that you need to be able open the country up – support mining, agriculture and horticulture and other developments … otherwise you continue to be a mendicant (begging) state with your hand out.”

Mr Giles supports creating a new economic zone for the NT, but says investment in missing transport and other infrastructure could deliver an earlier economic boost.

Projects include an Alice Springs to Moomba gas pipeline, Tanami Road connecting Alice Springs to Halls Creek and a rail link from Mt Isa to Tennant Creek. Telecommunications were also vital.

Mr Giles spoke after a meeting with business leaders in Melbourne. His investment roadshow has also touched down in Sydney and will next visit Brisbane and Perth.

“We want to sell the message of who the NT is, what we’ve got to offer and we want investment from Australia,” he said.

“We are actively encouraging investment from overseas, from Asia, but – fundamentally – we want Australia to invest in Australia.”

A parliamentary report on the development of northern Australia, also released on Thursday, said university graduates could have their HELP debt wiped if they moved to the region to start their careers.

Mr Giles said past schemes aimed at encouraging Australians to relocate were under-subscribed and the NT should instead boost its attractiveness as an educational hub for Asian students.

“Four hours to the south of Darwin there are six major cities … and 23 million people,” Mr Giles said.

“You look four hours north you’ve got eight capital cities of nations, 36 trading ports and 69 international airports and half-a-billion people.”

NT DEVELOPMENT REPORT – MAIN RECOMMENDATIONS:

* Wipe off HELP debt for graduates who move to remote northern locations

* Relocate public service and defence assets to the north

* Appoint a federal northern Australia minister

* Create special economic zones

* Upgrade key roads

* Develop climate change impact planning process

* Improve access to high-speed broadband


It’s a long way from the outback West Australian mining town of Southern Cross to the bright lights of Hollywood.

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Cody Fern has made that journey.

But you get the feeling the 25-year-old actor will be OK.

Destiny has guided his path so far and now a fellow West Australian actor, the late Heath Ledger, is likely keeping a protective eye on him.

Fern has been named by Los Angeles-based organisation Australians in Film as the sixth winner of the Heath Ledger Scholarship, a moment that confirmed his decision to turn his back on a lucrative career in finance and pursue his love of acting.

“The other day I was looking up the Hollywood sign and thought, ‘Wow, it’s not a dream anymore. It’s actually tangible’,” Fern told AAP.

Benefactors of the Heath Ledger Scholarship include Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Hugh Jackman, Deborra-Lee Furness, Michelle Williams, Phil Noyce, Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin.

The award was set up in memory of Academy Award-winner Ledger after his tragic death in 2008. Previous winners are Bella Heathcote, Ryan Corr, Oliver Ackland, Anna McGahan and, most recently, James Mackay.

Fern will be celebrated at West Hollywood’s SLS Hotel on Thursday night at an event hosted by the multi-talented Tim Minchin.

Ledger’s father, Kim, phoned Fern with the news he was the scholarship winner.

“Kim was just flat out generous and said the Ledger family would support me 100 per cent,” Fern said.

“Heath always spoke about how important his family was to him and to now have his family behind me, it is just extraordinary.”

Southern Cross is 400km inland from Perth and growing up, he yearned to be an actor, but after high school, he attended Perth’s Curtain University, earned a commerce degree and honours in strategic marketing, and then scored an Ernst and Young scholarship.

It didn’t feel right, so he packed up, moved to Sydney and scored the lead role in the Australian stage production of War Horse.

He has just signed with an LA agent and manager, and has auditioned for a number of feature films.

“I have to pinch myself when I look out the window and see Beverly Hills,” he said.

“It is so crazy to me.

“Southern Cross has it’s own harsh beauty.

“Beverly Hills is far more manicured.”

The scholarship is designed to give Fern the best shot at making it in Hollywood.

He receives $10,000 cash, a two-year scholarship at the Stella Adler Academy of Acting and Theatre in Los Angeles, two return flights to Los Angeles on Virgin Australia, a 10-day California trip from Visit California, $5000 worth of visa and immigration services from Raynor & Associates, and complimentary lifetime membership to audition website StarNow.

