Downer dragged further into Trump probe

n ambassador Alexander Downer has again been dragged into the FBI’s Russian probe.Alexander Downer has been dragged further into America’s fiery political debate over Russian meddling in US President Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory with a new report linking ‘s former foreign affairs minister to a $25 million donation to the Clinton Foundation.

Washington DC-based news website The Hill reported Mr Downer played a role in the n government awarding $25 million more than a decade ago to help the Clinton Foundation fight HIV-AIDS in Papua New Guinea and Asia.

US congressman Jim Jordan, a Republican and chairman of a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee, jumped on the link between Mr Downer and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her husband, former US president Bill Clinton.

A spokesman for Ms Clinton, however, called the link “pathetic” and “laughable” and a top Democrat said Republicans were attempting “to defame our n partners as a way of undermining the Russia probe”.

Mr Downer and Mr Clinton signed a memorandum of understanding for the grant in February 2006.

“The Clintons’ tentacles go everywhere,” Mr Jordan told The Hill.

Mr Downer, ‘s High Commissioner to the UK, first emerged as an important figure in the Russian meddling controversy late last year.

The New York Times reported former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos told Mr Downer during “a night of heavy drinking” in London in May 2016 that Russia had political dirt on Ms Clinton.

Mr Downer passed the information to n intelligence officials who forwarded it to their US counterparts.

It led the FBI to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the presidential election.

Republican members of congress are concerned Mr Downer’s connection to the Clinton Foundation confirmed nearly all of the early evidence the FBI used to justify its investigation into Mr Trump came from Clinton supporters, including the dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele.

Mrs Clinton’s spokesman, Nick Merrill, slammed the effort to link Mr Downer and the 2006 grant to the Russia probe.

“The idea that this has anything to do with his government deciding a decade earlier to partner on HIV/AIDS work with the Clinton Foundation, or the fact that as a United Nations envoy, he met with Secretary Clinton at the State Department, is laughable,” Mr Merrill told The Hill.

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the US House Intelligence panel, defended .

“Not content to disparage our British allies and one of their former intelligence officers, the majority now seeks to defame our n partners as a way of undermining the Russia probe,” Mr Schiff said.

‘s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued a statement defending the grant and its “strong outcomes” in fighting HIV-AIDS.

“The funding provided to the Clinton Foundation and its affiliate was used solely for agreed development projects,” DFAT said.

Cleary to blossom in halves pairing: Lewis

Former NSW stars Josh Reynolds and Luke Lewis have tipped Nathan Cleary to join the Blues’ ranks.Rivals have already given Penrith’s new halves pairing the stamp of approval, with Cronulla’s Luke Lewis claiming it will help Nathan Cleary blossom into a player to “build the NSW team around”.

Cleary will combine for the first time with prize recruit James Maloney when Penrith host Parramatta in their NRL season-opener on Sunday.

But Wests Tigers playmaker Josh Reynolds is already toasting their combination, tipping the duo to “dominate” teams.

“Jimmy’s biggest asset is his running game,” Reynolds said of Maloney on Fox League’s NRL 360.

“I think if Cleary takes on ball control his running game will just open up so much for Penrith and I think that is where they will dominate teams.

“He (Maloney) is a great ball player too and confident enough to take opportunities when they arise – I think they will be great together.”

NSW coach Brad Fittler has already thrown down the challenge for the new Panthers halves, saying they have a golden opportunity to nail down Blues spots this year.

Cleary, 20, is poised to nab the NSW No.7 jersey off Mitchell Pearce if he can combine with incumbent Blues No.6 Maloney.

“When we played Penrith (last year) that’s what I found – he was real calm, relaxed, nothing seemed to faze him too much and his kicking game was spot on,” Lewis told Fox League.

“I think he is the bloke to build the NSW side around.

“He’s got Origin written all over him.”

Nonetheless, Lewis says Panthers fans will need to be patient with their star duo.

