Blues not content with fighting AFL loss

Positives? Yes.

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Satisfied? No.

That was Brendon Bolton’s message in a nutshell after Carlton came agonisingly close to causing a major upset against Richmond in Thursday night’s AFL season-opener.

The first step in what had been billed as a painstaking rebuilding process was surprisingly entertaining for Blues fans who saw their hard-working side rattle the Tigers before giving up a late 10-point lead to go down by nine points in front of 75,706 fans at the MCG.

Bolton was buoyed by the many positives in the performance but said Carlton would never be content with a fighting loss under his guidance.

“High-performing teams need to think that way,” Bolton said.

“We’ll analyse the game with a real balanced approach … we’ll look at what we did well and what we need to improve on but our conversion late in the game was a missed opportunity.

“There were some really good things there to build on – we had enough (midfield) supply, some of our ball movement troubled them and I thought our defensive action was really sound – but we just need to continue to work on our polish.

“There’s lots of positives but high-performing teams need to look at what they did well and challenge what they didn’t – we’ll do that.”

Levi Casboult can expect a challenge after he continued his maddeningly inconsistent ways in front of goal. The key forward again presented strongly in the air but managed just two behinds.

Jacob Weitering, one of five players making their Carlton debut, will hold no such fears heading into the coach’s review after the top overall draft pick slotted into defence seamlessly with most of his 18 possessions executed with poise beyond his years.

“He was really composed,” Bolton said.

The Blues didn’t suffer any new injuries during the clash, with skipper Marc Murphy among his side’s best players despite a limited preparation due to off-season shoulder surgery.

Church salvages draw for Wales against Northern Ireland

Without the Real Madrid forward, whose seven qualifying goals propelled Wales to their first tournament finals since 1958, they barely tested visiting keeper Michael McGovern.

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Craig Cathcart’s goal on the hour looked like settling a scrappy contest before Simon Church salvaged a draw for the hosts from the penalty spot after being fouled.

Bale was unavailable as he battled back to full fitness having been out with a calf injury for several weeks.

Wales’ performance would not have unduly worried England, one of their opponents in the group stages in France this summer, but manager Chris Coleman said there had been some positives.

“One or two of the players have probably made it more difficult to choose my 23 for the Euros now,” Coleman, whose team face Ukraine on Monday, told the BBC.

Cathcart put Northern Ireland ahead when Paddy McNair hoisted a cross into a crowded area and the ball dropped for the Watford defender to turn and fire home only his second goal for his country.

Coleman cut a frustrated figure on the touchline but his spirits were lifted when Gareth McAuley brought down Church and the Aberdeen player got up to convert from the penalty spot.

It meant Wales avoided a third consecutive defeat and kept Northern Ireland waiting for a long-overdue victory against their British rivals, with their last win coming in 1980.

Northern Ireland, who have qualified for their first ever European Championships, face Poland, Ukraine and Germany at Euro 2016 while Wales are in the same group as England, Slovakia and Russia.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ian Chadband)

China investigating 130 over vaccine scandal

A crackdown on expired and improperly stored vaccines has netted 130 suspects and more than 20,000 doses of suspect medications, Chinese police said, in the latest scandal to pummel confidence in the safety of the country’s food and drug supply.

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A news release on Friday said investigators have opened 69 separate cases and that a joint task force from the Public Security Ministry, Food and Drug Administration, and the National Health and Family Planning Commission was screening vaccines on the market and tracing distribution chains.

All of the suspect doses were produced under proper procedures and did not contain impurities, the task force said in the news release aimed at calming fears that the vaccines could have spread other diseases. However, vaccines that are past their use-by dates or improperly refrigerated can easily lose their potency and cause adverse reactions and should be destroyed.

“The initial investigation and evidence collection has already produced partial progress and a portion of the suspects have already been sent for indictment,” the statement said. Most would be charged with illegal business operations, it said.

China has struggled to ensure food and drug safety, amid widespread counterfeiting and lax enforcement. Past safety scares have involved phoney infant formula discovered to be nothing but starch and bogus vaccines containing only saline solution.

