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Australia must explain Ebola visa ban: WHO

The World Health Organisation has asked Australia and Canada to justify their decisions last week to suspend migration from Ebola-hit west African countries.

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“These are measures that go beyond the recommendations of the WHO’s emergency committee,” Isabelle Nuttall, who heads WHO’s alert and response department, told AFP on Wednesday.

Australia on October 27 became the first Western nation to suspend migration from Ebola-hit west African nations, and Canada followed suit four days later.

The two countries said the moves were needed to ensure that the deadly virus, which has killed around 5000 people mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone does not surface within their borders.

But Nuttall pointed out that the UN’s health agency had recommended only exit screening for people leaving the hardest-hit nations and did not think blocking entry to all their residents was a good way to fight the raging epidemic.

The WHO asks any country putting in place measures that interfere with international travel to justify the move from a scientific and public perspective.

Such requests had been sent to Canada and Australia and a range of other countries that have put in place similar measures, Nuttall said.

Instead of closing borders, Nuttall said the best way to fight the epidemic was on the ground in west Africa.

“We have to make sure the three countries are conducting exit screening, and the rest of the world must remain vigilant so cases can be detected if they show up in other countries,” she said.

Nuttall said that blanket visa suspensions could give countries a “false sense of security”, warning it could even push “uncontrolled immigration” from the affected areas, “which is much riskier”.

She also cautioned that such measures made the response to the outbreak more difficult, since it complicated travel to and from the affected countries for aid workers.

And they put additional pressure on the countries already being ravaged by the outbreak.

“The burden that they have to face is more than enough,” she said.

SBW keeping it simple on rugby return

A disciple of self-discipline off the field, Sonny Bill Williams is staying on the straight and narrow with his rugby playing habits too.

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Code-hopper Williams exploded back into Test rugby in Saturday’s 74-6 win over the United States in Chicago, so much so that he’s a decent chance of winning selection for Saturday’s showdown with England at Twickenham.

The 27-year-old didn’t resemble somebody coming off two years out of the sport – having played for the Sydney Roosters in the NRL.

He also didn’t quite look like the Williams who played 19 All Blacks Tests from 2010-12.

The big difference? One offload.

New Zealand threw 32 offloads between them against the overwhelmed Eagles yet Williams, who received plenty of ball, was content not to deliver what has become a trademark in both codes.

“The biggest thing that I’ve learned, coming back into rugby, is that the opportunity’s usually there but it’s about picking it and making the right decision,” Williams said.

“When it’s on, I back myself to pass it but when it’s not, it’s not.”

He remembers All Blacks coach Steve Hansen hammering that point two years ago and it has stuck.

For someone playing within himself, Williams’ other statistics were impressive.

He beat a game-high six Eagles defenders and made three clean breaks, admittedly against a wafer-thin defensive line.

The All Blacks selectors are strongly considering playing him on Saturday ahead of Malakai Fekitoa, who scored the last-minute try to snatch victory over Australia at Brisbane last month.

The backline holds considerable interest elsewhere ahead of the New Zealand team announcement on Thursday.

There are three genuine contenders for the five-eighth jersey.

Dan Carter also made an impressive return to the Test stage at Chicago but it may be too soon for him to leapfrog Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett.

Cruden’s composed display last week could give him the inside running after missing the three previous Tests.

A tour-ending injury to wing Cory Jane makes the back three easier to predict, although the selectors may consider starting Charles Piutau if they were to shift Ben Smith back to fullback in place of Israel Dagg.

However, Dagg was sharp against the Eagles and should be retained.

The only element of doubt in the pack is whether Jerome Kaino is deemed fully recovered from the foot injury which ruled him out of the Brisbane and Chicago Tests.

If not, Liam Messam would start on the blindside flank.

Asian Olympic chief asks for report on jailed Iranian protestor

 

Ghoncheh Ghavami, 25, was jailed for a year for spreading anti-state propaganda, Iranian media said, after being arrested for demanding that women be allowed to watch a volleyball match between Iran and Italy.

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The case has drawn international attention and Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, the president of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), told reporters on Wednesday that he had asked for an explanation on what happened.

But the Kuwaiti, who is also the president of the National Association of Olympic Committees (ANOC), currently meeting in Bangkok, said he did not support the principle of protestors using sports for political demonstrations.

“Don’t see it only that she has a British passport. If she’s Iranian, she doesn’t have to use this benefit for politics in sport.” he said.

“If she’s using this (dual) nationality for a political situation, we will reject it because we don’t want anybody to use sport for politics.

”In sport we want peace and solidarity. If somebody will use it for wrong messages, we can resist. You have to know that there are different cultures around the world, it’s not only one culture.”