“It’s the combination that he (Cleary) builds in the next six to 12 months (that) will nail … that Origin spot,” he said.

“I think they have got a good balance there.

“I think the combination will take a little bit just to get used to each other.”

Cleary’s main rival for a NSW halves spot is set to be Parramatta playmaker Mitchell Moses, who played under Fittler in Lebanon’s Rugby League World Cup campaign.

They line up against each other on Sunday.

Maloney arrived at Penrith in the off-season as part of a player swap with Matt Moylan after two years at Cronulla.

Xenophon calls for better elder care

New laws to stamp out abuse of the elderly have been proposed by SA-BEST leader Nick Xenophon.SA-BEST party leader Nick Xenophon has proposed new laws to protect vulnerable South ns from neglect as well as psychological, physical and sexual abuse.

The proposals come in the wake of the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s report into Adelaide’s scandal-plagued Oakden nursing home, which revealed a shockingly poor level of care.

“If we win enough seats at the state election, one of our first priorities will be ensuring we move immediately to introduce measures to protect vulnerable adult South ns, particularly the elderly, from abuse,” Mr Xenophon said on Wednesday.

The proposals include the establishment of a vulnerable adult protection unit to investigate allegations of abuse, and the introduction of penalties for health care staff, administrators or even ministers who fail to report abuse.

SA-BEST will also support the use of CCTV cameras in residential care facilities and work with the state and federal governments to develop assessment tools to better identify people at risk.

The former senator joined Premier Jay Weatherill and opposition spokesperson Stephen Wade for a leaders forum on ageing on Wednesday.

Among the topics discussed was the installation of CCTV cameras in aged care facilities for the protection of residents.

The state government last week said surveillance cameras will be installed in aged-care homes as part of the response to the Oakden affair.

“We’ve looked at our legislation, the state legislation, and there’s no barrier to that being introduced in federally-registered or -supervised aged care facilities,” Mr Weatherill said.

“There are probably some important questions about whether they are in common areas or whether they’re in private rooms, and the distinction between those matters.”

New state-run facilities have been fitted with CCTV cameras in common areas, while families have the option to install cameras in private rooms.

Mr Xenophon agreed with the premier’s sentiment that CCTV could also protect employees from false accusations by residents.

“I think we should get on with it,” he said.

Lodge needs NRL for recovery: Hodges

Ex-captain Jason Hodges says Matt Hodge needs Brisbane and Wayne Bennett more than they need him.Former Brisbane captain Justin Hodges says Matt Lodge needs to play NRL for his recovery from an infamous drunken rampage to be successful.

And he believes the Broncos are the right club for the controversial signing to do it with.

Brisbane and the NRL have copped criticism for throwing the 22-year-old prop a 2018 lifeline.

The backlash over his return threatens to overshadow the Broncos’ NRL season opener against St George Illawarra on Thursday night after CCTV footage of his 2015 New York attack was released last week.

Lodge was hit with a $1.5 million damages bill after a plea deal but avoided time in a US jail.

The victims say they have not received any payment and claim he is trying to avoid justice by returning to the NRL.

Broncos staff member Hodges said playing football under master coach Wayne Bennett was just what Lodge needed right now.

“Obviously he did something very bad, you can’t forget that,” Hodges told Fox League’s Queenslanders Only.

“But he’s on his way to recovery. He needs the game, he needs to be playing the game.

“The Broncos probably don’t need him but he needs the Broncos.

“It’s the one club that can turn him around into a great person again.

“I think he is going to be great for our club.”

Ahead of his first NRL game in three years Lodge has given his first insight into the attack, revealing a battle with prescription drugs at the time of the incident.

Lodge has also revealed his embarrassment over the attack, telling League Life on Fox: “I wasn’t brought up like that”.

Cronulla veteran Luke Lewis had a problem with Lodge’s return.

