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Cahill relives World Cup glory to down Japan

Socceroos star Tim Cahill relived his 2006 World Cup heroics with two second half goals against Japan to ensure Australia ended their qualifying campaign for South Africa 2010 in triumph.

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An Australian team missing numerous first-choice players won 2-1 at the MCG on Wednesday night, meaning they went unbeaten through the eight games of their final phase of qualifying and stayed ahead of Japan at the top of their group to earn Asian bragging rights.

Full coverage: The World Game

Cahill, who scored the first two goals in Australia’s World Cup history to spark a famous 3-1 comeback victory over Japan in Germany in 2006, was again the shining light for the Socceroos against the Blue Samurai.

Coach Pim Verbeek lauded his players and Cahill in particular, who scored a brilliant header in the 59th minute to erase a 1-0 halftime deficit, then scored the winner in the 76th.

“Timmy is a great player, If you see the work he is doing for the team, defensively, always supporting the strikers, so dangerous in the penalty box,” Verbeek said.

“The first goal was fantastic, what a great goal that was.

“It’s fantastic for the team to have a player like that.”

While both sides were already guaranteed World Cup qualification before Wednesday night’s match, Cahill’s second half heroics gave an MCG crowd of 69,238 plenty to cheer about.

Verbeek said the team had also sent a “statement to the rest of Asia and probably the rest of the world” by topping their qualification group by five points.

There had been precious few moments for the green and gold army to cheer before the break, with Japan’s Tulio Tanaka scoring in the 40th minute.

It broke a seven-game streak of clean sheets for Socceroos’ goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, who had spent his previous 670 minutes in goal without conceding.

But the rare blot on their defensive copybook stirred the Socceroos into life after the break and they attacked constantly in the opening stages of the second half, leading to Cahill’s breakthrough.

“I’m very proud of the players,” Verbeek said.

“At the end of a very long and tough season they still had the power and the courage to fight back from 1-0 down in the first half.

“Great goals of course from Timmy. I think the players did very well until the last second.”

Cahill leapt above two Japanese defenders at the left side of the box to connect with a long-range Vince Grella free kick for the first goal.

It seemed to inspire him to press even harder, getting onto the end of several promising attacking moves in the following minutes.

The winner came when a Nicky Carle corner kick from the right side floated over a pack of players in the box and Cahill, lurking at the back, got enough of his right leg to the ball to send it home.

It was his 16th goal in 33 internationals and he was later given a huge ovation as he walked to the bench in the 86th minute, having once again lifted Australia to a comeback victory over Japan.

Footballers join Iran protests

Iranian footballers appeared at a World Cup qualifier in Seoul wearing green armbands in support of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi as fresh rallies were held in Tehran.

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Tens of thousands of supporters of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi took part in what was billed as a “silent” protest rally, marching through central Tehran, witnesses said.

Wearing green wrist- and head-bands in the colour of Mousavi’s campaign, the demonstrators carried placards accusing re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of having “stolen” their votes in Friday’s poll.

It was the fifth successive day of protests over the disputed presidential election and was called by Mr Mousavi.

Footballers use World Cup match to protest

Iranian footballers used their televised World Cup qualifying match against South Korea to stage their own protest.

About six footballers, including the captain, appeared on the field wearing green armbands in support of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

The news is a blow for President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad, who is closely associated with Iran’s national football squad and reportedly loans his presidential plane to the team to travel to matches.

Crackdown intensifies

The Iranian authorities threatened legal action against websites which publish material that “creates tensions” and issued a new warning to the foreign media, already facing tight restrictions on their work.

The media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said a dozen Iranian journalists and bloggers have been arrested and many others have gone into hiding.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini said he would consider a partial recount after the opposition held mass protests over what it charges was blatant rigging of the election that gave Ahmadinejad another four-year term.

In defiance of an official ban, Mousavi himself called for marches and a day of mourning on Thursday for protesters slain in the post-election clashes.

