Five dead after boat sinks off Malaysia

Thirty-two people are missing and five are confirmed dead after an apparently overloaded boat carrying Indonesian illegal migrants headed home for Ramadan sank overnight in rough seas off western Malaysia.

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Officials said 60 people were rescued or made it to land by themselves after the accident around midnight near Port Klang, Malaysia’s largest port, as authorities intensify the search with nine ships and a helicopter.

“Thirty-two people are still missing. We have found five bodies comprising four men and one woman. They died due to drowning,” said Mohamad Hambali Yaakup, head of the Port Klang office of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.

“Rough seas are making our rescue operation difficult. But we will continue the search until the remaining 32 people are found,” he said on Wednesday.

The boat sank not far from shore, raising hopes that many of the missing had made it to safety on their own, Mohamad Hambali added.

Officials believe 97 passengers were aboard the wooden boat, including some children.

Authorities said rescued passengers told them they were returning home to Indonesia across the Malacca Strait – the busy shipping lane between Malaysia and Indonesia’s Sumatra island – for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Officials had initially said the passengers were believed to be seeking to enter Malaysia.

“From interviews with those rescued, they said they were returning to Aceh (in northern Sumatra). They did not have any travel documents,” said Mohamad Hambali.

“As in previous years, many Indonesian migrants will be leaving Malaysia ahead of Ramadan.”

Around two million illegal immigrants – the vast majority of them from Indonesia – are estimated to be working in Malaysia.

Large numbers of them annually return home to Indonesia ahead of Ramadan, which begins around the end of June and will culminate in late July with Eid al-Fitr, Islam’s biggest festival.

“We believe the boat was overcrowded and the sea was rough during the incident,” Mohamad Hambali said.

Access to survivors was not immediately available as they have been taken into custody by police.

Tigers aim to tame the Sydney monster

When the AFL fixture list throws up Sydney, where do you start planning your defence?

It’s a question plaguing Richmond coach Damien Hardwick ahead of their Friday night’s clash with the Swans.

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Certainly not the midfield where Josh Kennedy is on track to challenge for the Brownlow.

“Kennedy is one of those guys, you can tag him as many times as you like but he still seems to find a way of getting 25 (disposals) and 10 (clearances),” he said.

“They’ve got quality players through there, Kieren Jack and these types… they’re just a formidable running machine.”

And not a forward line where Lance Franklin now struts his stuff.

“I think (Franklin’s) actually improved. It’s probably the first time we’ve seen him be a force in contested marking,” Hardwick said.

“You’ve got to make sure you monitor Buddy but then there’s also a very good player down there by the name of Adam Goodes… (Sam) Reid, all these other types.”

“Even across their half-forward line, the likes of (Jarrad) McVeigh who just seems to keep getting better year-in and year-out.

“A young kid by the name of Parker that’s really impressive.”

About the only factors pulling in the Tigers’ direction is their recent form against Sydney at the MCG, winning the past three, and a few Sydney absentees.

Hardwick was heartened by the “big outs” of Kurt Tippett and Dan Hannebery, doubting that Ben McGlynn would take his place in the Swans’ side.

He was also cautiously optimistic of taming the monster – with Alex Rance to be handed the job on Franklin.

“Alex has a pretty good record on Buddy the last couple of times he’s played but that by no means guarantees Buddy is going to have a quiet game,” he said.

With a 111-point belting of GWS their only win in seven matches, Hardwick was heartened by improvement in a key metric: the contested ball.

Seen by fans and coaches alike as a reading of hunger for the ball and skill under pressure, the Tigers shaded Fremantle last week despite a 20-point loss.

“That’s our challenge… the consistency is the point that we’ve been missing,” he said.

“We’ve got to outnumber as many contests as we can because that’s the key.”

Rebels-bound Shipperley joins Reds exodus

Dom Shipperley has joined the long line of backs leaving the Queensland Reds at season’s end, signing a two-year deal with Super Rugby rivals the Melbourne Rebels.