“For me it is hard to answer because I am so passionate about violence against women,” Lewis told NRL 360.

“It’s something I saw as a kid which I didn’t really like.

“It’s hard to say I think they made the right decision by letting him back in but they did.

“Rugby league has given him a second chance and fingers crossed he can pay back himself, his friends, family, the league and the fans and he doesn’t let anyone down again.”

Three-year-old boy in hospital after being attacked by a dog while riding his bike down Antill Street, Mayfield

CONFIRMED: Detective Acting Inspector Jeff Little speaks to the media on Wednesday. Picture: Simone De Peak. UPDATE: Police have confirmed that a three-year-old boy who was riding his bike along a street in Mayfield on Tuesday evening was attacked by a Great Dane from a nearby property.

The attacked occurrednear the entrance tothe cul-de-sac ofAntill Street in Mayfield at about 6.30pm while the owner was home.

“The dog did in fact walkthrough an open gate,”Detective Acting Inspector Jeffrey Little said at a press conference on Wednesday outside Waratah Police Station.

“There is no suggestion [the dog was provoked].”

The boy was accompanied by his mother and older sister at the time of the attack.

A neighbour told the ​NewcastleHerald that the dog’s owner was moving a motorcycle from one part of his property to another, when the dog ran through the open gate.

Policesaid the owner of the dog was cooperating with authorities, and that the dog had not attacked anyone before.

Police said the dog may be put down once a councilinvestigation hadbeen completed.

INVESTIGATING: Newcastle City Council rangers at Antill Street on Wednesday. Picture: Simone De Peak.

“At this stage it is a matter for [Newcastle City] council,” Detective Acting InspectorLittle said.

“There is an investigation underfoot and we are assisting council with those inquires.

“There is every chance that dog will be destroyed.”

Sydney woman Aleen Paynewas standing in the front yard of her son’s house in Antill Street when the attack occurred.

“There was a kid screaming, just screaming,” said Ms Payne. “And then I heard a man going off [at the dog].”

The attack follows the death of a one-year-old girl after she was attacked by a dog in Inverell on Saturday afternoon.

“These matters are very traumatising for the children and the family,” Detective Acting InspectorLittle said.

“Children are particularlyvulnerable to attacks by dogs. Certainly they can suffer serious physical and psychological injuries as we’ve seen in recent days.”

More to come…

EARLIERA three-year-old boy was attacked by a dog while riding his bicycle in Mayfield on Tuesday.

The boy was riding his bike on Antill Street, Mayfield, shortly after 6.30pm on Tuesdaywhen a dog ran towards him from a nearby property and attacked the child.

The boy suffered injuries to his face, neck, and upper back.

READ MORE:Eight-year-old Valentine dog-attack victim speaks

The dog retreated to its property and the boy was treated at the scene by NSW Ambulance paramedics before being taken to John Hunter Hospital in a stable condition. His injuries were not believed to be life threatening.

Local council and police inquiries into the incident are continuing.

READ MORE:Dog attacks in NSW: Lake Macquarie tops people attacked among Hunter councils

Trump adviser resigns over tariff plans

Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn is leaving the White House over its trade policy.Gary Cohn, the top economic adviser to US President Donald Trump, has resigned, a move that came after he lost a fight over Trump’s plans for hefty steel and aluminium import tariffs.

The departure of Cohn, the National Economic Council director, expected to be finalised in a few weeks, will blow a hole in Trump’s advisory team at a time when the economy is growing but stock markets are experiencing surges of volatility.

Trump said in a tweet on Tuesday night he “will be making a decision soon” on replacing Cohn. Administration officials said Peter Navarro, who is director of the White House National Trade Council, and conservative commentator Larry Kudlow were the “top two candidates” for the job.

White House officials said the tariffs dispute contributed to Cohn’s decision to leave but was not the sole reason. One official cited several issues and noted: “His biggest mission was on the tax cut bill, which he got passed.”