Foreign residents and wealthy Chinese have long opted for imported vaccines, while safety fears have created a huge market for imported pharmaceuticals, baby formula and health care and beauty products.

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The latest scandal broke last month with the detentions of a woman surnamed Pang and her daughter who are believed to have sold nearly $100 million worth of the suspect products nationwide from their base in the eastern province of Shandong since 2011.

Pang and her daughter bought 25 types of vaccines from dozens of licensed and unlicensed pharmaceutical sales agents, then sold them at a profit to illegal distributors and even government health centres, according to unidentified Shandong police officials quoted by state media.

The vaccines involved fell into China’s second category of voluntary immunisations for rabies, hepatitis b and other diseases rather than those required for all children.

Underscoring public concerns about food and drug safety, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang issued orders this week for government administrations to work together to investigate the scandal. Government officials found guilty of negligence should be held to account, he said.

The China office of the World Health Organisation said it was ready to provide support to Chinese health authorities.

Dragons prepare for nightmare road trip

St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has stressed the significance of securing a win this week before his team embarks on a nightmare road trip through Queensland.

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The Dragons host Penrith in Wollongong on Sunday before leaving for a ten-day tour through the sunshine state that includes back-to-back matches against both 2015 NRL grand finalists.

McGregor’s men briefly return home before again getting back on a plane headed to Gold Coast.

They visit the Warriors in Auckland a fortnight later, but McGregor already said they weren’t going to blame the frequent flyer miles for any sub-par performances.

“We knew the draw at the start of the season, so there’s no excuses there,” he said.

“We’re on the road for about ten days after this week. We’ve looked at the double up at North Queensland and Brisbane.

“They’re tough games, both the premiership and runners-up teams.

“For us at the moment, we’ve got a really important game this week against a very capable side in Penrith.”

The gruelling schedule means the two points on offer against the Panthers is particularly vital after winning just one of the opening three games.

Dragons fans will also be re-acquainted with former star Trent Merrin, who returns to Wollongong for the first time since leaving at the end of 2015.

McGregor told the Red V army to give him a “nice reception”, reminding the fans that it was Merrin’s decision to move elsewhere.

“He’s playing for a different club so he’ll be coming in with the attitude to walk away with the two points. It’s up to us to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he said.

“He’s no longer at our club – he chose to leave. So it’s our job to make sure that we give him a nice reception.”

Karadzic sentenced to 40 years for war crimes

He’s the most senior political figure to be convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.

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The court has found him guilty on 10 counts of crimes against humanity and violations of the customs of war, including the genocide in Srebrenica.

It acquitted the 70 year-old of charges for genocide in seven other municipalities.

Even as it was happening in 1995, it was obvious an atrocity was being committed in Srebrenica.

“My first thought was for the commander who ordered that yesterday – quite honestly I hope that he burns in the hottest corner of hell. Then I thought of the soldiers who loaded those weapons and fired those weapons, and I hope they have nightmares for the rest of their lives, I hope their sleep is punctuated by the screams of the children and the cries of the mothers.”

That was Larry Hollingworth, Director of Operations at the United Nations, the day after the Srebrenica massacre – Europe’s worst mass murder since the Holocaust.

Bosnian Serb forces, commanded by General Ratko Mladic, took over the UN-designated ‘safe’ area of Srebrenica on July the 11th, 1995.

They separated women from men and massacred about 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the following days.

Survivors of the Srebrenica massacre say the 40-year jail term is not tough enough and comes too late.

Fadila Efendic, who lost her son and husband in the massacre, says they have waited too long for the verdict.

“The justice hasn’t won. We should have had this trial finished before. We waited for it for too long and many mothers are not alive to hear this verdict, although it’s not what we have expected.”

In Radovan Karadzic’s wartime stronghold of Pale, passers-by say the verdict is unlikely to prompt reconciliation in a country carved up along ethnic lines that are largely still in place.

Pale resident Nemanja Popovic says people have to practise reconciliation themselves if they are to move forward.

“It’s been over 20 years since the crimes were committed by both sides so it’s time that we create our own opinion and our view which is not imposed by others. There is no verdict that can help the reconciliation as long as the one side is being accused by other side. It will be only when we start listening to each other, through dialogue, that we might get out of this darkness which exists between these two peoples [Serbs and Bosniaks].”

