Yellen sees little threat to stability

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says she doesn’t see a need for the Fed to start raising interest rates to defuse the risk that extremely low rates could destabilise the financial system.

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Yellen said she does see “pockets” of increased risk-taking, but argued those threats could be addressed through greater use of regulatory tools.

Many of those tools, such as higher capital standards for banks, were put in place after the 2008 financial crisis, which triggered the Great Recession.

In her remarks on Wednesday at a conference sponsored by the International Monetary Fund, Yellen disputed criticism that the Fed had contributed to the 2008 crisis by keeping rates too low earlier in the decade.

She acknowledged that financial stability risks “escalated to a dangerous level in the mid-2000s” and that policy-makers, including herself, overlooked the vulnerabilities in the financial system that would make the subsequent decline in home prices so destabilising.

“Policy-makers failed to anticipate that the reversal of the house price bubble would trigger the most significant financial crisis in the United States since the Great Depression,” Yellen said.

She said the government has made progress since then in closing the regulatory gaps that allowed the financial crisis to erupt.

Yellen spoke one day after the Dow Jones industrial average set a record for the stock market.

Some critics of Fed policies have warned that the central bank could be setting the stage for another dangerous bubble by keeping rates so low for so long.

But in her speech, Yellen said she didn’t see dangerous excesses in the financial system.

She said that there were isolated areas of increased risk taking but that those could be dealt with through regulatory changes rather than by raising rates.

Snowboarder’s body found in woods

The body of a ski resort worker who did not return home from a snowboarding session has been found in a wooded area without trails.

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Perisher in the NSW Snowy Mountains contacted police about 10.50pm (AEST) on Wednesday after the 25-year-old man failed to show up for work.

Searchers found his body about 11.30pm.

Queanbeyan Acting Inspector Graeme Bailey told AAP the man was found in an ungroomed area near Guthega Creek in the NSW Snowy Mountains.

Perisher mountain operations staff abandoned trails and walked through wooded areas to find the man, he said.

Perisher chief executive Peter Brulisauer said it was a sad day.

“Our condolences go out to the young man’s family and friends during this difficult time,” he said in a statement.

The man’s name has not been released.

An autopsy will carried out and initial investigations are focusing on whether he fell while snowboarding.

It’s the second death at an eastern Australian ski resort in a little more than a week.

A seven-year-old boy, Haadi Akhtar, died after being buried by snow that came loose from his lodge at Mt Buller in Victoria.

He was found nearly two hours after he went missing, just 40 metres from where he was last seen.

The latest death also comes only hours after a 21-year-old man was found at Perisher with serious head injuries. He was transferred to Canberra Hospital.

After a slow start to the season, Australian snowfields have received a massive dumping of snow since last weekend.

Blizzards last week dumped 80cm in 24 hours in some parts of the Snowy Mountains.

A Sri Lankan asylum seeker’s worst nightmare on the high seas

Allegations that Australian authorities have intercepted at least two Tamil boats and handed them over to the Sri Lankan navy after only brief telephone interviews are extremely troubling.

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Until now, the Australian government has neither confirmed nor denied these allegations – giving the now long-tired excuse of secrecy around all operational matters concerning border security. 

If Tamils are being handed over to the Sri Lankan armed forces, then the Australian government may well end up with blood on its hands. Sri Lanka has a long and well known record of repression and abuses by its security forces. The UN has implicated the Sri Lankan armed forces in war crimes during the 27-year conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Human Rights Watch has also documented the Sri Lankan authorities’ use of torture and rape against people suspected of links to the LTTE after the conflict, including those returned as failed asylum seekers from countries such as Australia.

