US naval shooting: Military missed ‘red flags’

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has acknowledged that authorities missed some “red flags” that might have prevented the deadly mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.

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Hagel made the admission as he announced details of a sweeping security review at all military bases in the aftermath of Monday’s attack that left 13 dead, including the gunman, at a naval installation in the heart of Washington.

“Obviously, when you go back in hindsight and look at all this, there were some red flags, of course there were,” Hagel said.

“And should we have picked them up? Why didn’t we? How could we have? All those questions need to be answered.”

The security review ordered by the Pentagon chief will examine physical security at military posts as well as the procedures for vetting outside contractors.

The security clearances issued by the government are under intense scrutiny after the shooting, as the alleged gunman, Aaron Alexis, had a valid pass as a defense subcontractor to enter the Navy Yard.

Alexis had the pass despite a record of misconduct in the Navy and run-ins with the law, including two shooting incidents and a Rhode Island police report showing he had severe delusions.

The security clearance was granted during his four-year stint as a sailor and remained in force once he left under an honourable discharge, according to the Navy.

Navy officials said none of his behaviour during his time as a naval reservist would have disqualified him for a security clearance, as he had not been convicted in a military or civilian court for a serious crime and his offences were not out of the ordinary.

Meanwhile, Alexis’ mother, Cathleen, has apologised on behalf of her son.

“To the families of the victims, I am so, so very sorry that this has happened. My heart is broken,” she said in a statement that she read from her Brooklyn, New York, home.

“Aaron is now in a place where he can no longer do harm to anyone, and for that am glad.

“I don’t know why he did what he did, and I’m never going to be able to ask him why.”

‘Little doubt’ body found is Aussie killer mum

Allyson McConnell, convicted of drowning her young sons in a bathtub in Canada, was concerned about next month’s appeal lodged by Alberta prosecutors that could have led to her extradition from Australia to serve extra jail time.

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McConnell’s body was reportedly found under a bridge on Wednesday near her home on the NSW Central Coast.

NSW police were yet to confirm the body was the 34-year-old’s, but Peter Royal, the Canadian lawyer who represented McConnell at her trial in Alberta last year said he spoke with McConnell’s mother early on Wednesday morning.

He told Canada’s CBC News there was little doubt the body was McConnell’s as identification papers were found with it.

Royal also said next month’s appeal was weighing on McConnell’s mind.

“I won’t ever forget the evidence she gave in court,” Royal said.

“It was very moving and upsetting. She didn’t see any future and believed she would continue to try to kill herself.”

McConnell had made numerous attempts on her her life, including jumping off a freeway overpass in Alberta in 2010 just hours after drowning her sons, two-year-old Connor and 10-month-old Jayden, in the family home.

At her non-jury trial in Wetaskiwin, a judge found McConnell guilty of manslaughter, not second-degree murder, and sentenced her to six years jail.

With time served credits, she spent just 10 months in the psychiatric ward of Alberta Hospital before being deported to Australia.

McConnell’s former husband, Curtis McConnell, was outraged she received such little jail time and an appeal of the conviction and sentence was scheduled to be heard next month.

Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis had said if prosecutors were successful in increasing McConnell’s sentence via the appeal, the province would attempt to extradite her from Australia to serve any extra jail time.

Ronalee McConnell, Curtis’ sister, issued a brief statement on Wednesday.

“Our thoughts are with Allyson’s family and we send our condolences,” she wrote.

McConnell was working at a Canadian ski resort in 2006 when she met her future husband. They married, lived in Millet, Alberta, about 40km south of Edmonton, and had their two sons, but the relationship deteriorated.

* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 and the Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

Tiger targets sixth win to lock up Player of Year

Though he has not claimed a major title since the 2008 U.

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S. Open, the American world number one feels his 2013 campaign has been one of the most consistent of his career, having included two wins in the prestigious World Golf Championship events.

The top seed in the FedExCup standings going into the PGA Tour season finale, Woods is one of just five players in the field of 30 who would automatically guarantee overall playoff honours and the $10 million bonus with victory this week.

Each of the remaining 25 players has a mathematical chance of claiming both titles but would need several other scenarios to go his way.

“I’m excited to be back here at East Lake,” Woods told reporters on Wednesday before heading out for a practice session ahead of Thursday’s opening round.

“The playoffs have been pretty successful. I’ve gotten to the No. 1 spot coming into the Tour Championship and that’s kind of where I wanted to be, especially having the year I’ve had.

“Winning five times this year has been pretty good, and to have the No. 1 spot, just like the other four guys in the top five, we control our destiny. I’m looking forward to the week and getting started tomorrow.”

