Archive for August, 2018

Rachel Jarry faces six months on the sidelines


Canberra Capitals forward Rachel Jarry is facing a six-month stint on the sidelines as repeated concussions threaten to derail her career.
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A distressed Jarry was stretchered from the court and taken to hospital early in Canberra’s drought-breaking win over the Dandenong Rangers at Dandenong Stadium on Saturday night.

Jarry has suffered at least six concussions in her career and was told not to move as a precaution and left the venue on a stretcher, with the incident halting the WNBL clash for almost 20 minutes.

Jarry did not lose consciousness and was taken from the court by paramedics during the first quarter of Canberra’s stunning 81-78 win.

???The win snaps the second-worst losing streak in Capitals history at 13 games, leading Canberra fans to proclaim “ding dong, the witch is dead”.

But it wasn’t all good news with Jarry playing just 2:35 minutes before suffering her third concussion of the season, which came 10 days after she returned from a three week concussion-imposed lay-off.

The Olympian went down with ball in hand and was treated by support staff from both clubs, who opted to call an ambulance for additional help.

Capitals coach Paul Goriss was shattered for the star forward who was looking to use the final month of the season to relaunch her Australian Opals hopes.

“Obviously with the concussion history it’s probably not very good news for her. They called an ambulance and she’s in hospital right now with her mum,” Goriss said.

“She more than likely will be out for an extended period of time due to this being her third concussion in like eight weeks.

“She’s just hard-nosed. That’s the thing, she’s hard-nosed and she’s a competitor. Not that it’s her fault, but she puts herself in situations where she competes.

“That’s her and that’s her calling card but unfortunately it’s not good from a medical standpoint.”

Jarry, 26, told The Canberra Times the lack of knowledge about the long-term effects of concussion is “worrying” but she wouldn’t change her style when she had her most recent setback in November.

The WNBL concussion policy states any player suffering a concussion must be reported to the league and ticked off by an official club doctor before returning to play.

Jarry likely won’t play another minute this season with the Capitals out of finals contention with only five games remaining in the regular season.

It is a heartbreaking mishap for Jarry, who worked tirelessly to overcome a knee injury that hampered her start to the competition.

The Capitals shot out of the blocks to take a 26-18 lead into the first break and built one of their most complete performances of the season to clinch the nail-biting win.

Their lead was sliced to one with 14 seconds remaining but the Capitals held out for a three-point win, steered home by Jordan Hooper (21 points) and Nat Hurst (15).

It’s Canberra’s first win since they went back-to-back on opening weekend over two months ago and Goriss says it’s just reward for the effort they’ve put in during a rough season.

“A huge sense of relief. It’s just great for the girls because as I’ve said all along they’ve still worked their arses off every day after every game,” Goriss said.

“Losses mount up and have a toll physically and mentally and they’ve stayed strong throughout this period. They’ve deserved better than what they’ve got in the wins and losses column.

“The difference was we played consistent basketball for 40 minutes and I think that was showing in the end with a win. Everyone contributed.”

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‘The beginning in truth telling:’ 25 years on from the Redfern speech


When Prime Minister Paul Keating took to a podium in Redfern Park on a warm December day in 1992, those present had no idea they would be witnessing history.
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Twenty-five years ago to the day, Keating’s address, now simply known as the “Redfern Speech” delivered a profound message on Aboriginal injustice.

“We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the diseases. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers,” he said.

“With some noble exceptions, we failed to make the most basic human response and enter into their hearts and minds. We failed to ask, how would I feel if this were done to me?”

In a joint statement to Fairfax Media, Linda Burney MP and Senator Patrick Dodson described the speech as the “beginning in truth telling,” speaking “truth to the power of an unexamined history.”

“The Redfern Address was an honest, unflinching acknowledgement by a prime minister of the impact of colonisation on our people, an acknowledgement of the appalling history for which they have been dealt, and a recognition of the role and responsibility not only of the colonists, but the collective responsibility of all Australians to play their part in redressing past and continuing wrongs.”

Twenty-five years on Ms Burney and Mr Dodson said the speech was a reminder of the “continuing gaps in economic, health and social indicators” for indigenous Australians.

“The Gap is still wide.”

