Rugby-Inspired France take revenge on Australia

Philippe Saint-Andre’s team, who had conceded 95 points in three away defeats against Australia in June, were ultra focussed this time and tries by Sebastien Tillous-Bordes and Teddy Thomas as well as the boots of Camille Lopez and Rory Kockott gave them a deserved win.


Bernard Foley kicked four penalties and converted the tries of Adam Ashley-Cooper and Quade Cooper but the Wallabies came up just short despite a late fightback.

France, who finished the Six Nations in fourth place before being thrashed by Australia, nicely followed up last weekend’s 40-15 win against Fiji.

Les Bleus take on Argentina at the Stade de France next Saturday while Australia, who beat Wales 33-28 last Saturday, will face Ireland.

Australia put the French defence under pressure early on but the home side held firm and Lopez’s crossfield kick to Yoann Huget, who then set up Scott Spedding on the wing, suggested Les Bleus could be in inspired form.

They were indeed and Tillous-Borde cleverly ran around a ruck to dive over from close range as the World Cup runners-up opened the scoring.

France gave away a couple of penalties to allow the visitors to stay afloat but they defended aggressively and Thomas whizzed past six defenders to score a spectacular 35-metre try to put his team 17-6 up after Lopez added the extras.

The French though then missed a couple of tackles, allowing Ashley-Cooper to score a try on the right wing before Foley converted to help the Wallabies reduce the gap to four points.

Foley further boosted Australia with another penalty on the stroke of halftime.

However, France had a good start in the second half and Lopez scored two penalties as Australia were sanctioned for high tackles but Foley’s fourth penalty meant they were still in it despite being largely dominated.

With powerful centre Mathieu Bastareaud coming on at halftime, France forgot to play on the wings, where Huget and Thomas were suddenly deprived of good ball.

But France took the upper hand in the scrum, winning an easy penalty which Lopez converted shortly after the hour to extend the home side’s lead to seven points.

Kockott’s penalty put them 10 points ahead but Cooper’s late try put huge pressure on the home side, who however held firm with captain Thierry Dusautoir epitomising the fight.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Mark Meadows)

Tetchy Djokovic blames exhaustion for Nishikori scare

A day after wrapping up the year-end world number one spot, a tetchy Djokovic dropped a set to Nishikori in the semi-finals before winning 6-1 3-6 6-0 at the O2 Arena.


After dropping only nine games in his three group wins, the Serb was on course for another stroll but lost his way.

A double fault while serving at break point down in the second game of the second set was cheered loudly by the capacity crowd, prompting a sarcastic response from the 27-year-old who was clearly riled by the support for Nishikori.

“I mean, look, at the end of the day I cannot blame the crowd,” a weary-looking Djokovic told reporters after taking a long time to arrive for his post-match news conference.

“The crowd has a right to do what they want, to cheer for whoever they want. Some individuals were going over the line throughout the whole match, some provocations that I usually don’t react on, but I did. It was my fault.

“I lost the concentration. I lost the break because of that. I allowed myself to be in the situation to lose the set, maybe even lose the match. I should know better.”


Djokovic, who will face either Roger Federer or Stanislas Wawrinka in Sunday’s final, was asked why he had signed the TV camera lens with a single dot when walking off, rather than his signature as he usually does.

“I felt like that was something I wanted to do today,” he said. Pressed whether it was some kind of message, he added: “No. There was nothing. It’s just a dot.”

Djokovic showed far more emotion after an easy victory over Tomas Berdych on Friday that secured the year-end top ranking for a third time in four seasons than he did in beating Nishikori, admitting he felt emotionally flat.

“Mentally, the truth is that I’m exhausted,” he said. “Honestly, today I found it a little bit difficult to stay concentrated throughout the whole match.

“After the emotional three matches I had, especially yesterday when I achieved the goal to finish as number one in the world, knowing that, I felt a little bit flat emotionally. I needed more time to kind of give myself a boost.