Asked how much bearing the season-ending Tour Championship would have on the battle for Player of the Year honours, Woods replied: “This tournament has a lot of value to it.

“There are guys who have won a couple of times but they’ve had major championships in there. I’ve won five times.”

Woods’ main rivals for Player of the Year honours are Masters champion Adam Scott and British Open winner Phil Mickelson, who have both triumphed twice on the PGA Tour this season.

“This week has a lot to do with it,” said Woods, a 14-times major champion. “Up for grabs are the Player of the Year, the Arnold Palmer award (leading money winner), the Vardon Trophy (best scoring average) and all those things.

“The Player of the Year award is something we hold dearly because it’s the respect of our peers. It’s pretty special. I’ve had my years over the course of my career, and hopefully this will be another one.”

BEST SCORING AVERAGE

Woods, who has the best scoring average this season with 68.87, has won PGA Tour Player of the Year honours 10 times and the Vardon Trophy on eight occasions.

Asked whether he felt he had already done enough to secure the Player of the Year accolade with his five-win season, Woods smiled: “Well, I’d like to get a sixth win, how about that?”

The American did not hesitate in his reply when asked if he felt his 2013 campaign had been one of the most consistent of his career.

“I think so,” Woods said. “I won some big events this year, two World Golf Championships, a Players (Championship) … I think that’s been a pretty good year.

“I’m excited the way I’ve put together my last couple of years, coming off the (assorted leg) injuries. A lot of people thought I would never win again, and here we are with some more wins.”

Woods, FedExCup champion in 2007 and 2009, feels very comfortable heading into Thursday’s opening round at East Lake as a twice former winner of the Tour Championship.

“I’ve had a good run here,” he said. “I’ve won twice and finished second four times. That’s not too bad over the course of my career here.

“I have felt comfortable on this golf course. This week’s going to be interesting. We’re going to get some different weather coming in here, and obviously got to make the adjustments.”

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

Scottish independence referendum: Braveheart this is not

The view from Princes street up towards the Royal Mile and Edinburgh castle is one that never fails to inspire.

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The castle is Edinburgh. Imposing on its ramparts, it dominates the city but today it’s the flags around the castle that catch my eye.  The (British) Union Jack stands tall fluttering in Edinburgh’s ever present wind. It is flanked by two smaller flags – Scottish saltires, the national flag of Scotland. The blue and white St Andrews crosses hardly visible, lying limp. The Union Jack standing proud, full of wind. The saltires dwarfed and hesitant.

In many ways the flags are a metaphor for the countries they represent. Scots are a proud people but they have a tendency to be defensive particularly towards the English. Aggressive sometimes. Dismissive often. A nation that believes passionately in itself but one that is ultimately wracked with a healthy degree of self-doubt.

That much can be gleaned from polls conducted in the run up to next year’s referendum. Despite electing the Scottish National party to run the devolved Scottish Parliament, voters are lukewarm about its signature policy.

Only around one third of Scots are currently planning to vote for complete independence. In the eyes of many the Union is not broken and therefore does not need to be fixed.

Scotland forms just under one third of the land mass of Britain but is home to less than 1/10 of the population. It has a peculiarly left of centre political culture and it is the tendency for Scotland to vote left and England to vote right that has brought us to this moment. It is perceived wisdom that Margaret Thatcher’s unique brand of conservatism destroyed the Conservative Party in Scotland  (the party is still reduced to a rump nearly a quarter of a century after she left office), but since then Scotland has been given its own parliament and while many want it to have more powers the majority of Scots are firmly opposed to breaking up the United Kingdom, around 60% according to the polls.

The irony is that if it were to come to fruition it would likely be the death knell for the party supporting it and a life saver for one of the parties opposing it.

The SNP, currently the governing party in the Scottish parliament, would no longer have a reason to exist. And the Scottish Conservative party destroyed by its association with Thatcherism, (now reduced to just one seat in Westminster ) could re-build unburdened by its association with the English conservatives. For in truth many Scots who support independence do so because they want a divorce from English conservatism more than from the English per se.

Scotland the Brave is the unofficial national anthem, but one year out from the vote it does not sum up the mood of the people.  Braveheart this is not.

Watch the video above for the full story.

Click on the audio tab to hear the radio report.

Adam Scott in hunt for Player of Year

Adam Scott admits the $A12.

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3 million on offer for winning the Tour Championship title and FedEx Cup this week would be sensational, but he puts the US PGA Tour’s Player of the Year award on a higher pedestal.

