Fijian soldier to start on England wing

Fijian-born Semesa Rokoduguni will start on the wing for England in his Test debut against the All Blacks at Twickenham.


Rokoduguni, a soldier in the British Army who has served in Afghanistan, has impressed this season for Bath with his speed and flair.

The 27-year-old will mark Julian Savea in Saturday’s Test in one of six changes to the starting XV from England’s last Test – the 36-13 loss to the All Blacks in June to complete a 3-0 whitewash.

The forward pack is identical with the exception of lock Dave Attwood, who replaces the injured Joe Launchbury.

Attwood’s inclusion depended on the timing of his first child’s arrival. His fiancee gave birth on Tuesday, clearing him to start alongside Courtney Lawes.

South African Brad Barritt returns at centre, creating a previously untried centre combination with rugby league convert Kyle Eastmond.

England coach Stuart Lancaster said Rokoduguni had knocked very loudly on the selectors’ door.

“Wing is an extremely competitive position but he has pushed himself forward with his form this season and it’s great to be able to give him this opportunity.”

Injuries have robbed England of at least nine contenders, with the tight five particularly hard hit.

New Zealand-raised hooker Dylan Hartley is the only half-centurion in the team, with 57 caps.

Two other uncapped players are on the reserves bench – Saracens lock George Kruis and back Anthony Watson, who brings the number of Bath players to seven.

England: Mike Brown, Semesa Rokoduguni, Brad Barritt, Kyle Eastmond, Jonny May, Owen Farrell, Danny Care, Billy Vunipola, Chris Robshaw, Tom Wood, Courtney Lawes, Dave Attwood, David Wilson, Dylan Hartley, Joe Marler. Res: Rob Webber, Matt Mullan, Kieran Brookes, George Kruis, Ben Morgan, Ben Youngs, George Ford, Anthony Watson

Charges expected in Vic toddler’s death

Charges may soon be laid in the case of toddler Daniel Thomas who, according to Victoria’s coroner, was killed by his baby sitter as his mother failed to intervene.


Homicide detectives have completed their investigation into Daniel’s 2003 death, which was the subject of a coronial inquest earlier this year.

Victoria Police have confirmed their fresh investigation into the child’s death is now complete, and a file has been handed to the Office of Public Prosecutions.

The Seven Network reported on Thursday a murder charge may soon be laid against Daniel’s baby sitter Mandy Martyn.

His mother Donna Thomas may also soon be charged with reckless conduct endangering life.

“Homicide Squad detectives have submitted a brief of evidence to the OPP for opinion in relation to their investigation into the death of Daniel Thomas,” Victoria Police said in a statement.

“Detectives will await the advice from the OPP and as such we are not in a position to comment any further.”

In July, Victoria’s coroner found two-year-old Daniel died in a Myrtleford home, in late 2003, from abuse suffered at the hands of Ms Martyn, his baby sitter.

The abuse over six weeks included the toddler being tied to his bed, locked in a cupboard, gagging and beatings, and his head being held under water.

The coroner also found Ms Thomas contributed to Daniel’s death by failing to protect her son.

Daniel was reported missing and his body not found until 2008.

The women have denied involvement.


* September, 2003: Daniel and his mother Donna Thomas move into Mandy Martyn’s Myrtleford home. Ms Thomas withdraws Daniel from child care centre. Staff report him as healthy and normal at the time

* October, 2003: Ms Martyn tells police Daniel is missing

* March 18, 2008: A dog finds Daniel’s remains under the Myrtleford house in which Ms Thomas used to live

* December, 2013: Coronial inquest hears Ms Martyn tortured him

* July, 2014: Coroner finds Ms Martyn caused Daniel’s death and Ms Thomas failed to protect him

* November, 2014: Homicide police hand the results of a fresh investigation to the Office of Public Prosecutions.

Roma restore respectability after 7-1 ‘accident’

However, both Roma themselves and the Italian media acknowledge the huge gulf in class between the Bundesliga champions and Serie A runners-up over the two games.


“Bayern too much for Roma,” sports daily Corriere dello Sport said on its front page. “The Giallorossi limit the damage in Munich.”

In comments that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago when Serie A teams dominated the Champions League, coach Rudi Garcia and has players seemed happy to have kept the scoreline down to a respectable 2-0.

