• Dortmund hit by injury crisis ahead of Bayern clash


    Dortmund, four points behind Bayern, must patch up a depleted back line with central defenders Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic out for months with injuries.


    Left back Marcel Schmelzer and right back Lukasz Piszczek are also unavailable, with Germany international Schmelzer out for three weeks and Poland defender Piszczek only just back after a double hip surgery in the close season.

    Coach Juergen Klopp signed free agent Manuel Friedrich this week but it is still unclear whether the Germany international, who has not played since leaving Bayer Leverkusen last season, will be fit for the game.

    “I have never seen such an extreme situation at Dortmund. Our entire defence with which we won the double (in 2012) has been obliterated,” said Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said.

    “We should not be talking about the title now. We have to keep on their heels.”

    Dominant Bayern, who beat Dortmund 2-1 in last season’s Champions League final en route to winning the first treble by a German team, want revenge for their season-opening German Super Cup defeat to their fierce rivals.

    They will, however, be without winger Franck Ribery who cracked a rib in France’s 3-0 win over Ukraine on Tuesday, as coach Pep Guardiola looks to extend their record-breaking 37-game unbeaten run.

    Bayern will also be without injured Bastian Schweinsteiger but defender Jerome Boateng is fit to play despite sustaining a minor knock on the heel in Germany’s over England win at Wembley on Tuesday.

    Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Guendogan, who will miss the big match through injury, said he hoped former Dortmund darling Mario Goetze would receive a good reception after his high-profile transfer in the close season.

    “I think he will come with a lot of respect because he knows how much he owes Dortmund.

    “It is still a bit unusual to see him in red but he is still a colleague. I hope there are no jeers and whistles but I do not assume that it will be that way. Emotions are high when it comes to football.”

    (Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Justin Palmer)

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  • RBA not ruling out intervention on $A


    The Australian dollar is higher than it should be and the Reserve Bank of Australia is keeping an open mind about intervening to bring it lower, governor Glenn Stevens says.


    Although the RBA has expressed concern about the high Australian dollar, the benefits of intervention do not outweigh the costs at this point, Mr Stevens said in a speech marking the 30th anniversary of the floating of the Australian dollar.

    Intervention in the foreign exchange market would involve selling Australian dollars to buy foreign currency.

    “Overall, in this episode so far, the bank has not been convinced that large-scale intervention clearly passed the test of effectiveness versus cost,” Mr Stevens said.

    “But that doesn’t mean we will always eschew intervention.

    “In fact we remain open-minded on the issue.

    “It remains part of the toolkit.”

    Mr Stevens said the Australian dollar was “currently above levels we would expect to see in the medium term”.

    The high Australian dollar was partly why Australia’s cash rate was at a record low of 2.5 per cent, he said.

    “We have the situation the global economy gives us and we respond to that the best we can and at the moment that means the cash rate has to be at a 50-year low even though the economy is not at a 50-year weak point and inflation is not at a 50-year low either,” Mr Stevens said.

    “Part of the reason, but not the only reason, is that the currency has been very high and was initially slow to fall.

    “It’s been the boom of gloom – the rest of the world is much more confident in us than we are in ourselves, which is part of the reason why the exchange rate has been where it is.

    “There are positive signs. I think we have reasons to be optimistic.”

    Since the currency was floated, the market had generally moved the exchange rate to the right spot eventually, Mr Stevens said.

    “At various times we have worried that the market was behaving irrationally, believing that the exchange rate should have been somewhere other than where it was. And sometimes we were right about that,” Mr Stevens said.

    “Yet, looking back, on balance the evidence suggests, I think, that the market has mostly moved the exchange rate to about the right place, sooner or later.”

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  • Bali punch victim family ask for privacy


    A big-hearted Australian who taught orphans to surf remains in a coma after being punched in Bali while trying to help a woman in danger.


    Matt Scarff, 41, suffered major head injuries when punched by a stranger outside the Townhouse Club in Seminyak on November 15 after he went to a woman’s aid.

    Mr Scarff runs a Bali surf school and, says his best mate Dougal Pennefeather, was known as someone who helped others.

    “He’s been one of my best friends for 20 years and he’s always there for you,” he said.

