Hunter sparked massive Yosemite fire

Investigators believe a hunter sparked the monster wildfire which spread into America’s world-renowned Yosemite National Park and became California’s fourth biggest blaze ever.

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They dismissed earlier reports that the so-called Rim Fire, which is now 80 per cent contained, was caused by activity on an illegal marijuana farm near the US landmark park.

“Investigators from the US Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations and Tuolumne County District Attorney’s Office have determined the Rim Fire began when a hunter allowed an illegal fire to escape,” said a statement by the US Forest Service.

“There is no indication the hunter was involved with illegal marijuana cultivation on public lands and no marijuana cultivation sites were located near the origin of the fire. No arrests have been made at this time.”

The hunter’s name is being withheld pending further investigation, the statement added.

The fire, which began on the afternoon of August 17 in the Stanislaus National Forest just outside Yosemite, now covers 95,442 hectares, according to the latest update on the Inciweb inter-agency website.

More than 4,300 firefighters are still working to contain the blaze, while aircraft have dropped more than 15.14 million litres of water and fire retardant over the last 17 days.

It is the fourth largest California wildfire since records began 1932, with an area five times that of Washington DC.

The largest in California history remains the 2003 Cedar fire in San Diego County, which destroyed 2,820 buildings and left 14 people dead after ripping through 110,000 hectares of land.

Authorities in California have in recent years faced increasing problems with marijuana farms hidden deep in the region’s rugged wilderness.

A 2009 fire that burned 36,420 hectares in the Los Padres National Forest near Santa Barbara was triggered by a campfire at a marijuana farm.

7 dead as heavy rains pummel Philippines

Flood-battered residents of Manila are fleeing homes or sitting on rooftops with relentless monsoon rains, which have killed seven people, submerging more than half the Philippine capital.

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Streets turned into rivers with water above two-metres in some parts of the megacity of 12 million people on Tuesday.

More than 130,000 of them have been displaced and countless others have been forced to wait out the storm in or on their homes.

“We have had nothing to eat, nothing to wear. A few people went to houses on higher ground, but most of us had nowhere to go,” Dinah Claire Velasco, 44, a resident of a blue-collar coastal district on the outskirts of Manila told AFP.

“My children and other people were able to seek refuge on the second floor of my house but a lot of others had to just sit on their roofs.

“We’re waiting for rescue, for help, even just food.”

At least 60 per cent of Manila was flooded on Tuesday morning, with some places enduring waters climbing as high as 2.1 metres, an official with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority said.

In one part of the capital, 47.5 centimetres of rain fell in the 24 hours to Monday morning, according to Esperanza Cayanan, a meteorologist in charge of Manila for the state weather forecaster.

She said this was the same amount that normally falls for all of August, already one of the wettest months of the year.

In a potentially serious escalation the Marikina River, a key waterway cutting through eastern Manila, began to overflow on Tuesday afternoon, and 20,000 people close by were ordered to evacuate, the local mayor, Del de Guzman, said.

These people were additional to the 131,000 people across the main island of Luzon, including Manila, that the government said were in evacuation centres or seeking shelter with relatives and friends.

Groups involved in the rescue effort said they were being overwhelmed.

“We are getting a lot of calls for rescue … we would really be hard pressed to rescue all of them,” a Philippine Red Cross official told a government briefing broadcast on national television.

While no-one has been reported killed in Manila, four more people have drowned in flooded farming provinces to the north.

This brings the confirmed toll from two days of flooding across Luzon to seven.

The economic cost has also started to grow, with the stock exchange, government offices and schools in Manila closed for a second consecutive day.

Many domestic and some international flights at Manila’s airport have been cancelled. Flooded roads to the airport are impassable.

The state weather agency says the rain will ease on Wednesday.

Manly still seeking big-name NRL scalp

Without a win over a fellow top four side all year, Manly host a Melbourne side on Saturday night which hasn’t lost to a NRL premiership heavyweight in 2013.

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The meeting of the bitter rivals is a clash of the have and have-nots of the NRL season, with the Sea Eagles still looking for the big-name scalp to prove their title credentials.

A draw against the Storm in round 10 is the Sea Eagles’ best result against a fellow top four side, Manly have lost four other games against South Sydney and ladder-leaders Sydney Roosters.

The Storm have won their three matches against the top two sides – with all of those victories being by more than a converted try.

Coach Geoff Toovey claimed not to be fazed by the lack of success against fellow top four sides, pleading ignorance to the alarming run of outs.

“I wouldn’t even know what it is,” Toovey said when asked about that record.

“I haven’t looked at that. I think in every game though we’ve been in the match this year, no matter who it is.

“We just need to find that bit extra.

