Hundreds of Iraqis flee militants’ advance

Hundreds of Iraqi men, women and children are fleeing their homes, fearing clashes, kidnapping and rape after Islamic militants seized swathes of northern Iraq.

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About half a million people have fled their homes since Monday, according to a UN estimate.

Fighters of al-Qaeda breakaway group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS, seized the northern city of Mosul in a stunning assault on Monday.

Since then, the militants have moved southward towards the capital, Baghdad, in the biggest crisis to face Iraq in years.

“Masked men came to our house and they threatened us: ‘We will get to you.’ So we fled,” said Abed, a labourer who abandoned his home on the edge of Mosul.

“They kidnapped other people. They took away some people for interrogation.”

He said rumours were spreading that ISIS fighters – as well as masked bandits taking advantage of the chaos – were seizing young women for rape or forced marriage.

Many of the displaced said they were on the move because they feared retribution by Iraq’s military – underscoring the grave sectarian tensions that have allowed the ISIS fighters, who are Sunni extremists, to conquer so fast and deeply.

Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, is mostly Sunni, and many residents have long complained of discrimination and mistreatment by the Shi’ite-dominated central government.

“We were worried the struggle would get bigger, that Maliki’s army would shell us,” said a middle-aged Sunni woman, referring to the country’s Shi’ite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

“Whoever will rule us – let them rule us,” said her husband Talal Ahmad, 62. “We just want our children to be safe.”

In Kalak, Kurdish forces took possession of at least a dozen Iraqi military vehicles abandoned by soldiers as they fled their posts ahead of the advancing ISIS fighters.

One fleeing Iraqi soldier said he was ordered by his officer to abandon his post even before ISIS fighters reached the area.

“We didn’t even raise our weapons,” said 38-year-old Shaker Karam. “We didn’t even see a terrorist.”

UN children’s agency UNICEF said thousands of displaced, particularly children, were sheltering in schools, hospitals and mosques outside Mosul, many without adequate water, sanitation or shelter. The Red Cross said it had distributed food and relief to 8000 people near Mosul.

Many fled with little more than the clothing on their backs and, arriving without money, said they would have to rely on donations.

Talal Ahmad’s family of 12 was sleeping in the back of a pick-up truck that was lined with thin mattresses.

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Fake flower delivery robber gets two years

An armed robber who posed as a flower delivery man before tying up two sisters and ransacking their home has been sentenced to at least two years in jail.

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Kyrillos Ghaly was an active member of his Coptic Christian community in Sydney and a model student when he graduated from high school in 2005.

But after relocating to Adelaide to study dentistry his life went into a downward spiral, Judge Anthony Blackmore told Sydney’s District Court on Friday.

He moved into a share house where his flatmates were taking drugs, dropped out of university and accumulated debts with loan sharks.

Then in November 2012, Ghaly armed himself with knives and broke into a home in Sylvania Waters in Sydney’s south and another in Minchinbury in the city’s west.

At Minchinbury, the court heard Ghaly posed as a ‘Roses Only’ flower delivery man, telling the two sisters that the blooms were for “finishing your HSC”.

Once inside, he tied the two girls up and stole jewellery and cash from their home, before saying “All right, it’s been fun”, as he left.

At the Sylvania robbery, the court heard Ghaly held a knife to his victim’s neck, telling him: “If you speak out of turn I will slit your throat”.

He later turned to the man and said: “I’m sorry for what I have put you through, I wish we could have met under better circumstances”.

Judge Blackmore said the robberies had clearly been terrifying for the victims and involved a degree of planning by Ghaly.

He said the 27-year-old had since undergone extensive rehabilitation, had entered an early guilty plea and was clearly contrite for what he had done.

Ghaly, who is now studying physiotherapy, previously told the court that he was on drugs at the time of the offences.

Judge Blackmore sentenced him to a maximum of four years for two counts of armed robbery and one count of break and enter.

Taking into consideration time served, he is eligible for parole in July 2015.

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Where did Friday the 13th come from? (And where is it going?)

Friggatriskaidekaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th, and combined with the full moon tonight anyone suffering this niche phobia will likely face compounded trauma.

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Fortunately, the internet is here to help. No matter how obscure an interest, belief or phobia, the digital recesses of the web are likely to provide solace, and the The Friggatriskaidekaphobia Treatment Centre is drolly demonstrative of this phenomenon.