Following the news, the US dollar weakened, while an exchange-traded fund tracking the broad market S&P 500 dipped 1 per cent.

“One of the adults in the room has left. The markets will worry that this is a signal that we will definitely go ahead with these tariffs,” said Paul Mortimer-Lee, chief market economist at BNP Paribas corporate and investment banking.

Without Cohn in the picture, Navarro, an economist, will likely have a clearer field to pursue a protectionist agenda, which squares with Trump’s long-held concerns about trade.

Trump said last week he would impose import tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium, a move criticised by a number of prominent Republican lawmakers.

Cohn’s departure indicated Trump would proceed with the tariffs, said Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a think tank.

“The chances of us having a trade war have now increased dramatically. … The economic nationalists now certainly have the upper hand,” she said.

Cohn, 57, is the former president and chief operating officer of investment bank Goldman Sachs. He was the main driver of a sweeping tax overhaul passed by Congress in December and signed into law by Trump.

“It has been an honour to serve my country and enact pro-growth economic policies to benefit the American people, in particular the passage of historic tax reform,” Cohn said in a statement issued by the White House.

In a statement, Trump gave Cohn credit for his role in pushing the tax package through Congress and “unleashing the American economy once again”.

“He is a rare talent, and I thank him for his dedicated service to the American people,” he said.

Joyce accuser disappointed with leak

A complaint against Barnaby Joyce may have been compromised, according to reports.The woman who accused Barnaby Joyce of sexual harassment says she is “disappointed” the investigation is being used for political advantage.

Catherine Marriott says she asked the WA National Party what to do, and then went to the federal party with a confidential complaint, which was then leaked to the media.

“I am disappointed if my complaint along with my efforts to have this confidentially investigated are being used for political advantage and my integrity as a result, questioned,” Ms Marriott said in a statement on Wednesday.

“I never wanted this issue made public. I specifically requested a private and confidential investigation.

“My complaint was made to the National party in a manner that was meant to protect the privacy of the person involved and I was assured confidentiality.”

The WA branch of the party did a review to find out how Ms Marriott’s complaint against the former deputy prime minister, who denies the allegations, became public.

The review found the backgrounding of “political operatives” interfered with due process and ultimately led to the naming of the alleged victim.

“It is clear that the actions of the (WA parliamentary) members dealing with this matter further compromised the party and the victim,” the review by WA Nationals state director Simon Glassop said, according to Fairfax Media.

Mr Joyce cited Ms Marriott’s allegation as the final straw that led him to resign after 16 days of scandal over his affair with his now-pregnant former staffer Vikki Campion.

Ms Marriott said she hired to lawyer to make sure the complaint was dealt with professionally, and then hired a media adviser after her name was leaked and she was inundated with calls.

“This complaint was made not only to address the incident against me – it was about speaking up against inappropriate behaviour by people in powerful positions,” she said.

“Suggestions to the contrary are hurtful, incorrect and the very reason why I hesitated to come forward at the time of the incident.”

Qld premier points out FNQ split flaws

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has once again dismissed calls to split the state.Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has again ruled out a ‘separate state’ north of the tropic of Capricorn, which could prove constitutionally difficult.

The idea of splitting the state in two is being pushed by Katter’s Party which wants the Labor government to put up funding for a feasibility study into the economics of a split.

“My plan is to unite Queensland not to divide Queensland. And it’s going to cause a lot of problems with State of Origin if we go down that path,” Premier Annastascia Palaszczuk told ABC radio on Wednesday.

KAP on Tuesday called on all 17 north Queensland MPs to sign an agreement supporting a $250,000 feasibility study.

State leader Robbie Katter said this would allow a considered debate based on the issue, which has been raised multiple times in recent years.

The push is based on what it believes is an unfair distribution of government resources in the state’s coal-rich north.

Section 124 of the n Constitution allows for the separation of a territory from a state, but any move would need the approval of the both the Queensland and federal parliaments.