“I was fortunate because in the beginning of the third set, he had break points. If he broke me, the match could have gone either way. I managed to find that little bit of strength.”

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Ken Ferris)

Johnson masterminds historic Kiwis win

Shaun Johnson masterminded an outstanding win for the Kiwis as they downed Australia 22-18 in the Four Nations rugby league final in Wellington on Saturday.


In front of a vocal 25,183 crowd, Johnson steered a slick Kiwis backline to victory, their second in three weeks over the Kangaroos after their first-up 30-12 win in Brisbane.

It’s the first time in more than 60 years that New Zealand has recorded back-to-back wins against Australia.

Australian coach Tim Sheens said Johnson’s performance was key to the Kiwis win.

“Their second phase, and Johnson’s running on the last and skipping across field, when he gets that sort of ball … He had spiders on him tonight, the boy, and he played really well.”

Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney said Johnson’s match-winning effort was set up by some outstanding work from the forwards.

“Shaun, off the back of some great work by the forwards, got some opportunities to pull them open a bit,” he said.

A low-key Johnson also paid tribute to the hard yards done by the big-hitters.

“The forwards did a really good job laying the platform … the quick ruck, what they’ve been doing all tournament, and I was just able to get through there and reward them for the work they’d done,” he said.

A fast and furious finish set up the victory for New Zealand, after the Australians hit the front early when Michael Jennings grounded a Cooper Cronk chip ahead after 11 minutes.

Skipper Cameron Smith slotted the easy conversion, and the Australians led for the first and only time in the match.

First half tries to Jason Nightingale and Manu Vatuvei, and Johnson’s accurate boot gave New Zealand a 14-6 lead at the break, but the Kangaroos bounced back early in the second spell.

It took barely three minutes after the restart before quick hands from Daly Cherry-Evans slipped the ball wide for Sione Mata’utia to score in the corner.

But Johnson wrested the momentum back with a superb solo try as the hour mark neared, swerving and dummying his way to the line to open up an 18-14 lead.

Vatuvei extended the lead five minutes later, finishing off a sweeping move down the left which also featured impressive pace and handling from Foran and fullback Peter Hiku.

The try was Vatuvei’s 20th in the black jersey, and put him at the top of the Kiwis’ all-time try-scoring list ahead of Nigel Vagana.

Ben Hunt’s 77th minute try gave the Kangaroos a sniff of hope, and the Kiwis had to withstand some intense late pressure to wrap up the win.

Toxic disaster \’worst in decades\’

The master and owners of a cargo ship that caused Queensland\’s biggest oil spill in more than 30 years face the prospect of charges and massive fines.


Authorities have launched an investigation into the spill from the Pacific Adventurer as environmental officers scramble to clean up the mess.

They say it could take up to a week to mop up oil that is washing up on an island off southeast Queensland, and on a mainland beach, leaving some birds coated in a black film.

Oil, fertiliser leak

Up to 30 tonnes of oil spilt into the sea off Moreton Island on Wednesday morning, after 31 shipping containers carrying 620 tonnes of ammonium nitrate fell overboard.

The lost containers damaged the Pacific Adventurer\’s fuel stores in the hull, causing the oil to leak.

The oil spill, which measures about 15km in length and is two metres wide along the eastern side of Moreton Island, is the worst in Queensland in more than 30 years.

Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) general manager Captain John Watkinson said authorities had launched an investigation.

He said the Pacific Adventurer spill involved 25-30 tonnes of oil.

\’Worst spill in decades\’

That\’s more than the 25 tonnes spilt in Gladstone harbour in 2006, which authorities at the time said was the worst in the state for three decades.

“This is a pretty big spill,” Capt Watkinson told reporters in Brisbane.

“Australia, through international conventions, can take certain actions against the master and the company.

“We can also fine the ship for doing certain things … we have oil in the water, we have pollution, it\’s not meant to happen, it shouldn\’t happen.