And he repeated his demand for the results of what he branded a “shameful fraud” to be annulled and a new vote called, in a statement on his movement’s website.

Calls on Iran to release prisoners

Later on Wednesday, he and former reformist president Mohammad Khatami issued a joint letter urging the Iranian authorities to release those arrested in recent days and end the violence against their supporters.

“We ask you to take all the necessary measures to put an end to today’s worrying situation, to stop the violent actions against people and to free those arrested,” said the letter, again published on his website.

Addressed to judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, it denounced violent actions and provocations against peaceful protestors and attacks against students and their halls of residence.

At least seven killed

At least seven people have been killed and many more wounded in clashes, with protests reported not only in Tehran but also other major cities after an election that has exposed deep divisions in the oil-rich nation.

Ahmadinejad remained defiant, saying his landslide victory in Friday’s vote showed faith in his government of “honesty and service to the people.”

Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state, said he was asking the Guardians Council, a 12-member body made up of jurists and clerics, to examine the complaints of irregularities.

The council said it had invited Ahmadinejad’s three challengers to set out their grievances on Saturday.

Supporters of Ahmadinejad and Mousavi had staged rival rallies on Tuesday, each calling out hundreds of thousands of people on to the streets of Tehran.

Foreign media now banned

Foreign media were banned from covering the demonstrations under tough new restrictions aimed at keeping them off the streets, but Iranian newspapers published pictures.

The authorities have warned they will nip in the bud any “velvet revolution” and have rounded up scores of people in Tehran and other cities, including prominent reformists close to former president Khatami.

Reformist sources said that several more leading figures were arrested on Wednesday, including Mohammad Atrianfar, a confidante of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and prominent analyst and journalist Saeed Laylaz.

In a sign of the tensions within the regime, the crackdown drew criticism from some senior conservatives, notably parliament speaker Ali Larijani who spoke out against an attack on students at Tehran university.

The authorities issued a new warning to the foreign media, saying some outlets had become the “mouthpiece of the rioters’ movement.”

Call for a day of mourning in Iran

Iran’s opposition is set to hold marches and a day of mourning today for slain protesters as they keep up pressure on the authorities over the disputed presidential election in the country’s biggest crisis since the 1979 revolution.

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In defiance of an official ban, defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi called upon his supporters to take the streets again and hold a day mourning for protesters slain in the post-election clashes, in a statement published on his movement’s website.

Tens of thousands of Mousavi’s supporters took part Wednesday in what was billed as a “silent” protest rally, marching through central Tehran, witnesses said.

Wearing green wrist- and head-bands in the colour of Mousavi’s campaign, the demonstrators carried placards accusing re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of having “stolen” their votes in Friday’s poll.

Iranian state television broadcast brief footage of the rally.

Grappling with the biggest wave of public anger in three decades of Islamic rule, Iranian authorities lashed out at enemy “plots”, hauling in foreign ambassadors and rounding up scores of reformists.

Officials threatened legal action against websites which publish material that “creates tensions” and issued a new warning to the foreign media, already facing tight restrictions on their work.

The media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said a dozen Iranian journalists and bloggers have been arrested and many others have gone into hiding.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini said he would consider a partial recount after the opposition held mass protests over what it charges was blatant rigging of the election that gave Ahmadinejad another four-year term.

But on Wednesday Mousavi repeated his demand for the results of the election, which he branded a “shameful fraud”, to be annulled and a new vote called.

Later on Wednesday, he and former reformist president Mohammad Khatami issued a joint letter urging the Iranian authorities to release those arrested in recent days and end the violence against their supporters.

“We ask you to take all the necessary measures to put an end to today’s worrying situation, to stop the violent actions against people and to free those arrested,” said the letter, again published on his website.

Addressed to judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, it denounced violent actions and provocations against peaceful protestors and attacks against students and their halls of residence.

At least seven people have been killed and many more wounded in clashes, with protests reported not only in Tehran but also other major cities after an election that has exposed deep divisions in the oil-rich nation.

