Troops ring Egypt court ahead of election ruling "Ž

Some 200 protesters were gathered outside the court, chanting slogans against Shafiq.

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Egypt’s top court will on Thursday examine a law which could disqualify one of two presidential candidates, in a legal crisis that threatens to derail an already tumultuous transition from Hosni Mubarak’s rule.

The Supreme Constitutional Court is to examine the legality of the political isolation law which bars senior officials of the Mubarak regime and top members of his now-dissolved National Democratic Party from running for public office for 10 years.

The law applies to those who served in the 10 years prior to Mubarak’s ouster on February 11, 2011 after a popular uprising.

If approved, the legislation will mean disqualification for Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister, who faces Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi in a presidential runoff on Saturday.

Shafiq was initially disqualified from standing in the election in accordance with the law passed by the Islamist-dominated parliament in April.

But in late April the electoral commission accepted an appeal from Shafiq against his disqualification and the case was referred to the court.

On Thursday, the Supreme Constitutional Court will first examine whether the electoral body had the right to refer the case, and if so, will then look into the legality of the text.

The hearing comes two days before the landmark presidential election to choose a successor for Mubarak.

In the first round of voting on May 23 and 24– which saw 13 candidates compete for the top job– Mursi won 24.7 percent of the vote, slightly ahead of Shafiq’s 23.6 percent.

The race has polarised the nation between those who fear a return to the old regime under Shafiq’s leadership and those wanting to keep religion out of politics and who accuse the Muslim Brotherhood — which already dominates parliament — of monopolising power since last year’s revolt.

The next president will inherit a struggling economy, deteriorating security and the challenge of uniting a nation divided by the uprising and its sometimes deadly aftermath, but his powers are yet to be defined by a new constitution.

At Thursday’s hearing, the court will also examine a High Administrative Court appeal over the constitutionality of aspects of a law governing legislative polls between last November and February that saw Islamists score a crushing victory.

Greece tops G8 agenda

The Group of Eight top economies come together as Greece faces its second election in just six weeks, putting its eurozone future in doubt and dragging down Spain, where the government is struggling to keep its banks afloat.

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“Time is clearly running out,” London-based analysts Capital Economics warned in a note over Greece’s continued political paralysis.

“If the government does not meet the conditions required to receive the next tranche of the bailout, it could run out of money before the end of the summer,” they said, referring to Greece’s EU-IMF loan lifeline.

“It has become obvious that the period up to the Greek elections will be volatile and nervous,” said the debt research wing of Dutch bank ING.

“Speculation regarding a (Greek) eurozone exit will continue and there is hardly anything that can be done about it,” they said.

European stock markets posted sharp losses, mirroring drops in Asia, though Madrid rose in an illustration of the extreme volatility at work.

Money flowed again into Germany, seen as the safest of bets against the risk of contagion from Greece, with investors worried that if Spain needs a bailout, the EU will be hard put to stump up enough rescue funding.

Ratings agency Moody’s downgraded 16 Spanish banks late on Thursday, citing concerns over the crisis, while figures showed the economy slumped in recession and bank bad loans at an 18-year high.

Germany sought to be reassuring on Friday, saying it had no reason to doubt that Spain could help its banks without seeking outside aid — the problem Ireland faced when it had to be bailed out in 2010.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meanwhile called for a stable Greek government to be formed quickly after elections June 17 in a telephone call with President Carolos Papoulias on Friday.

Merkel “repeated the German position that we are waiting for the elections and that it is the wish of all European partners… that a government is formed as quickly as possible,” a German spokesman said in Berlin.

In Athens, the prime minister’s office said the chancellor had in addition suggested the holding of a referendum alongside the June 17 vote, apparently with the aim of making the poll absolutely decisive.

Merkel “conveyed thoughts on holding a referendum alongside the election, on the question of whether Greek citizens wish to remain in the eurozone,” the premier’s office said in a statement.

But Merkel’s spokeswoman denied the report. “The information reported that the chancellor had suggested a referendum to the Greek President Carolos Papoulias is wrong,” she said.

Greek voters rejected painful spending cuts in a May 6 poll and could do so again June 17, raising concerns about the fate of the latest 237 billion euros ($300 billion) EU-IMF bailout package.

In Washington French President Francois Hollande said Greece should remain in the eurozone as Obama noted after talks that the region was of “extraordinary importance” not only to the people of Europe but to the global economy.

Latest opinion polls in Greece showed meanwhile that the conservative New Democracy party, which supported the EU-IMF rescue terms, would have 23.1 percent of the vote, up from the 18.85 percent it won on May 6.

