Everybody loved US actress Doris Roberts

Everybody loved Doris Roberts.

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The spunky actress who played the tart-tongued, endlessly meddling mother on TV series Everybody Loves Raymond received an outpouring of praise on Monday following news of her death.

Phil Rosenthal, the sitcom’s creator, called her “a wonderful, funny, indelible actress and friend” on Twitter.

CBS said in a statement that Roberts “will be remembered for lighting up every room she walked into with an unparalleled combination of energy, humour, warmth and even a little bit of grit.”

Roberts died in her sleep, spokeswoman Janet Daily said. She was told of the death by Roberts’ son, Michael Cannata. Roberts was 90.

The cause of death was not immediately known. Roberts had been healthy and active, Daily said.

Last month, Roberts appeared at an actors’ union event that focused on the scarcity of female directors in entertainment. The outspoken critic of age discrimination asked the panel why there were so few roles for elder actors.

Roberts won four Emmy Awards for her portrayal of Marie Barone on CBS’ Everybody Loves Raymond, receiving a total of seven nominations as best supporting actress for the sitcom.

The 1996-2005 sitcom about an affectionate but bickering extended family also starred Ray Romano, Brad Garrett and Patricia Heaton. Peter Boyle, who played husband Frank Barone opposite Roberts, died in 2006.

“She was funny and tough and loved life, living it to the fullest,” Heaton tweeted. She recalled Roberts as a “consummate professional.”

Comedian Denis Leary tweeted that Roberts “made me laugh so hard so many times.”

Roberts also was known for her role in the 1980s TV detective series Remington Steele. She appeared on stage and in a variety of movies, including The Rose, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and Madea’s Witness Protection.

But it was the hugely successful Everybody Loves Raymond that “put my career over the top,” Roberts told The Associated Press as the show wrapped its run.

Roberts, then 74, fretted openly about what she would do next. “Who knows after this? Nobody writes for older people,” she said.

Yet her list of TV and movie credits continued to grow, with projects from 2015, including the TV movie Merry Kissmas, and others slated to be released this year.

Roberts was born on November 4, 1925, in St. Louis and grew up in New York.

The actress began her stage career on Broadway in the 1950s, amassing credits that eventually included Neil Simon’s The Last of the Red Hot Lovers and Terrence McNally’s Bad Habits.

In early TV appearances, she was seen in episodes of Studio One, The Naked City and The Defenders.

Roberts received her first Emmy Award in 1983, for her supporting role on the series St. Elsewhere. She received a total of 11 nominations for her TV work overall, including her bids for Everybody Loves Raymond.

An enthusiastic cook, Roberts co-wrote Are You Hungry, Dear? Life, Laughs, and Lasagna, a memoir with recipes, in 2005.

Besides her son, she is survived by her daughter-in-law, Jane, and three grandchildren, Kelsey, Andrew, and Devon Cannata.

Election means real reform unlikely: BDO

The likely July 2 federal election has put the prospect of any real tax reform on the backburner, an accountancy firm says.

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BDO expects the election will overshadow the May 3 budget and the federal government’s promised wide-ranging tax reform package that will be unveiled with it.

“I think the thing that is more likely than not to get put on the backburner is a serious conversation about tax reform,” BDO tax partner David Blake told AAP.

He said the consistent message from business has been the government needs to get on with it.

“Our clients are saying `we’re a little bit sick and tired of all this reform being proposed and then nothing happens’.”

The election is also expected to limit any real measures in the federal budget.

“The forthcoming election casts a very big shadow over this budget, so I’m expecting we will see a lot of rhetoric but not much in the way of real reform on 3 May,” BDO tax partner Mark Molesworth said.

Mr Blake said the real tax reform being sought by business meant rate reductions and removing the duplicity in the federal and state tax systems in terms of state imposts such as stamp duty, land tax and payroll tax.

“If you’re going to reform the system you ought not have so many layers of taxation,” he said.

Mr Blake said business also wanted the government to take a long-term view.

“If you’re taking a long-term view it seems to us that infrastructure would be the one place where you could make a serious productivity change.”

He said an infrastructure bond would provide a mechanism for direct investment in infrastructure by all superannuation funds for the long-term benefit of the country.

Cairns petrol probe ‘overdue’: RACQ

A probe by the consumer watchdog into high petrol prices in Cairns is long overdue, Queensland’s peak motoring body says.

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on Tuesday revealed the far north Queensland city would become the fourth location for a petrol price investigation.

