We’ve got lots to learn: Port coach

Things are only going to get harder for Port Adelaide, and coach Ken Hinkley says there’s still a lot to learn.

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The AFL ladder leaders had their eight-game winning streak snapped on Saturday with a narrow four-point loss to premiership rivals Sydney.

The Swans went into the contest odds-on favourites – and, although pushed, they delivered.

In front of their biggest SCG crowd since 1997, John Longmire’s men fended off a late charge from the Power with three crucial goals in the final quarter from superstar forward Lance Franklin.

“I think that’s why you pay him a million dollars,” Hinkley said.

“We lost and I don’t like that.

“I was pleased with their performance but we’ve got lots to learn.

“We’re not a club that sits back and gets happy with a good performance.

“We need to get better and we know that.”

Brad Ebert (40 possessions, one goal) was among the best for the visitors, taking the fight to the Swans’ star midfield alongside Robbie Gray (35 possessions) and returned skipper Travis Boak (26 possessions).

Kane Cornes successfully kept Dan Hannebery at bay, limiting the All Australian to just 13 touches, while Jay Schulz nabbed four goals and Angus Monfries three.

But for Hinkley, that doesn’t cut it.

“In some crucial moments, they get it right. In some crucial moments, though, we perhaps got it wrong,” he said.

“And to Sydney’s credit they made us pay.

“We know we’ve just got to keep going to work and working hard because we know our best stacks up really well.

“We’ll get another opportunity really soon to play Sydney – (round 20, August 9) – with the way the draw works out.

“Hopefully we’ll learn a bit more for that and we’ll be better prepared to play them next time.”

Hinkley refused to comment on the situation surrounding Monfries, who is yet to confirm or deny whether he was among the 34 current and former Essendon players issued with show-cause notices from ASADA.

Port return home to face the Western Bulldogs next Saturday, but could be without midfielder Hamish Hartlett after rolling his ankle in Saturday’s blockbuster.

Defiant LeBron eyes NBA history

History is piled high against him but LeBron James insists his Miami Heat can conjure a turnaround and snatch a third consecutive NBA championship title.

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It must start on Sunday (Monday (ASK) when they meet a rampant, revenge-seeking San Antonio Spurs who lead 3-1 and need just one more win to clinch the best-of-seven final series.

No team in NBA Finals history has ever rallied from 3-1 down to win the title.

“History is made to be broken, and why not me be a part of it? That would be great,” said a defiant James.

“That would be a great story line, right?

“But we’ll see what happens. I’ve got to live in the moment, though, before we even get to that point.”

With their fifth championship in sight, the Spurs don’t plan to let up for even a second.

Bruised egos won’t let them forget last season’s loss to the Heat in seven games — especially the final 28 seconds of game six when they had the lead and then let it slip away.

“We just have to think about last year,” said guard Tony Parker of the Spurs who led the series 3-2 before dropping the final two games. “We don’t need any more motivation than that.”

The Spurs took command of this series in spectacular fashion with two blowout wins over the Heat in Miami in the last two matches.

“We go back to last year and we learn from that,” said San Antonio centre Tim Duncan.

“We feel that we have it in the bag and it slips out of our fingers.

“So I think we learn from that, and we draw on that, and we say, at’s not over till it’s over.’

A win would give the Spurs Big Three of Duncan, Man Gumboil and Parker their fourth championship together since they were assembled for the 2002-03 season.

They became the most successful trio in post-season history in these playoffs and now have 116 playoffs victories.

Their leader, through all the ups and downs, has been Duncan, who would become the first player in league history to win championships 15 seasons apart with the same team.

This year the Spurs finished with a NBA best 62-20 record, extending their streak of winning at least 50 games to a record 15 straight seasons.

“Whatever success anyone has is due to a lot of factors,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on Saturday. “Some of it is not even your doing. Sometimes things just happen. So success is a pretty complicated thing.”

Surgery rules Genia out for eight weeks

Axed Wallabies halfback Will Genia’s season of woe has worsened with ankle surgery to sideline him for the next eight weeks.

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Genia has been playing with ligament damage since injuring himself playing for the Queensland Reds in Wellington on April 26 but carried it through their faultering Super Rugby campaign.

Scans last week showed he needed an operation to fix the worsening problem and the 55-Test half has been booked in for surgery on Tuesday.

It means Genia will miss the rest of the Reds’ season and significantly hurts his chances of a Wallabies recall when the Rugby Championship kicks off against the All Blacks on August 16.

