Gillett delight at Test call-up

Matt Gillett admits to mixed feelings when he learned he’ll make his rugby league Test debut for Australia.

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The 25-year-old Brisbane back-rower intends to savour every moment of Friday’s clash with New Zealand at Allianz Stadium after being rewarded for outstanding early season form.

But it was a bittersweet moment for Gillett when informed he would be called into the match squad to replace Broncos’ teammate Sam Thaiday, who was ruled out on Monday due to his calf muscle injury.

“I am pretty happy with the way things have worked out, but I am pretty disappointed for Sam,” said Gillett.

“He’s been battling for a couple of weeks to come back but obviously his calf is not right. So I think I owe Sammy something.

“I found out only this morning that I was playing after coming down as 18th man and straight on the phone to my wife and mum and dad. It was pretty emotional.

“They’re coming down on Friday and I can’t wait to run out in the green and gold in front of them.”

Sheens said he’d been hopeful Thaiday would be able to play but the decision to rule him out was taken after he struggled to come through a fitness test at Allianz Stadium on Monday morning.

“He did a little bit this morning and it tightened up a bit so we said no,” Sheens told AAP.

“Brisbane weren’t too sure if he would be right, but we had to make a call early in the week and Sam was happy with that.”

Sheens is yet to decide who will replace Thaiday in the starting line-up with interchange forward Boyd Cordner and Gillett both in contention to play.

“Both Boydy and Gillett are good players who have played State of Origin and both do a job if selected,” he said.

North Queensland back Brent Tate will jhoin the squad later in the week as the new 18th man.

Ice cream hurting reef: Qld govt

Ben and Jerry’s ice cream has been hauled over the coals by the Queensland government for supporting WWF’s “propaganda” save the reef campaign.

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Environment Minister Andrew Powell wants Australians to boycott the American company, saying they’ve damaged the reputation of the reef and jeopardised jobs and tourism dollars.

“Another company has signed up to the campaign of lies and deceit that’s been propagated by WWF,” Mr Powell said.

“The only people taking a scoop out of the reef is Ben and Jerry’s and Unilever.

“If you understand the facts, you’d want to be boycotting Ben and Jerry’s.”

The minister says he’d be writing to parent company Unilever to express concerns and brief them on the truth.

Earlier this month, Ben and Jerry’s withdrew popular flavour Phish Food because of its allusion to fishfood, as a way of drawing attention to the potential damage to the reef.

They also embarked on a road trip around parts of Australia, giving out free ice cream to highlight their concerns over damage to the reef.

They say the reef is at serious risk of destruction from intensive dredging and dumping, mega-ports and shipping highways.

The brand has championed environmental causes in its 35-year history, including opposing drilling in the Arctic, and says it’s a proud supporter of WWF’s campaign.

“Ben & Jerry’s believes that dredging and dumping in world heritage waters surrounding the marine park area will be detrimental to the reef ecology,” Australia brand manager Kalli Swaik told AAP.

“It threatens the health of one of Australia’s most iconic treasures.”

The Queensland and federal governments in January approved the dumping of three million cubic metres of dredge spoil in the marine park and World Heritage area to enable the Abbot Point coal port expansion.

The government says 70 per cent of the spoil is expected to settle on the seabed.

WWF fears spoil could get caught in currents and smother or poison reefs just 40km away.

CEO Dermot O’Gorman says Ben and Jerry’s involvement reflects the concern of people around the world about how the reef is being managed.

“Ben & Jerry’s’ tour is a timely reminder that the world expects the Queensland and Australian governments to lift their game,” he said.

UNESCO is due to meet in June to consider the Australian government’s progress in improving the management of the reef.

It’s due to decide this year or next whether to list the reef as a world heritage site in danger.

Splendour add Childish Gambino, Sam Smith

Three more acts have been added to the Splendour in the Grass line-up.

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Childish Gambino, Adelaide’s Hilltop Hoods and Sam Smith will play the three-day event in July, the festival’s organisers announced on Monday.

