Monthly Archives: February 2019

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Writing off Wales will fire up Gatland’s side – Thomas

Welsh preparations were dealt a huge blow when the pair were ruled out of the tournament, which starts next Friday, after suffering injuries in the warm-up win over Italy at the weekend.

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“What I think the injuries will do is send Wales in under the radar,” Thomas told WalesOnline.

“It was always going to be a difficult group and Wales were always going to be under pressure but I think it’s a good thing if we’re written off now.

“We have been losing to England and Australia for too long now — it’s been happening on a regular basis. To go into a game with a different mindset and game plan might not be the worst thing.

“Wales always perform best as an underdog anyway and being written off by others could end up being a good thing.”

Wales, semi-finalists in 2011, must do battle with hosts England and Australia in a group containing three of the world’s top five ranked teams — with only the top two progressing to the knockout stage.

Thomas said the absence of Halfpenny, arguably the most reliable goalkicker in international rugby, may result in a different approach from coach Warren Gatland which could see Wales “less reliant on the boot”.

“I think the injuries could mean Wales end up playing a lot more rugby,” Thomas said.

“Leigh Halfpenny will be a big, big miss. Wales rely on him to keep them in games. Not only do other sides fear Leigh but he’s a massive confidence booster for Wales too.

“To not have him is massive but it might mean we are not as reliant on the boot as in the past. We do have players who can play rugby.”

Thomas believes the versatile Liam Williams, who has fitness concerns of his own having broken a foot in June, can step up and shine in Halfpenny’s absence.

“When you lose two key players it brings about an opportunity for others which is massive. Liam has been so unlucky in the last few years,” he said.

“He’s had to play second fiddle and be moved to the wing but he’ll be coming in now as first choice.

“He’ll be desperate to show what he can do. He has been an outstanding player for Wales and this time around it looks like the jersey will be his.”

(Writing by Justin Palmer; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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Hartung ready for Hawthorn AFL recall

Injured Hawthorn midfielder Isaac Smith has flown to Perth a day early as he tries to prove his fitness for Friday’s qualifying final against West Coast.

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Smith was in a Hawks advance party featuring captain Luke Hodge, Jarryd Roughead, Jordan Lewis, Shaun Burgoyne and Jonathon Ceglar who flew across on Wednesday.

While it is not unusual – Hodge always goes to Perth a day before the rest of the team – Smith’s early flight clearly is related to his recovery from a knee injury.

Smith remains in doubt after hurting his knee last Saturday in the win over Carlton.

“We’re probably a 50-50 chance, so we’ll go over to Perth and give it a crack,” Smith told the Seven Network.

Hawthorn runner Billy Hartung is the obvious inclusion if, as expected, Smith fails to recover in time.

Hartung will fly out on Thursday morning with the rest of the team.

It will mean an uncertain lead-up to what would be Hartung’s first AFL final.

“It can be difficult, but I guess I’ve been sub, so it’s almost the same kind of build-up where you have to wait throughout the game until you come on,” he said.

“You can come on any time, so I’ve been put in situations like that where a player might be injured in the first quarter or I might come on at three-quarter time.

“So I’m ready for whatever comes.”

Hartung played seven games last year in his debut season, but was left out of the team for the finals.

This season, he has continued to progress with 18 AFL matches and a Rising Star nomination.

Hartung, left out of the team for last weekend’s win, has gone a long way to putting himself in Hawthorn’s best 22.

“That side of it has been really pleasing … that I’ve been able to play some consistent footy and just try to build on that,” he said.

“Who knows? Maybe I can put my hand up for a finals spot.”

Hartung impressed in the round-19 win over the Eagles at Domain Stadium.

“If the opportunity ever arises to play finals, I am ready to put my hand up,” he said.

“I have had some good experience playing some big games this year.

“I played against West Coast … and that was a really big game for me.”

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Ex-Bega Cheese CEO ‘contrite’: judge

Former Bega Cheese boss Maurice Van Ryn once described his sexual abuse of children as a “few minutes of stupidity”.

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So when Judge Clive Jeffreys found the 59-year-old had shown “deep contrition” over his decade-long crimes, there were murmurs and shaking of the heads in the public gallery.

Outside court, a spokesman for the victims – who only wanted to be known as Ken – said: “He is sorry that he got caught. That is the contrition he shows.”