Charlotte Best and Axle Whitehead were named as scholarship runners-up.


Men who gorge on bacon, ham and sausages could be damaging their hearts and heading for an early grave, new research has shown.

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A large study of more than 37,000 men found that processed meat significantly increases the risk of death from heart failure.

Those consuming the most – 75 grams per day or more – were twice as likely to die from heart failure than those who ate 25 grams or less.

Every extra 50 grams of processed meat, the equivalent of one or two slices of ham, increased heart failure risk by 8 per cent and the chances of dying from the condition by 38 per cent.

Last year, a study of half a million people from 10 European countries concluded that diets high in processed meat raised the risk of heart disease, cancer and early death.

Processed meat has also been linked to an increased risk of bowel cancer.

The new research conducted in Sweden is the first to distinguish between the effects of processed and unprocessed red (non-poultry) meat.

It found that while processed meat had a big impact on heart failure and death rates, the same was not true of unprocessed meat.

The authors defined processed meats as those preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives.

Examples included cold cuts, such as ham or salami, sausages, bacon and hot dogs.

Study participants completed questionnaires asking about diet and other lifestyle factors and were monitored for almost 12 years.

“To reduce your risk of heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases, we suggest avoiding processed red meat in your diet, and limiting the amount of unprocessed red meat to one to two servings per week or less,” Polish lead scientist Dr Joana Kaluza, from the Department of Human Nutrition at Warsaw University of Life Sciences said.

“Instead, eat a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grain products, nuts and increase your servings of fish.”

The findings are reported in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Heart Failure.

Although the study only involved men, the researchers say the same trends are likely to be seen in women.

Heart failure, which often follows a heart attack, occurs when the heart becomes too weak to pump blood around the body efficiently.

Although not necessarily fatal, it can lead to death from fluid in the lungs or an irregular heart beat.

Men taking part in the study were aged 45 to 79 with no previous history of heart failure, heart disease or cancer.

Over the 12-year follow-up period, 2891 of the men were diagnosed with heart failure and 266 died from the condition.

Earlier this week, US researchers who studied 89,000 women aged 24 to 43 said that consuming a lot of red meat in early adult life may slightly increase the risk of breast cancer.

But experts urged caution over the report, in the British Medical Journal, because the link was weak.


It is estimated more than 65,000 people at Sao Paulo’s Corinthians Arena watched the kick during the World Cup opening ceremony, with billions watching the broadcast around the world.

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Juliano Pinto, 29, is completely paralysed in his lower body yet performed the symbolic kick-off as part of the opening ceremony.

It was made possible by wearing a robotic exoskeleton operated by brain signals.

Using the suit, Mr Pinto kicked the official ball a short distance on a mat placed near the touchline.

The suit is the result of 30 years work and numeours clinical tests, detailed in more than 200 scientific papers by Brazilian neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis.

Mr Nicolelis says it is something of a medical miracle.

We did it!!!!

— Miguel Nicolelis (@MiguelNicolelis) June 12, 2014

“It’s the first time an exoskeleton has been controlled by brain activity and offered feedback to the patients,” he told AFP.

He said he believes the World Cup is the perfect venue for the world to see a technology that can revolutionise movement for three million spinal cord injury patients globally.

‘Event not given the attention it deserves’

Meanwhile, television networks have come under fire for failing to broadcast the moment, with social media users criticising the coverage.

Some commentators also blasted the organisers of the ceremony, accusing them of sidelining the moment in favour of other performing acts.

Been waiting 3 years to see the Brazilian paraplegic kick a football in a neuroprosthetic exoskeleton and they didn’t even show it on TV

— Bella (@tweet_bells) June 12, 2014

So the media missed the inaugural goal of the paraplegic brazilian….bummer. #WorldCup

— Yomna Maعrouf ✿ (@YMa3rouf) June 12, 2014

No one has even uploaded a real video of the paraplegic first kick from the World Cup. WTF is wrong with everyone.

