No band aid for Dutch musicians

Kleintje Pils has become a regular feature at Winter Olympics, the Dutch musicians entertaining fans at speed skating events around the world for almost 30 years.

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But while Dutch skaters have been dominating in Sochi, the band has yet to strike up.

“We arrive on Friday, we have our normal jobs to do, we can only do 10-12 days for economic reasons,” founder Ruud Bakker told Reuters via telephone, adding that the band is being sorely missed at Russia’s first winter Games.

“We have tweets, phone calls, messages from all over the world saying: ‘we miss you, it’s boring’. From Australia, America, Holland, fans everywhere.”

In their absence, Sven Kramer and Irene Wust won the opening two events to move the Netherlands level on 29 Winter Olympic speed skating golds with America as joint record holders.

Bakker said he watched them win on television.

“It feels so painful we can’t be in Sochi already.”

The 55-year-old, who works in real estate, said Russian organisers had wanted the band to be at the Adler Arena for the entire 15-day speed skating competition.

Asked if the band was willing to accept funding to come for longer, Bakker offered a swift ‘no’.

“We don’t want someone saying what we do,” he said.

“We do it for a hobby, not on commercial purposes.”

In their place, Sochi organisers have arranged for a similar Russian band, supported by cheerleaders, to play pop songs during 30-minute intervals and Bakker said a collaboration was possible with the Russians.

Bakker’s band, “a party, carnival” group, started their association with the sport in 1986 when they went along to watch a Dutch race on a spare day and just started playing.

Fans at the 8,000 capacity skating venue also heard the Village People song ‘YMCA’ played over the loud speakers on Saturday. The song is regarded as something of an unofficial anthem for the gay community.

Bakker had said before the Games the band was considering playing the song in Sochi to show support for gay rights.

Russia President Vladimir Putin has faced heavy international criticism for a law banning the spread of “gay propaganda” among minors.

Putin says the law is needed to protect young people while critics say it curtails the rights of homosexuals. Gay rights activists say it is fuelling anti-gay violence in Russia.

Bakker said he was pleased the song was played.

“That’s good from the Russian organising committee,” he said. “No problems. It is a statement, in a good way.”

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Child abuse ‘horror’ stuns Salvos leader

The world leader of the Salvation Army says he was not prepared for the horror of what is emerging about their children’s homes in Australia.

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In a letter from Andre Cox read at a hearing of the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney on Monday, he said he was disturbed “to the very depths of his being” by what he was reading out of Australia.

“While we knew that many of the stories would be harrowing, nothing could really prepare us for the full horror of the stories that are emerging.”

He said he had written to leaders of the army in 126 countries to ensure their policies and procedures were regularly updated and implemented without exception and called on the army in Australia to ensure its procedures were robust.

The head of the army’s eastern territory in Australia, General James Condon, cried in the witness box at Monday’s hearing when he spoke about listening to the stories of abuse victims at boys’ homes in NSW and Queensland.

He also said the army would be interested in engaging in the dialogue about a national redress scheme for victims of institutional abuse, which had been suggested by the Catholic and Anglican churches.

Simeon Beckett, counsel advising the commission, asked him if it would surprise him to hear that journals detailing inspections of boys’ homes in the ’70s had not been available when the commission sought them.

“I am surprised they are not available,” Mr Condon said.

“They might have decided not to keep them … our records are good.”

He told Mr Beckett he knew of no instances where the Salvation Army “destroyed records relating to its boys’ homes in order to conceal any wrongdoing”.

He said he anticipated being able to provide more records in coming weeks.

Mr Condon became upset when he was questioned about his decision to only recently suspend Major John McIver, one of five officers against whom the commission has heard serious allegations.

In the 1970s, Mr McIver served at Bexley Home for Boys in Sydney and the Alkira Home for Boys at Indooroopilly in Queensland and evidence has been given of alleged physical and sexual assaults by him. He was suspended from the army on January 30.

Mr Condon said he suspended him primarily because he had heard survivors tell stories of abuse and had been contacted on Facebook by another victim.

He paused his evidence because of his distress: “I have been impacted greatly … I have felt their (survivors’) pain and that is the reason I took the decision to suspend … McIver.”

He outlined regulations in place at the time which included that there should be as few punishments for abusers as possible.