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The 23-year-old speedster is the club’s third recruit in as many days, having lured Waratahs winger Cam Crawford on Wednesday and Australian under-20s fullback Jonah Placid of the Reds 24 hours earlier.

Shipperley and Placid’s defection brings to five the number of backs who won’t be calling Ballymore home next year, with Mike Harris also to join the Rebels, Rod Davies moving to French outfit Biarritz and Aidan Toua headed for Agen.

The Reds are reportedly clearing the deck to sign former Wallabies back James O’Connor and codehopper Karmichael Hunt.

Shipperley has played 43 games for Queensland, scoring 13 tries in 43 Super Rugby appearances.

He has also represented Australia on three occasions at senior level and last played for the Wallabies in the 2012 Rugby Championship.

“I definitely want to get back into the Wallabies – it’s at the forefront of my goals and a big part of the reason why I’m moving,” Shipperley said on Thursday.

“A change of environment and a new way of looking at the game will hopefully benefit me and help in my aim of breaking back into the Australian team.”

The winger has never lived outside Brisbane, but will have plenty of familiar faces to help him settle in Melbourne – including two of his championship-winning Reds teammates from 2011, Rebels skipper Scott Higginbotham and Harris, and fellow Australian schoolboy Luke Jones.

“I have been down a couple of times and Melbourne seems really vibrant; there’s always something happening,” he said.

“From the guys that I have talked to who moved down there, they have thoroughly enjoyed it and that was certainly part of the attraction with signing for the Rebels.”

Rebels coach Tony McGahan labelled the signing a coup for the young franchise.

“To sign a quality player like Dom, a Wallaby and a very experienced Super Rugby player with the ability to influence games, is fantastic,” McGahan said.

“His finishing ability is great. He is strong and athletic, and able to carry the ball well into close contact.

“His aerial work is strong, and those skills will help make the wing position down here in Melbourne a highly competitive position.”

AAP ra/fc

UAE aircraft bombed Islamists in Libya: US

The United Arab Emirates has secretly sent warplanes on bombing raids against Islamist militias in Libya over the past week, using bases in Egypt, two US officials say.

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The two attacks carried out over the past week mark a dramatic expansion of the conflict and comes as the US and its European allies denounced “outside interference” in Libya.

The bombing raids were first reported by The New York Times and Islamist forces in Libya also had alleged strikes had taken place.

“The UAE carried out those strikes,” one of the officials said on condition of anonymity.

Asked about the account, the senior US official said: “The report is accurate.”

The US did not take part or provide any assistance in the bombing raids, the two officials said.

The first airstrikes took place a week ago, focusing on targets in Tripoli held by the militias, including a small weapons depot, according to the Times. Six people were killed in the bombing.

A second round was conducted south of the city early on Saturday targeting rocket launchers, military vehicles and a warehouse, according to the newspaper.

Those strikes may have represented a bid to prevent the imminent capture of the Tripoli airport, but the militia forces eventually prevailed and seized control of it.

The UAE – which has spent billions on US-manufactured warplanes and other advanced weaponry – provided the military aircraft, aerial refuelling planes and aviation crews to bomb Libya, while Cairo offered access to its air bases, the paper said.

But it remained unclear whether and to what degree Egypt and the UAE had informed the Americans in advance of the airstrikes.

When pressed on the issue, US officials could not confirm that Egypt and the Emirates had left Washington totally in the dark about the air attacks.

The strikes signalled a step toward direct action by regional Arab states that previously have fought proxy wars in Libya, Syria and Iraq in a struggle for power and influence.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates view Islamist militants in the region as a serious threat and have forged co-operation against what they see as a common danger.

The Islamist groups that emerged after the Arab Spring uprisings in turn have enjoyed support from Qatar and Turkey.

The bombing raids came amid a Western diplomatic push for a negotiated settlement to quell the violence in Libya, where the government’s authority has unravelled in the face of the Islamist-linked militias.

NRL, AFL docs join global concussion talks

AP – Leading Australian neurologist Dr Paul McCrory has joined forces with medical officials from the NFL, FIFA and other sports organisations to look at better ways to identify, manage and treat concussions.

