Clifton James, sheriff in Bond films, dies

Clifton James, best known for his indelible portrayal of a southern sheriff in two James Bond films, has died.

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He was 96.

His daughter, Lynn James, said he died on Saturday at another daughter’s home in Gladstone, Oregon, due to complications from diabetes.

“He was the most outgoing person, beloved by everybody,” Lynn James said.

“I don’t think the man had an enemy. We were incredibly blessed to have had him in our lives.”

James often played a convincing southerner but loved working on the stage in New York during the prime of his career.

One of his first significant roles playing a southerner was as a cigar-chomping, prison floor-walker in the 1967 classic Cool Hand Luke.

His long list of roles also includes swaggering, tobacco-spitting Louisiana Sheriff J.W. Pepper in the Bond films.

His portrayal of the redneck sheriff in Live and Let Die in 1973 more than held its own with sophisticated English actor Roger Moore’s portrayal of Bond.

James was such a hit that writers carved a role for him in the next Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun, in 1974. James, this time playing the same sheriff on vacation in Thailand and the epitome of the ugly American abroad, gets pushed into the water by a baby elephant.

“He wasn’t supposed to actually go in,” said his daughter.

“They gave him sugar in his pocket to feed the elephant. But he wasn’t giving it to the elephant fast enough.”

She said her father met with real southern sheriffs to prepare for his role as Pepper. Of his hundreds of roles, it was the Louisiana sheriff that people most often recognised and asked him about.

His daughter noted that her father sometimes said actors get remembered for one particular role out of hundreds.

“His is the sheriff’s, but he said he would have never picked that one,” she said.

George Clifton James was born May 29, 1920, in Spokane, Washington, the oldest of five siblings and the only boy. The family lost all its money at the start of the Great Depression and moved to Gladstone, just outside Portland, Oregon, where James’ maternal grandparents lived.

In the 1930s, James got work with the Civilian Conservation Corps and then entered WWII in 1942 as a soldier with the US Army in the South Pacific, receiving two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star.

Lynn James said her father rarely spoke about the war and never described events leading to his receiving the Silver Star.

“He lost too many friends,” she said.

After the war, James took classes at the University of Oregon and acted in plays. Inspired, he moved to New York and launched his acting career.

James’ wife, Laurie, died in 2015. He is survived by two sisters, five children, 14 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Calls for Manus Island evacuation after shots fired

Churches and refugee advocates are calling for asylum seekers on Manus Island to be evacuated to Australia after shots were fired when local men tried to storm the facility.

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The Australian Immigration and Border Protection Department has confirmed one asylum seeker was hit by a rock and injured during the violence on Good Friday evening, which reportedly included personnel from the local naval base.

However, Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian-born journalist and asylum seeker held on Manus Island, says three asylum seekers and some Australian officers were hurt.

WATCH: Video from the centre of the suspected gunshot

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The Human Rights Law Centre spokesman Daniel Webb on Saturday said “enough is enough” and that Malcolm Turnbull should immediately bring the men to safety in Australia.

“Most of these men were found to be refugees years ago,” he said.

“Last night’s attack has again left them terrified and – after four years of fear, violence and limbo – they are completely exhausted.”

The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, which represents several Christian church leaders, called on the government to “act with compassion” and evacuate the camp.

“The darkness of betrayal and abandonment that we are familiar with in the Jesus story is being felt keenly by those on Manus Island this weekend,” Very Reverend Peter Catt said in a statement.

“By bringing people to Australia, the US (refugee) deal may continue.

“More importantly, the healing of those who have been damaged by our nation’s policy can begin”.

The immigration department confirmed an incident had occured at the detention centre, and that there were “reports PNG military personnel discharged a weapon into the air”.

Mr Boochani said some of the 100 shots he heard had hit accommodation buildings in the compound.

“Last night proved that Australia cannot ensure safety not only for refugees but for its citizens too,” he said on Facebook on Saturday.

Opposition immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann has called for a full investigation at the Australian-funded offshore processing centre, adding that there were conflicting reports about what had happened.

“The culture of secrecy must change,” Mr Neumann said.

“The Turnbull government must be up-front about what has happened overnight on Manus Island.”

Amnesty International has also called for a prompt and independent investigation, with senior director for research Anna Neistat joining the calls for the asylum seekers to be moved.

“Friday’s shooting serves as just another example that the Manus island detention facility is not a safe place for asylum seekers,” Dr Neistat said.