The average unleaded petrol price was 146.4 cents per litre (cpl) in 2014-15, which was 12.3 cpl higher than prices in major cities including Sydney and Brisbane.

“Understanding why petrol prices in Cairns are so high will help us identify the steps that could be taken to increase transparency and promote competition in the Cairns’ fuel market,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

“It should also provide some explanation of why petrol prices are high in other regional locations around Queensland.”

RACQ spokesman Michael Roth said the study would be welcomed by Cairns motorists who have been ripped off for years.

“We’re hopeful this study will make a real difference to ULP prices in the area,” he said.

“When a market study was carried out in Darwin prices dropped, and they remain significantly lower now than they were prior to that study.”

State Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the ACCC had the tools and expertise to bring “real scrutiny” to the Queensland market.

“As we have seen in recent weeks, Cairns, in particular, regularly experiences more expensive petrol prices than its neighbours which is unfair for local motorists,” Mr Bailey said.

“We need to be satisfied that market prices are fair and reasonable wherever you live in Queensland, and this ACCC investigation is a positive step forward.”

The federal government tasked the ACCC with monitoring petrol prices, costs and profits in December 2014 and it has so far looked at the markets in Darwin, Armidale and Launceston.

Ecuador quake: Death toll climbs as search for survivors continues

But the traumatized survivors Correa met on his rounds two days after the magnitude 7.

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8 quake had much more immediate concerns: many asked him for water.

With the death toll likely to rise further and swaths of flattened homes, roads and bridges coming to light, a visibly moved and grim-faced Correa warned that Ecuador’s biggest disaster in decades would put a big toll on the poor Andean country.

Another 231 people are still missing and presumed to be trapped or buried under buildings that collapsed.

“Reconstruction will cost billions of dollars,” said Correa in the hard-hit city of Portoviejo, where survivors swarmed him asking for aid. The economic impact “could be huge,” he added later.

Related

Growth in the country of 16 million, which is largely dependent on oil and exports, was already forecast near zero this year due to plunging oil income.

The energy industry appeared to have dodged damage although the main refinery of Esmeraldas was closed as a precaution. However, exports of bananas, flowers, cocoa beans and fish could be slowed by ruined roads and port delays.

Michael Henderson, at risk consultancy Maplecroft, said Ecuador was less well equipped to recover than Chile, where a 2010 earthquake caused an estimated $30 billion in damage.

“Whereas Chile’s economy was rebounding strongly from the global financial crisis …, Ecuador has been slowing sharply recently as lower oil prices depress activity,” he said.

“But total damage to assets in dollar terms may be quite a bit lower than in Chile due to the smaller magnitude of the earthquake and the fact that Ecuador is a much poorer country.”

Pleas for aid amid sporadic looting

The quake struck Saturday night along the northwest coast, while Correa was in Italy.

Vice President Jorge Glas – a potential candidate to succeed Correa in elections next February – flew into the disaster zone within hours to oversee rescue and relief efforts.

But some survivors complained about lack of electricity and supplies, and aid had still not reached some areas. The number of injured rose to over 2,600.

Shaken Ecuadoreans lined up for food and blankets, slept in the rubble of their destroyed homes or congregated in the street after the most destructive quake since a 1979 magnitude 7.7 quake killed at least 600 people and injured 20,000, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Fears of looting spread as in Portoviejo people stole clothes and shoes from wrecked buildings and police tried to control crowds. A former social security building was ransacked for aluminum window frames and cables by people hoping to sell the materials.

“I have to take some advantage from this horrible tragedy. I need money to buy food. There’s no water, no light, and my house was destroyed,” said Jorge Espinel, 40, who works in the recycling business.

Elsewhere, armed men robbed two trucks carrying water, clothes and other basics to quake-hit beach locality Pedernales.

There, survivors curled up on mattresses or plastic chairs next to flattened homes. Soldiers and police patrolled the hot streets while rescuers searched for survivors.

Earlier, firefighters entered a partially destroyed house in Pedernales to look for three children and a man apparently trapped inside, as a crowd gathered to watch.

“My little cousins are inside. Before, there were noises, screams. We must find them,” pleaded Isaac, 18.

Tents sprang up in the intact stadium to store bodies, treat the injured, and distribute water, food and blankets. Bruised and bandaged survivors wandered around while the more seriously injured were evacuated to hospitals.

Over 300 aftershocks rattled survivors huddling in the streets, worried their already cracked homes could topple.