With no rugby under his belt, it’s hard to see the Reds vice-captain unseating Nic White and Nick Phipps for the opening two Bledisloe Cup Tests.

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie, who last week shocked all and sundry by dumping Genia from his team to play France, admitted the injury had played a part in his form.

“There’s no doubt the nature of the injury he’s got wouldn’t have helped his football,” McKenzie said on Sunday.

“He’s showed a bit of toughness to carry that for some time.

“It’s getting worse gradually so we needed to get it fixed.

“We’ve seen before how committed Will is when undergoing rehab and I would expect him to work hard to be available for selection when we begin our Rugby Championship campaign.”

McKenzie has called Melbourne Rebels half Luke Burgess into his squad ahead of Saturday’s third Test in Sydney.

Queensland coach Richard Graham hailed Genia for coping with the injury, shown by his man-of-the-match display in his last appearance for a 38-31 upset of the Highlanders.

“It’s a credit to Will’s toughness and character that he was willing to continue playing through the injury for the remainder of the season, but in his best interests we have all come to an agreement that surgery is the best option,” Graham said.

‘Korean village’ planned for Hobart suburbs

On the eastern shore of Hobart, property developer Moon-bae Kim has big plans for a tranquil patch of bushland close to his family home.

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He hopes to transform the site into Tasmania’s own Korean village, housing a residential complex, a language school as well as cultural and recreational facilities.

“This project won’t just be for the Korean community or just for Asian people,” he says.

“It will be a place where anyone can come together so that it becomes a cultural place.”

The 158-hectare development, called Paranville, will eventually be home to around 2,000 residents.

The $900 million project in the suburb of Rokeby was given planning approval more than two years ago with 10 out of 11 local councillors voting in favour of the precinct.

Clarence City Mayor Doug Chipman says the project could hold many benefits for the local community.

“This proposal is quite massive in terms of a development proposal,” he says.

“It involves 327 houses and hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s a great opportunity for jobs, not just in construction but ongoing.”

Trade with Asia is an increasingly important part of the state’s economy, but it’s also the state with the fewest residents with Asian language skills.

A government White Paper examining Tasmania’s place in the Asian Century, released last year, found the state was the furthest from reaching its trade potential with the continent.

Mr Chipman believes Paranville could help Tasmania build closer links with Asia.

“Tasmania has missed out on the migration to Australia as a whole, but [the state] has a huge amount to offer and projects such as this, I think, will start to turn the tide, and see more migrants coming.”

Paranville is being marketed to investors in South Korea, China and Japan, as well as Australia.

Clarence City councillor Richard James voted against the development. He is concerned it could become what he calls a cultural enclave, and he says there are other local residents who share his views.

“When I actually voted against it, I didn’t foresee how it could blend in with the community, how it could be an integrated development within the community.”

Developer Moon-bae Kim is not concerned by these fears. He imagines a place where cultures are shared, not isolated.

“If Tasmania was to block a project like this, there are those who would say it’s cutting itself in a way that they’re stopping economic development at all.”

Construction is expected to commence at the site by the end of the year.

Religions are a key to understanding ‘Game of Thrones’

But one question few people seem to have asked lately is how, exactly, the religions of Westeros are playing into the “Game of Thrones” saga at this point.

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Should we be paying attention to these competing belief systems? Or should we focus on more important things, like who Jon Snow’s mother might be?

It’s easy to brush off the religions of “Game of Thrones” as nonessential, as something you needn’t give any thought to. But you may want to reconsider. The books, not surprisingly, depict the religions in greater detail than the show goes into, but even those of us who are only watching the HBO version of the saga can comprehend the characters and storylines better by understanding this key aspect of life in its world.

George R.R. Martin has spoken of the religions quite a bit, often noting that while the religions themselves are fictional, they are based on real-world faiths that have been “tweaked or extended.” (Most obviously, the Faith of the Seven has a real-life corollary in the medieval Christian Church.)

In Westeros, there are four major religions that correspond to four of the major houses that have vied for power: the Lannisters, the Starks, the Baratheons and the Greyjoys (Daenerys Targaryen, who has, of course, not yet entered Westeros, does not seem to have any firm religious beliefs, though she dabbled in the Dothraki faith while married to Khal Drogo). These religions thus help to explain the worldviews of many of the show’s major characters.