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‘Meet the Pharks’: TV host Lauren Phillips weds


TV presenter and Myer ambassador Lauren Phillips has married Lachlan Spark on Victoria’s picturesque Mornington Peninsula.
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About 180 guests, including well-known faces from television and sport, attended the wedding, held at a private property at Flinders on Saturday. The did it! #meetthepharks @lfizzlphillips @lachsparkA post shared by K A T E A R N O T T (@kate_arnott) on Dec 9, 2017 at 1:56am PSTThey said I DO . Love you guys so much; thank you for letting me be part of this incredible journey #meetthepharks #conilioA post shared by CON ILIO (@conilio.official) on Dec 9, 2017 at 2:02am PSTBesties unite!!!! #meetthepharks @lachspark @lfizzlphillipsA post shared by Susanne Gray (Messara) (@suzygrayback) on Dec 9, 2017 at 12:06am PSTPrincess @lfizzlphillips @lachspark #meetthepharksA post shared by S U Z Y E S K A N D E R (@suzeskander) on Dec 8, 2017 at 11:51pm PSTWhat a bunch of hotties! @conilio.official epic job!! #meetthepharks #Wedding #TheDreamDayCo #Creative #Beautiful #Inspiring Image | Gowns: @conilio.official xA post shared by Weddings Fashion Lifestyle (@thedreamdayco) on Dec 8, 2017 at 11:51pm PSTBest pharking couple – what a union of two special people in my life #meetthepharks @lfizzlphillips @lachsparkA post shared by Mitch catlin (@catchymmm) on Dec 8, 2017 at 11:14pm PSTThe calm before the Pharkin party arrived in the groundbreaking Atrium Marquee by @harrythehirer #allclass #allglass #meetthepharksA post shared by Hello Blossoms (@helloblossomsweddings) on Dec 9, 2017 at 2:04am PSTThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Chinese whispers push Canberra to change the law


Labor Senator Sam Dastyari in the Senate, at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday 6 December 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Dr Feng Chongyi. 16th May 2017. Photo: Steven Siewert
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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 12: Xiangmo Huang and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull walk along dixon street before the official lantern lighting ceremony at Tumbalong Park on February 12, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media)

The disgraced former US national security adviser Mike Flynn is now the world’s most famous peddler of foreign influence. His woes began when it was revealed he had accepted $US45,000 to appear on the Kremlin propaganda machine posing as a news outfit, Russia Today, or RT.

The next domino to fall was the revelation that he had been paid about $US500,000 by the Turkish government. Things spiralled from there.

Another former Donald Trump adviser, Paul Manafort, has already been charged with failing to register under the US Foreign Agents Registration Act, despite reportedly being paid millions of dollars to promote a pro-Moscow Ukrainian political party.

The US laws have come under criticism for being ineffective. But Australia has no equivalent laws at all. Flynn and Manafort would have done nothing illegal and would not even have been compelled to disclose their foreign connections.

Similarly, Sam Dastyari did not appear to meet the threshold of any illegality in his dealings with the Beijing-connected businessman Huang Xiangmo, Attorney-General George Brandis said this week when he and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a sweeping package of proposed laws to curb foreign influence and interference on Wednesday.

The government’s argument is that Australia’s laws are outdated and in serious need of overhaul in an era in which the incidence of foreign interference is at “unprecedented” levels – higher than during the Cold War, according to Brandis.

Globalisation and connectivity allow more vectors of interference. Foreign governments can communicate instantly with large numbers of proxies, agents and supporters, while large diaspora communities provide fertile ground for lobbying efforts. Business communities are closely linked across the globe. Cyber attacks allow the theft of secrets electronically to coerce or interfere in democracies – as was the case with Russia’s meddling in the US election.

Perhaps most importantly, Australia’s strategic circumstances have been transformed. It now has a rising great power in its region that wants to become Asia’s hegemon, which means decoupling the US from its allies, including Australia. For China this means emphasising the economic advantages its has to offer to an export-dependent country and normalising – as much as it plausibly can – its own system of government, the Chinese Communist Party.

Australia is particularly ripe because China is by far its biggest export destination.

It is also a bellwether country in how it handles Beijing’s increasing assertiveness, according to Rory Medcalf of the Australian National University.

“Were Australia to privilege China’s preferences on matters such as its disputes with Japan, India and South-east Asian countries, or over human rights and governance issues, other small and medium powers could follow,” Professor Medcalf wrote in the Australian Financial Review. “The ripples would be global.”

While it might not be realistic to break US alliances in Asia, “Beijing will keep trying to weaken them”.

Former Labor leader and ambassador to Washington Kim Beazley said foreign interference was certainly “elevated” now. He said China had a clear intention to influence Australia political decision-making, though it was different from Russia’s interference in the US which aimed to “discombobulate American society”.

“China wants us to support their foreign policy objectives and cull us from the US alliance. That is their purpose. There’s nothing surprising about it, nor about our resistance to it,” Beazley said.

China’s reaction to the Turnbull laws, which seasoned observers predicted would likely be muted, turned out to be quite the contrary. In a three-pronged attack, its foreign ministry, its embassy in Canberra and the state mouthpiece China Daily newspaper all launched broadsides.

In doing so, it called the Turnbull government out, demolishing the polite diplomatic fiction that this package was about an abstract collection of countries that are trying to influence Australian politics and not China per se.

Medcalf described this heated reaction as “a soft power own goal” on Beijing’s part, smacking of desperation and frustration.