“We didn’t get these three confirmed in time for the line-up announce(d) last Wednesday – too many cocktails over Easter – so we have a special edition announce(ment) for you! Hilltop Hoods, childish Gambino and Sam Smith will be playing Splendour 2014. Better late than never!” said co-producers Jessica Ducrou and Paul Piticco in a statement.

Headliners, hip-hop duo Outkast, inadvertently leaked on their website they would be playing the festival days before the official announcement.

However, organisers weren’t too perturbed, as Piticco explained the slip-up helped generate more excitement for Splendour.

“I think that actually if anything it kind of built the anticipation towards the festival a little bit so I don’t think it was a bad thing,” Pittico told AAP.

“I think everybody’s pretty happy that Outkast are playing, so no harm, no foul.”

Rapper Childish Gambino may also be known as his actor alter-ego, Donald Glover, who starred in TV series Community.

The Hilltop Hoods will join other local acts Angus and Julia Stone, Triple J’s Top 100 winner Vance Joy and The Preatures.

English singer Sam Smith adds to the already eclectic international line-up which includes Lily Allen Interpol, Two Door Cinema Club, London Grammar, Kelis and Foster the People.

* Splendour in the Grass takes place July 25-27, Byron Bay.

Australian doctor fighting ebola epidemic

(Transcript from World News Radio)

The worst outbreak of the ebola virus in seven years is still taking its toll in the West African nations of Guinea and Liberia.

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Thought to be spread by bats, the virus kills nine out of ten people who contract it.

In this latest outbreak 142 people have died, the majority in Guinea.

Australian epidemiologist, Dr Kamalini Lokuge, has just returned from Guinea where she’s been working with the families of those infected as a volunteer for Médecins Sans Frontières.

Brian Thomson has the details.

It’s a frightening sight to observe, especially for the patients: doctors dressed in suits similar to those worn by experts who handle hazardous materials.

With a near 90 per cent fatality rate, the doctors and nurses at a specially established ebola isolation centre in Guinea’s capital are forced to take extraordinary precautions to prevent themselves from becoming infected.

It’s a scene that Australian epidemiologist Kamalini Lokuge is becoming all too familiar with.

Now back home in Canberra, her visit to Guinea was the fourth time she has been to work in an ebola-affected region.

“Because you see it spreading within families and many family members dying, You see it spreading within health facilities and health workers infected and dying. I think all of that combines to make it a disease that is feared.”

It’s Kamalini’s job to map the spread of the disease, to track down affected families and win their trust.

“[In] One family, there was a patient who died, was tested and came positive but had presented very late. We didn’t understand how he got infected and we also very much concerned that he may have had lot of contacts at home while he was sick so went to his house a couple of times… When we first arrived they were very angry because there had been these people from outside visiting, the community had been asking questions, they were feeling stigmatised but we spent time explaining what care was given in the treatment centre, explaining how we control the disease, explaining our role. After that discussion, the head of that family brought two people from the family who had been sick but not willing to come.”

Those who succumb die an horrific death, bleeding internally and externally.

But perhaps the most heartbreaking aspect of the disease is the fact that the families of those infected cannot hold their loved ones in their dying days.

“If family members are very keen we give them protective equipment but because of the barriers, because of the precautions, it can often be even more alienating. Particularly for example parents of children, it’s very difficult.”

Thanks in part to the work done by people like Kamalini, only around 2,000 people have contracted ebola since the disease was first identified in the mid-1970s.

And thanks to the precautions taken by MSF, none of their health workers has ever been contracted the disease.

But that doesn’t make it any easier for the families of those who go to help.

“My family and my mum are used to it now. She never says don’t go. I think everyone finds it hard. I have eight nieces and nephews and they’re all under eight yers old. They are all incredibly proud of what I do so that feels good. We’re very lucky in Australia. Every time I come back from an outbreak I think we have everything here and part of acknowledging how lucky we are – for me at least – is to help those who don’t have as much.”