The Old Gods

Westeros was originally inhabited by a nonhuman race called the Children of the Forest. They worshiped the Old Gods, which had no names and were manifest in trees, rocks and streams. There were no temples or priests. In the show, this religion is often symbolized by the white weirwood trees. (When you cut such trees, they appear to bleed.) When men first came to Westeros from Essos, they accepted these gods, which is why the Starks worship them. The Old Gods are roughly equivalent to the sort of pantheistic nature worship that has existed in Europe in one form or another for millennia.

The Faith of the Seven, or the New Gods

When the Andals came to Westeros, they not only ended the kingdoms of the First Men, they also brought their own religion, the Faith of the Seven, also referred to as the New Gods or simply the Faith. Catelyn Stark — who was born Catelyn Tully and is from the Riverlands in central Westeros — and the Lannisters believe in this religion, in which everything is built around seven facets of one god: three male aspects, three female aspects, and a seventh aspect, the stranger, which represents the unknown and/or death. This religion has an obvious Christian parallel in its one multifacted God, and its ceremonies, conducted often in King’s Landing, are reminiscent of medieval Christianity.

The Lord of Light (R’hllor)

This religion is the one that’s been most closely tied to the plot of the show, thanks to the priestess Melisandre, who converted Stannis Baratheon and all his men. The Lord of Light comes from Essos, and his worshippers hold that the other gods are demons and must be destroyed.

Sometimes the Lord of Light faithful decide that nonbelievers must be killed — hence that terrifying crucifixion scene in Episode 2 of this season. Unlike the Old Gods and the New Gods, the Lord of Light has no interest in coexistence and poses a real threat to any kind of religious harmony.

The Lord of Light is connected with fire, which Melisandre uses in many of her rites, such as throwing leeches into flames while saying the names of the “three false kings.” (Two of those men subsequently died, for what it’s worth.) Perhaps the most confusing religion — it seems to be constantly growing and changing — it’s also the most absolutist, as it espouses hard distinctions between light and dark and good and evil. As others have noted, there are clear similarities to Manichaeism, which also emphasized the good of light and the evil of darkness and envisioned the world as a battlefield between this duality.

The Drowned God

The Iron Islanders are seafarers who believe their god lives under the sea. That’s where their heaven is, so they don’t fear the sea or drowning. Their holy water is seawater, and if you’re an Iron Islander, when you’re young, “they drown you and you’re brought back to life,” to quote Martin’s explanation of their baptism ceremony, which evokes the baptismal practices of some Christian sects (though the faith of the Drowned God is generally thought by fans to echo Viking practices — and water was also used in Viking naming rituals).

This is why, when Theon Greyjoy returns to the Iron Islands, his father, worried that the Starks have converted him, makes him get baptized again. During the ceremony, Theon speaks the common prayer of the Iron Islands: “What is dead may never die.”

This is not a comprehensive list — there are hints of other religions on the series, such as the Dothraki’s faith in the Great Stallion and the creed of the Faceless Men, who worship Him of Many Faces. And spotting such religious differences can help a viewer understand where characters fit in relation to the principal protagonists on the series. Just don’t expect Martin to come down on the side of one of these religions over the others — and don’t expect anyone to be saved by their gods. As he told i09:

I don’t think any gods are likely to be showing up in Westeros, any more than they already do. We’re not going to have one appearing, deus ex machina, to affect the outcomes of things, no matter how hard anyone prays. So the relation between the religions and the various magics that some people have here is something that the reader can try to puzzle out.

Singapore grapples with smartphone addicts

Easily distracted? Can’t be separated from your smartphone? Constantly checking your device for no real reason? Chances are you’re an addict – and you may even need professional help.

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Psychiatrists in Singapore are pushing for medical authorities to formally recognise addiction to the internet and digital devices as a disorder, joining other countries around the world in addressing a growing problem.

Singapore and Hong Kong top an Asia-Pacific region that boasts some of the world’s highest smartphone penetration rates, according to a 2013 report by media monitoring firm Nielsen.

Some 87 per cent of Singapore’s 5.4 million population own smartphones.

Singaporeans also spend on average 38 minutes per session on Facebook, almost twice as long as Americans, according to a study by Experian, a global information services company.

Adrian Wang, a psychiatrist at the upmarket Gleneagles Medical Centre, said digital addiction should be classified as a psychiatric disorder.

“Patients come for stress anxiety-related problems, but their coping mechanism is to go online, go on to social media,” Wang said.

He recalled having treated an 18-year-old male student with extreme symptoms.