The radical left Syriza party, which opposes the deal, was on 21 percent, up from its second-place finish with 16.8 percent, with analysts expecting the vote to turn into a straight fight over Greece’s future in the eurozone.

Many EU leaders insist that there can be no change to the terms of the debt deal but have also begun to allow some room for movement, especially as Hollande won power this month on a growth pledge.

European parliament chief Martin Schulz warned that a Greek exit from the eurozone could see its economy collapse in days, with untold consequences.

“Many people believe that it would be the end of a negative cycle but for me it would be the beginning of an even more negative cycle,” Schulz told German radio from Athens.

“We are all in the same boat,” Schulz added after a meeting with conservative leader Antonis Samaras.

In Athens, a caretaker government took office on Thursday after the May 6 vote left Greece in limbo.

Since there is no provision for an orderly exit from the 17-nation currency bloc, the prospect is for chaos if Athens cannot stick to the tough terms of the latest bailout deal.

Panagiotis Pikrammenos, 67, Greece’s caretaker premier, told his colleagues: “We must not forget that all of Europe is watching us… The country must honour the obligations it has undertaken.”

Mortgage market ‘not rotten’ in Denmark

It’s been 200 years since someone defaulted on home loan payment in Demark and the unique model uses the same ‘toxic’ assets that led to the sub-prime crisis.

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Danes have the reputation of being life-loving, friendly people with a developed sense of environmental awareness.

They aren’t known as particularly talented finance engineers – but this could all change. In the first four months of 2012, the OMX-C-20, the leading index on the Copenhagen stock exchange, took a sprint forward that left everybody else well behind.

The Danes pride themselves on being the best in the world in one very specific area: mortgages.

They have a good reason for being so proud: the Danish mortgage model is truly worthy of admiration.

It was created in 1795, following the Great Fire in Copenhagen. In its 200 years of existence, the mortgage bond market has never known a single case of default.

Yet the market is relatively huge: the country’s 5.5 million citizens have a collective mortgage debt of over 320 billion euros, which is about 50% higher than the national debt.

By way of comparison, Switzerland with its 8 million people has 800 billion Swiss francs (666 billion euros) in property loans, amounting to 3.7 times the national debt.

And while Scandinavians in general have the reputation for being pro-state, the Danish mortgage bond market is a real market – but one that’s intelligently constructed and sensibly regulated. It’s based on a few simple principles.

House owners take out long-term loans, with an 80% lending limit for residential property and 60% limit for business real estate.

The terms of the mortgages are not negotiated between a bank and the borrower. Rather, financial institutions act as brokers, who bundle loans into obligations and sell them on to investors who buy directly or via general, specialized funds.

The mortgage institutions earn a small margin on these transactions.

COLLATERAL DEBT OBLIGATIONS DON’T HAVE TO BE TOXIC

Bundling mortgages and selling them on the market as obligations? That idea should get a few alarm bells ringing.

Because exactly that is the underlying idea behind Collateral Debt Obligations, the nefarious CDOs that made the American subprime market possible and led to the irresponsible sale of over-valued real estate to under-capitalized wannabee homeowners.

CDOs relieved the banks of their control duties and contributed significantly to the US real estate bubble, the bursting of which unleashed the world financial crisis.

Nowadays, CDOs are considered toxic junk that responsible investors won’t touch. Yet this system is supposed to work in some miraculous way for the Danes?

The Danish mortgage bond market works because it differs from the failed American bond experiment in critical ways – the main one being the “balance principle” which stipulates that the needs of both lenders and borrowers have to be in synch.

In other words, a borrower can only get a mortgage after a bank has established under what terms he or she could reasonably be expected to service that loan, and if the lender is agreed.

Selling the debts to third parties is forbidden, as is granting mortgages to borrowers with low credit. Added to the 80% limit there is enough protection to prevent a U.S.-style real estate crisis.

Yet there’s also enough room within the system to be able to use market advantages. Danish homeowners don’t have to opt for long-term mortgages with fixed interest or LIBOR rates to get cheap interest rates. The can refinance, or pay a mortgage back and then take out another one at a lower rate.

As a rule, the return on Danish mortgage obligations is 100 to 150 basis points higher than the return on Danish government bonds.

US whistleblower Snowden ‘missing’ in Hong Kong

Snowden, a 29-year-old technology expert working for a private firm subcontracted to the US National Security Agency, checked out of his Hong Kong hotel after revealing his identity to the British-based Guardian newspaper on Sunday.

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The private contractor has become an instant hero for transparency advocates and libertarians around the globe following his exposure of the NSA’s worldwide monitoring of private users web traffic and phone records.

But the US government appeared to be gearing up to take action against Snowden on Monday with senior lawmakers branding his actions as “treason” and saying he should be extradited from Hong Kong as quickly as possible.