Prosecutors have been criticised for not bringing charges against two other leaders of that era who have since died — Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic.

Opponents of the ICTY say its prosecutors have disproportionately targeted Serbs as 94 of 161 suspects charged were from the Serbian side, while 29 were Croat and nine Bosnian Muslim.

Several thousand Serbian ultra-nationalists rallied in Belgrade in protest against the sentence.

Radovan Karadzic’s court-appointed legal advisor, Peter Robinson, says his client will appeal.

“Dr Karadzic is disappointed, he’s astonished. He feels that the trial chamber took inference instead of evidence in reaching the conclusions that he did and he’s determined to appeal his judgement.”

 

 

Bombers seek AFL glory, not sympathy

After a summer of hurt for Essendon, will their AFL season opener against Gold Coast be when the real pain starts?

The patched-up Bombers head north to begin a campaign many have already written off.

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The 12 season-long doping bans handed to Bombers players have shorn the club of several leading lights, forcing new coach John Worsfold to scramble together a squad with a minimum of preparation.

Heavy pre-season defeats to Geelong and West Coast are precursors of the dark days that lie ahead, according to pundits.

But Worsfold is keeping things upbeat going into the clash with the Suns, a game that will feature 10 new Bombers, including three AFL first-gamers in Darcy Parish, Mitch Brown and Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti.

The former West Coast coach says the defeats to the Cats and the Eagles were disappointing but not the end of the world.

“This pre-season for us was about just learning a little bit about each other and learning about the errors we need to now focus on,” Worsfold said.

Suns coach Rodney Eade is wary of the Bombers, expecting the visitors to go out with a point to prove against the locals.

Worsfold says that’s exactly how he expects opposition coaches to react, and his team isn’t seeking sympathy from anyone.

“We don’t expect that any club will take us lightly and we don’t want that. We don’t want to go into a game with anyone feeling sorry for us,” he said.

“Whatever the game throws up, we just want to get out there and play alongside each other, support each other and give it a red-hot go.”

The Suns have named captain Gary Ablett as well as ball magnet Dion Prestia, and Eade refuses to buy into the “doom and gloom” talk around the Dons.

“The times they get injuries it might hurt them, but I think they’ve got enough quality players there. They’ve got some good kids that they’ve drafted,” Eade said.

“They’ll surprise a lot of sides and we can’t afford to be surprised on the weekend, which I’m very sure we won’t be.

“It’s going to be a tough, tight game. It’s going to be close.”

KEY STATS FOR GOLD COAST v ESSENDON

* Gold Coast won just three matches at home in 2015, although one of those victories was against Essendon.

* Gold Coast and Essendon found scoring tough last season. The Suns averaged 74 points a game and the Bombers averaged only 71.

* Saturday’s game will be the 200th AFL appearance for Gold Coast veteran Michael Rischitelli.

Japan kills more than 300 whales

More than 300 whales including 200 pregnant females have been slaughtered in Japan’s latest whaling mission in the Southern Ocean.

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Japan confirmed the kill as its ships returned from their “scientific” expedition in the Antarctic region on Thursday.

Its actions are in defiance of international criticism and despite a 2014 UN legal decision that ruled so-called scientific whaling activity in the Southern Ocean was a front for commercial hunts.

Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson accused the federal government of turning its back on Japan’s “sickening” illegal activity.

“Not in 40 years has an Australian government done so little to prevent whaling on our watch and in our waters,” he said.

He accused the government of breaking Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s personal election promise to send a patrol vessel to the Southern Ocean to monitor whaling activity.

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The government has repeatedly refused to confirm whether it undertook any monitoring missions in the Southern Ocean this summer.

It has also refused to release legal advice it sought when Japan announced it would resume whaling, despite the International Court of Justice ruling.

Four survey ships from Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research were in the Antarctic region over a period of 115 days from December 1 last year.

The institute’s report on Thursday confirmed 333 minke whales were captured.

Darren Kindleysides, director of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said the 2014/15 summer was the first time in 70 years Japan had stopped its whaling program – but the break was short-lived.