Rather like his Liverpool counterpart Brendan Rodgers at Real Madrid, Garcia seemed to accept his team had little realistic hope of winning in Munich and preferred to save his top players for Sunday’s Serie A clash against Torino.

The Frenchman made five changes to the side thumped in the first leg, surprisingly leaving out creative players such as talismanic forward Francesco Totti, winger Gervinho and midfielder Miralem Pjanic.

“I congratulate the boys because we were able to cancel out the image of the first leg,” said Garcia. “All the guys did a good job because against Bayern you need to be well organised.

“I made certain choices to ensure we have a compact team and to ensure we have some fresh legs on Sunday,” he added.

“For our part, we have created a few chances but could not open the door and when we did we came up against Manuel Neuer, the best goalkeeper in the world.”

Midfielders Daniele De Rossi and Radja Nainggolan took a similar line as they recognised Bayern’s crushing superiority.

“We have agreed that Bayern are stronger,” De Rossi said. “We got everything right and played differently compared to two weeks ago, we gave a different impression although it was difficult to do as badly as we did two weeks ago.

“We understand that they are two steps ahead of us, we tried to adapt to their game,” added Nainggolan.

“They didn’t have any clear chances apart from the two goals. The other match was just an accident.”

Despite effectively losing 9-1 on aggregate, Roma are still well-placed to qualify for the last 16 thanks to Manchester City’s shock 2-1 home defeat by CSKA Moscow.

Wednesday’s results have left Roma and CSKA with four points each while the Premier League champions have two. Bayern, with a maximum 12 points, have qualified for the last 16 as group winners.

Roma, who beat CSKA 5-1 at home, visit the Russians in their next match before hosting City in the final game.

“If someone had told us that after two matches with Bayern, we would have still been second, I would have happily accepted that,” said Garcia.

(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne, editing by Ed Osmond)

Iraq to open oil fields to foreign firms

<meta content="Word.


Document” name=”ProgId”>

Iraq is this week due to unveil which foreign firms have won contracts to develop its oil and gas fields, nearly four decades after Saddam Hussein’s party nationalised the country’s energy infrastructure.

The deals, likely to be announced live on television, will provide the government with much-needed revenue as it struggles to rebuild the country after three wars and 20 years of debilitating economic sanctions.

The event, originally billed to last for two days starting on Monday, was unexpectedly delayed by one day due to sandstorms that prevented oil company representatives and international media from landing in Baghdad on Sunday.

“The meeting will now start on Tuesday and if necessary continue into the following day,” oil ministry spokesman Assem Jihad told AFP.

Thirty-one companies have submitted bids to develop six giant oil fields and two gas fields. The oil deposits, holding known reserves of 43 billion barrels of crude, are in southern and northern Iraq while the gas concessions are west and northeast of Baghdad.

“Our principal objective is to increase our oil production from 2.4 million barrels per day to more than four million in the next five years,” Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani said in an interview with Iraqi public television.

Increasing production to that level will, according to him, pump an extra $US1.7 trillion ($A2.11 trillion) into government coffers over the next 20 years.

Shahristani has said that only $US30 billion ($A37.31 billion) of that sum will go to the companies that have extracted the oil.

“This is a huge amount that would finance infrastructure projects across Iraq — schools, roads, airports, housing, hospitals,” he said, insisting that the country would retain control over its oil reserves.

For energy firms, meanwhile, the appeal of the Iraqi contracts is the chance to plant a foot firmly in the country, the first time such an opportunity has been offered since the Iraq Petroleum Company was nationalised by the Baath party in 1972, seven years before Saddam took power.

“Thanks to sanctions and war, no company has wanted or been able to invest,” Ruba Husari, an energy expert and the founder of the website iraqoilforum广西桑拿,, explained.

“Today, the country is stable, in both its security and its institutions.”

A source involved in the bidding, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described Iraq as “one of the rare countries in the world where the coming decades will bring real growth in production.”

“It’s a rare opportunity,” the source said.

Not all energy companies are happy, though, with the terms of the contracts being offered by Baghdad.

The foreign firms awarded deals will have to partner with Iraqi government-owned firms, principally the South Oil Company (SOC), and share management of the fields despite fully financing their development.