“A collision of failures rather than the conspiracy of cover-ups is the Salvation Army’s record of this shameful chapter of our history,” he said.

In a statement, he read: “Once again I want to express our unreserved apology to all who were harmed in any way at all. We are so sorry for every instance when children were sexually abused by our personnel, or while in our care.”

Echoing a sentiment expressed on Friday by Major Peter Farthing of the Salvation Army, Mr Condon said the army’s great failure was to allow “evil and damaged people” to get away with child sexual abuse.

UK police probe ‘NekNomination’ death

Welsh police investigating the fatal collapse of a 29-year-old are looking into whether a controversial drinking game played a part in his death.

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Officers and paramedics were called to an address in Cardiff after receiving reports that a man had collapsed after taking part in the NekNominate game.

The craze involves participants filming themselves downing alcohol, nominating someone to continue the game, and posting the video on Facebook.

Participants are often dared to outdo the exploits of those who nominated them.

It is thought to have originated in Australia and has seen players consuming alcohol along with dog food, engine oil and live goldfish.

“We are investigating the sudden death of a 29-year-old man from Rumney during the early hours of February 9,” a South Wales Police spokesman said.

“Officers investigating his death on behalf of HM Coroner have received information regarding the so-called neck and nominate game.

“Inquiries are continuing and a post-mortem is taking place.”

Police and student groups in the UK and Ireland have warned people about the dangers of taking part in NekNominate amid fears that the game may have resulted in three deaths.

In Ireland, Jonny Byrne and Ross Cummings both lost their lives after apparently trying to complete their challenges.

Byrne, 19, drowned after drinking a pint and jumping into the River Barrow in Carlow.

His brother Patrick later went on to Facebook to urge others to stop playing the game.

“He thought he had to beat the competition and after he necked his pint he jumped into the river,” he said.

“If people have any decency and respect, they will refrain from any more of this stupid NekNomination.”

Dublin DJ Ross Cummings, 22, died when he too reportedly carried out a NekNomination.

According to the Daily Mirror, the first UK victim of the game died at the weekend.

The paper’s website reported that youth hostel worker Isaac Richardson, 20, drank a cocktail of wine, whisky, vodka and lager before collapsing and dying in the early hours of Sunday.

France rules out Libya intervention

France has ruled out Western military action against Islamist fighters in southern Libya for the time being, rebuffing an appeal for intervention from neighbouring Niger.

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Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, asked about Niger’s call for action, said there was no question of putting foreign troops into a region that the United States has identified as an increasingly worrisome new haven for Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

But he said the Western powers were aware of the problem and were drawing up plans to help the Libyan government deal with it.

“No, an intervention, no (that’s not being discussed),” Fabius told RTL radio on Monday.

“But we are going to have an international meeting in Rome at the beginning of March to give Libya more help because it’s true that there are terrorists gathering in the south.

Fabius said Britain, Germany, the United States, Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia were all involved in talks on how to help Libya.

“We have to fight terrorism everywhere,” Fabius said.

“That does not mean we have to have people on the ground, it means we have to help governments that want to get rid of terrorism, which is the case with the Libyan government.”

Niger last week called on the West to finish the job they started in Libya by dealing with the Islamists who have established bases in the south since the 2011 overthrow of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

A poor but mineral-rich former French colony, Niger has had to contend with numerous Islamist attacks and kidnappings on its own soil, some of which have threatened the security of its uranium production.

In an annual intelligence report published in December, the United States said southern Libya had become an “incubator” for terrorism in a “hothouse” region and described a possible intervention as “within the bounds of the possible”.

France sent troops into Mali last year to combat Islamist militants who had seized control of much of the north of the country.

The security of the region is expected to be discussed by French President Francois Hollande and his US counterpart Barack Obama at talks in the United States this week.

Game developer pulls plug on Flappy Bird

The Vietnamese developer behind the smash-hit free game Flappy Bird has pulled his creation from online stores after announcing its success had ruined his “simple life”.

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Technology experts say the addictive and notoriously difficult game rose from obscurity at its release in May to become one of the most downloaded free mobile games on Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play store.

“Flappy Bird is a success of mine. But it also ruins my simple life. So now I hate it,” the game’s creator Nguyen Ha Dong tweeted.

“I am sorry Flappy Bird users, 22 hours from now, I will take Flappy Bird down. I cannot take this anymore,” he wrote on Saturday from his @dongatory handle – which has seen its follower count grow by tens of thousands in the past few days.