    Mr Scarff has had brain surgery to relieve a clot and pressure on his brain from the injury and is being treated at Royal Perth Hospital where he remains in an induced coma.

    Mr Pennefeather said his friend was not an aggressive person.

    “He was obviously just at the wrong spot,” he told AAP on Thursday.

    Mr Pennefeather said Mr Scarff gave surfing lessons mainly to Southeast Asians, including orphans, and took groups to Java, as well as surf camps up the coast.

    A Facebook page had been set up to raise money for Mr Scarff’s travel expenses to return him to Australia because he did not have insurance.

    About $45,000 was needed to get CareFlight to transport him to Australia and extra money raised will be used to cover his rehabilitation costs.

    Organisers of the Facebook group posted late on Wednesday: “His family is overwhelmed with the love, support and concern shown from everyone. The doctors and medical staff at Sanglah Hospital in Bali have been amazing and we cannot thank them enough.”

    The family asked on Thursday that the media respected their privacy while Mr Scarff was in hospital in Perth.

    A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) spokesman said such incidents served as a reminder of the potential hazards Australians could face overseas.

    “It is important for Australians travelling or living overseas to ensure they have appropriate insurance coverage,” he said.

    Meanwhile, a social media campaign is aimed at finding the man who hit Mr Scarff.

    A photograph and a name of a man have been circulating on Instagram and Facebook.

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  • No Middle East without Christians: Pope


    Pope Francis says the Catholic Church will not accept a Middle East without Christians, who often find themselves forced to flee areas of conflict and unrest in the region.


    “We will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians,” he said on Thursday after meeting with Patriarchs from Syria, Iraq and Egypt, before calling for “the universal right to lead a dignified life and freely practise one’s own faith to be respected”.

    The Arab Spring uprisings which revolutionised the region have increased tensions between Christians and Muslims.

    Francis said he had spoken to the Patriarchs about “those who live in the Middle East, often in small flocks, in environments marked by hostility and conflicts” and “the size of the diaspora, which is notably growing”.

    He said he was concerned by “the situation of Christians, who suffer in a particularly severe way the consequences of tensions and conflicts in many part of the Middle East”.

    “Syria, Iraq, Egypt and other areas of the Holy Land sometimes overflow with tears,” he said.

    The revolts in the region, which saw Islamist parties sweep to power, left many minority Christians scared of persecution from fundamentalist outgrowths, and sporadic violence against them has driven some to emigrate.

    Francis said he “will not rest while there are still men and women, of any religion, whose dignity is affronted, who are stripped of the basics necessary for survival, whose future is stolen, who are forced to become refugees or displaced people”.

    Last year, Francis’s predecessor Benedict XVI used a trip to the Middle East to offer support to Christian minorities, calling on them not to emigrate or give in to a sense of “victimisation” amid the rising tide of Islamism.

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  • Wanderers are A-League’s hunted: Bridge


    Western Sydney’s Mark Bridge says the Wanderers have become the A-League’s hunted ahead of their top-of-the-table clash with Brisbane Roar on Friday.


    The Wanderers have built on their stunning success of their premiership-winning debut season to race to the top of the ladder after six rounds this season.

    They meet two-time champions the Roar at Suncorp Stadium in one of the most-anticipated games of the season so far and Bridge says the Wanderers’ efforts have other teams gunning for them.

    “I think teams really fire up against us every week; teams are lifting to play us,” Bridge told reporters at training on Thursday.

    “When they come here, they get that atmosphere that everyone wants to play in front of.

    “It’s something that you see. But it doesn’t worry us. You just worry about doing your own job every week.”

    The undefeated Wanderers snatched top spot from the Roar courtesy of a 1-0 last-round win over Melbourne Victory, in which Bridge scored his first goal of the season, and Brisbane’s 2-1 loss to Newcastle.

    But Bridge said holding onto top spot wasn’t the Wanderers’ focus.

    “You are not going to say you don’t want it but there is still a long way to go in the season,” he said.

    “Every game is tough for us. Brisbane is a quality side and I’m sure it will be another tough game for us.”

    In some rare bad news for the Wanderers, coach Tony Popovic said playmaker Youssouf Hersi would not return from a long-term leg injury for the marquee clash.