Ahmadinejad remained defiant, saying his landslide victory in Friday’s vote showed faith in his government of “honesty and service to the people.”

Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state, said he was asking the Guardians Council, a 12-member body made up of jurists and clerics, to examine the complaints of irregularities.

The council said it had invited Ahmadinejad’s three challengers to set out their grievances on Saturday.

Supporters of Ahmadinejad and Mousavi had staged rival rallies on Tuesday, each calling out hundreds of thousands of people on to the streets of Tehran.

Foreign media were banned from covering the demonstrations under tough new restrictions aimed at keeping them off the streets, but Iranian newspapers published pictures.

The authorities have warned they will nip in the bud any “velvet revolution” and have rounded up scores of people in Tehran and other cities, including prominent reformists close to former president Khatami.

Reformist sources said that several more leading figures were arrested on Wednesday, including Mohammad Atrianfar, a confidante of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and prominent analyst and journalist Saeed Laylaz.

In a sign of the tensions within the regime, the crackdown drew criticism from some senior conservatives, notably parliament speaker Ali Larijani who spoke out against an attack on students at Tehran university.

The authorities issued a new warning to the foreign media, saying some outlets had become the “mouthpiece of the rioters’ movement.”

The foreign ministry called in Swiss ambassador Livia Leu Agosti, who represents US interests in Iran amid a three-decade-old rupture in relations, to protest against what it called “interfering remarks” by US officials, state television reported.

US President Barack Obama has voiced “deep concerns” about the aftermath of the election, although he added: “It is not productive, given the history of US-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling.”

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Analysis: ‘Rigged vote? Hard to find evidence’

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election victory is disbelieved by hundreds of thousands of Iranians who have poured onto Tehran’s streets in protest, but experts say hard evidence of vote rigging is elusive.

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Since the government handed the incumbent president a landslide win over opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi hours after Friday’s vote, Tehran has been convulsed by protests unseen since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Outside Iran, debate over the election result is split down largely political lines.

Former US presidential candidate John McCain, a conservative, has insisted he is “sure” the elections in Iran were rigged. With equal ferocity leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has lambasted “foreign efforts” to discredit an “historic” election.

But with few independent observers on hand to witness the vote, analysts warn there is little evidence of a smoking gun of electoral fraud, or evidence that would affirm a fair vote.

Statisticians, pollsters and Iran experts have been poring over the results for hints of vote-rigging, or the possibility that the controversial president is backed by around 63 percent of voters.

Ken Ballen, president of the Washington-based Terror Free Future think tank, three weeks ago conducted a rare country-wide poll by phone of 1,001 people to gauge Iranians’ voting intentions.

According to Ballen it is not obvious from that poll that the results of the election were rigged. “At that time Ahmadinejad was ahead by two to one. Is it plausible that he won the election? Yes.”

The survey showed that 34 percent of Iranians intended to vote for Ahmadinejad. Mousavi was the choice of just 14 percent of respondents.

But Ballen cautioned against concluding that the vote was fair.

The poll result fell far short of Ahmadinejad’s margin of victory, and 27 percent of Iranians surveyed were still undecided at the time the survey was taken. “Anything could have changed,” Ballen said.

Mousavi supporters point to the amazingly quick tallying of millions of hand-counted ballots and the Ahmadinejad’s surprise win in Mousavi’s home town, Tabriz, as proof positive of foul play.

Mousavi is from Iran’s Azeri minority, so voters in his native region in East Azerbaijan province were expected to back him to the hilt, according to Ali Alfoneh, an Iran expert at the American Enterprise Institute.

Instead official results showed Ahmadinejad won the town and Mousavi’s tally across the province was a modest 42 percent.

But Ballen’s poll indicated only 16 percent of Azeri Iranians would vote for Mousavi, against 31 percent of Azeris who claimed they would vote for Ahmadinejad.

Walter Mebane, a University of Michigan professor, has been examining the election results using statistical and computational tools to detect fraud, a method he describes as “election forensics.”