California’s Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein — chair of the Senate Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence — declined to go into specifics but said US authorities were vigorously pursuing Snowden.

“All the departments are proceeding, I think, aggressively,” Feinstein told US media, describing Snowden’s actions as “treason.”

Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, has had an extradition agreement with the United States for more than a decade.

“The extradition agreement with Hong Kong was signed in 1996 and entered into force in 1998. It is still in force, and we’ve actively used it over the years,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Lawmakers from across the political spectrum lined up to demand Snowden’s speedy return to America as a Washington Post poll indicated that public opinion placed a higher importance on investigating possible terrorist threats rather than protecting an indidivual’s personal privacy.

Florida’s Democratic Senator, Bill Nelson, said Snowden should be prosecuted for treason.

“This is not a whistleblower, I think this is an act of treason,” he said. “This is deliberately taking highly, highly, super-compartmented classified information, and giving it directly out. He ought to be prosecuted under the law.”

President Barack Obama’s spy chief, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, has described Snowden’s leaks as gravely damaging to US security, and referred the matter to the Justice Department, which has launched an investigation.

The White House declined to comment on the case, citing the ongoing probe.

But a spokesman confirmed that Clapper will carry out an assessment of the damage allegedly wrought by the leaks, and confirmed that Obama had been briefed by senior staff over the weekend about the revelations.

Snowden told the Guardian he hopes to win asylum in Iceland, but the head of Iceland’s Directorate of Immigration said it had received no formal request and said Snowden would have to be on Icelandic soil to make one.

There was much speculation Monday about Hong Kong’s likely stance in the event Washington asks for Snowden’s extradition, and analysts divided on whether the territory’s ultimate rulers in Beijing would intervene.

The case has also turned the spotlight on the United States’ widespread use of outside contractors for sensitive intelligence work; Snowden is a former low-level CIA employee now employed by private outfit Booz Allen Hamilton.

Snowden and his many supporters, who have taken to the Internet to condemn the US government and the private web giants which cooperated with its secret surveillance, defended his actions, saying he had struck a blow for freedom.

“My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them,” Snowden said, in a Guardian video.

He said he had gone public because he could not “allow the US government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

Snowden flew to Hong Kong on May 20 after copying at the NSA’s office in Hawaii the documents he intended to disclose, the Guardian said.

The US consulate in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong security bureau refused to comment on the case, but a senior pro-Beijing lawmaker in Hong Kong told reporters Snowden should probably leave the city.

Hong Kong is “obliged to comply with the terms of agreements” with the US government, Regina Ip said.

Under the PRISM program, revealed by Snowden, the NSA can issue directives to Internet firms like Google or Facebook to win access to emails, online chats, pictures, files, videos and more, uploaded by foreign users.

On Monday, rights watchdog the American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion with the FISA court demanding it publish its findings as to the scope and constitutionality of its powers to trawl Internet and phone records.

“The government appears to have secretly given itself shockingly broad surveillance powers,” ACLU staff attorney Alexander Abdo said.

Red Cross launches refugee app

The Australian Red Cross has released a new smartphone gaming app that challenges users to make some of the life-and-death decisions faced by refugees.

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“And Then I Was a Refugee…” begins in West Somalia, where users select one of two characters.

When their village is attacked by rebels, users are required to make a series of decisions to progress in the game.

The scenarios range from deciding whether or not to join the rebels, to possibly accepting help from a people smuggler.

“Some of our staff came forward with this idea for a project that would bring Australians face to face with a refugee journey,” said Australian Red Cross CEO Robert Tickner.

“We’ve got a very clear idea of the real life challenges people face when they’re essentially running for their life.

“I think it’s true to say that there’s been a little bit of hardening of the heart in some sections of the community. I think good public policy will best be formulated when we have an informed community.”

Tech journalist Valens Quinn from the Gadget Group says the game was an innovative way for the Red Cross to spread its message.

“It does compel you, because it’s story-driven,” he said. “It’s very educational and it does achieve the goals, which are to educate people about the challenges facing refugees, and the Red Cross’ role in helping them.”

But Quinn says the game’s effectiveness beyond the realm of education is limited.

“I think [its message] could be overlooked by users. In the game genre you’re looking for entertainment, so I don’t know why you’d want to download something as heavy as this just for fun.

“You can’t think of it as a traditional game. It’s a purpose-built tool to help build compassion and understanding.”

The Red Cross recommends the app for people aged nine and over.

Robert Tickner said teenagers were the most likely to take an interest in it, and the feedback he’s received so far has been positive.