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Dr McCrory, who sits on the AFL’s concussion working group, travelled to New York for a meeting on Sunday and Monday at NFL headquarters.

The AFL’s chief medical officer Dr Peter Harcourt, NRL medical boss Dr Ken Crichton and North Queensland Cowboys doctor Chris Ball were also part of the NFL-funded “think tank”, as were FIFA’s Dr Jiri Dvorak and Dr Martin Raftery of the International Rugby Board.

“This is an exciting development in the science of sports concussion,” Dr McCrory said.

“Working with international sports leaders not only benefits athletes in professional sports but amateur participants throughout the world.”

Chairman of the NFL’s head, neck and spine committee, Dr Rich Ellenbogen, said the various sports organisations “need to look at all variations of what is being done around the world.”

“This will change the paradigm,” Ellenbogen said of such co-operation among sports.

“This can provide a unique perspective to get people back to health.

“There are a lot of big ideas that can come out of this that resonated with all the leagues that may have not come up if they had done it in isolation.”

Handling concussions was a major topic at the recently-concluded World Cup in Brazil.

In the wake of FIFA being criticised during the tournament for not effectively policing concussions, Dvorak insisted that the team doctor has final say over players returning to action after an apparent head injury.

He promised that FIFA would make it clear who is in charge if a player is suspected to be concussed.

“There is a controversy about overruling the decision of the team doctor,” he said.

“From FIFA’s side, we will strengthen the position of the team doctor, as we did already in the past.”

More meetings are planned, perhaps as soon as later this year.

Govt failed asylum seekers: legal claim

Asylum seekers injured on Christmas Island say the federal government has failed in its duty of care and should pay them compensation and provide medical care.

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The asylum seekers are suing the government and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison over injuries they sustained in detention over the past three years or existing injuries that have been made worse because of a lack of adequate health services.

Lawyers acting for the asylum seekers in the class action say the available medical care is of a “negligent standard” and Christmas Island is in the grips of a mental health crisis.

“Too many asylum-seekers’ health are being severely compromised by being in detention,” Maurice Blackburn principal Jacob Varghese told reporters in Melbourne.

He said there is a substantial body of evidence pointing to widespread failings for people in detention on Christmas Island and the firm knew of 11 people who had attempted suicide while in detention there.

He said the firm wanted the Victorian Supreme Court to issue an order that asylum seekers be removed so they can receive appropriate medical care.

Maurice Blackburn estimates there could be thousands of potential claimants, including former detainees and children.

The lead plaintiff in the class action launched on Tuesday is a six-year-old girl, known only as AS, who has suffered ongoing dental infection, allergies, separation anxiety and bed-wetting.

Sister Brigid Arthur, who is acting as AS’s litigation guardian, said children who are kept in detention deteriorate rapidly.

“What we are doing on the whole is re-traumatising people who have already been traumatised somewhere else in the world and that is cruel at the very least,” Sr Brigid said.

Mr Varghese said because of the poor standard of medical care, things that would be trivial on the mainland, such as dental problems, become major issues on Christmas Island.

“We’ve seen children with blackened teeth who cannot sleep through the night and wake up their parents in pain,” Mr Varghese said.

He said there were particular concerns for people with mental health problems and the long-term damage being done to children.

“When you take responsibility for other human beings’ circumstances the way the Commonwealth has taken charge of asylum seekers’ entire lives, you take on board a host of responsibilities to make sure they’re cared for and we’re alleging that’s been breached.”

Hamstrung captain Clarke set to miss more cricket

Clarke injured his hamstring at training in Harare and was scratched from Monday’s series-opener against Zimbabwe, which Australia won by 198 runs.

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“It happens a little bit too often,” Bailey said at the toss, referring to standing in for Clarke.

“Hopefully ‘Pup’ will be right for the back end of this series. Rest up for the first couple and then get himself right.”

Australia play South Africa in Harare on Wednesday, with further matches next week before the final on Sept. 6.