Women’s rights in sport have become a hot topic for Sheikh Ahmad in recent months after a series of incidents at the Asian Games in South Korea.

Human Rights Watch criticized Saudi Arabia for excluding women from its team for the Asian Games, accusing the ultra-conservative Islamic state of shutting the door on female athletes.

Qatar then pulled out of the women’s basketball competition after refusing to abide by international regulations preventing them from wearing hijabs.

Under the strict rules of the International Basketball Federation, women are not allowed to wear their Islamic headscarves during competition, but Qatar’s women refused to comply, and quit the competition in protest.

An Iranian team official was also thrown out of the Games after being charged with sexually harassing a female volunteer while a Palestine football player was charged with the same offence after another incident at the athletes village.

On Wednesday, Sheikh Ahmad announced that women would have a greater representation in sports politics in the future, with at least one woman from each continent assured a place on the ANOC executive board.

 

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Chuckers can be fixed, says Kumble

Legendary Indian legspinner Anil Kumble believes it is possible for bowlers under scrutiny for suspect actions can quickly return to competition after remedial work.

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The 44-year-old spinner is the head of cricket committee of the International Cricket Council (ICC) which in June this year recommended stringent measures against bowlers with suspect actions.

That resulted in the suspension of high profile bowlers such as Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal, Sri Lanka’s Sachitra Senanayake, Zimbabwe’s Prosper Utseya, New Zealand’s Kane Williamson and Bangladesh’s Sohag Gazi.

Bangldesh’s paceman Al-Amin Hossain was also reported but on Wednesday cleared after a bio-mechanical analysis.

Those suspended needed remedial work before another assessment to get clearance.

Kumble, who took 619 Tests and 337 one-day wickets, said necessary corrective measures can help.

“I am really positive that bowlers who have been reported will make those necessary corrections and will be back,” Kumble, who is in Dubai for the ICC awards shortlist, told reporters on Wednesday.

“It is just a matter of time before you see them back in action. Once that happens I don’t think they will even discuss anything to do with the angles.”

Kumble said he himself suffered the problem at an early age.

“When I started as a 13-year old as a fast bowler I was told to stop by my senior colleagues because they felt that I was bending my arm as a fast bowler,” recalls Kumble, who besides England’s Jim Laker was the only bowler to take all ten wickets in a Test innings.

“There was no television, no video then so they said you should not be bowling that way because that came natural to me so immediately I changed to bowling leg-spin.”

Kumble stressed suspect bowling actions should be spotted and corrected at an early age.

“It is important that we encourage bowlers at an early age because once you have a kink in the arm for various reasons it is very difficult to correct it as you go along, so you want to ensure that people with good clean actions are coming through from the bottom of the pyramid and hence it is important that it gets addressed,” said Kumble.

Kumble said controversial delivery ‘doosra’ (one which turns the other way than a normal off-break) can be bowled within the allowed limits of 15 degree elbow extension.

“Nobody has said bowling doosra is illegal it is the action that is all we are saying. So I don’t think we should allow any change in rules,” said the master leg-spinner of his times.

World beach games set to be launched in 2017

Although the yet-to-be-named world beach games will not carry the Olympic tag, they will be run by SportAccord and the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), which comprises more than 200 member states recognised by the International Olympic Committee.

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The proposal still has to be approved by the ANOC general assembly, which is meeting in Bangkok this week, but cleared another major hurdle on Wednesday when the ANOC Executive Council voted to support the introduction of the Games.

“We are very keen about the beach games,” ANOC president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah told a news conference.

“This will be the first event for us. We will put it to the general assembly to approve the beach games.”

The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) introduced the Asian Beach Games in 2008, which combines sports traditionally played on sand, such as beach volleyball, with water sports, and sports played near beaches, such as skateboarding.

The Games were introduced partly as a way to modernise major multi-sports events but also for countries that could not afford to host bigger international events like the Olympics.

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Held every two years, they have grown rapidly in size and popularity with the fourth edition, taking place in Phuket, Thailand later this month, featuring more than 6,000 athletes from 45 countries.

South America introduced its first Beach Games in 2009 and Sheikh Ahmad said Africa and the Mediterranean were preparing for their first beach games.

“We believe 2017 will be a good year to host the first (world) beach games,” Sheikh Ahmad said.

“The Asian Beach Games will be a good example because there’s a lot of new sports.

“You will have beach track and field for the first time, modern pentathlon, changed from five to three (disciplines)… American beach football, and extra machine sports (jet ski, waterskiing).”

Sheikh Ahmad, who is also president of the OCA, said several cities had already indicated they wanted to host the games but no decisions would be made until the proposal had been put to the ANOC general assembly.

“It looks like the beach games will become more international, more acceptable and more economically (viable) because it’s not a very big operating cost.