Comparing 366 district results with those from the 2005 elections, Mebane concluded that the “substantial core” of local results were in line with the basic statistical trends.

“In 2009 Ahmadinejad tended to do best in towns where his support in 2005 was highest, and he tended to do worst in towns were turnout surged the most.”

But Mebane said data released by the Iranian authorities was not detailed enough to say whether the vote was rigged or not.

“The vote counts I see recorded here do connect to reality to some extent, but in no way do I think that any of this analysis rules out the possibility of manipulation,” he told AFP.

Mebane pointed out that trends would still ring true if the government simply inflated Ahmadinejad’s vote by a fixed percentage, perhaps offsetting it against deflated opposition tallies.

With half a million people on the streets, proof of such a falsification could spell the difference between a call for justice and a revolution, according to Alfoneh.

“If the system totally fails to provide documentation that this is not fraud, that is something that is going to radicalize the protesters,” Alfoneh said.

9/11 rescue dog cloned

Five clones of a search and rescue dog which helped locate people trapped in the rubble of the 9/11 attacks were have been presented to their predecessor’s handler.

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James Symington, a former Canadian police officer, choked back tears as he took possession of five puppies cloned from his beloved German shepherd named Trakr, who died earlier this year.

The decision to clone Trakr came after the animal won a competition to find the world’s most “cloneworthy” dog which was organised organised by Californian firm BioArts International.

Mr Symington says he hopes the puppies — Trustt, Valor, Prodigy, Solace and Deja Vu – will follow Trakr’s footsteps.

“We’re here to celebrate that Trakr’s legacy lives on in these five beautiful puppies,” he says.

“If they have the same attributes Trakr did, then hopefully they’ll develop into world class search and rescue dogs.”

Trakr saved lives

Mr Symington and Trakr were one of the first K9 search and rescue teams on the site of the World Trade Center collapse, commonly referred to as Ground Zero.

Trakr worked non-stop for almost 48 hours and found last human survivor to be rescued from the rubble.

“Trakr was an extraordinary search and rescue dog. His work at Ground Zero was the culmination of his career,” Mr Symington says.

An exact replica of Trakr

Mr Symington says that one member of his new litter — Trustt — was an exact replica of Trakr.

“The physical similarities are uncanny,” Mr he says.

“He’s the spitting image of the Trakr that I first met in 1995. He has exactly the same markings, the way he moves, everything. Very alert, very intelligent and intuitive.

“I respect that cloning’s not for everyone. But there are few dogs that are born with extraordinary abilities and Trakr was one of those dogs,” he says.

“I look forward to the day that these puppies can follow in Trakr’s footsteps and play an important role in other rescues, like Trakr did.”

Cloning still too expensive

BioArts International, which says it offers the world’s first commercial dog cloning service, partnered with South Korea’s SooAm Biotech Research Foundation to clone Trakr.

BioArts International chief executive Lou Hawthorne says canine cloning would remain beyond the reach of ordinary pet lovers, with cloned dogs costing an average 144,000 dollars each.

Mr Hawthorne defended the right of people to clone their dogs instead of obtaining new pets from rescue shelters.

“I think 99 percent of the time people should get their pets from shelters,” he says.

“But can we agree though that one percent of the time if you have a one in a million dog and you have the money to pay for it, you should be able to go to either a breeder or a cloner?”

At least 26 killed in Mogadishu fighting

At least 26 people have been killed by fresh fighting in Mogadishu, half of them when a mortar shell hit a mosque as worshippers left after evening prayers.

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Police commander among the victims

Mogadishu’s top police commander and five children were among 13 people killed earlier. The mosque carnage then made Wednesday one of the worst days in weeks of clashes between the Somali government and Islamist insurgents.

The five children killed earlier were also killed by a single mortar shell. The death toll in Mogadishu has climbed well above the 250 mark in just over a month.

Colonel Ali Said Hassan, Mogadishu’s police chief, was killed during the fierce fighting that broke out early in the day when government fighters attacked rebel strongholds in the capital’s southern Hodan district.