 

 

Banks accused of links with unethical overseas practices

(Transcript from World News Radio)

Australia’s biggest financial institutions have jumped to defend themselves against reports of alleged links to unethical practices overseas.

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Land grabs, unapproved logging and child exploitation are amongst the accusations.

But the banks have told SBS that new international customers and investments are put under scrutiny to ensure that unethical practices are not taking place.

Abby Dinham reports.

 

Australia’s big four banks are being accused of having business dealings with controversial overseas companies at the centre of land grabbing allegations.

 

An Oxfam Australia report claims that ANZ, Westpac, National Australia Bank and the Commonwealth Bank are affiliated with organisations reportedly involved in illegal logging, forced evictions, inadequate compensation and child labour.

 

Oxfam Chief Executive Helen Szoke:

 

“We’re talking about land grabs which are mainly agribusiness which acquire land either illegally or not going through the processes of consent and compensation for the people who owned the land and this has resulted in often illegal practices forced evictions and from our persectives the most concerning thing is that it leaves people with food shortages and often without a home.”

 

Dr Szoke says the scale of the investments is worth billions.

 

“Well Australia’s big four banks the ANZ, Westpac, Commonwealth and the NAB have in excess of 20 billion dollars worth of investments in these kind of businesses overseas so this is a big exposure for them financially and also in terms of reputation risk.”

 

In Papua New Guinea, Oxfam claims that Westpac is supporting a timber company that is illegally logging rain forest, despite order from a P-N-G Commission of Inquiry to stop.

 

In Cambodia, the report says that the ANZ Bank is financing a sugar plantation that has been accused of using child labour, and claiming land by force.

 

The report states that Phnom Penh Sugar plantation issued just 100 dollars to land owners and that families were resettled on infertile land.

 

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Bank has been accused of investing in a Brazilian agribusiness that farm on contested Indigenous land.

 

And the NAB is accused of funding Asian palm oil giant, Wilmar, which has been linked to land grab allegations in Indonesia and Malaysia, since 2011.

 

Doctor Szoke says the decisions of Australia’s big banks are having real impacts on some of the world’s poorest people.

 

“What we’re talking about is men and women with families who often are subsistance farmers who rely on the land for their own livlihoods and what has happened in the big banks investing in these companies is that their situations have become more dire for them because they haven’t had appropriate compensation and are going to bed hungry every night and often homeless.”

 

Oxfam says its investigations show the banks are on shaky ground with these investments, facing potential asset write downs and the possibility that foreign governments and courts will shut down land deals.

 

Stuart Palmer from Australian Ethical Investment says that could result in significant financial loss for the banks and their shareholders.

 

“If they’ve lent to a particular project which is relying on land which has been acquired improperly and that land then is taken away from that company then the risk that the bank won’t get repaid it’s loan is increased so that’s the potential financial impact that these sorts of practices can have on the banks.”

 

And Mr Palmer says the banks also face financial loss if their reputations are damaged as a result of these investments.

 

He says customers are becoming more discerning of where they are investing their money.

 

“We’re seeing a really strong tend where people, our clients, others are really trying to allign their personal values with their money. So partly that’s who they bank with, who they buy things from and also how they invest their money.”

 

NAB has told SBS that it actively assesses issues related to human rights – including improper land acquisition – and that the bank supports actions that promote better outcomes for businesses and the communities in which they operate.

 

The ANZ says almost half the companies it was linked with in the Oxfam report are no longer customers, including one that exited several years ago for social and environmental reasons.

 

The Commonwealth Bank says it does not have proprietary interest in the Brazilian agribusiness it was linked to, but discussions on the report will take place.

 

And Westpac told SBS it has zero tolerance for customers operating outside the law and is currently addressing the claims of improper land acquisitions raised in the report.

 

Doctor Szoke says Oxfam doesn’t want the banks to pull out of investments in these countries but to use their financial leverage to steer clients in a more ethical direction.

 

“It’s absolutely clear that the big four banks can potentially have a really positive role, we’re not saying pull out of investment in these companies we’re saying use your investment power to hold these companies to account.”

