Coe praises ‘candid’ Russian apology for doping scandal

Russia’s athletics boss Dmitry Shylakhtin told an IAAF Congress, held on the eve of the World Athletics Championships, that his country’s ban from the sport was correct and that he was determined to fight doping.

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He said he was sorry to “all athletes who have had gold and silver medals snatched from them at competitions.”

Despite his comments, the IAAF Congress voted in favour of maintaining the ban, imposed in November 2015 after a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report found evidence of state-sponsored doping in Russia.

“I thought it was a very candid response today, a very candid presentation,” IAAF president Coe told reporters.

“The whole Council and the whole Congress was pleased…that the Russian federation recognised themselves that they have been through some pretty torrid times and are doing everything possible to make sure the federation is reengineered.”

Coe said he was also “pleased” that Russia accepted the criteria for its reintroduction.

“I think it was a very constructive day and I think progress is being made, but the (Congress) supports the recommendations of the task force that this was not the moment to reinstate Russia,” said Coe.

“We need to do everything over the next few months to normalise this situation.”

“The guiding principle has always been that we wanted to separate the clean athletes from the tainted system,” he added

Nineteen Russian athletes will be competing as neutrals at the World Athletics Championships which start in London on Friday, having met strict IAAF criteria.

The head of the IAAF’s Task Force, Rune Andersen, said on Monday that Russia had yet to meet several of the criteria for reinstatement.

Drug-testing was still insufficient and banned coaches were still operating freely, he told reporters in London after a presentation to the IAAF Council.

(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Toby Davis)

Hot, windy weather sparks Europe wildfires

Wildfires are threatening homes south of Athens, a famed hikers’ route in Corsica and Albania’s Riviera as high winds and unusually hot weather hits many areas of Europe.

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After ravaging northern Corsica, wildfires raged on Thursday in the southern half of the French Mediterranean island, prompting some evacuations north of the regional capital of Ajaccio and on slopes of the hikers’ route known as the GR20.

Planes and helicopters were involved in firefighting efforts on Thursday around Palneca, a stop on the GR20 route where a blaze broke out on Wednesday, according to the regional authority for southern Corsica.

The efforts were complicated by the rocky terrain. Another fire in nearby Appietto broke out on Wednesday but firefighters brought it under control.

Authorities put out warnings about soaring temperatures expected in Corsica and the southern French mainland.

In Greece, three firefighters had been hospitalised with burns and local authorities issued an evacuation order for residents near a seaside town south of Athens as a wildfire fuelled by high winds threatened homes.

About 100 people were told to evacuate near Kalyvia, 40 kilometres of Athens, the local mayor’s office said. The fire burned two cars and damaged a fire truck, they said. About 70 firefighters and volunteers were involved along with two water-dropping helicopters.

Winds up to 60km/h were hampering the firefighting effort, while temperatures in the area reached 35C.

About 300 firefighters and military personnel were working in Albania to keep under control 25 new wildfires that broke out in the past 24 hours.

Albanian authorities asked for assistance from the European Union to fight 20 wildfires in the Vlora district along the country’s Riviera.

The interior ministry on Thursday reported that a fire at a forest in the capital Tirana’s district was extinguished after burning 10 hectares.

In southwestern Albania, wildfires were threatening the Llogara National Park as the firefighters were unable to extinguish the blaze in the region’s steep mountains. Helicopters were being used to keep fires under control.

Local media reported that Albania had asked neighbouring Greece to assist in fighting the wildfires.

Three UK men get 20 years for terror plot

Three British men convicted of planning a knife and bomb attack on troops or police inspired by Islamic extremism have been sentenced to at least 20 years in prison.

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An accomplice received a minimum 15-year-term.

Naweed Ali, Khobaib Hussain, Mohibur Rahman and Tahir Aziz were convicted in a London court on Wednesday of preparing terrorist acts after a trial that was partly held in secret for national security reasons.

Ali, Hussain and Rahman met while serving prison terms for terrorism offences, and later set up a group called the “Three Musketeers” on a messaging app.

The men were arrested in August 2016 after weapons were found in Ali’s car, including a partial pipe bomb and a meat cleaver with “kaffir” – infidel in Arabic – on the blade. Prosecutors say they intended to attack police or military targets.

Prosecutor Bill Emlyn Jones said the defendants probably intended to use their cars as weapons in an attack, as well as knives and the pipe bomb.

Judge Henry Globe sentenced Ali, Hussain and Rahman to life with no chance of parole for 20 years. He said Aziz, a late recruit to the plot, must serve at least 15 years before being considered for parole.

