Michael Jackson’s death ‘no surprise’

Michael Jackson’s former publicist Michael Levine says is unsurprised by the pop star’s death, adding the celebrity had been on an ‘impossibly difficult and often self-destructive journey for years’.

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The Los Angeles County Coroner confirmed the death of the 50-year-old “King of Pop” here after he reportedly suffered a cardiac arrest.

“I must confess I am not surprised by today’s tragic news,” Levine said.

“Michael has been on an impossibly difficult and often self-destructive journey for years. His talent was unquestionable but so too was his discomfort with the norms of the world.

“A human simply can not withstand this level of prolonged stress.”

Doctors sought to revive Jackson for an hour: Brother

Emergency hospital workers tried for over an hour to resuscitate Michael Jackson after he collapsed at home from an apparent heart attack, brother and official family spokesman Jermaine Jackson said.

The “King of Pop” is believed to have suffered “cardiac arrest” but the formal cause of death will not be known until his autopsy, Jackson said at a emotional news conference hours after his brother was confirmed dead.

“His personal physician who was with him at the time attempted to resuscitate my brother. As did the paramedics who transported him to Ronald Reagan UCLA medical center,” Jackson read from a prepared statement.

“Upon arriving at the hospital, at approximately 1:14 pm (2014 GMT), a team of doctors including emergency physicians and cardiologists attempted to resuscitate him. For periods of more than one hour. They were unsuccessful,” he said.

“Our family requests that the media please respect our privacy during this tough time,” he said. “May Allah be with you, Michael, always.” Jermaine Jackson is a Muslim.

Jackson ‘on medication before death’

Michael Jackson was taking prescription drugs as he battled to get into shape for his gruelling concert comeback due to get underway in London next month, a lawyer for the family said.

Attorney and spokesman Brian Oxman said Jackson fought long-running battles with prescription medication throughout his career and was taking the drugs after suffering injuries during training for his comeback.

Oxman told CNN that he had harbored concerns about Jackson’s use of drugs, saying members of the star’s entourage were “enablers” and comparing his case to the drug overdose death of Playboy centerfold Anna-Nicole Smith.

“This is not something that has been unexpected… because of the medications which Michael was under,” Oxman said from the hospital where Jackson’s family members had gathered.

“The people who have surrounded him have been enabling him… if you think that the case of Anna-Nicole Smith was an abuse, it was nothing to what we have seen in Michael Jackson’s life.

“I do not know the extent of the medications that he was taking but the reports we had been receiving in the family is that they were extensive,” Oxman added.

Michael Jackson ‘two different people’

Australian pop guru Molly Meldrum says Michael Jackson was a different person when he was not performing. “He was two different people, I think,” Meldrum said.

“He would whisper, if you were interviewing him. “But then, the moment he hit the stage, he was something else then. It was just extraordinary really”.

“The first time I interviewed Michael Jackson was when he was still with The Jackson Five,” Meldrum told Fairfax Radio Network.

“Then he was just obviously a kid but … by the time he was nine years old he was like a superstar in the world and basically was flown into that arena and, in my mind, never came out of that arena.”

Meldrum recalled an interview he did with Jackson at Studio 54 in New York when he was about to launch as a solo artist.

The record company representative at the time said not to worry too much about it. “(He) more or less said to me, well don’t worry about that because we don’t really think it’s going to work.”

But they did manage to do the interview.

“We were running late and I said don’t worry, he won’t be there. We pulled up and there huddled in a corner was Michael Jackson waiting for us. No bouncers, no nothing and he actually came into the studio and helped us set up the lighting and he was just so captivated by the camera the cameraman had.

And he just giggled his way right through the interview.”

But Jackson was quite a different person when he was performing, Meldrum said. “He was just a craftsman and such an amazing performer on stage,” he said.

“The moonwalk was something else .. the thing is that he’d studied so hard as a dancer and he wanted to be the Fred Astaire of the modern day.”

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Blackwater 'in 195 shootings'

State Department contractor Blackwater, under investigation for the shooting deaths of 11 Iraqis on September 16, will answer questions about that incident and others at what is expected to be a testy congressional hearing tomorrow.

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Senior State Department officials will also be grilled by the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform examining whether the growing use of military contractors undermines US efforts in Iraq.