Hassan, one of Somalia’s most respected police officers, was hit by sniper fire from the rooftop of a nearby building, witnesses said.

“The commander of Mogadishu police died in the line of duty,” said a senior police official, who asked not to be named.

“He was a brave officer who has expended tremendous effort to bring peace. He was killed by terrorists.”

Civilian, children killed in the fighting

The pre-dawn combat erupted when government forces attacked positions controlled by Islamist insurgents. Shelling continued into the evening as rebel-held areas of the capital were heavily pounded.

Other police sources said three other members of the force had been killed in the fighting. Witnesses said nine civilians, five of them children, had died from mortar fire in a nearby neighbourhood.

An AFP reporter saw the bodies of the children — aged between nine and 14 years — lying in pools of blood under a balcony where they had sought shelter from the shelling.

“The five children were trying to hide when a mortar shell landed at the same place they were hiding, unfortunately they all died on the spot,” said Habibo Adan, a resident very close to the area.

An ambulance driver said at least 50 people had also been wounded in the renewed violence. “They include children and women and some of them have serious injuries,” said the driver, Sheikh Mohammed Ali.

St George joins rate hikers

St George Bank has followed the other big banks in Australia by raising its interest rates on fixed home loans.

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The bank which was recently amalgamated with Westpac increased the interest rates on its three, four and five year fixed mortgages by 50 basis points yesterday.

Three-year fixed home loans now stand at 6.49 per cent, while both four and five year loans will cost new customers 7.14 per cent in interest per annum.

There was a smaller increase on one-year fixed mortgages which were raised by 10 basis points to 5.44 per cent.

Two-year fixed mortgages were increased by 20 basis points to 5.94 per cent.

Commonwealth leads rate increases

Banks attracted criticism for the rates rise made this week after the Commonwealth Bank (CBA) announced it would increase interest rates on a range of products last Friday.

The CBA blamed the high costs of term funding for increasing its standard variable and fixed home loans by 10 basis points on Monday.

National Australia Bank (NAB) also hiked its rates on Monday for a range of fixed home loans by as much as 40 basis points, taking their fixed rates to between 5.09 per cent for a one-year loan to 7.79 per cent for a 10 year term.

NAB spokeswoman Luisa Ford says the bank has raised rates on three-year fixed home loans by 120 basis points since April 14, and by 110 basis points on five-year fixed mortgages since May 18.

NAB, CBA and Westpac all raised rates on fixed mortgages in April, with ANZ moving earlier.

Ms Ford says fixed rates are determined by the fixed wholesale funding market which has been “moving very quickly over recent months”.

But NAB has no plans to raise interest rates on standard variable mortgages, she says.

Westpac follows suit

Westpac Banking Corporation on Tuesday raised rates on fixed home loans by up to 50 basis points.

Westpac’s one-year fixed mortgage rate was lifted 10 basis points to 5.49 per cent, its two-year fixed mortgage rate increased by 20 basis points to 5.99 per cent, and all other rates on terms up to 12 years were hiked by 50 basis points.

A 10-year fixed home loan from Westpac will now cost new customers 7.79 per cent in interest per annum.

ANZ Banking Group spokeswoman Cherelle Murphy says its fixed and variable interest rates on loans in any category are under review, but the bank currently has no specific plans to change them.

ANZ’s rates stand at 5.35 per cent for a one-year fixed home loan, 6.34 per cent for a three-year term, and 9.39 per cent for a 10-year term.

Standard variable rates on mortgages from the major lenders currently stand at 5.74 per cent from NAB and CBA, 5.7 per cent from BankWest, 5.79 per cent from St George, and 5.81 per cent from Westpac and ANZ.

Business confidence surges

A new report shows business confidence has grown significantly despite dismal market conditions not seen since Australia’s last recession in 1991.

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The joint industrial trends survey by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and Westpac shows that the actual composite index rose by rose 3.9 points to 38.9 in the June quarter.

A level below 50 indicates more respondents are suffering a contraction in business activity than those enjoying an expansion.