“No description is perfect, it’s obviously simulated,” he said. “But I think it’s a good simulation that raises exactly the kind of practical challenges that people face.

“We want to employ cutting edge communication ideas for all our work.”

The app is available here for Android devices and here for Apple devices.

To find out more, or to make a donation, visit redcross.org.au/mobile

US lifts Burma import ban

The Obama administration said that the world’s largest economy would open up to products from the long-isolated nation with the exception of gems, a sector seen as a major driver of corruption and violence.

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The move is “intended to support the Burmese government’s ongoing reform efforts and to encourage further change, as well as to offer new opportunities for Burmese and American businesses,” a statement said.

The statement, issued by the State Department and Treasury Department, said Burma’s government and opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi both supported the step to “further integrate their country into the global economy.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had pledged to normalize trade relations with Burma when she met in September in New York with President Thein Sein, who has startled critics by launching a wave of democratic reforms.

Obama on Monday will become the first sitting US president to visit Burma, a trip that just years ago would be considered unthinkable. Aides said Obama would encourage further change in the nation historically in China’s orbit.

The administration’s statement said that despite the “positive changes,” the United States remained concerned about continued political prisoners, ethnic conflict, corruption and Burma’s lingering military ties to North Korea.

The administration issued a waiver on the import ban, which was imposed by Congress in 2003, and the law remains in place if officials decide to resume the sanctions.

The US move could bring major growth to Burma’s garment industry, as the United States was once the main buyer of clothes made in the low-cost nation. Total US imports from Burma hit a high of $470 million in 2001.

Alongside the announcement on imports, the Treasury Department added seven names to a blacklist of Burmese firms with which US companies are barred from doing business.

The companies, four of which have addresses in Singapore, are considered front companies by two “cronies of the former regime,” the Treasury Department said.

Burma nominally ended nearly half a century of military rule last year. Thein Sein, a former general, has since freed political prisoners, reached out to ethnic rebels and eased censorship.

Some human rights groups have accused Obama of moving too quickly, saying that he could use the prospect of a trip or the easing of sanctions as incentives for further steps such as ensuring free elections.

But US lawmakers have largely supported Obama as he has taken steps with the blessing of Suu Kyi, who has entered parliament after nearly two decades under house arrest. Suu Kyi enjoyed a hero’s welcome when she visited Washington in September.

Representative Joe Crowley of New York, a longtime champion of sanctions bills on Burma, said he agreed with Suu Kyi in supporting the waiver.

“The ball is now clearly in the Burmese regime’s court and we call on them to respond with concrete action, by expeditiously releasing all remaining political prisoners, putting a firm end to ethnic violence and implementing constitutional reform,” said Crowley, a member of Obama’s Democratic Party.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the chamber and a frequent critic of Obama, has long been active on Myanmar policy and said he spoke to the president about his trip.

“I want to commend him for going. I think it is an important step for him to take,” McConnell said.

The Obama administration earlier gave the green light for US companies to invest in oil and gas in Myanmar, despite Suu Kyi’s warnings that the sector is rife with abuse, although the opposition leader later planned down the rift.

The steps put the United States closer in line with the European Union, Canada and Australia, which have suspended virtually all sanctions on Myanmar. Japan has forgiven $3.8 billion of Myanmar’s debt.

PREVIEW-Soccer-River aim to strike it rich with Colombia’s Gutierrez

Gutierrez forced his way out of Mexico’s Cruz Azul to fulfil his dream to play for River as soon as coach Ramon Diaz showed an interest in bringing the striker back to Buenos Aires.

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The Colombian had a controversial spell at Racing in the 2011/12 season where, after a home match in which he was sent off, he pulled a gun out of his bag in the dressing room and pointed it at team mates.

Although it turned out to be a toy gun, it was the final straw for a squad who had mixed feelings about the player, a great talent but a trouble-maker, who often got himself sent off for reacting to minor provocations leaving his team man short.

“Now my toy, the one I’ll always carry (in my bag), is not a revolver but a ball…I want to show I’ve matured,” the practising Christian told the sports daily Ole this week.

Gutierrez put his career back on track at Atletico Junior, in his home city of Barranquilla, earning a place in the Colombia attack alongside Radamel Falcao in the World Cup qualifiers and a lucrative move to Cruz Azul.

As a fan of River, where Colombians Juan Pablo Angel, Mario Yepes and Falcao first made their names, Gutierrez could not resist the call from former River, Inter Milan and Argentina striker Diaz.

“The quality of River’s game is admired the world over, they’re a team that go out to win on any ground,” the 28-year-old said.

“I’ve come to a very powerful club in all senses, it’s like saying I’m at Barcelona or Real Madrid.”

