Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right party has split, in the latest blow for the scandal-tainted billionaire ex-premier, who may be voted out of parliament at the end of the month.


Following late-night talks, Berlusconi’s former right-hand man Angelino Alfano announced he would not remain at the side of his onetime mentor and would form his own party.

“I am here to make a choice that I never thought I would make – not to join Forza Italia,” Alfano said late on Friday, referring to Berlusconi’s project of relaunching his People of Freedom (PDL) party under the name it carried when he first entered parliament in 1994.

Alfano announced he was forming a new group called The New Centre Right, which media reports on Saturday estimated would lure away about a third of PDL’s deputies in the parliament and the Senate.

The 43-year-old Alfano said he made the decision because “these past few weeks have shown to what extent extreme forces have prevailed within our movement”.

Berlusconi’s party has been in turmoil ever since the former premier tried to bring down the government by pulling his ministers out of the cabinet at the end of September, and was forced into a humiliating back-down when the ministers refused to heed his orders.

The 77-year-old flamboyant tycoon on November 27 will face another humiliation – the prospect of being stripped of his parliament seat when the Senate votes whether to eject him under a law banning convicted criminals from the chamber.

The move comes after the Italy’s supreme court on August 1 turned down his final appeal in a tax fraud case, handing Berlusconi his first-ever definitive conviction in a long history of legal woes. Berlusconi has asked to serve his 12-month sentence as community service.

Ejection from the Senate would mean Berlusconi being out of parliament for the first time since 1994, when the media and construction magnate first burst onto Italy’s political scene.

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Terminally ill patients in NSW will not be granted a legal exemption to use cannabis to ease pain, with the state government rejecting the proposal.


Last November the NSW government established a parliamentary inquiry into the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

The bipartisan committee recommended AIDS and terminally ill patients be allowed to possess and use up to 15 grams of dry cannabis.

The committee also recommended a register of authorised cannabis patients to protect medicinal users against prosecution.

However the NSW government has knocked back the proposal.

The government believes the potency and safety of the products, which includes cannabis in plant, resin or liquid form, cannot be guaranteed.

Advocacy group Cancer Voices Australia, which urged the committee to recommend legalising medicinal cannabis, said the response was disappointing.

“Some cancer patients at the end of their life are suffering a lot of pain and this is taking an avenue of pain relief away from them now,” chair Kathy Smith told AAP.

“I don’t imagine it will be taken very quietly, either.”

But in a concession, the NSW government will write to the federal health minister to support more patients gaining access to approved cannabis pharmacotherapies.

Ms Smith, a breast cancer survivor with arthritis, says it is a small positive but appears to be the NSW government passing the buck.

The government also stated in its response to the committee there was a risk of illegal diversion of medically authorised cannabis to recreational users.

But Greens MP John Kaye, who was on the committee, said that was “cannabis hysteria at its worse”.

“It’s absurd to argue that someone dying of cancer should be denied access to a little bit of pain relief because it’s the same substance some people use illegally,” Mr Kaye said.

Pain Australia chief executive officer Lesley Brydon said while the government’s decision would affect a small number of people, they would be “bitterly disappointed”.

“It will only affect a small number of people but these people are people we should care about and we should be doing everything we possible can,” she told AAP.

“They were hopeful we were seeing a more enlightened approach.”

Ms Brydon said Pain Australia was not advocating for people to grow and self-administer their own medicinal cannabis.

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British doctors and nurses who neglect their patients could be jailed under government proposals announced in the wake of a scandal at a hospital where hundreds died after receiving appalling care.


Wilful neglect of patients is set to be made a criminal offence under reforms being introduced in the wake of the scandal at Stafford Hospital in central England, where up to 1200 people died as a result of poor care between 2005 and 2009.

A three-year public inquiry heard horrifying examples of abuse and neglect, including patients left starving and soiled in their beds, or so thirsty they drank water from vases.

Prime Minister David Cameron said health workers who mistreated and abused patients would face “the full force of the law” in a package of reforms to be unveiled next week.

The new offence will be modelled on the wilful neglect of adults under Britain’s Mental Capacity Act, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

The health ministry is set to hold a public consultation on appropriate sentencing for the new offence.

