'Major, major' conflict with North Korea possible, says Trump

Tensions between the US and North Korea are at boiling point tonight, following the launch of a ballistic missile by the North. 

Although the test firing was labelled unsuccessful, it shows that Kim Jong Un won't bow to international pressure to cease his nuclear weapons programme. 

The missile was launched at the Puk-Chang airfield, north of the capital Pyongyang.

China is calling for calm and restraint, saying tensions on the peninsula have reached a critical point. Source: 1 NEWS



World Anti-Doping Agency reinstates Russia

The World Anti-Doping Agency declared Russia's scandal-ridden drug-fighting operation back in business Thursday, a decision designed to bring a close to one of sports' most notorious doping scandals but one bitterly disputed by hundreds of athletes and described as "treachery" by the lawyer for the man who exposed the corruption.

On a 9-2 vote, the executive committee took the advice of the agency's compliance review panel and declared RUSADA as having satisfied conditions of reinstatement that were gradually softened over the summer.

In most tangible ways, the decision doesn't change much: RUSADA has been up and running for a while, bringing one of the world's largest testing programs back on line with the help of officials from Britain and elsewhere. And Russia's Olympic committee was brought back into the fold after the Pyeongchang Olympics, where athletes who could prove they were clean were able to compete as "Olympic Athletes from Russia."

But RUSADA's reinstatement now clears the country to again bid for major international events — although soccer's World Cup was held there this summer despite that restriction.

It also clears a major hurdle for Russia's track team to be declared compliant by that sport's international governing body, one of the few to take a strong, consistent stand against doping.

Perhaps most importantly, hundreds of athletes and dozens of world anti-doping leaders see it as a stinging rebuke to the ideal of fair play.

"WADA's decision to reinstate Russia represents the greatest treachery against clean athletes in Olympic history," said Jim Walden, the attorney for Grigory Rodchenkov, the former Moscow lab director who exposed much of the Russian scheme.

WADA had been telegraphing the move since Sept. 14, when it released the recommendation of its compliance review committee. Olympic champion Beckie Scott resigned from that committee afterward.

"I'm profoundly disappointed," Scott said to Canadian broadcaster CBC after the decision. "I feel this was an opportunity for WADA, and they have dealt a devastating blow to clean sport. I'm quite dismayed."

Even in Russia, where the news was welcomed, it came with a sense that there's still work to be done.

"These questions will always follow us," said RUSADA CEO Yuri Ganus, whose appointment to the job was part of the housecleaning at the agency that WADA demanded. "These aren't the kind of skeletons which can lie unnoticed in the closet. These are the skeletons which will be banging on the closet door all the time."

The two biggest roadblocks to RUSADA's reinstatement involved the country accepting findings from a report by investigator Richard McLaren that concluded the government had engineered the doping scandal to win medals at the Sochi Olympics. It also involved Russia agreeing to hand over a trove of data and samples that could be used to corroborate potential doping violations that stemmed from the cheating.

Over a summer's worth of correspondence between WADA leaders and Russia's sports minister about how to bridge the gap, a pattern emerged of WADA backing down from its initial requirements and, at one point, essentially asking Russia what it would be willing to say in a letter designed to satisfy the WADA review committee.

"We think that a small addition to the letter, if acceptable to you, could ensure that the letter is well received ... and that a positive recommendation is provided," WADA CEO Olivier Niggli wrote to sports minister Pavel Kolobkov in May in a letter obtained by BBC Sport .

In the end, Russia agreed to accept findings of an IOC-commissioned report that put less onus on the Russian government for the scheme, a move that Rodchenkov said earlier this week was done "for the pure purpose of protecting their top-level apparatchiks who destroyed the Olympic Games in Sochi."

Russia also agreed to hand over the samples and data by Dec. 31. If it does not, RUSADA will again be declared noncompliant.

"Without this pragmatic approach, we would continue with the impasse and the laboratory data could have remained out of our reach indefinitely," WADA president Craig Reedie said after Thursday's executive committee meeting in Seychelles.

Critics said reinstating RUSADA before obtaining the data only amounts to accepting another promise from a country that hasn't kept many over the five-year course of the scandal.

Travis Tygart, the CEO for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, called the decision "bewildering and inexplicable," and urged a full revamping of WADA; Reedie also serves as a member of the IOC, which is one of the many conflicts of interest that bother critics of the agency.

"Let's be clear: Absolutely nothing will be off the table for how we, the anti-doping community, begin the work of reforming WADA," Tygart said.

Reedie said "WADA understands that this decision will not please everybody."