Friday the 13th is widely considered an unlucky day in Western folklore. The idea of such superstition seems like a relic from ancient mythology; an irrational belief borne of ignorance in a time when gods were trusted to provide answers to the universe. Despite years of scientific and technological advancement and the evolution of human culture, superstition lives on in the digital age – it may even be resurgent, thanks to the internet.

With increased connectivity and digital communication allowing faster and ever more transactions – both economic and interpersonal – superstitions have the potential to accelerate and influence ever larger swathes of the population.

An early example of thirteen signalling bad luck is found in Norse legend, when mischievous Loki arrives as the thirteenth dinner guest at Valhalla, and ultimately causes the death of the god Baldur. This event is echoed in Christianity’s Last Supper, with Jesus and his twelve apostles making up the unlucky thirteen.

Yet widespread superstition around Friday the 13th being unlucky has only been commonplace since the early twentieth century. The 1907 publication of Thomas W Lawson’s novel Friday the Thirteenth has been isolated as a catalyst that combined the portentous nature of thirteen with the historically unlucky day of the week Friday in the popular imagination.

The novel tells the story of an unscrupulous stockbroker using superstition to cause panic on Wall Street on the inauspicious date. A fitting start to the Friday the 13th myth, considering that the condition of financial markets depend in large part on superstition and emotion, or as economist John Maynard Keynes called it, ‘animal spirits’.

Keynes coined ‘animal spirits’ to describe the instincts, appetites and feelings that guide human behaviour around economic transactions, with superstition playing a substantial role. Superstitions often arise due to a lack of control, and money markets are a good example despite economics being regarded as one of the more rational disciplines.

With increased connectivity and digital communication allowing faster and ever more transactions – both economic and interpersonal – superstitions have the potential to accelerate and influence ever larger swathes of the population.

Digital communication has caused superstition to grow rather than retreat in our scientific, technological age. The intangible nature of the web means that our everyday communications now exist in a space between the physical and the ethereal. This space is allowing more room for both fantasy and delusion.

But is the growing feeling of lack of control – of ceding power to technology – making us more paranoid with good reason? We used to scoff at conspiracy theorists who claimed that the government is watching everything we do, but the Snowden revelations proved them right.

Widespread surveillance might be the fantasy proved very real, but there is inherent danger in indulging all manner of paranoia. Sociologist Gerald Bronner warns that the internet is an “incubator of contemporary mythologies”, saying that ease of access allows people with fringe beliefs to congregate and disseminate misinformation at an accelerated rate.

This phenomenon is giving rise to a trend of asserting belief in facts rather than merely accepting them as read. “I believe in global warming” or “I believe in immunisation” are common utterances, as if the actuality of the earth heating up or modern medicine preventing the spread of disease were fabulous stories that one can choose to believe. This proves problematic when the flipside is considered – that one can also choose not to.

Modern mythmaking is on the ascent. Instability and lack of control has always driven superstition – ~feelings~ as it would be termed on social media – and the continuing anxiety around Friday the 13th is merely one example. As anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss observed, superstition has been so prevalent throughout disparate human cultures that “we should ask ourselves if we are not confronted with a permanent and universal form of thought”.

How else to explain ever-emerging mythology like The Slender Man or Smile Dog, which incorporate tech elements combined with superstitious beliefs and horrors. Facilitated by digital subcultures congregating on forums like 4chan, Reddit and Creepypasta, the internet is our new collective nightmare.

Yet the internet has the power to dispel superstitions as well as encourage them. Black cats were once regarded as unlucky, particularly if one happened to cross your path. Yet with the advent of the internet of cute animal photos, black cats cross our digital paths every day with not a hint of superstitious distress. Friggatriskaidekaphobia sufferers too now have hope that their superstitious anxiety can be cured with the help of the internet, freeing them to focus on more logical paranoia, like scopophobia – the fear of surveillance.

Anne Treasure works in communications, is a recent survivor of the book industry, and exists mainly on the internet.

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Malaysian student found guilty of sedition

A Malaysian court on Friday sentenced a student activist to 10 months in jail for sedition, with the government increasingly using tough colonial-era legislation to stifle dissent despite promises to repeal the law.

