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It’s do-or-die for champion Chiefs

It’s do-or-die for champion Chiefs

The Chiefs have talked about playing knock-out football for a few weeks now, but Friday night’s Super Rugby derby against the Hurricanes really is do-or-die for the defending champions.

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Lose at Waikato Stadium and their season is over even before their final-round clash with the Blues at Eden Park.

It is not the ending the Chiefs want for stalwarts Tanerau Latimer and Mahonri Schwalger and others who are moving on at the end of this campaign.

The Chiefs have suffered three successive losses to find themselves bottom of the New Zealand conference and ninth overall.

To win at Waikato Stadium the team will need to rediscover some of the fire that took them to the title in 2012 and 2013 when many said they couldn’t do it.

“A lot of effort went in to winning two and I’m not so sure that conscious desire to win three has been as evident,” admitted assistant coach Tom Coventry.

“I still think it lies latent in us. I see it in us when we train and I’ve seen it in glimpses this year but not consistently.”

They will also need to find the heart for the physical battle against the Hurricanes having been out-muscled when they lost 45-8 in Wellington in May.

“That’s a mental thing, an attitude thing,” Coventry said.

“When your confidence is down you have to work pretty hard to try and instil that back in your team. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the physicality and getting the attitude right particularly when it’s a do-or-die match.”

The Chiefs’ kick-chase was also poor at Westpac Stadium and they were carved up by Alapati Leiua, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett and Andre Taylor.

While Leiua and Taylor are injured for the return fixture Barrett and Savea have continued their sparkling form and Cory Jane has also come back from All Blacks duty with renewed attacking vigour.

In contrast, the Chiefs have lacked polish on attack.

The constant chopping and changing in the back line selection has only added to the frustration and this week is no different with six changes in the backs.

“Right from game one we’ve been plagued with having to change for injury and form and that hasn’t helped us build continuity in our game,” Coventry said.

Argentina thank ‘post of God’, prepare for Belgium

Argentina thank ‘post of God’, prepare for Belgium

The Argentine team flew straight back to their camp in Belo Horizonte after beating Switzerland on Tuesday with a goal by Angel Di Maria two minutes from the end of extra time.

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In a heart-stopping end after a pedestrian Argentine performance, the Swiss almost equalised in the dying moments when substitute Blerim Dzemaili’s header struck the post.

“The post of God,” some media immediately dubbed it, in reference to former Argentine great Diego Maradona’s famous handball goal against England at the 1986 World Cup.

“Luck decided to wrap itself round a team that alone was not up to the task,” wrote one relieved columnist Cristian Grosso in Argentina’s La Nacion newspaper.

Another newspaper, Clarin, baptized Di Maria the nation’s new “guardian angel” in a play on his first name.

Reflecting the extraordinary national tension and desperation for a third World Cup, one radio narrator was reduced to tears on air when Argentina scored.

In the dressing room afterwards, the players danced and sang fans’ songs as if they had won the trophy.

Their captain Lionel Messi recognised they had been lucky against a Swiss team many expected to roll over in the face of Argentina’s big names and intimidating three-pronged attack.

“I’m not sure if this was deserved or not. The important thing is that we’re through,” acknowledged Messi.

“Luck is on our side.”

MESSI MISSING AGUERO

Belgium, who also needed extra time to beat United States 2-1, will have taken careful note of Argentina’s inability to convert possession into goals and nervousness at the back.

They meet on Saturday in Brasilia.

While the Belgians will have been buoyed by Romelu Lukaku finally getting on the scoresheet, Argentina will, it seems, again miss injured striker Sergio Aguero for that match.

The Argentines were due to give an update on Aguero after training at their camp in Belo Horizonte on Wednesday afternoon.

Messi and Aguero love playing together, and the absence of their spark and intuition could be seen against the Swiss.

Coach Alejandro Sabella, however, was defensive of his charges, in a tournament where few of the favourites have been able to steam-roller supposedly weaker opposition.

“I’m normally a self-critical person. Sometimes I prefer to do that in front of the team, sometimes in front of you, but I believe the team played well,” he told reporters.

“I have to congratulate the players, I have no criticism of them or of myself, although there are always things to improve.”