Cameron said Britain was “full of brilliant doctors, nurses and other health workers who dedicate their lives to caring for our loved ones”.

“But Mid-Staffordshire hospital showed that sometimes the standard of care is not good enough.”

He added: “Never again will we allow substandard care, cruelty or neglect to go unnoticed and unpunished.”

But the British Medical Association said medics could be less likely to speak out against their colleagues if they thought it could lead to them going to jail.

“They don’t need this new climate of fear,” Andrew Collier, co-chairman of the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee, told BBC television.

“What they need to do is learn from their mistakes and develop their practice.”

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Former US president Jimmy Carter has arrived in Kathmandu to observe crucial elections in Nepal seen as vital to the Himalayan kingdom’s stability.


Carter, 89, will lead a team of 50 election observers from the Atlanta-based Carter Center, who will monitor Tuesday’s vote, only the second such polls since a 10-year civil war launched by Maoist rebels ended in 2006.

“Carter will meet top leaders of different political parties before he starts election observations,” Ghanashyam Ojha, political analyst at the Carter Center, told AFP on Saturday.

Carter’s NGO monitored Nepal’s landmark 2008 constituent assembly polls, which ended royal rule and transformed the country into a secular republic.

Since then, political infighting has confounded efforts to draft a constitution and conclude the peace process, leading to the collapse of Nepal’s first constituent assembly in May 2012.

A hardline faction of the Maoist party that swept the 2008 polls has threatened to disrupt the November 19 constituent assembly elections, with anti-poll protesters torching buses and hurling explosives at vehicles this week.

The 33-party alliance headed by the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) says elections cannot be carried out under the interim administration headed by the chief justice of the supreme court.

They want the polls to be postponed until a cross-party government is put in place.

Carter, a 2002 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, met with the hardliners during a visit to Nepal last April and asked them to renounce violence in the run-up to the polls.

In a statement late on Friday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the hardliners to allow the vote to take place “in an atmosphere free of violence and intimidation”.

“The secretary general appeals to all stakeholders to conclude these elections peacefully, and to redouble their efforts in the urgent task of constitution-making”, the statement said.

More than 100 parties, including three major ones – the Unified Marxist-Leninist, the Nepali Congress and the Maoists – are fielding candidates for the 601-seat constituent assembly, which will also serve as a parliament.

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Tokyo is sending almost 1200 troops to join relief efforts in the typhoon-ravaged Philippines along with three warships, 10 planes and six helicopters.


The aid deployment will be the single largest by Japan’s military.

About 1170 members of the nation’s Self-Defence Forces (SDF) will provide medical support and quarantine services, and transport relief goods, the ministry said in a statement posted on Friday.

Ten or so others will be based in Manila to coordinate relief operations with the Philippines and other countries.

The aircraft include seven C-130H transport planes, two KC-767 tanker planes and one U-4 multi-purpose support plane.

Japan initially dispatched 50 SDF members on Tuesday to assist in medical support and transport operations and said on Wednesday it was readying as many as 1000 troops to go to the Philippines.

It is the first time Japanese troops have been active in Leyte since the island turned into one of the biggest battlegrounds of World War II, when US forces counter-invaded in 1944.

Many of the reinforcements were scheduled to leave Japan on Monday and arrive in the Philippines around Friday.

The 1180-strong contingent will be the largest single relief operation team ever sent abroad by Japan’s defence forces.

The previous record number was 925 sent in January 2005 to Sumatra after the Indonesian island was ravaged by a massive earthquake-triggered tsunami.

Previous overseas missions by the SDF, which adheres to the country’s post-war pacifist constitution, have usually numbered in the hundreds.

They included UN peace-keeping missions in Cambodia and East Timor as well as logistical activities in Iraq and naval refuelling operations in the Indian Ocean to back the US military in Afghanistan.

In June this year, about 1000 members from Japan’s land, sea and air defence forces took part in joint amphibious landing exercises with US forces in the US state of California.

The drills were widely seen as aimed at coping with China’s naval expansion while Tokyo was locked in a simmering row over a group of Japan-controlled Senkaku islands which Beijing also claims and calls the Diaoyus.

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