Diaz discarded former France striker David Trezeguet and set his sights on a younger top quality striker to win the “Inicial” championship, first of two in the season.

BOCA REBUILD

Trezeguet, still keen to play in the Argentine league at 35, has gone on loan to title holders Newell’s Old Boys, winners of the “Final” championship in June.

He fills the void left by the departure to Brazil’s International of Argentina striker Ignacio Scocco in a $6.5 million deal, a big money transfer by South American standards.

River’s arch-rivals Boca Juniors, who had a poor 2012/13 season finishing near the bottom of the “Final”, have strengthened their defence with the return from Europe of centre back Daniel ‘Cata’ Diaz and holding midfielder Fernando Gago.

Up front, Boca coach Carlos Bianchi has off-loaded Uruguayan striker Santiago ‘Tank’ Silva and brought in Emanuel Gigliotti, who scored 21 goals for Colon last season.

Boca last won the first division crown in the 2011 Apertura championship while River, having won the 2011-12 Primera B National second tier title after their traumatic relegation a year earlier, are looking for their first since the 2008 Clausura.

The Boca-River “superclasico”, the biggest game on the Argentine league calendar, delivered two mediocre draws last season but the team building efforts of their coaches are full of the promise of a great clash when they meet at the Monumental in October.

Independiente’s shock relegation means the second biggest derby in the Buenos Aires suburb of Avellaneda against arch-rivals Racing is off the calendar.

However, two other major “clasicos” are back.

Rosario Central were promoted as B National champions and will renew hostilities with Newell’s Old Boys while Gimnasia’s promotion means the revival of the La Plata derby against Estudiantes.

(Writing by Rex Gowar in London. Editing by Patrick Johnston)

Greek, Spanish crises deepen

Spain’s banks fell deeper into a loans crisis and Greece tottered closer to bankruptcy as markets swung wildly ahead of a Camp David summit to prevent a eurozone catastrophe.

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Infected by a sense of crisis rippling from Athens across the eurozone, volatile trading gripped Spain’s markets, with its most troubled bank, Bankia, leaping more than 25 percent just one day after plummeting.

Spanish banks reported that doubtful loans had climbed to 147.968 billion euros ($188 billion) in March, equal to an 18-year record 8.37 percent of the total, central bank data showed.

But only hours after Moody’s Investors Service announced a severe downgrade of 16 Spanish banks by one to three notches, citing a recession and the state’s reduced creditworthiness, Spain’s bank stocks soared.

Bankia, subject to rumours of a bank run the day before, and nationalised only last week to salvage a balance sheet heavily exposed to Spain’s collapsed property sector, leapt 25.88 percent by late morning.

Formed in 2010 from a merger of seven savings banks, Bankia alone had problematic property assets amounting to 31.8 billion euros at the end of last year, Bank of Spain figures show.

“Investors are now starting to believe that the more money some of the peripheral states have to pour into the banks, the more likely it is that the states themselves will need a bailout,” said Capital Spreads analyst Angus Campbell.

“Spain is a case in point,” he said in a report.

Pablo del Barrio, analyst at Spanish brokerage XTB, said Bankia stock had been subject to speculation in past days and investors may now be anticipating a government clampdown to stop short-selling.

But “Greece is the reason for all of this,” Del Barrio said.

Germany tried to shore up confidence.

“We currently have no reason to doubt … that Spain will manage to overcome the crisis with its own means,” finance ministry spokeswoman Silke Bruns told a news conference in Berlin.

Greek voters rejected painful spending cuts in a deadlocked May 6 poll and they are expected to do so again in a June 17 election.

Such as result would cast in grave doubt its latest EU-IMF bailout package worth 240 billion euros ($300 billion) and, officials have warned, could lead to its exit from the eurozone, with unknown consequences.

Fitch Ratings agency cited the prospect of another inconclusive election and Greece being forced out of the eurozone as it cut its rating on the country’s debt to “CCC” or vulnerable to default on Thursday.

Del Barrio argued that the market storm could be calmed by measures to prevent investor speculation and by strong European Central Bank action to increase liquidity.

US President Barack Obama is to raise actions Europe could take on its debt crisis at a Group of Eight summit in Camp David starting Friday, as Washington seeks more growth-oriented policies.

“People are waiting for weekend’s G8 meeting — to see if we can extract from it some kind of strong action by the central banks, and especially the European Central Bank,” Del Barrio said.

“We have entered into a negative dynamic and one way of braking it is with this type of action – banning speculation and an injection of liquidity by the European Central Bank would help a lot to soothe concerns,” he said.

A caretaker government took office in Athens on Thursday to organise its second election in six weeks.