Argentina are under extra pressure to succeed in this World Cup given the presence of tens of thousands of their fans, who have crossed the border into Brazil.

Furthermore, winning on Brazilian soil would be extra-sweet for Argentines given their long-running rivalry in the region. Many fans still chant songs about Argentina’s victory over Brazil at the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

Without Aguero, Sabella will be relying on the less-renowned Ezequiel Lavezzi or Rodrigo Palacio against Belgium. Lavezzi started on Tuesday, with Palacio later replacing him.

“I want to point out that the play for the goal came from Palacio,” a delighted Sabella said.

“Our dream is work from game to game. Now our aim is to reach the semi-finals. We can’t make the mistake of trying to take two steps at once. As you’ve seen in this World Cup, strong teams like Spain, Italy, Uruguay, England and Portugal are out.”

(Additional reporting by Marcelo Androetto; editing by Justin Palmer)

Bouchard overpowers Kerber to reach Wimbledon semis

Bouchard overpowers Kerber to reach Wimbledon semis

Already seen as the golden girl of tennis, the 20-year-old Canadian looked like a grand slam champion in waiting with another irresistible barrage of attacking strokes.

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A day after Australia’s 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios fired a warning to the established order in men’s tennis by taking down Rafael Nadal, Bouchard, a year older and far more established, packed too much firepower for gritty 26-year-old Kerber.

With the usual suspects – the likes Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Li Na and Victoria Azarenka – already out, Bouchard is knocking louder than ever on the grand slam trophy cabinet.

She fell to Li in the semi-finals at the Australian Open and was edged out at the same stage by Sharapova at Roland Garros, but is determined that it will be third time lucky.

“I’m excited to be in the semis. But, you know, I’m never satisfied, so definitely want to go a step further,” she said.

“I think I played some great players when I lost in the semis,” added Bouchard, who will have to get past fast-rising Romanian Simona Halep to reach her first major final.

“You don’t win every single time. But I’m going to look forward to try to play a little bit like I played today,” she said.

“It’s not every day you can walk out on Centre Court and play the semis of a slam. I’m going to try, give it my best, leave everything on the court and we’ll see what happens.”

LEG-WEARY

From 3-3 in the first set, when she saved four break points, the young Canadian took a stranglehold with a flurry of winners against an opponent looking a little leg-weary after her thrilling three-set victory over Sharapova the previous day.

Tucking into Kerber’s weak second serve like a lumberjack taking his axe to a pine, she broke in the next game and then picked it off twice more to march 4-1 ahead in the second set before a brief wobble allowed Kerber hope.

Ninth seed Kerber crept back into contention and was within a point of levelling at 5-5 before a few more lusty blows from the Bouchard racket sealed the victory.

“I tried my best,” Kerber said. “She played a great match today. She hit the balls on the line, down the line.”

The momentum is with Bouchard but Halep will present another step up for the Canadian, whose free-swinging game and positive approach is reminiscent of Sharapova when she won Wimbledon as a teenager in 2004, albeit without quite as much noise.

“I’m going to be ready,” she said. “You know, really just try to go for it and take my chances. It’s the semis, so I’m going to expect the toughest match ever.”

(Editing by John O’Brien and David Goodman)

RAAF medics ready to fly to Ukraine

RAAF medics ready to fly to Ukraine

A military medical team on standby in the Netherlands is hoping for the best but planning for the worst when unarmed Australian and Dutch police investigate the MH17 crash site.

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A seven-person RAAF aero-medical evacuation (AME) team is stationed at Eindhoven airbase ready to fly to eastern Ukraine at a moment’s notice if a member of the international mission is injured.

The team, led by 34-year-old Dr Jo Darby from Brisbane, includes another doctor, a specialist anaesthetist, two nurses and two medical assistants.

“I really hope nothing happens and we don’t have to use our resources and our intensive team,” Dr Darby told reporters on the tarmac at Eindhoven.

“But if we do need it, then that’s what we are here for. It’s an unknown in terms of what our tasking will be.”

Dr Darby said when planning a potential medical evacuation “you always think about the worst case scenario and have a contingency plan in place”.

Dutch police heading up the international probe into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 believe the situation around the crash site remains perilous despite a small team managing to access the scene.

There’s been intense fighting in recent days between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian militants.