He said Australia’s leading international experts had examined Japan’s new so-called scientific research program this year and found it was also a guise for killing whales, and a breach of international law.

“That puts the onus on the Australian government to make sure this is the first and the last season of Japan’s new so-called scientific program.”

The Australian government in December described Japan’s decision to resume whaling over the summer as “deeply disappointing” and insisted it raised concerns at the highest level of the Japanese government.

It had said it would consider sending a Customs patrol vessel to the Southern Ocean and explore options for legal action.

But conservation group Sea Shepherd in February said the Japanese fleet had faced little or no scrutiny over the summer and Australia and New Zealand seemed unwilling to send a ship to intercept them.

Comic Garry Shandling dies in LA aged 66

Garry Shandling, who as an actor and comedian masterminded a brand of self-inflicted phony docudrama with The Larry Sanders Show, has died.

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Shandling, best known for his work on the pioneering cable television comedy series The Larry Sanders Show, died on Thursday at age 66.

Los Angeles Police officer Tony Im said Shandling died in Los Angeles of an undisclosed cause.

Im said fire officials were called to Shandling’s Los Angeles home Thursday morning for a reported medical emergency. Shandling was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Im did not have any details on the nature of the emergency. He said police will conduct an investigation.

Coroner’s spokesman Ed Winter said his office did not yet have any details about Shandling’s death. Celebrity news outlet TMZ苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛, reported Shandling suffered a heart attack.

Tributes to the innovative funnyman, known for a somewhat socially awkward, nervous comic persona, immediately poured in from the comedy world at news of his death.

Fellow comedian Kathy Griffin, who had posted a photo of herself with Shandling and actor Bob Odenkirk just a few days ago on social media, said on Twitter: “Sunday, my longtime friend Garry Shandling was here, making every1 laugh. I loved him. I’ll miss our talks the most.”

Late-night television host Jimmy Kimmel also saluted Shandling on Twitter, saying he “was as kind and generous as he was funny and that is saying a lot.”

Other comedy luminaries paying tribute to Shandling included Steve Martin, Ricky Gervais, Amy Shumer, and John Cleese.

A frequent, longtime fixture on broadcast television talk-show circuit, Shandling made his biggest splash on cable television in its early days.

He created and starred on the Showtime network’s It’s Garry Shandling’s Show in the mid-1980s, a program that defied convention by calling attention to the conceit of the show itself, going so far as to integrate the studio audience and the set into the action. It ran for 72 episodes, through 1990.

The show earned several Emmy nominations. But he went on to greater commercial and critical acclaim with another show-within-a-show series, “The Larry Sanders Show,” which ran from 1992 to 1998 on HBO.

It starred Shandling as a satirically exaggerated version of himself hosting a fictional late-night TV talk show, drawing on his real-life experiences as a stand-up comic and guest host for NBC’s “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.”

Shandling won an Emmy in 1998 for his writing on the series finale.

Co-starring Jeffrey Tambor and Rip Torn, Larry Sanders was one of HBO’s first big successes and is seen as a forerunner for parody-heavy comedy hits that came after it, including Entourage, 30 Rock and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

A Chicago native, Shandling grew up in a Jewish family in Tucson, Arizona, before moving in the 1970s to Los Angeles, where he first worked in advertising and later became a script writer for TV sitcoms and developed his own stand-up comedy act.

He went on to appear as a regular fill-in host for Carson on the The Tonight Show and declined an NBC offer to take over as permanent host of the Late Night show when David Letterman made his high-profile move to CBS in 1993.

Qld halves future on show in NRL rematch

The future Queensland halves combination will be on show in Friday night’s NRL grand final re-match, Johnathan Thurston says.

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But Thurston admits the make-up of that combination will depend on which rival camp you ask.

Brisbane have earmarked Anthony Milford and Ben Hunt as the Maroons’ “generation next” ahead of their re-match with premiers North Queensland.

However, Thurston said his Cowboys halves foil Michael Morgan had already staked a convincing claim.

Thurston admitted much would again be made about Queensland’s ageing side ahead of the State of Origin series.

Especially their halves.

Queensland pivot Thurston is 33 in April.