\’Hefty fines\’ flagged

“We\’d be taking action (after the investigation) if it needed to be taken – that\’s a pretty hefty fine in Queensland.”

The ship\’s company, Swire, could be fined up to $1.5 million while individuals could be hit with fines of up to $500,000.

Premier Anna Bligh said the spill posed a serious environmental threat.

“We will be fully investigating this incident,” she said.

“If there has been any breach of environmental requirements we will not hesitate to prosecute those concerned.

“Whether a prosecution can be secured or not, we will be pursuing compensation for the cost of this clean up.”

The operation is costing about $100,000 a day, but Transport Minister John Mickel said insurance, not taxpayers, would cover the cost.

Frantic clean-up operation

Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Mike Short said there were about 50 officers working to clean oil from the shore of Moreton Island, raking contaminated material into bags.

A 20-strong national response crew is also on standby if needed.

Maritime Safety Queensland said patches of oil had also been detected on Marcoola Beach north of Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast. A lifesaver said oil was also present at Yaroomba beach, also on the Sunshine Coast.

Five oil-covered pelicans flew in to the daily feeding session at Tangalooma Resort on Moreton Island on Thursday morning.

Health of birds a concern

Susan Hassard from the resort\’s Dolphin Education Centre said staff managed to catch one of the birds, but the other four flew off.

It\’s also feared animals on the northern end of Moreton Island will be affected. The area is a roosting site for sea birds during rough weather.

There is still no sign of the 31 lost containers filled with ammonium nitrate, a fertiliser that can also be used to make explosives.

But a plane equipped with special radar to detect containers has been launched to aid the search.

Capt Watkinson said that although the fertiliser was in sealed bags inside the containers it was unlikely they would maintain a watertight seal.

“While they\’re weatherproof, they\’re not waterproof,” he said.

Algal blooms possible from toxins

The Environmental Protection Agency has said that if it spills, the ammonium nitrate should dilute enough so as not to cause any major problems other than algal blooms.

But marine expert Mike Kingsford, from James Cook University, said the threats posed by the substance included algal blooms, burns and deaths to fish and seagrass, and physical damage to the ocean floor from the containers.

The Pacific Adventurer berthed at Fisherman Islands, in the Port of Brisbane, on Thursday.

Arrest warrant for \’Ivan the Terrible\’ Nazi

A German court has issued an arrest warrant for John Demjanjuk, 88, the alleged Nazi war criminal “Ivan the Terrible” suspected of killing thousands of Jews in World War II death camps.


The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk has lived in the United States since 1952 though he has already been tried in Israel for war crimes.

“The accused is currently still in the United States,” a court official said in a statement released in Munich. “As soon as he arrives in Germany he will be questioned and tried.”

Demjanjuk is now accused of taking part in the deaths of at least 29,000 Jews when he was a guard at the Sobibor Nazi concentration camp in what is now Poland from March until September 1943, the German prosecutor said in a statement.

New inquiry begins

The new German inquiry has been carried out by the Central Investigation Centre for Nazi Crimes.

Demjanjuk has been fighting notoriety since 1977 when former inmates at the Treblinka death camp identified Demjanjuk as “Ivan the Terrible” as part of a US Justice Department investigation.

He was extradited from the United States to Israel in 1986 and a court there sentenced him to death in 1988. He was released in August 1993 when the case collapsed after statements by former guards assembled by the Soviet KGB identified another man, Ivan Marchenko, as being “Ivan the Terrible”.

Demjanjuk then returned to Cleveland, Ohio even though his US nationality had been taken from him for lying about his wartime activities. He has lived under near house arrest since his return and faced other investigations in the

United States.

The case against him was revived in 1999 after new evidence emerged that he had worked as a guard at three other Nazi death camps.

\’Mistreatment of prisoners\’

US investigators brought together witness accounts which described how Demjanjuk was seen at Sobibor, kicking Jews or hitting them with his rifle butt to get them out of railway wagons more quickly.