They will be paid a fixed fee per barrel, not a share of the profits, and the fee will only be paid once a production threshold set by the government is reached.

“This raises the question of the profitability of the contract,” the source said. “The companies are the ones investing, but have a big problem with the fact that management will be shared.”

But international energy giants cannot afford to ignore the contracts on offer.

“For foreign companies, this is like a first step,” the source said. “They are saying, ‘Let’s accept these terms, even though they’re not our preferred model, just to stay in the game, and hope conditions improve’.”

Jackson giraffes need new home

Besides his three children and millions of fans, Michael Jackson has also left behind less likely progeny – a dancing chimp, four giraffes and other exotic pets.


To the delight of tabloids and the dismay of some animal rights activists, Jackson created a private zoo at Neverland, his 1,050-hectare (2,600-acre) fantasy estate in California.

While the fate of his opulent personal theme park hangs in the balance, nearly all of the animals have already been moved to new homes in the past few years as Jackson’s personal and financial woes worsened.

Jackson’s most famous pet was Bubbles, a chimpanzee he adopted from a medical laboratory in 1985. Like Jackson himself, Bubbles has generated years of intense press speculation, some of it perhaps apocryphal.

As a young chimp, Bubbles was said to have shared Jackson’s bedroom and bathroom and learned to dance the King of Pop’s signature moonwalk.

Bubbles was even rumored to have attempted suicide after Jackson parted ways with his ape companion, whose growing size made him a danger to the King of Pop’s young children.

The chimpanzee’s trainer said he was alive and well at a California animal sanctuary, denying a tabloid report that Bubbles died and his body carefully preserved by a German doctor.

Trainer Bob Dunn said Jackson thought of Bubbles as “his first child” and regularly visited the chimpanzee, who recognized him.

“Chimpanzees are intelligent. They remember people and stuff. Bubbles and Michael were close friends and playmates,” Dunn told Britain’s News of the World tabloid. Contacted by AFP, Dunn declined comment, saying he was negotiating a deal to speak publicly about Bubbles.

Jackson’s two tigers, Thriller and Sabu, were taken in at another sanctuary in California run by former actress Tippi Hedren.

The Voices of the Wild Foundation, which runs an animal preserve in Arizona, adopted Jackson’s four giraffes along with reptiles and exotic birds including the King of Pop’s purported favorite, the Amazon parrot Rikki.

Freddie Hancock, the founder and director of the non-profit group, said it was appealing to Jackson fans to send donations in his memory so that the preserve can shelter more animals in need of homes.

Hancock said the foundation also hoped to put up a plaque dedicated to the superstar, for whom she had nothing but praise.

She toured Neverland to arrange the animal adoption two years ago when Jackson’s entourage advised him to downsize. She said the animals had “beautiful facilities” in Neverland.

“I think he just loved animals. And when you’re an individual who loves animals, the animals know that,” Hancock told AFP. “He loved watching all of their different characteristics.”

But People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was much more critical of Jackson. The animal rights group filed a complaint to US authorities in January 2006, charging that the exotic animals in the Neverland zoo were being mistreated.

Department officials inspected the estate’s menagerie but found no evidence of abuse or neglect.

Michael Jackson’s interest in animals was a constant throughout his life.

When he was 14 years old, he had his first number-one hit single with “Ben,” inspired by his pet rat.

Gaza struggling to rebuild, six months on

Six months after the Israeli offensive and two years into a blockade, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are struggling to survive and sliding into despair, the Red Cross has said.


“The people living there find themselves unable to rebuild their lives and are sliding ever deeper into despair,” the International Committee of the Red Cross reported.

The report said that seriously ill patients were not getting the treatment they needed and thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed during Israel’s 22-day military operation at the beginning of the year were still without shelter.

“The poorest residents in particular have exhausted their coping mechanisms and often have to sell off their belongings to be able to buy enough to eat,” said Antoine Grand, head of the ICRC’s sub-delegation in Gaza.

“Worst affected are the children, who make up more than half of Gaza’s population,” he added.

Israel imposed a blockade of Gaza in June 2007 when the Islamist movement Hamas, which is pledged to the Jewish state’s destruction, took control of the Palestinian territory.