Flappy Bird was not available on the Australian, American or British Apple App Stores on Monday.

Flappy Bird features 2D retro-style graphics. The aim of the game is to direct a flying bird between oncoming sets of pipes without touching them.

Dong has said in interviews that his brainchild was pulling in as much as $US50,000 ($A56,006.72) a day in revenue from online advertising banners.

Some Vietnamese online commentators have speculated that Dong took down the game after being pressured by Nintendo – Flappy Bird’s simple graphics appear to owe debt to Nintendo’s early Mario Bros games.

But a Nintendo spokesman said: “Our company has not taken any action this time.”

Vietnamese online newspaper VNExpress quoted Dong – who has two other games in the top 10 in online stores – as saying he created the game in days following “a weird design style”.

England in despair after Ashes disaster

Doom, gloom and despair surrounding the English cricket team this summer has reached its lowest ebb with those back home waking to scathing headlines and more calls for change.

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Alastair Cook’s men were likened to a pub team in the wake of the 281-run loss at the SCG, completed in woefully submissive fashion and arguably England’s worst failure of only the third 5-0 Ashes whitewash in history.

The performance was met with predictable dismay by past England players and pundits in the UK media, with some calling it the nation’s biggest sporting humiliation.

“For its scale, speed and brutality, this was the most spectacular implosion in the modern history of English sport,” said the UK’s Daily Telegraph.

Ian Botham, the man who predicted England would enjoy a 5-0 series victory, lashed the team’s “spineless” display.

“Watching England throughout this series has been little short of torture,” he wrote in The Daily Mirror.

Michael Vaughan termed it “pathetic” and accused the team of throwing in the towel while David Lloyd said England were “like a pub team” after tea on the final day.

Geoffrey Boycott called it “one of the most depressing and humiliating days for English cricket”.

“This has been the worst defeat, because it’s happened in three days. We just collapsed. We almost gave up,” wrote Boycott in his Daily Telegraph column.

Boycott said the fact Australia had a good, not great, team made it even more humiliating.

“The last whitewash was achieved by a team containing Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist. They had three once-in-a-lifetime players and there was no shame in losing 5-0 to them,” he said.

“But we should be ashamed and embarrassed to lose so abjectly to this lot.”

Former captain Vaughan accepted the result was on the cards when the final Test started on Friday, but was shocked by the manner of the defeat.

“It was always going to happen but there’s a way to lose,” Vaughan told the BBC.

“I have never seen an England team throw in the towel, but they did this afternoon.

“Andy Flower has not evolved this team as he should have done.

“Things have to change in personnel and things have to change in terms of how they play their cricket.”T

Flower and Cook did receive some support in the media.

Former Test allrounder Paul Collingwood said: “I still think Cooky’s the man for the job. I’m sure this has hurt a lot but you’ve got to move on and have that determination to put things right for the future.

“What Andy Flower has done for English cricket has been incredible. He’s a real leader and certainly the man I would have at the top to take England forward.”

Former captain Nasser Hussain labelled the series an “unmitigated disaster” for England and Cook but also threw his support behind the besieged skipper.

“He has to get better as a leader and come back stronger,” Hussain wrote in the Daily Mail.

Liverpool boss Rodgers ends son’s FA Cup dreams

“It’s brilliant, I’ve seen Anton’s life from when he was a young footballer and to see him run out there was a bit surreal really,” Rodgers was quoted as saying by British media.

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“He’s a great kid and we’re very proud of him as mother and father. He’s having a good career and Oldham are a brilliant club for him, they really look after him well. They’ve got an outstanding young manager who will go on to do really well and he’s got a young team and they’ve got a great spirit.

“I’ve seen them a number of times and Anton’s obviously playing a part in that. It’s a great moment in his career and, as a father, it’s even more special that he gets a nice round of applause from the Liverpool supporters as well.”

Rodgers had shuffled his pack for the Oldham clash and left Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Leiva on the bench but all three came on in the second half as the visitors frustrated the seven-times winners in a flat opening period.

Iago Aspas broke the deadlock for the hosts in the 54th minute with his first for the club before Raheem Sterling’s shot went in off James Tarkowski with eight minutes remaining to make the game safe.

