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  • Billionaire Mark Cuban cleared of insider trading, blasts U.S. government

    Cuban, 55, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, lashed out at the U.

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    S. government and lead prosecutor Jan Folena after the verdict, saying the government had tried to bully him.

    "Jan Folena, who represents the United States of America, stood up there and lied," an angry Cuban told reporters after the nine-member jury read its decision.

    "I'm the luckiest guy in the world, and I'm glad I could stand up to them," he said.

    Estimated by Forbes magazine to have a net worth of $2.5 billion, Cuban was accused by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission of trading on non-public information when he sold his 600,000 shares in Internet search company Mamma.com - worth $7.9 million - and avoided a $750,000 loss.

    George Canellos, the co-director of the SEC's enforcement division, said Cuban's comments were inappropriate.

    "Mr. Cubans' comments are without merit and uncalled for. Our lawyers acted in the finest traditions of government counsel and entirely appropriately in strongly advocating the position of the government in this matter," he said in a statement.

    The SEC brought the civil lawsuit against Cuban in November 2008. A judge dismissed the suit in 2009 but an appeals court revived the case the following year.

    Cuban refused to settle and went to trial, even though he said on Wednesday that he had spent more on fees for lawyers than the possible fines for admitting to insider trading. He could have faced up to $2 million in fines, his lawyers said.

    "It's personal. You take all these years of my life, it's personal," Cuban said.

    SEC lawyers rushed from the court after the verdict without making extensive comments. The agency later issued a short statement saying it was disappointed by the outcome.

    "We respect the jury's decision," SEC spokesman John Nester said in Washington.

    "While the verdict in this particular case is not the one we sought, it will not deter us from bringing and trying cases where we believe defendants have violated the federal securities laws."

    BLOW TO SEC

    The decision in the Cuban case was a blow to the SEC, which was still riding high after it won a blockbuster case against former Goldman Sachs vice president Fabrice Tourre this summer.

    The SEC argued that Tourre had committed fraud in a failed mortgage securities deal during the 2008-2009 financial crisis. In August, a jury agreed and found Tourre liable on six of seven counts.

    At the two-week trial of Cuban, prosecutors argued that he sold his stake soon after learning from Mamma.com Chief Executive Guy Faure that the Montreal-based company was planning a private placement that would dilute his holdings in the company.

    Mamma.com shares dropped 9.3 percent on the morning after the offering was announced. By that time, Cuban had already sold his shares.

    Cuban, who rose to prominence before the dot-com crash by selling his company, Broadcas南宁夜生活,m, in 1999 to Yahoo Inc for $5.7 billion, said he did nothing wrong when he sold his 6.3 percent stake in Mamma.com.

    Cuban testified during the two-week trial that there were many reasons for selling his shares, including the private placement and Mamma.com's possible association with a known stock swindler.

    His lawyers suggested that word of the private placement had leaked into the market because potential investors were being contacted to participate in the private placement.

    "This case should have never been brought to trial," Cuban's defence lawyer Stephen Best said after the verdict on Wednesday in federal court in Dallas.

    In addition to his ownership of a professional basketball team, Cuban is one of the stars of the popular television show "Shark Tank," which features financiers analyzing and deciding whether to invest in new products presented by entrepreneurs.

    "I know I'm a target," Cuban said of his high profile. "I recognize that when I do things people pay attention."

    (Reporting by Jana Pruet; Additional reporting by Sarah N. Lynch in Washington; Editing by Greg McCune, Bernard Orr and Lisa Shumaker)

  • Former Vic priest Rapson jailed for abuse

    Former Catholic priest David Edwin Rapson preyed on vulnerable Melbourne schoolchildren to inflict cruel, sadistic and violent sexual abuse.

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    He drugged some of his victims with spiked Milo, and on other occasions gave them alcohol and cigarettes, or lured them to him by letting them play computer games.

    Rapson, 60, was on Thursday jailed for 13 years for the abuse of eight boys at two Catholic colleges between the 1970s and 1990.

    Victorian County Court Judge Liz Gaynor said Rapson's crimes of unrelenting sexual exploitation were an incalculable breach of trust.

    "These were dreadful crimes against vulnerable victims who were entirely in your power," she said.

    "You have ruined lives."

    Judge Gaynor said Rapson had joined a circle of abusive staff at one of the schools.

    "You soon became an enthusiastic member of the sexually deviant group of religious operating at the school at the time," she said.

    The judge said Rapson had preyed on students who had trusted him, including some with learning difficulties and a boy whose father had cancer.

    One boy was so badly abused that he could not walk the following day and needed surgery a short time later.

    Judge Gaynor said Rapson used his position as a priest and teacher to avoid being caught.

    "It was brazen, it was manipulative and it was heartless," she said.

    Judge Gaynor sentenced Rapson to 13 years' jail, with a non-parole period of 10 years.

    In a statement read to the court last week, one of Rapson's victims said he had thought about the abuse every single day since it happened.