“It does indicate some signs of economic improvement and it may indicate that we have bounced off the lows of the March quarter,” says ACCI’s acting chief executive Greg Evans.

The index of labour market conditions improved by eight points to minus 25, but remains well below a decade positive average of six.

“That is still at a level that’s historically consistent with a sharp slowing in jobs growth through the second half of this year,” Westpac senior economist Anthony Thompson says.

He says the survey was also consistent with a jobless rate of eight per cent.

Business confidence surges

Business sentiment, however, bounced by a strong 57 points, the largest improvement since 1975, to a reading of minus four.

It was the highest outcome since the December quarter of 2007 and compared with a decade average of minus six.

The jump in confidence was encouraged by “green shoots” of a global recovery, the relative resilience of the Australian economy, improved housing indicators and a reduction in the perceived difficulty of obtaining finance, the report says.

Figures could be misleading

But Mr Thompson is suspicious of such a large jump.

“Respondents are probably only recognising the conditions are unlikely to get any worse, rather than declaring a robust future,” he says.

“That would drive a shift in respondents from the ‘further deterioration’ category to the ‘stay the same’ category…explaining 40 points of that 57 point increase.”

Mr Evans believes there is scope for further official interest rate reductions over the next six months by the Reserve Bank of Australia, but there are more limited opportunities for fiscal policy.

He says the 30 per cent investment allowance for large business should be extended to the end of the year, allowing a further six months for businesses to take advantage of the initiative.

Iran protesters aided in online battle

Cyber-sympathizers from around the world have joined forces online to help Iranian protestors dodge censorship, get out news of violent clashes and avoid real-world capture following Iran’s disputed election.

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Pictures, videos and updates from the streets of Iran continued to pour in to social-networking and image-sharing websites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr despite efforts by Iranian officials to cut off mobile phones and the Internet.

“The revolution may not be televised in Iran, but it may well be tweeted,” user ‘kaplanmyrth’ said Wednesday in one of the concise messages flooding an Iran election feed at the microblogging service.

Blocks evaded with assistance

Online allies have set up Internet-linked computers called “proxy servers” that can be used by people inside Iran to get around blocks imposed to stifle the spread of news about demonstrators accusing incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of having stolen last Friday’s presidential election.

“If everybody sets up proxies that are rerouting Twitter traffic from there, unless they know what your proxies are, they can’t block them,” said Nitin Borwankar, a US technology consultant specializing in social data mining.

“It’s like a needle in a haystack, much worse than a needle and a haystack. So people are setting up a lot of proxies.”

Users ‘hidden’ in the crowd

Twitter users have been changing time and location settings to make it appear they are messaging from Tehran to make it harder for authorities to find those really tweeting from that country.

Twitter on Wednesday was abuzz with messages and links by those claiming to have dissected photos of an Ahmadinejad victory rally and found the images were doctored to make the crowd appear many times larger than it actually was.

Hackers are siding with Iranian protestors in a growing cyber-battle with government forces, according to Iranian blogger Omid Memarian.

Online allies have been sending Iranian protestors software to crack Internet filters or launch “denial of service” attacks on websites supporting Ahmadinejad’s regime, Memarian said.

“This is happening constantly,” said Memarian, who is at the University of California, Berkeley, journalism school as a Rotary Peace Fellow.

“There is an Internet fight between the two sides. People who are more techie have started to shut down conservative websites.”

Memarian read to AFP from a Revolutionary Guards press release warning against the posting of protest news, pictures or videos on the Internet.

“It shows how the Internet is playing a major role in Iran now,” Memarian said.

Internet can ‘route around damage’

It is problematic to block all satellite and telephone service across the country because doing so would cut military and police communications, according to Borwankar.

“You can block certain channels but you can’t really do a blanket blocking,” Borwankar said.

The Internet is a network with redundant and alternate pathways to assure the free flow of data, and in that structure lays opportunity for those wishing to dodge censorship.