Given such evidence of torture of returnees, it was always peculiar that Australia used the Orwellian “enhanced screening” procedure for Sri Lankans arriving by boat – essentially a fast-tracked deportation procedure after a cursory interview.  Now, it appears such interviews may be occurring by teleconference from the boats. This practice, without access to due process and access to lawyers, is unlawful in light of Australia’s obligations under international law.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) maintains that identification and processing of asylum seekers is “most appropriately carried out on dry land.” The agency notes that shipboard processing often fails to meet procedural standards for determining refugee status, including the failure to provide adequate access to interpreters, ensuring the privacy and confidentiality of interviews, access to counsel, and lack of appeal. In addition to these considerations, people who have been interdicted often are dehydrated, exhausted, traumatized, and fearful of authorities; they are usually in no condition to articulate refugee claims.

If Australia is transferring asylum seekers into the hands of the Sri Lankan navy without adequately reviewing their claim this amounts to refoulement – sending someone back to a country where their life or freedom may be threatened or where they would face a real risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

Australia may want to protect its borders, but it should not risk being complicit in torture by sending Tamil asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka without a proper process to assess the legitimacy of their claims. Australian authorities need to come clean about what is happening at sea and give asylum seekers all the rights they are entitled to under international law.

Elaine Pearson is the Australia Director at Human Rights Watch.

Big guns back for table-topping NRL clash

Manly and South Sydney have both been significantly bolstered ahead of Friday’s top-of-the-table NRL showdown at the SCG with Sam Burgess, Ben Te’o, Jorge Taufua and Justin Horo all set to return from the sidelines.

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Rabbitohs enforcer Burgess has been named to play in what some are labelling as a potential grand final preview, after missing the side’s win over Newcastle on Sunday with a shoulder problem, while Ben Te’o returns from suspension.

Manly winger Jorge Taufua will play his first game in three weeks in the round-22 clash after recovering from an ankle injury while back-rower Justin Horo is back from suspension.

“Apart from Johnny Sutton, everyone is coming back,” stand-in Souths skipper Greg Inglis said at training on Tuesday.

Former NSW prop Tim Grant and club co-captain Kevin Kingston will return for injury-hit Penrith for Sunday’s trip to Wollongong to play St George Illawarra.

Out-of-favour Panthers duo Grant and Kingston have been added to a seven-man bench.

Out-of-sorts Canterbury have been boosted by the comebacks of Josh Morris and Aiden Tolman for Friday’s match against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium.

Cronulla’s injury woes have been eased by the return of captain Paul Gallen (biceps) against the Warriors in Auckland on Sunday.

NSW Origin backrower Luke Lewis (hamstring), stand-in skipper Wade Graham (foot) and young winger Jacob Gagan (hamstring) have all been ruled out for the year following the side’s loss to Parramatta.

Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson (groin) will miss a third straight week with Thomas Leuluai filling in, while Konrad Hurrell (groin) will be replaced by teenager Tuimoala Lolohea.

Canberra backline stars Edrick Lee (foot) and Jack Wighton (thumb) have both been cleared to return from long-term injuries against Parramatta in Darwin on Saturday night.

The Raiders were thumped 54-18 by the Warriors on Sunday with season-ending injuries to Shaun Fensom (anterior cruciate ligament), David Shillington (pectoral) and Kurt Baptiste (shoulder) compounding the embarrassing defeat.

Coach Ricky Stuart has shifted Brisbane-bound fullback Anthony Milford to five-eighth to replace Terry Campese (abdominal) with ex-Gold Coast back Jordan Rapana to play at No.1 in his first NRL game since 2008.

For the Eels, Kenny Edwards replaces back-rower David Gower.

Newcastle have received a boost with Jarrod Mullen (abdominal), Kade Snowden (concussion) and Akuila Uate (knee) all available when they take on Melbourne at Hunter Stadium on Saturday.

Mullen’s return has prompted Knights coach Wayne Bennett to push captain Kurt Gidley to fullback.

Wests Tigers Mick Potter has named Luke Brooks and Pat Richards for Saturday’s trip to Townsville to meet North Queensland, but both are unlikely to play.