While the $US10 million ($A10.6 million) prize for the winner of the season-long points race on the US tour – the FedEx Cup – is enormous by anyone’s standards, the reality is money isn’t a problematic issue in Scott’s world.

The Australian world No.2 is driven by beating the best and striving to be the best and so he’s excited about the possibility of being voted PGA Tour Player of the Year by his peers should he triumph this week at East Lake Golf Club.

Scott would then have his major win at the Masters, plus two wins in the US tour’s playoffs series at the Barclays and the Tour Championship on his resume, plus the FedEx Cup title, providing a legitimate argument for beating world No.1 Tiger Woods for the award he has won 10 times.

Woods has won five times in 2013, including two World Golf Championships events, but hasn’t won a major, which usually weighted much heavier by the golfing fraternity.

World No.3 Phil Mickelson could also enter the discussion with a victory given he won the Phoenix Open and then claimed the British Open in stunning fashion in July.

“It’s been a great year for sure, but I think this week counts so much for me and how the year will be remembered by myself and others,” Scott said.

“There’s so much to play for. Two trophies here this week and also potentially throwing my name in a Player of the Year debate, which I think is quite a prestigious honour amongst the company that I play golf against.

“I really need to win to even throw my name in the hat there – then it could be possible.”

Scott wouldn’t go as far as saying he felt he’d deserve the honour if he won but, when asked if he’d give his vote to Mickelson should the left-hander win this week, he admitted he would lean that way.

“It would be hard not to give him (Phil) the vote, as then he has three wins with a major and Tiger has five wins and Phil has the FedEx Cup,” he said.

“I think it’s a pretty strong case to say Phil. But if you feel like five wins is more impressive, you can put Tiger.

“I think you’ve got a strong case to argue for both so that’s why it could go any way.”

Woods has always acknowledged the weight of majors and reiterated the prestige associated with winning the Player of the Year title.

“Absolutely, it does (carry huge importance).

The Player of the Year Award is something we hold dearly because it’s the respect of our peers,” Woods said.

“It’s voted on by our peers. Having a year where they think that you were deserving of the player of the year, it’s pretty special.”

The 14-time major winner also admitted the result this week could certainly influence proceedings.

“I think this tournament has a lot of value to it,” he said.

“It’s up for grabs.

“There are guys who have won a couple times but they’ve had major championships in there. I’ve won five times.

“I’ve had my years (winning it) over the course of my career, and hopefully this will be another one.”

Scottish independence referendum: Braveheart this is not

The view from Princes street up towards the Royal Mile and Edinburgh castle is one that never fails to inspire.

南宁桑拿

The castle is Edinburgh. Imposing on its ramparts, it dominates the city but today it’s the flags around the castle that catch my eye.  The (British) Union Jack stands tall fluttering in Edinburgh’s ever present wind. It is flanked by two smaller flags – Scottish saltires, the national flag of Scotland. The blue and white St Andrews crosses hardly visible, lying limp. The Union Jack standing proud, full of wind. The saltires dwarfed and hesitant.

In many ways the flags are a metaphor for the countries they represent. Scots are a proud people but they have a tendency to be defensive particularly towards the English. Aggressive sometimes. Dismissive often. A nation that believes passionately in itself but one that is ultimately wracked with a healthy degree of self-doubt.

That much can be gleaned from polls conducted in the run up to next year’s referendum. Despite electing the Scottish National party to run the devolved Scottish Parliament, voters are lukewarm about its signature policy.

Only around one third of Scots are currently planning to vote for complete independence. In the eyes of many the Union is not broken and therefore does not need to be fixed.

Scotland forms just under one third of the land mass of Britain but is home to less than 1/10 of the population. It has a peculiarly left of centre political culture and it is the tendency for Scotland to vote left and England to vote right that has brought us to this moment. It is perceived wisdom that Margaret Thatcher’s unique brand of conservatism destroyed the Conservative Party in Scotland  (the party is still reduced to a rump nearly a quarter of a century after she left office), but since then Scotland has been given its own parliament and while many want it to have more powers the majority of Scots are firmly opposed to breaking up the United Kingdom, around 60% according to the polls.

The irony is that if it were to come to fruition it would likely be the death knell for the party supporting it and a life saver for one of the parties opposing it.

The SNP, currently the governing party in the Scottish parliament, would no longer have a reason to exist. And the Scottish Conservative party destroyed by its association with Thatcherism, (now reduced to just one seat in Westminster ) could re-build unburdened by its association with the English conservatives. For in truth many Scots who support independence do so because they want a divorce from English conservatism more than from the English per se.

Scotland the Brave is the unofficial national anthem, but one year out from the vote it does not sum up the mood of the people.  Braveheart this is not.