“More incidences like this are inevitable unless the refugees and asylum seekers are relocated to safety.”

The Manus Island detention centre is due to close on October 31.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says those refugees who aren’t taken under an agreement with the US will settle in PNG, while non-refugees will be sent back to their home country.

People presently detained on Manus Island will not be coming to Australia, no matter how hard refugee advocates push, Mr Dutton said this week.

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Bottas takes Bahrain pole, Ricciardo 4th

Valtteri Bottas pipped his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton right at the end of qualifying to take pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix as Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo also finished with his best lap to take fourth on the grid.

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Hamilton had taken pole in the first two races of the season and had the leading time, until Bottas beat him on the last lap. It was the Finnish driver’s first ever pole – denying Hamilton his 64th. Hamilton had also taken pole in Bahrain for the past two years.

Bottas clocked a leading time of 1 minute, 28.769 seconds over the 5.4-kilometre track in Sakhir, compared to 1:28.792 for Hamilton.

“Boom. That’s my first one, guys,” Bottas proudly told his team over race radio before adding he is finally starting to feel comfortable with the car.

“It took a few races, but hopefully it’s the first of many,” Bottas said later.

“I’m getting better with the set-up of the car. Feeling more comfortable.”

Ricciardo, who had been struggling to match the pace of not only the silver arrows but also Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen saved his best for last.

The Australian put down a 1:26.545 on his last lap to put himself on the second row of the grid with former teammate and Ferrari star Sebastian Vettel.

The German marginally quicker than Ricciardo with a time of 1:29.247.

Still it was a pleasant surprise for Ricciardo, who couldn’t quite believe he went faster than Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari.

“It’s a bit of a surprise,” Ricciardo said.

“We kind of thought if we put everything together there might be a chance of a second row.”And yeah, we got it. I don’t know what Kimi’s lap was like but to jump a Ferrari is nice. It’s a good little bit of progress in one week.”

He predicted Red Bull will only be able to rival Mercedes and Ferrari in the race if they start poorly or run into trouble with their tyres.

“I think the others have still got a pretty big margin.

“If they run into some tyre degradation maybe we can have a bit of a go. Obviously at the start we’ll see but once the race settles they’ll still have a bit more pace.”

Raikkonen and Verstappen filled out the third row of the grid.

Bahrain proved a watershed moment for Renault who got both their cars in the top 10 for the first time in a long time with Nico Hulkenberg in seventh and Jolyon Palmer 10th.

The Williams of Felipe Massa will start from eighth, while Romain Grosjean will start from ninth in his Haas.

It was yet another unhappy evening for McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. The two-time world champion’s McLaren parked in the garage due to a broken power unit and the Spaniard will start from 15th on the grid.

Islamic State death toll from ‘mother of all bombs’ rises to at least 90

The death toll from the American military’s largest non-nuclear bomb nearly tripled Saturday, with Afghan officials saying at least 90 Islamic State fighters were killed, as US-led forces conducted clean-up operations over the rugged terrain.

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The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb – dubbed the “Mother Of All Bombs” – was unleashed in combat for the first time, hitting IS positions in eastern Nangarhar province on Thursday.

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The bombing triggered shock waves in Afghanistan, with some condemning the use of Afghanistan as what they called a testing ground for the weapon, and against a militant group that is not considered a threat as big as the resurgent Taliban.

“At least 92 Daesh (IS) fighters were killed in the bombing,” Achin district governor Esmail Shinwari told AFP on Saturday. Nangarhar provincial spokesman Attaullah Khogyani gave a toll of 90.

Afghan officials had earlier said the bombing had killed 36 IS fighters.

The bomb smashed the IS’s remote mountain hideouts, a tunnel-and-cave complex that had been mined against conventional ground attacks, engulfing the remote area in a huge mushroom cloud and towering flames.

Shinwari insisted there were “no military and civilian casualties at all”.

Watch: Bomb test in 2003 shows force of GBU-43

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Security experts say IS had built their redoubts close to civilian homes, but the government said thousands of local families had already fled the area in recent months of fighting.

The massive bomb was dropped after fighting intensified over the past week and US-backed ground forces struggled to advance on the area. An American special forces soldier was killed last Saturday in Nangarhar while conducting anti-IS operations.

President Ashraf Ghani threw his support behind the bombardment, saying it was “designed to support the efforts of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and US forces conducting clearance operations in the region.”