The Ukrainian parliament on Thursday ratified a deal that authorises Australia and the Netherlands to send in armed personnel to help secure the area if necessary.

But Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has previously stated an international military mission is “unrealistic”.

The RAAF medical team stationed in the Netherlands would be pleased if the most serious injury it deals with is a broken bone or rolled ankle.

They arrived at Eindhoven on Tuesday and spent Thursday practising with the Dutch team they’ll be working side-by-side with if there is need for any evacuations.

The Dutch don’t have C-17s so are getting used to working on the Australian aircraft.

One C-17 can move four ICU patients and up to 36 patients on stretchers depending on their injuries.

Dr Darby says the Boeing Globemasters are the Rolls Royce of transporters when it comes to doing AMEs – especially when moving seriously injured casualties.

Liquid oxygen is available on a continuous supply so medics don’t have to worry about changing cylinders. Medical machines can be plugged straight into power so batteries aren’t needed.

The Australian and Dutch have previously worked together in Afghanistan and Dr Darby says the teams in Eindhoven are melding perfectly as they are equally matched in terms of expertise.

Tas winds calm as snow falls to 300m

Tas winds calm as snow falls to 300m

Thousands of Tasmanians are still without power but the destructive winds that lashed the state all week have finally calmed.

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Instead the state has been blanketed with snow to 300 metres above sea level as temperatures dropped well below the average.

Powerful winds started buffeting Tasmania on Monday night, bringing down trees and leaving more than 22,500 homes and businesses without power by Thursday.

That number dropped to 3700 by Friday afternoon.

TasNetworks chief executive Lance Balcombe said crews were working round the clock to get power back on.

“Improved weather conditions mean crews are in a better position to restore power, however some areas remain difficult to access due to heavy snow, road closures and poor road conditions,” Mr Balcombe said on Friday.

There are 3200 customers still without power in the north and 500 in the north-west.

Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Simon McCulloch said most of Tasmania struggled to make it into double digits as the cold snap hit.

“Across the state today it was about three-to-seven degrees below average,” Mr McCulloch told AAP.

He said the severe winds that brought down powerlines and trees – killing one woman in Launceston on Thursday – subsided on Friday.

“We had a south-west-to-southerly change pushing across the state today, that’s really the last in the sequence of fronts that have been crossing the state since Monday,” he said.

Snow fell to 300 metres above sea level on Friday, and Mr McCulloch said it would drop to 200 metres in some areas overnight.

“Lots of places will get below zero tonight, (there will be) snow on the ground, icy conditions tomorrow,” he said.

Argentina blames US for debt woes

Argentina blames US for debt woes

Argentina has blamed the US for the legal battle that forced it to miss a debt payment and, despite ratings agencies’ declarations to the contrary, denied being in default.

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Ratings agency Fitch declared Argentina in “restrictive default” on Thursday after 11th-hour talks failed to resolve the country’s dispute with two US hedge funds which refuse to accept a write-down on their Argentine bonds.

Fitch’s label echoed the “selective default” declared on Wednesday by Standard & Poor’s. Both terms indicate that Argentina has defaulted on one or more of its financial commitments but continues to meet others.

US District Judge Thomas Griesa has blocked Argentina from paying its “exchange creditors” — those who agreed to take a 70-per cent write-down after the country’s 2001 default — without also paying two American hedge funds that took it to court demanding full payment.

Argentine stocks plummeted on Thursday, closing 8.43 per cent down as the repercussions of the default began to set in.

President Cristina Kirchner’s cabinet chief, Jorge Capitanich, blamed the US government, Griesa and a court-appointed mediator for the messy legal dispute, which made Argentina miss a $US539 million ($A583.18 million) payment to exchange bondholders.

“If there’s a judge who’s an agent of these speculative funds, if the mediator is their agent, what is this justice you’re talking about? There’s a responsibility of the state here, of the United States, to create the conditions for the unconditional respect of other countries’ sovereignty,” he said.

He accused Griesa and mediator Dan Pollack of “incompetence” and said Argentina would take the matter to international courts.

Argentina says paying the holdouts the $1.3 billion it owes them could expose it to claims for up to $100 billion from exchange creditors, who are entitled to equal treatment under what is called a Rights Upon Future Offers, or RUFO, clause.

