Chase try assist has rugby league buzzing

Former St George Illawarra playmaker Rangi Chase has the rugby league world in raptures over his sensational try assist from the weekend.

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Three weeks into the season, there is only one talking point, Chase’s brilliant handling that created a try in Salford’s first win of the season.

Just 3,606 people were there to see it live but close to half a million have since watched the 2011 Man of Steel’s spectacular efforts against Hull on Saturday.

Chase was never able to make his mark in the NRL, playing 31 games across two seasons for the Dragons after making debuting for the Wests Tigers in 2006 – his only appearance for the club.

But Castleford fans were regularly thrilled by his crazy footwork and bewildering handling skills during his first five seasons in the Super League – and Chase reached new heights in a dazzling move on the weekend.

He came up with a trademark juggle before producing the piece de resistance, an outrageous one-handed Benji Marshall-style flick pass around his back to get Josh Griffin over for a sensational try.

Dual international Wendell Sailor drooled over it and urged his 75,000 Twitter followers to take a look while Salford’s own video has been watched by more than 55,000 people from Colombia to Japan.

“It’s just practice,” Chase said.

“It’s what I’ve done since a kid growing up, I’m always practising stuff like that. It comes natural, I suppose.

“People say no one knows what’s happening, well it’s the defence that doesn’t know what’s happening. I know what’s happening.

“It’s the sort of skill I practise over and over all the time in training and in my spare time so when the opportunity presents itself, I’m not afraid to do it.

“Josh was aware it was coming. He’s played with me before and I do it at training. He said to me after the game he knew it was coming.

“It’s good to put people over for tries, it’s what I try and do, it’s my job. I’d probably rather set them up than score.”

Chase will duel with exiled NRL star Todd Carney this Saturday, when Salford go to Catalans Dragons.

German football in spotlight after commission findings

For decades the country sought to investigate East Germany’s systematic doping before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 but there were indications doping was also present in West German sports.

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Those suggestions have now, in part, been substantiated, said the evaluation commission on Freiburg University’s doping past with evidence pointing to cycling and football.

The 60-page report itself has not been published yet but Monday’s two-page statement released by one of the commission members, and confirmed by the commission, was enough to cause a furore.

Bundesliga club VfB Stuttgart, who won the league in 1984, and Freiburg, in the second division at the time of the claims, said they had yet to see the report which goes back decades, making cross-referencing information difficult.

Germany’s cycling federation (BDR) was reserved in its reaction on Tuesday.

“For the last 10 years, the German cycling federation has positioned itself clearly in the fight against doping and through prevention and information contribute to a new generation that sees manipulation for what it is. Cheating,” BDR general secretary Martin Wolf said.

Germany’s sacred cow — the Bundesliga football league — has never seen such allegations with only a handful of positive doping tests in the past several decades.

All of these were quickly dismissed as the fault of individuals rather than a network of organised doping, keeping the league’s drugs-free image intact.

But it must now face the most serious allegations yet with Stuttgart and Freiburg players having allegedly used banned substances.

The German Football Association (DFB) said that although it had not been informed of the case, it wanted full transparency.

“There are grave allegations here that of course need to be completely and fully cleared up,” DFB Vice President Rainer Koch said on the DFB website.

“One has to admit that the anti-doping fight in those years was not being conducted seriously and at the DFB it was not dealt with as meticulously as one would have wished.

“Today German football is very consistent and strict in its fight against doping. Especially in the last 20 years a lot has changed and a lot has been done,” he said.

The Football League (DFL), contacted by Reuters, did not want to comment on the findings at this time.

At the heart of the issue is former Freiburg University’s sports trauma unit chief Armin Kluemper, who allegedly provided athletes with anabolic steroids.

Evaluation commission member Fritz Soergel said, especially for football, it was time to confront these allegations.

“The DFB has been confronted with this since yesterday,” Soergel told German ZDF television. “After these revelations… and because football is the people’s sport, the most popular sport, no stone should be left unturned.”

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

NBA strugglers Denver sack coach Shaw

Brian Shaw was fired as coach of the NBA’s Denver Nuggets on Tuesday after going 56-85 in a season and a half in the job.

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Melvin Hunt, in his fifth season as an assistant coach for the Nuggets, was named the club’s interim coach for the remainder of the season.

The Nuggets have lost six games in a row and fallen to 20-39, third-worst in the Western Conference and 12 1/2 games behind Oklahoma City for the final playoff spot in the West with 23 games remaining in the season.

“You won’t find a better guy than Brian and he is one of the brightest basketball minds I’ve ever been around,” said Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly.

“Unfortunately things didn’t go as we hoped, but we know with his basketball acumen that he has a very bright future.”