FBI investigates

In another development, the FBI says it has been asked by the State Department to send a team of investigators to Iraq to look into the September 16 shootings.

No criminal charges have been filed yet against Blackwater over that incident.

A report prepared by the staff of committee chair Representative Henry Waxman, released details from Blackwater's own reports of multiple incidents involving Iraqi casualties and said in most instances Blackwater fired first.

Paying off victims

The memorandum also slammed the State Department's oversight of Blackwater and says it is often more interested in getting the company to pay off victims' families and "put the matter behind us" than in investigating what happened.

It listed 195 shooting incidents from the start of 2005 until September 12 of this year, an average of 1.4 per week.

Of those, there were 16 Iraqi casualties and 162 cases with property damage, the California Democrat says.

He did not specify if there were fatalities.

‘First to fire’

"In 32 of those incidents, Blackwater were returning fire after an attack while on 163 occasions (84 per cent of the shooting incidents), Blackwater personnel were the first to fire," Mr Waxman, a vocal critic of the Iraq war, says.

State Department rules say Blackwater's actions should be defensive rather than offensive.

Blackwater, which has been paid a little over $US1 billion ($A1.13 billion) by the US government since 2001, declined comment.

"We look forward to setting the record straight on this and other issues" when Erik Prince, Blackwater's chief, testifies before the committee, spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell says.

Staff lose jobs

The report said Blackwater had fired 122 of its staff in Iraq over the past three years for a number of infractions, including 28 weapons-related incidents and 25 cases involving drugs and alcohol violations.

MR Waxman criticised the State Department's handling of several incidents involving Blackwater.

"It appears that the State Department's primary response was to ask Blackwater to make monetary payments to put the 'matter behind us' rather than to insist upon accountability or to investigate Blackwater personnel for potential criminal liability," says the memorandum.

Drunken incident

In a shooting incident on December 24, 2006, a security guard for Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi was killed by an allegedly drunken Blackwater contractor, who was then flown out of the country and faced no charges, the memorandum says.

The State Department's charge d'affaires recommended Blackwater pay $US250,000 ($A282,085) and give an "apology."

Mr Waxman noted the State Department's diplomatic security says that was too much and would cause Iraqis to "try to get killed."

Eventually Blackwater agreed on a $US15,000 ($A16,925) payment.

In another incident where Blackwater shooters killed an "innocent Iraqi," Mr Waxman said the State Department requested only a $US5,000 ($A5,640) payment to "put this unfortunate matter behind us quickly."

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Olympic blogosphere

For more information, photographs, blogs about the Beijing Olympics and the athletes and teams taking part, check out these web links.

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Official Olympic websites

Beijing 2008 : Official site for the Beijing 2008 Olypmic Games

ICCC: International Olympic Committee Official site

Australian Olympic Team :Official site of the the Australian Olympic Team

Australian Olympic Committee: Official site of the Australian Olympic Committee

Paralympics: Official site for the Beijing Parlympics

Athlete websites and blogs

Grant Hackett: Keep up to date with Grant Hackett's Beijing experience and view his photo galleries

Tamsyn Lewis: Every thing you need to know about Tamsyn Lewis

Craig Mottram: The official site of long distance runner Craig Mottram

Team websites

Socceroos: The Australian Football Federation website has photos, interviews and all the latest news on the Socceroos

Hockeyroo: The women's hockey team is one of Australia's most successful sporting teams

Kookaburra: The men's hockey team is the only Australian team to win a medal at each of the last four Olympic Games

Basketball Australia: Follow the progress of the Opals and Boomers at the Beijing Games

Swimming Australia: Updates and photo galleries on Australia's top swimmers along with Beijing highlights

Cycling Australia: Everything you need to know about Beijing-bound Australian cyclists

Blogs

TIME's China blog: Time Magazine's China specialists are covering the Beijing games 24/7

China Digital Times: A collaborative news website that covers China's social and political transition – with special Beijing updates

Olympic Trivia

Olympic Trivia: Test your Olympic knowledge

Future Games

Vancouver 2010: Official site of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olypmics