The US State Department said it opposed the court ruling but called on Argentina to get its books in order.

“They’ve made some good progress towards meeting their obligations,” said Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

She said it is in Argentina’s interests to normalise relations with all of its creditors.

Kirchner denied her country was in default, reiterating that it had transferred the payment in question and condemned the tactics of the hedge funds, which she calls “vulture funds.”

“We live in a profoundly unjust and profoundly violent world and this is also violence. Like missiles in war, financial missiles also kill,” the president said in a nationally televised address.

“I want all Argentines to remain very calm because Argentina is going to use all the legal instruments our contracts give us.”

The Bank of New York confirmed Buenos Aires’ payment to the exchange creditors was still sitting in the US bank’s account at the Argentine central bank, frozen there by Griesa’s ruling.

Amid the back-and-forth, some in the financial world called for a simple yes or no on whether the country had defaulted.

The International Swaps and Derivatives Association, a trade organisation for participants in the derivatives market, said it had accepted a request from Swiss bank UBS to rule whether Argentina was in default or not.

A default would activate insurance contracts on the relevant debt.

Argentina got a show of support from more than 100 economists, including Nobel laureate Robert Solow and other prominent academics, who sent a letter to the US Congress urging it to intervene.

“The district court’s decision… could cause unnecessary economic damage to the international financial system, as well as to US economic interests (and to) Argentina,” said the signatories, warning the ruling created a “moral hazard” by guaranteeing creditors full payment no matter how risky their investment.

With Argentina scrambling to find a way to placate the hedge funds until the RUFO clause on its restructured debt expires at the end of the year, sources close to the case told AFP that JP Morgan and other banks were in negotiations with the holdouts to buy some or all of their bonds.

JP Morgan declined to comment.

Analysts said the damage could still be controlled if the default was fleeting but warned a lengthy standoff would deepen Argentina’s current recession, fuel inflation and unemployment and further the country’s isolation from global financial markets.

Argentina’s 2001 default on $US100 billion in foreign debt, the largest in history at the time, plunged the country into crisis. Rioting left 33 people dead after the government froze savings accounts to halt a run on the banks.

But analysts say the global impact of the new default will be far smaller, since Argentina has since been locked out of international capital markets.

Investigators reach MH17 crash site

Investigators reach MH17 crash site

A small advance team of Australian and Dutch investigators has managed to access the MH17 crash site in Ukraine but the area remains risky, with their convoy and media crews being fired upon.

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A larger team of 40 is planning to go to the site later today but the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe says that will depend on a security assessment.

Extremely dangerous, is how Foreign Minister Julie Bishop describes the mission, and media representatives have found out for themselves just how dangerous it is.

SBS Dateline journalist Nick Lazaredes and his crew are lucky to be alive after coming under fire as they approached the crash site.

“We got as far as we could and then there was a tree across the road. We rang the mayor of the town who was going to come and meet us and guide us to safety and then we came under gunfire, so we hit the ground and eventually our driver managed to get us out of the situation. He took off his shirt, which was white, and waved it out of the car. We put our heads down and we drove out: we were fired upon again as we drove out.”

Before escaping, the reporters got close enough to see that parts of the crash site were alight.

“There were fires burning all around today. Now that wreckage is burning. I’m sorry to say it but I mean, I guess, bodies and body parts are burning, I mean it’s really a terrible situation and to have to negotiate your safe passage every day into this mess is going to be really, really difficult.”

At this stage the plan is to send in a larger team.

Alexander Hug is deputy head of the OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine.

“What we will try to do tomorrow is to see of course a difference between what we have seen today and how the picture will be there tomorrow if we reach the scene again. It is a permanent reassessment, constantly, by the hour if not less on the situation”

Negotiating safe passage has been the subject of talks in Belarus between Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE.

Ukraine’s parliament has given Australian and Dutch officers the legal authority to lead the forensic investigation at the crash site.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says the vote gives the police teams an insurance policy by allowing them to carry weapons.

But she says they will not take arms onto the site and it will remain a police-led humanitarian mission.

There are reports memebers of Australia’s elite Special Air Service are on standby.

But SBS journalist Nick Lazarades says in the absence of any agreement guaranteeing the safety of the mission, it might be something that requires peacekeepers.