Australia are likely to be very cautious about rushing Clarke back, with a two-test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates to follow in October.

The team’s performance without their top batsman will also have buoyed selectors, along with the straight hitting of paceman Mitchell Johnson, who blasted a six into the television commentary box window.

The shot showered Neil Manthorp and colleague Pommie Mbangwa with shards of glass.

The pair were uninjured and left-armer Johnson, who bowled Australia to test series wins over England and South Africa earlier this year, was not apologising beyond a sheepish smile and a raise of his hand when surveying the damage from out in the middle.

“I didn’t see it shatter, I just saw some of the commentators brushing away a bit of glass, so it was a good thing it didn’t shatter everywhere and the ball didn’t go through,” he said in comments published on Cricket Australia’s website on Tuesday (南宁夜网.cricket广西桑拿,广西桑拿网,).

“It’s something I’ve been working on, trying to hit straighter.

“I’ve been trying to hit as straight as possible instead of hitting across the line.

“So I’m not going to apologise, but hopefully I didn’t hurt anyone up there.”

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

Surviving the terror of the organ-harvesting trade

(Transcript from World News Radio)

 

An Eritrean refugee living in Melbourne has given horrific details of human traffickers and organ harvesters he says held him captive for months in Egypt.

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The man, kidnapped in Sudan and taken to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, says he feared he would die as Bedouin tribesmen demanded either a ransom or one of his kidneys.

 

He is one of a small number of survivors in Australia of what has become a notorious trade in people and their organs in the lawless Sinai.

 

Beyene Weldegiorgis has the details.

 

Samson Habtemariam was 26 years old when he fled Eritrea, hiding in a truck.

 

He had been imprisoned for more than a year, then held under house arrest, accused of cooperating with opposition forces.

 

But after crossing the border, he was caught by Sudanese security forces, who sold him as a prisoner to a tribe of Bedouin called the Rashaida.

 

Samson Habtemariam eventually found himself in the Sinai Desert in neighbouring Egypt, along with other victims of a human-trafficking and organ-harvesting operation.

 

He has told SBS Radio’s Tigrinya program tribal leaders ordered them to pay a ransom of more than 30-thousand dollars or they would lose their kidneys.

 

(Tigrinya, then translated:) “They told us that they would sell one kidney for $25,000 and two of our kidneys for $50,000. Then all of us decided to die, as there was not any way to save our lives. Some three or four people were dying every day. We were blindfolded, we couldn’t see each other, and, therefore, we could not discuss anything. You could not know who is dying or alive. Because there was a guard for 24 hours, we could not discuss anything.”

 

He says he and the others were held in a house where kidneys were removed.

 

(Tigrinya, then translated:) “The house was full of human bodies. If you pick anything from the ground, you find human hairs, bones. These bodies were the people who died after their kidneys have been taken. After the operation, they dump the body in that house. There were bodies that were thrown outside as well.”

 

Samson Habtemariam says he was imprisoned for six months, with his family unable to raise the ransom.

 

Then one night, he and others in the camp staged a mass breakout.

 

(Tigrinya, then translated:) “Thirty-five of us were tied. If one of your hands is free, the other one is tied with another leg. You cannot run, but we ran by rolling on the ground. Then, they started to shoot at us. From the 35 people, most of them were killed. Two of them entered Israel on the same night. Nine of us were hiding in bushes. In total, 11 people escaped.”

 

He says he initially found refuge in a mosque.

 

He then travelled to Cairo, before being resettled in Australia by the United Nations relief agency, the UNHCR.

 

The director of Human Rights Concern Eritrea, Elsa Chyrum, says Mr Habtemariam’s case is definitely not an isolated one.

 

“Many like him who fled persecution in their own country were kidnapped at the Eritrean and Sudanese border and sold and resold by traffickers to the highest bidders and, from there, taken to the Sinai Desert. There, they were subjected to torture, rape, chained and beaten, and also demanded to pay ransoms up to $45,000 per person. We have interviewed many people who were asked to pay between $30,000 and $45,000. So for the traffickers, it becomes an income-generating business.”