Sydney Roosters hooker Jake Friend (hamstring) has been ruled out for up to a month and will be replaced by Heath L’Estrange in the starting side for Monday’s Allianz Stadium match-up with Gold Coast, with Mitchell Aubusson returning via the bench.

US firms plan $14b in Africa investments

US companies are planning $US14 billion ($A15.

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15 billion) worth of investments in Africa, a White House official says as Washington seeks to strengthen commercial ties during the historic US-Africa Leaders Summit.

With the United States seeking to counter the Chinese and European trade dominance in Africa, a White House official said the investments will span a range of industries, including construction, clean energy, banking and information technology.

The announcement came on the second day of the summit, during which President Barack Obama and US business chieftains hope to deepen ties with their African counterparts.

While the United States remains the largest source of investment on the continent, it has been largely in the oil and gas sector.

China and Europe have built stronger positions in infrastructure, manufacturing and trade, with China’s trade with Africa more than double that of the United States.

Obama, former president Bill Clinton, other US officials and chief executives of top US companies hope to woo a gathering of some 45 African heads of state and government and African business chiefs in a day-long forum in Washington.

“This forum will intensify efforts to strengthen trade and financial ties between the United States and Africa and seek to create partnerships that will promote trade, accelerate job growth, and encourage investment,” the official said.

Africans criticise US businesses as bound too deeply to old stereotypes and too risk-averse to plunge into business with them, even though the continent is growing faster than any other region on the globe.

US officials especially want to win a large chunk of the business of electrifying Africa, building power generation plants and distribution facilities that will further enhance economic growth.

Washington also wants to ensure that US businesses get a big part of the pie of 350 million middle-class African consumers.

No details were provided on the composition or timing of the $US14 billion.

General Electric, which already has a formidable presence in Africa, said on Monday it was planning $US2 billion in new investments to build and assemble equipment for oil and other industries, as well as training in health and other sectors.

Labor’s NBN rollout slammed by auditor

Rushed, chaotic and inadequate: that’s how Labor’s NBN rollout has been described by the former head of the Productivity Commission.

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Bill Scales has found the Rudd cabinet gave only what he calls “perfunctory” consideration to the $ 43 billion second stage of the project.

 

His report says cabinet only spent 11 weeks setting up NBN Co, which Mr Scales describes as not “fit for purpose”.

 

Communications Minister at the time of Labor’s NBN roll out, Senator Stephen Conroy, has spoken out in defence on ABC Radio.

 

“Mr Scales isn’t aware of all of the evidence and all of the deliberations. There was an alternative position discussed, but Mr Scales is not aware of that because it was discussed in cabinet committees.”

 

The project has since been marked by delays and cost blowouts – things Mr Scales says could have been avoided if a business case or cost-benefit analysis was carried out.

 

His report recommends any large infrastructure projects included in election commitments be independently costed by the Productivity Commission or Infrastructure Australia, with full costs to be made public.

 

He also calls for public infrastructure projects worth over $1 billion to be subject to a public cost benefit analysis.

 

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull says it’s already Coalition policy to have a cost-benefit analysis for projects worth more than $100 million.

 

Senator Conroy is asking why the government is spending so much money commissioning six reports into Labor’s NBN.

 

“Why is Malcolm Turnbull spending $10 million of taxpayers’ money to attack the NBN? Because his policy is a dog. He’s failed to meet his own election commitment where he said he’d get 90 per cent of Australians with 25 meg speeds by 2016 – already abandoned.”

 

But Mr Turnbull says the reviews are valuable.

 

“It’s very important to learn from the mistakes of the past. The purpose for doing this audit is so that you have an independent, sober assessment of what happened, the mistakes that were made, and we learn from those mistakes and let’s hope we don’t make them again, because there is tens of billions wasted because of this.”

 

The Abbott government’s cost benefit analysis of the current broadband roll-out is due to be published within months.

AIDS conference delegates on why they’re seeking asylum in Australia

Some of the AIDS conference delegates who say they’re seeking asylum are from a country in East Africa which they don’t wish to identify.