Demjanjuk is still on a Simon Wiesenthal Center list of the most wanted Nazi war criminals still alive.

“My reaction is one of great joy and satisfaction and a sense that we are hopefully on the way to seeing justice being achieved in this very difficult and complex case,” said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre

in Jerusalem.

“Every victim of the Holocaust deserves that an effort be made to find and bring to justice those who turned them into victims,” he said, adding: “There is no doubt that he\’s a Nazi war criminal.”

Demjanjuk \’wants peace\’

A German justice ministry spokesman told a press conference that Germany now has two ways to pursue the case.

“Either Demjanjuk is expelled by the United States, he arrives in Germany and the arrest warrant is carried out,” or an extradition request is made.

On Friday, Demjanjuk\’s wife Vera told the Bild daily that the couple “now only wanted to die in peace.”

She said her husband “had already been condemned so often. He was on death row in Israel for six years.”

Demjanjuk, who changed his first name from Ivan to John after emigrating to the United States in the 1950s, had moved to Cleveland, Ohio after the war to work as an auto mechanic.

Stranded Aussies plead for help

A group of Australians accused of entering West Papua illegally have won their appeal, but still face problems returning home.


The five Australians have plead with the Australian government to step in, saying Indonesian officials are blocking their departure.

Speaking from Mopah airport, one of the group members has pled with Australian authorities to help resolve the situation.

Heart-felt plea

“Help. Please help us,” Karen Burke says.

“You are our only hope and do not assist Indonesia politically. We are concerned at the political sensitivities towards Indonesia are getting in the way of our freedom.”

Ms Burke says authorities have impounded the gorup\’s aircraft, and they have been forced to sleep on the grounds of the terminal until their situation is resolved.

“We are able to leave the airport, there is no one stopping us from leaving the airport, but we will possibly put ourselves into a situation where we are illegally in Indonesia if we do that, because we have no visas, we have no right to be here and we have no means to leave here,” Ms Burke says.

Legal challenge ahead

The five won a legal appeal against convictions for illegally entering Indonesia on a light plane last September, and were the High Court has ordered the group leave the country using the aircraft in which they arrived.

However, Ms Burke says prosecutors have retained the aircraft in order to mount a challenge to the ruling.

“The court decision had to be signed off or just looked at by the prosecutor who said we won\’t accept this,” Ms Burke says.

“The lawyer said, what do you mean, it is a legal ruling and you have to accept it. But they said no, we wish to appeal both cases to the Supreme Court and to do that, we need to keep the aircraft as evidence.”

Wheat deal ramps up Australia-Iraq ties

Australian wheat exports to Iraq look set to reach levels not seen since the AWB scandal as Canberra and Baghdad shift the focus of their relationship from security to commerce.


Baghdad flagged it may soon take up to one million tonnes of Australian wheat, during a meeting between Trade Minister Simon Crean and his Iraqi counterpart Abdul-Falah Al-Sudani in Canberra on Thursday.

“We had discussions that showed the Iraqi government wants to enter into arrangements for the long-term supply of Australian wheat,” Mr Crean told AAP through a spokesman.

“Dr Al-Sudani indicated to me that the Iraq government would be interested in buying approximately one million tonnes of Australian wheat each year, in the future.”

AWB scandal took its toll

There has been a major lull in exports in the wake of the AWB wheat scandal, which came to a head with the release of the Cole inquiry report in late 2006.

Royal commissioner Terence Cole found the wheat exporter paid some $290 million in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein\’s regime between 1999 and 2003.

Exports of wheat came to a halt in 2007 and in 2008 stood at about 348,000 tonnes, a long way from the 1.2 million tonnes imported by Iraq in 2005.

Dr Al-Sudani was part of a delegation accompanying Iraq\’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on a five-day visit to Australia.

Closer commercial ties were the priority during talks between Mr al-Maliki and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Six years after the invasion of Iraq, and as Australia\’s troop numbers dwindle, both countries are focused on growing the economic relationship in areas like agriculture and resources.