In late December last year, Israel launched an offensive in Gaza to stop Hamas from firing rockets into southern Israel, which claimed 12 Israeli lives. Israeli air raids and tanks destroyed swathes of the coastal enclave and 1,400 Palestinians were killed, according to Palestinian emergency services.

The ICRC report said in the wake of the Israeli offensive essential water and sanitation infrastructure remain largely insufficient and that the equivalent of 28 Olympic-size swimming pools of basically untreated sewage is daily pumped into the Mediterranean Sea.

Some 4.5 billion dollars pledged by donor countries to rebuild Gaza is of little use if building supplies cannot get past the Israeli blockade, the ICRC said, calling for the lifting of restrictions on the movement of people and goods.

“Israel has the right to protect its population against attacks,” said Grand. “But does that mean that 1.5 million people in Gaza do not have the right to live a normal life?”

The Geneva-based humanitarian organisation said Gaza urgently needed to import medical equipment and building supplies including cement and steel, and its farmers needed access to their land in the buffer zone and its fishermen should be allowed back into deeper waters.

The ICRC also called for political authorities and the armed groups in Gaza to take the necessary steps to help the civilians.

“Humanitarian action can be no substitute for the credible political steps that are needed to bring about the changes the population of Gaza needs,” the ICRC said.

Southern Ocean carbon sink ‘slowing’

An ozone hole could be the reason why the Southern Ocean is losing its effectiveness as a carbon sink, writes New Scientist’s Kate Ravilious.


In theory, oceans should absorb more CO2 as levels of the gas in the atmosphere rise.

Measurements show that this is happening in most ocean regions, but strangely not in the Southern Ocean, where carbon absorption has flattened off. Climate models fail to reproduce this puzzling pattern.

The Southern Ocean is a major carbon sink, guzzling around 15 per cent of CO2 emissions.

However, between 1987 and 2004, carbon uptake in the region was reduced by nearly 2.5 billion tonnes – equivalent to the amount of carbon that all the world’s oceans absorb in one year.

Premature effect

To figure out what is going on, Andrew Lenton, from the University of Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris, France, and his colleagues created a coupled ocean and atmosphere climate model, to investigate carbon absorption in oceans. Crucially, they included changes in the concentration of stratospheric ozone since 1975.

By running their model with and without the ozone depletion since 1975, Lenton and his colleagues were able to show that the ozone hole is responsible for the Southern Ocean’s carbon saturation.

The effect could be down to the way decreasing stratospheric ozone and rising greenhouse gases are altering the radiation balance of the Earth’s atmosphere. This has been predicted to alter and strengthen the westerly winds that blow over the Southern Ocean.

“We expected this transition to a windier regime, but it has occurred much earlier than we thought, seemingly because of the ozone hole,” says Lenton.

‘Unexpected effect’

Stronger surface winds enhance circulation of ocean waters, encouraging carbon-rich waters to rise from the deep, limiting the capability of surface water to absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Furthermore, the higher carbon levels in surface waters make them more acidic – bad news for many forms of ocean life, such as coral and squid.

“This result illustrates how complex the chain of cause and effect can be in the Earth system. No one would ever have predicted from first principles that increasing CFCs would have the effect of decreasing uptake of ocean carbon dioxide,” says Andrew Watson, from the University of East Anglia, UK.

Jackson patriarch plugs company after son’s death

Michael Jackson’s father, who had an uneasy relationship with the superstar, has angered fans by making a commercial plug at his first appearance since his son’s death.


Joe Jackson, the 79-year-old patriarch of the musical clan, made a surprise showing on the red carpet at the Black Entertainment Television (BET) awards, which had transformed into a remembrance for the pioneering King of Pop.

During a live interview on CNN television, Jackson introduced an unidentified man who appeared to be a business partner, saying he wanted to make “a real good statement”.

“Marshall and I have — we own a record company. Talking about Blu-ray technology. That’s the next step,” Jackson said.

The blogosphere was instantly buzzing with outrage.

Warren Ballentine, an African-American motivational speaker and radio show host, said that he was flooded with angry messages over Jackson’s comments.

“Joe Jackson and his lack of sensitivity and respect disgusts me,” said one posting on Jezebel, a blog geared toward women.