Van Ryn was sentenced to a minimum of seven years and a maximum of 13 for 14 offences of child abuse carried out on nine boys and girls from 2003 to 2014.

The one-time CEO of the successful cheese company regularly abused his victims while they were at a swimming pool, Sydney’s District Court heard.

In one instance Van Ryn put his hands down the swimmers of a girl – then aged 10, while in another case he carried a 13-year-old boy into a quieter area of the pool, asking “Do you want to be my special friend?”.

He then indecently assaulted him.

Another of his victims fell prey to Van Ryn’s persistent sexual abuse after the former CEO befriended the teenage boy by helping him with computer games.

Over the more than three years that followed, Van Ryn repeatedly abused him.

In one instance the teenager kept his mouth clamped shut as Van Ryn tried to force him to perform oral sex.

The crown has previously argued Van Ryn groomed his victims by ingratiating himself with a young person to the point where the offending became routine.

But Judge Jeffreys said he would not take grooming into account.

He also said he could not find he had taken one of his victims on a trip to the ACT with the purpose of sexually abusing them.

He found Van Ryn had also suffered public abuse and harassment, his home’s letter box being bombed last year and a sign “I love rape in jail” put up outside his premises.

Van Ryn was CEO of Bega Cheese for 15 years during which he guided its success.

He had retired from his position before carrying out these offences and was working part time at a pharmaceutical company.

Van Ryn will be eligible for parole in December 2021.

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Israeli football strike averted, play on Jewish Sabbath to go ahead

Matches on Saturday came under threat after a court ruling on a petition by religiously observant players against taking to the field during the Sabbath.

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Their refusal to participate in some matches that in previous years have been held on weekdays, led an Israeli labour court to rule that without a special waiver that allows companies to employ workers on the Sabbath, which runs from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, Saturday football is illegal.

But Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein said he saw no reason to suddenly enforce a law that had been ignored for decades and that nobody would be prosecuted. Following that, the Israel Football Association said all matches would go ahead as planned.

Football matches have operated for decades without a waiver, as part of a so-called “status quo”. The arrangement between Israel’s secular Jewish majority and religiously observant minority governs which businesses, public transport and places of entertainment can open on Saturdays.

As a result of the court decision, Israeli Economy Minister Arye Deri, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, had to decide whether to issue a football waiver.

To do so would violate his own religious beliefs, but with football being the most popular sport in Israel, he ran the risk of angering many Israelis by cancelling matches on Saturday, their only day off work.

Income from business surrounding football — support staff, broadcasting, transportation, policing, stewarding and refreshments — would all also have been hit.

Some of the professional matches in Israel’s two top leagues are held on Saturdays but hundreds of others involving non-professional teams are also played on the Sabbath.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, an avid football fan, said on Wednesday that the Saturday games should go on.

“I think that the custom for the public in Israel is that on Saturday you go to synagogue and afterward you go to the (football stadium),” he said on Army Radio. “This is the status quo.”

Sports Minister Miri Regev praised Weinstein’s decision and said a committee would seek a solution that would accommodate players who did not want to play on the Sabbath.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller and Ori Lewis; Editing by Maayan Lubell and Angus MacSwan)

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‘Mastermind’ of Thai bomb fled before attack, police sources

Under police interrogation, one of two foreigners in detention admitted to delivering a rucksack to the bomber at Bangkok’s main railway station on the evening of the August 17 attack, two police sources told Reuters.

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Police believe the bomber is the yellow-shirted man still at large and caught by surveillance camera placing a backpack at the Erawan Shrine moments before the explosion that killed 20 people and wounded 130.

“The suspect insisted he didn’t know what was in the bag,” one of the sources involved in the investigation said.

The man being questioned, according to another police source, talked of a lead role played by a man named “Izan”, who had fled via Bangkok’s main airport a day before the attack. He had assigned responsibilities during a meeting of those involved.

“From the testimony we found that Izan is likely to be the mastermind but has already left,” he said, without specifying his nationality or destination.

“It is likely others we’ve issued arrest warrants for have already fled.”

The three police sources declined to be identified because they are not authorised to speak to media.

The details, which have yet to be confirmed, would mark rare progress in a case which the authorities have been criticised for handling haphazardly.

Deputy police chief Chakthip Chaijinda told Reuters the man had confessed to being part of a network and to being in the area of the bombing. Chakthip did not elaborate, but added police were looking for four more suspects. 

