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China gives access to detained Canadian

China gives access to detained Canadian

China has provided Canada consular access to detained former diplomat Michael Kovrig.Canadian officials have confirmed they were granted consular access to one of two Canadians detained in China on suspicion of "endangering national security."
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"Today, Canada was granted consular access to Michael Kovrig," a statement by Global Affairs Canada said.

Canada's ambassador to China, John McCallum, met the former Canadian diplomat in Beijing, the statement said.

"Canadian consular officials continue to provide consular services to him and his family and will continue to seek further access to Mr Kovrig," the statement said.

Tensions between China and Canada have risen after China said Kovrig and the second arrested Canadian, Michael Spavor, are being investigated for endangering national security.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said "compulsory measures" have been taken against Kovrig and Spavor, whose disappearance is seen as retaliation for Canada's arrest of Chinese executive Meng Wanzhou.

The men are "suspected of being involved in activities endangering China's national security law," Lu said. He said China has notified the Canadian embassy and is guaranteeing the men's legal rights.

Canada said it continues to press for consular access to Spavor.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on China to release the two Canadian citizens, denouncing their "unlawful detention."

"The detention of these two Canadian citizens in China ought to end," Pompeo said in Washington, standing alongside the Canadian foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, and defence minister, Harjit Sajjan.

Freeland said Chinese officials have not drawn a connection between the detention of the two Canadians and Meng's arrest in Canada, in their discussions with her.

Canada was acting "scrupulously" in the Meng case and the country follows the rule of law, Freeland said. She insisted there should be no political interference in the judicial process.

Her comments were seen directed as much at Chinese authorities as at US President Donald Trump, who suggested on Tuesday that he might intervene in Meng's case if it served national security interests or helped him get a better trade deal with China.

Amid the tensions, Canada's tourism minister also cancelled a trip to China at the last minute, her office announced on Friday.

Meng's arrest has caused an anti-Canadian backlash on Chinese social media sites with many users calling for a boycott of Canadian goods.

Kovrig is an ex-diplomat who works as an expert on North-East Asia for the non-governmental think tank International Crisis Group. He was arrested on Monday by state security in Beijing, the Canadian Foreign Ministry confirmed.

Spavor runs a China-based non-profit that organised the trips to North Korea by basketball star Dennis Rodman in 2013 and 2014.



Ponting’s simple batting advice for Finch

Ponting’s simple batting advice for Finch

Aaron Finch (L) received some simple but vital advice from Ricky Ponting (R) before the 2nd Test .By recalling his own troubles facing Ishant Sharma 10 years ago in Perth, Ricky Ponting helped Aaron Finch to make a minor adjustment that delivered major results in the same city.
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Finch struggled in 's first-Test loss to India at Adelaide Oval, with only a Sharma no-ball saving him from the ignominy of a pair.

But the national white-ball skipper, under increasing pressure to prove he's a viable option at the top of the Test order amid spirited debate, looked far more comfortable in a knock of 50 on day one of the second Test.

If are to level the four-Test series at Optus Stadium, they're likely to highlight the importance of a 112-run opening stand between Finch and Marcus Harris.

And the origins of Finch's innings can be traced all the way back to Sharma's maiden tour of , when he worked Ponting over in a brilliant spell and twice dismissed him at the WACA.

Ponting and Finch shared a long chat on Thursday in the nets, with the legend passing on a simple piece of advice.

"It was basically around covering my off stump and just lining up slightly different," Finch told reporters.

"It was just moving my guard slightly further over - my line where I want to try and hit the ball, with the ball swinging back in.

"Obviously, Ishant troubled Punter a little bit at the start of Ishant's career in , moving the ball back in.

"It was good to have someone to chat to who has had to work through that, and just (about) your alignment and things like that."

Ponting, speaking on Seven during day one, downplayed the importance of his discussions with Finch and other members of 's Test squad.

"He ('s coach Justin Langer) invited me down," Ponting said.

"To be around the boys for a couple of hours, it's always an enjoyable time."