“Australia\’s relationship with Iraq is entering into a new phase,” Mr Rudd told reporters.

“The prime minister and I have agreed that it is time to build a strong relationship based on our broad commercial and economic ties.”

Iraqi PM visits war memorial

Meanwhile, Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki trod a well worn path during his two-day stop in Canberra, visiting the Australian War Memorial and laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Like other dignitaries, Mr al-Maliki inspected the memorial\’s poignant roll of honour.

Unlike those who\’d come before, he stopped to pay tribute to the two Australians who have died since hostilities began in 2003.

Last on the touching walkway was a commemoration of the most recent theatre involving Australians – the unfinished Iraq war.

Engraved on the wall were the names Private Jake Kovco and Warrant Officer David Nary – two men who died serving their country, though in vastly different circumstances.

As the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq approaches, Mr al-Maliki paid tribute to efforts of Australia\’s servicemen and women in freeing his country from the rule of former president Saddam Hussein.

“I would like to take this opportunity to praise the personnel who helped in Iraq against the challenge of terrorism, which not only threatened Iraq but threatened humanity as well.”

He offered his sympathies to the families and friends of those who had died in Iraq.

“I extend my sympathies to the families of loved ones who lost their lives while helping Iraq,” Mr al-Maliki said.

Jobless rate \’could have been far worse\’

The speed at which the unemployment rate has surged in the past two months has raised question marks over the government\’s jobless prediction for next year.


But economists believe it makes another interest rate cut next month more likely.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the spike in the jobless rate to 5.2 per cent was the result of the global recession, and would be far worse if not for the government\’s stimulus measures.

Highest rate in four years

The February result was the highest rate in nearly four years – up sharply from the 4.8 per cent recorded in January and the 4.5 per cent in December.

“Any job loss is one too many as far as I am concerned,” Mr Rudd told reporters in Canberra.

Economists doubt the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) will be able to sit on its hands for another month and leave the cash rate unchanged after Thursday\’s shocking data, which showed 47,100 people joined the dole queue in one month.

Jobless forecast questioned

Last month, the government forecast the unemployment rate would rise to 5.5 per cent by June and to 7.0 per cent 12 months later.

This would see an extra 300,000 people out of work.

“This is a big jump in one month, so everyone will be looking at these forecasts and questioning whether it is too low,” Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in Canberra.

Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner had said on Wednesday that he was optimistic the forecasts would stand.

\’Cut payroll tax\’

Business said swift policy action was needed.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson said the data was “a clear warning” that the jobless rate will rise faster and steeper than the 7.0 per cent forecast.

“These rising jobless figures send a direct message to governments and the Reserve Bank,” Mr Anderson said.

“Reduce interest rates further, start cutting payroll tax, and significantly moderate the new industrial relations laws.”

Turnbull slams Rudd

Mr Turnbull said the data show the government\’s policies had done nothing to create jobs.

“Kevin Rudd is making our economic situation much worse,” he said.

“Yes there is a global financial crisis. But he is making one mistake after another. At the time he came into office he had a political strategy but no economic strategy.”

Mr Rudd was again forced to defend the government\’s stimulus packages, which provided cash handouts in December and a further round of bonuses being doled out by Centrelink now.

“If the government had sat back and done nothing and just watched, then the unemployment numbers produced today would be much worse,” Mr Rudd told parliament.

World unemployment rates high

He said unemployment numbers across the rest of the world should be taken into account.

Across the 30-member OECD, the January unemployment rate was 6.9 per cent, the G7 rate was 6.8 per cent, the European Union 7.6 per cent, and the euro zone 8.2 per cent, he said.

Thursday\’s data also showed that total employment rose by a slim 1,800 in February but with full-time employment slumping by 53,800 people.

Shoe-thrower sentenced to jail

Muntazer al-Zaidi, 30, had risked up to 15 years in jail.