Maroons halfback Cooper Cronk will be the same age in December.

But Thurston said no matter which way you looked at it, the halves depth shown on Friday night indicated the future was bright for the Maroons.

“Everyone keeps talking about our age but we have a really good next generation coming through and that is very exciting for us,” Thurston said.

“Queensland are very blessed with the position we are in.

“We have great depth in the halves, DCE (Manly’s Daly Cherry-Evans) is another.”

Asked if he agreed that Brisbane’s Hunt and Milford were Queensland’s future halves pairing, Thurston said: “I think Morgo might have something to say about that.

“(But) Hunt and Milford are very dangerous.

“You can’t shut those type of players out of the game.”

Queensland great Darren Lockyer also liked what he saw from Cowboys pivot Morgan.

“Before Morgan it was shut down Thurston and you shut down the Cowboys,” Lockyer said.

“Thurston was the `go to’ man. He still is but Morgan adds another threat on the other side of the field.”

But Lockyer believed Thurston was not showing any sign of slowing down.

“He’s done it all in the game but he knows he can be better – that makes him the player he is,” Lockyer said.

“I think he just takes pride in his performance.

“That’s what motivates him each week. That’s what sets him apart.”

Tai chi may balance wobbly drivers: study

Often when an elderly person dies, the obituary notes that death resulted from “complications of a fall”.

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Now, the imbalance that causes older people to fall has been linked to another consequence: car crashes.

One solution? Take tai chi.

Older people who have fallen have about a 40 per cent greater risk of getting into an automobile crash than those who have not, according to a study of existing research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Just why isn’t entirely clear, but one way to avoid chronic falling is to work at maintaining balance through exercise. Though the study mentions tai chi, a martial art that emphasises balanced movement, almost any regular form of balancing exercise that gets people out of the sedentary mode will help.

Among the best: Practice balancing on one leg until you’re capable of doing it with your eyes closed.

“That’s something you should do your whole life. You need to have a balance routine in your programming that includes eliminating the view from your eyes,” said Brenda Shaeffer, a physical therapist with a doctorate from Simmons College in Boston.

The foundation’s research drew its conclusions from a series of related studies on falls and police accident reports. The research adjusted for some of the maladies of aging – losses in muscle, vision and cognitive ability – and concluded that the fall itself may affect a driver’s functional abilities and increase risk.

“Drivers age 60 and older are involved in more than 400,000 crashes each year,” said Peter Kissinger, the foundation’s president. “This research is critical because it shows that we can now use an older driver’s fall history to identify if they are at greater risk for a crash.”

The US population of people 65 years of age or older was 44.7 million in 2013 and is projected to grow to 98 million by 2060.

When older people limit or eliminate driving, they often become housebound unless they have access to public transportation. The study says that when people go into “driving retirement,” it may lead to depression or earlier institutionalisation.

“Falls often scare people into being less active, but decreasing physical activity can weaken muscles and coordination and make someone more likely to be in a crash, “said Jake Nelson, director of traffic safety and advocacy for AAA. “Older drivers should find activities that enhance balance, strengthen muscles and promote flexibility.”

He suggested a driver-improvement course or a fitness program.

The AAA study said older people should view falls as an early indicator of declining physical fitness. Shaeffer says there is more to it than that.

“Strength is not the issue,” she said from her office in Annapolis. “Understand the role your eyes play in eliminating the risk of falling. The vision piece is actually huge on how your muscles react.”

Shaeffer says the brain gets about 80 per cent of its information on which muscles should be used from the eyes.

“Your peripheral vision changes as you get older. Even the amount of light you take in changes, and you keep re-referencing what that means,” she said. “Dim light can create falls. Dim light creates lower reaction time to correct balance.”

The AAA study says that cataract surgery has been show to reduce falls and auto crashes. Shaeffer agrees, but points to a difficult transition period during the surgery process.

“Cataracts are really terrible because people only get one cataract fixed at a time,” she said, “so if you have been using your left eye because you can’t see out of your right eye, and you go and get your cataract fixed on the right, now your good eye is your right, but you’ve been telling your body to look out of your left and everything’s twisted.”