Shaw was hired to replace George Karl when he was fired in 2013 after guiding the Nuggets to nine consecutive playoff trips.

Never missing the playoffs from 2004 to 2013, the Nuggets lost in the first round nine times and reached the 2009 conference finals, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Nuggets went 36-46 last season, missing the playoffs in Shaw’s first campaign, and were struggling this year.

“Expectations have been raised and we want more,” Connelly said.

“This season our management staff has remained patient and supportive as decisions of this nature are never taken lightly.

“Patience is encouraged, as long as the organisation continues to show progress toward a greater goal.

“However, competing for championships is our goal, and therefore we decided to make this decision now and look forward to conducting an extensive head coaching search upon the season’s conclusion.”

UK officials may be accountable for abuse

Some 370 girls may have suffered sexual exploitation in one English county in the last 16 years.

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The damning indictment of failings by police and social workers in Oxfordshire echoed an investigation last year in northwest England, which produced a larger catalogue of abuse and failures by authorities to act on information that might have prevented abuse.

Though the serious case review published on Tuesday found no wilful professional misconduct by organisations, it cited a “worrying lack of curiosity and follow through.”

The release of the report came as Prime Minister David Cameron warned of sexual abuse on an “industrial scale” in Britain and accused people and organisations of “walking on by” when faced with abuse.

Cameron deemed sexual exploitation a “national threat,” on a par with organised crime, and said he was considering measures to make public officials accountable if they fail protect children from sexual exploitation.

The proposed measures were outlined at a meeting called by Cameron that brought police, healthcare experts and ministers together with victims.

An estimated 1400 children were sexually exploited in Rotherham, a northern England town. A report last year that cited “collective failures” by authorities between 1997 and 2013 shocked the country and led to calls for action.

Alan Bedford, author of the Oxfordshire report, said the review panel was “conscious that these numbers may seem low given the higher figures in Rotherham, but the work was carefully done and was debated and agreed by panel members.”

Nine men were charged in Oxfordshire and seven were convicted, with five drawing life sentences. Further investigations and trials continue.

“What happened to the child victims of the sexual exploitation in Oxfordshire was indescribably awful,” the review said.

“The child victims and their families feel very let down. Their accounts of how they perceived professional work are disturbing and chastening.”

Though the defendants were predominantly of Pakistani origin and the victims were white, the report said no evidence was seen of “any agency not acting when they should have done because of racial sensitivities.”

African leaders urge Ebola ‘Marshall Plan’

Leaders of the west African countries worst hit by Ebola have urged the world to back a Marshall Plan to help them stamp out the disease and rebuild their shattered economies.

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Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma and Guinean President Alpha Conde pressed the need for recovery at an international conference in Brussels as the number of new cases slows.

More than 9700 people have died of the disease since the west African epidemic emerged in southern Guinea in December 2013, with nearly 24,000 people infected, according to the World Health Organization.

“The impact of Ebola on our economies has been profound. The most important long-term response to Ebola therefore rests in plans and strategies for economic recovery,” Sirleaf told the EU-backed conference.

“There is no doubt this will require significant resources, even a Marshall Plan,” she said, referring to the US-led aid plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II.

Conde also underlined the need for a Marshall Plan, telling a press conference that it was as if the region is “coming out of a war” with its economy and public services decimated.

The International Monetary Fund in Washington this week approved funding and debt relief worth about $US187 million ($A239.10 million) for Sierra Leone for coming years, with $US85 million of that to be disbursed immediately.

The charity Oxfam has previously made similar calls for a Marshall Plan-type effort to help stricken west Africa.

The countries at the centre of the Ebola epidemic are forecast to lose 12 per cent of their combined gross domestic product this year, according to World Bank estimates.

In addition, their health sectors have been partially wiped out by the epidemic or forced to divert resources to fighting Ebola at the expense of other diseases like measles, malaria and AIDS.

Long-term paracetamol use ‘poses risk’

Doctors may be underestimating the risks to patients from long-term use of paracetamol, the world’s most popular painkiller.

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Researchers found chronic users of the drug – people who typically take large, daily doses over several years – may increase their risk of death, or kidney, intestinal and heart problems.

Led by Philip Conaghan at the Leeds Institute of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine in northern England, the team analysed data from eight previously published studies into long-term paracetamol use.

The data came only from people who had paracetamol prescribed by a doctor, as opposed to over-the-counter purchases.

Two of the eight studies had found an increased risk of mortality, up to 63 per cent, among long-term paracetamol users, compared to those who had not been prescribed the drug during the study period.