    "It's like I'm always running from him," he said.

    "My life would have been so, so different if not for the abuse."

    Judge Gaynor said Rapson had been raised by a cruel and alcoholic stepfather, and was sexually abused as a teenager.

    Rapson was in 1992 jailed for two years after being convicted of the sexual abuse of a boy at one of the schools.

    He was removed from the priesthood in 2004 after the Australian head of his order travelled to the Vatican to personally ask Pope John Paul II that he be defrocked.

  • Minister Macfarlane outlines energy policy

    Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has urged the states to take greater steps to lower electricity and gas prices for consumers and business.

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    There is much more that can be done to cut power bills alongside axing the carbon tax, Mr Macfarlane told the Energy Users Association of Australia conference in Brisbane on Thursday.

    "There is a real need to address pressures in our electricity and gas markets to ensure these markets operate as efficiently as possible to promote competition and better outcomes for consumers," Mr Macfarlane said.

    He will be working with the states and territories to finalise the Council of Australian Governments' (COAG) energy market reform agenda.

    And the government is in the early stages of a national energy white paper and an east coast gas supply strategy.

    However Mr McFarlane reiterated the coalition's opposition to a domestic gas reservation policy.

    Work is well under way within COAG on energy market reform to ensure a reliable supply of electricity at a minimal and sustainable cost, he said.

    The states were heavily criticised by the previous Labor government for overspending on poles and wires, which has pushed up power prices.

    The minister said deregulating electricity prices would improve the market's productivity, as had been seen in Victoria and South Australia.

    He encouraged other states to consider a similar move, but acknowledged the Queensland government had made it clear any move to privatise electricity generation would be taken to an election before a decision was made.

    "I encourage the Queensland government to follow through with that process," Mr Macfarlane said.

    He said the energy white paper should focus on streamlining regulation, improving workforce development and stimulating research and development.

    "Our energy policy needs to balance our long-term domestic energy needs and growing our exports of energy products - both unrefined and value added - with putting in place the environmental safeguards the community expects," he said.

  • India stun Aust with incredible run chase

    Australian skipper George Bailey was philosophical rather than shattered after India produced the second-highest run chase of all time to stun the tourists and level their one-day series.

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    Set a mammoth 360 for victory in game two in Jaipur, after Bailey (92no) and Phil Hughes (83) fired Australia to 5-359, the task seemed insurmountable.

    But India did the unthinkable - cruising to a nine-wicket victory with 39 balls to spare, with Rohit Sharma (141no) and Virat Kohli (100no) scoring spectacular centuries to go with Shikhar Dhawan's 95.

    Bailey changed up the bowling, set new fields and implemented every plan Australia had prepared.

    But none of it was effective on the docile wicket.

    "Some times you just have to take your hat off and say India batted beautifully," said Bailey.

    "The full ones were going over our heads, and the short ones were going over the side fence.

    "I don't think it mattered where they (bowled)."

    Bailey admitted the loss was deflating, but insisted his team was capable of picking itself up off the canvas in time for the third clash in Mohali on Saturday.

    "It's deflating, absolutely," Bailey said.

    "We don't have time (to worry). There's five games left.

    "We've just got to jump back on (the horse). There's a lot to like still.

    "That's two games in a row we've batted beautifully. We've bowled beautifully in one game.

    "And it's one-all.

    "I don't think there's too much consoling that needs to be done.

    "New wicket, new conditions ... you bounce back. That's what you do."

    At the halfway mark, everything pointed to Australia taking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

    Every member of Australia's top five passed 50, the first such instance in one day international history, as the score ballooned to their equal sixth highest international total.

    To that point it was also the highest ever score at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium.

    What happened next was something Australian cricket fans are becoming increasingly familiar with, having now conceded the four highest one-day chases of all time - and all since 2006.

    The same favourable conditions which eased Aaron Finch, Shane Watson and Glenn Maxwell past 50 soon turned against the Australians.

    And India pounced, blazing a 176-run opening stand between Dhawan and Sharma.

    That was to be outdone by Sharma and Kohli, who piled on 186 at nearly 11 runs an over to close out the game in devastating fashion.

    The tourists rued a missed opportunity to remove Dhawan when he was on just 18 - with wicketkeeper Brad Haddin grassing the chance.

    A leading edge flew so high Haddin had enough time to reach square leg to field it - but he made a meal of it and the ball bounced out of his gloves.

    It proved costly, with Dhawan making the Australians pay an extra 77 runs after Haddin's error.

    The Australian vice-captain appeared to have redeemed himself with a brilliant stumping with Dhawan on 42, quickly whipping the balls off after Xavier Doherty (0-70) sent a faster one wide outside off stump.

    Replays showed the decision could not have been closer and after three minutes of deliberation the third umpire ruled Dhawan not out.

    Perhaps an extra frame would've worked in Australia's favour.

    But by then, the tide had turned and the momentum was firmly with India.