Feng Chongyi, a Sydney professor who is a vocal critic of Chinese influence and who made headlines earlier this year when he was detained for week while trying to leave China, has studied how the networks of influence operate.

Between business groups, student associations, alumni groups and overtly political associations such as the Australian Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China – of which Huang Xiangmo stepped down as chairman a fortnight ago – there are about 300 groups in Sydney alone, Feng said.

Huang and his predecessor, the council’s late founder William Chiu, a Chinese-Malaysian businessman, were especially politically active, which is why there are photos in the public domain of them with virtually every senior Australian politician.

Through its United Front Work Department, the Chinese government has created a structure of patronage and coercion, whereby “if you work with authorities of China, then you get can benefits financially and socially”.

“Patriotic Chinese community leaders, including owners and editors of media outlets and heads of community associations, are rewarded with annual training programs and tours in China paid by the Chinese government, which also establish valuable contacts and create business opportunities,” Feng said.

“[They are] are invited to the dinners organised by the Chinese embassy or consulates and to the parties welcoming the visits of high-ranking officials from China, activities valuable for business, contacts and social status.”

Ultimately it means that businessmen and women with interests in China can win contracts there if they do Beijing’s bidding in Australia, but find their businesses under investigation if they do not.

These “patriotic proxies” in turn try to influence politics, media and business circles, he says.

Anne-Marie Brady, from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington, who has done ground-breaking research on Chinese influence, says that as Beijing’s foreign policy becomes more ambitious, its influence reach has “gone into hyperdrive”.

She says it’s important to remember most Chinese businesspeople are that and nothing else. But those like Huang – who have clear connections through front organisations like the reunification council, to the United Front to the Chinese Communist Party – need to be called out.

Everyone is entitled to put their case in the marketplace of ideas that forms the Australian democratic polity, but needs to be clear who they are representing. That is the thinking behind the Turnbull government’s planned “foreign influence transparency scheme”, based on – but improving on – the US foreign agents registry.

Feng and Brady both back this scheme, saying that if it is properly implemented, the value of subtle influence will be lost because everyone knows who’s behind it and what their agenda is.

“If [Chinese proxies] see economic, commercial or political risks here, they will stop the practice,” Feng says.

It remains to be seen how precisely this will be put into practice. How might it work, for instance, in the case of Chinese community newspapers, which Feng says come under significant pressure from advertisers who are Chinese state-owned enterprises or pro-Beijing community groups?

Media outlets are generally exempt unless they are foreign government-owned. Advertisers might be liable for listing if they are pushing a message from Beijing, but there will be a lot of judgement calls required by the Attorney-General’s Department as to who must and must not go on the register.

At the very least, a Flynn-like mover and shaker in Australia would need to declare themselves, which is why the new laws have been widely welcomed by experts.

At the more extreme end of foreign interference that goes beyond mere transparency, the Turnbull government is creating a new offence of foreign interference that covertly meddles in Australia’s democracy. It recognises the reality that Australia’s espionage and treason laws are virtually never used.

Anyone working covertly with a foreign power to influence government or political processes, interfere in elections, help a foreign intelligence agency or harm Australia’s national security will be liable for jail time of up to 20 years.

Brandis has indicated that had Dastyari conducted his business with Huang under the new laws, he might have been open to prosecution.

Brandis also highlighted the danger to political parties, which he said are “very porous organisations” of which it is easy to become a member.

“If a foreign government or a foreign principal wants to influence Australian domestic politics, one of the ways in which they can do that is by joining a political party, seeking to rise to a position of influence or power in that political party,” he told the ABC this week.

The government’s new laws also modernise laws covering treason, treachery, mutiny, sabotage and – most critically – espionage, which will become broader and mean that a person need not be caught literally in the act of handing over state secrets to a foreign power with the demonstrable intention of harming Australia.

Anne-Marie Brady says serious operators will still try to get around these laws. But the awareness created by the new laws will do as much as anything to make Australian decision-makers and opinion-shapers more canny in their dealings.

“Putting some sunlight on it is a good thing,” she said, noting there has been too much blindness to this for too long. “A lot of the pushback is going to have to come from people in Australian society having a better idea of what is going on and who they’re interacting with.”

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Ingenious activities to keep kids entertained over the holidays


Summer is here, and school holidays are a breath away, so if you’re one of the lucky 70 per cent of Australians who happen to own a backyard, you might as well get use out of it.
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Granted, it’s what you tell yourself and your kids every year and every year the trampoline stands un-jumped on. The cricket set is unplayed while the kids sit comfortably opposite their best friends – their screens. Perhaps it’s time to get a little bit creative.

The following ideas for backyard games are cheap, they’re easy and they’re a great way to keep kids occupied so you can go back to watching Netflix on your iPad. I’m joking of course, but the luxury of the backyard has always been that it’s a ready-made safe space for everyone to maximise their vitamin D intake with minimal supervision. 1. Gardening

OK. I know what you’re thinking: “It’s boring”, and it’s for people with arthritis, my kids are going to hate me. But gardening is the perfect activity for the exercise-averse tween, or the more compact backyard. And, as the holidays stretch out over six weeks, it’s one of the few ventures that will change in appearance just enough each day to hold interest. Also: toddlers love watering cans.