Watch the video above for the full story.

Click on the audio tab to hear the radio report.

Messi steals Ronaldo’s thunder again, Chelsea crash

Former champions Milan and Porto began the group phase with victories but last year’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund suffered a jarring defeat at Napoli after being reduced to 10 men and having manager Juergen Klopp exiled to the stands.

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A day after Ronaldo threw down the gauntlet with a hat-trick for Real Madrid in a 6-1 thrashing of Galatasaray, prolific Argentine Messi responded with three goals in Barcelona’s 4-0 Group H romp at home to Ajax Amsterdam.

Whatever magic Ronaldo conjures, Messi always seems to have a riposte, soaring to ever greater heights in the ongoing duel between Europe’s two most deadly marksmen.

Messi went through his repertoire, breaking the deadlock with a curling free kick after 22 minutes, running in his second 10 minutes into the second half and, after Gerard Pique had also got in on the act, completing his hat-trick with a clinical finish 15 minutes from time.

His latest exploits made him the first player to score four hat-tricks in the Champions League and took his overall tally to 62 goals in 80 matches in the competition.

Ronaldo, three times beaten to the World Player of the Year award by Messi in the last four years, has 53 goals in 93 games.

“We’re riddled with stars and it’s normal for a player to put in an excellent performance,” said Barca coach Gerardo Martino after his first Champions League game in charge of the side.

“I need a solid team so that the individuals can develop their full potential.”

After Tuesday’s torrent of 30 goals, defences tightened up in Wednesday’s Group E-H games with only four goals arriving in the night’s eight matches before halftime – all scored by south Americans, including Napoli’s new recruit Gonzalo Higuain.

Another came from Chelsea’s Brazilian Oscar as Mourinho’s first European game in charge since returning to the club that fired him six years ago appeared to be going to plan.

LATE WINNER

But Basel had other ideas as Mohamed Salah curled in an equaliser before Marco Streller headed a late winner to avenge his side’s Europa League semi-final loss to Chelsea last season.

“I’m not happy with the result,” Mourinho said of the debacle as Chelsea suffered their first defeat in 30 home group matches in the competition.

“Instead of moving a step forward towards qualification we have taken a step back.

“Emotionally, this is not a mature team and when you are in a difficult position it was not enough.”

The goals eventually began flying in around the grounds although seven-times former champions Milan left it late before scoring twice to beat Celtic 2-0 in Group H.

Milan needed an own goal from Emilio Izaguirre to pierce Celtic’s rearguard before Sulley Muntari sealed the points.

Porto had a second-half goal from Lucho Gonzalez to thank for a 1-0 win at Austria Vienna in Group G where Atletico Madrid began in confident fashion with a 3-1 defeat of Zenit St Petersburg in the Vicente Calderon.

Rafa Benitez is beginning a Champions League campaign with a fifth club and his Napoli side lived up to their billing as dark horses with Higuain heading the opener in a 2-1 defeat of last year’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund.

Dortmund ended the Group F contest with 10 men after keeper Roman Weidenfelder was sent off and coach Juergen Klopp was sent to the stands after an angry outburst.

“We started well against these opponents but then everything went wrong,” midfielder Nuri Sahin told ZDF.

“It is difficult after the red card, they ran the ball very well and played smart.”

There was better luck for Dortmund’s Bundesliga rivals Schalke 04 as they scored three late goals to overcome a rugged Steaua Bucharest side who dug deep for 67 minutes.

Stunning strikes by Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey gave Arsenal a 2-1 victory in Marseille to continue their record of never having lost a European game away to a French club.

Arsenal have won 10 successive away wins in all competitions and manager Arsene Wenger said they were full of belief for what is a difficult group including Napoli and Dortmund.

“I knew it was important to get three points here if we want to have a chance,” Wenger said. “I said yesterday we needed 10 points at least so to start with three is good.”

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

Indonesia ‘offended’ by coalition’s asylum policy

A member of Indonesian parliament has labelled as offensive the coalition’s lack of consultation on asylum seeker policy, indicating one-sided management of people smuggling could cause a rift between the two countries.

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Tantowi Yahya is a member of the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Commission and said the first he and his colleagues knew of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Operation Sovereign Borders was when it appeared in newspapers.

“It’s very offensive,” he told ABC TV on Wednesday, adding there was consensus between Indonesia’s government and parliament not to agree with the coalition’s plans.

“What Australia should do right now in relation (to) asylum seekers is sit with any countries that will be involved in this issue … and we have to fight against it in the spirit of friends.”