    Not even Dhawan's dismissal to James Faulkner (1-60) could stem the tide, with Virat Kohli joining the onslaught with a ruthless 52-ball innings that included seven sixes - one so large it nearly left the ground.

    Kohli's was the fastest ODI century by an Indian, and comfortably the fastest ever scored against Australia.

    Between both sides a remarkable 23 sixes and 75 boundaries were hit on the day.

    Earlier, Hughes and Finch again got off to a flier, while Watson foreshadowed the fireworks to come by stepping up the tempo in true Twenty20 fashion when he arrived at the crease.

  • Betham handed Wallabies debut against All Blacks

    In another change forced by a rash of injuries, goal-kicking centre Christian Leali'ifano was replaced in the number 12 shirt by ACT Brumbies team mate Matt Toomua, who made his own debut at flyhalf against the All Blacks in this year's Rugby Championship.

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    Flanker Scott Fardy's eye injury forced another reshuffle in the back row, with Ben McCalman coming off the bench at number eight and Ben Mowen switching from the back of the scrum to the blindside flank.

    Scrumhalf Will Genia, stunningly dropped from the starting line-up by McKenzie during the Rugby Championship, will win his 50th cap.

    His halfback partner Quade Cooper will start at flyhalf against the country of his birth for the first time this year and is also expected to assume kicking duties.

    Like Cooper, Betham was born in New Zealand and Saturday's start at Otago Stadium caps a remarkable rise for a player who was by no means a guaranteed a starter at the New South Wales Waratahs at the beginning of the season.

    A powerful and dynamic runner, Betham was called up on Tuesday after injuries to Joe Tomane, Chris Feauai-Sautia and Nick Cummins and was the only fit specialist winger in the squad.

    "The reality of rugby is that most players get an opportunity at the misfortune of one of their team mates, but it's about what each individual does with that opportunity that counts the most," McKenzie said.

    "That doesn't just apply to Peter but to a number of guys who are receiving a chance this week. There is no better way to make your mark than by playing well against the All Blacks."

    Australia ran in seven tries to hammer Argentina 54-17 in their last outing two weeks ago but have not beaten the All Blacks in New Zealand since 2001.

    The All Blacks also earlier retained the Bledisloe Cup for the 11th successive season by beating the Wallabies in the opening two tests of the Rugby Championship.

    "The All Blacks are the most consistent team in world rugby and their record proves just how formidable they are when playing at home in front of their fans," McKenzie said.

    "It was pleasing to see us take a step in the right direction against Argentina, but the test for us now is to produce that form week-in and week-out."

    Team: 15-Israel Folau, 14-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13-Tevita Kuridrani, 12-Matt Toomua, 11-Peter Betham, 10-Quade Cooper, 9-Will Genia, 8-Ben McCalman, 7-Michael Hooper, 6-Ben Mowen, 5-James Horwill (captain), 4-Rob Simmons, 3-Ben Alexander, 2-Stephen Moore, 1-James Slipper

    Replacements: 16-Saia Fainga'a, 17-Benn Robinson, 18-Sekope Kepu, 19-Sitaleki Timani, 20-Dave Dennis, 21-Nic White, 22-Mike Harris, 23-Bernard Foley.

    (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

  • Trans-Tasman roaming charges set to fall

    Mobile phone bills are set to fall on both sides of the Tasman after the Australian and New Zealand governments indicated they will honour a deal to crack down on exorbitant roaming charges.

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    Former prime minister Julia Gillard announced the trans-Tasman roaming agreement with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key in February, with both leaders warning telcos to slash the sky-high charges faced by millions of travellers between the countries or face greater regulation.

    The Australian Labor Party failed to legislate the changes before losing office in September's election.

    While stopping short of fully committing to the deal, newly installed Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull indicated the Australian government will honour the proposals - which include mandatory price caps on calls and data.

    "The Minister for Communications is consulting with his colleagues on the proposed arrangements with New Zealand," Mr Turnbull's spokesman told AAP.

    "While this consultation is still ongoing, the government is viewing the proposed arrangements positively."

    The New Zealand government remains fully committed to the crackdown, which comes as a new report in Australia revealed the "extraordinary" and "confusing" array of roaming charges consumers now face.

    "Legislation is being drafted for introduction early next year," a spokesman for New Zealand Communications Minister Amy Adams told AAP.

    The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) welcomed Mr Turnbull's apparent willingness to honour the deal and said it would like to see similar crackdowns arranged with other countries.

    ACCAN published research showing that Australian consumers face wildly varying roaming charges, ranging from $3.50 for a text message down to 38 cents.

    Data costs range from a whopping $51.20/MB down to 50 cents/MB.

    ACCAN says buying and using a local SIM card is still the best option for many travellers.

    Australia's largest telco, Telstra, says its charges have fallen since a joint Aussie-Kiwi report into roaming costs was published in February.

    Telstra has also introduced new SMS alerts giving customers specific pricing details for each country they roam in and alerts for every 20MB of data they use.