The International Monetary Fund said it would hold off on official contacts with Greece until after the elections.

The IMF, which along with the EU is all that stand between Greece and a disorderly default, has warned that no new funds will be released without progress on pledged reforms.

The suspension of contacts effectively delays a review due to have begun soon on which the release of $1.6 billion by the IMF from the beginning of June was dependent.

But in a videoconference held Thursday evening the leaders of Britain, Germany, France, Italy and senior EU officials sought to address an emerging split that threatened to paralyse European policymaking.

“There was a high degree of agreement that fiscal consolidation and growth are not mutually exclusive but that both are needed,” a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in an email.

New French President Francois Hollande was elected on a promise to negotiate the new EU fiscal pact to include growth measures, with Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici warning Thursday it would not ratify the treaty unless the issue is addressed.

Merkel, the leading proponent of the fiscal pact, has said cutting budget deficits is a necessary precondition for long-term growth.

British Prime Minister David Cameron had earlier called for eurozone leaders to take decisive action or face the break up of the single currency.

Are you ‘casually homophobic’?

Patrick Abboud reports.

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How many times have you heard someone say the words “faggot” or “that’s so gay” at school or at work? Maybe you’ve even dropped the F-bomb yourself in ‘friendly’ banter at the pub or online.

Welcome to the language of “casual homophobia” – otherwise known as slurs that aren’t always meant to be harmful, but are often used without thinking of the consequences.

A new website Nohomophobes.com shows the prevalence of “casual homophobia” on Twitter around the world in real-time using four key search terms – “faggot”, “no homo”, “so gay” and “dyke”. The site works via a sophisticated application programming interface (API) that tracks homophobic language on Twitter literally as it happens.

An interactive ticker allows you to view different timeframes and compare the four terms being tracked. If the frequency doesn’t shock you enough check out the flood of offensive terms via a continuous scrolling stream of tweets containing any of these terms. Here’s one I just pulled out randomly:

“If you wear a seat belt in the backseat, you’re a faggot”

Although the site went up in July in test mode as it was being built, its just officially launched around the globe. As you can see in the graphic above the word “faggot” has already been used more than 2.7 million times.

At the time of publishing this article today “faggot” is saturating the Twitter sphere appearing 25,890 times and counting…

“We know that homophobic language remains one of the few socially acceptable forms of discrimination in society. When that goes unchecked it often leads to the isolation, bullying, violence, beating and in many tragic cases suicide of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning and Intersex (LGBTQI) youth,” says the sites creator, Dr Kris Wells Associate Director of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies at the University of Alberta.

“Words like that’s so gay that are used a lot perhaps in schools and amongst younger people – they throw them thrown around without thinking they have any impact – where faggot is just used to mean something stupid or dumb and what we see is that people are becoming so desensitised and fail to recognise that much of this language has a great deal of painful and horrible history behind it,” he says.

Dr Wells has welcomed an overwhelming response to the site with universities, schools and community organisations from across the globe sending requests for permission to use it as an educational tool.

“I’ve been contacted by professors and faculty members from all over the world who are in awe of what this website is showing. We hope that parents will also use it to talk to their kids about the language they are using at school.”

The launch of this campaign could not be more timely says Mandy Hudson, Manager of Safe Schools Symposium for the Foundation for Young Australians.

“Websites like NoHomophobes.com could provide a useful tool to highlight the use of homophobic language in our society, but we also need to create strategies to continually respond to this,” she says.

The national Safe Schools Symposium brings together for the first time initiatives from organisations around the country tackling discrimination against young GLBTQI Australians.

“The inaugural national Safe Schools Symposium is a first step towards learning from one another and creating an integrated approach across Australia in schools to work on equipping schools, educators, students and governments to create schools that are free of homophobia and transphobia,” says Ms Hudson.

Recent research in Australia shows that young, same-sex attracted people are affected by homophobic language, even if it may not be intended that way.

“People often use the word gay, not even homophobic people. They don’t see it as an insult, they’re not trying to be insulting, but I’m insulted,” says one student who responded to a questionnaire as part of the Writing Themselves In 3 report by the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University.

Dr Wells set up Nohomopobes.com in the hope that people will think twice before they tweet. “This kind of language is offensive, pervasive, it’s damaging. I remember seeing a tweet from a young person who saw the website and responded back saying…

“Now you know what my daily reality is like”.

The Safe Schools Symposium will take place in Melbourne on October 20th.

In the audio interview below Dr Wells explains how the site filters work to measure the frequency of the key terms in context to ensure accuracy.

Riot, arrests after Dutch Facebook party

After a night of violence when police officers were pelted with stones, bottles, tubs of flowers and even bicycles, local officials lined up to denounce those responsible and promise they would be brought to justice.

