Seven wins Olympic broadcast deal

The Olympics are returning to the Seven Network.

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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed on Monday it had awarded Seven the Australian broadcast rights for the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and Tokyo in 2020.

Kerry Stokes’ network also will broadcast the Winter Games in PyeongChang in 2018 and the Summer Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing in 2014.

Seven has acquired broadcast rights on all media platforms.

The last Olympics Seven broadcast was the 2008 Beijing Games after the Nine Network and Foxtel jointly paid $A122 million for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2012 London Summer Olympics.

Ten covered the recent Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Seven reportedly paid less than $A200 million for the rights after Ten and Nine dropped out of the bidding.

“Seven has a lot of experience in broadcasting major sports events, and first broadcast an Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956,” IOC President Thomas Bach said.

“We are delighted that we will work with Seven until at least 2020.

“The IOC enjoys long term partnerships and this agreement is something of a homecoming between us and Seven.

“Seven has made a concrete commitment to help promote the Olympic Movement and the Olympic values, not only during each edition of the games, but all year round, and this was an important consideration in our decision making.”

Mr Stokes said he was delighted with the deal.

“The Olympic movement and Seven have enjoyed a long and deep partnership since the Games in Melbourne,” he said.

“We are looking forward celebrating our five decades association with the Olympics in Rio and to taking this partnership to a new level over the coming decade.”

Australian IOC vice-president John Coates, a member of the IOC’s TV Rights and New Media Commission, welcomed Seven back.

“We’ve had a long relationship with Seven, which last covered the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, and we are happy to welcome them back to the Olympic team,” he said.

Australian couple speak out about baby Gammy

The Bunbury couple have faced intense media pressure since the story of the surrogacy broke, alleging that they abandoned the baby boy, who has Down Syndrome and was born with a hole in his heart.

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Surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua said the couple took Gammy’s twin sister after she was born but left Gammy behind.

But in a statement to the Bunbury Mail through a family friend, the couple say the allegations are lies.

 

The family friend said the birth was planned to take place in a major hospital, but the surrogacy agreement was voided when Ms Chanbua went a smaller hospital.

The change in venue also meant that the couple had no legal right to the babies, the family friend said.

“This has been absolutely devastating for them, they are on the edge,” the family friend said.

The friend said the babies were born two weeks prematurely and the couple were not told that Gammy had Down Sydndrome, instead being informed that he would not survive.

“All this happened when Thailand was in a military lockdown and very difficult to get around,” the friend said.

“The biological parents were heartbroken that they couldn’t take their boy with them and never wanted to give him up, but to stay would risk them losing their daughter also.

“They prayed for Gammy to survive but were told by doctors that he was too sick, not because of the Down syndrome but because of his heart and lung conditions and infection.”

The letter comes amid reports from Channel Nine that the Australian father has served time in prison for an indecent act involving a child.

 

Government to overhaul anti-terrorism laws with tough new legislation

Civil libertarians question proposed terror changes

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also announced it will be an offence to travel to a battle region overseas without a valid reason.

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“Over the last couple of months every Australian has been shocked at the evidence on the internet of Australians participating in terrorist activities in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere,” he said in Canberra on Tuesday.

“What we are now acutely conscious of is the danger posed back here in Australia, by people returning to Australia who have been radicalised and militarised by the experience of working with terrorist organisations overseas.”

Mr Abbott said the terrorist threat was as high as it had ever been.

Attorney-General George Brandis said new anti-terrorism laws would be brought to the parliament in the Spring sittings.

Talks will continue with telecommunications companies on the long-term storage of metadata which can be accessed by intelligence agencies to investigate terrorists.

The legislation sits alongside the extra $630 million of funds earmarked to boost counter-terrorism work by the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), AFP, ASIO and Customs and Border Protection.

Legislation to avoid ‘home-grown terrorists’

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said preventing Australian citizens from becoming involved in terrorist activities was one of Australia’s highest national security priorities.

“We are deeply concerned this security challenge will mean that Australian citizens fighting in these conflicts overseas will return to this country as hardened home-grown terrorists who may use the experiences and skills they have gained to carry out attacks in this country,” she said.

Before the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, there were 30 Australians involved with extremists – 25 of whom returned to Australia and two-thirds of whom became involved in terrorist activities.

“Five times that number are now of interest, fighting overseas or becoming involved,” Ms Bishop said.

Mr Abbott said the “ordinary range” of security monitors would provide a safeguard for innocent Australians returning from designated locations.

But the biggest protection would come in the form of negotiations with the Labor opposition, which had traditionally offered bipartisan support on security issues, he said.

“Democracy in the end is the most important safeguard when it comes to any of these things,” he said.

“We will need to get (Labor) onside, we will need to liaise with them and other members of the parliament to get the legislation through.”

Mr Abbott said the extra funding would come from the budget.

“I know we are under a lot of budget pressure but the community won’t thank us if we skimp unreasonably in the area of national security,” Mr Abbott said.

Racial Discrimination Act changes ‘off the table’

Mr Abbott said he still believed the Racial Discrimination Act needed to be changed.

“But I want the communities of our country to be our friend, not our critic,” he said.

“I want to work with the communities of our country as `Team Australia’ here.

“The government’s perfectly reasonable attempt to amend Section 18C has become a complication we just don’t need and we won’t proceed with.”

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Labor would take up the offer of a briefing on the measures from the government.

But he also said Mr Abbott had used the cover of the new counter-terrorism measures to suddenly drop the controversial changes to section 18C of the discrimination act promoted by Senator Brandis.