Wearing a light-brown suit, brown sweatshirt and thin-framed glasses, he was brought into the packed Iraq Central Criminal Court under a heavy police escort, an AFP reporter said.

Charges of \’aggression\’

Zaidi is charged with aggression against a foreign head of state during an official visit — and the issue of whether Bush\’s visit was official or not is crucial to the outcome.

The trial first opened on February 19 but was adjourned to determine the nature of the former US president\’s farewell visit to Iraq on December 14.

Judge Abdulamir Hassan al-Rubaie told the court that government ministers had declared the visit official.

Mixed feelings about trial

On his farewell trip to Iraq, Bush had been at a globally-televised media conference with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki when Zaidi let rip with his shoes, zinging them at Bush, who managed to duck just in time.

The journalist\’s aunt, Un Jalal, voiced hope at the courthouse before the verdict, that Zaidi would be let off.

“I really hope that they make a decision today, Inshallah (God willing),” she told reporters. “Inshallah, they will and he will be freed.”

But his brother Mithan sounded less optimistic.

“After the last trial (session), Muntazer was very disappointed. He was also disappointed at not being moved from his current facility (jail).

“He was also told by lawyers that the prime minister\’s office had decided it was an official visit. I feel this is not true. Bush was not on an official visit.”

Family members crowd court

There was standing room only at the courtroom on the edge of Baghdad\’s high security Green Zone as some 200 family members, reporters and lawyers crowded in.

Another brother, Uday, told AFP he expected Muntazer to be found guilty.

“I have no illusions about the outcome. Of course they are going to decide that George W Bush was on an official visit. This trial is a farce,” Uday told AFP.

The Baghdadia television reporter told the court in February that he had been outraged and was unable to control his emotions when Bush, who ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, started speaking at the media conference.

“I saw only Bush and it was like something black in my eyes,” he said from the dock.

“I had the feeling that the blood of innocent people was dropping on my feet during the time that he was smiling and coming to say bye-bye to Iraq with a dinner.

Shoe insult

“So I took the first shoe and threw it but it did not hit him. Then spontaneously I took the second shoe but it did not hit him either. I was not trying to kill the commander of the occupation forces of Iraq.”

The gesture is considered a grave and symbolic insult in the Arab and Muslim world. He also insulted Bush verbally, shouting: “It is the farewell kiss, you dog,” before security forces wrestled him to the ground.

Before the trial, Zaidi said he had been beaten and tortured while in custody.

His brothers told AFP they wanted to bring torture charges against Bush, Maliki and his bodyguards at a human rights court in either Belgium or Spain.

A Syrian lawyer said she was preparing to file a complaint.

However, Uday also said that his brother had not requested political asylum in Switzerland, contrary to what a lawyer in Geneva had previously claimed.

Madoff jailed after admitting huge fraud

Wall Street conman Bernard Madoff was led handcuffed to jail after pleading guilty to tricking thousands of people out of billions of dollars in one of history\’s biggest financial scams.


Madoff, 70, told a packed New York court he was “deeply sorry and ashamed” for the decades-long Ponzi scheme and the former financial titan and chairman of the Nasdaq stock market now looks likely to die behind bars.

He faces a maximum sentence on June 16 of 150 years after pleading guilty to all 11 counts of fraud, perjury and theft.

Prosecutors also want to track down an astounding 177 billion dollars they say passed through Madoff\’s hands.

Judge Denny Chin asked Madoff, wearing a grey suit, dark tie and white shirt, how he would plead.

“Guilty,” Madoff replied. Defense lawyer Ira Sorkin said the silver-haired money manager should be allowed to remain free on bail in his seven-million-dollar Manhattan apartment until sentencing.

But Chin responded: “It is my intention to remand Mr Madoff,” triggering applause from victims who had gathered in the court room.

Federal marshals then handcuffed Madoff behind his back and led him away.

Questions over Madoff\’s accomplices

Big questions remain over Madoff\’s possible accomplices and the extent of his theft. One of Madoff\’s victims, who was allowed to address the court, said instead of allowing the guilty plea there should have been a trial.