The judge noted that Britain had experienced four deadly attacks during the four-and-a-half month trial. He said that had the “musketeers” gang not been caught, “there would have been not dissimilar terrorist acts in this country using at the very least the explosives and or one or more bladed weapons”.

The defendants, from central England, denied the charges and accused police of planting evidence. Defence lawyers also criticiced the decision to hear from two witnesses in secret as they discussed claims by the defendants that Britain’s domestic spy agency had tried to recruit them.

Gareth Peirce, lawyer for Ali and Hussain, released a statement after sentencing expressing “profound concern that the jury in this case has got it wrong”.

Constitutional reform can combat brutality

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner says a constitutionally-enshrined voice to parliament can address indigenous “powerlessness” that manifests itself in youth justice scandals.

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In a speech on Friday to the Garma Festival by June Oscar, the first Aboriginal woman appointed to the role at the Australian Human Rights Commission, both sides of politics will be urged to back an indigenous advisory body.

Ms Oscar, who took up the role with the national human rights monitoring body in April, says such structural change may prevent the next generation from enduring the “brutality, injustice (and) intolerance” that indigenous children face today.

Ms Oscar cites last week’s nationwide protests following the acquittal of a man who ran over Aboriginal boy Elijah Doughty in Western Australia, and the tear-gassing of former Northern Territory juvenile inmate Dylan Voller.

“Our kids know the odds that they are up against. They know the stories of young Elijah from Kalgoorlie and Dylan Voller,” Ms Oscar says.

“We feel the same immense pain and loss of what happens to our people each time they die in custody, are locked up for unpaid fines, and each time that the justice served up by our system seems so grossly inadequate.”

She laments the establishment of “yet another inquiry” in response to the Don Dale Detention Centre abuses, saying little progress has stemmed from royal commissions into black deaths in custody and the stolen generation.

“The fact that we sit here decades later with little learned and little changed is a hard fact for our peoples to swallow,” Ms Oscar says.

Ongoing deaths, mistreatment and government inaction only feed an existing discontent, while NT indigenous communities are still reeling from the intervention which began a decade ago, she says.

However bold constitutional reform could prevent such discriminatory government policies from occurring again, while laying a path to reconciliation.

“An indigenous voice means government walking the talk on indigenous disadvantage,” Ms Oscar says.

“The ground has shifted, and our politicians must shift too.”

Last week Ms Oscar led 19 other senior Aboriginal figures in backing the final report recommendations of the Referendum Council, including Professor Tom Calma, Noel Pearson, Pat Anderson, Roy Ah-See, Thomas Mayor and Jackie Huggins.

Tesla surges as Wall St bets on Model 3

Tesla Inc has jumped 6 per cent as its quarterly report fuelled bets that its new Model 3 sedan will propel the luxury electric car-maker into the mainstream.

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Chief executive Elon Musk is counting on the Model 3, Tesla’s least pricey car to date, to make the company profitable and establish it as the leading electric car-maker ahead of BMW, General Motors and other long-established players.

Tesla’s stock is up 63 per cent in 2017, underscoring Wall Street’s confidence in Musk.

The company late on Wednesday reported quarterly results that beat average analyst estimates, and it said it received more than 1,800 reservations per day for the Model 3 since its launch last week.

Tesla had $US3 billion ($A3.8 billion) in cash on hand at the end of the June quarter, reassuring investors who were worried after Musk warned on Friday that the automaker would face six months of “manufacturing hell” in ramping up production of the Model 3.

Musk said investors should have “zero concern” that Tesla would fail to reach its production target of 10,000 vehicles each week by the end of 2018.

Sceptics believe Tesla’s aggressive production targets are unrealistic and that the company’s electric cars will be overtaken by larger automakers.

At least two brokerages raised their price targets following Tesla’s report. RBC Capital Markets raised its target price by $US31 to $US345, pushing it well ahead of the median price target of $US322, according to Thomson Reuters data.

“While we don’t have meaningful reason to doubt that Tesla can eventually achieve its targets, doing so in a timely manner without some growing pains could prove challenging,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Joseph Spak wrote in a research note.

The $US35,000 base-price Model 3 is Tesla’s least expensive car. It is designed and priced to compete with high-volume luxury sedans like the Audi A4, BMW 3-series or Mercedes C-Class. Those typically sell for between $US40,000 and $US50,000, or about half the price of Tesla’s previously launched cars, the Model S or Model X.

Also on Thursday, Consumer Reports said GM’s Chevrolet Bolt electric car, priced at $US37,495, reached 250 miles (402km) on a single charge, beating out Tesla’s 2016 Model S 75D and 2016 Model X 90D.

“A new Tesla Model S or X 100D would probably beat the Bolt’s range, but you’d have to pay $US100,000 or more for one of those cars,” Consumer Reports said.