Mr Katter said he won’t stop pushing for a new north Queensland state even if a feasibility study shows the idea doesn’t stack up.

“The numbers didn’t work real well for Queensland when it was a colony pulling away from NSW either,” he said.

The West n A Liberal opposition is currently considering a similar plan, under which WA could declare itself as “independent” state but remain within the commonwealth.

Full secession is unlikely to be an option because the Constitution says the federation “one indissoluble federal commonwealth”.

There has been only one secession referendum in – the successful 1933 vote in Western which was eventually rejected by the UK House of Commons.

Calls for domestic violence probe in SA

The n Conservatives have called for an inquiry into domestic violence in South .The n Conservatives have called for an inquiry into domestic violence in South and a $20 million fund to boost prevention and early intervention.

The measures are included in the party’s domestic violence policy ahead of the March 17 election.

The party also wants specific laws introduced to deal with offenders, to avoid charges being laid under basic assault provisions, and for a presumption against bail.

“Domestic violence is complex but preventable as attitudes and behaviours can be modified over time.,” n Conservatives MP and lead upper house candidate Robert Brokenshire said.

“Our policy addresses housing for victims, targeted prevention and education programs, and revamping laws to specifically deal with offenders.”

Mr Brokenshire said an independent inquiry into domestic violence would provide a better picture of the full extent of the problem to allow the next government to formulate a comprehensive approach.

In the 2015/16 financial year, 8417 cases of domestic violence were reported to police in South .

But Mr Brokenshire said his party was acutely aware that the figures only reflected those cases where police became involved.

There still isn’t a cross-agency mechanism to record the full extent of offending.

Apart from SA’s upper house, the n Conservatives are also running candidates in 33 of the state’s 47 lower house seats.

At the party’s campaign launch last month, its federal leader Cory Bernardi raised the prospect of reviving the debate over a high-level nuclear waste dump in the state’s north to provide a massive boost to the local economy.

Nervous Seibold set for new Souths NRL era

South Sydney’s Anthony Seibold has revealed he is nervous ahead of his first game as a NRL coach.He’s spent the past 12 years waiting for this week to come, but Anthony Seibold admits he’s still nervous ahead of the first game of his NRL coaching career.

Seibold and the Rabbitohs flew to Perth on Tuesday to prepare for the Warriors, marking the beginning of a new Rabbitohs’ era under the rookie coach.

“A little bit nervous, but I’m really confident in what I’ve done and my preparation to get here has been a long journey,” Seibold said.

“I’ve been coaching for 12 years now as a full-time role. I’m certainly prepared.

“(I’m) probably a bit nervous leading into the first game, but that’s more anticipation and am really comfortable with the preparation we’ve had so far.”

Seibold’s coaching career began in 2010 in Wales, but it wasn’t until he joined Melbourne in 2013 as an assistant to Craig Bellamy that he harboured a desire to be a head coach.

It is almost the same path as his predecessor Michael Maguire.

“I spent a number of years down there, working with some great people like Craig Bellamy and Frank Ponissi and Adam O’Brien,” Seibold said.

“All three of those guys made an enormous contribution to my development as a coach.”

He said Queensland State of Origin coach Kevin Walters, who appointed Seibold as an assistant for the past two years, had also been crucial to his rise.

“So those four guys I’m really thankful for. They’ve had a lot to do with my development and give me some great opportunities to get better as a coach,” he said.

“Once I got to Melbourne and worked with some of the best players in the game, I thought that if an opportunity came going forward, that I’d be really confident in doing the job.”

Seibold on Tuesday made his first tough decision in his tenure when he left veteran hooker Robbie Farah out of his 17-man line-up to take on the Warriors.

Skipper Greg Inglis has been named in what will be his first NRL match since tearing his ACL early last year, while Richie Kennar, Dane Gagai and Tevita Tatola will make their club debuts.