Just make sure you choose something relatively exciting, such as gardenias, (which can grow in pots) bougainvillea, (which quickly takes on a life of its own) or, if you’re feeling adventurous, a frangipani tree. All of these varieties do well in warm, sunny conditions. If your kids aren’t too keen on flowers you can always try fruit, such as tomatoes, (which take around five weeks to fully mature, so plant them now).

Your kids can make their own recipes from their crop, pretending they’re Matthew Evans or Stephanie Alexander while they talk you through their “process” as they decorate their pizza. You might even set up an outdoor “cafe” by throwing a tablecloth over your outdoor furniture. Try your local nursery or hardware store for seeds, pots and fertiliser. Related: A guide to growing your own cocktail ingredientsRelated: Is it possible to renovate with kids around?Related: Why tech in the bedroom is bad news2. Water balloons

The beach is a wonderful option but on days when it’s too crowded, or too hot or too hard to find a parking spot, there’s always your own backyard. For those Aussies fortunate enough to own a swimming pool, congrats. For the rest of us, we have to be a little more resourceful.

In my day, we ran under the sprinkler, but summer water restrictions have since made that an impossibility.

Water balloons combine the sporty element of dodgeball with the aggressive determination of paint ball. The best bit is that water balloons are now super easy to tie in bulk, thanks to a product called, Bunch of Balloons, that you attach to your tap or hose and watch it fill up all 100 balloons at once before it detaches all by itself. Available from Amazon. 3. Treasure hunt

Who needs to wait until Easter? After the kids have gone to bed each night, creep out into your yard and go nuts. You can hide anything from fun-size chocolate bars, to clues about forthcoming Christmas presents (a great way to build excitement and buzz).

But if it’s pre-schoolers you wish to entertain, you can “discover” encouraging notes from Santa’s elves – a terrific way to motivate good behaviour. 4. Camping

There’s nothing like camping in a tent in your own backyard, but you can upgrade the excitement by taking a couple of blow-up mattresses out into the garden for an unobstructed view of the stars.

You’ll need your usual supply of blankets, cushions, insect repellent and torches, or if your kids are feeling fancy, a bunch of flameless, battery operated candles, (available from $2 shops). Give each child a ration of food, lollies and drink in a backpack and challenge them to “survive” the night outdoors, or realistically, at least wait until you’ve finished binge-watching Will & Grace. 5. DIY art

Grab an old double-bed top sheet (or buy one for about $12 from K-Mart) and peg it to the clothesline. Next, amass five or six spray bottles (about $4 from Target). Fill them with water and a drop of food colouring.

Now, encourage your kid to channel their inner Jackson Pollock by squirting the coloured water onto the sheet. The more mess, the better! At least that’s what you can tell yourself before you call them in for a bath. 6. Make dinosaur eggs

Gather all your kids favourite dinosaur toys, (or any kind of plastic animal, really). Fill up an ice cream bucket with water, and then freeze the toy inside. Scatter them throughout the backyard the next day, and as the sun comes up, the ice will melt away, “birthing” the dinosaur!

As with all outdoor activities, remember to slip, slip slap those kids with sun protection and keep them hydrated. Last, but probably most important of all, enjoy the holidays, they’re yours as well.

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On ‘Brexit Day’ Britain will leave the EU – but not any EU institutions


‘Brexit Day’ on March 29, 2019 will see Britain leave the European Union in name only, under an EU plan leaked to the media hours after the so-called ‘divorce deal’ was done.
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Instead, two ‘transition’ years will follow Brexit, during which the UK stays subject to the entire body of EU law, set by Brussels, but no longer having any say in those laws.

The UK will stay in the Customs Union and the Single Market for that time, and would have to abide by their rules such as the free movement of labour.

The document implies the UK government has already agreed to these conditions – and European Council president Donald Tusk also gave that impression.

“As you know, the UK has asked for a transition of about two years, while remaining part of the Single Market and Customs Union,” Tusk said. “And we will be ready to discuss this, but naturally, we have our conditions.”

UK Prime Minister Theresa May and her ministers have previously insisted that Britain would leave both institutions on Brexit day.

In a statement to parliament in October, May said: “As we leave the European Union in March 2019 we will leave full membership of the Customs Union and full membership of the Single Market.”

She could argue the UK will no longer have ‘full membership’ because it cannot set the rules, but that explanation would likely not be well received.

In a sobering speech shortly after the divorce deal was announced, Tusk said he was satisfied with progress on the divorce deal but “the most difficult challenge is still ahead”.