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The guilty verdict against Safwan Anang, 24, follows a recent wave of charges under the Sedition Act, including three opposition politicians in the past two weeks and a respected university lecturer on Tuesday.

Rights group Amnesty International called on the Southeast Asian nation to end its “alarming use” of the law, while dozens of students staged a protest on Friday to urge Prime Minister Najib Razak to honour his 2012 pledge to repeal the act.

A Kuala Lumpur district court sentenced Safwan to 10 months in jail, group Student Solidarity Malaysia said in a tweet. The court allowed him to remain free pending appeal.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of three years in jail.

Safwan was found guilty of sedition for a speech he made that allegedly encouraged people to topple the government after divisive polls in May last year.

Najib’s coalition, which has ruled the country since independence in 1957, lost the popular vote for the first time in a general election last year but managed to retain control of parliament through what critics described as gerrymandering.

In a noisy protest on Friday outside the Home Ministry in the administrative capital of Putrajaya, about 60 students called on the government to abolish the Sedition Act.

“The Sedition Act is not relevant. It’s used selectively. It’s not fair,” said Wan Nur Syamimi Wan Sajiri, a 22-year-old student leader.

More than 110 NGOs also formed a coalition on Friday to urge the government to repeal the act and drop all existing charges.

Malaysia’s opposition is also planning a series of protests.

Amnesty International said at least 15 people had been charged or investigated under the Sedition Act this year, accusing the government of “fostering a climate of repression”.

Government officials have dismissed accusations of launching a crackdown.

Police on Thursday questioned reporter Susan Loone for nine hours over an article she had written based on an interview with an opposition politician who complained about police treatment in detention.

Loone, who works for independent online news portal Malaysiakini, was released late on Thursday.

Najib had promised to abolish the act as part of a drive to claw back sliding support but the reforms have lost momentum amid a pushback from conservative hardliners in his party.

His office insists the government is still working on drafting alternative “comprehensive, fair and lasting” legislation against hate speech to replace the Sedition Act, expected to be ready by the end of 2015.

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Vic coalmine fire leaves lasting legacy

Julie Brown couldn’t take it any more.

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The air was thick with soot and smoke. The house was black with ash.

Her two-year-old daughter, her twin sons and her husband were taking medication to suppress their asthma and they all suffered from perpetual headaches.

They had to get out of Morwell.

They packed up their car on February 26, more than two weeks after bushfire embers sparked a fire in the open-cut Hazelwood coalmine near the Victorian town.

They drove to a free campsite, because they didn’t qualify for relocation assistance, and lived in a tent for a week.

“My partner still had to travel into work so we were sort of stuck out in the bush,” Mrs Brown says.

“Every day it was just ridiculous,” she said.

The coalmine fire had blanketed the town in toxic ash and smoke.

After a week of camping they returned to Morwell but soon found themselves fleeing to Cranbourne.

Others didn’t have that option.

Deborah Hollis qualified for a government relocation grant but the money wasn’t enough and moving wasn’t practical.

Her daughter Isabella, 11, and special-needs son Isaac, 9, were ill all through the 45-day blaze.

“I’d pick him up and he’d tell me he didn’t want to come home because his home would hurt him,” Ms Hollis says.

Their house is old and had been damaged by the earthquake that shook Gippsland in 2012.

“We just couldn’t seal the heat, the ash and the smoke out,” she said.

She was slugged with insurance excesses but her policy wouldn’t cover a lot of the repair her home needed.

Ash ate into her carpets.

She threw out clothing, bedding and small electrical items that she couldn’t get the ash out of.

“I just had to chuck them,” Ms Hollis said.

“I thought I can’t risk them catching fire.”

Her roof cavity is still full of ash. Every time a truck thunders past, ash falls from vents in the walls.

It took 45 days to bring the blaze under control and it left a $100 million bill.

A board of inquiry was appointed to investigate what caused the fire, its health implications for people in Morwell and how a repeat can be prevented.

On the first day of public hearings, counsel assisting the inquiry, Melinda Richards, said the risk of fires in the mines had been recognised for 40 years and the Latrobe Valley community bore the brunt of burdens associated with them.

In its findings this week the board said the fire was foreseeable and could have been mitigated, if not prevented, if mine operator GDF Suez had taken better precautions.

The board said the government was slow in advising vulnerable residents to relocate.