— The Adequate Gatsby (@TheSammichLine) June 12, 2014


Published online by The Los Angeles Times at 10.

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25am Eastern Australian time, the piece spoke broadly on the discussions between the two leaders which took place during Mr Abbott’s visit to Washington this week.

Pointing to the recent 70th anniversary of the D-day landings at Normandy, Mr Abbott and President Obama highlighted ongoing collaborations between Australia and the US on issues of economics and security.

“Australia and the United States have consistently stood together, not just for our own security but for the well-being of people far beyond our borders,” they wrote.

“Today, we are standing shoulder to shoulder against terrorism, and we continue to work together training and supporting Afghan forces as they prepare to assume responsibility for their own future.”

Security for Asia, Iraq

The piece also detailed challenges facing both countries, including regional instability in Asia and potential conflict.

It stated that neither the United States nor Australia had a position on territorial disputes, but noted that they “both strongly oppose the use of intimidation, coercion or aggression to advance any country’s claims”.

“If we want to live in a prosperous region, international disputes must be resolved peacefully and in accordance with international law,” they wrote.

“Freedom of lawful sea and air navigation must be sustained, so that the movement of goods and people on which we all depend continues uninterrupted.”

The piece did not mention conflict in Iraq, despite the developments featuring in one hour discussion between the two leaders.

Mr Abbott told the Nine Network that he hadn’t ruled out Australian involvement in any military action.

“This is a serious situation,” he said.

“It would be a very serious and critical development for the world generally if a large chunk of Iraq was to fall into the hands of al-Qaeda-type terrorists.”

Climate change

Climate change was not mentioned, though in comments made to media separately, Mr Abbott said the matter had been discussed between the two leaders.

The prime minister said that despite a vastly different approach to the US on carbon emissions his government was treating the issue “with great seriousness”.

“It was raised and we had a very good discussion because Australia is taking very serious action on climate change,” Mr Abbott told Nine Network.

The comments come after a difference in opinion between the two leaders, with Mr Obama having described climate change as the most significant long-term challenge facing the planet.

Mr Abbott said earlier this week, ahead of talks with Mr Obama that while climate change was “a significant global issue”, he did not believe it was the most important issue facing the world.

The prime minister has been resisting a push by US officials to have climate change included on the agenda for the G20 leaders meeting in Brisbane in November.

G20 Summit

The piece also pointed towards the upcoming G20 summit, which the leaders said would focus on boosting economic growth and creating jobs.

“The Brisbane summit in November will be an opportunity to put in place strong measures to strengthen infrastructure investment, promote energy efficiency, fight tax avoidance and evasion, and complete the financial regulatory reform agenda outlined by the G-20 (sic) in response to the global financial crisis,” they wrote.

“The challenges our nations face in the world today are numerous and complex. The partnerships we need among nations for common approaches to shared problems are not easily forged.

“But standing with our D-day veterans in Normandy and reflecting on all they achieved seven decades ago, we were reminded of a simple truth: When our countries stand together, our nations and the world are more secure, more prosperous and more just. Bound by our shared history and values, that is the cause to which we rededicate ourselves today.”

– with AAP 


Described by Brazil’s government as “the Cup to end all Cups,” the tournament kicked off on Thursday to a backdrop of controversy and concern.

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The world football organisation, FIFA, is facing corruption allegations over how Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup as well as match-fixing claims, fewer countries are keen to host big events and even some sponsors are starting to question the “halo effect” of associating with them.

Ever since the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, which set the gold standard, large sporting events have been increasingly used to drive infrastructure projects and try to regenerate cities.

Sports economists and sources inside FIFA say Brazil, the most expensive World Cup ever at an estimated cost of $11.3 billion, has shown both the limits and the risks of this model.