 

Sister Azezet Kidane, also known as Sister Aziza, is an Eritrean-born Catholic nun who works as a volunteer with Physicians for Human Rights Israel.

 

She has interviewed well over a thousand refugees who have suffered kidnapping, torture, rape and forced labour while passing through the Sinai.

 

She recently spoke at a conference in the Vatican.

 

“I met people burned with melted plastics. I have met people burned with kerosene. I have met people with deep wounds with chains. I met people who became blinded because, for six months, eight months, they were blindfolded, and, when they take them out to the sun, they lose their sight. The worst is when their mind and soul is wounded.”

 

Various international organisations, including the United Nations, have reported thousands of refugees fall victim to people traffickers and organ harvesters in the Sinai.

 

Ethiopia’s honorary consul to Australia, Graham Romans, cites a recent report to the European Commission finding up to 30,000 people trafficked over five years.

 

He says most were from Eritrea.

 

“Most of those who are trafficked have died in captivity, even after ransoms have been paid. It’s estimated that some 600 million US dollars has been paid out in ransoms, and the report suggests that many Eritreans do not survive the trafficking and torture. And (it’s) calculated between five (thousand) and 10,000 hostages have died or been killed in captivity, with children as young as two or three years (old) among the victims.”

 

Samson Habtemariam says he believes most of the people who detained him in the Sinai were Egyptian.

 

(Tigrinya, then translated:) “They were Egyptians — they spoke Arabic — but I can say there were Israelis as well. There were times to see special soldiers who spoke good English. Though they didn’t speak much in front of us, sometimes they came and asked us when are we going to pay the money. But the guards were Egyptians and Palestinians.”

 

He also believes those removing the organs had medical training.

 

(Tigrinya, then translated:) “They let the victim lay on a bed. The operators wear appropriate medical dress. They use anaesthesia. After they take the kidney from your body, they send it directly … Sorry, I don’t want to talk about this ⦠(starts to cry …) But as we have heard, they send the kidney to the neighbouring countries. It won’t go back to Egypt. Special cars come to the place. They use instruments just like what they use in hospitals. Those people are experts, they are doctors.”

 

Saleh Johar is an Eritrean activist who has written a book about Eritrean victims of the people smugglers.

 

He believes the organs are placed in cooled containers and taken by road to Cairo, or across the border into Israel, then flown to countries where recipients are waiting.

 

“The kidney cannot stay for more than 48 hours. So to transport it to Europe, Australia or America, you need airplanes. The closest airports are in Israel and Egypt. From this argument, if one wants to transport a kidney, it should be through Egypt or Israel.”

 

Egypt is a major destination and transit country for asylum seekers.

 

At the beginning of this year, the country held about a quarter of a million people from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Iraq.

 

 

 

Do sleepy teens need later school start times? Pediatricians say yes

If you thought trying to get a groggy teenager out of bed in time for school each morning was your own private struggle, you thought wrong.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics declared the chronic sleepiness of American teenagers a public health issue in a policy statement Monday. And to help fix the problem, the organization called for middle and high schools to push back their start times 30 minutes to an hour to allow students to get more rest.

“A substantial body of research has now demonstrated that delaying school start times is an effective countermeasure to chronic sleep loss,” the organization said. “The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly supports the efforts of school districts to optimize sleep in students.”

Sleep deprivation in teenagers is widespread. Eighty-seven percent of high school students in the U.S. are getting less than the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep, and high school seniors get less than 7 hours of sleep a night, on average, the AAP says.

In addition, 28 percent of high school students report falling asleep at school at least once a week, while 1 in 5 say they fall asleep doing homework with similar frequency.

The exhaustion has serious consequences. The AAP reports that the average teenager in the U.S. regularly experiences levels of sleepiness similar to people with sleep disorders such as narcolepsy. Adolescents are also at higher risk for car accidents resulting from drowsy driving. And, as many of us know from personal experience, lack of sleep affects mood, attention, memory and behavior control.