“We don’t want to show our cards too early, we think we can show that bit extra come semi-final time.”

The Storm have proven their ability to rise to the occasion, the premiers boasting plenty of big-match experience in the form of key trio Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater.

After a dip in form post-Origin, the Storm have won four in a row – a run that has including two 60-plus scorelines.

Five-eighth Kieran Foran said a win over a side like the Storm would be a massive boost on the eve of the finals.

“We see them as the benchmark and I know we get up for these games,” Foran said.

“This time of year you want that confidence going into the finals and if we could get that win up against the Storm who are travelling really well it’d be a big boost.”

“We’re just focusing on trying to win this game, to wrap up a top-four berth and hopefully build some momentum heading into finals.”

The Sea Eagles need to win one of their last two games – the other being at home to Penrith – to claim a top four finish, while they could still finish third with a pair of victories to close out the regular season.

Federer is highest paid tennis player

Switzerland’s Roger Federer is the world’s highest paid tennis player even though he has slipped to No.

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7 in the ATP rankings, while Spain’s Rafael Nadal is No.4 on a new list published by Forbes magazine.

The list, which takes into account tennis players’ earnings between June 2012 and June 2013, was published to coincide with the start of the US Open, the year’s last grand slam event, which is taking place in New York.

The 32-year-old Federer, who many consider the best tennis player of all time, earned $US71.5 million ($A79.63 million) during the 12-month period, thanks to a December 2012 tour of South America that netted him $US14 million ($A15.59 million) for playing six matches.

“Federer has the most impressive endorsement portfolio in sports, with ten sponsors that collectively pay him more than $US40 million ($A44.55 million) annually, including long-term deals with Nike, Rolex, Wilson and Credit Suisse. The newest addition is champagne brand Moet & Chandon, which signed Federer to a five-year deal at the end of 2012,” Forbes said.

Russia’s Maria Sharapova is in the No.2 spot on the list, with $US29 million ($A32.30 million) in earnings, Forbes said.

“Sharapova completed the career grand slam when she won the 2012 French Open. The win triggered lucrative bonuses with sponsors Nike and Head. She launched her own candy line, Sugarpova, last year and plans to sell accessories under the brand starting this fall,” Forbes said.

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, the world No.1, is in third place on the list, pulling in $US26.9 million ($A29.96 million), with about half of that sum coming from prize money.

The 26-year-old Djokovic has reached the finals of nine of the last 12 grand slams.

“Most top players have a apparel/shoe deal with one brand, but Djokovic added Adidas as a sponsor in April to go with his clothing sponsor Uniqlo,” Forbes said.

The 27-year-old Nadal, for his part, earned $US26.4 million ($A29.40 million) despite sustaining a knee injury that kept him off the ATP Tour for seven months.

White-coated PM in science heaven

Clad in a white lab coat, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was in science heaven, extolling the many benefits of advanced medical research.

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He warned it would all be at risk under an Abbott government.

Holding aloft a 3D printed section of plastic DNA for the cameras, the prime minister explained it could be used as a scaffold for the eventual construction of new body organs such as kidneys.

“It’s complex and it’s hard work,” he told researchers at the University of Queensland Translational Research Institute at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital.

He was launching a $250 million Medical Research Innovation Fund plus $70 million in additional funding for medical research centres.

Returning to a standard campaign theme, Mr Rudd told his audience Mr Abbott believed he had already won the election.

Mr Rudd says if Mr Abbott was upfront about planned spending cuts to medical research and much more under the coalition government, people wouldn’t vote for him.

He says he worries about the possible fallout if a Liberal government is elected.

“I worry about people’s jobs, I worry about health workers, I worry about researchers, I worry about teachers, I worry about the real human beings who are affected by all of this.”

Polling has not gone Labor’s way since the campaign started but Mr Rudd says the campaign hasn’t even reached the half time hooter.

“I am determined to fight and fight hard,” he said.

Earlier in Brisbane, the prime minister received an enthusiastic response from party members, parents and students at Nyanda State High School in the electorate of Moreton, held for Labor by Graham Perrett on a margin of just over one per cent.

Nyanda, with some 300 students, is having to justify its existence as the LNP state government of Campbell Newman undergoes a process of rationalisation, Mr Rudd claimed.

Mr Rudd said the Newman government was planning to abolish 50 schools while the Liberal government in Victoria shut 300 schools and sacked 900 teachers.

“That’s what Mr Abbott is offering right across the country,” he said.

That prompted a speedy response from coalition campaign spokesman Christopher Pyne who said there were no such plans.

Mr Perrett, once a supporter of former prime minister Julia Gillard and now right behind Mr Rudd, said the mood in his electorate was buoyant and positive.

“And much of that is the Kevin factor,” he said.