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This man told SBS Radio’s Swahili program what life is like for him at home.

 

“What made me make this decision are the acts of brutality I was subjected to. When someone discriminates against you because of your sexuality or the origins of your ethnicity there comes a time where you have to say enough is enough. I have had acid thrown at me, I was stabbed on my head and private parts and despite my numerous reports to the police no action has been taken. I’ve tried relocating to other parts of the country for my own safety but I’ve met the same problems everywhere I’ve moved to.”

 

Another East African man who spoke to SBS Radio’s Swahili program says he’s faced discrimination because of his efforts to help young albino people.

 

“I established a football team which comprised of 14-24 year old boys who are albino and their peers who were considered normal. My aim was to show the society that albinos are no different to others and when given a chance they too can be just as productive. I then took my team to the national parliament with an aim of educating the society further. Our visit to the national parliament received a lot of media coverage in the country.”

 

Albinos in East Africa face widespread persecution, and their body parts are used in witchcraft.

 

The asylum seeker says he was even asked to help obtain body parts.

 

“Shortly after I received some phone calls from some wealthy people in (the Tanzanian capital) Dar es Salaam, whom I won’t mention their names- they asked me to help them with the killing of albinos so their body organs can be sold and returned and they could become wealthier. I declined their proposal and reported the matter to the police who arrested them. However a few days later, I saw them walking freely and soon after I received some threatening phone calls from them, accusing me of reporting them and that they were going to deal with me accordingly.”

 

The crisis accommodation service, HomeGround, told SBS 19 delegates to the AIDS conference who are now claiming asylum have been placed in emergency housing in Melbourne.

 

It says it has been approached by community members offering to house the asylum seekers in their homes.

 

Pamela Curr, from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, is also working with some of the delegates.

 

She says many are at risk purely because they either are HIV-positive themselves, or work with people who are.

 

“These people arrived mainly from African countries. They came into the country on visas, lawful visas by air and what has happened is that many of them come from countries where to be working in the field of HIV or to be affected by HIV is a life threatening proposition. Not only from the illness, but also from the violence of governments in the countries in which they live.”

 

Pamela Curr says it’s not the first time that delegates to international events in Australia have stayed behind, to claim asylum.

 

 

“We have seen it in the past from a number of conferences and sporting events, the Homeless World Cup, there was a world religious day. We have seen this in the past and what happens is some people actually come to the conferences who may indeed be at risk and they may hope that they can seek asylum. But others come to the conference with the intention of returning home and then see the freedom and safety is intoxicating.”

 

The office of the Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison, says it’s unable to comment on individual applications for asylum.

 

 

 

 

Doping ban broke cycling rules: Kreuziger

Czech cyclist Roman Kreuziger claims the UCI has broken its anti-doping rules by provisionally suspending him without a positive test.

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In a statement on his website on Tuesday, Kreuziger said he and his lawyers “strongly oppose the UCI decision” to impose a temporary ban on him racing.

“(The ban) has no basis in the UCI legislation, allowing imposition of a provisional suspension only in cases of a positive A sample, which is not Mr Kreuziger’s case,” the statement said.

“Other preliminary measures can only be imposed when there exists a risk that the results of a race might be affected by the alleged doping activity of the rider … and only after providing the rider an opportunity to deliver a written submission – which did not happen.”

Cycling’s governing body used blood analysis from 2011 and ’12 in Kreuziger’s biological passport to suspend the Tinkoff-Saxo rider on Saturday.

The temporary ban prevented him starting the Tour of Poland on Sunday.

“I’m not a cheat, and I have not committed any doping offence,” the insisted. “I am deeply frustrated by this current situation, which makes it impossible for me to do my job and ride my bike.”

Kreuziger had pledged on Sunday to ask the Court of Arbitration for Sport to lift the ban before the three-week Spanish Vuelta starts on August 23.