So can’t they just go to bed earlier? The answer is: not really. Studies suggest that at the onset of adolescence, there is a delay in when the body starts to secrete melatonin, a hormone that tells the body it’s time to go to sleep. Researchers have also found that it takes the adolescent brain longer to wind down and fall asleep after being awake for 14.5 to 18.5 hours than it does for people in other stages of life.

“This research indicates that the average teenager in today’s society has difficulty falling asleep before 11 p.m. and is best suited to wake up at 8 a.m. or later,” the AAP statement says.

As of the 2011-12 school year, 43 percent of U.S. public high schools had a start time before 8 a.m.

“When high school classes begin early in the morning, we ask teens to shine when their biological clock tells them to sleep,” Timothy Morgenthaler, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, said in a statement.

Studies have shown that when school starts later, it can help students get an additional hour of sleep per night, improve attendance rates, lower dropout rates, and even reduce the number of car crashes among adolescent drivers. Whether a later start time improves academic performance is still up in the air.

The AAP acknowledges that later start times can be hard for schools to implement logistically, but they argue that it is worth the effort.

“Both the urgency and the magnitude of the problem of sleep loss in adolescents and the availability of an intervention that has the potential to have broad and immediate effects are highly compelling,” they said.

© 2014 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by MCT Information Services

 

Vatican strips ex-envoy of immunity

The Vatican says its former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, who is accused of sexually abusing young boys in the Caribbean country, has lost his diplomatic immunity and could be tried by Dominican or other courts.

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The Vatican has previously insisted in its handling of the delicate case of Josef Wesolowski that he enjoyed diplomatic immunity and that the Holy See doesn’t extradite its own citizens.

But in a statement on Monday, Vatican spokesman the Reverend Federico Lombardi, said Wesolowski had ceased all diplomatic activity for the Holy See and lost his related immunity and therefore “might also be subjected to judicial procedures from the courts that could have specific jurisdiction over him”.

The Vatican recalled Wesolowski a year ago after allegations emerged in the Dominican Republic that he had sexually molested young boys.

Dominican authorities have said their country’s investigation uncovered allegations that Wesolowski had paid at least six minors to watch them masturbate and had recorded it with his mobile phone, but prosecutors did not file charges because the nuncio had diplomatic immunity.

The case was highly sensitive, given that the Polish-born Wesolowski was an ambassador of the Holy See – not just one of the world’s 440,000 priests – and had been ordained both a priest and a bishop by St John Paul II.

This northern summer, a Vatican tribunal found him guilty under canon law of abusing young boys and defrocked him, the harshest sentence under church law and the first time such a high-ranking Vatican official had been sanctioned for sex abuse. Wesolowski recently appealed that sentence and a final decision is expected in October, Lombardi said.

After that appeal is heard, the Vatican’s criminal courts will take up the case and jail time is possible if he is found guilty.

As a papal diplomat and citizen of the Vatican City State, Wesolowski faces criminal charges by the tribunal of the Vatican City, which last year updated its laws to specifically criminalise sex abuse of children. It is not clear, however, if the new law can be applied retroactively.

Kill PM song may breach NZ election rules

New Zealand election officials are looking at whether a song threatening to kill Prime Minister John Key and have sex with his daughter falls foul of election advertising rules.

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Auckland-based hip-hop outfit @peace has released Kill The PM, a track that paints Mr Key as a greedy rich man who takes money from the poor and deserves to die.

It’s already offended the Family First lobby group, and the Electoral Commission is now checking whether it breaches the same rules which banned Darren Watson’s satirical song Planet Key two weeks ago, a ban Watson is set to challenge in court.

A spokeswoman for the Electoral Commission told AAP it is examining if Kill The PM breaks rules stopping the broadcast of material by third parties which appears to encourage voters to vote, or not, for a political party.

She was unsure how long it would take to make a decision, saying the office was busy as Tuesday was the deadline for the nomination of candidates for the election.

Among the lyrics to the song are “ain’t doin’ nothin’ so I’m gonna kill the prime minister.