Evidence has been limited to grainy security video at the shrine and the seizure of bomb-making materials in raids on two properties in Bangkok.

Wearing a flak jacket, the man Chakthip said had confessed was made to perform a reconstruction at the two locations before television cameras on Tuesday.

Forensic tests tie the detainees to the explosives, but not the site of the bombing, police say.

Authorities said there was no clear motive for the attack, in which 14 foreign tourists were killed.

Speculation has been rife about the perpetrators, from ethnic Malay insurgents and foreign militants to opponents of the government and sympathisers of Uighur Muslims from China, angered by Thailand’s deportation to China in July of 109 members of the Turkic-speaking minority. 

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First Syrian refugees due by Christmas

Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Wednesday announced Australia would make a one-off boost to its current 13,750 refugee and humanitarian intake by 12,000 permanent places over the rest of this financial year.

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“This is a very significant increase in Australia’s humanitarian intake and it’s a generous response to the current emergency,” he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

Australia will also provide $44 million to support 240,000 displaced people in countries neighbouring Syria and Iraq through the UN refugee agency and other groups. The funds for humanitarian aid will come from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s existing budget for emergencies and natural disasters.

The permanent resettlement places will go to those most in need – women, children and families from persecuted minorities. A senior government source said unaccompanied minors had not been ruled out, but are usually “quite complex” cases.

Mr Abbott said the one-off increase would be on top of the existing annual humanitarian intake of 13,750 places that will increase to 18,750 in three years.

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“The government will shortly despatch officials to the region to begin working with the UNHCR to identify potential candidates for resettlement,” he said.

A senior government source said the first people could be expected by Christmas after a series of health, security and other checks.

Abbott on upping the refugee intake: We’re doing this because people are suffering… They’re suffering because of the Daish death cult #qt

— Stephanie Anderson (@stephanieando) September 9, 2015

Mr Abbott thanked state and territory leaders and community groups for their public support.

“When we see a problem we roll up our sleeves and do what we can to help,” he told parliament.

“That is the Australian way.”

He denied the government was sending the wrong message to Muslims by limiting the increased refugee intake to persecuted minorities.

“Our focus is on the persecuted minorities who have been displaced and are very unlikely ever to be able to go back to their original homes.”

The government is not putting a timetable on taking the additional refugees.

“We want the 12,000 to come in as quickly as possible,” Mr Abbott said.

Gov Party room confirms 12,000 refugees for permanent residents over and above current number of 13,750 + $44 mill now for UNHCR @SBSNews

— Catherine McGrath (@CathMcGrath) September 9, 2015

Earlier, International aid agencies told Immigration Minister Peter Dutton during meetings in Europe vital assistance was needed to help feed, clothe and shelter refugees in camps located outside Syria’s borders.

The message was reinforced back home by World Vision chief Tim Costello, who said bringing extra refugees to Australia was just “the pimple on the hippopotamus” in terms of an overall response.

Australia should give $144 million this year alone to make up its fair share of funding, he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

Diversity of views

The federal government’s decision to permanently resettle 12,000 refugees from the conflict in Syria and Iraq has been welcomed by their backers in Australia.

“It is an important first step and shows to the world that Australia is willing to support those who are in great need,” said Refugee Council of Australia president Phil Glendenning.

Even the Greens gave Mr Abbott the thumbs-up.

Well done to everyone who stood up for compassion. You changed a government’s mind. #Syria

— Adam Bandt (@AdamBandt) September 9, 2015

“He has made a difference to the lives of 12,000 people,” Greens leader Richard Di Natale told reporters in Canberra.

Amnesty International described the pledge as a positive demonstration of leadership.

“But there’s no reason this number can’t be increased to 20,000 people,” its Australian refugee coordinator Graham Thom said.

Oxfam said it was a bold move in the right direction while praising the government’s “u-turn” on taking more refugees.

NSW Premier Mike Baird welcomed the federal government’s “bold and generous decision” to resettle the refugees.

“People have united behind the simple idea that our boundless plains are here to be shared, especially with those that are in desperate need,” he said.

Labor says the government must now work with the UN and International Organisation for Migration to identify people based on vulnerability and whether they had existing ties in Australia.