“We’re scared of being in the house,” said Yamil Faran, 47, in Portoviejo. “When … the aftershocks stop, we’re going to see if we can repair it.”

Some 130 inmates climbed over the collapsed walls of the town’s low-security El Rodeo prison, although more than 35 were recaptured.

International support

The government has mobilized about 13,500 security personnel to the affected areas.

Nearly 400 rescue workers flew in from various Latin American neighbors, along with 83 specialists from Switzerland and Spain. Cuba was sending a team of doctors.

Two Canadians were among the dead. Jennifer Mawn, 38, and her 12-year-old son, Arthur, died when the roof of their coastal residence collapsed.

One U.S. citizen is also confirmed to have died in the quake, the State Department said on Monday. And Britain’s Guardian newspaper said Sister Clare Theresa Crockett, 33, a missionary nun from Derry in Northern Ireland, also died.

To get finance the costs of the emergency, some $600 million in credit from multilateral lenders was immediately activated, the government said.

But the disaster may also push Correa, a leftist, to seek help from the International Monetary Fund, consultancy Eurasia said.

“Such dynamics increase the odds of Correa turning to an IMF Program for support, an option he has so far resisted, and the earthquake could provide him with political cover to do so,” it said.

Racism case is ‘legal blackmail’: Senator

Crossbench senator David Leyonhjelm has labelled a high-profile racial discrimination case against a group of Queensland university students “an attempt at legal blackmail”.

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The Liberal Democrats senator said the lawsuit – sparked by a Facebook comment posted when students were kicked out of an indigenous-only computer lab – was being used to constrain free speech.

Senator Leyonhjelm said it also demonstrated why the Racial Discrimination Act’s controversial section 18C needed to be repealed.

Cindy Prior, an indigenous woman and administration officer at QUT, is suing the university and three students under 18C for almost $250,000 in lost wages and general damages, plus future economic losses.

Two other students have already accepted an offer from Ms Prior’s lawyers to settle for $5000, reportedly because they couldn’t afford the legal costs and did not want to be linked with racism.

The remaining students – Alex Wood, Jackson Powell and Calum Thwaites – could face up to $500,000 in legal bills if the case goes to trial.

Senator Leyonhjelm, a free speech advocate, described the case, and particularly the offer to settle for $5000, as “a blatant attempt at legal blackmail”.

“It’s another case of people using the legal system for what amounts to political purposes,” he told AAP.

“Had I been one of the respondents I would have replied with a very short, two-word reply beginning with `get’.”

Tony Abbott had promised to repeal 18C as opposition leader, which became known as the Andrew Bolt law, after a high-profile case involving the conservative columnist, but backed down as prime minister following public criticism .

The QUT case dates back to May 2013 when Ms Prior asked Mr Wood and two other students to leave the university’s Oodgeroo Unit, which is reserved for indigenous students.

Mr Wood later posted on Facebook: “Just got kicked out of the indigenous only computer lab. QUT stopping segregation with segregation?”.

The post attracted a number of comments, some of which were critical of the lab’s existence.

Ms Prior is not mentioned in any of the posts but went on sick leave following the incident, later saying she felt unsafe leaving her home because she feared verbal abuse and was unable to return to work due to face-to-face contact with white people.

QUT and the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) have come under fire over their handling of the case after it was revealed the students weren’t told of Ms Prior’s complaint for more than a year.

The students only learned of the complaint days before a key AHRC meeting that paved the way for the federal lawsuit.

Banks still beat fintech firms on trust

Australia’s big banks have some breathing room compared to global markets when it comes to financial technology competitors but more needs to be done, according to a new report into world banking trends.

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Australia is slightly behind when it comes to picking up financial tech products, but those using them are far more likely to recommend them to friends, according to a 2016 World Retail Banking Report.

The report suggested real strength could be found in collaborations between tech firms and banks.

“Where they (banks) were strong in some areas, fintechs were strong in others and there was a real opportunity to partner,” Sharon Rode of consultancy firm Capgemeni told AAP.

Customers trust banks substantially more than newer tech services but ease of use has driven nearly two thirds of Australians to tech products.

“The large customer base that the banks come with and where the fintech’s can add value is helping them know their customer a bit better,” Ms Rode said.

Although banks were embracing technology companies overall, Ms Rode said many executives were aware they needed to step up.

“The inability of banks to innovate leaves the door wide open for fintech providers to attract new customers,” Ms Rode said.