But some analysts called the action “disproportionate”.

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“The Trump administration made a lot of noise with this bomb, but the general state of play on the ground remains the same: The Taliban continues to wage a formidable and ferocious insurgency. ISIS, by comparison, is a sideshow,” Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington told AFP, using an alternative acronym for IS.

“Still, from a strategic standpoint, there is an unsettling takeaway here: The US pulled off a huge shock and awe mission against an enemy that isn’t even the top threat to the US in Afghanistan. The Taliban continues to sit pretty.”

IS, notorious for its reign of terror in Syria and Iraq, has made inroads into Afghanistan in recent years, attracting disaffected members of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban as well as Uzbek Islamists.

But the group has been steadily losing ground in the face of heavy pressure both from US air strikes and a ground offensive led by Afghan forces.

Pat Cummins delivers for Delhi in IPL

Pat Cummins was the only Australian to shine on what was a tough day for some of his countrymen in the Indian Premier League on Saturday.

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Cummins wasn’t exactly instrumental in the Delhi Daredevils win over Kings XI Punjab but he did take 2-23 in an economical four overs, that saw him claim the scalp of the dangerous Eoin Morgan for 23.

Cummins, the only Australian in the Delhi line-up claimed bragging rights over Glenn Maxwell, who fell for a second-ball duck to the bowling of Amit Mishra.

Cummins also did some late innings damage with the bat, smashing 12 not out off six deliveries to help the Daredevils to a total of 6-188.

England’s Sam Billings (55) hit his second IPL half century and New Zealand left-hander Corey Anderson’s brisk 39 off 22 balls also helped lay the platform for the Daredevils.

The early innings losses of Manan Vohra, Hashim Amla and Wriddhiman Saha set Kings XI back to 3-31 before Morgan and David Miller tried to steady the ship.

No. 7 batsman Axar Patel top-scored with 44 before Morris clean bowled the left-hander off the last ball.

In the day’s other match the Kolkata Knight Riders went top of the table with a 17-run victory over defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad.

David Warner’s side were put on the back foot early as Knight Riders’ first drop Robin Uthappa blasted 68 off 39 balls until he was eventually caught out off the bowling of Ben Cutting.

That wicket mattered little though, as his third-wicket partnership with Manish Pandey yielded 77 runs before Uthappa fell.

Kolkata went on the finish their innings at 6-172.

Cutting’s wicket was really the only bright spot for any of the three Australians in the Hyderabad team.

Cutting was otherwise dispatched to all parts of the ground, taking 1-41 off his four overs, while Moises Henriques was taken for 0-26 off two overs.

They didn’t fair much better with the bat. Warner made 26 off 30 balls, Henriques had 13 from 10 when he was caught and bowled by Chris Woakes and Cutting could only manage 15 from 10 in a quick lower-order cameo.

Hyderabad simply couldn’t keep pace in their chase and ultimately fell 17 runs short with a 20-over total of 6-155.

Cyprus leader says peace talks at ‘critical’ moment

“We find ourselves before critical and defining developments for the future of our homeland,” Anastasiades said in a televised Easter address.

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The Mediterranean resort island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded the northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup.

Successive peace efforts between its Greek- and Turkish-speaking communities have stumbled over issues including territory and security.

The current process, which saw talks resume in May 2015, is seen by analysts as the best hope for a lasting peace deal.

Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have agreed to schedule four new meetings, in a new phase of talks, with the first beginning on April 20.

“In order to achieve a solution acceptable by the people, we must establish conditions that will allow us to live in a well-organised European state without any dysfunctions or open wounds,” the Greek Cypriot leader said.

Much of the progress in recent talks was based on the strong personal rapport between Anastasiades and Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

The Turkish-held north is recognised only by Turkey.

But a row over Greek Cypriot schools marking the anniversary of an unofficial 1950 referendum supporting Enosis — union with Greece — has eroded trust. 

And the leaders are still far apart on core issues such as power sharing, territorial adjustments and property rights.

Also in the mix are Greek Cypriot presidential elections year and the search for oil and gas, which Ankara wants to see stopped until peace talks have reached an outcome.

Any peace accord must be put to a referendum for a final say.

Britain urges North Korea to stop nuclear weapons drive

“We have been here before but continue to monitor the situation carefully,” Johnson said in a statement.

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“We stand alongside our international partners in making clear that North Korea must adhere to UN resolutions designed to secure peace and stability in the region and stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

The nuclear-armed state is under United Nations sanctions over its weapons programmes.