“When I saw him, he was unshaven, he had long hair, he was skinny, he hadn’t showered for days, he looked like a homeless man,” Wang told AFP.

The boy came to blows with his father after he tried to take away the young man’s laptop computer.

After the father cut off internet access in the house, desperation drove the boy to hang around neighbours’ homes trying to get a wireless connection.

He was eventually hospitalised, put on anti-depressants and received “a lot” of counselling, Wang said.

“We just needed to break the cycle. He got better, he was discharged from the hospital and I saw him a few more times and he was okay.”

Tan Hwee Sim, a consultant psychiatrist at The Resilienz Mind clinic in Singapore, noted that the symptoms exhibited by her young adult patients have changed over the years.

Obsession with online gaming was the main manifestation in the past, but addiction to social media and video downloading are now on the uptrend.

In terms of physical symptoms, more people are reporting “text neck” or “iNeck” pain, according to Tan Kian Hian, a consultant at the anaesthesiology department of Singapore General Hospital.

Singapore’s problem is not unique, with a number of countries setting up treatment centres for young internet addicts, particularly in Asia where South Korea, China and Taiwan have moved to tackle the issue.

In Singapore, there are two counselling centres – National Addictions Management Services and Touch Community Services – with programs for digital addiction.

Trisha Lin, an assistant professor in communications at the Nanyang Technological University, said younger people face a higher risk because they adopt new technology earlier – but can’t set limits.

Lin defined digital addiction by a number of symptoms: the inability to control craving, anxiety when separated from a smartphone, loss in productivity in studies or at work, and the need to constantly check one’s phone.

Ukraine gas talks on despite rebel strike

Ukraine is marking a national day of mourning and vowing to retaliate after pro-Kremlin rebels downed a military plane, killing 49, in their deadliest single attack against government forces.

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Russia and Ukraine are also meeting for key gas talks on Sunday to avert a cut in Russian supplies that would affect large swathes of Europe.

The talks comes a day after protesters smashed Russian embassy windows in Kiev in the wake of the attack that brought down the transport plane in Ukraine’s east.

The United States accused Russia of helping the insurgency by sending tanks and rocket launchers to pro-Moscow rebels, a charge the Kremlin denied.

A commander in rebel-held Lugansk, where the plane was shot down, showed the transporter’s debris 12km from the airport.

He said the plane tried to dump fuel after rebel fire hit its engines but it crashed on its second landing approach.

Ukraine’s West-backed President Petro Poroshenko vowed to launch “an adequate response” and signalled intensification of the current offensive.

Poroshenko spoke moments before a crowd of several hundred smashed windows in the Russian embassy.

Russia condemned Kiev police inaction as “a grave violation of Ukraine’s international obligations”.

Washington also delivered Kiev a rare rebuke by urging “authorities to meet their Vienna Convention obligations to provide adequate security”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande expressed “extreme concern” over Ukraine’s spiralling violence in a joint phone call to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Lugansk has been under effective rebel control since the eastern uprising began in early April.

On Saturday, three Ukraine border guards were killed and four wounded after an ambush in southeastern Mariupol – captured with great fanfare by federal forces the day before.

Ukrainian forces have so far managed to hold on to Lugansk’s airport and use it in the campaign to quell the separatist unrest.

The eastern insurgency has now claimed at least 320 lives on both sides.

Poroshenko’s troubles have been compounded by the threat of Russian gas shipment cuts as early as Monday in the bitter gas price dispute, which talks on Saturday failed to resolve.

“No solution was found, and the negotiations will continue Sunday morning,” Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuriy Prodan said after EU-brokered talks.

Ukraine receives half its gas supplies from Russia and transports 15 percent of fuel consumed in Europe. Moscow had nearly doubled the price it charges Kiev in the wake of the February ouster of a Kremlin-backed president.

Ukraine said it was ready to make a $US1.95 billion ($A2.11 billion) payment demanded by Moscow if Russia agreed to cut its ongoing price to $US326 ($A353) per 1000 cubic metres but Russia said $US385 ($A417) was its final offer.

The United States on Friday accused Russia of sending tanks and rocket launchers to rebels.

A US State Department spokeswoman raised the prospect of further Western economic sanctions if Russia failed “to demonstrate its commitment to peace”.

My tactics worked says Prandelli after Italy sink England

“Our logic was that we don’t have players who are as powerful as England’s but we have technically skilled players and in the first half we had better ball possession,” said the Italy coach, whose team won thanks to a 50th minute Mario Balotelli header.