Vladmir Putin is walking a very fine line with his reaction to the downing of the jet, Paul Buchanan says.
Source: Breakfast

"Clean athletes were denied places at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as other major events, and others were cheated of medals," he said. "It is entirely understandable that they should be wary about the supposed rehabilitation of offenders."


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New landslide kills 21, buries houses in Philippines

A massive landslide buried dozens of homes near a central Philippine mountain Thursday, killing at least 21 people and sending rescuers scrambling to find survivors after some sent text messages pleading for help.

The slide surged down on about 30 houses in two rural villages after daybreak in Naga city in Cebu province, city police chief Roderick Gonzales said by telephone as he helped supervise the search and rescue. Seven injured villagers were rescued from the huge mound of earth and debris.

Some victims managed to send messages after the landslide hit, Gonzales said, adding that elderly women and a child were among the dead.

Naga city Mayor Kristine Vanessa Chiong said at least 64 people remained missing.

"We're really hoping we can still recover them alive," she said.

The landslide hit while several northern Philippine provinces are still dealing with deaths and widespread damage wrought by Typhoon Mangkhut, which pummeled the agricultural region Saturday and left at least 88 people dead and more than 60 missing. A massive search is still underway for dozens of people feared dead after landslides in the gold-mining town of Itogon in the north.

Cebu province was not directly hit by Mangkhut but the massive typhoon intensified monsoon rains across a large part of the archipelago, including the central region where Naga city lies about 570 kilometers (355 miles) southeast of Manila.

Rescuers were treading carefully in small groups on the unstable ground to avoid further casualties.

"We're running out of time. The ground in the area is still vibrating. We're striking a balance between intensifying our rescue efforts and ensuring the safety of our rescuers," Naga city Councilor Carmelino Cruz said by phone.

Cristita Villarba, a 53-year-old resident, said her husband and son were preparing to leave for work when the ground shook and they were overwhelmed by a roar.

"It was like an earthquake and there was this thundering, loud banging sound. All of us ran out," Villarba said, adding that she, her husband and three children were shocked but unhurt.

Outside, she saw the house of her older brother, Lauro, and his family buried in the landslide.

"Many of our neighbors were crying and screaming for help. Some wanted to help those who got hit but there was too much earth covering the houses, including my brother's," she said.

Nearly 20 people lived in her brother's home, mostly his family and grandchildren, she said.

Villarba said she had felt sorry a few days earlier for the landslide victims in the country's north.

"I had no idea we would be the next," she said.

Elsewhere in the landslide-hit community, a father and his young daughter were found dead in each other's embrace in a house, volunteer rescuer Vic Santillan said.

It's not clear what set off the landslide, but some residents blamed limestone quarries, which they suspect may have caused cracks in the mountainside facing their villages. Villarba said a light rain stopped when the landslide hit and there was no rain on Wednesday.

The nearest quarry was abandoned about a year ago, but another government-authorized quarry is still being operated not far away, and villagers also profit from the limestone business, said Angeline Templo, an assistant to the mayor.

The Philippines is one of the world's most disaster-prone countries. It is lashed by about 20 storms each year and is located in the Pacific "Ring of Fire" that is vulnerable to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Poverty has forced many to live on or near volcanoes, steep mountains and storm-vulnerable coasts, often leading to disasters.

Rescuers dig through the rubble to search for possible survivors, with some sending cellphone text messages pleading for help, following a landslide that buried dozens of homes in Naga city, Cebu province central Philippines on Thursday Sept. 20, 2018. A landslide set off by heavy rains buried homes under part of a mountainside in the central Philippines on Thursday, and several people are feared buried, including two who sent text messages seeking help. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Source: Associated Press


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John Armstrong: As Labour fast loses the plot, Sunday's moment of coalition unity was priceless

There’s no show without punch, and although Winston Peters did not say much, he said enough. Unlike the Prime Minister who was something of a disappointment.

Last Sunday’s carefully stage-managed display of unity by Jacinda Ardern and her deputy was not so much a case of fake news as one of fabricated news.

It was somehow befitting of the barmy politics emanating daily from the Government benches in Parliament that the coalition Government should half-celebrate its 12-month birthday having been in the job for just on 11 months.

A carefully-chosen audience was corralled on Auckland’s AUT campus to hear — or rather endure — Ardern taking close to half-an-hour to spell out her Government’s 12 priorities.

1 NEWS' Jessica Mutch and Benedict Collins give their opinions of the Acting Prime Minister who ran the country during Jacinda Ardern’s maternity leave.
Winston Peters. Source: 1 NEWS

Admittedly, it is difficult to inject excitement into a discussion of the virtues of intended alterations to the structure of the various Cabinet committees which meet weekly in the Beehive.