Government backbencher Ewen Jones, who wants Australia to accept up to 50,000 refugees, said persecuted Christians should be prioritised, but was open to listening to the advice Mr Dutton brought back.

Labor welcomes the Abbott Govt’s announcement to provide 12,000 additional places for people fleeing persecution in the Middle East. #auspol

— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) September 9, 2015

Greens MP Adam Bandt said taking a discriminatory approach would only inflame tensions.

“If you want to know why around the world many Muslims, especially young Muslims, don’t like western governments, it’s because they say things like this,” he said.

“Political leadership means… speaking to the good heart of the Australian people rather than trying to inflame fears.”

Reverend Costello warned the only appropriate response was a non-discriminatory one.

He acknowledged Christians had been targeted by Islamic State extremists, but said they’d been protected by the Assad regime which killed large numbers of other people.

But Nationals MP Andrew Broad said the debate wasn’t one about discrimination but rather the ability of people to return to Syria once the conflict was over.

“There’s been no doubt that the Christian minority groups in Syria have been targeted and post the conflict there may not be much opportunity for them to be able to integrate back into Syria,” he said.

Mr Broad’s community was already home to many refugees, and locals “essentially want people who will fit in and who will work”.

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English FA’s name ‘ultimate expression of arrogance’ says CEO

Speaking at the Soccerex global convention on Wednesday, Glenn was asked about the alleged reputation the FA has for arrogance within the international game.

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“I think we are perceived as arrogant. I don’t think we necessarily are but perceptions… it does matter,” said Glenn, who took up his position in March.

“As a relative newcomer coming in, the ultimate expression of arrogance, and we don’t even see it, but we refer to ourselves, we go to international conventions and say, ‘Hi, I’m Martin Glenn and I am from the FA.

“Which one? Obviously the English, because we invented it. Every other is the German association, the French association, we are so assumptive,” he said.

Asked whether a change of name would be a solution, Glenn said: “Possibly, it is not an ultimate priority.

“But what is seen to be the case is that we get interested in the international game when it suits our purposes. We’re seen to be — you want to host a World Cup, suddenly you got very friendly.

“So, it is a global game, we have to build global alliances and be seen to be a force for good,” he added.

England lost out on their most recent bid to host the World Cup with Russia earning hosting rights to the 2018 tournament.

The only time England staged the tournament was in 1966, when they won their only world crown.

Glenn said the FA was respected for its ability to promote football and for the fact the game is run in a clean fashion but that more time was required to build relationships globally.

“We just need to make sure that we spend enough time when we go to international meetings to talk to them, share ideas.” he said.

“It matters because when it comes down to a 50-50 decision on whether we get a tournament or not we would like to get the benefit of doubt.

“The fact that we have got the semis and final of Euro 2020, is a good sign of the re-engagement that happened before my time, where people see us as part of the team as opposed to selectively choosing to be part of it when it suits us.”

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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Australia unlikely to go nuclear: Garnaut

Economist Ross Garnaut does not believe Australia will move into nuclear power production because renewables will be cheaper.

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But he says uranium enrichment in Australia is a logical step in the international effort to tackle global warming.

Professor Garnaut, a research fellow in economics at the University of Melbourne and renowned climate change academic, appeared as the first witness at South Australia’s royal commission into the nuclear fuel cycle in Adelaide on Wednesday.

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He said nuclear power was unlikely to be pursued in Australia because the abundance of renewable energy like solar and wind would make them more competitive and attractive as low-carbon options.

Prof Garnaut said with renewables inevitably becoming the norm, Australia would be a prime destination for energy-hungry industrial processing, including uranium enrichment.

“In the low carbon economy of the future I expect that because of Australia’s exceptional high quality of renewable resources, energy will again become a low-cost input into Australian industry,” he said.

“These would logically include enrichment of uranium for the industries of China and India.”

Prof Garnaut, who wrote the Australian government’s climate change reviews in 2008 and 2011, said China and India would rely on nuclear power to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the future.

“They don’t have the same opportunities for renewables production that Australia has,” he told the commission.

Australia already supplies uranium oxide to China and India but does not enrich it.

The royal commission will continue to take evidence at public hearings until mid-December with commissioner Kevin Scarce due to present his report to the state government next year.

He is examining what future role South Australia could play in the nuclear fuel cycle including the possible enrichment of uranium, production of nuclear power and the disposal of nuclear waste.