“The Prime Minister had said we’re in for the long haul and I’m afraid that’s probably what it’s going to be but let’s hope that by some chance there’s some other political resolution or that peacekeepers are deployed. I think that’s what it really requires, certainly to guarantee safety you’d be looking a no less than the SAS, you’d want that protection, I think and at the end of the day can you afford to get them drawn into this messy battle over here?”

Baird urges cool heads over land clearing

Baird urges cool heads over land clearing

NSW Premier Mike Baird has called for cool heads to prevail after the shooting death of an environment officer sparked fresh debate over land clearing laws.

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Farmer Ian Robert Turnbull, 79, is accused of killing environment officer Glen Turner in northern NSW on Tuesday.

Mr Turner, 51, was carrying out duties related to land clearing north of Moree at Croppa Creek when he was allegedly murdered.

NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner has criticised land clearing rules since the death.

But Mr Baird says that’s the wrong attitude.

“The events we saw are tragic and when you see something like this emotions bubble to the top and commentary will follow,” he told reporters in Ashcroft in Sydney’s southwest on Friday.

“Supporting this family and completing the criminal case, that’s the priority.

“The onus is on everyone to have a cool head.”

Turnbull was charged with murder and refused bail on Wednesday. The case was adjourned to August 5.

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge accused Mr Stoner of validating an act of political violence.

“If a parking ranger had been killed enforcing an unpopular parking law, or a police officer had been killed enforcing an unpopular speeding law, we would never tolerate this kind of discussion,” he told reporters.

“Members in the right of politics are looking for an opportunity to attack a set of laws and they’re willing to exploit the tragic death of this worker to further their political agenda.”

Assistant General Secretary of the Public Service Association Steve Turner said: “No one’s death should be used as a political pawn.”

Mr Stoner said the allegations against him were “insensitive, cheap and amount to slanderous lies.”

“This is a tragic crime that cannot be justified on any grounds,” he said.

A spokesman for Mr Stoner said his comments were “contextual (and) made in response to media questions about the Native Vegetation Act. They were in no way an endorsement of the alleged criminal act”.

Vic Liberal candidate quits over tweets

Vic Liberal candidate quits over tweets

A Victorian Liberal candidate who resigned over a series of crude tweets has apologised, but claims some of the social media posts were taken out of context.

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Aaron Lane, the endorsed Liberal candidate for the upper house seat of Western Region in the upcoming November 29 state election, resigned on Friday after the tweets came to light.

Mr Lane apologised for the “inappropriate and offensive tweets” posted more than two years ago on a private account.

“I really regret the fact these tweets were there, I regret the offence. I’m deeply embarrassed by it. I’m ashamed of it,” Mr Lane told ABC radio.

“I think we’ve all said things that on reflection we wish we hadn’t.

“The problem that’s befallen me today is that some of these tweets have been stripped of all context.”

He said he resigned because he didn’t want the scandal “hanging around the neck of the government”.

Mr Lane withdrew his candidacy for the election before a meeting of the Liberal Party’s administrative committee to discuss his future on Friday afternoon.

Liberal Party state director Damien Mantach said while Mr Lane had apologised unreservedly for the comments, the party believed it was important to send a strong message that this behaviour will not be tolerated.

“The Liberal Party acknowledges that the comments made by Mr Lane on social media are hurtful to many people and are entirely unacceptable,” Mr Mantach said in a statement.

Premier Denis Napthine also slammed the tweets just hours before Mr Lane’s resignation.

“There is no place in my team or in the coalition team for this sort of behaviour and these sort of comments,” he told reporters.

Some of the posts published in the media use the term “faggots” and one states “The problem is (IMO) many homos make their sexuality a defining aspect of their being”.

In one post he refers to former Labor leader Simon Crean as “a giant C”.

Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said the views were offensive and wrong.

“There is no place for this sort of bigotry and hatred in the Victorian parliament or anywhere in our state,” he said.

Titans lose Don for Cowboys clash

Titans lose Don for Cowboys clash

It’s been two steps forward and one back for a Gold Coast outfit desperate to stay in the NRL finals hunt in Townsville on Saturday night.