London 2012: Official site of the London 2012 Olympics

Sochi 2014: Official site of the 2014 Winter Olympics

Human rights

The issue of China's human rights record came into focus in the lead-up to the Games when anti-Beijing demonstrations in Tibet descended into riots earlier this year. Pro-Tibet demonstrations occurred all over the world and dogged the Olympic torch relay in Europe and the Americas. Many groups are still calling for a boycott of the Beijing Games, or even just the opening ceremony, because of China's human rights record, particularly the suppression of Tibetans. Here's some links to human rights groups:

Global Human Rights Torch Relay: A global grass roots campaign to raise awareness about human rights issues in China

Reporters Without Borders: Information about freedom of speech in China for journalists and cyber-dissidents

Human Rights Watch: A human rights organisation that has China in the spotlight while it hosts the Olympics

Amnesty International: Amnesty International hopes the Olympics can create a positive human rights legacy for China

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Strauss savours ‘amazing’ Ashes win

Victory by 197 runs at the Oval on Sunday saw England win the fifth and final Test with more than a day to spare – and so regain the Ashes 2-1.

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But such a result looked a long way off earlier this month when Australia, who came into this series as Ashes holders, drew level with a crushing innings and 80-run fourth Test win at Headingley.

“This is pretty special,” said Strauss, a member of the England side that won the 2005 Ashes.

“There were so many emotions we went through today – hope, frustration, worry and despair, at time.

“To come through and finish it off, until you get over the line you don’t realise how hard it is.

“It’s an amazing day, it seemed a long away off after Headingley to be honest. The guys had to dig very deep.”

Key wicket for Flintoff

Australia dominated the series statistically – for example their batsmen scored eight hundreds to England’s two.

But Strauss’s men were able to raise their game when they most needed in a series where for three Tests they were the without star batsman – and former captain – Kevin Pietersen.

“When we were bad, we were very bad, when we were good, we managed to be good enough,” Strauss, England’s best batsman this series, said.

“In a five-Test series, there are ebbs and flows.”

That was certainly the case at the Oval where all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, who had a largely quiet match in his final Test before injury-induced retirement, made a telling blow with Australia, chasing a mammoth 546 to win, well-placed at 217 for two.

But with Australia captain Ricky Ponting looking in supreme form, Flintoff ran out the star batsman with a direct hit from mid-on.

Moment of inspiration

“We needed that moment of inspiration,” said Strauss. “You can’t keep Fred out of the game.”

Flintoff himself said: “All the injuries and operations, it’s for moments like this,” he said. “What a way to go.”

For Strauss, who jokingly said there would be “muted celebrations”, this series was a personal triumph.

Thrust into the captaincy following the fall-out from Pietersen’s resignation in January, Strauss was in charge of the England side bowled out for just 51 by the West Indies in Jamaica a month later.

“It feels pretty special to be here now, seems more than seven months ago since I took over,” said Strauss, who in this Ashes series top scored for England with 474 runs at 52.66, including 161 in the 115-run second Test win at Lord’s.

England’s form fell away badly after their 2005 Ashes success and Strauss was determined this side would not let things slip.

“Any time you win an Ashes series is unbelievably special.

Double defeat for Ponting

“This is a young side, it can get a lot better. We’re inconsistent as we’ve shown this series, but the way Stuart Broad (man-of-the-match at the Oval for his first innings five for 37) to come back after the first two Tests says a lot about his character.”

For Ponting, defeat meant he became the first Australia captain in 119 years to lose two Ashes series in England.

Asked how it had happened, he said: “When we’ve lost a session, it was like the one the other day, we lose eight wickets (in the first innings at the Oval) and blow ourselves out of the water.

“That happened on a couple of occasions, not being able to get the final wicket in Cardiff (where England held out for a first Test draw) and our first innings batting at Lord’s and here.”

But he insisted this loss hadn’t dented his faith in his ability as a captain.

“I’m more determined than ever to be a better player and leader than I am at the moment.

“Ultimately, it’s my responsibility, to get the best out of the guys and to win the series. I felt I ticked most of those boxes, other than making a few more runs myself.”

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Chad 'kidnap' detainee has heart attack

A Belgian pilot charged in connection with the alleged abduction of African children has suffered a heart attack in the Chadian prison where he was being held.

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Jacques Wilmart, 75, was transferred from the jail to a French military base in Chad's capital, Ndjamena, for treatment after being taken ill late on Thursday.

Mr Wilmart is one of 10 Europeans awaiting trial over an attempt by French charity Zoe's Ark to airlift 103 children to France for adoption.