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“This is the way to play and in our substitutes we have players who can go the extra mile.

“We lined up Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi and Marco Veratti to have numerical superiority in the centre of the pitch and it worked.

“We had to be very good at closing down England whose players have the ability to turn quickly and sprint.”

Prandelli said it was “crazy” not to have had time-outs or drink breaks in the intense heat and humidity but was pleased by the way his team coped with the energy-sapping environment.

“We suffered tonight but the response of the players to the conditions were extraordinary.”

“It was an epic match and I feel that England is one of the strongest teams in the World Cup. We played a great game,” he said.

Prandelli said though that he was impressed by the way that England’s game had progressed.

“Up until just a few years ago England relied on long balls but they are now a skilled team with excellent triangular passing.

“They have changed a lot and now have one of the strongest attacks in the World Cup, that is why I am so satisfied with the result,” he said.

Striker Balotelli said it had been a classic example of the Italian way of playing.

“Italy suffer, they always suffer but the important thing is to win,” said the forward.

“Now we have to keep our feet on the ground and just focus on each game that comes.”

The other Italy scorer, midfielder Claudio Marchisio, said the Azzurri had shown their true personality in the heat in the jungle city of Manaus.

“It was important to start with a win, above all on a day when playing football was really difficult.

“At times I thought I was having hallucinations it was so hot. This team, though, showed it has great character, in the final minutes we resisted and brought home a deserved win,” he said.

(Writing by Simon Evans, Editing by Michael Kahn)

Wily Italy outfox England, Costa Rica stun Uruguay

Ivory Coast came from a goal behind to beat Japan 2-1 in the late kickoff in Recife after Colombia overcame Greece 3-0 to open Group C proceedings.

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On an action-packed day across Brazil, England against Italy in the searing heat and humidity of Manaus had top billing, and it lived up to the hype in a thrilling contest in keeping with this tournament’s emphasis on attacking football.

Claudio Marchisio fired Italy ahead after 35 minutes when England were wrong-footed by an Andrea Pirlo dummy, but Daniel Sturridge levelled within three minutes after Wayne Rooney picked him out with a perfect left-wing cross.

Mario Balotelli, who had a clever lob cleared off the line at the end of the first half, made it 2-1 five minutes into the second when he took advantage of ragged defending to head home.

England pressed for an equaliser, but Italy’s defence grew in authority as the match wore on and the Azzurri secured the three points.

“Up until just a few years ago England relied on long balls, but they are now a skilled team with excellent triangular passing,” said Italy coach Cesare Prandelli.

“They have changed a lot and now have one of the strongest attacks in the World Cup. That is why I am so satisfied with the result.”

Some 2,400 kilometres (1,500 miles) to the east in Fortaleza, Costa Rica came from a goal behind to beat Uruguay 3-1 and blow one of the toughest groups wide open.

CAMPBELL SHINES

Promising young striker Joel Campbell set them on the way, chesting down a cross from the right after 54 minutes and slamming home a low shot to cancel out Edinson Cavani’s first- half penalty.

Centre back Oscar Duarte put the Central Americans ahead just three minutes later with a brave diving header at the back post from a Christian Bolanos free kick.

Substitute Marco Urena completed one of most memorable victories in his country’s modest footballing history with a third in the 84th minute, silencing an army of sky blue-clad fans who had made the trip north from the River Plate.

To compound Uruguay’s misery, defender Maxi Pereira became the first player to be sent off at this World Cup when he was shown a straight red for upending Campbell with a nasty kick to the shin in stoppage-time.

Striker Luis Suarez, recovering from a knee injury, could only look on from the bench and the South Americans will be hoping he is fit for the crunch clash with England in Sao Paulo on Thursday.

The result, an even bigger surprise than Friday’s 5-1 trouncing of champions Spain by the Netherlands, extended one of the most exciting starts to a World Cup in living memory.

“I didn’t hear anyone saying Holland would be favourites against Spain or that Costa Rica would win,” Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez told reporters.

“But that’s what we saw. Once the game starts, everything depends on the mentality of the players.”

The goal tally in Brazil is already 28, at an average of 3.5 a game in a free-flowing start to the tournament.

PREPARATIONS OVERSHADOWED

Years of construction delays, alleged corruption and sometimes violent protests over the $11 billion spent by Brazil to host the World Cup have been overtaken by the scintillating action on the field, at least for now.

The buildup to the tournament was also marred by allegations of corruption within FIFA, football’s governing body, centring on Qatar’s successful bid to hold the 2022 World Cup.