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Speedy centre James Roberts has overcome a hip problem and rising back-rower Paul Carter has shrugged off a foot gash to line up against North Queensland at 1300Smiles Stadium.

But a virus, which swept through the Titans’ camp earlier this week, has accounted for winger Anthony Don which has forced another backline change by coach John Cartwright.

Regular centre Brad Tighe will start out wide against a resurgent Cowboys side that will welcome back co-captain Matt Scott from his State of Origin cheekbone injury.

Roberts’ availability is a key boost for the Titans as the former Penrith danger man has scored four tries and made five line breaks from just 41 runs in six games.

Cartwright wants Roberts and converted left centre Dave Taylor to both get their hands on the ball more to wreak havoc in the must-win match for the 13th-placed Titans.

“It’s a huge game in the scheme of the competition,” Cartwright said.

Coming off two vital away wins, the Cowboys have jumped into seventh spot and are looking dangerous with four of their last six games to be played at home.

“We’re not getting ahead of ourselves,” Scott warned. “This time of the year is when you have to be playing your best footy.

“We have improved but we want to continue the momentum.”

While unsure of his match fitness, Scott is confident his cheekbone is ready for the hammering expected.

“They will obviously test me, they are very good through the middle of the ruck and that’s how they play so I’m fairly certain I will have a fair bit of work to do,” he said.

In moving Matt Wright into the centres to mark up against Taylor, the Cowboys have set the stage for Tautau Moga to do some damage on their right wing.

“He’s a great attacking weapon,” Scott said. “His hands are like a bunch of bananas; they are massive so we hope to use him in the air.

“He’s a big unit and has a fair jump on him.”

Fukushima children visit Australia

Fukushima children visit Australia

A group of Japanese schoolchildren affected by the Fukushima Nuclear disaster has travelled to Australia this week, as part of a trip organised by charity project.

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The Rainbow Stay Project is designed to give the children a chance to do things they can no longer do at home, due to the fear of radiation poisoning.

Some of the survivors of the Fukushima nuclear disaster spend the morning having fun in Sydney’s Hyde Park.

Playing soccer and volleyball, and practising their karate moves.

The group of children, aged between ten and sixteen, are here on a charity-sponsored trip.

It is world away from the ongoing fear of radiation which affects their daily lives back home.

This is 11-year-old Kazuki’s first time in Australia.

“I am so happy to come to Australia. It’s very safe place and I’m to feel that so many people support me … and I won’t be able to forget that.”

The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami on the north-east coast of Japan changed their lives forever.

A young boy, also called Kazuki, is dressed in his karate outfit as he remembers what happened that day.

“I was in primary school in the classroom and had to evacuate. I was very nervous because I lost contact with my parents and family, but I finally found them.”

Some of the children who are here in Australia this week had family members die.

Most still haven’t been able to return home.

Kazuki says the threat of radiation still affects her life in many ways.

“I was really sad because everything was polluted by radioactive material. I couldn’t swim in the sea anymore and my mum told me to stay inside and not touch the soil.”

There have been several trips like this since 2011, thanks to a Japanese woman living in Sydney.

Yukiko Hirano set up a Rainbow Stay Project with the aim of giving the children new hope.

” I tried to invite the Fukushima children to come over to Sydney. Beautiful environment, and no fear of radiation earthquake. They can enjoy entire holiday, without fearing those kind of things.”

The children have spent time at Bondi Beach, Taronga Zoo and visiting landmarks like the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

They’ve also spent time meeting local Australian children in schools.

Andrew Vickers is from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union which helped make the trip a reality.

“They can’t eat fish from the sea, they can’t pick up plants and flowers, they can’t touch any wild animals for fear of further radiation poisoning – so it’s not just coming to another country, it’s a totally new experience”

World Cup boosts revenue for bookmaker William Hill

World Cup boosts revenue for bookmaker William Hill

In his first day in the job on Friday, new Chief Executive James Henderson said his priorities were to grow the business internationally, develop its technology and profit from the increasing number of ways in which its customers can now bet.

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Betting on the World Cup in June and July was up by 80 percent on comparable figures from the last time the tournament was played in 2010.

The World Cup helped to offset the impact of unfavourable sports results earlier in the year when bookmakers had to make big payouts on weekends when a number of favourites won, particularly in English Premier League football.