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The estimate of “at least” a million euros ($1.3 million) by the Dutch Association of Insurers (Verbond van Verzekeraars) was part of the fall-out from Friday night’s clashes in the northern town of Haren.

Insurers “would do everything” to ensure the guilty parties contributed to covering the cost of the wreckage, echoing earlier remarks by the justice minister, the association said, Dutch news agency ANP reported.

Their association backed a statement released earlier by Dutch Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten.

“This cannot be tolerated,” said the minister.

“The authors of these acts will be judged, punished and should pay for the damage done,” he added, ANP reported.

Local police chief Oscar Drots, speaking at a news conference aired on public television, said all 34 people arrested would be charged with public disturbance.

Officers had also taken photos of the clashes, he added, which left open the possibility of further arrests.

“An innocent call on Facebook to party led to riots, destruction, looting, fires and injuries in the centre of the town,” Haren mayor Rob Bats said at the same press conference.

The unrest had meant that 500 police officers had to be called to the scene, he added.

Twenty-nine people, including three officers, were injured during the clashes, but no one was seriously hurt, according to Dutch news reports.

Police had been on high alert after the birthday girl posted a message inviting friends to her 16th birthday party on Friday — but forgot to mark it as a private event. That prompted more than 20,000 replies.

Several websites quickly sprang up dedicated to the party, with one publishing the girl’s address and adding, “By all means bring some friends!”

Local officials said between 3,000 and 5,000 people had turned up in the small town, which is home to only 18,000 residents.

Officials had prepared for trouble by blocking access to the girl’s street, banning alcohol consumption near her home and having the teeenager herself quit the premises.

But riot police had to intervene when a couple of hundred drunken youths tried to get into the street.

After pelting the police with missiles as they tried to force their way into the street, groups of rioters moved on to the centre of the town where they wrecked cars, fencing, street lamps and signs.

Some of the party-goers wore T-shirts bearing the words “Project X Haren,” an allusion to the 2012 US teen film “Project X” — about a suburban birthday party that gets out of control after an invitation goes viral.

Previous “Project X” parties have run riot in different parts of the world including Germany, Australia and especially the United States, where teens wrecked an unoccupied Texas home, causing damage of up to $100,000.

Olympian Scott Miller gets bail

Olympic swimmer Scott Miller has been granted bail over his third round of drugs charges with his lawyer arguing he is unlikely to reoffend because of his notoriety.

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Miller appeared in Sydney’s Central Local Court on Tuesday via video link from Silverwater jail where he has spent the last 10 days in custody.

Police allegedly discovered 7.75 grams of the prohibited drug ice when they searched him at Potts Point on July 20.

He was charged with supplying an indictable quantity of a prohibited drug.

In court the prosecution said Miller had a clear drug problem and was likely to reoffend if granted bail or until he received treatment.

Miller’s lawyer Gregory Goold said his client would plead guilty to the lesser offence of drug possession if testing confirmed the substance to be prohibited.

He also said the substance was initially weighed with its packaging and when weighed alone may fall below the maximum personal use amount of 5g.

“He sees the gravity of his problem,” Mr Goold said.

“He wants to get help.”

Mr Goold also said Miller was unlikely to possess illegal drugs due to his status in the community.

“The prospect of him reoffending are dimmed by that notoriety,” he said.

Magistrate Les Mabbutt considered both arguments, noting Miller’s reputation as an Olympian, and granted him strict conditional bail.

He is not allowed to enter the Kings Cross area, which is adjacent to Potts Point, he must report daily to police and he must not leave his nearby Edgecliff unit between 8pm and 7am.

Other conditions include an acceptable person providing $5000 in surety to be forfeited if he breaches his bail.

His matter will come before Downing Centre Local Court on September 17.

Outside court, Mr Goold said Miller needed rehabilitation.

“He’s pleased and he’s confident that he’ll turn his life around,” he said.

“He certainly denies that he’s a drug dealer.”

His arrest came 10 days after he appeared in Waverley Local Court and pleaded not guilty to drugs charges and possessing more than $16,000 in cash.

He was on bail for those offences at the time of his most recent arrest.

Miller will appear at Downing Centre in August on those charges.

The court also heard of his 2009 conviction of two counts of drug supply and one count of receiving stolen property.

Pat Richards eyes Challenge Cup glory

Pat Richards stands on the verge of a final Wembley appearance, but the Wigan Warriors star has no intention of underestimating London Broncos in this weekend’s Challenge Cup semi-finals.