The retired pilot flew some of the youngsters from Chad's eastern border with Sudan to the town of Abeche, from where they were to have been taken to Europe.

Children 'not orphans'

Zoe's Ark claims it was acting in good faith, trying to save refugee orphans from Darfur.

But Chadian authorities and human rights organisations say the many of the children have parents who are alive, and that they are from Chad, not Sudan.

A total of 17 Europeans and four Chadians were initially arrested in the case.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Chad last week, returning with three French journalists and four Spanish flight attendants.

Six French charity workers, three members of the Spanish air crew and Mr Wilmart remain in custody alongside the Chadian officials.

Court appearance

Earlier on Thursday, the prosecutor in the case took evidence from the six French nationals who are the main suspects in the case.

Zoe's Ark president Eric Breteau told the court Mr Wilmart, the Spaniards and three of the four Chadian officials had not been privy to the charity's plans, a legal source reported.

Outside, about 100 mainly young people gathered with a banner that read “Sarkozy, justice must be done in Chad”.

Mr Sarkozy sparked anger in Chad when he suggested earlier this week that he would bring the detained charity workers back to France.

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Germany – Toad in the Hole

REPORTER: Chris Hammer

One of Europe’s major waterways – the Rhine River – and snuggled in next to it, the Philippsburg nuclear reactor.

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Members of the company yacht club clearly aren’t too concerned about any potential danger.

But a clear majority of Germans are opposed to nuclear, and six years ago the former government announced the country’s 17 power reactors would be shut by 2021.

Some members of that former government look at places like Philippsburg, open to the Rhine, and want to accelerate that phase-out.

REINHARD BUTIKOFER, GREENS LEADER: When we talked and fought the battle about phasing out nuclear, we had not yet seen international terrorism as we know it today. And every nuclear plant is a possible goal for terrorists. So can we really bear that risk? I’m not sure.

But a new political reality means any phase-out, let alone an early one, is now in doubt. Last November, conservative Angela Merkel became Chancellor, her Christian Democrats forming a so-called grand coalition with the Social Democrats – the German equivalent of John Howard going into coalition with Kim Beazley.

The Social Democrats remain implacably opposed to nuclear, but Merkel’s party wants to overthrow the policy.

JOACHIM PFEIFFER, CDU ENERGY SPOKESMAN: My party, the CDU/CSU, we think it is a mistake. We have the safest – and it’s proven – the safest nuclear power plants in the world, and they’re pretty new, and we want to prolong the duration of the nuclear power plants.

Walking into this approaching political storm is Klaus Henle as he retraces the steps he first took a quarter of a century ago as a young biology student – steps that took him to this quarry near the village of Rosswag in south-western Germany. They were steps that led him to discover what he now believes was the illegal dumping of nuclear waste.

DR KLAUS HENLE, BIOLOGIST: I would have been very, very happy to be shown to be incorrect. I would have been happy to find out that it’s something natural. But the evidence from the beginning was very strong against being something natural.

Klaus came to this quarry all those years ago because he was intrigued by the then novel idea that frogs and toads could act as early warning signs of environmental damage. The toads he found here changed if not his life, then at least the way he saw the world.

DR KLAUS HENLE: They lived in a large pond here in the quarry. And what struck us immediately was that quite a large number of the tadpoles showed unusual features. There were white tadpoles, giant tadpoles – what is not normal for the species.

Indeed, Klaus and his companion had stumbled upon a Pandora’s box of mutations. There were toads with extra legs and without legs. There were giant tadpoles, strangely coloured toads, and a multitude of tumours and unusual growths.

Klaus suspected a chemical pollutant, but decided to rule out radioactivity first. He borrowed a Geiger counter from his university’s physics department.

DR KLAUS HENLE: We were shocked because we found elevated levels of radioactivity at the cracks of the deposit of earth. The activity was slightly elevated all along the deposit, but that was not to be worried about. But whenever you get very close to opening of cracks, the activity increased dramatically.

REPORTER: How dramatically?

DR KLAUS HENLE: Up to 100 times background levels.

REPORTER: So no way it could have been a natural phenomenon?

DR KLAUS HENLE: Not really, it’s too high levels.