But one further priority would be finding a new speech writer for the Prime Minister before someone falls asleep and drowns in the verbiage. Or simply dies of boredom.

The said wordsmith's job is probably safe, however. The strict instruction from upon high would have been not to include the merest morsel of anything that those listening might find interesting — and which would detract from the whole purpose of the occasion, specifically the need for the Government to project an image as rock solid unified.

The political pantomime had one overriding objective — convincing an increasingly sceptical public that although Ardern and Peters might not always be on the same page, they are still capable of trading smiles on the same platform after 11 months of jostling one another.

While the Labour-New Zealand coalition has witnessed sporadic bouts of internal guerrilla warfare in recent times and principally on New Zealand First’s part, it is vastly over-dramatising things to suggest this so far occasional rebellion could become full-blown civil war.

So there was no chance of Peters going AWOL last Sunday. It would, however, have helped the coalition’s cause considerably had he uttered the immortal words "of course she's driving the car" during the earlier stages of the developing friction between the partners in Government. He was unwilling on Sunday to stretch the metaphor any further. But when it comes to back-seat driving or driving backwards, Peters is a master.

He has not taken on board any perceivable role as a back-room fixer for the coalition despite such a role having the capacity to alleviate some of the huge pressures weighing on Ardern’s shoulders.

He has instead exploited her inexperience as Labour’s leader and the fact that she spreads herself thin to bolster his party’s leverage within the coalition.

It is such game-play good that threatens the Government’s stability. It is not so much that the partners might clash over policy. As Ardern repeatedly notes, the coalition comprises three parties. There is always going to be disagreement over policy.

What matters is how such disputes are handled by the respective party leaderships - John Armstrong

What matters is how such disputes are handled by the respective party leaderships; whether, to use the parlance, they act on the basis of good faith and no surprises.

Ardern’s response to suggestions of disunity is to pretend there is none when she is so questioned. That is not credible.

She has now sought to brush off those claims made by her opponents by creating a distraction through repackaging her party’s priorities and relaunching them as a "coalition blueprint" under the title of Our Plan.

It would not have taken Labour’s spin-doctors long to dream up that title. It is the exact same one as used by National during the John Key-Bill English years in their similar quest to turn New Zealand into Utopia.

The only difference between Labour’s and National’s respective efforts was that Key was dismissive of such "vision documents". They might be useful in listing goals. They rarely provide detail of the means to be adopted to reach those goals. The day-to-day pressures of political life inevitably result in the prime minister of the day focusing heavily on short-term political management. Concentrating on the long-term can always be postponed to another day.

National’s various versions of vision have accordingly sunk without trace. That experience would have been a factor in Simon Bridges’ acidic observation that there was nothing in the long list of platitudes, banalities and truisms in Ardern’s blueprint which he would find hard to swallow. He isn’t wrong.

The producers of Ardern’s massive missive may have feared the same fate awaits their product as afflicted National’s equally turgid equivalent, creation.

That hurts. But Bridges is making the pertinent point that Ardern’s claim that her plan amounts to a "shared vision" of the three parties in her governing arrangement is utterly meaningless.

All it says is that the three-party grouping stretches so far across the political system that National can be accommodated with room to spare.

That makes it hard to keep the whole show on the road at the best of times.

With ministers falling like nine-pins, bureaucrats thinking nothing of splashing out $1.5 million on a justice policy summit and private consultants growing fat on the tidy sums to be made from servicing the plethora of working parties and task forces doing the work that career public servants are arguably better left to do, Labour is fast losing the plot.

But never mind. Ardern and her colleagues got what they wanted. That was a minute or two of coalition unity at the top of the six o’clock news. Given Labour’s growing malaise, that’s priceless.

The Prime Minister gave details of the Government plan during a speech in Auckland. Source: 1 NEWS


Baby squirrels in the US freed from tail tangle

Baby squirrels in the US state of Wisconsin have been freed after their tails became dangerously tangled together.

They were handed in at the Wisconsin Humane Society’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre which worked to save the lives of the five young grey squirrels.

They became entangled with grass and plastic strips their mother used to build a nest.

The squirrels were cut free with scissors while under anaesthetic.

"You can imagine how wiggly and unruly this frightened, distressed ball of squirrely energy was, so our first step was to anaesthetise all five of them at the same time," the centre told the BBC.

Then they began unravelling the "Gordon Knot".

"It was impossible to tell whose tail was whose, and we were increasingly concerned because all of them had suffered from varying degrees of tissue damage to their tails caused by circulatory impairment.

"The creatures will soon be free to resume a tangle-free life in the wild," the centre said.

Baby squirrels in Wisconsin have been freed after their tails became dangerously tangled together. Source: rnz.co.nz