Four found a heightened risk, ranging from 19 to 68 per cent, of cardiovascular problems. The risk of gastro-intestinal bleeding and other intestinal side-effects was up to 49 per cent as high.

Three studies found an adverse effect on kidneys.

In all cases, the risk was dose-dependent – in other words, the higher the dose, the greater the risk, said the analysis published in the British journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

Even though the risk in absolute terms was small, doctors should think carefully when prescribing the drug, it warned.

But other experts cautioned against over-reaction.

They pointed out the analysis was unable to tell whether early death and health problems were caused by an underlying illness rather than from the paracetamol.

Nor did it take into account over-the-counter purchases of the drug, a picture that could be far more complex.

“Paracetamol remains the safest analgesic (painkiller) available, and this study should not stop people taking it,” said Nick Bateman, a professor of clinical toxicology at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

“Based on these results, the lowest effective dose for the shortest necessary period is advised,” he told Britain’s Science Media Centre.

“This is common sense for all medicines.”

Turnbull says Abbott best for PM

Malcolm Turnbull insists Tony Abbott is the best person to be prime minister.

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That’s because he has the confidence of the party room.

“To be the leader of a political party you only need one attribute and that is to have the confidence of the party room,” he told ABC TV.

Mr Turnbull has been billed as the likely challenger in any spill of the Liberal leadership.

But he hasn’t thrown his hat in the ring or even hinted that he covets the top job.

Mr Turnbull said the 102 Liberals in the party room were the ones who decided who led their party.

“You can have all the attributes in the world, perceived, real, unreal, imagined – the only attribute that matters is … whether the majority of the party room support you,” he said.

Clearly, Mr Abbott had that support as no one challenged him.

Asked if he had the ticker to challenge Mr Abbott, he replied: “My ticker is in very good shape.”

The communications minister said all Liberals were committed to giving Australia sound, responsible, good government.

“We support Tony Abbott as our leader. He has the support of the party room. Yes, there was a spill motion, but it was not carried and we are all behind the leader, every single one of us,” he said.

On the contentious issue of gay marriage, Mr Turnbull said there was really little difference between his position and Mr Abbott – as they both supported a conscience vote, even though he supported same-sex marriage and the prime minister opposed it.

“If a private member’s bill comes up, I’ve got no doubt the party room will decide there will be a free vote,” he said.

“The idea that there’s this massive gulf between us is quite imaginary and it’s been put around by people, frankly, who I suspect don’t bare either Tony or me a lot of good will.

Jailed Harris stripped of British honour

Jailed pedophile Rolf Harris has been stripped of his British honour by the Queen, putting him on a dishonour roll alongside the likes of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

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Harris had his CBE annulled on Tuesday, one week after being told to hand back his Australian honours.

“The Queen has directed that the appointment of Rolf Harris to be a Commander of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, dated 17 June 2006, shall be cancelled and annulled and that his name shall be erased from the Register of the said Order,” an announcement in the Crown’s official publication, the London Gazette said.

The 84-year-old was sentenced to five years and nine months’ jail in mid-2014 for indecently assaulting four girls in Britain between 1968 and 1986.

However, he’s expected to serve less than three years behind bars.

The Queen appointed Harris a Commander of the Order of the British Empire – one step below a knighthood – a year after the entertainer painted her portrait to mark her 80th birthday.

The one-time royal favourite had previously been made a Member of the Order (MBE) in 1968 and then an Officer (OBE) in 1977.

He wasn’t stripped of those awards as they had been superseded by the higher honour.

The process of cancelling a British award occurs when an honours and appointments secretariat puts forward a case to the forfeiture committee, whose decision then goes through the prime minister to the Queen for approval.

Cases normally arise when a holder “has brought the honours system into disrepute” – most often by being convicted of a crime and jailed.

Harris was stripped of his Order of Australia honours a week ago, leading British Labour MP Simon Danczuk to publicly decry that Australia had acted more quickly against Harris than they had.

“I am delighted. Public opinion would have been outraged if no action was taken and the system was brought into disrepute,” Danczuk said on Tuesday.

Prime Minister David Cameron backed the move to cancel Harris’s honour.

In 2008, Mugabe was stripped of his honorary knighthood, awarded in 1994, for “abuse of human rights” and “abject disregard” for democracy.

He was the first foreigner to be stripped of an honorary knighthood since Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989 – the day before his execution by firing squad.

Harris previously lost his place in the ARIA Hall of Fame and a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) fellowship.

His image has been erased from public artworks and commemorative plaques removed from city streets.

In sentencing Harris in July 2014, Justice Nigel Sweeney said the former entertainer had shown no remorse for his crimes.