“We don鈥檛 want to release it, but at least I can assure the games will be a success, financially and technically, and the youth will have more enjoyable games.”

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

Slimani scores at both ends as Sporting avenge Schalke defeat

The Algeria forward headed into his own goal to give Schalke the lead, then capped his team’s impressive fightback with a clinically-taken goal in stoppage time.

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Sporting’s win left them third with four points from four games in Group G, one point and place behind their German opponents and with a better head-to-head record.

Last season’s Portuguese Primeira Liga runners-up were left seething two weeks ago when a controversial stoppage-time penalty gave Schalke a 4-3 win after Sporting had fought back from 3-1 down to level at 3-3.

Schalke went ahead with their first attack after 17 minutes when Slimani touched Dennis Aogo’s floated free kick into his own goal.

Mouhamadou-Naby Sarr levelled nine minutes later, heading in a free kick, and Brazilian left back Jefferson fired the hosts in front seven minutes after halftime when he rifled a powerful, low shot past Ralf Faehrmann from 25 metres.

Sporting goalkeeper Rui Patricio then made a crucial save when he managed to take the ball off Chinedu Obasi’s foot as the Nigerian seemed certain to round him and score into an empty net.

Nani put Sporting further ahead in the 72nd minute after Andre Carillo burst down the right and rolled the ball across the face of goal to leave the on-loan player from Manchester United with the simplest of tasks.

Although Aogo pulled one back for Schalke, Slimani settled matters when he burst clear of Roman Neustaedter on the break and placed his shot out of Faehrmann’s reach with a perfectly-timed finish.

“We did far too little to win,” Schalke striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar told Sky. “We scored two goals from two chances so at least we were efficient.”

(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; editing by Toby Davis)

Kvitova eyes one more trophy in 2014

Tasked with leading the Czech Republic to victory in another home Fed Cup final this weekend, Petra Kvitova said the considerable pressure from compatriots is much less than what she puts on herself.

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The Czechs go after their third title in four years, with Germany on the other side of the indoor hard court at O2 Arena.

The “beautiful memories” of titles in 2011 and 2012, the republic’s first since the end of communist rule, drives Kvitova to help set up a third victory party.

“It’s not often we get to celebrate as a team. I love this competition and this team,” the Wimbledon champion said.

Despite the presence of family and friends, and huge expectations and support from fellow Czechs, Kvitova said: “It’s a lot of pressure on me in the Fed Cup, but it’s more pressure from myself when we are playing at home. Everybody is expecting that I make it two points, and that’s what I will try to do.”

Kvitova said she was fatigued after the WTA Finals in Singapore, where she failed to advance from the group stage nearly two weeks ago.

A little rest, and the comforts of home, have reinvigorated her to put an exclamation point on a stellar season including her second grand slam title, two other titles, and more than $US5 million ($A5.4 million) in prize money.

Ranked No.3, Kvitova is favoured to edge Germany’s Angelique Kerber (10th) and Andrea Petkovic (14th), and hope either rising star Karolina Pliskova, in her Fed Cup debut, or Lucie Safarova, who clinched the 2012 final victory, or doubles player Lucie Hradecka can come through.

Prague and the indoor court don’t faze the Germans, who won both of their previous ties in Slovakia and Australia to reach their first final since 1992.

Petkovic comes into the final having won the Tournament of Champions in Bulgaria on Sunday for her third WTA title of the year.

“I feel much more confident,” Petkovic said.

Kerber, the German No.1, has won five straight singles in Fed Cup, and has beaten Kvitova twice on tour. Sabine Lisicki and Julia Goerges, both playing Fed Cup since 2008, are also in the team.

Captain Barbara Rittner is attempting to become the fourth woman to win the Fed Cup as a player and captain. She was in the last German team to triumph, 22 years ago.

The Czechs have a 6-1 winning record against Germany.

Obama seeks $US6 billion for Ebola crisis

US President Barack Obama is seeking more than $US6 billion ($A6.

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5 billion) in emergency funding to fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and respond to cases in the United States, a White House official says.

The United Nations has described the Ebola outbreak that has killed some 5000 people — most in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — as a threat to world peace and security, and issued repeated appeals for aid.

The US response aims to “strengthen our domestic public health systems, contain and mitigate the outbreak in West Africa, speed efforts to obtain and test vaccines and therapeutics, and further reduce risks to Americans” by helping prevent, detect and respond to outbreaks in vulnerable countries, said the official from the Office of Management and Budget.

“These activities are critical to combat the spread of Ebola and reduce the potential for future outbreaks of infectious diseases that could follow a similarly devastating, costly, and destabilising trajectory,” the official said.