It isn't the first time Ponting has worked closely with Finch, whom he had bought during the 2015 Indian Premier League auction while coaching Mumbai.

Finch returned home because of a hamstring injury and missed Mumbai's charge to the title, but Ponting's mentorship left a big impression.

"It's his first coaching job and he was absolutely outstanding," Finch told AAP at the time.

"Being one of the best players in the world for a long time, he commanded that respect.

"But what impressed me was his energy and drive for the players to get better, plus his attention to detail."



EU refuses to budge on Brexit agreement

EU refuses to budge on Brexit agreement

Theresa May says she had a 'robust' exchange with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.British Prime Minister Theresa May has launched a rescue mission for her ailing Brexit deal, after the European Union rebuffed her request to sweeten the divorce agreement.
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EU leaders meeting in Brussels have shown little appetite to resolve May's Brexit impasse for her, saying the UK parliament must make up its mind.

The choice was either back the Brexit agreement or send Britain tumbling out of the bloc in March without a deal and into unknown economic chaos.

"There is one accord, the only one possible," French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters on Friday, at the end of a two-day summit.

He said it was "the British parliament's time" to decide whether to accept or reject May's deal.

May came to the EU summit seeking legally binding changes to the agreement, which is opposed by a majority of British lawmakers.

But the 27 other EU leaders offered only reassurances.

They said they would seek to move swiftly on forging a new trade deal after Britain leaves the bloc, and promised that a legally binding insurance policy to keep the Irish border open would only be used temporarily.

The EU rejected British pressure to put a fixed end date on the border guarantee, and refused to re-negotiate the Brexit agreement.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker accused Britain of failing to give detailed proposals on Brexit, saying it was "up to the British government to tell us exactly what they want".

May was filmed speaking sternly to Juncker as leaders arrived at Friday morning's session of the summit. She said they had a "robust" exchange.

Nonetheless, May told reporters in Brussels that she welcomed the EU's reassuring words - words that she said had legal status, as formal conclusions of an EU summit.

"There is work still to do. And we will be holding talks in coming days about how to obtain the further assurances that the UK parliament needs in order to be able to approve the deal," May said.

However European Council President Donald Tusk said no talks with Britain were scheduled.

"I have no mandate to organise any further negotiations," Tusk told reporters.

"But of course, we will stay here in Brussels, and I am always at Prime Minister Theresa May's disposal."

EU leaders expressed deep doubts that May could live up to her side of their Brexit agreement and vowed to step up preparations for a potentially catastrophic "no-deal" scenario for Britain's departure.

"We are going to be sure to prepare for all hypotheses, including the hypothesis of a 'no deal', Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said.

But there was also sympathy for a leader who has endured the toughest week of her career.

Juncker said May was "a good friend, and I am admiring her, because this is a woman of great courage doing her job in the best way possible".



Robert Clark new Vic Liberals president

Robert Clark new Vic Liberals president

Former Liberal MP Robert Clark replaces Michael Kroger as president of the Victorian Liberals.Former Liberal MP Robert Clark has been elected president of the Victorian Liberal Party.
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Mr Clark won the ballot of Liberal state assembly members on Friday night, succeeding Michael Kroger, who resigned last month amid pressure following Labor's thumping election victory.

"My priority now is to work with fellow Liberal Party members to prepare for next year's Federal election campaign and to re-build following our state election loss," he wrote in a Facebook post.

"This will include examining a wide range of opportunities to improve the party's governance and how we advocate Liberal values and policies in the community."

Mr Clark represented Balwyn and Box Hill for 30 years, from 1988 to 2018, but was beaten last month by Labor's Paul Hamer.

The 61-year-old father-of-two grew up in St Albans and was a solicitor before entering parliament and joined the Liberal Party in 1976.

The Victorian Liberal-National opposition also announced its shadow cabinet on Friday, naming 15 men and eight women to "hold the Labor Government to account".

A joint press release on Friday - from new Opposition and Liberal leader Michael O'Brien and Opposition deputy Peter Walsh - said their new team would "reset the way we engage with the Victorian community to develop solutions to the challenges facing Victoria".