“If we go to trial we have more of a chance to comprehend the global scale of this horrendous crime,” the woman said. “We will bear witness to the pain that Mr Madoff inflicted on the young, the infirm and the old.”

Madoff looked nervous when he first entered the court, watched from the packed benches and via video link by hundreds more people in a separate room.

He clasped and unclasped his hands, fidgeted with his chair, and answered questions from the judge in a barely audible voice. But he appeared to gather confidence after Chin asked him to recount his crimes.

Madoff tells of how he lured clients

Speaking publicly for the first time since his shocking arrest on December 11, Madoff summarized how he lured clients into giving him their money.

They believed he was making legitimate investments, when in reality he was running a Ponzi scheme where funds invested by new clients are used to pay fake returns to existing clients.

Millions of dollars worth of investment funds sat in a New York bank account, which he would then dip into when clients said they wanted money back.

“The essence of my scheme was that I represented to clients … that I would invest their money in common stock.

Those representations were false for many years. I never invested those funds in the securities,” he said. “Instead, those funds were in a Chase Manhattan account.”

\’I am sorry, I felt compelled to impress with good returns\’

He said he was sorry and that he had never intended to perpetuate such an epic fraud, but that when he started out in the 1990s he felt “compelled” to impress important clients with good returns. “I believed it would end quickly and I would extricate myself and my clients,” he said.

“This proved difficult and, in the end, impossible.” “I cannot adequately express how sorry I am,” he added, saying: “I am here today to accept responsibility for my crimes.”

Although Madoff is now a finished man, vast questions hang over the scandal. No one has established just how much money was stolen.

Government seeks to recover $US177 billion

Prosecutors say that shortly before his arrest Madoff reported that he was managing about 65 billion dollars, whereas in reality he held only a “fraction” of that amount. In total, prosecutors say, the government seeks to recover 177 billion dollars from Madoff, something his lawyers call a wildly inflated figure.

Another key question is who else might have been involved.

“He didn\’t do these crimes alone and I don\’t understand why conspiracy is not one of his pleas,” one of the victims allowed to speak told the court. “Who handled it when he was gone?” Prosecutors and Chin himself on Thursday stressed the case remains open.

“The government\’s investigation continues, is continuing. A lot of resources are being expended both to find assets and to find anyone else who might be responsible for this fraud,” prosecutor Marc Litt said.

No-one else has been charged, but legal experts say the probe might turn to others, including Madoff\’s brother Peter, and his sons Mark and Andrew, who worked closely with him.

His wife Ruth is about to get her own lawyer, having previously relied on Sorkin.

ISS in close call with space junk

The crew of the International Space Station rode out a threat of collision with a debris cloud in a Soyuz space capsule.


An unusually close encounter highlighted the dangers of a growing junk pile in space.

“The debris threat to the International Space Station has passed,” NASA said in a statement.

The scare arose when the three member crew learned too late to take evasive action of an approaching a debris cloud that exposed the space station to a risk of a potentially catastrophic collision.

NASA appeared most concerned about a piece of a satellite motor that was close enough that the space station would ordinarily undertake an evasive manoeuvre, NASA said.

Laura Rochon, a NASA spokeswoman at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, had said the risk of collision was “very low”.

“The piece itself is about one third of an inch and it\’s about 4.5 kilometres away,” she said.

But Mike Fincke, the mission commander, Yuri Lonchakov, the number one flight engineer, and Sandy Magnus, the number two flight engineer, exited the space craft and battened themselves in the Soyuz spacecraft.

NASA said the move was a precaution in case the crew needed to detach from the space station.

The all-clear was sounded about 10 minutes after the crew entered the capsule.

The US Strategic Command notified NASA of the debris field late Wednesday, but NASA said it was too late for flight controllers to coordinate a “debris avoidance” manoeuvre.