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Celebrations over Queen’s long reign

Britain has celebrated Queen Elizabeth II becoming the country’s longest-serving monarch with a flotilla down the River Thames, a gun salute and the peal of Westminster Abbey’s bells.

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The queen herself opened a railway line in Scotland on Wednesday and was to host a private dinner at Balmoral Castle to mark the day she overtakes her great-great grandmother queen Victoria’s record.

A cheering crowd and an honour guard of royal archers greeted Elizabeth II on her arrival at Edinburgh train station, where she boarded a steam train for a journey along the new Borders Railway.

Dressed in a turquoise coat and hat and clutching a black handbag – one of her famously colourful outfits – the queen wore a diamond-studded brooch that belonged to Victoria in homage to her ancestor.

Prime Minister David Cameron led official tributes in parliament, calling her reign a “golden thread running through three post-war generations.

“She is our queen and we could not be more proud of her,” he said. “She has served this country with unerring grace, dignity and decency and long may she continue to do so.”

It is not known where exactly she will be at 1630 GMT (0230 AEST Thursday), the best estimate from royal officials for the time at which the monarch, who has become synonymous with Britain itself, reaches the landmark.

At that moment, the 89-year-old monarch will have served 23,226 days, 16 hours and roughly 30 minutes on the throne – over 63 years.

The queen is expected to comment on the occasion later on Wednesday, although a royal source has said she wants to keep the occasion low-key.

“While she acknowledges it as an historic moment, it’s also for her not a moment she would personally celebrate, which is why she has been keen to convey business as usual and no fuss,” the source explained.

The official photograph, taken by Mary McCartney, daughter of Beatles star Paul, shows the queen sitting at her desk working through a red box of state papers.

Elizabeth became queen upon the death of her father George VI, Britain’s king during World War II, whose youthful stutter inspired the Oscar-winning film “The King’s Speech”.

The calculation of her time on the throne is based on when he passed away, which is estimated at around 1am on February 6, 1952 – an hour after he was seen for the last time at his bedroom window at Sandringham House in eastern England.

The queen presided over a gradual decline in Britain’s global influence as many of its former colonies became independent, as well as a sharp rise in living standards and the advent of the digital age.

She has also steered the monarchy through some of its rockiest recent patches, including the collapse of three of her children’s marriages and public anger at her reaction to the death of Princess Diana in 1997, which some saw as cold.

The royal family has since tried to present itself as more in touch with the public.

That decision was crowned by the highly-popular marriage of the queen’s grandson Prince William to commoner Kate Middleton in 2011, and the birth of the couple’s two children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

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Cool Pannetta upsets Kvitova to return to U.S. Open semis

Czech’s Flushing Meadows frustration.

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The Italian flag will feature prominently in the semi-finals with the 33-year-old Pennetta joined in the last four by 32-year-old compatriot Roberta Vinci, who booked her spot on Tuesday with a victory over Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic.

“I was just trying to fight every ball, running and trying to push the most I can,” the Italian said in an on-court interview.

“The second set I was really in trouble, but I was just keep going, playing and playing. It’s unbelievable.”

Pennetta has always been at home on the New York hardcourts having now advanced to quarter-finals or beyond in six of her last seven visits to the National Tennis Centre.

The same courts, however, have not been kind to Kvitova, the two-time Wimbledon champion, who never ventured past the fourth round until this year.

Kvitova, one only two players to beat Serena Williams this season, had been in superb form winning her final U.S. Open tuneup in New Haven and carried that momentum into Flushing Meadows, reaching the quarter-finals without dropping a set.

The Czech had looked well on her way to a first semi-final appearance when she easily took the opening but the veteran Pennetta kept her cool on another sizzling day in New York.

Serving at 5-4 in the second Pennetta wobbled, missing an easy winner to hand Kvitova a break chance but the Italian did not buckle and hung on to level the match and then dominated the third set as Kvitova wilted in the oppressive heat.

“It’s not just the heat, it’s the tension for the match, for what do you think you have to be, what do you want to be, what do you want to do,” said Pennetta.

“It’s so many things in your mind. You just try to take everything out of your mind and just play tennis.

“I’m sorry for her. It’s not a good feeling when you feel so tired and you cannot move very well.

“We played a really tough match, more than two hours running everywhere. She has to be proud of herself because she was playing up to the last point.”

(Editing by Andrew Both)