Two women - Roma Britnell and Bridget Vallence - are among three new additions to the shadow cabinet, covering the rural roads, ports and freight and secretary to cabinet portfolios.

Prominent Liberal shadow cabinet members such as John Pesutto and Heidi Victoria are noticeably missing after they lost their seats in Labor's thumping election victory.



Roar’s Bautheac needs protection: Aloisi

Roar’s Bautheac needs protection: Aloisi

Brisbane Roar star Eric Bautheac let frustration get the better of him against Melbourne Victory.Brisbane Roar coach John Aloisi has demanded better protection for marquee man Eric Bautheac.
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The French winger's frustrations tipped over against Melbourne Victory when he was sent off in the Roar's 4-2 A-League loss at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.

Bautheac, clearly incensed by an earlier incident where Victory's James Troisi had caught him on his left ankle, launched into a wild challenge on Corey Brown.

Referee Adam Fielding showed Bautheac a yellow card for the challenge but the Roar star then got into a push and shove with Troisi and Swedish striker Ola Toivenen.

Fielding showed Bautheac a second yellow and the Frenchman kicked advertising hoardings and the wall of the stadium tunnel as he departed.

Aloisi didn't condone Bautheac's actions but said he can understand why his import was upset.

"It's been happening all season to Eric," he said.

"I don't want him to go and bring it into his own hands.

"I just want the referees to help him earlier and protect him earlier and then have a bit of common sense as well.

"Know that he's the one that's being kicked from pillar to post in every single game and then when he does one thing, calm the situation down."

The defeat leaves the Roar floundering second-last on the ladder with just one win from eight games.

Aloisi though remains confident his team has the ability to turn their season around.

"It's three losses in a row. Against Adelaide we didn't deserve to lose. Last week, the last half hour wasn't great. Tonight (Friday) the first 20 minutes was very good," Aloisi said.

"It will turn for us. When you keep playing like that, it will turn.

"We're not going to get too carried away that we're not a good side ... we went on a run last year, seven out of 10 games we won, we'll go on another run like that."



Sydney Kings’ Gaze has rebound conundrum

Sydney Kings’ Gaze has rebound conundrum

Sydney Kings coach Andrew Gaze wants his side to stop giving away so many offensive rebounds.Sydney Kings coach Andrew Gaze said he thinks his players may be relying too heavily on Andrew Bogut in defence and admits that he doesn't know what to do about it.
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The Kings have won four of their past five games despite giving up a massive advantage in offensive rebounds in each contest.

In those five games the Kings have conceded 86 offensive rebounds at an average of 17.2 per game and grabbed only 47 (at 9.4 per game) themselves.

"I basically conceded to the fellas that I feel a little helpless because I don't exactly know how to fix it," Gaze said after the Kings come-from-behind one-point win in Perth on Friday night.

"I know there are drills you can do; I know there are box out drills and we went through a big video session this week, exclusively on that particular area.

"It's not just our bigs. Boges leads the league in rebounds, he's doing an unbelievable job. But we're inconsistent in that area."

Gaze said the situation Sydney is in is similar to when he was playing with Mark Bradke at the Melbourne Tigers.

He said that guys like Bradke and Bogut pull down rebounds in defence so often that teammates can take them for granted.

Perth's Nick Kay (six offensive rebounds) and Angus Brandt (four) combined for two more offensive boards than the whole Sydney side on Friday night. Perth scored 25 second chance points to the Kings 11.

The Wildcats led for most of the game on the back of their 21 offensive rebounds to the Kings eight.

The Kings were able to pinch the win thanks to their 11 three-pointers, scored 55 per cent, including David Wear's, with just 11 seconds left on the clock.

Gaze is hoping not to have to rely on last minute long-shots to win in the future.

"There might be something in the players' psyche, that because we have that big presence in there we are going to be OK; we're not OK in that area and we have to fix it," he said.

"If we could just tidy up that part of our game, then we feel like we would have an advantage.

"When you don't do that, you need an unbelievable last play in order to get the win."