“Your reputation lies in ruins … and you have no-one to blame but yourself,” the judge said.

A month ago Harris was interviewed over two days by Operation Yewtree officers regarding fresh allegations of sexual assaults.

Finance News Update, what you need to know

WORLD FINANCE UPDATE:

The Australian dollar has fallen but remains above 78 US cents after the Reserve Bank’s decision to keep interest rates on hold at 2.

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25 per cent.

At 0630 AEDT on Wednesday, the local currency was trading at 78.26 US cents, down from 78.35 cents on Tuesday.

And the Australian share market looks set to open lower following falls on Wall Street.

At 0645 AEDT on Wednesday, the share price index futures contract was down 12 points at 5,911.

ELSEWHERE:

KIEV – Ukraine’s central bank has moved to shore up the country’s battered currency by hiking interest rates to 30 per cent as the government pushed through draconian reforms needed to clinch another IMF bailout.

FRANKFURT – German retail sales, a closely watched measure of household confidence, surged in January, official data shows, suggesting that consumer spending will remain the main growth driver in Europe’s biggest economy this year, analysts say.

HONG KONG – Macau casino revenue plunged a record 49 per cent year-on-year in February as gaming takings free fall as a result of China’s corruption crackdown, figures show.

GENEVA – Mining and commodities giant Glencore was back in the black in 2014, posting a $US2.3 billion ($A2.94 billion) net profit, but took a $US1.1 billion impairment charge on dwindling commodity prices, it says.

LONDON – Barclays fell into a net loss last year, the British bank says, hit by huge costs linked to its alleged role in the rigging of foreign exchange markets.

LONDON – British American Tobacco has launched a $US3.5 billion ($A4.48 billion) bid to take control of its Brazilian unit Souza Cruz, the Latin American nation’s biggest cigarette maker.

TOKYO – Sharp shares have dropped after a report said the struggling Japanese electronics firm will ask its key lenders for aid as it eyes the closure of money-losing units.

NEW YORK – Harsh winter storms chilled US auto sales in February, with Ford especially taking a hit with a surprise 1.79 per cent fall from a year earlier.

STOCKHOLM – Sweden’s left-wing government wants to scrap the country’s budget-surplus target, aiming to axe a policy that critics consider outdated.

BARCELONA – BlackBerry may be launching four new smartphones over the coming year, but the struggling company is staking its future on becoming a giant in software.

Hewitt locked in Cup selection battle

An intriguing selection headache involving the man set to succeed him as Australian Davis Cup captain awaits Wally Masur in the Czech Republic this week.

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Australia are without injured star Nick Kyrgios for the first round World Group tie, starting in Ostrava on Friday, leaving 38th-ranked Bernard Tomic as the clear singles spearhead against a Czech team missing top gun Tomas Berdych.

But who will join join Tomic in Friday’s opening-day singles remains undecided, with newly-appointed captain Masur tossing up between 34-year-old Davis Cup legend and captain-in-waiting Lleyton Hewitt or the higher-ranked Sam Groth.

Hewitt and Groth are likely to team up in doubles on Saturday, meaning the decision will likely come down to workload and strategy as much as form and rankings.

Masur, handed the job after Pat Rafter stood down last month, is effectively warming the captaincy chair for Hewitt, who will take on the role post-retirement early next year.

And while the final selection call is ultimately his to make, Masur says he’s working closely with Hewitt and coaches Tony Roche and Josh Eagle in deciding what’s best for an Australian team chasing a first World Group victory since 2006.

“You’re going to ask questions of (players like Hewitt) and get their feedback because it’s pretty valuable,” Masur told AAP.

“I’d be mad to try to come in here and try and absolutely stamp my authority on the team because that would be counter-productive.”

Hewitt, the most prolific winner in Australian Davis Cup history, has missed the opening-day singles just twice in his record 17-year career in the competition.

However, big-serving 27-year-old Groth, ranked 29 places higher than Hewitt at 69 in the world, has improved out of sight over the past year and defeated Hewitt in straight sets in Brisbane in January.

The pair have been playing practice matches in training all week, along with Kyrgios’ replacement Thanasi Kokkinakis, and Masur said a decision on the final make-up of the team wouldn’t be made until Thursday.

“One of the great things is, we’ve a very versatile team,” Masur said.

The 2012-13 champion Czechs are the competition’s top-ranked team, but look vulnerable without world No.8 Berdych and wily veteran Radek Stepanek.

However, Masur insists a team led by 31st-ranked Lukas Rosol and world No.45 Jiri Vesely will be very hard to beat at home.

“They’ve got such a good tradition and culture around Davis Cup and the fans will create quite an atmosphere,” he said.