PROPOSED CHANGES:

The laws would:

broaden the listing criteria for terrorist organisations to ensure advocacy of terrorist acts includes the promotion and encouragement of terrorismmake it easier to arrest terrorists by lowering the threshold for arrest without warrant for terrorism offencesextend ASIO’s questioning and detention powers beyond July 2016 when they were scheduled to expireextend Australian Federal Police (AFP) stop, search and seizure powers in relation to terrorist acts and offences beyond December 2015make it easier to prosecute foreign fighters make it an offence to participate in terrorist trainingenable ASIO to request the suspension of an Australian passport or foreign passport for a dual national.

Publish analysis of projects: NBN audit

An independent audit has damned Labor’s rollout of the national broadband network (NBN) and recommends all major infrastructure projects be subject to a published cost-benefit analysis.

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The review by former Productivity Commission head Bill Scales is highly critical of the NBN project, saying the Rudd cabinet gave only “perfunctory” consideration to the $43 billion second stage of its development.

The government-commissioned audit found that while the $4.7 billion NBN Mark I was “in general conducted appropriately from a public policy perspective”, Mark II was “rushed, chaotic and inadequate”.

The Scales review found the second stage, introduced in 2009, was given only 11 weeks consideration by the government.

No business case or cost-benefit analysis was done for the project, which has since been marked by delays and cost blowouts.

The company set up to deliver the project, NBN Co, was not “fit for purpose”, Mr Scales said.

Only a large and established telecommunications company could have rolled out the project in the allotted time.

The audit recommended all taxpayer-funded infrastructure projects worth more than $1 billion be subject to an independent cost benefit analysis, which should be released for public consultation.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has been charged with overhauling the NBN, said the multibillion-dollar infrastructure project was “an extraordinary leap into the unknown”.

“It was just a ramshackle, reckless excursion which has cost the nation tens of billions of dollars,” he told Sky News.

It was already coalition policy to have a cost-benefit analysis for projects worth more than $100 million, Mr Turnbull said.

He agreed there was a good case for making them public, “so the public understand what the government is doing with their money”.

The coalition has promised to rein in spending on the NBN, which under Labor relied on expensive fibre-to-the-premises technology.

It plans to introduce a mix of technologies, including fibre-to-the-node and fixed wireless.

Labor dismissed the Scales audit as a political attack on the NBN, saying it proved the government is not committed to broadband.

“We will create a digital divide in this country where a few people will have access to the best and fastest internet … and the rest of Australians will get second-rate helpings from the Abbott government,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said.

World Bank pledges millions to Ebola fight

The World Bank has pledged $US200 million to help contain the deadly Ebola virus sowing panic across west Africa, as Nigerian authorities say a doctor in Lagos has contracted the disease, the second case in the sprawling city.

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The confirmation that a fourth doctor in the region had developed Ebola came on Monday as fear and anger about the dead being left unburied in Liberia’s capital Monrovia brought protesters into the streets there.

Meanwhile, Sierra Leone’s president said the regional epidemic threatened the “very essence” of the nation.

The World Bank said on Monday that it would provide up to $US200 million ($A216.39 million) to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to help the west African nations contain the deadly outbreak.

World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, himself an expert on infectious diseases, said he has been monitoring the spread of the virus and was “deeply saddened” at how it was contributing to the breakdown of “already weak health systems in the three countries”.

The funding will help provide medical supplies, pay healthcare staff and take care of other priorities to contain the epidemic and try to prevent future outbreaks, the World Bank said.

The bank made the announcement as African leaders, including 35 presidents, are visiting Washington for a US-Africa summit.

The death toll from the Ebola outbreak on Monday reached 887 after 61 more fatalities were recorded, according to the World Health Organisation.

The latest doctor to be infected had attended to Patrick Sawyer, who worked for Liberia’s finance ministry and contracted the virus from his sister before travelling to Lagos for a meeting of west African officials.

Nigeria’s Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu told journalists that 70 other people believed to have come into contact with Sawyer, who has also died, were being monitored.

Of the eight now in quarantine, three show “symptomatic” signs of the disease, he said.

More worrying still were reports from Liberia that victims’ corpses were being dumped or abandoned. Protesters, who blocked major roads in the capital on Monday, claimed the government is leaving the bodies of victims to rot in the streets or in their homes.

The Liberian government had warned against touching the dead or anyone ill with Ebola-like symptoms, which include fever, vomiting, severe headaches and muscular pain and, in the final stages, profuse bleeding.

“Four people died in this community. Because the government says that we should not touch bodies, no one has gone to bury them,” said Kamara Fofana, 56, a protester in the Monrovia suburb of Douala. “We have been calling the ministry of health hotline to no avail.”

Deputy health minister Tolbert Nyensuah said the government was doing its best to collect bodies as quickly as possible.

In neighbouring Sierra Leone, President Ernest Bai Koroma called for the nation to unite to counter the threat posed by the outbreak. “This is a collective fight. The very essence of our nation is at stake,” he said in a televised address.

Streets in the capital Freetown were empty on Monday as people observed an emergency “stay at home day” called by the authorities to help them reorganise their fight against epidemic.

Sierra Leone has the most confirmed cases of any nation – 574 – including 252 deaths since the virus spread from neighbouring Guinea in May.

President Koroma, who declared a state of emergency last week, urged families to ensure that victims were reported to health authorities.

Meanwhile, Kent Brantly, the US doctor infected with the virus, “seems to be improving”, the director of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control, where he is being treated in an isolation unit, said on Sunday.

A second American infected with the virus while working in Liberia was being flown back to the US on Tuesday.

The Christian missionary group SIM USA said Nancy Writebol, 60, was in a “serious but stable condition”.

A man was admitted to a New York City hospital on Monday with Ebola-like symptoms though odds were he was not infected, a hospital official said.

The patient, who was placed under strict isolation, had recently travelled to West Africa, said David Reich, president of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.