Lyon reinforces value in tight Perth spell

Lyon reinforces value in tight Perth spell

n bowler Nathan Lyon could be crucial in the second Test against India, Aaron Finch says.Nathan Lyon continues to be Mr Dependable for , tying down India's premier batsmen in a compelling session of Test cricket in Perth.
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The offspinner's battle with Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara concluded with India 2-70 in their first innings, in reply to 's 326, at tea on day two.

Lyon's figures for the session - 10 overs, three maidens, 49 dot balls and 0-16 - reinforced his ability to tie down an end, giving Tim Paine the freedom to rotate quicks Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.

Arguably the only loose delivery Lyon sent down came in his final over when Kohli capitalised on the full-pitched ball and unleashed a trademark cover drive for four.

Kohli, who was unbeaten on 37 at tea on Saturday, had far greater success against Hazlewood, taking 13 runs from one of the metronomic paceman's overs.

While the pitch has been relatively tame on day two, the variable bounce on offer the previous day highlighted the key role Lyon could play later in the Test.

Having lost offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin to an abdominal strain, India face the prospect of batting last on a deteriorating pitch.

"I think the bounce that Nathan will get will be crucial on this wicket," opener Aaron Finch said.

"He talks about how much more effective he is when you do have that bounce because you can get guys caught on the crease; it brings in your bat-pad and your leg slip.

"No doubt he'll be excited by it."

Lyon also continued his much-improved batting form, compiling his fourth straight unbeaten score - a streak which includes knocks of 24 and 38 during the first Test in Adelaide.



Qld Cyclone Owen downgraded to low system

Qld Cyclone Owen downgraded to low system

The worst of the weather in north Queensland is over as ex-tropical Cyclone Owen moves to the east.The Owen cyclone system moving over Queensland's north has been downgraded to a tropical low but severe weather and flood warnings remain in place.
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The system weakened as it tracked south-easterly across the far north after crossing near remote Kowanyama as a category 3 cyclone early on Saturday, bringing winds of 120km/h.

Owen was downgraded to a category 2 system later in the morning and revised down again to a tropical low by 4pm.

Residents in inland areas of the far north are still facing wind gusts up to 85km/h and heavy rainfall.

Kowanyama escaped the brunt of the storm when it crossed to their south in the southeast part of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

"Everything's still intact. I'm pretty happy," Kowanyama mayor Michael Yam told AAP.

"It was a bit scary when it was heading straight towards as a category 3, but everything's back to normal. I thought we'd get a bit more rain out of it.

"But we're always well prepared. My community takes it very seriously."

The now ex-cyclone system was moving at 21km/h towards more populated areas and was expected to reach Ingham and Innisfail early on Sunday before running parallel down the east coast over the next 24-48 hours.

Potentially damaging winds and flash flooding, with possible falls of 100-200mm within a six-hour period, continue to pose a risk.

"Please do not be complacent, particularly in that northeast tropics area where the rains will continue," Queensland Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Katarina Carroll said.

"It's a heavily saturated area from the past week or so, and there may be flash flooding."

A severe weather warning was in place for the north tropical coast, tablelands, peninsula, northern goldfields and surrounding areas.

Residents were being warned to check with authorities before leaving shelters to "sight-see", with the risk of hazards including fallen trees, power lines, debris and structural damage to infrastructure.



Flash flooding in outer Melbourne

Flash flooding in outer Melbourne

More storms and flooding have hit parts of Melbourne on Saturday afternoon.Flash floods have caused havoc for some in Melbourne this afternoon, with flash flooding turning backyards, suburban streets and ponds into gushing rivers.
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A Christmas party at a Pakenham housing estate in the city's outer southeast was called off Saturday afternoon when heavy rainfall halted celebrations.

Organiser Samantha Thorpe said a little pond nearby became "like a raging river".

"It has never happened like this before."

Just as amazingly, Ms Thorpe said, within an hour of the deluge, the water had drained away and the sun was shining, as if it hadn't happened.