US officials have criticised the level of international support for countries hit by Ebola and say foreign governments need to do more to send doctors and equipment.

The United States has deployed military and civilian personnel to the region to build hospitals and provide logistical and other assistance.

“To help meet both immediate and longer-term requirements, we are requesting over $4.5 billion for immediate response and $1.5 billion for a Contingency Fund to ensure that there are resources available to meet the evolving nature of the epidemic,” the official said.

So far, the United States has sent nearly 2000 people, including soldiers, health workers and aid workers, the OMB official said.

The US military plans to boost its force in West Africa to as many as 4000 soldiers.

Much of the US response has been focused in Liberia, the hardest hit country, due to historical links.

The World Health Organisation, has so far recorded more than 13,000 cases but admits the real number could be much higher.

The often deadly virus is spread only through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person showing symptoms such as fever or vomiting.

Ronaldo aiming to be best ever

The 29-year-old was speaking at a lavish ceremony in Madrid where he received the trophy for being the joint top scorer last season in Europe, along with Luis Suarez, having hit 31 goals.

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“I always try to do things well and not just last season. I always want to do better,” said Ronaldo.

“The last five years have been very good and the last two have been a little bit better. I don’t want to just be the best in Portugal, I want to be the best ever and I will work to be that. After that it is down to individual opinions.

“In my profession I want to be the best, and I am making a name for myself step by step. When my career ends I want to see the statistics and I want to see if I am among the best ever.

“I am sure I will be.”

The World Player of the Year, who also won the Golden Boot in the 2007-08 and 2010-11 seasons, has had a glittering career with both Manchester United and Real and he helped the latter to win their tenth European Cup last season.

“To win the third Golden Boot is like winning the first. I am very happy, it is a special day and I want to share it with the people that have helped me,” said Ronaldo.

“Everyone talks about whether this is the best Madrid side and I suppose at the end we will know – if we win nothing or we are the best. I believe that we will win a lot. We are working well with the coach (Carlo Ancelotti).

“Things are going well and on a personal note I am happy and playing well.”

Real lead the La Liga table with 24 points from 10 games and have already struck 37 goals.

“Maybe now we have more of the ball which is good. The more you have it the more damage you can make,” he said.

“We are causing problems for that reason, we are having more chances but the system is more or less the same. We have a very good squad. (Gareth) Bale has returned now and is in good shape.

“We can go very far. We will work to get better each game and win the trophies: La Liga, the Champions League and the cup.”

(Editing by Martyn Herman)

Indonesia’s new president to attend G20

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo will make his first official visit to Australia this month for the G20 summit, where he has been invited to share his experiences as a reformist city leader.

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Mr Joko’s attendance at the Brisbane forum had not been confirmed although he had agreed to participate in the forerunning APEC and ASEAN forums.

Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Michael Tene says he has decided to attend the Brisbane meeting as well.

“It’s a forum where the majority of the biggest economies around the world are there, the forum which has the potential to address the global economic issues as well as other issues that affect the global community,” he said on Wednesday.

“Indonesia has been participating for quite some time, since the beginning, of the G20.

“It’s an appropriate forum for Indonesia to ensure that interests with regards to global efforts to reform the … global economy, efforts to strengthen and enhance the resilience of the global economy, can be addressed in line with the national interests.”

This month’s global summits will be Mr Joko’s debut on the world stage. Until his election in July, he was the popular governor of Jakarta.

Prior to that, his leadership of his hometown Solo, a smaller city in Java, saw him win runner-up for the world’s best mayor.

His reputation at city level for cleaning up corruption, removing bureaucratic hurdles and being willing to tackle complex issues propelled him to become Indonesia’s first president without links to the traditional elite or military.

Foreign ministry director Toferry Soetikno said Mr Joko had been asked to share his experiences in reforming the cities of Solo and Jakarta with G20 leaders.

He was also ready to discuss infrastructure, a major challenge for Indonesia and one Mr Joko is particularly keen to tackle.

“Mr President was asked to share his experiences in reforming in Solo and Jakarta … and also the future steps for Indonesia,” Mr Soetikno said.

“The topic of economic reforms fits very well with the president’s agenda.”

Mr Joko has promised to boost Indonesia’s annual economic growth to seven per cent, but faces obstacles in the form of poor infrastructure, red tape and a quarrelsome legislature.

Growth slowed to five per cent in the third quarter from a year earlier, its slowest in five years.

The Australian visit will be for the G20 summit only and Mr Joko has no fixed plans for bilateral meetings, his spokesmen said.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott attended Mr Joko’s October 20 inauguration and afterwards they met for about 30 minutes.

Mr Joko – who has signalled he intends being stricter about Indonesian sovereignty – encouraged Mr Abbott to keep open lines of communication.