In June, Tinkoff-Saxo dropped Kreuziger from its Tour de France roster because of suspected discrepancies in his biological passport. With no disciplinary case open, it selected him for the stage races in Poland and Spain.

The UCI acknowledged on Saturday it had reacted to the team selections based on “the recent assertion of an anti-doping rule violation based on his athlete biological passport”.

The cycling body did not respond immediately to requests for comment on Tuesday.

In his latest statement, Kreuziger said he wished to explain the facts to avoid any misunderstandings.

The 28-year-old has three career top-10 finishes in the Tour de France and victories in the second-tier Tour of Romandie and Tour of Switzerland stage races. He also has a one-day classic victory in the 2013 Amstel Gold race.

Sri Lanka paceman Lakmal ruled out of Pakistan series

“Lakmal has sustained severe swelling above his left ankle following the second test against South Africa and unfortunately he is out of the series,” Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews told a pre-match news conference on Tuesday.

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The injury to Lakmal, who was named in the 15-man squad for the two-match series pending a late fitness test, comes at a unfortunate time as it coincides with the return of new ball partner Shaminda Eranga.

Eranga had eight stitches in the webbing of his right hand, an injury he sustained in the first test against South Africa at Galle three weeks ago and missed the rest of the series.

“Either Eranga or Suranga has been injured since the Bangladesh series (in February), so we haven’t have both of them together… which would have been a very formidable attack,” Mathews said.

“But I still have a good (pace) attack in Dhammika Prasad and Nuwan Pradeep.

“They’ve bowled pretty well in the recent past and the two spinners, Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera, have been bowling magnificently.

“I feel that I’ve got the bowling attack to take 20 wickets,” he added.

Following their maiden test series win in England in June, Sri Lanka lost the two-test home series against South Africa 1-0.

“In the second test against South Africa we were almost going to win it, unfortunately the weather gods had other ideas,” Mathews said.

“Pakistan has been a very hard team to beat wherever they play… we expect a bigger challenge from them definitely.

“They’ve got a very well balanced team and they’ve got some good batters, good spinners and good fast bowlers.

“It’s going to be a tough series for us.”

(Editing by John O’Brien)

China backlash after ‘mistress’ confession

Chinese internet users rose up in anger after the televised prostitution and gambling “confession” of a woman who embroiled the China Red Cross in scandal – but condemned the media, rather than her.

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Guo Meimei, now 23, triggered a wave of public ire in 2011 when she flaunted her wealth online and claimed she was the general manager of a firm called “Red Cross Commerce”, which web users took to mean she had received embezzled funds.

“Guo Meimei Baby”, as she is known online, posted photos of her opulent lifestyle to nearly two million followers on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo, posing in front of a Maserati or sipping a drink in business class on a plane.

The China Red Cross denied any ties to Guo, and the actress and singer later insisted that she had made up her job title.

Guo was detained last month on suspicion of illegal gambling during the football World Cup, and on Monday, state broadcaster CCTV aired her lengthy televised “confession”.

In it, clad in an orange prison vest, she acknowledged that she had helped organise a gambling ring and had “many times” engaged in sex for money.

“I made a very big mistake just to satisfy my vanity,” Guo said.

“I want to express my deep apologies to the Red Cross Society of China. And to the public and those in need of help, I feel even sorrier.”

State-run media also featured interviews with Guo’s former boyfriend, 42-year-old businessman Wang Jun, and her assistant.

Guo is only the latest suspect to be paraded on Chinese state television before going to trial, in what critics call politically motivated public shaming by the ruling Communist authorities.

Other instances include Chinese-American billionaire blogger Charles Xue, journalist Gao Yu and Peter Humphrey, the British founder of a Shanghai-based risk advisory company that did work for embattled pharmaceutical firm GSK.

Much of the online anger in the wake of the CCTV report was directed at China’s state media, rather than Guo.