It has carried out five nuclear tests –- two of them last year -– and multiple missile launches, one of which saw several rockets come down in waters provocatively close to Japan last month.

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North Korea’s weapons of war rolled through Pyongyang on Saturday and a senior figure in the regime said it could “beat down enemies with the power of nuclear justice”, as leader Kim Jong-Un mounted a spectacular show of strength.

Ostensibly Saturday’s event was to mark the 105th anniversary of the North’s founder Kim Il-Sung’s birth — a date known as the “Day of the Sun”. 

But it was also intended to send an unmistakable message to Washington about the isolated country’s military might.

Tensions over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are stretched to the limit, with US President Donald Trump deploying an aircraft carrier battle group to the region.

Speculation that Pyongyang could conduct a sixth blast in the coming days to coincide with the anniversary has reached fever pitch, with specialist US website 38North describing its Punggye-ri test site as “primed and ready” and White House officials saying military options were “already being assessed”.

WATCH: Bob Carr on China’s North Korea influence

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Tense Turkey braces for crunch referendum on Erdogan powers

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3 million Turks are able to vote in the referendum on sweeping changes to the president’s role which, if agreed, would grant Erdogan more power than any leader of Turkey since its founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and his successor Ismet Inonu.

Opinion polls, always treated with caution in Turkey, predicted wildly divergent scenarios with analysts saying the outcome remains too close to call despite the clear advantage in resources and airtime enjoyed by the ‘Yes’ campaign.

As the rival sides held rallies up until the last hour of legal campaigning Saturday to sway undecided voters, Erdogan confidently predicted that the ‘Yes’ camp had victory in the bag.

But he urged people not to succumb to “lethargy” in voting, saying “the stronger result the better”.

“A ‘Yes’ that emerges from the ballot box with the highest margin will be a lesson to the West,” he said in the Istanbul district of Sariyer, the last of a stamina-busting sequence of rallies.

Related reading’Most drastic shake up’

If passed, the new presidential system would dispense with the office of the prime minister and centralise the entire executive bureaucracy under the presidency, giving Erdogan the direct power to appoint ministers.

The system would come into force after November 2019 elections. Erdogan, who became president in 2014 after serving as premier from 2003, could then seek two more five-year mandates.

But it could also have even wider implications for the key NATO member, which for the last half century has set its sights on joining the European Union.

Erdogan has warned Brussels that in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote he would sign any bill agreed by parliament to reinstate capital punishment, a move that would automatically end its EU bid.

WATCH: Pro-Kurdish party’s final rally in Turkey

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Western reactions to the referendum outcome will be crucial, after Erdogan accused Turkey’s allies of failing to show sufficient solidarity in the wake of the July 15 failed coup.

“The referendum will mark another turning point, or rather crossroads in Turkey’s political history,” wrote Hurriyet Daily News chief editor Murat Yetkin.

Sinan Ekim and Kemal Kirisci of the Brookings Institution think-tank said in a report the changes if agreed “would set in motion the most drastic shake-up of the country’s politics and system of governance in its 94-year-long history”.

‘Bus with no brakes’ 

The opposition has cried foul that the referendum has been conducted on unfair terms, with ‘Yes’ posters ubiquitous on the streets and opposition voices squeezed from the media.

The poll is also taking place under a state of emergency that has seen 47,000 arrested in an unprecedented crackdown after the botched putsch.

Supporters see the new system as an essential modernisation step for Turkey but opponents fear it risks granting Erdogan authoritarian powers.

The standard-bearer of the ‘No’ camp, Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, warned at his final rally that Turkey was deciding if “we want to continue with the democratic parliamentary system or one-man rule”.

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He described the new system as “a bus with no brakes and whose destination is unknown”.

Voting in the country’s east gets under way at 7:00 am (0400 GMT) and an hour later elsewhere.

Key factors influencing the result will include whether the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) can perform the delicate balancing act of bringing both nationalists and conservative Kurds behind the new system.

Jihadists nabbed pre-poll

After a slew of attacks over the last year blamed on Kurdish militants and jihadists, security is set to be a major issue on polling day.

Authorities in Istanbul on Friday detained five people suspected of planning an attack on polling day, following the arrest of 19 alleged Islamist extremists in the Aegean city of Izmir earlier in the week.