“We all know that breaking up is hard, but breaking up and building a new relationship is much harder,” Tusk said. “Since the Brexit referendum, a year and a half has passed.

“So much time has been devoted to the easier part of the task. And now, to negotiate a transition arrangement and the framework for our future relationship, we have de facto less than a year.”

The document, circulated to European leaders on Friday, is the EU’s draft of guidelines for the second phase of negotiations.

Tusk said the EU was ready to start preparing a close EU-UK partnership in trade, in the fight against terrorism and international crime as well as security, defence and foreign policy.

Whitehall insiders said they would not be taking a celebratory holiday now that the first stage of Brexit is done, but would be hard at work nailing down the transition arrangements.

UK-based businesses, including big corporations in the City of London, have made it clear to May that there must be clarity on the transition by March 2018, a year ahead of Brexit day.

Otherwise they will not be able to plan for the year ahead, and could activate contingency plans to move operations and staff to the continent.

Reaction to the divorce deal struck in the early hours of Friday morning was mixed, with hardcore eurosceptics calling it a betrayal of Brexit.

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said the “very bad deal” was a humiliating capitulation, and the UK had met every one of the EU’s demands.

“We collapsed at every level,” he said, saying it would be at least six years after the Brexit vote before the UK was able to make a trade deal with any other part of the world.

“We look like mugs,” he said. “We wasted months and months and in the end we agreed to all the things the Commission insisted upon.”

When asked for an example of where the EU had given ground, chief negotiator Michel Barnier said he was not “at this stage insisting the UK should repay the removal costs” for EU agencies leaving London.

Under the deal, Britain will pay a financial settlement for outstanding debts and obligations, calculated and paid over time – and estimated in the media at about between ??35 billion ($62 billion) and ??40 billion.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker called the agreement “the breakthrough we needed” allowing the two sides to begin discussions on crucial future trade and customs arrangements.

May, who may have saved her job by getting the deal done, said it had required “give and take from both sides”.

The Democratic Unionist Party, who scuppered a draft deal on Monday because they were concerned it would divide Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, have cautiously accepted the new version, saying there was “more work to be done”.

Their leader, Arlene Foster, said they had run out of time to go through the details of the agreement, and May had decided to go to Brussels anyway in the national interest.

DUP support in Westminster is vital for May’s minority government.

The agreement, which is provisional and could change next year, also guarantees the continuation of current rights of the three million EU citizens in the UK to continue to live, work and study there, including family reunification rights for spouses, parents, children, grandparents and grandchildren.

And it guarantees there will be “no hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic, while also maintaining the “constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom”.

The UK will “maintain full alignment” with the rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union, unless it can come up with some other arrangement that guaranteed no immigration posts or customs checks on the geographical border.

In a public letter from the EU Commission to the European Council – the leaders of the nations forming the union – the Commission expressed its scepticism.

“(The UK’s) intention seems hard to reconcile with (its) communicated decision to leave the internal market and the Customs Union,” the letter said.

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England’s focus on sledging could cost Ashes, warn retired stars


England must forget about the sledging and redirect their energies to playing cricket if they’re to save the Ashes.
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That’s the opinion of several retired Australian Test cricketers who believe the chatter out on the field this summer has been no different to what’s gone before in more than a century of cricket between the great foes.

There have been no official complaints made to the International Cricket Council, despite much discussion so far this series focusing on whether or not the sledging has become too personal.

The visitors believe Australia took things too far in the opening Test at the Gabba, wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow one of the primary targets.

Then in Adelaide there appeared to be plenty of discussion between Australian captain Steve Smith and the English bowlers.

At one stage umpire Aleem Dar stood between Smith, at the non-striker’s end, and Jimmy Anderson when one of their discussions became particularly robust.

“It’s been round for 100 years,” former Australian quick Craig McDermott said. “You don’t want to get personal, that’s for sure, but there’s always words said and that’s part and parcel of it at the end of the day.

“That’s what they said last time when they got flogged 5-0 out here. We didn’t cry poor when we got beaten in England did we? I think they need to just concentrate on playing cricket.

“It wasn’t a very quiet field when you played against blokes like Ian Botham and people like that. There was always plenty said in that particular era, and the West Indies were the same.”

Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland played down the perceived sledging during the Adelaide Test as “banter” and CA feel the umpires are doing their job in managing the players.

“We do recognise that international cricket is a high-stakes, competitive environment and on-field banter is as old as the game itself,” a CA spokesperson said.

“All players are reminded regularly that they have a responsibility to manage their on-field emotions, even in the most pressured situations. Our players understand the consequences if they overstep the mark at any time.”

When England beat Australia in the Old Dart in 2015 their players were only too quick to remind the visitors that their Ashes campaign was falling into a state of disrepair.

“If the English are going to complain about it, they probably should look internal to see who their main culprits are as well,” retired all-rounder Shane Watson said. “When things are flying for them, they’re always very happy to continue to dish it out.

