Wallace hungry for Origin after judiciary

A sideline seat at State of Origin I and a judiciary reprieve for the second clash will make Jarrod Wallace as hungry as ever for Queensland success next Wednesday night.

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Wallace wiped away tears of joy as he heard the two most vital words of his six-season NRL career on Tuesday night: A “not guilty” verdict for an alleged shoulder charge on the Warriors’ Blake Ayshford.

The charge had the potential to rub Wallace out of his anticipated Origin debut against NSW in Game II, but the 25-year-old is instead free to play alongside fellow Maroons debutants Valentine Holmes, Tim Glasby and Coen Hess.

“I just can’t wait to experience it,” Wallace said.

“It’s every boy’s dream to play Origin and I couldn’t remember how long it’s been since I wanted to play Origin.”

The Gold Coast prop was 18th man for the Maroons in the 28-4 humbling at the hands of NSW at Suncorp Stadium last month.

However he could now step up as a potential starting lock for the Maroons, depending on how coach Kevin Walters organises his final starting side.

“I got the taste of sitting there and watching it,” he said.

“I’ve said since that day I want the jersey so bad. So to finally get the opportunity next week – I’m pumped and can’t wait.”

It’s understood the Maroons had Warriors prop Jacob Lillyman on standby if Wallace was found guilty at the panel.

However along with defence lawyer Steven Johnson, he successfully argued he had done all he could to avoid the hit on Ayshford in the 40th minute of the Titans’ 34-12 loss on Saturday.

“It was a glancing blow caused by the change of direction of Blake,” Johnson said.

“Jarrod did all he could to minimise the impact … he could not get out of the way – he could not become invisible.”

In turn, Wallace became the fourth player to beat a shoulder charge wrap at the judiciary in five attempts this year, following a 25-minute deliberation by the three-man panel of Bob Lindner, Mal Cochrane and Sean Garlick.

Matt Scott, Sam Burgess and Ryan James were also successful, with most players having argued that they had naturally braced when impact happened.

North Queensland’s Jason Taumalolo is the only player to have failed.

It comes after the NRL changed their guidelines to simplify the rule over the off-season. Six players have also pleaded guilty to the offence, meaning 63 per cent of players charged have been suspended.

US mulls harsher, wider N. Korea sanctions

The United States is weighing sanctions on countries doing business with North Korea and looking for ways to revive strained relations with Russia, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says.

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At a committee hearing on Tuesday, he also defended President Donald Trump’s plans for steep reductions in US spending on diplomacy and foreign aid.

In all, the Trump proposal cuts about 32 per cent from US diplomacy and aid budgets, or nearly $US19 billion ($A25 billion).

Senators from both major parties charged that such cuts would ultimately hurt America.

Washington has sought to increase economic and political pressure on Pyongyang because of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Tillerson said Washington is discussing North Korea with all of its allies, and seeing some response from China, its biggest trading partner.

He said North Korea would top the agenda at next week’s high-level talks between US and Chinese officials.

Tillerson said the US would have to work with other countries to deny North Korea access to basics such as oil and will have to consider whether to impose sanctions on those doing business with North Korea.

Because the US has no trade with the North, its strongest way to impose economic pressure is through “secondary sanctions” that threaten companies from third countries with losing access to the US market if they deal with Pyongyang.

Asked whether the US wanted to see an Iran-style global embargo to deny exports of petroleum and other products to North Korea, Tillerson said that this would only work if Russia and China, the North’s main suppliers, cooperated.

Tillerson repeated his view that US relations with Russia were at an all time-low and still deteriorating. Ties have been strained by differences over Syria, Ukraine and allegations, denied by Moscow, of Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

He said the administration was trying to find a way to re-establish a working relationship, notably on Syria.

Tillerson flags Trump to be tough on Cuba

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says Cuba “must begin to address human rights challenges” if it wants Washington to move toward more normal relations started under former President Barack Obama.

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Tillerson, speaking on Tuesday to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee days before President Donald Trump is expected to announce a change in US policy on Cuba, said the opening to the Communist-run island has led to an increase in US visitors and US business ties to the country.

However, Tillerson added: “We think we have achieved very little in terms of changing the behaviour of the regime in Cuba, restricting their people, and it has little incentive today to change that.”

Reuters reported last week that Trump was expected to visit Miami as early as Friday to announce a new Cuba policy that could tighten rules on trade and travel, rolling back parts of his Democratic predecessor’s opening to the island.