The research included interviews with banks and three large Australian financial technology companies Moula, Moneyplace and Banjo.

Moneyplace cuts banks out of the lending process, enabling peer to peer lending online, while both Banjo and Moula specialise in simplifying business loans online.

The way forward for the banks is to collaborate with tech firms, but they need to act swiftly to avoid being outpaced in the market, Ms Rode said.

FINTECH AND BANKS IN AUSTRALIA

* 51 per cent of people trust banks

* 24 per cent trust financial technology firms

* 63 per cent use fintech products

* 96 per cent of banking executives say financial services are moving into a digital future

* But only 13 per cent say they have a system in place to support it

Josh should’ve got me in the face: Lichaa

Canterbury star Josh Reynolds shouldn’t have had to apologise for his extraordinary mid-match spray at teammate Michael Lichaa, according to captain James Graham.

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Reynolds gave Lichaa a mighty gobful after being thrown a bad pass at a critical juncture in their NRL loss to the Warriors last weekend, pegging the ball back the hooker’s way in frustration.

The Bulldogs’ five-eighth eventually apologised to Lichaa, an act Graham considered unnecessary.

“When you’re playing in a team like that and you’re close, he doesn’t need to say sorry,” Graham said on Tuesday.

“He has apologised, but I don’t personally think he needed to. You see one moment on the TV and people question things, but it shows me he cares.”

An embarrassed Lichaa was unaware of Reynolds’ on-field snap as he was busy chastising himself for the turnover, but had no qualms with it – in fact saying Reynolds should’ve aimed the ball better than he did.

“For him to feel comfortable enough to do that to me, he should’ve got me in the face. It was that bad of a ball,” Lichaa said.

“I didn’t know (about it) until we got to the sheds because I think I was yelling on the ground. I was a bit embarrassed about the pass. I said to him, ‘You should’ve got me, because it was a shocking pass’.”

Lichaa said Reynolds simply deserved better service.

“He expects better from me and I expected better from myself from that pass. In that situation, we had the ball in good position and I let him down and he let me know. That’s what happens in footy,” he said.

“I wouldn’t want to be walking around on eggshells and thinking I wouldn’t know what the other players are thinking. If he wants to tell me, that’s how it is. I’m definitely happy with it.”

The incident raised questions of dissent in the Bulldogs’ ranks, a disharmony that Graham immediately shot down.

“If he just walked off, collected his pay cheque and didn’t care, that’s when you want to start asking questions,” he said.

“We don’t need to be seeing that every single time someone does something wrong, but I’ve got no problem with it … I don’t think it’s a big deal. It doesn’t really need to be talked about too much.”

Chief selector Inzamam urges patience as Pakistan rebuild

Pakistan rose to number two in the test rankings last year after series wins in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and by beating England in the United Arab Emirates in November.

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However, they have failed to replicate the success in limited-overs formats recently and started 2016 with defeats in both 50-overs and Twenty20 series in New Zealand.

“It’s the start, I don’t have a magic wand,” Inzamam told reporters. “It will take time, there will be technical things and other problems too which we have to see.

“We have to be patient, don’t expect anything soon.”

Pakistan won two of four matches in the Asia Cup T20 tournament in Bangladesh before exiting the World Twenty20 in India on the back of three group stage defeats.

The results prompted head coach Waqar Younis to resign and saw all-rounder Shahid Afridi lose the T20 captaincy, while the selection committee was also dissolved by the board (PCB).

Inzamam, 46, quit his position as Afghanistan head coach to take up his new role with Pakistan, who won the 50-overs World Cup in 1992 and the T20 version in 2009.

The former batting great guided Afghanistan to the Super 10 stage of the World Twenty20, where they collected a win over eventual champions West Indies. His contract with Afghanistan ran until the end of the year.

Inzamam’s next assignment will be to select the Pakistan squad for a full tour of England starting July, when they play four tests, five ODIs and a T20 match. The team will also play two ODIs against Ireland after the tests in England.

He said it was important to build a pool of players and put the effort into helping them develop.

“When you make changes, you face problems, but we will be back on track if we make a pool of players,” he added.

The former right-handed batsman played 378 one-day internationals and 120 tests for Pakistan and also served as the team’s batting consultant for a brief period in 2012.

Pakistan are currently ranked fourth in tests, eighth in ODIs and seventh in T20s.