“There’s a principle that says the Internet routes around damage; that’s how it was designed,” Borwankar said.

“It can withstand a nuclear attack. So, socially now people have created communications channels that route around damage. Censorship is viewed as damage and people find ways to get around it.”

Twitterers go green

A sea of green was spreading on Twitter in a display of solidarity, as users changed or tinted ID photographs or avatars to the campaign colour of moderate candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

“Show support for democracy in Iran add green overlay to your Twitter avatar,” Craigslist founder Craig Newmark said in a forwarded tweet.

The use of Web technology amid the Iran protests is being closely watched in Washington, where a State Department official asked Twitter to postpone a planned maintenance shutdown by a day to allow Iranians to speak out and organize.

“We promote the right of free expression,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in defending the US request, adding that Twitter was a vital means to enjoying such freedoms.

“I wouldn’t know a twitter from a tweeter, but apparently it is very important,” Clinton said.

The Internet has neutered Ahmadinejad’s propaganda machine and “everyone is talking about” what is really going on in the streets of Iran, according to Memarian.

Even if Iran officials could cut off all Internet and unsanctioned television broadcasts in the country, people there are now skeptical of news being spoon fed to them by the government, Memarian said.

Both Koreas in World Cup

For the first time in 44 years North Korea will play in the World Cup.

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They needed just one point from their match against Soudia Arabia in Riadh last night to booked a spot in the tournament in South Africa next year.

The North Koreans held firm for a scoreless draw to finish second in their group and join South Korea which came first as automatic qualifiers.

It will be the first time both Koreas will be part of the football’s competition and the North’s first appearance since their trailblazing quarter-final performance at the 1966 tournament in England.

Battle for fifth begins

There was gloom in Iran as they blew their qualification chance in their must-win match against South Korea with a 1-1 draw.

The Saudis still have a hope of qualifying as part of the Asia’s third-place playoff they can beat Bahrain.

They will then need a win over the Oceania champions New Zealand if they are to reach their fifth consecutive World Cup finals next year.

Bahrain qualified for September’s Asian playoff with a 1-0 win over Uzbekistan in Manama to finish third behind Australia and Japan in Group 1.

North Koreans hold Saudi storm

The Saudis attacked from the kickoff, needing to take all three points to leapfrog North Korea into the second automatic qualifying spot, but the North Koreans hung on.

“We battled to qualify for the World Cup finals,” North Korean coach Kim Jong-Hun says.

“It was so hot in Saudi Arabia after the long journey from Korea, but the belief in the ability of the players snatched the ticket to South Africa.”

“We focused on defending as we had come under a lot of pressure from the Saudis and I think our preparation for the game was one factor that earned the victory.”

Saudi Arabia remain confident

Losing coach Jose Peseiro says he remains confident Saudi Arabia could still qualify through the back door as the fifth Asian team for South Africa.

“It was a game against a strong team who just came here to bag one point, and they did. I think it is a historical moment for the Koreans,” Mr Peseiro says.

Iran’s hopes dashed

Six Iranians players were wearing green wrist bands to symbolise their support for defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

But in Seoul away from the turmoil in Iran, the team’s chance of qualifying for the World Cup was crushed by a second-half equaliser for South Korea from Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-Sung.

“We played too conservatively after scoring the first goal,” Iranian coach Afshin Ghotbi says.

“Our defence sat back and allowed South Korea to dominate the match.”

Group one results

In Group 1, second-half substitute Mahmood Abdulrahman struck a thunderous free-kick in the 74th minute to clinch victory for Bahrain over the Uzbeks to keep their World Cup dream alive.

Tim Cahill popped up for his match-winning brace against Japan after Australia had conceded their first goal in eight qualifiers.

Cahill scored in the 59th and 76th minutes to continue his “lucky charm” effect on the Socceroos and conjure memories of his late double when Australia came from behind to beat Japan 3-1 at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Japan’s 2-1 loss to Australia in Melbourne last night means they came second in group 1 and automatically qualify for the World Cup.

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