“It’s part of the game and part of an Ashes series, it’s high stakes out in the middle, not just the players, but the support staff around, the administrators, the fans, everything, there’s a lot on the line.

“I’ve loved seeing Steve Smith stand up to a few of those senior guys in particular, Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, because he’s a leader of the team and he’s got to make sure he stands strong for himself and for his team around him.

“The players know where the line is, they’re going to push the line of course because it’s high stakes and people are trying to put their stake in the ground as well. I’d be extremely surprised if it boiled over.”

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UN warns racism on the rise in Australia


Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Senator Zed Seselja during a visit to the Crace Early Learning Centre in Canberra on Wednesday 8 February 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex EllinghausenThe United Nations has issued a scathing report on racism in Australia, warning discrimination is “on the rise”, including in the political sphere and in the media.
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But the assessment and its recommendations have drawn a fierce response from the Turnbull government’s Multicultural Affairs Minister, Zed Seselja, who lashed out at its “bizarre criticism”.

The periodic review documented 16 areas of concern including the welfare and status of Indigenous Australians, asylum seekers and migrant workers.

The UN committee proposed a range of radical changes to combat racism, including beefing up section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and effectively censoring aspects of the media and public commentary.

It suggested racist incidents were often “treated with impunity” and said section 18C should be better policed by “law enforcement officials”. UN officials were concerned too few racial discrimination complaints made it to court because the costs and the burden of proof were too high.

Free speech advocates consider section 18C – which makes it unlawful (but not criminal) to offend, insult or humiliate someone on the basis of race – a blight on free expression. The Turnbull government earlier this year tried to water down the section’s wording but was blocked by the Senate.

In its report released overnight in Geneva, the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination declared “expressions of racism, racial discrimination, and xenophobia, including in the public sphere and political debates as well as in the media, are on the rise” in Australia.

The report’s conclusions are based largely on submissions and testimony from non-government organisations, communities and Australian governments.

Hate speech and violence particularly affected Arabs and Muslims, asylum seekers and refugees, Africans, South Asians and Indigenous people, the committee noted.

It recommended ditching the anti-terrorism and national security clauses of the Multicultural Australia statement – announced by the Turnbull government in March – which it warned could lead to racial profiling of Muslims and Arabs by police.

Senator Seselja said the Turnbull government “completely rejects this bizarre criticism” and that a successful multicultural Australia “is only possible, if at the same time, our borders are secure and our nation is safe”.

The UN committee also turned on politicians, saying Australia needed to combat xenophobia in political discourse by ensuring public officials “not only refrain from such speech but also formally reject and condemn hate speech”.

Furthermore, the media should “put an end to racist hate speech” in print and online, and adopt a “code of good conduct” with provisions banning racism.

Alina??? Leikin???, lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the UN report was a clear call to arms for the government to “act both urgently and effectively” in tackling racism.

Of particular resonance were concerns about Aboriginal land rights and the failure of the Closing the Gap strategy to improve the welfare of Indigenous Australians.

The UN said a “paradigm shift” was necessary in how governments deal with Indigenous people, calling on the state to “demonstrate the necessary political will to ensure that aspirational plans and programs become a reality”.

Several of the concerns raised in this year’s evaluation were already flagged in the UN’s previous report on Australia in 2010. However, the document released overnight was significantly more critical than the one seven years ago.

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Inside Mosul, the city destroyed to save it from IS


Nada undergoes physiotherapy at the EU-funded Muharabeen primaryhealthcare centre in East Mosul, while her father is treaded nearby. Credit Peter Biro/ECHO/EU Nada undergoes physiotherapy at the EU-funded Muharabeen primary healthcare centre in East Mosul, while her father has his dressing changed. Credit Peter Biro/ECHO/EU
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The offensive to retake Mosul caused widespread destruction. As part of the ECHO-funded humanitarian response, all weather temporary shelter kits have been supplied to over 8,100 displaced families.Credit Peter Biro/ECHO/EU

In the course of the nine-month battle over Mosul between Islamic State on one side and the coalition of Iraqi army, Shiite militias and US-led international forces on the other, the city experienced some of the most savage urban warfare seen since 1945.

Today, west Mosul barely exists: 80 per cent of all buildings have been razed or damaged. The old city centre is no more. The devastation in the second-largest city in Iraq is proportionally worse than that of Stalingrad or Hiroshima.

Entire blocks have been returned to dust. There are bomb craters everywhere, huge piles of refuse, thousands of burned-out husks of cars and trucks. West Mosul looks like a tomb.

Hundreds of trucks from Iraq’s northern Kurdish region keep bringing in building materials. But there is little sign in west Mosul that any sort of reconstruction is even possible. At the same time, hundreds of trucks are taking scrap metal from Mosul to the Kurdish region.

The oily Tigris River still occasionally washes up a corpse. Four out of five bridges across the river have been destroyed. Over the remaining one, traffic is sputtering along between the Iraqi army and Shiite militia checkpoints.