Another person wrote on Jezebel that Joe Jackson’s behaviour was “almost too ghastly to consider: a man seems pursued pretty much to the grave by the demons his father planted in him, and even in death the (expletive) ghoul is still hustling his son’s corpse.”

Jackson, a steelworker in the industrial city of Gary, Indiana, reared his nine children into musical sensations starting from the Jackson 5 to the phenomenal careers of Michael Jackson and his younger sister Janet Jackson.

Michael Jackson later said that his father would beat him when he missed a note and emotionally humiliate him, contributing to the future star’s psychological fragility but also planting in him the will to succeed. Joe Jackson has acknowledged he would whip his children but denied it was abuse.

Despite the frequent recriminations, the entire family reunited earlier this year in Las Vegas to celebrate Joe and Katherine Jackson’s 60th wedding anniversary.

Honduras new leader orders curfew

The newly appointed leader of Honduras Roberto Micheletti has ordered a 48-hour curfew after denying there had been a coup d’etat on deposed President Manuel Zelaya.


At dawn troops had roused Zelaya in his pajamas and flew him out of the country, ending a bitter power struggle with the military as parliament swiftly voted in a new leader.

Zelaya insisted when he arrived in regional neighbor Costa Rica that he remained the president of his Central American nation, but just hours later the Congress voted in the parliamentary speaker as the country’s new leader.

“A curfew begins today and ends on Tuesday,” Micheletti said at his first press conference, as worldwide condemnation for the action, led by the United States, continued.

“We recognize Zelaya as the duly elected and constitutional president of Honduras. We see no other,” a top US State Department official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

Micheletti, a member of Zelaya’s own Liberal Party, maintained however after being sworn in by Congress that he “came to the presidency not by a coup d’etat but by a completely legal process as set out in our laws.”

The first such major upheaval in several decades in the impoverished country was triggered by a tense political standoff between Zelaya and the country’s military and legal institutions over his bid to secure a second term.

“I will never give up since I was elected the president by the people,” Zelaya said from San Jose, accusing Honduran troops of kidnapping him and denouncing what he called a “political conspiracy.”

But Congress said it voted unanimously to remove him from office for his “apparent misconduct” and for “repeated violations of the constitution and the law and disregard of orders and judgments of the institutions.”

Micheletti was appointed to serve out the rest of the term, which ends in January. New general elections are planned for November 29.

Zelaya, elected to a non-renewable four-year term in 2005, had planned a vote Sunday asking Hondurans to sanction a future referendum to allow him to run for re-election in the November polls.

The planned referendum had been ruled illegal by the country’s top court and was opposed by the military, but the president said he planned to press ahead with it anyway and ballot boxes had already been distributed.

The Supreme Court said Sunday that it had ordered the president’s ouster in order to protect law and order in the nation of some seven million people.

The drama unfolded at dawn on Sunday when some 200 troops swooped on Zelaya’s home. He was bundled away in his pyjamas and flown out of the country.

A leading government official, Armando Sarmiento, told AFP that at least eight cabinet members were also detained including Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas. As planes and helicopters overflew the capital, several hundred Zelaya supporters ignored warnings to stay home and flooded onto the streets of Tegucigalpa shouting out, “We want Mel,” the president’s nickname.

But the demonstration was halted in front of the presidential palace when the way was barred by a cordon of troops and armored vehicles.

US President Barack Obama said he was deeply concerned about the events in Honduras, as US officials said they recognized Zelaya as the country’s legitimate president. UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he wanted Zelaya to be reinstated and human rights in the country to be fully respected.

Last week Zelaya sacked the country’s top military chief, General Romeo Vasquez and also accepted the resignation of Defense Minister Edmundo Orellana, after military commanders refused to distribute ballot boxes for Sunday’s vote.

The heads of the army, marines and air force also resigned.

The Honduran Supreme Court then unanimously voted Thursday to reinstate Vasquez and hundreds of troops massed late last week in the capital Tegucigalpa.

Zelaya, who was elected as a conservative, has shifted dramatically to the left during his presidency.

He is the latest in a long list of Latin American leaders, including Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, to seek constitutional changes to expand presidential powers and also ease term limits.

Chavez also denounced Sunday’s arrest as a “coup d’etat” and alleged that the United States had a hand in Zelaya’s overthrow.