 

 

Ukrainians flee rebel bastion

Panicked Ukrainians are flooding highways and rail lines leading out of Donetsk, fearing a reprisal assault by government forces after the loss of 30 servicemen to defiant rebels.

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Separatists near the Russian border mowed down 19 troops in a hail of heavy rocket fire on Friday in a bloody reminder of their resolve to reverse the recent tide of government gains across the eastern rustbelt.

The military said four other troops died elsewhere on Friday and seven more were killed overnight in attacks that also left more than 120 soldiers wounded.

Ukraine’s new Western-backed leader immediately vowed to hunt down the guilty militias in a push that would shatter all hopes of a truce in one of Europe’s most explosive conflicts in decades.

“The rebels will pay for the life of every one of our servicemen with tens and hundred of their own,” President Petro Poroshenko told an emergency security meeting.

“Not a single terrorist will avoid responsibility.”

The militant talk convinced many in the million-strong eastern hub of Donetsk – the new home to a flood of gunmen who had abandoned surrounding cities since last weekend – that their riverside city was about to be bombed.

The local mayor rushed out to meet Poroshenko on Friday to discuss measures that could “avoid bloodshed and the use of air strikes and heavy artillery”.

But separatists in control of Ukraine’s coal mining capital said locals were not taking any chances after three months of fighting that has claimed nearly 550 lives and sparked the biggest East-West crisis since the height of the Cold War.

“I would say that one car in five is filled with refugees,” said a young separatist volunteer manning a roadblock around 20 kilometres east of Donetsk.

“I have lived here more than 40 years and it is very difficult for me to leave this town,” said Natalia as she prepared to catch a train that would eventually take her to Russia.

“But there is no other solution,” she said.

Friday evening political talk shows filled with voices questioning tactics and demanding to know why most of the rebels were allowed to slip out of the towns and cities they had abandoned in recent days.

Poroshenko had last Saturday proclaimed the seizure of Slavyansk – the symbolic heart of the uprising – a turning point in a conflict set off by the February ousting in Kiev of a Kremlin-backed president and Russia’s subsequent seizure of Crimea.

European Union leaders quickly joined Russia in a rare collective bid to dampen Kiev’s new-found bravado and convince Poroshenko to launch direct truce talks with the separatists.

The EU said on Saturday that it was also adding 11 separatist leaders to the names of 61 Russians and pro-Kremlin Ukrainians blacklisted for their roles in inflaming the conflict.

But Poroshenko’s top aide said that all talks with the rebels were off.

“Those who call themselves leaders of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk are nobodies – they are puppets, servants of the Kremlin,” presidential administration chief Yuriy Lutsenko told Kiev’s Inter television.

First dengue fever vaccine shows promise

Scientists in the Philippines claim they’ve produced the first vaccine to fight dengue fever.

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While it is still only effective on 56 per cent of people – it is the only treatment available for dengue, which is a severe and potentially deadly disease, infecting millions of people around the world.

 

For many Australians, a mosquito bite is nothing more than an itchy nuisance, but in other countries it can be deadly

 

Dengue fever infects more than 200 million people worldwide every year, mostly in South East Asia and Latin America.

 

Sydney sider Simon Kennedy is one of them.

 

He contracted Dengue fever on a trip to Delhi with his young family

 

“Within two or three days I had a really high fever, about 39 or 40 degrees and had to be hospitalised for 10 days.”

 

Rapid growth in the cities of developing countries and a lack of mosquito control has led to a rise in the spread of the disease.

 

But now scientists from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Manila claim they have developed a new vaccine and they claim they’re ready to take it to market

 

Dr Maria Rosario Capeding is from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Manila.

 

“Dengue is a major public health problem and the study shows it reduces the severity of the disease.”

 

The trial focused on children aged two to 14.

 

They were randomly assigned to receive three injections of the dengue vaccine or a placebo vaccine.

 

After the first vaccination, the second was given six months later and the third six months after that.