The organisers of the bid gave their firmest rebuttal to date of allegations of bribery in a statement they hope will dispel the atmosphere of distrust that has descended on the game in the last few weeks.

Disagreement over the scandal has deepened divisions within FIFA, headed by Sepp Blatter whose expected run for re-election next year is opposed by European member states but supported by those in Africa, Asia and beyond.

“We have nothing to hide … In every aspect of the 2018/2022 FIFA World Cup bidding process, we strictly adhered to FIFA’s rules and regulations,” Qatar 2022 said.

Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper, which has reported the allegations of bribery in recent weeks, published its latest article in which it said FIFA bosses had been warned in a “secret terror briefing” that there was a “high risk” of a terrorist attack shutting down the event.

A spokesman for Qatar 2022 said he had no comment on that particular report.

GREEK TRAGEDY

In Recife, Japan’s Keisuke Honda’s fierce left-foot drive gave his side a 1-0 halftime lead but Wilfried Bony levelled with a glancing header in the 64th minute.

Two minutes later Gervinho repeated the trick, this time at the near post, after another inch-perfect cross from the right from Serge Aurier, completing an impressive turnaround.

In the early Group C kickoff, Colombia swept aside Greece in Belo Horizonte, winning even without injured leading striker Radamel Falcao.

In their first World Cup appearance since 1998, it was a reminder that Colombia remain a force to be reckoned with.

The South Americans made a blistering start with left back Pablo Armero scoring with a fifth minute deflected shot. Striker Teofilo Gutierrez stabbed home a flicked 58th-minute corner and midfielder James Rodriguez added a late third goal.

The soccer world was still recovering from the shock of the Netherlands’ victory over Spain which included a spectacular header from flying Dutchman Robin van Persie.

“If I was the head of the Dutch airline company, I would sign him up tomorrow and use that image of a Dutchman flying through the air,” said Jean-Paul Brigger of FIFA’s Technical Study Group. “It was just fantastic.”

In Sunday’s games, Switzerland play Ecuador in Brasilia and France face Honduras in Porto Alegre in Group E, while in Group F Argentina get their campaign underway against Bosnia in Rio de Janeiro.

(Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Manaus, Gideon Long in Fortaleza, Andrew Cawthorne in Belo Horizonte, Philip O’Connor in Recife, Mike Collett in Rio de Janeiro and Stephen Addison in London; editing by Ed Osmond and Justin Palmer)

Detained leaker says US public lied to

The detained US soldier convicted of leaking a trove of secret documents to WikiLeaks has made a rare foray into public life to warn Americans they were being lied to about Iraq once more.

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Chelsea Manning is serving a 35-year prison sentence on espionage charges and other offences for passing along 700,000 secret documents, including diplomatic cables and military intelligence files, to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks in the largest-scale leak in US history.

“I understand that my actions violated the law. However, the concerns that motivated me have not been resolved,” the soldier formerly a man known as Bradley Manning wrote in a New York Times editorial on Saturday.

“As Iraq erupts in civil war and America again contemplates intervention, that unfinished business should give new urgency to the question of how the United States military controlled the media coverage of its long involvement there and in Afghanistan.”

President Barack Obama said this week he was “looking at all the options” to halt the offensive that has brought militants within 80km of Baghdad’s city limits, but ruled out any return of US combat troops.

Obama has been under mounting fire from Republican critics over the swift collapse of Iraq’s security forces, which Washington spent billions of dollars training and equipping before pulling out its own troops in 2011.

While the US military was upbeat in its public outlook on the 2010 Iraqi parliamentary elections, suggesting it had helped bring stability and democracy to the country, “those of us stationed there were acutely aware of a more complicated reality”, Manning wrote.

“Military and diplomatic reports coming across my desk detailed a brutal crackdown against political dissidents by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and federal police, on behalf of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki. Detainees were often tortured, or even killed.”

Manning, a former US Army intelligence analyst, said he was “shocked by our military’s complicity in the corruption of that election. Yet these deeply troubling details flew under the American media’s radar.”

Criticising the military’s practice of embedding journalists, Manning charged that “the current limits on press freedom and excessive government secrecy make it impossible for Americans to grasp fully what is happening in the wars we finance.”

Manning is serving out the prison sentence at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas and had requested a name change after court-martial proceedings revealed the soldier’s emotional turmoil over sexual identity.

A US Army general denied clemency to Manning in April, upholding the 35-year sentence.