And he warned that if Venezuela’s envoys to Honduras were harmed he would be prepared to intervene militarily.

‘Rough week’ won’t touch Turnbull

Liberal frontbenchers Tony Abbott and Andrew Robb have dismissed suggestions coalition MPs will attempt to oust Malcolm Turnbull as opposition leader in the coming weeks.


Abbott conceded the coalition had endured a nightmare week over the OzCar scandal, which has seen the party’s popularity slump with voters in three polls out on Monday.

Andrew Robb added his voice to those supporting Turnbull, saying he has “no doubt” Turnbull will lead the coalition to the next federal election.

He blamed the “soap opera-type atmosphere” of the OzCar affair for Turnbull’s loss of popularity in the polls, but expected government debt and unemployment to be the deciders in the next election.

Sharpest popularity crash in Newspoll history

A Newspoll shows the Liberal leader suffered the biggest drop in support in the poll’s 25-year history, with voter satisfaction crashing from 44 to 25 per cent.

Nielsen and Galaxy polls also indicate the affair has hurt Turnbull rather than the prime minister.

However, Abbott said leading coalition MPs were simply “getting on with their jobs and are not focusing on a leadership challenge”.

“I think people need to take a bit of a cold shower about the polls. When you’ve had a tough week you get bad polls,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“Labor threw everything bar the kitchen sink at us last week, but Malcolm Turnbull has not flinched and the party has not flinched.

“Polls go up and down, but what won’t go away is the fact that Labor has not improved things.”

When asked if there would be a leadership challenge to Turnbull, Abbott said “we’re just getting on with our jobs. I’m very happy with my position, with my portfolio.

“What could be more important than families and indigenous affairs?”

Mr Abbott also conceded he had a lot to learn before he could rise further up the party’s ranks.

“I’ve made mistakes in parliament recently and that had made me realise I’ve got some work to do, some swatting up to do,” he said.

People ‘sick of smear politics’

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has refused to comment on Turnbull’s plummeting support, but says Australians are sick of smear politics.

However, he would not comment on whether he thought Turnbull would lose his leadership of the Liberal party.

“The government is getting on with the business of jobs and supporting business amidst the worst recession in 75 years,” Rudd told reporters after a sod turning ceremony at a Sydney primary school.

“I think the Australian people are just tired of the politics of fear and smear.”

Some senior Liberal Party members have told The Australian newspaper that had parliament been sitting this week there would have been moves to replace Mr Turnbull with Hockey.

A Nielsen poll also shows a sharp decline in voter support for Turnbull, while Rudd’s approval rating rose three points to 67 per cent.

A Galaxy poll found 51 per cent of people believed Turnbull was dishonest or somewhat deceitful over the OzCar controversy.

Government ‘will serve full term’

Though Labor has widened its winning gap over the coalition, it has no intention of calling an early election, Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese said.

“We’re determined to pursue our agenda for the full term,” he told Fairfax Radio Network.

Mr Albanese says there is unrest in coalition ranks about Turnbull’s judgment.

“Many of their backbenchers were certainly muttering around the corridors … shaking their heads,” he said.

Black entertainment awards honour Michael Jackson

Top black performers paid tribute to Michael Jackson at the BET Awards where his sister Janet Jackson and father Joe Jackson made their first public appearances since the singer’s death.


The show’s most moving moment came in a final tribute when Janet, a pop star in her own right, took the stage to thank the audience for turning out to honor her dead brother.

“To you, Michael is an icon. To us, Michael is family, and he will forever live in all of our hearts,” said Jackson, her voice choking as she held back tears. “On behalf of my family and myself, thank you for all of your love. Thank you for all of your support, we miss him so much.”

She was followed by host Jamie Foxx and R&B singer Ne-Yo singing a tender duet of Jackson 5 hit “I’ll Be There,” while pictures of Jackson were displayed on a giant video screen.

A member of 1970s brother band the Jackson 5 and a musical sensation, Jackson’s 1982 smash “Thriller” is the best-selling album of all time, and Jackson was a major influence on R&B, hip hop and many other forms of music for 40 years.

Jackson died suddenly from cardiac arrest at age 50 in his Los Angeles home on Thursday. The BET Awards, which annually honor African American singers, actors, actresses and athletes, transformed into a tribute to the pop superstar.