“I been tryin’ to get a job, but they got none, so instead I got a sawn-off shotgun, and pop.”

The lyrics also suggest robbing the prime minister of all his luxury possessions and having sex with his daughter.

NZ On Air funded five @peace songs between August 2011 and June this year, but says it did not fund Kill The PM.

The group’s frontman, Tom Scott, is formerly from hip-hop group Homebrew, which released a track ahead of the 2011 election criticising tax cuts that benefit the rich.

Family First director Bob McCoskrie has already complained about the track to the Office of Film and Literature Classification and is considering laying a complaint with police.

“You cannot go any lower than this type of personal and offensive attack on a politician and their family,” he said.

Politicians glass-jawed: former News boss

Australian politicians are glass-jawed and Rupert Murdoch is “fiercely direct”, says former News Corp Australia CEO Kim Williams.

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In a round of media interviews to promote his new book, Mr Williams said he found politicians were overly sensitive to criticism and had, at times, attempted to bully him while he was CEO.

“Politicians can be pretty severe in prosecuting a case they have, and can be even more severe when they feel that they have been wronged,” Mr Williams told Fairfax Radio on Tuesday.

“Politicians in Australia generally seem, to me, to have massive glass jaws and are far too easily offended.

“… At times it can be quite threatening – but you know it’s just in the stuff of general discourse between politicians and media companies, you get very used to it.”

Mr Williams also said he had a good professional working relationship with Mr Murdoch during his 18-month tenure as CEO.

“Now we obviously came to grief towards the end but that is part of life and those things happen,” Mr Williams said.

“Certainly (Mr Murdoch) is never frightened to offer a view and is a very, very fiercely direct person – you’d never die wondering with Rupert as to what he thought about anything.

“He’s not a manipulative person because he always says exactly what he thinks.”

Mr Williams also said Mr Murdoch did occasionally provide “stern counsel” to the editors of his Australian newspapers, though not to a level asserted by critics.

“The degree of counsel that is offered to editors is … exaggerated,” he said.

Mr Williams’ book, titled Rules of Engagement, was released this month.

Bunnies braced for Bulldogs pack

South Sydney coach Michael Maguire is exhorting his troops to simply run and tackle harder against a Bulldogs side he expects to target them up the middle in Thursday’s big NRL clash at ANZ Stadium.

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Widely tagged premiership favourites following a five-match winning streak, the Bunnies were upset 22-10 at home by North Queensland last Saturday.

They remain second, two points behind pace-setting Manly, level on points with the Roosters and Panthers, and just two points ahead of Melbourne and the Bulldogs.

Maguire feels the lesson learnt out of the loss to the Cowboys was his players needed to be focused every week.

“The basics of the game let us down against the Cowboys,” Maguire said.

“We just didn’t run hard and tackle hard. That was what the opposition did and they did it very well.

“Prior to the game against the Cowboys we had good momentum and we’ve got to make sure we look at the things that we were doing in those games, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Maguire was pleased with the injury progress of Adam Reynolds (hamstring tightness) and John Sutton (knee) and suggested they could both line up against the Bulldogs.

“Reyno, he’s actually good, it was more just a bit of a spasm in his back,” Maguire said.

“I think it was more of a scare for Adam.

“Sutto, he’s coming along well. We’ve just got to challenge him again tomorrow with training and we’ll see how we go from there,” Maguire said.

He said he had the option of playing Sutton in either the forwards or backs if he returned against the Bulldogs.

With Reynolds and Luke Keary developing their halves partnership nicely, Maguire is likely start with that combination again.

He expected the resurgent Bulldogs, coming off back to back wins, to challenge his big pack.

“They challenge you through the middle so the test will be in the middle,” Maguire said.

“They’ve spent more than half a season in the top four so we’re playing against a quality team.”

Maguire wasn’t concerned about the short five-day turnaround between games.

“We had some good practice over the last month,” Maguire said.

“We had four games in about 17, 18 days so the preparation doesn’t change too much from what we’ve been doing.”