The authorities were contacted, there was a great show of official concern. But behind closed doors authorisation was quickly given to bury the evidence, quite literally. Within five days of Klaus and his friends notifying the authorities, all the water was pumped off the site and it was covered with metres of fill. But that didn’t stop the collection of specimens of the toads, nor did it stop other scientists from taking independent measurements of radioactivity. A quarter of a century on, those scientists no longer feel constrained from talking.

DR BARBARA STEINHILBER, ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST: So we made our measurements and in our eyes there was radioactivity. But for scientific proof, for really profound scientific proof, you need more data.

Dr Barbara Steinhilber’s worked for an independent institute. Her readings were consistent with the presence of radioactivity. They caught the eye of an ambitious young politician from the fledgling Greens Party.

WOLF-DIETER HASENCLEVER: I smelled the chance to have publicity, of course, as politicians always like publicity.

Wolf-Dieter Hasenclever called a public meeting. The government declined to attend, but a number of eminent scientists did.

WOLF-DIETER HASENCLEVER: It was a success. It was very clear that something with radioactivity was happening, had happened there.

The clincher was the attendance of this man – Paris-based professor Alain Dubois, then and now the world’s leading authority on anomalies in amphibians. He declared the mutations could not have a natural cause.

PROFESSOR ALAIN DUBOIS, MUSEUM NALIONAL D’HISTOIRE NATURELLE: But one possible and very likely one was that these toads had been irradiated by some kind of waste that might have been deposited in the quarry. But at the time we had the hearing the quarry had been filled up with tonnes of earth.

With the story starting to gather traction, at least in the local media, the state government decided to hold its own hearings, with its own experts, here in this building in Stuttgart.

PROFESSOR ALAIN DUBOIS: Clearly not everybody was very happy to have this hearing. So the hearing was organised in such a way as each of the the experts had only a very limited time to speak, was asked only a few questions, and, above all, had no permission to speak again after his time has been elapsed.

DR KLAUS HENLE: Only the minister, which was under attack that something didn’t go wrong in his portfolio, he was the only person allowed to question everybody and to ask his experts to present their statements.

One scientist, invited by the government, declared the mutations were natural – the result of interbreeding between two species of toads. This was based on the recollection of an old lady, who claimed to have seen deformed frogs in the area 70 years before. The scientist was immediately awarded a generous multiyear grant to study this hybridisation theory.

DR BARBARA STEINHILBER: This was the point where I really gave up, because if science has come to this point, that an anecdote is the base of your conclusions, I think there was nothing more to do.

But for Klaus, the most devastating testimony came from his old physics professor, the man who had originally lent him the Geiger counter. He testified that Klaus had incorrectly used the instrument, and that when he himself had gone to the quarry, he was unable to detect elevated radioactivity.

REPORTER: So was it his evidence at the inquiry that really put an end to the inquiry?

DR KLAUS HENLE: It contributed, definitely, to the end of the inquiry.

Now Klaus and I have located the retired professor and drive to meet with him. He makes an astounding admission – that the instruments he used, and the way he used them, could never have detected buried radiation.

REPORTER: If there was a radioactive source under a metre or two of soil, would you have been able to measure it?

PROFESSOR SCHREIBER: No. 20 centimetres, it’s off. 20 centimetres of soil would make it impossible to measure from other side, the radioactivity.

DR KLAUS HENLE: For me, that was the one most interesting thing that he mentioned, that if there was radioactivity he couldn’t have detected it.

Klaus is now keen to revisit the events of 25 years ago, just at a time when the nuclear debate is set to reignite in Germany. He’s doing so because, as we shall see, he has now been able to scientifically establish radioactivity as the single most likely cause of the mutations. But first he wants to chase down some loose ends in Rosswag. The first is a quarry worker named Sanchez, who told him at the time that there were mysterious dumpings of material in the quarry late at night. We track him down, but he declines to cooperate. So we go down there, to the quarry, and search out the owner.

DR KLAUS HENLE, (Translation): Do you think it’s possible that without your knowledge, something was taken into the quarry?

HERR ZIMMERMAN, (Translation): That is impossible, nothing was dumped there. Ask the people who work in the ministry.

Eventually, Herr Zimmerman appears, denying all knowledge. So that’s what we do. Klaus confronts the authorities, armed with the information that Professor Schreiber would not have been able to detect buried radiation. But they stick to the official line, and the anecdote of the old lady.