    “He is not quite ready,” Popovic said.

    “He is almost there but we will give him another week and he should be right for next week.”

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  • Victoria’s prisoner population rising


    The Victorian government’s tough-on-crime agenda is driving up the prisoner population at a higher rate than any other state, justice advocates say.


    But a state government decision to stop publishing independent data on what is happening inside jails is reducing transparency at a time when the jailing rate is at its highest since 1898, the state’s peak welfare body says.

    Victoria’s inmate population jumped 11 per cent to 9134 in the past year, the fastest rate of any state, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) quarterly figures released Thursday.

    Victorian Council of Social Service chief executive Emma King says while the number of Victorian prisoners is rising, the accountability of what is happening inside the jails is decreasing after a government decision to stop publishing an independent statistical profile of the system.

    Ms King says in the past the annual data has helped offer a detailed picture of significant issues such as deaths in prison, young people in solitary confinement and spiralling rates of infectious diseases such as Hepatitis C among inmates.

    “There’s nowhere else that data’s compiled in the same way,” she said.

    “If we don’t have this statistical profile, it’s just another measure of government accountability that’s disappearing.”

    But Corrections Minister Edward O’Donohue’s spokesman says a decision to no longer publish the profile was taken more than two years ago and the figures are already published in other sources.

    “It is difficult to fathom criticism about the release of figures on a day when comprehensive figures have been released,” he said.

    He said as the ABS releases quarterly figures on the state’s prison population and the Productivity Commission does the same annually based on figures supplied by Corrections Victoria, it was seen as unnecessary for Corrections Victoria to also publish these figures.

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  • Government supports ICAC mining recommendations


    The NSW government has thrown its support behind all of the recommendations made by the corruption watchdog into how coal mining licences are managed across the state.


    Following two inquiries into the allocation of mining licences which ensnared former Labor MPs Ian Macdonald and Eddie Obeid, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) handed down a report saying corruption was “easy to do” due to systemic weaknesses in the licensing process.

    Premier Barry O’Farrell told parliament on Thursday that the implementation of the ICAC’s recommendations was important for restoring public confidence.

    “The recommendations … go a long way to ensuring the sort of corruption in the handling of mining licences exposed by ICAC will never occur again,” he said.

    All 26 recommendations have either been fully backed by the government or been given “in principle” support.

    Among them was the recommendation that the government uses auctions as the primary method of allotting licences.

    They have also supported the move to hold an inquiry into how members disclose family member’s interests, with the view to making third-party disclosures a requirement.

    The premier has also said he will review the code of conduct for ministers.

    The recommendations follow ICAC operations Jasper and Acacia, which made a variety of corrupt findings.

    Operation Jasper found former Labor mining minister Ian Macdonald rigged a 2008 tender process and granted a coal mining exploration licence on land belonging to former Labor power broker Eddie Obeid and his family in the Bylong Valley.

    The licence enabled the Obeids to net $30 million, with the prospect of making an extra $70 million.

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  • OECD tax forum criticises Switzerland


    Switzerland has been listed alongside well-known tax havens in a new OECD ranking, showing the country still has work to do on banking secrecy despite recent steps aimed at tackling the issue.


    The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes is due to officially release ratings for 50 jurisdictions at a meeting in the Indonesian capital on Friday.

    The forum has rated jurisdictions on how well they comply with rules on tax transparency.

    But Switzerland failed even to make it past the first stage of a two-stage assessment, according to documents obtained by AFP on Thursday, meaning it did not receive a rating.

    Other countries who also didn’t make it to the second stage included Panama, the Marshall Islands and Trinidad and Tobago, although the OECD’s final judgment on them was harsher than on Switzerland.

    It came after Switzerland took steps last month to tackle its long-criticised banking secrecy, including signing an international tax evasion agreement, brokered by the OECD, and introducing new legislation to increase cooperation on money-laundering.

    Swiss authorities have come under pressure from the international community to clamp down on the concealment of illicit funds and on tax evasion, in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent eurozone debt crisis.

    Despite Switzerland’s failure to complete the process, Pascal Saint-Amans, OECD head of tax issues, struck an upbeat note, telling AFP it was now “moving ahead”.