In the front row, Joe Jackson watched performances by the likes of Beyonce, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and the O’Jays, most of whom either gave testimonials to Jackson or in some way highlighted his influence on their own careers.

‘He belongs to us’

Ahead of the show, Joe Jackson told Reuters that if his son were there, “He would have said, ‘I love you all,’ that’s what he would have said. “I love you all,” and he would’ve loved everybody … I only wish that he could’ve been here to see all this,” Joe Jackson said.

Show host Jamie Foxx put the program in party mode from the start, dancing Jackson’s famous moonwalk, singing his hit song “Beat It” and wearing a classic King of Pop costume — red leather jacket and one white glove.

“We’re going to celebrate this black man. He belongs to us, and we shared him with everybody else,” Foxx told the crowd.

Two inspiring moments came when Beyonce sang a version of Ave Maria in an angelic white dress, and later when accepting her award for best female R&B artist, she held her trophy up.

“This is for you, Michael Jackson,” she said, thanking him for being an inspiration and a “hero” to her. Later in the evening, Beyonce also won the award for best video.

Many performers sang Jackson songs and dressed as he did when he was on stage — leather jackets, high pants, white socks, uniform-like costumes and a single white gloved hand.

Some of the winners included best male R&B singer Ne-Yo, best actress Taraji P. Henson, best male hip hop artist Lil Wayne, and best male athlete, basketball star LeBron James.

While the 50-year-old Jackson was loved by many, he lived a reclusive life in his final years, and in the 1990s he was twice accused of child molestation — charges never proven.

His death continues to be shrouded in questions of prescription drug use and, although an autopsy was performed, it will be four to six weeks before an official cause of death can be determined after toxicology tests are completed.

But music mogul and rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs set the tone for the night on the red carpet, telling reporters Jackson “is one of our heroes. As African Americans, we are not going to let everybody beat him up.”

(Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte; editing by Anthony Boadle)

UN mission hears of Gaza war horrors

Monday’s public hearings are part of the UN Human Rights Council mission’s investigation into alleged war crimes during the 22-day offensive launched in late December that killed about 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.


The group is headed by Richard Goldstone, a South African judge who previously served as chief prosecutor for international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

On Monday the panel heard from Dr Iyad Sarraj, a child psychologist who described the war’s impact on children living in the impoverished territory of 1.5 million people.

Sarraj estimated that 20 per cent of children in Gaza suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome brought on by witnessing violent acts.

“The amount of killing and blood that they have seen or that their relatives have suffered from… it’s a huge amount, and this leads to negative psychological feelings, to radicalism and a cycle of violence,” he said.

More than half of Gaza’s population is under 18 years of age.

On Sunday, the mission heard a wheelchair-bound man describe how an Israeli shell hit his home, killing 11 of his relatives and cutting off his legs. Another man described a strike on a mosque that killed 17 people.

The group was expected to look into several allegations of human rights violations that emerged in the aftermath of the assault, which Israel said was aimed at stemming Palestinian rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled enclave.

Israeli authorities have so far refused to allow the investigators into the country and have accused the mission of bias against the Jewish state.

“The mandate is so one-sided, no fair, thinking person could see it as objective,” government spokesman Mark Regev said on Sunday.

“The UN Human Rights Council has over the last months and years totally discredited itself as a serious vehicle for advancing human rights.”

The 47-member council voted by a large majority in January to probe accusations of “grave” human rights violations by Israel but the team was later given a broader mandate to deal with “all violations” during the war.

Israel has insisted it made every effort to spare civilians, including dropping thousands of flyers warning residents to flee ahead of strikes.

It has also said that Palestinian fighters and rocket launchers operated in crowded residential areas, using civilians as human shields, a charge also lodged by rights groups against the Islamist Hamas movement ruling Gaza.

The group plans to hold similar hearings in Geneva in which they will interview witnesses and experts on alleged violations in Israel and the occupied West Bank, and to issue a final report by September 12.

Jackson father concerned over death circumstances

The father of Michael Jackson says he remains concerned about the circumstances of his son’s death as the tragic pop icon’s personal doctor protested his innocence.