DR OSKAR GROZINGER, STATE ENVIRONMENT DEPARTMENT: We know that this malformation was observed very, very early. An old lady told us that when she was a girl, in 1910, she observed all of these mutations, I think we have here a very special population. And this population of toads was surely, by many decades, abnormal.

DR KLAUS HENLE: That’s completely impossible because most of the mutations were little which means all the individuals that had them died before they reached majority, and could not reproduce, so the mutations cannot be passed on to the offspring. And so they get lost very, very rapidly from the population.

REPORTER: So it’s biological nonsense?

DR KLAUS HENLE: It’s biological nonsense.

Klaus Henle is well-qualified to make such judgements because he is now Dr Klaus Henle, an internationally-respected biologist working at a prestigious scientific institute in Leipzig. He still keeps some specimens of the Rosswag toads.

During the past few years he has meticulously trawled through every relevant piece of scientific literature available worldwide. His findings on the anomalies will be published in a peer-reviewed journal later this year.

DR KLAUS HENLE: The main conclusion of that paper will be the anomalies in Rosswag are really exceptional, worldwide exceptional. There is no single case which is even close to it in the number of different types of anomalies. The leg is just like a balloon.

The case that comes closest is from Hiroshima where toad eggs were deliberately exposed to radiation.

DR KLAUS HENLE: So the conclusion of the paper will be that it’s very likely radioactivity. There’s a small uncertainty left that it could have been chemicals, but we have no support to conclude that it’s chemicals.

The Rosswag quarry lies just 20km from the Neckarwestheim nuclear reactor, but there’s no evidence exactly what now lies under 100m of fill in the Rosswag quarry. Doctors Henle, Dubois and Steinhilber all agree the authorities should have excavated 25 years ago, rather than burying the evidence.

What Klaus Henle found in this quarry 25 years ago would, perhaps, in many ways be ancient history, except for one thing – Germany still has a problem with nuclear waste. By law it can’t be reprocessed, nor can it be exported. There’s no permanent storage facilities, so it’s being held, as it grows and grows, in temporary storage, while the debate goes on and on what to do with it.

This is Gorleben, the temporary storage site for Germany’s high-level nuclear waste. Nearby, a permanent storage site has been built in an underground salt formation, but it’s never been used. Not far away, I find the reason why.

MARIANNE FRITZEN, ANTI-NUCLEAR ACTIVIST: This is of the police who took the people away.

Veteran activist Marianne Fritzen shows me around a museum dedicated to the protests that started here in 1973 and have continued ever since. Over the decades, the demonstrators have won popular support and put the nuclear industry into reverse.

MARIANNE FRITZEN: Without protest here in this area, I guess we would have reprocessing plants, we would have nuclear power plants, and already the depository.

But with the advent of Angela Merkel’s CDU-dominated Government, the push has begun to open the permanent storage facility.

CHRISTIAN WOSSNER, GERMAN ATOMIC FORUM: What we are lacking, especially the last year, is the political will or political decision. And some time, even if you are against nuclear, you have to decide to go with a site. If you don’t go on with this issue, with the deep repository, you’re lengthening the time you have to keep the waste over ground.

REINHARD BUTIKOFER: It is clear that there are attempts here and there – from Tony Blair in Great Britain, from the French, from the Finnish – from George W. Bush in Washington and others, to sort of give nuclear energy a new lease on life.

Klaus Henle’s experience, and that of his country, hold some important lessons for Australia, not the least a permanent waste storage site should be agreed upon and built before nuclear reactors begin generating electricity.

REPORTER/CAMERA: Chris Hammer

ADDITIONAL CAMERA: Mick O’Brien, Steph Ketelhut

RESEACHER: Francesca Dziadek

EDITORS: Nick O’Brien, Sue Bell

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Federer wins 12th Grand Slam

The Swiss world number one defeated Serbian Novak Djokovic 7-6 (7/4), 7-6 (7/2), 6-4.

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The 26 year-old has matched Roy Emerson for second on the career Slam title list behind Sampras, surpassing 11-time Slam winners Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver and moving closer to beating Sampras — a goal that more and more occupies his mind.