The victory sent Liverpool through to the fourth round where they will face either second tier Bournemouth or fourth tier Burton Albion away at the end of January.

Meanwhile, Oldham return to a relegation scrap and have a home match against Stevenage Borough to look forward to on Saturday.

Their manager Lee Johnson said he also felt pride despite his side failing to match last year’s 3-2 win at Boundary Park.

“We worked our socks off first half, we broke well and got ourselves into areas where we had shot,” he said.

“We had corners, free-kicks … so we certainly weren’t just parking the bus. I thought our boys showed energy, particularly when we went 1-0 down. For a 20-minute period you may not have known who was the Premier League side.”

The 32-year-old former Bristol City midfielder denied sentiment played a factor in the introduction of Anton Rodgers, an Ireland Under-19 international who has also played for Brighton and Hove Albion and Exeter City.

“He deserved it,” Johnson said of the young midfielder who joined in July and has made 13 appearances this season.

“I didn’t do it because it was Anton Rodgers, he’s played in the Cup and the games before and he was magnificent in the game against Wolves (Wolverhampton Wanderers)- probably one of the best displays all season when we beat them 2-0 away.

“I wanted to go with a group that deserved to play at Anfield, he certainly deserved his minutes.”

(Writing by Patrick Johnston; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

Australia hails ‘unlikely heroes’ for complete Ashes win

“Legends”, read the banner headline on the front page of the popular Daily Telegraph, “How sweet it is” splashed the Sydney Morning Herald, while The Australian went with “‘Unchangeables’ begin new era with whitewash”.

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Despite being only the third such Ashes sweep, there is a recognition inside and outside the team camp that the current Australia line-up cannot yet be compared with the last team to do it, Ricky Ponting’s star-studded 2006-7 outfit.

While that team featured the likes of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist, Michael Clarke’s party is largely made up of rejuvenated veterans like Mitchell Johnson and Brad Haddin and honest triers like Peter Siddle and Chris Rogers.

“This five-test whitewash was special because nothing remotely similar was expected of this lot,” Peter Lalor wrote on the front page of the Australian.

“In 2006-07 a team of champions did as champions do, while in 2013-14 a group of good cricketers touched greatness.”

It was a triumph born in pace bowling with Johnson, Ryan Harris and Siddle helping Australia, unchanged for all five tests, achieve what the 1920-21 and the 2006-7 teams could not manage – take all 100 England wickets for the first time.

“The spine will tingle even as the memory fades,” Malcolm Knox wrote in the Herald of a series which he said would be long remembered.

“There has been one common refrain: that shiver of excitement when Australia’s fast bowlers get going.

“Misty-eyed veterans talk of Lillee and Thomson, or Lindwall and Miller.

“Since the original whitewash, in 1920-21, the summer of Jack Gregory and Ted McDonald, the dangerous thrill of very fast bowling has been the animating spirit of Australian cricket.”

HARD ROAD

The triumph moved Australia up to third from fifth in the test rankings and captain Clarke said he thought they had the talent to fulfil his long-stated ambition of returning to the summit, even it would be a hard road.

That road starts at the end of the month when they head to South Africa to take on the current world number one team in a three test series.

“There is no easy cricket,” Clarke said after the 281-run victory at the Sydney Cricket Ground. “It’s hard in your backyard and it seems to be harder away from home so we have a lot of work to do.

“I believe we have the team to get success no matter where we play as long as we continue to play the way we’re playing and if we continue to work as hard as we’ve been working in preparation to become better players and a better team.

“We’re not going to win in South Africa and suddenly think we’re the best team in the world. It’s about consistency home and away over a long period of time.

“If you do that, you’ll get the results you’re after.”

Darren Lehmann, who has been integral to the transformation of the team since he took over from the sacked Micky Arthur after a 4-0 defeat in India, has already identified one area that will need improvement.

Australia needed wicketkeeper Haddin, batting at number seven, to ride to the rescue after the top order failed in the first innings of all five tests.

“We come up against South Africa away from home and we have to certainly improve our first innings batting,” Lehmann said.

“If you want to be the side we want to be we have to win away from home. Simple as that.

“We haven’t done it for a while so from our point of view we have to start to win in different conditions that are difficult against quality opposition.

“We need to improve and raise the bar.”

The players will have two days to enjoy their victory, including a public celebration outside Sydney Opera House on Tuesday, before they begin preparations for the one-day series against England and then South Africa.