Several users noted that in the hour after news of her formal arrest broke, the People’s Daily newspaper sent out 12 consecutive tweets about Guo, while CCTV sent out 10 and an official Xinhua news agency account posted 11.

During that time, none of the outlets posted about the two major news stories in the country: an earthquake in southwest China that has killed more than 400 people and a factory explosion in which 75 workers were killed.

“At a time of national crisis, why are our mainstream media focusing on (Guo) rather than on things of significance?” one Sina Weibo user wrote.

“Is Guo Meimei important to the People’s Daily?” wrote another. “Forget about the Yunnan quake, they’re still tweeting about a woman who made a few missteps in life.”

The US-based website China Digital Times, which tracks Beijing’s propaganda directives, posted what it said was a message from authorities telling media to promote Guo’s confession.

“All websites are kindly asked to prominently display Xinhua and CCTV coverage of Guo Meimei, and to actively organise and direct commentary,” read the message.

On its verified Sina Weibo account, the China Red Cross implored the public to “forget about Guo Meimei” and instead “redirect all of our limited resources and energy to the disaster zone”.

Some commentators argued that the assault on Guo would do little to restore the credibility of the organisation, which has faced accusations of misspent donations totalling tens of millions of yuan.

Gammy’s mum may face Thai charges

Thai medical authorities are threatening to take legal action against a 21-year old Thai woman at the centre of global debate over the alleged abandoning of a Down syndrome baby by an Australian couple.

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The Thai Ministry of Public Health says it is co-ordinating with other agencies in a crackdown against medical facilities and agencies linked to the commercial surrogacy the ministry calls “illegal”.

Thai reports said the ministry is also considering charges against the surrogate mother, Pattaramon Chanbua, a food stall seller from the southern province of Sri Racha.

The ministry says the fact that Ms Pattaramon received payment of $15,000 as the surrogate mother was in contravention of Thailand’s human trafficking laws.

The unnamed Australian couple, from Bunbury in Western Australia, had denied the charge of abandoning the boy child, returning to Australia with his healthy twin sister.

The couple have charged that Ms Pattaramon “misled” the world over the events that led to them leaving the baby behind in Thailand.

But on Tuesday the Thai woman denied these charges.

“I have never lied or hidden anything. The truth is the truth; it’s up to society to make their own judgment,” Ms Pattaramon told Agence France Press (AFP).

Seven-month-old baby, Gammy, is receiving treatment at a Bangkok hospital where the child is being treated for a congenital heart condition.

A spokesman for the hospital said the baby was now receiving specialist care and is “in safe hands”.

Initially the Australian couple told the Nine network they had no knowledge of the other child, but in a statement released Tuesday said they were told of the baby’s existence but that it had a congenital heart condition and was not expected to live.

The case has spurred widespread debate, putting Thailand under the spotlight because of its weak legal framework overseeing surrogacy and in vitro-fertilisation (IVF) laws.

Thai law firm, Chaniwat and Leeds, which says it will cover surrogacy and IVF cases on its website, warns of possible “complicated legal issues”.

“While surrogacy in Thailand is currently an option and a rapidly-growing area of medical innovation, there are a number of legal considerations prospective parents should consider,” the firm said.

The lawyers said Thailand currently has no laws or published case decisions directly relating to the practice of surrogacy, “and in essence surrogacy is neither legal nor illegal in Thailand”.

Agencies and health clinics openly engage in locating surrogate mothers and egg donors.

“Thailand’s Medical Council has taken a cautious approach to the practices of IVF implantation, egg donation, and surrogacy; these practices are still in a legal and medical ‘grey area’,” the firm said.

Investigations are now under way by Thailand’s Bureau of Sanatorium and Art in Healing under the Department of Health Service Support (HSS) into the surrogacy service clinics.

There are reported to be an estimated 20 surrogacy agencies, most said to be foreign owned drawing in an estimated 4.0 billion baht ($A133 million) annually.

Sweden battles raging forest fire

Swedish firefighters are battling a massive forest fire described as the worst in living memory which has engulfed homes, left one man dead and sent hundreds fleeing their homes.