Revenue rose 7 percent to 805 million pounds in the 26 weeks to July 1, while operating profit dipped by 2 percent to 177 million. Both figures were slightly ahead of consensus forecasts.

Shares dipped 1.2 percent to 348.2p by 0730 GMT (8.30 a.m. BST).

HARD ACT TO FOLLOW

Henderson, who has been with the company for 29 years, faces the tough task of replacing the highly regarded Ralph Topping.

Topping had been with William Hill for more than four decades, serving as CEO in the last six years.

He won plaudits for an international expansion which has taken the company into Australia, the United States, Spain and Italy and developing the online business.

That expansion has seen William Hill stride clear of rival Ladbrokes to establish itself as the biggest company in the sector.

Henderson said he planned to build on what Topping had done rather than changing strategy.

“I will be looking hard at how we can continue to create shareholder value in developing a focussed but internationally orientated gambling group,” Henderson said.

The industry is facing financial and regulatory pressures in Britain where the government is tightening controls on betting shops and increasing taxes on both online gambling and high stakes gaming machines.

(Reporting by Keith Weir; editing by James Davey)

Pressure mounts on Jadeja following week to forget

Pressure mounts on Jadeja following week to forget

The 25-year-old, considered an all-rounder with his modest left-arm orthodox action and ability to wield the bat lower down the order, has been thrust into the role of lead spinner for a country that tends to build its attack around slow bowlers.

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Jadeja appeared to have justified selection ahead of specialist off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin in the second test at Lord’s, where his quickfire 68 in the second innings may not have pleased the purists but set up India’s 95-run victory.

He also contributed three wickets with the Indian pacemen causing the maximum damage on a green wicket as the tourists enjoyed a rare overseas victory to move 1-0 ahead in the five-match series.

However, by the time he arrived in Southampton, Jadeja had been docked half of his match fee from the drawn opening test in Nottingham over an alleged off-field contretemps with England bowler James Anderson at Trent Bridge.

The issue has rumbled on with India appealing the International Cricket Council (ICC) verdict and their own complaint against Anderson to have “abused and pushed” Jadeja during the same incident waiting to be heard on Friday.

The controversy seemed to have taken its toll on Jadeja’s on-field performances too, as he dropped a routine catch at slip from an out-of-sorts England captain Alastair Cook in the first innings with the batsman on 15.

Cook welcomed the reprieve with relish, arrested his slump in form and went on to make 95, as well as an unbeaten 70 in the second innings, inspiring England with his new-found confidence which culminated in a series-tying 266-run thrashing.

Jadeja’s form with the bat also dropped as he contributed just 31 and 15 in his two innings as India slid to defeat.

MINOR VICTORY

It was, however, his bowling which was the biggest letdown for India, coming on a track sporting an increasing number of rough patches scuffed up by the pacemen in their delivery stride.

Jadeja denied Cook a century in the first innings but that minor victory offered scant consolation for the spilled catch as the England captain added 158 runs with centurion Gary Balance for the second wicket.

It was that stand that set the tone for England’s massive total of 569 for seven declared and India’s capitulation under the mountain of runs was an inevitable conclusion once they fell 239 runs short of first innings parity.

Jadeja claimed five wickets in the match but three of those came in the second innings when England threw the bat at everything to score quick runs before setting a target that proved well beyond India’s reach.

The inadequacy of Jadeja’s efforts was put into context when compared to the role Moeen Ali played for England.

The bearded off-spinner, originally selected as a batsman who offers part-time bowling duties, made brilliant use of the rough and claimed six second innings wickets as he ran through an Indian batting order renowned for their ability to play spin.

“We allowed Moeen to bowl his line and length. There was considerable amount of wear and tear on the pitch that went his way, and there were a lot of close-in fielders too,” India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni told reporters.

“I just felt that we could have been a bit more positive against him.”

While Ali picked up eight wickets in the test, capitalising on the spin-friendly conditions that had peaked by the end of the fourth day, Jadeja appeared bereft of ideas and unable to offer any sort of tangible threat.

The clamour has naturally grown to bring in Ashwin, who also has two test hundreds, for the next two tests and Dhoni will find it difficult to resist the demand.

(Editing by John O’Brien)