Those instructions came on February 28, two days after the Brown family decided they’d rather live in a tent than stay in Morwell and two weeks after air pollution peaked on February 16, when particulate matter reached 28 times recommended levels.

Morwell residents say they’re grateful for the inquiry but have been left largely unsatisfied by its recommendations.

They were hoping for GDF Suez to be told to improve their rehabilitation program.

Of all of the issues raised by the community, they say preventing another fire is the most important.

Latrobe Valley Support Network president Simon Ellis says rehabilitation of the mine is the most effective way to do this.

Covering the exposed coal faces so they can’t catch fire again is vital, he says.

“They need to have that plan in place and its got to be a lot more defined than it currently is,” Mr Ellis told AAP.

“I’m worried because we’re three months from summer and if we get a flare-up, if we get another fire in Gippsland again, I think we’ll have the same situation again,” he said.

“I’m dreading it.”

The company says it has an approved rehabilitation plan and will work with the state regulator to clarify long-term rehabilitation plans.

“Rehabilitation of a mine like ours is a fairly complex thing because of the sequence of mining,” a GDF Suez spokesman said.

“It’s a progressive process. We have activity underway right now.”

The community wants more.

“We think that plan’s got a few holes in it,” Mr Ellis said.

For residents, the company’s attitude towards rehabilitation is similar to the approach they have taken throughout the blaze.

“We want them to say `look, we’ve done the recommendations but we’ve also done this’,” Mr Ellis said.

The company launched a series of initiatives worth more than $1.25 million to support Morwell’s revival.

Mrs Brown says this won’t even begin to repair the damage caused by the fire.

“It doesn’t even come anywhere near what they’ve done,” she said.

Even now, more than six months after the mine fire was declared safe, there is more to do.

Latrobe Valley Support Network members have been going door-to-door with buckets and sponges continuing with the clean-up.

They’re doing simple things like helping people move their furniture so they can clean.

“A lot of the houses, especially weatherboard houses, the soot actually stuck to the house,” Mr Ellis said.

“This process is going to take months before its all finished and done.”

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Indian prisoners go free over trial delays

India’s Supreme Court has ordered the country’s notoriously overcrowded jails to free all inmates who have served half their maximum term without trial, in a landmark ruling with potential implications for hundreds of thousands of prisoners.

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More than two-thirds of India’s nearly four million prison inmates are awaiting trial, according to Amnesty International, many having already spent years in prison.

Indian law already states that prisoners awaiting trial must be released once they have served half the maximum sentence they would receive if found guilty. But that law is rarely implemented.

On Friday the country’s Chief Justice R M Lodha said prisons across the country must comply with the law and ordered local judges and magistrates to oversee the process.

“Judicial officers shall identify prisoners who have completed half of the maximum period of imprisonment provided for offences they are charged with,” he said.

It is not yet clear how many prisoners will be affected by the ruling.

But G Ananthapadmanabhan, chief executive of Amnesty International India, said last month that “thousands of poor and voiceless undertrial prisoners, by the government’s own admission, are locked away for long periods in prison, awaiting trial for minor offences”.

Suhas Chakma, director of the New Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights, welcomed Friday’s ruling.

“Most of the time those languishing in jails are poor and illiterate people who are not aware of their rights,” he said.

“In fact, the government should also pay compensation to such people for making them suffer in jails.”

Rights activists say India’s justice system is slow, inefficient and sometimes corrupt, so inmates can wait years to have their cases heard in court.

Official figures show there were more than 30 million trials pending across India at the end of 2012.

Earlier this year the Supreme Court ruled that “inordinate and inexplicable” delays in carrying out an execution were grounds for commuting a sentence.

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Police to probe Rozelle shop blast as friends mourn trio killed

The bodies of the mother and her one-year-old were carried out together from the charred remains of a building in Sydney’s inner west on Friday, as authorities’ worst fears were realised.

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“My heart is broken at the loss of you and your precious little boy,” Kathryn Prazak, a friend of Ms O’Brien, wrote on Facebook.

“I hope that whomever is responsible for this tragedy is found and punished.”

Belinda Dos Santos described hair salon owner Ms O’Brien as a “living star” as her family and friends struggled to make sense of the deaths.

A co-worker at Urban Hair Culture, who did not wish to be named, said she was helping the family through the tragedy.