Although the nature of the bidding process means countries able to splurge on state-of-the-art stadiums will still attract support, there is a growing sense among the populations of cities and nations considering being hosts for major sporting events that bigger is not always better.

“I think we are at a turning point in the history of mega-events and I think the turning point will lead to a very much reduced ambition towards infrastructure connected with these events,” said Wolfgang Maennig, a professor at Hamburg University who specializes in sports economics.

For Maennig, who won Olympic gold at Seoul 1988 as a German rower, big sporting events have become so political and controversial they risk losing both corporate sponsors and countries willing to host them.

He points to the IOC’s difficulty in finding a country to hold the 2022 Winter Olympics. Germany’s Munich and Switzerland’s St. Moritz-Davos both withdrew planned bids when people in the two places voted ‘no’ in referendums, leaving the IOC scrambling for a suitable candidate.

In Brazil, which will also host the 2016 Olympics, protests and strikes have dominated the public mood since millions took to the streets during a World Cup warm-up last June to bemoan poor public services.

“The positive to be taken out of Brazil is that we have learnt from it and will do things differently next time,” one FIFA source said. The source added that FIFA should have insisted that Brazil cut the number of host cities from 12, which would have reduced the number of potential problems with unfinished infrastructure, and made good on the threat to move games if venues weren’t quite ready for prime time.

Football’s European body UEFA has already got the message – reducing the burden on any one country for its European Championship, with the 2020 tournament to be played in 13 cities across Europe.

FLAT-OUT NERVOUS

For sponsors the equation may be changing too, as negative headlines have swelled from the usual trickle to a flood.

Sponsors took the rare decision to speak out on the corruption probe into Qatar’s bid, with Adidas saying the negative debate around FIFA “is neither good for football nor for FIFA and its partners.” Coca-Cola was similarly outspoken.

“The minute football moves from the sports pages to the political pages I think sponsors have to get concerned because their message is getting crowded,” said David Carter, director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California.

“People are flat-out nervous,” he said. “The last thing you can afford when you’re investing hundreds of millions of dollars into a global sports opportunity is to have to cross your fingers and hope for it to turn out alright.”

Carter said the price FIFA commands from sponsors was at risk of going down if they saw less benefit from being directly connected with FIFA and the World Cup. Still, that is unlikely to happen anytime soon given that sponsorship deals are usually organized over many tournaments – Adidas for example has signed up as a FIFA sponsor until 2030.

And the mega-events remain very healthy on some levels. For example, the prices for television rights have continued to rise with little sign of abating.

Sixty percent of Brazilians now think hosting the Cup is bad for Brazil, according to a recent poll, and thousands have marched nationwide carrying banners telling FIFA to “go home.”

Brazil may have exploded with street parties as its team won the opening game on Thursday but scattered violent protests were a reminder that many locals remain angry over the cost of the tournament.

One source working at a leading World Cup sponsor said the firm had been forced to change its marketing strategy in response to public negativity surrounding this year’s event.

However, Andrew Sneyd, an executive at World Cup sponsor Budweiser responsible for marketing, was more upbeat on Brazil, saying it was Budweiser’s largest campaign to date and no adjustments had been made in response to local opposition.

CHANGE NOT EASY

Changing the way these events are structured is not easy.

In countries other than the most advanced football economies like Britain or Germany, stadiums have to be built and infrastructure improved to put on events like the World Cup.

The challenge is how to make them less ambitious and less controversial without excluding developing nations who almost always need to invest heavily to get venues up to standard.

A different FIFA source said there was a growing awareness of the social and economic responsibility that came with putting on the World Cup but that the bidding process remained one of faith – you have to trust the country chosen will deliver on its promises.

Still, the tide seems to be turning because of growing popular resistance to huge spending on sporting events.

For Maennig the answer lies in bids that are more collaborative with the local population.

“I am pushing my home city Berlin to have a completely different Olympic bid (for 2024) by asking residents to participate in an Olympic concept they would be in favour of,” he said.

(Editing by Todd Benson, Kieran Murray and Martin Howell)