“Is this a great Australian team? The South African tour will provide a tough, perhaps sobering test,” Richard Hinds wrote in the Telegraph.

“For now, it is a team that has performed great deeds with tremendous spirit and that is more than enough.”

(Editing by Patrick Johnston)

Over-heated Sousa takes Dakar opener

Portugal’s Carlos Sousa, driving a Haval, claimed the opening stage of the 36th Dakar Rally on Sunday, but double defending champion Stephane Peterhansel lost time after suffering a puncture.

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Sousa finished the 180km special from Rosario to San Luis in 2hr 20min 36sec with Argentina’s Orlando Terranova, in a Mini, 11 seconds behind and fellow Mini driver, Qatar’s 2011 champion Nasser Al-Attiyah, in third, 47 seconds back.

Sousa said he “suffered like a dog” after his Chinese-made Haval over-heated, sending dirty air into the driver’s compartment.

“Our car doesn’t have air conditioning and all the air inlets got clogged. After 50 kilometres, the turbo air outlet broke down and sent all the air directly towards me,” he said.

“It must have got hotter than 70 degrees centigrade and we had trouble breathing. The reason I drove so fast was that I wanted to get out of that inferno, but I really thought we wouldn’t make it.

“We suffered like dogs to earn it.”

France’s Peterhansel, in a third Mini, and seeking a 12th overall title (after six on motorcycles and five in cars), suffered a puncture and was down in sixth place, 4min 21sec behind Sousa.

“At 30km before the finish we had a flat tyre. Apart from the flat, I had good feelings with the car and the special. True, it wasn’t a great start, since losing three minutes in such a short special is nothing to write home about, but it’s a start nonetheless,” said Peterhansel.

Honda’s Joan Barreda clocked a time of 2hr 25min 31sec to take the motorcycle stage with Spanish compatriot Marc Coma, on a KTM, 37 seconds behind.

Frenchman Cyril Despres, the defending champion and seeking a sixth career title, was in third, 1min 40sec off the provisional leader.

“I’m really happy with the first stage. At the beginning I had some trouble easing into the race due to a slight problem with the suspension, but afterwards everything went smoothly,” said Barreda.

This year, 431 vehicles, taking part in the auto, motorbike, quad and lorry events, will cross Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.

But they could run into environmental protests along the way with fears over the impact of the race on the world’s highest salt flats at Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, despite only the motorcycles being allowed to cross into the country.

In Chile, concerns have been raised over possible damage caused by the vehicles roaring over the Inca Trail.

The second stage of the race on Monday is over 400km from San Luis to San Rafael.

Watch the 2014 Dakar Rally Daily Highlights after each stage, 5:30pm January 6-20 on SBS ONE and online at SBS On Demand.

Co-pilot dead in US private jet crash

A co-pilot was killed and two pilots injured when a private jet crashed and burst into flames at the airport that serves Aspen, the exclusive US skiing resort.

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Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the casualties after the plane smashed into the runway at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport in the state of Colorado.

“Three on board: one fatality, one serious and one minor injuries,” Pitkin County under-sheriff Ron Ryan told AFP in an email.

The victim was identified as 54-year-old co-pilot Sergio Carranza Brabata of Mexico, according to media reports which said the two survivors were pilots.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the plane was a Bombardier Challenger 600, a 22-seater aircraft travelling from Tucson in Arizona to Aspen.

It crashed while attempting to land, Kenitzer confirmed.

Photographs of the crash site on the website of Denver NBC television affiliate KUSA TV showed the blackened overturned fuselage of the plane on a snow-blanketed runway.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation, but tracking information from website FlightAware.com suggested the plane circled the airport three times before going in for the landing.

Aspen is a popular winter holiday destination beloved of celebrities. The comedian Kevin Nealon and the singer LeAnn Rimes both posted Tweets after witnessing the crash.

“Horrible plane crash here at Aspen airport. Exploded into flames as it was landing. I think it was a private jet,” wrote Nealon, best known for his recurring role in the television black comedy “Weeds”.

“Fire trucks and other emergency vehicles still at scene. No word on survivors or who was on jet but I can’t imagine there are survivors,” Nealon wrote on Twitter.

Rimes added: “So sad. Horrible plane crash we just saw happen at the Aspen airport.”