The husband and father of Ms O’Brien and Jude, John O’Brien, is believed to have left for work at a hospital about an hour before an explosion and subsequent inferno ripped through the Rozelle building early on Thursday.

The rescue team’s grim discoveries on Friday followed the retrieval of 27-year-old Chris Noble’s body from the wreckage on Thursday night.

His mother Liz called him a “beautiful boy”.

“He should have been safe, sleeping in his own bed,” she said. “We are gutted.”

The 27-year-old was a travel and sports enthusiast who grew up in Canowindra in central-western NSW.

“It’s just really raw for all of us. We’re not a big family,” his aunt told AAP.

“He was committed to his family.

“He’s a loveable larrikin.”

The discovery of the two bodies on Friday brought to an end a delicate, painstaking operation by rescuers.

It also turned the focus of the site to a crime scene.

Reports of a car fleeing the area after the explosion are being investigated.

Police want to speak to the convenience store owner Adeel Khan, who is in a serious condition in hospital after emergency services had to dig him out of the debris by hand. The store owner is not a suspect at this stage.

Investigators are reviewing CCTV footage and Strike Force Baracchi was launched to investigate the fire.

“We are treating the fire as suspicious,” Detective Superintendent Murray Chapman said.

Nearby store owner Wendy Doughty said the community was shaken.

“I have been part of this community for 25 years,” she said.

“I have never known such an awful, eerie feeling in the district.

“I am feeling a little bit scared and fragile.”

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Former Mayweather fiancee sues boxer

The former fiancee of Floyd Mayweather claims in a civil lawsuit that the superstar boxer beat her during their relationship and later publicly humiliated her by posting on social media an ultrasound of her pregnancy and saying they broke up because she got an abortion.

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Shantel Jackson said Mayweather also threatened to post naked photos of her online if she didn’t take down a photo she posted of herself with rapper Nelly at a basketball game in April.

Jackson read a tearful statement in the offices of noted lawyer Gloria Allred in which she said she and Mayweather were together for seven years and that she loved him and thought they would always be a couple.

She said she finally left Mayweather after concluding he was abusive and would not change.

Allred did not specify damages in the suit against Mayweather, the unbeaten boxer who Forbes said was the highest paid athlete in the world in the last year, with earnings of $US105 million ($A113.61 million).

She declined to say whether Jackson actually got an abortion when pregnant with twins by Mayweather, but said Jackson told Mayweather in January that the pregnancy was terminated.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Superior Court in Los Angeles nine days before Mayweather returns to the ring in Las Vegas in a rematch against Marcos Maidana.

Calls to Mayweather’s representatives were not immediately returned.

Mayweather served two months in jail in 2012 after pleading guilty to reduced domestic battery charges stemming from a hair-pulling, arm-twisting attack on his former girlfriend, Josie Harris, while two of their three children watched.

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McCaw demands better from All Blacks

Richie McCaw has given an ominous warning to Argentina that there is more improvement to come from the All Blacks after their inspired performance against Australia.

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The All Blacks produced their best showing of the year to blow the Wallabies off Eden Park two weeks ago but their captain concedes they didn’t get everything right in the 51-20 humiliation.

And he’s intent in putting that right in Saturday’s Test at Napier’s McLean Park.

“There’s things we didn’t get right when we played the Aussies a couple of weeks ago. We want to be better than that.

“Hopefully the scoreboard looks good if we can do that.

“We’ve got to be able to walk off the field having a level of performance the same, or if not better, than the last time,” McCaw said.

But McCaw, who wins his 130th Test cap, remains wary of an improving Argentina side.

“I think they’re playing better than they have done the last couple of years.

“It’s been a challenge each time we’ve played them, certainly in the last three or four games.”

The All Blacks have been closely studying a Pumas side that have adopted a more expansive style of play this season.

Three tries in their heartbreaking 33-31 defeat to the Springboks proved that their approach of the past is changing under new coach Daniel Hourcade.

“They appear to have changed their structures quite a bit since last year and really bought in to playing an open game,” said No.8 Kieran Read.

“That mirrors itself against what we do.”

Recalled fullback Israel Dagg is in no doubt that they’ve modelled themselves on the unpredictable All Blacks.

“(They’re) pretty similar to us in how we try and play – a couple of their moves are pretty similar.

“They’re a team that likes to play and they’re a team that you just don’t know what they’re going to do.