(Writing by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Peter Rutherford)

RBA says rates already very accommodative

The Reserve Bank is prepared to cut interest rates if inflation remains sluggish over the next year or two.

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The central bank, earlier in April, held the cash rate at a record low of 2.0 per cent, the rate it’s been at since May 2015.

In the minutes of its April board meeting the Reserve Bank indicated interest rates were at the right level amid a slowing labour market, a rising Australian dollar and low global inflation.

“Given these conditions, members assessed that it was appropriate for monetary policy to be very accommodative,” the minutes, released Tuesday, said.

The RBA downplayed the recent fluctuations in the labour market, saying slower jobs growth was expected following strong gains in the second half of 2015 and that it was noticeably stronger than one year ago.

However, it wouldn’t hesitate to cut rates in future if a subdued jobs market, combined with low global inflation and a high Australian dollar, kept inflation low for the next year or two.

“Continued low inflation would provide scope to ease monetary policy further, should that be appropriate to lend support to demand,” the minutes said.

JP Morgan economist Ben Jarman said the statement showed the RBA was focused on far more than just the domestic factors when determining interest rates.

“Stable rates, in this context, implies more accommodative policy, which is needed to offset global disinflationary forces,” he said in a note.

ANZ’s head of Australian economics Felicity Emmett said the central bank’s upbeat economic outlook indicated there wouldn’t be a near-term rate cut.

“The strength in the very recent data would leave the Reserve Bank comfortable that the non-mining recovery had continued to gain traction over the past few months,” she added.

CommSec economist Savanth Sebastian said even “super low inflation” and a strong dollar may not be enough to trigger a future rate cut.

“However it (the RBA) would need to feel confident that a rate cut would have the desired impact in driving the Aussie dollar lower,” he said.

“Most central banks that have eased monetary policy in the past few months have seen their currency continue to strengthen.”

Shooting Monis risked hostage lives:police

A senior police officer has defended a decision not to storm the Lindt Cafe until the death or serious injury of a hostage.

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Superintendent Allan Sicard, who was the forward commander in charge during the early hours of the December 2014 ordeal, said taking out hostage-taker Man Haron Monis might have put the 18 hostages at an unnecessary risk of death.

He told the siege inquest on Tuesday that lessons he learned in other critical operations, including the 2011 “collar bomb” incident involving Sydney teenager Madeleine Pulver, were that time sometimes negates the risks faced by hostages.

“In the two hours I was there, the incident never escalated to a level that I thought we needed to implement an emergency action plan,” he said.

Triggers for that plan, he believed, were the death or serious injury of a hostage, or the imminent threat of either of those things happening.

But Gabrielle Bashir SC, the lawyer for the family of Tori Johnson who was murdered during the siege, questioned whether a trigger that activated in the event of the actual shooting of a hostage failed to protect that innocent person.

Supt Sicard acknowledged that where there was no other trigger, that could be the case.

“In the cold context of the question I would say we haven’t protected that person but there are multiple other people in that room that have to be taken into consideration as well,” he said.

The siege reached its deadly conclusion after 17 hours when officers stormed the Martin Place building following Monis’ point blank execution of Mr Johnson.

Monis was gunned down, while barrister and mother-of-three Katrina Dawson also died after being hit by shrapnel from police rounds when they entered the cafe.

Supt Sicard said he could have given orders for the Tactical Operations Unit to enter the cafe during the first two hours of the siege if the risk to the 18 hostages escalated, but he did not see that happen.

“For us to charge in the first two hours could have caused the explosive device to go off, it might have caused the unnecessary death of hostages,” he said.

He had told the inquest on Monday that police treated the threat of a bomb in Monis’ backpack as well as a possible second radio bomb as real threats because officers were unable to go through their usual processes to determine otherwise.

It was only confirmed after the siege ended that the backpack device was a speaker.

The inquest also heard on Tuesday that police were called to investigate 15 other threats in the city that day, including threats of explosive devices and suspicious people or vehicles in Circular Quay, George Street and Town Hall and Wynyard stations.

Detective Chief Inspector Craig Middleton, whose job it was to co-ordinate the investigation of threats outside Martin Place, admitted hostages who passed information from Monis about possible bombs in other locations wouldn’t be told when police discounted those threats.

He answered “no” when asked if he would pass that information back to negotiators where threats were sourced from hostages.

Senior NSW police, including now-Assistant Commissioner Michael Fuller, are expected to continue giving evidence in relation to police management of the siege when the inquest continues next week.