In a surprising first public appearance since the death of his superstar son, family patriarch Joe Jackson appeared on the red carpet of a Los Angeles awards show dedicated to the African-American entertainment industry.

The Jackson family is reportedly angry at the “unanswered questions” concerning the role of doctor Conrad Murray in the final hours of Michael Jackson’s life.

Lawyers for Murray insist he has been cleared of wrongdoing.

However, speaking to a CNN reporter at the Black Entertainment Television (BET) awards, Jackson, 79, said he continued to harbour misgivings about the sudden death of his son at the age of 50.

“I have a lot of concerns. I can’t get into that, but I don’t like what happened,” Jackson said, before directing questions to a family lawyer who declined to comment further.

“We can’t talk about that now,” lawyer Londell McMillan said. “There is a second autopsy that is underway and we’ll let that process take its course at this time. We’ll have more detail at a later point.”

Joe Jackson said his grandchildren – two boys and a girl – were his first priority now. “They’re fine. They’re with us,” he said.

The children know their father has died, he said. Los Angeles police conducted a second interview with Murray on Saturday but cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing, the doctor’s lawyers said.

The 51-year-old cardiologist, who became part of Jackson’s staff in March to help the singer prepare for a concert comeback in London, has faced intense speculation amid reports he injected Jackson with the potent prescription painkiller Demerol just before he died.

However, a lawyer for Murray said that reports of an injection were “absolutely false”, the first time the allegation has been denied.

“There was no Demerol. No OxyContin,” Edward Chernoff, a lawyer for Murray was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times, adding that Murray had discovered Jackson unconscious in the bedroom of his home.

“(Murray) was the one who suggested the autopsy to the family while they were still in the hospital.

He didn’t understand why Michael Jackson had died,” Chernoff was quoted as saying. Meanwhile, Jackson’s family have yet to finalise funeral plans and were due to meet activist Reverend Al Sharpton on Sunday to discuss plans for a tribute.

Sharpton was cited in several media reports as saying Jackson’s family was considering a series of simultaneous memorials around the world to reflect the huge appeal of the late King of Pop.

“Reverend Sharpton will discuss with the family ideas that people from around the world have sent him about how they would like to memorialise Michael Jackson,” a spokeswoman for Sharpton said.

However, an unofficial memorial appeared to already be underway at Los Angeles’s famous Shrine Auditorium, where the cream of the African-American music, acting and sporting worlds was gathering for the BET Awards.

A galaxy of stars paid tribute to Jackson as they walked the red carpet, hailing his role as a star who had helped break racial barriers.

While Jackson’s incredible influence stretched across genres, races, and cultures, he had a very unique place in the world of black entertainment.

His influence is arguably most visible in urban music, seen in stars like Usher who mimic his dance moves, to Ne-Yo, whose music is marked by its Jackson-isms.

But that influence went beyond music: Jackson was black America’s biggest star, who broke racial barriers that allowed for so many other superstars to follow.

Foxx kicked off the show with a re-enactment of the choreography from Jackson’s iconic Beat It video in front of the star-studded crowd, on its feet from the start of the show.

Throughout the night, Foxx wore some of Jackson’s signature looks, like the wide-collar black leather outfit from Billie Jean.

“You know, my man is the greatest,” hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy Combs” told CNN. “He’s one of the reasons why Barack Obama’s president … He started the change in the world about how African-Americans are perceived.”

“We miss him and we love him and we just feel devastated,” said soul singer Alicia Keys, urging people to remember Jackson in a “respectful, positive way”.

Asked how Jackson had influenced her, Keys replied: “In every way. How could he not influence us to break the barrier and to think bigger, and to try new things and to break the rules?

“Tonight is a true memorial for him. It’s really about honouring him.” Thousands of Jackson devotees continued to gather outside the singer’s star on the walk of fame as well as the Jackson family’s home in Encino, where makeshift shrines of flowers and cards have grown rapidly since Friday.

Jackson’s death has sent fans scrambling to stock up on his music across the world. British chart officials said a compilation album of the star’s greatest hits had rocketed to the top of the charts on Sunday.

A spokesman for music retailer HMV said there had been an 80-fold increase in demand for Jackson’s music “almost overnight” after the singer’s death — the biggest one-day rise in sales seen for any artists, including Elvis Presley and John Lennon.