“You’ve got to expect everything,” he said.

Coach Steve Hansen has also seen the change in tactics and likes what he sees.

“I think they’ve made a lot of progress.”

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Andretti relives Monza memories

The great American, still the only man to win the Formula One title, Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500, marked his return to the Italian track by walking a lap of it for the first time on Thursday.

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If the 1978 world champion was surprised not to have done it before, he at least had a good excuse.

“I never really took the time to walk (as a racer) because I was always sort of busy. I was keeping the candle lit at both ends,” he told Reuters in an interview ahead of Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.

Monza, the venerable cathedral of Italian motorsport and temple to all things Ferrari, holds special significance to the Italian-born driver as the place where he was first bitten by the motor racing bug.

While the walk with NBC television triggered memories, they were ones that needed little prompting. Monza, like Indianapolis, is part of who he is.

It was here that as a 14-year-old refugee, from what is now Croatia but was Italian Istria when he was born there during World War Two, Andretti first saw Formula One cars in action when he attended the 1954 Italian Grand Prix.

In 1968 he drove a Formula One car for the first time at Monza and in 1978 won the championship there for Lotus in a race marred by the death of popular team mate and friend Ronnie Peterson.

His stunning pole position for Ferrari at Monza in 1982, as a late stand-in for the seriously injured French driver Didier Pironi, remains the last by an American F1 driver.

“Coming back here, Monza…this was a catalyst for my career, for putting me in that direction,” mused Andretti, who was also busy handing out black stetson hats to drivers to promote next month’s U.S. Grand Prix in Austin.

“So do I love this place? Yes. How meaningful is it? Very, in every way. Because I had success here and unfortunately with the Ronnie situation…,” Andretti paused.

“It should have been the happiest day of my life, of my career. But I couldn’t celebrate.”

Peterson, the ‘SuperSwede’ who won 10 grands prix and was posthumously runner-up in the 1978 championship, had been involved in a pile-up at the start and suffered severe leg injuries. He died in hospital overnight from an embolism.

ASCARI IDOL

The memories of 1954 are far happier for Andretti, even if his life was precarious at the time.

“That’s when the mould was cast, I think,” he said. “Alberto Ascari was my idol and watching him fight with Fangio and Moss. Just seeing that was something that stays with you. It was such a stimulant for me.

“I was still in a refugee camp then, in Lucca. I had no idea what the future would hold. A year later we emigrated to the States.”

It was also in that period of his life that the young Andretti saw a film that would prove a major influence.

Starring Clark Gable and Barbara Stanwyck, it was a tale of dirt-track midget racing and had been entitled ‘To Please a Lady’ for American audiences. But in Italy, it was simply ‘Indianapolis’.

“‘Indianapolis?,’ I said.‘What is that, Naples?’. I didn’t know what that was, but I saw the film. It was a different type of racing but still single seaters. Not as exciting as F1 but racing,” recalled the 1969 Indy 500 winner.

“When we went to America we didn’t know what to expect but we found out quick enough that there was racing there and we started working on that.”

In 1968, Andretti had been set to make his debut with Lotus at Monza but was stymied by Ferrari who invoked a clause in the rules to prevent him racing after he had taken part in qualifying on Friday.

“Because of my commitments, I had to go back and race Saturday in a dirt race at Indianapolis and then come back here,” said Andretti, as if such a schedule was literally all in a day’s work.

“They (race officials) had promised me they would waive the (24 hour) rule (which prohibited two races in a 24 hour period). But we got protested by Ferrari.

“I don’t know why but when I tested here, the first time ever in a Formula One car, I was quicker than (Ferrari’s New Zealander Chris) Amon at testing two weeks before and I was quicker than they were when I left on Friday.”

There were no protests when Andretti, returned in 1982 for the penultimate grand prix of his career.

He was on the pace immediately, even if there was still no time to be wasted on walking the track like modern Formula One drivers are wont to do.

“I had got familiar with the car a week earlier in Fiorano and that was important because I had never driven a turbo-charged Formula One car up to that point,” he said.

“At Fiorano we had set a track record so I felt comfortable. And Monza I knew the track, so when I arrived here I felt like I was OK. And it worked out. I didn’t leave much on the table.”