The Dogan news agency said a total of 49 IS suspects had been detained in Istanbul alone over the last week.

More than 33,500 police officers will be on duty in Istanbul alone on referendum day, according to Turkish media.

Patton boots six as AFL’s Giants down Port

Greater Western Sydney coach Leon Cameron has hailed his side’s last-quarter blitz after Jonathon Patton inspired the Giants to a 31-point AFL win over Port Adelaide.

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Patton booted a career-high equalling six goals in Saturday’s match at UNSW Canberra Oval, with Jeremy Cameron (21 disposals, eight marks and one goal) influential at half-forward.

While the Giants piled six goals to nil in the final quarter, the eventual 16.16 (112) to 11.15 (81) scoreline didn’t reflect the true nature of an enthralling contest played in front of a crowd of 9,185.

The Power went to the final change with a four-point lead, the biggest margin at any break during the game.

Toby Greene’s third major put GWS back in front early in the final quarter and he added his fourth five minutes later to create a two-goal buffer.

Patton took a strong contested mark at the top of the goal square to help himself to an easy set shot for number five, and when he drew a free-kick deep inside 50 two minutes later he was able to make his sixth the sealer.

“I thought we dug in with about five minutes to go in the third quarter when things probably weren’t going well and they were playing some good footy,” Cameron said.

“To finish off in that manner is really pleasing.

“It’s good for the spirit of the group that when you have an arm wrestle like that you can stand up.”

Tom Scully was let off the leash, regularly finding space to rack up 32 touches while Josh Kelly (30) and Dylan Shiel (28) were also impressive through the midfield.

Cameron brought up his 250th AFL goal in the first quarter, opening up a 15-point lead with the Giants threatening to break the game apart.

But in a sign of things to come, the Power rallied with two late goals bringing them within three points at the first break.

Power coach Ken Hinkley said GWS had stood up when the game was in the balance.

“There was a domination in the last quarter but really strong three quarters and both teams fairly evenly matched,” Hinkley said.

“The scoreboard probably doesn’t do us justice but when you get really cleaned up like we did in that last quarter that’s what you’re going to get.”

Jasper Pittard starred for Port Adelaide off half-back with 24 disposals, while skipper Travis Boak was influential with two goals and 21 touches.

Giants defender Heath Shaw was forced from the ground with a corked shin in the third quarter but came back on to play the final 15 minutes of the match in the forward line.

“It was that sort of spirit that allowed us to play the footy we wanted to play in the last 15 to 20 minutes,” Cameron said.

“He’ll recover and look forward to playing again in seven days.”

The Giants face Sydney in a cross-town grudge match next Saturday, with the Swans desperate to arrest their four-game losing streak.

Port will host Carlton on Friday night as they look to build on a 2-2 start to 2017.

Thousands rally in latest Hungary protest

Thousands of Hungarians have rallied in Budapest against what they say are attempts by the right wing government to silence critical voices, in the latest mass protest triggered by a new university law.

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Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government, which has been in power since 2010, has faced big protests in the past two weeks after it passed legislation that targets a top international university founded in Budapest by billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros.

Orban said earlier on Saturday that the parliamentary elections next year would decide whether a government fighting for the national interest remained in power or forces serving foreign interests gained control.

Orban has long criticised civil society organisations funded by Hungarian-born Soros, accusing them of opposing his tough migration policies and supporting illegal migration. He says the Soros-founded Central European University (CEU) has violated Hungarian rules – an accusation the university rejects. His government also wants to tighten rules on non-governmental organisations.

Among the thousands of protesters gathered in Budapest at a peaceful rally on Saturday, some carried European Union flags and banners with messages such as “Viktor the game is over” and “I stand with CEU”.

“It is unbearable what is happening here, I would like to live in a democracy,” said Agnes Bojte, 40, who makes documentaries. “It is like the air is getting thinner and thinner in this country.”

“Media, civilians, students and Hungarian people cannot be silenced in their own country,” one of the speakers said.

The EU and the United States have sharply criticised the new legislation. Rights groups say it is part of a wider crackdown on dissent in Hungary, after curbs on the public media, state institutions and the constitutional court.

Orban, speaking for the first time since the protests began, told pro-government newspaper Magyar Idok that such conflicts were part of a fight for national sovereignty.

“In Hungary the national government is under continuous pressure and attacks so what is at stake at all elections is whether we will have a parliament and government serving the interests of Hungarian people or serving foreign interests,” he said.