A general severe thunderstorm warning remains in place for most of the state - Central, East Gippsland, South West, North Central, West and South Gippsland, Wimmera, parts of the Mallee and Northern Country districts.

Thunderstorms lashing parts of Victoria have seen up to 13mm of rain fall every five minutes in the early hours of Saturday and a severe weather warning is also in place for parts of Victoria including Shepparton, Seymour, Castlemaine, Kyneton, Ballarat and Wangaratta.

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said the bad weather had been widespread.

"There weren't too many parts of the state that have been spared the impact of the weather event we've seen over the past 48 hours," he said on Saturday.

Bureau of Meteorology's Kevin Parkyn said intense storms and heavy rain were expected to continue in Melbourne on Saturday afternoon and night.

He said the relatively rare weather conditions could bring flash flooding too.

In the 24 hours from 7am on Friday the SES received 693 requests for assistance across the state, with 123 of those calls from the Malvern area.

Most calls were about flooding or building damage.

Other areas badly affected included Bacchus Marsh, Port Phillip, Wyndham and Hobsons Bay.

The SES also took part in 25 rescues on Friday night - all people trapped in cars in floodwaters.

SES spokeswoman Susan Davie said it wasn't clear how those people got trapped, but said it would be a combination of some driving into flood water and others who would have got stuck in the flash flood.

"We just want to remind people to never drive through flood waters, it's hard to assess the depth of the water," she told AAP.



Fourth victim of Strasbourg attack dies

Fourth victim of Strasbourg attack dies

Strasbourg's cherished outdoor Christmas market draws more than 2 million visitors each year.A fourth person has died from their wounds following Tuesday's Strasbourg Christmas market shooting, the Paris prosecutor's office says.
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"The person had been fighting for their life," an official in the prosecutor's office said on Friday.

Gunman Cherif Chekatt, 29, was killed in the Neudorf neighbourhood of Strasbourg on Thursday night after firing on police, ending a two-day manhunt that involved more than 700 members of the security forces.

The city's traditional Christmas market was reopened under heavy security on Friday.

Stall-holder Bernard Kuntz said the market was reopening just in time for struggling business owners.

"We were getting worried. Some of the guys have taken out loans to be here, and we've already lost two days," he said.

Strasbourg Mayor Roland Ries said the attack was indisputably an act of terrorism.

Strasbourg's cherished Christmas market is a target full of religious symbolism, and the killings have evoked France's difficulties in integrating western Europe's largest Muslim minority and dealing with homegrown militants inspired by Islamic State.

Ries expressed relief that Chekatt had been killed and said everyone in Strasbourg, on eastern France's Rhine river border with Germany, felt the same.

French troops, who have been used to bolster national security since a wave of Islamic State-inspired attacks began in France in 2015, stood guard at the open-air market.

"I think it will help to get back to a life that I would describe as normal," Ries told reporters after the news that Chekatt had been killed.

"With the death of this terrorist ... citizens, like me, are relieved."

Islamic State claimed Chekatt as one of its soldiers, saying he carried out the operation in response to calls for citizens of coalition countries that are fighting the militant group.

IS provided no evidence for the claim and French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner called it "opportunistic".

"Nothing indicates that (Chekatt) was part of a network. There is nothing to suggest that he was being protected by such, but the investigation is not yet over," Castaner told Europe 1.

He described Chekatt as a long-time delinquent whose Islamic beliefs were radicalised during previous periods in prison.

Police were still interrogating seven associates on Friday, including Chekatt's parents, to determine whether he had accomplices.

France ramped up its security threat to its highest level after Chekatt struck late on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe promised an extra 1800 troops would be put on patrols with a special focus on Christmas markets.

The outdoor market in Strasbourg, centred around a towering Christmas Tree in Place Kleber, draws more than 2 million visitors each year.

Christmas markets have been a feature of the Alsatian city since the early 15th century.

The Strasbourg shooting was the latest in a succession of attacks linked to Islamist militancy in France going back to 2012.

Since January 2015, more than 240 people have been killed in attacks on French soil, most of them in 2015-16.