The Tigris’ entire west bank, where the IS fighters had dug themselves in, has been bombed clean. The tunnels the fighters used to move across the city have been filled in. Those brave enough to have remained in west Mosul fear that the underground still hides a number of “sleeper cells”.

Here amid the rubble which still harbours hundreds of corpses, any sense of security is a poor joke. Large parts of the area are riddled with mines, and there is no map. The mutilated children of Mosul

A 10-year-old girl named Nada refused to let the doctors near her. She was very much afraid of them. They were the ones who had stolen her left foot.

On April 4, she had been loitering in the courtyard of her home in west Mosul’s Zanjili??? quarter, which had been completely dismantled during the offensive. Their house was struck by a rocket. The shrapnel hit Nada in her left foot and her jaw. Her father Adel took a hit to his leg. A pair of her relatives were killed in the assault. The neighbours took them to the only functioning hospital – controlled by IS. /**/

At first, both of the two doctors on hand ignored Nada and her father. Their priorities were focused on the wounded IS fighters. According to numerous witnesses, the doctors only helped those civilians who had openly supported the caliphate. Adel was left bleeding for 10 hours. After that they simply cut off his right leg.

Nada was left to her excruciating pain for two days. The “doctors” could have saved her foot, but it simply wasn’t a priority. After a while, her wounds caught an infection and started overflowing with pus. At the end of the two days, a doctor finally came along and amputated the leg under the knee.

Nada and her father Adel undergo physiotherapy at the Muharabeen centre in east Mosul. Photo: Peter Biro/ECHO/EU

“I want to go to school,” Nada told us at the Muharabeen primary care centre and Handicap International’s rehabilitation centre in the eastern part of Mosul. The physical therapist was working to exercise the stump of the little girl’s left foot – the one that was later fitted with a prosthetic device. From the way she surrendered herself completely to the therapist’s care, it was clear Nada had been released from much of her fear of doctors.

Her bright and curious eyes seemed filled with a renewed confidence. She had regained the ability to walk. She had been promised she would soon depart for Jordan, where Medecins Sans Frontieres agreed to operate on her damaged jaw. One day, she might be able to eat normally again.

Nada at the EU-funded Muharabeen centre in east Mosul. Her father Adel is treated nearby. Photo: Peter Biro/ECHO/EU

In mid-March, a 12-year-old boy named Dawood was taking a flock of sheep to graze. After stepping on a mine, his right hand and left foot were blown away. Some relatives heard the detonation and ran over to where he lay mangled on the ground. He was bleeding profusely and had lost consciousness. On the day we met, Dawood could officially walk again.

“I wanted to be a soldier,” he nodded proudly. “But since I have lost an arm and a leg, the army won’t take me. Now I want to be an engineer.”

Dawood carefully raised himself up to his feet and made a few steps. His eyes flashed with defiance.

At the Muharabeen centre, doctors mostly take care of the amputees. Seventy per cent of the 310 people in their care had lost a limb or two in the raids. In total, some 18,000 people were wounded. There was a tremendous amount of amputations. In many cases, it had been done as a form of sanction – as punishment for disloyalty.

Dr Hassan Ibrahim, director of West Mosul General Hospital. Photo: Peter Biro/ECHO/EU Before the offensive, almost 2.5 million people were living in Mosul. Since then, over a million have been evacuated from the city, especially from the western Sunni districts. A joint effort by the Iraqi security forces and humanitarian organisations, the evacuation may have saved a huge number of lives, but hundreds of thousands of people still lost their homes.

5.8 million Iraqis were driven from their homes from 2014 onward. More than 3 million remain displaced, 600,000 of them from Mosul.

These people literally have no place to go back to, or they are rightly fearful of returning to the prospect of a new wave of sectarian vengeance. During my travels across the refugee camps in northern Iraq I met numerous people who were actively prevented from returning by the security forces and the Shiite militias. Resurrecting a hospital

IS had been deliberately dismantling the medical infrastructure in the city.

“What you see is not rebuilding. It’s a reanimation. We’ve seen almost total destruction of the premises. IS took out all our equipment. The demand for our services is staggering,” we were told by Dr Hassan Ibrahim, director of the West Mosul General Hospital – the only functioning hospital in the ransacked urban desert.

As soon as the Iraqi forces took control of the district on May 15, the remaining hospital staff took to “resurrecting” the facilities.

The hospital’s managing director still serves as an active surgeon. In the past, he had been arrested four times by IS. He had been put on trial twice. The first time because his trousers were too long, the second because they were deemed too short after he had dutifully shortened them.

The main hospital in west Mosul is doing what it can to help some life go on amid the rubble. The hospital’s underground facilities may be in need of complete renovation. But that hasn’t stopped the staff from using it as an improvised maternity ward.