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France and Italy were sending in specialised firefighting aircraft to help douse the fast-moving blaze ravaging a vast area in central Sweden.

More than 1000 people were evacuated from the hardest hit region around the town of Sala on Monday night, according to local media, and thousands more were put on alert on Tuesday to prepare to leave their homes at short notice.

Firefighters found one man burned to death on Tuesday on a small road near Sala, which lies around 170 kilometres northwest of Stockholm.

And a truck driver with a timber cargo was admitted to intensive care with severe burns when his vehicle was encircled by flames.

“It was thick with smoke and I heard the forest was blazing. They were water bombing just above where we live,” Tommy Persson, one of the evacuees, told Swedish news agency TT.

Hot, dry and windy weather – as well as difficulties in reaching remote parts of the forest – have made it particularly hard to control the blaze, according to Lars Gunnar Strandberg at the national emergency services agency MSB.

“On Monday night it was moving at a pace of 30 metres per minute,” he told public broadcaster Sveriges Radio, adding that the area has thousands of hectares of thick forest, often lacking natural barriers like wide roads or rivers.

About 100 volunteers helped firefighters as 13 helicopters struggled to navigate through thick smoke to drop water on the worst affected area, but the fire remained out of control after growing steadily over the course of five days.

The fire was estimated to be raging on an area covering about 100 to 150 square kilometres.

On Monday, Sala had the hottest temperatures in more than two decades at over 34 degrees Celsius with little prospect of rain in the coming days.

The emergency services agency said it will take several weeks to completely quench the fire and that it was considering burning sections of state-owned and private forests to cut off the progress of the blaze.

But first more water was needed to lower the temperature and allow firefighters better access.

Two Italian and two French firefighting aircraft are expected to arrive in the area on Tuesday.

The cause of the blaze is unknown but minor forest fires are common in Sweden in the summer months.

Xavi, architect of Spanish success, quits team

The Barcelona player represented his country 133 times, a record for an outfield player and only bettered by goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas, and was a key figure in Spain’s glittering run when they won the 2010 World Cup and the 2008 and 2012 European Championships.

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Xavi had a disappointing 2013-14 season, when Barca failed to win major silverware for the first time in six years and holders Spain were knocked out of the World Cup in the group stage, and reports suggested he was poised to end his career in the Middle East or the United States.

However, he has decided to play on at club level under new coach and former team mate Luis Enrique but has called time on his international career before Spain begin their qualifying campaign for Euro 2016.

“I’m grateful for all those years,” Xavi told a news conference after a Barca training session.

“It has been a fantastic time. I’m not 20 any more, but I still have the motivation of a kid.”I was disappointed on two levels at the end of last season as I did not feel useful to Barca or to the national team.

“I would like to single out Luis Enrique, who has made me see that I can still be important.”

Xavi, who has won three Champions League crowns, seven La Liga titles and a host of other trophies with Barca, made his debut for Spain in a friendly against the Netherlands in November 2000.

He played in four World Cups and three European Championships and won 100 of his 133 matches for the Iberian nation, controlling play from a central position, regularly providing assists and also scoring the occasional goal.

His last appearance for Spain was a bitter 5-1 reverse to the Netherlands in their opening Group B match in Brazil in June.

He was dropped by coach Vicente del Bosque for their next game against Chile, which they also lost and were eliminated, and replaced by Atletico Madrid’s Koke, whom he has singled out as his natural successor.

“I would like to express my appreciation for a fantastic player,” Del Bosque said on Spain’s official website (南宁夜网.sefutbol广西桑拿,) after Xavi’s announcement.

“We are losing a unique player from the national team and it will be hard to find his equal,” he added.

“He has been a key figure in the team’s playing style which has brought us so much success. We will miss him both on and off the pitch.”

(Reporting by Ed Osmond and Iain Rogers, editing by Justin Palmer)