    But he said the OECD would continue to monitor the country closely to ensure its recent steps “are actually enacted and become law, which is not yet the case”.

    Of the jurisdictions that completed the two-stage assessment, 18 were deemed to be “compliant” with the tax transparency rules set out by the forum; many others were considered “largely compliant”; while Austria and Turkey were “partially compliant”.

    Four were deemed to be “non-compliant”: Cyprus, Luxembourg, the Seychelles and the British Virgin Islands.

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  • Bach to convene retreat of IOC leaders


    New IOC President Thomas Bach will hold a four-day retreat of his policy-making body next month to discuss the future of the Olympic movement, The Associated Press has learned.


    Bach will convene a private “think tank” of his executive board from December 11-14 at a hotel in the Swiss lakeside resort of Montreux, Olympic officials with knowledge of the decision told the AP.

    The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting hasn’t been announced.

    The brainstorming sessions are expected to cover a wide range of issues, including possible changes to the Olympic sports program, a review of the bid city process and a proposed raising of the 70-year age limit for IOC members.

    The retreat will follow immediately after the regularly scheduled one-day meeting of the executive board at the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, on December 10.

    Regular IOC executive board meetings usually last two or three days and involve reports from various departments and Olympic host city organisers.

    By keeping the December 10 meeting to just one day, the board can go into more depth and exchange views on all issues in a relaxed atmosphere in Montreux.

    The move reflects Bach’s determination and urgency to take charge and set his own agenda since being elected president on September 10, succeeding Jacques Rogge after 12 years in office.

    Bach chaired a closed-door summit of sports leaders at the IOC on November 2 to discuss doping, match-fixing, illegal betting, the sports calendar and other issues.

    The 59-year-old German has made clear he wants a more flexible system for setting the Olympic sports program, an issue which came to prominence after wrestling was stunningly dropped from the 2020 Games lineup last February. The sport was voted back onto the program in September, defeating squash and a combined baseball-softball bid.

    On Thursday, the IOC leader was in South Korea, meeting with President Park Geun-hye and checking on preparations for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

    Bach will be back in Europe on Friday to attend the general assembly of the European Olympic Committees in Rome.

    He has a scheduled private audience with Pope Francis and will present him with the Olympic Order, the IOC’s highest award, and will also meet with Italian Premier Enrico Letta.

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  • Allan to start for Italy against Argentina


    Italy coach Jacques Brunel will hand former Scotland under-20 player Tommaso Allan his full senior rugby debut when the Azzurri host Argentina in the third and final Test of their November series on Saturday.


    Italy-born Allan, who has made substitute appearances for Italy after being drafted into the squad last month, is one of three changes for the clash against the Pumas at the Olympic Stadium.

    The 20-year-old Perpignan five-eighth replaces Luciano Orquera, who drops to the bench, with Michele Campagnaro starting at outside centre in place of veteran Gonzalo Canale.

    Canale moves to inside centre to replace Luca Morisi, who has been sidelined since last week having suffered a heavy tackle early in a 37-31 win over Fiji which required him to have his spleen removed.

    Robert Barbieri comes back into Brunel’s starting XV at openside flanker, replacing Mauro Bergamasco who is not included in the matchday squad.

    Both No.8 and captain Sergio Parisse and prop Martin Castrogiovanni will start, meaning the pair will pick up their 101st caps for Italy to pull level with retired scrum-half Alessandro Troncon.

    Retired prop Andrea Lo Cicero holds the record for Italy’s most caps on 103.

    Italy team (15-1):

    Luke McLean; Giovambattista Venditti, Michele Campagnaro, Gonzalo Canale, Tommaso Iannone; Tommaso Allan, Edoardo Gori; Sergio Parisse (capt), Robert Barbieri, Alessandro Zanni; Valerio Bernabo, Quintin Geldenhuys; Martin Castrogiovanni, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Michele Rizzo

    Replacements: Davide Giazzon, Matias Aguero, Lorenzo Cittadini, Marco Bortolami, Joshua Furno, Tobias Botes, Luciano Orquera, Tommaso Benvenuti.

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