“Every once in a while, the crew has to do orbital debris avoidance manoeuvres but this time they didn\’t do that because we have an upcoming launch possibly on Sunday and they need to stay at the same altitude,” Rochon said.

The US Joint Space Operations Centre tracks about 18,000 objects in orbit, so many that it has to decide which to follow most closely, like those that might fly by the International Space Station or manned space flights.

Experts estimate that there are more than 300,000 orbital objects measuring between 1cm 10cm in diameter and “billions” of smaller pieces.

Travelling at speeds of up to thousands of kilometres an hour they pose a risk of catastrophic damage to spacecraft.

Last month, a spent Russian satellite collided with an Iridium communications satellite, showering more debris in an orbit 436km above the space station.

US military trackers failed to anticipate that collision, the first between two intact satellites, the Pentagon said at the time.

ANZ to move jobs overseas

The ANZ bank is expected move more Australian technology and back-office operation jobs to India by the end of this year.


In a statement released today, an ANZ spokeswoman said the company\’s Bangalore centre grew by about 500 people last year.

Media have reported that a similar amount of jobs will move to India this year and that most of the positions will come from Melbourne.

However, speaking to SBS, an ANZ spokeswoman has denied such claims, saying that while some jobs might move overseas, the figure 500 has come from sources unknown to ANZ.

Assistance to banks should be conditional to jobs: Union

Meanwhile, the Finance Sector Union told a Senate inquiry hearing today government assistance to banks should be conditional on jobs staying in Australia.

“If the Australian taxpayer is going to help Australian banks, one condition should be the immediate cessation of offshoring,” the union\’s national secretary Leon Carter said.

The union\’s director of policy Rod Masson said bank staff were being directed not to tell consumers work was being done offshore.

Consumers were being let down as call centre staff were being moved abroad. “The banks in this country spend an inordinate amount of time hiding who you are speaking to,” he said. “It\’s not being honest with consumers.”

Labour force data released on Thursday showed the jobless rate in February soared to 5.2 per cent, the highest in four years.

The finance union says Australian banks has slashed thousands of jobs in the past year, and sent more than 800 jobs offshore since October, despite their multi-million dollar profits.

In October, the federal government unveiled a guarantee program for deposits in Australian-owned banks, building societies and credit unions for the next three years.

The deposits scheme is worth up to $700 billion.

Chocolate tax sparks debate

Chocolate should be taxed like alcohol and tobacco, to help rein in a growing obesity problem, a British medical conference was told Thursday.


People generally understimate the health dangers of chocolate, family doctor David Walker told the British Medical Association conference, leading a debate on the issue.

“I believe that chocolate is a major player in obesity and obesity-related conditions. What I\’m trying to get across is that chocolate is sneaking under the radar of unhealthy foods,” he said.

“I would say the government taxing chocolate would not solve the obesity crisis but it might slow the rate of increase of the obesity graph.”

Critics say the idea of taxing chocolate would simply not work.

“Introducing regressive taxes on the foods that consumers love would result only in lighter wallets, not smaller waists,” Julian Hunt of the Food and Drink Federation told the BBC.

“While good for grabbing headlines, there is no evidence to suggest that such \’fat taxes\’ would actually work in reality.

He noted that the BMA debated a similar motion in 2003, and it was rejected because doctors thought it would not reduce obesity, would hit poor people most and would be difficult to administer.

Professor Roger Corder of The London School of Medicine said Walker was concentrating on the wrong problem. “Targetting chocolate is misguided. If we targeted sugar, you\’d capture all unhealthy foods,” he told the BBC.

“Perhaps the general population is being duped to some extent, because all dark chocolate is being bracketed as healthy by many companies.

“In fact only chocolate which are high in a natural component called flavanoids are actually beneficial,” he added.

Walker acknowleged that his proposal would not be a vote winner.

“It would be a brave government to do it, but I think it would show a signal of intent that they really are serious about tackling obesity and foods that are potentially damaging to health,” he said.