"I think about it a lot now," Federer said. "To come so close already at my age is so fantastic and I really hope to break it. Don't know (how many). I hope more than Pete."

Shaking off a case of nerves, Federer took advantage of his record 10th Slam final in a row to improve to 12-2 in Slam finals, winning three Slams in a year for the third time in four years, losing only the 2006 and 2007 French Opens.

"It's just hard. It really works you," Federer said of the pressure of a Slam final. "You're like. 'I hope I didn't come all this way to lose.' In the end to win is happiness, relief, all together, it's the best feeling."

Third seed Djokovic netted a backhand volley to surrender the only break of the last set on Federer's second match point, ending the fight after two hours 26 minutes, his last of 40 unforced errors handing Federer a 51st career title.

"Straight sets is a bit brutal for Novak to be honest. He deserved better than that," Federer said. "I told him at the net, 'Keep it up.' He's going to have many more battles like that."

Federer won his fifth Wimbledon in a row in July, six months after taking his third Australian Open in four years, and stretched his US Open title streak to the longest since Bill Tilden won six in a row from 1920 to 1925.

Together with Justine Henin's victory in Saturday's women's final, it marked the first time since 1996 that both US Open singles titles went to top seeds.

The last time Federer lost a US Open match was a fourth-round defeat in the 2003 US Open at the hands of Argentina's David Nalbandian – a run that eclipses the old 27-match US Open Open-era record run of Ivan Lendl from 1985 to 1988.

Djokovic, 20, was undone by his mental mistakes on critical points in his first Grand Slam final.

"I had a lot of chances and I didn't use them," Djokovic said. "He knows how to cope with the pressure. For me this is a new situation. Next time I hope I don't falter."

The Serbian star, who suffered semi-final losses to Rafael Nadal this year at Wimbledon and the French Open, was only 2-of-9 in break-point chances, missing opportunity after opportunity and ultimately unable to stop Federer.

"Roger showed again he is the best. He deserved to win," Djokovic said.

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Lebanon crisis deepens

A deadline for Lebanese lawmakers to elect a new head of state is set to expire with feuding political parties still deadlocked despite intense international pressure.

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MP Solange Gemayel, a member of the ruling coalition, had said a last-ditch session to elect a successor to incumbent president Emile Lahoud had been postponed.

But the anti-Syrian ruling coalition which dominates parliament, made a last-minute appeal to lawmakers to turn up for the crucial vote.

The Forces of March 14 ruling coalition “invites all lawmakers to take part in the session to elect a new head of state,” MP Elie Aoun said at a press conference aired on television.

The foreign ministers of France, Italy and Spain, have expressed pessimism after shuttling between the rival sides in an ultimate bid to wrench an agreement on a compromise candidate.

“Tomorrow, I don't believe there will be an election and this will create difficult conditions,” Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema told a press conference. “But this is not the end of the world.”

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner also indicated that a deal between the Western-backed majority and the Hezbollah-led opposition appeared to have eluded negotiators.

“A miracle is still possible tomorrow but I think it is going to be a little complicated,” Mr Kouchner said.

The deadlock has sparked fears of two parallel governments being formed and of civil unrest.

A senior Lebanese official predicted earlier that Friday's session would be cancelled with the two sides agreeing to continue negotiations into next week or beyond.

According to Article 62 of the Lebanese constitution, if no candidate is chosen by parliament to replace Lahoud, his powers are automatically transferred to the government.

The ruling coalition, which has 68 deputies in the 127-member parliament, had previously vowed to proceed with a simple majority vote but that option appeared unlikely for fear it could spark unrest, according to political officials.

The opposition, backed by Syria and Iran, for its part has threatened to set up a parallel government, a grim reminder of the end of the 1975-1990 civil war when two administrations battled it out.

Opposition leader Michel Aoun offered an end to the impasse saying that his camp was willing to name an interim president while the ruling majority could appoint a prime minister.

Mr Aoun said under his plan, he would name a candidate from outside his parliamentary bloc to replace Lahoud until after the 2009 legislative elections and parliament majority leader Saad Hariri would name a prime minister from outside his Future Movement to form a national “reconciliation government”.

He said his proposal, which was submitted to the ruling coalition, was valid only until 11pm Friday local time (8am AEST, Saturday).