Many of Trump’s fellow Republicans, and some Democrats, objected to Obama’s policy shift, saying America’s former Cold War foe has not done enough to allow any easing of the 50-year-long US embargo on trade and travel.

But the measures have proven popular with the public, US businesses and many lawmakers from both parties.

Under questioning from Democratic Senator Tom Udall, Tillerson agreed that moves toward more normal relations with the United States have helped some Cubans lift themselves out of poverty and provided opportunities for US companies.

However, Tillerson said there is a “dark side” to relations with Cuba, noting that the government in Havana continues to jail political opponents and harass dissidents.

He said the Trump administration’s view is that the new US policy is providing financial support to the Cuban government, which would violate US law.

Obama implemented his normalisation measures through executive actions, and Trump has the power to undo much of them.

As Brexit looms, May nears unionist deal

British Prime Minister Theresa May is close to a deal with a Northern Irish Protestant party to save her premiership, as she confirms Brexit talks will begin next week.

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After losing her parliamentary majority in a botched gamble on a snap election, May’s Brexit strategy has become the subject of public debate inside her own party, with calls for her to take a more business-friendly approach.

On Tuesday she held talks with Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster, whose eurosceptic Northern Irish party has 10 parliamentary seats and could shore up May’s minority Conservative government.

Earlier, Foster said the talks were going well: “We hope soon to be able to bring this work to a successful conclusion.”

The BBC reported that a deal with the DUP was expected to be signed on Wednesday.

The talks were “productive”, May told a news conference in Paris following a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.

May made clear the Brexit negotiations would begin next despite uncertainty.

During the campaign, May cast herself as the leader to navigate the negotiations that will shape the future of the UK and its $US2.5 trillion ($A3.3 trillion) economy.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, which saw its number seats and share of the vote increase, said there could be another election this year or early in 2018 after last Thursday’s vote produced no clear winner.

A deal with the DUP also risks destabilising Northern Ireland by increasing the influence of pro-British unionists. They have struggled for years with Irish Catholic nationalists, who want the British province to join a united Ireland.

Former British prime minister John Major said the support of the DUP could pitch the province back into turmoil by persuading ‘hard men’ on both sides of the divide to return to violence.

Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein said the prospect of a British agreement with the DUP was causing anxiety and fear.

While the DUP are deeply eurosceptic, they have baulked at the potential loss of a “frictionless border” with the Republic of Ireland.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the government should put economic growth at the heart of its Brexit strategy, comments placing her in the camp of those advocating a closer trade relationship with the EU, or “soft” Brexit.

May appointed Steve Baker, a prominent Brexit campaigner, to the Department for Exiting the EU.

As European leaders tried to fathom exactly how Britain would begin the negotiations, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble predicted that Britain would regret its departure from the bloc at some point in the future.

Asked about Schaeuble’s comments, Macron said the EU’s door was still open for Britain as long as the negotiations were not finished, but that it would be difficult to reverse course.

N. Korea behind eight years of hacks: US

The US government is issuing a rare alert on the activities of a hacking group it dubs “Hidden Cobra,” saying the group is part of the North Korean government and more attacks are likely.

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The joint alert from the US Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said on Tuesday that “cyber actors of the North Korean government” had targeted the media, aerospace and financial sectors, as well as critical infrastructure, in the United States and globally.

North Korea has routinely denied involvement in cyber attacks against other countries. The North Korean mission to the United Nations was not immediately available for comment.

The alert said Hidden Cobra has compromised a range of victims since 2009 and that some intrusions had resulted in thefts of data while others were disruptive. The group’s capabilities include denial of service attacks, which send reams of junk traffic to a server to knock it offline, keyloggers, remote access tools and several variants of malware, the alert said.

Hidden Cobra commonly targets systems that run older versions of Microsoft Corp operating systems that are no longer patched, the alert said.

North Korean hacking activity has grown increasingly hostile in recent years, according to Western officials and cyber security experts.

The cyber firm Symantec Corp said last month it was “highly likely” that a hacking group affiliated with North Korea called Lazarus Group was behind the WannaCry cyber attack that infected more than 300,000 computers worldwide, disrupting operations at hospitals, banks and schools.

Tuesday’s alert said Hidden Cobra’s cyber attacks have been previously referred to by private sector experts as Lazarus Group and Guardians of the Peace, which have been linked to attacks such as the 2014 intrusion into Sony Corp’s Sony Pictures Entertainment.