MODERN RACING

Andretti said he was finding the current Formula One season fascinating to watch, despite some fears about with the new V6 hybrid turbo power units and energy recovery systems that replaced the old V8s.

“I think it’s been entertaining beyond whatever I thought it would be. I feared the worst with the dramatic rule change that they made,” he added.

“The season has been saved. Williams coming to the front, you’ve got Ricciardo. Valtteri Bottas. Two real revelations. That’s good stuff. Entertaining? Absolutely. Do you look forward to every race? You’re damned right.”

The American, who won 12 races in his career, said he was rooting for Lewis Hamilton over the Briton’s Mercedes team mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg but was also a big fan of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

“I root for Lewis because he’s had the worse luck, mechanically. Not of his own doing. And he’s still fought hard,” he said.

“And when the chips are really down, he’s quicker I think. I think either one deserves it, no question. Nico has shown to be worthy of a championship.

And Ricciardo? “I tell you what, he’s not going away…he’s for real. What a revelation, what a find. I tell you what, that kid is fun to watch. His overtakes and everything are so textbook. And he’s got balls. He wants to win.”

Ferrari, a team as close to Andretti’s heart as any Italian’s, are off the pace at present but the American was sure they would turn it around and give Fernando Alonso the success he deserved.

“Ferrari is going to win, probably sooner than we think,” he declared. “They cannot afford not to be at the front and they know it. They will find a way, they always do.

“I’d like to see Fernando stay there and get the rewards that he deserves because he’s suffering now.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Justin Palmer)

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Germany need to be patient against Scotland – Reus

“They have not lost for six straight games and they are a strong team with a fighting spirit,” said Reus, who was unlucky to miss the World Cup due to an injury in their final warmup game with Germany going on to win the title in Brazil in July.

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“Scotland close down spaces quickly and so we will need patience and we need to be much better than against Argentina. We need to be more effective in front of goal,” the 25-year-old told reporters on Friday.

Scotland have won four and drawn two of their last six internationals.

The Germans, with Reus making his return from injury, lost 4-2 to Argentina in a friendly rematch of July’s World Cup final on Wednesday.

Germany squandered a string of good chances with Mario Gomez alone missing three times from close range.

“Scotland are strong, they have a leader in Darren Fletcher, they are very quick in attack. What is needed from us is patience and we are fully aware of that,” Reus added.

The Germans will have central defender Jerome Boateng back for the game, coaching staff member Andreas Koepke said, meaning coach Joachim Loew will reshuffle his backline following a string of errors, especially from the full backs, against the South Americans.

“Jerome will be back, he is without pain and is more or less certain to play,” said goalkeeping coach Koepke.

“These last two days will show what changes or if any there will be in defence. Jerome will return and some things will change but who will be on the left or on the right is something I cannot say just now.”

Germany and Scotland have been drawn in Group D along with Ireland, Georgia, Poland and Gibraltar.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Justin Palmer)

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Brain-dead asylum seeker dies: govt

A brain-dead Iranian asylum seeker who had been detained on Australia’s Manus Island facility has died after his family decided to switch off his life support.

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Hamid Kehazaei was taken from Papua New Guinea last week after an infection in a cut foot deteriorated to severe septicaemia. He was then treated at a Brisbane hospital.

He was pronounced brain dead this week, according to refugee advocates.

Mr Kehazaei’s family gave consent on Friday afternoon to switch his life support off, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison confirmed.

“I am very saddened by this man’s passing and on behalf of the Australian government I extend our deepest sympathy to the man’s family and friends,” Mr Morrison said in a statement.

“My department has and will continue to provide support to the family and has been in contact with family members during the course of the man’s treatment,” he said, adding that the name and age of the man would not be released, subject to agreement from his family.

The Australian Greens earlier disputed Mr Morrison’s claim’s that Mr Kehazaei had received “outstanding” care before his transfer to Brisbane.

“If outstanding care on Manus Island sees someone die because of a cut foot, it needs to be shut down,” Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said.

Mr Morrison rejected suggestions the care provided to Mr Kehazaei was inadequate.

“When someone becomes ill they receive outstanding care from the people who work as part of our mainland detention network,” he said.

Mr Morrison has asked the immigration department’s chief medical officer to review Mr Kehazaei’s treatment.

“I will base my assessment of that treatment on facts and not Facebook,” he said.

Labor has called for the review to be made public as soon as possible.

Opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles said Labor continued to be concerned about the lack of transparency surrounding the treatment of asylum seekers.

Refugee advocate Ian Rintoul said Mr Kehazaei’s death was “senseless and inexcusable”.

“Hamid’s death speaks for the medical neglect, and to the culture of punishment, and indifference that pervades Manus Island,” he said.

“Infections and skin disease are endemic in the detention centre. It is unhygienic, unsanitary and unsafe.”

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Heavyweight coaches ready to lock horns in semis

On Saturday they will go head-to-head as the respective coaches of the four men to reach this year’s semi-finals.

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While Ivanisevic will not be able to deliver any of his booming aces, Chang chase around like a hyper-active terrier, Edberg swish away effortless backhands or Becker launch himself through the air to pick off volleys – their mere presence will add another dimension to the drama.

Becker will be masterminding world No.1 Novak Djokovic’s attempt to reach a fifth consecutive U.S. Open final by beating Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who since adding former French Open champion Chang to his team has emerged as genuine major threat.

Towering Marin Cilic will have fellow Croat Ivanisevic in his corner as he attempts to reach his first grand slam final by beating Swiss maestro Roger Federer who has been rejuvenated since tapping into Edberg’s serve-and-volley skills.

So what effect have the four greats had on their charges?

BECKER/DJOKOVIC

There is little in common with the way German powerhouse Becker served-and-volleyed his way to six grand slam titles and how Djokovic has managed seven with clinical baseline precision.

Eyebrows were raised when Djokovic announced last December that Becker would join his team alongside long-term coach Marian Vajda, and the early signs were not encouraging as he lost to Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

Since then, however, the Serb won the Indian Wells/Miami double on hardcourts, beat Rafa Nadal in the final in Rome and then reached the French Open final before winning Wimbledon for the second time by defeating Federer in an epic.

While there are no obvious changes to the Djokovic style, there is a little more variation on his serve and he appears more confident around the net. Most of all, though, he seems to enjoy having one of the game’s big personalities on his side.

“I’m a different player than what he was in terms of play,” Djokovic said at Wimbledon. “But in terms of mental approach and other things, I find that we have a lot of things in common.”

In a recent interview with CNN, Becker said Djokovic reminded him of his young self, fighting against players who perhaps enjoyed more crowd support.

“I was known to be a pretty hard-nosed guy on court with a very strong mentality,” Becker said. “I was a fighter’s player.”

FEDERER/EDBERG

There is nothing anyone can teach 17-times grand slam champion Federer but as his physical powers wane, Edberg has given Federer the confidence to employ more attacking tactics.

Federer enjoys nothing more than playing on the front foot but in recent years has occasionally became a little passive against the likes of Djokovic, Nadal and Murray.

Not the most powerful, his serve still has the most variety in the men’s game and Edberg, one of the greatest serve-and-volleyers to grace the sport, has encouraged Federer to follow it in more for a quick finish to points. And it’s working.

“Maybe (he) just reinforced the concept that it is possible, that I can actually do it,” Federer said this year. “For years I started to serve and volley once or twice a set maybe.”

NISHIKORI/CHANG

Long talked about as one to watch, Nishikori has added a little Chang-like steel to his shot-making skills.

Chang was a master at making every point a war of attrition and while Nishikori is a more flamboyant player, he has clearly become much better on the defensive skills that the likes of Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Andy Murray possess.

His five-set quarter-final win against Stanislas Wawrinka would have made old warrior Chang proud.

The 24-year-old is the first Japanese man to reach a grand slam semi-final and though Djokovic presents a formidable obstacle, Chang believes he will not be daunted.

“He’s beaten Novak before. There’s no reason why he’s not able to do it again,” he said.

CILIC/IVANISEVIC

After serving a four-month doping ban last year for taking a tainted supplement, Cilic has returned with new purpose and looks a much more confident character on court.

The 25-year-old has always possessed big weapons but occasionally appeared to lack belief against the big guns.

Ivanisevic’s infectious good humour and personality is having a galvanising effect, as his demolition of Tomas Berdych on Thursday showed.

“It’s a nice combination,” Cilic, who stretched Djokovic to five sets in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, said. “He’s eager on the court when we are working on things, and of course the other part where he’s calm in certain other situations.

“That’s huge confidence for me when I come step on the court.”

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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