Four previous parliament sessions over the past two months to elect a president have already been postponed despite a host of foreign diplomats and politicians scrambling to Beirut to mediate between the sides.

The crisis, the worst since the end of the civil war, is widely seen as an extension of the regional confrontation pitting the United States against Iran and Syria.

Hezbollah has said it would not settle for a president under US tutelage while the Western-backed majority has balked at any candidate close to Syria and Iran.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday said if Damascus wanted to improve its relations with Washington it must allow for a free election in Lebanon.

France has also dispatched top envoys to Damascus, which was forced to end its 29-year troop presence in Lebanon in 2005, following the assassination of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.

The political crisis has left the country on edge, with the army out in force in the capital to prevent any outbreak of violence.

Several prominent anti-Syrian figures have been killed in a wave of attacks in Lebanon since Hariri's murder, which many have blamed on Damascus.

Prime Minister Fuad Siniora's government has been paralysed since the opposition withdrew its six ministers from the cabinet in November 2006 in a bid to gain more representation in government.

64th Indipendence anniversary

Due to the political crisis, the annual military parade to mark the 64th anniversary of the country's independence was cancelled for the second consecutive year.

But more than two hundred Lebanese gathered in the Martyrs' Square in downtown Beirut to mark the anniversary.

The small-scale ceremony was the only public pageant in Beirut on the Independence Day which was usually marked with a military parade and festivities.

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G20 vows action on financial crisis

Major nations have pledged 'all necessary steps' to boost sagging market confidence and to give a bigger voice to developing countries in the global economy.

南宁桑拿

The finance ministers and central bank governors of the world's biggest developed and emerging nations at the Group of 20 meeting in Sao Paulo said here was consensus for major reforms of a global international financial system ravaged by a credit crisis.

Although no specific proposals emerged, the G20 said in a statement: “We agreed that we must draw policy lessons from the current crisis and take all necessary steps to restore market confidence and stability and to minimize the risk of a future crisis.”

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The statement said officials at the meeting noted “that the global crisis requires global solutions and common set of principles,” and added that “we stand ready to urgently take forward work and actions agreed by our leaders.”

The G20 communique and statements from officials indicated a general agreement on broad principles among the ministers, noting that more detailed proposals would come from the November 15 summit of G20 heads of state and government hosted by US President George W. Bush.

Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega said that at next week's Washington summit “we'll have the political power” of the heads of state and government “to proceed with proposals.”

The Brazilian minister, who has led a call for emerging nations to play a bigger role in financial affairs, said that officials saw a need for quick actions to steady a troubled global economy.

“The solutions have to come fast. We have to change the tires with the car in motion,” he said.

“In one or two or three months we will see the answers to these questions.”

But asked whether the G20 would replace the G7 as a steering committee for economic affairs, he said, “This is an issue that has not yet been resolved, but the G20 is a strong candidate to coordinate actions.”

The Sao Paulo meeting concluded that the Bretton Woods system set up to govern international finance in 1944 should be revamped. This would mean overhauls of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, created at Bretton Woods.

“We underscored that the Bretton Woods Institutions must be comprehensively reformed so that they can more adequately reflect changing economic weights in the world economy and be more responsive to future challenges,” the statement said.

“Emerging and developing economies should have greater voice and representation in these institutions.”

The statement said the IMF, World Bank and other international financial institutions “have an important role to play, consistent with their mandates, in helping to stabilize and strengthen the international financial system, advancing international cooperation for development and assisting countries affected by the crisis.”

Stephen Timms, Britain's junior finance minister, noted that the G20 “has never been more relevant than it is today” and added that there was “broad agreement across the G20 on the need for change.

“We want urgent coordinated action to stabilize the situation,” he said.

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said “there was a convergence of views on the response” to the crisis.

The ministers spoke after a meeting of the officials from the G20 group of nations, which includes the G7 (Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States) plus many important emerging economies, including Brazil, India, China, Russia and Indonesia.

Opening the weekend session, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said that a “new world financial architecture” was needed to coordinate the response to a deepening crisis.

“This is a global crisis and it demands global solutions,” Lula said.

“The crisis gives an opportunity for real changes,” he said, adding: “We cannot, we must not and don't have the right to fail.”

European leaders have said they hope the Sao Paulo meeting will lay the groundwork for the start of key reforms to be put in motion starting with a November 15 summit.

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