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For Richards, who will return to the NRL with West Tigers next season after eight years with Wigan, this is his last chance to repeat the club’s Challenge Cup triumph back in 2011.

The gap between the Broncos and the Warriors could hardly be bigger in Super League, with the London side rooted to the bottom while Richards and company were only removed from top spot on Monday after defeat against St Helens.

But Richards knows the knockout nature of the Challenge Cup means form goes out the window for Saturday’s clash in Leigh.

“I’ve been at Wigan eight years and I’ve only been to Wembley once so they don’t come around too often and you have to enjoy them,” Richards said.

“It’s my last chance to play at Wembley and in any year, you don’t know what’s going to happen

“We’re only 80 minutes away but we can’t be thinking about Wembley yet as we need to beat London.

“Every year – it doesn’t matter if I’m going home this year or not – it’s about winning and we’re in a good position to do that.

“Over the years, it’s always been a David v Goliath sort of thing and that’s what excites you about the Challenge Cup. Like the FA Cup and football, it throws up some great occasions.”

If the Broncos are to score a major upset this weekend then a lot of responsibility falls on the shoulders of former St George Illawarra five-eighth Jamie Soward.

The 28-year-old was drafted in only last month with the Challenge Cup run almost exclusively in mind and the short-term signing is relishing the chance to sample the cup atmosphere as an underdog.

“This was the main reason for me coming to London this season on a short-term deal,” he said.

“I know the responsibility on my shoulders but I have to focus on my own job and see how we go from there.”

In Sunday’s second semi-final, holders Warrington Wolves face Hull FC at the John Smith’s Stadium in Huddersfield.

And Wolves skipper Brett Hodgson, who spent two seasons with the Giants in Super League, cannot wait to return to his former home.

“It’s a huge game for both clubs and we’ll be treating it like a final,” he said.

“It’s also a bit like a home game for me because I still live over that way and I have some great memories from playing in Huddersfield.

“Hopefully I’ll add another one this weekend.”

There is one re-arranged game scheduled this weekend in Super League as well with reigning Grand Final winners Leeds travelling to Wakefield hoping to beat their Yorkshire rivals for the second time in a week.

SBW hit not a shoulder charge: Robinson

Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson is confident Sonny Bill Williams will be cleared by the NRL match review committee on Monday following his shoulder charge to the head of Newcastle’s Willie Mason.

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Williams was put on report after flooring Mason midway through the opening period of the Roosters’ 28-12 win over the Knights at Hunter Stadium and looks certain to be sanctioned.

Robinson felt otherwise.

“That arm is sort of separated from the side so it’s not a shoulder charge,” Robinson said.

“Obviously he hit him high so that is probably the worry. The arm has to be tucked into the side and there’s a separation between the arm and the body. That’s not a shoulder charge.”

Williams has already been charged with a grade one careless high tackle on Parramatta’s Matt Ryan in round 13 this season and had 56 carryover points from that offence.

If he’s hit with a similar grading he’ll spend some time on the sidelines unless he opts to fight the charge in front of the NRL judiciary on Wednesday.

Mason admits he was rattled by the shot before being forced off with a suspected torn calf muscle before halftime.

“I am not the sort of bloke, in my whole career of 13 or 14 years to stay down,” said Mason, who felt he’d been targeted by his former team.

“He hit me with a shoulder to the head if you look through my whole career it’s a pretty hard head to knock out.

“But we’ll see what happens. The judiciary can take care of that.

“His tackling technique in the mid 2000s that would be legal. But now it’s illegal and now it’s up to the judiciary.”

The victory consolidated the Roosters’ spot behind leaders South Sydney but Robinson said his side needed to massively improve their discipline after being slugged 14-9 in the penalty count.

However, he was delighted with how his side held on in the second half when the Knights were on top but failed to score a try before opting to kick a penalty in front of the posts.

“We were pretty happy, the boys were pretty excited about that,” he said.

“We knew they couldn’t break our defence so they opted for the two points. That was pretty good on our behalf.”

Tries from Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Michael Jennings, Sam Moa and Williams sealed the two points with Darius Boyd and James McManus crossing for the hosts.

Knights coach Wayne Bennett wasn’t too despondent by his side’s performance and said he saw enough to leave him confident of making the finals.

The veteran coach also defended his decision to take the two points midway through the second half when a try looked certain to come soon.

“I thought we were losing our way. I just thought someone should have went to the sin-bin, first and foremost, for repeated infringements,” he said.

“It was obviously deliberate and we looked like we were getting pretty frustrated.

“I thought the next thing we’ll do is lose a ball and give a penalty away, so let’s take the two and settle ourselves down.

“We then came back with some really good shape but we threw a forward pass when we looked like we were going to do something.”

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