Mr Tantowi said the Indonesian parliament would “fully reject” the coalition’s policy to turn back boats carrying asylum seekers, indicating his country would deem such a move illegal.

“I do hope this policy will not be implemented until Mr Abbott talks about this issue with our foreign minister,” he said.

Mr Abbott promised to put in place the coalition’s operation from the day his team was sworn into parliament, which occurred on Wednesday.

He is expected to visit Jakarta in the coming fortnight.

But the new Australian government faced a stern warning from Mr Tantowi.

“It will obviously damage our relationship,” he said of the coalition’s policy.

“Indonesia accepts all possible solutions, all possible proposals from Australia … this case should be settled in a very modest and very peaceful way,” Mr Tantowi said.

He said it “annoys our sovereignty” that the coalition had floated the idea of paying Indonesians for information about people smuggling.

“We could employ our policemen. We could employ all the infrastructures to help,” the MP said.

Mr Tantowi said he and his parliamentary colleagues were happy with the former Labor government’s Papua New Guinea solution as long as asylum seekers were happy to remain in the country, and “not end up back in our territory”.

Protesters and police clash in Greece

Clashes have erupted between protesters and police across Greece, local media reports, as thousands demonstrated against fascism after a leftist musician was murdered by a suspected neo-Nazi.

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Police fired tear gas at groups of protesters in Athens, the northern city of Thessaloniki and in the western city of Patras, where the city centre remained sealed off.

The nationwide unrest was sparked by the death of Pavlos Fyssas, a 34-year-old left-wing hip hop singer, who was stabbed to death early on Wednesday morning outside a cafe in Keratsini, western Athens.

Some 5000 demonstrators took to the streets of Keratsini in protest, according to a police source.

Police officers there fired volleys of tear gas at a group of protesters who pelted them with wooden sticks and stones, the state-run Athens News Agency said.

Police also used tear gas in Thessaloniki, where some 6000 people marched against fascism, after some protesters shattered shop windows.

In Patras, around 1000 protesters threw rocks and molotov cocktails at police forces, who responded with tear gas. A retired police officer was injured in the scuffles, according to a police source.

A 45-year-old alleged member of the Golden Dawn neo-Nazi group was arrested at the scene of Wednesday’s murder. Police say the suspect has confessed to stabbing Fyssas, who wrote music under the nickname Kilah P.

The suspect’s wife was later also arrested for giving false evidence to police during the investigation.

Golden Dawn has denied any connection to the murder, which came a few days after a group of Communists were beaten by suspected neo-Nazis.

Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou blamed the killing on Golden Dawn, condemning the group’s “raw violence” and calling on other parties to “raise a barrier to the vicious circle of tension and violence”.

Earlier on Wednesday, some 20,000 people marched in Athens, Thessaloniki and other cities in a separate protest against a government overhaul of the public sector.

Factbox: Operation Sovereign Borders

The policy marks a shift away from the previous Labor government’s Regional Resettlement Agreement – with an emphasis on foreign policy approach – to a military defence and border security approach.

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Under the plan, the Deputy Chief of Army, Angus Campbell, will run the operation and report to the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, rather than reporting to the Chief of the Defence Force who is under the responsibility of the defence minister.

Mr Campbell will be promoted to the rank of three star general and co-ordinate 16 government agencies dealing with asylum seeker boat arrivals.

Through the $10 million joint taskforce, asylum seeker boats will be turned back to source and transit countries – particularly Sri Lanka and Indonesia – where it is safe to do so. Additional vessels will also be leased to relieve patrol boats of passenger transfers.

The Liberal party claims the need for this taskforce is because the “current multiplicity of agencies and reporting lines provides for conflicting strategies, disconnected systems, fractured accountability, inadequate information system, duplication, higher costs and turf wars”.

The capacity of offshore processing centres on Manus Island and Nauru will also be increased and temporary protection visas (TPVs) restored.

TPVs holders do not have permanent residency and cannot re-enter the country if they decide to depart Australia. TPV recipients also have no right to work and no access to family reunion or welfare benefits.

Those asylum seekers who are thought to have deliberately discarded their identity documents will not be considered for refugee status at all under s91W of the Migration Act.

A commitment remains to regional cooperation on people smuggling through the Bali process. Similar to the Regional Resettlement Agreement, the Operation Sovereign Borders plan, claims it will send a message to people smugglers and their prospective passengers.

The Coalition says the new arrangements will send a message “to the people smugglers and their prospective passengers who must understand, from day one, that the rules have changed”.

The government’s 21-page ‘Operation Sovereign Borders policy’ document can be viewed here.