New life brings hope: Susanne, a young Iraqi mother with her newborn baby at West Mosul General Hospital. Photo: Peter Biro/ECHO/EU

During our visit the modest premises were a site of lively activity. That morning, Suria Shaab Ahmad, 42, had given birth to the little girl she was now clutching to her breast. It was her fifth child.

“Five is enough,” Suria said, laughing, just two hours after the delivery. She had been escorted to the hospital by her 62-year-old mother. Like hundreds of other men from Mosul’s Sunni community, Suria’s husband had simply disappeared.

“Today we are happy. Life is starting over again. I’m trying to find a name for my little girl. A suggestion?” Suria asked.

Al-Nur? The Light?

“That’s going to be tough – we already have four girls named al-Nur in the family,” Suria smiled.

In spite of everything – let there be light.

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Get creative with gift giving this Christmas


BREAK OUT: There are plenty of options for Christmas presents where health and fitness is concerned. A surf lesson is one. It is active and fun and perfect in summer. Picture: Phil HearneI don’t want to freak anyone out …but Christmas is now just a fortnight away.
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That means if you are not all over your present shopping then you had better get to it.

If you have friends orsignificant others who are active then there are plenty of gift ideas out there.

I have already put in my requests for more running gear –to help me run off all of the Christmas cake I am sure to consume over the festive season.

If you are looking for some other ideas, here are a few including cheaper and more expensive options.

Water bottle.A nice water bottle never goes astray and is something you would not always think to get yourself and it does not cost too much. You can pay extra to get them personalised.

Massage, day spa treatment.Going for a massage or facial does not just help your body, it also helps your mind because it makes you stop. That meansyou have no choice but to relax, which is a gift in itself for those leading busy lives.

Fitness gear. ’Active wear’ is more than just being comfortable when you work out –it’s a fashion statement these days. This could simply be a pair of good running socks to something a bit more extravagant like a Fitbit, which tracks your sleep patterns as well as logging your daily food and activity. There is a range of kids’ Fitbits available as well.

MOTIVATING: Devices like Fitbits can track your daily activity, food and sleep patterns and make great gifts.

Health or fitness magazine subscription.Again, something that you may not necessarily fork out for yourself but a good way to stay up to date with current health trends and ways to improve your fitness.

Training equipment.You do not need loads of gear for a fitness session. Basically, if you have aset of weights and a skipping rope then you are set. You can get both at reasonable prices at most department stores. You could also go forboxing equipment, tennis racquets, frisbee, surfboard, bike and scooters for the kids.

Recipe book or nutrition book. Finding motivation for healthy meals can be tough but a good recipe book could help. There are plenty out therewith healthy meal plans and suggestions as well as information on nutritious foods. Acooking class might also work as a gift.

Biography. This may sound more like a gift that will make you sit still rather than get you moving but sometimes hearing someone else’s journey can inspire you to new levels.

Event entry or a lesson for something active: Entering an event is one way to stay motivated with training. If you want to get creative then there are options such as surfing andstand-up paddleboarding lessons. Both are perfect for the summer holidays.

Gym membership, pass or PT sessions.Gym memberships can get costly so a lot of people avoid them, which is why this is a great present. You can generally get a monthly or 10-visit pass or even book a session with a personal trainer. There is alsopilates and yoga studios, swimming lessons and more.

Gift voucher. You cannot go wrong here. This covers many bases, including all of the above.

Workout Guide: Sizzling Summer SessionsIf a crazy Christmas social calendar is interfering with your training schedule, try some snappier sessions.

Here are three. Do them separateor together:

Part 1:10 squats, 5 push-ups, 5 pull-ups/rows, 100 skips. 10 lunges, 5 biceps with shoulder press, 5 triceps extension, 20 squat jumps. Repeat twice through.

Part 2:10 burpees, run 50 metres, 9 burpees, run 50m, 8 burpees, run 50m, keep going until you get down to 1 burpee, 50m run.

Part 3:20 Ab rotation with hand weights, 10 ab curls with 2 straight punches using light hand weights, 10 glute bridge, 30-second plank hold. Repeat twice.

Upcoming fitness eventsNobbys to Newcastle Ocean Swim, Nobbys beach, January 27:A2km ocean swim fromNobbys to Newcastle beach. oceanfit南京夜网419论坛/event/nobbys-newcastle-ocean-swim.

Cupid’s Undies Run: Newcastle, Nobbys beach, February 18:A 1.5 kilometre run,in your underwear,to raise funds for the Children’s Tumour Foundation.cupidsundierun南京夜网419论坛.

Sparke Helmore Newcastle City Triathlon, Newcastle Foreshore, February 25:The perfect new year challenge. There is plenty of time to get training and events cater for the novice to the diehard. newcastlecitytriathlon南京夜网419论坛.

Renee Valentine is a writer, qualified personal trainer and mother. [email protected]南京夜网419论坛.

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