 

The children were followed for up to two years.

 

The results showed the vaccine only prevented dengue fever in 56 percent of the 10,000 children who got the shots, but it did protect more than 88 percent of them from severe disease.

 

In the worst-case scenarios, dengue fever can lead to hospitalization, and sometimes death.

 

Prof Martin Hibberd is from the London School Of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

 

“Typically vaccines have a higher efficacy than 56 per cent, but in the abscence of anything else this at least a little bit of good news.”

 

Professor Ian Wronski is an expert in communicable diseases at Townville’s James Cook University.

 

He has concerns about the efficiacy of the vaccine – especially because it wasn’t equally effective against all four dengue viruses.

 

“I think its a step forward, the science is improving but i think theres a way to go before you’d deploy the vaccine.”

 

The vaccine makers say they plan to apply for regulatory approval next year.

 

Dockers taking lowly GWS seriously

Fremantle coach Ross Lyon wants another look at rookie forward Michael Apeness to see if he can play a part in September’s finals campaign but the Dockers won’t be taking the GWS Giants lightly at Patersons Stadium on Sunday.

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Fremantle and GWS are at opposite ends of the AFL ladder heading into their clash, with the Dockers looking to further close in on a top-two spot and the Giants trying to avoid the wooden spoon.

The Dockers regain captain Matthew Pavlich to play in the same forward line as Apeness for the first time while down back they have Michael Johnson returning but fellow All-Australian Luke McPharlin is out with a calf complaint.

The Giants have made five changes from the team that last week lost to Adelaide highlighted by Adam Treloar, Jonathon Patton and Stephen Coniglio going out injured, and Jacob Townsend and first-year ruckman Rory Lobb returning.

While the Dockers are unbackable favourites heading into the contest, Lyon won’t be taking anything for granted and has made sure that his team have done everything right in recovering from last Saturday night’s win in Darwin over Melbourne.

“We always ask the players for gold-standard recovery and we’re fortunate that it’s a longer lead-in, eight days to Sunday so that natural recovery should help us,” Lyon said.

“We understand they have had some challenges, but they are very talented; they have been put under pressure and they tend to respond so we will be picking our best possible team.”

Apeness is being earmarked as a forward replacement for Pavlich when the Fremantle captain retires, but that won’t be until at least the end of 2015 and the pair will need to work together.

They get the first chance of that on Sunday with Apeness to play his second AFL game after being drafted last year from the Eastern Rangers, and having at times shown at WAFL level with Peel Thunder this year that he can be a dominant presence as a marking, goal-kicking target.

Lyon just wants him to compete and provide a target for now.

“At the end of the day, I don’t worry if they take too many marks. As long as they don’t get out marked. As long as the ball gets brought to ground you’re pretty happy as a coach because the worst result is going in, they roll off and mark and they bounce out,” Lyon said.

“Last week he was outnumbered a bit and brought it to ground and he brings (Hayden) Ballantyne and those guys into the game.

“We’re not a super tall front half either so we could do with some more height.”

Israel vows no let-up, Hamas defiant

Israel has pounded Gaza for a fifth day with air strikes and artillery, killing 22 Palestinians as Hamas defiantly keeps up its rocket fire into the Jewish state.

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Both sides brushed off international calls for a truce on Saturday and Israel pushed on with its build-up of troops and armour on the Gaza border in preparation for a possible ground invasion.

The strikes, which Gaza emergency services said hit a mosque and a centre for the disabled among other targets, brought the death toll since the Tuesday start of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge to 127.

The Israeli army said the mosque housed an arms cache.

It said over the same period 530 rockets hit Israel, nine of them on Saturday.

US President Barack Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday and Washington offered to use its influence in the Middle East to bring a return to calm.

But speaking at a news conference in Tel Aviv on Friday, Netanyahu said he would not end the military campaign until he achieved his goal of stopping the Hamas fire.

“No international pressure will prevent us from striking, with all force, against the terrorist organisation which calls for our destruction,” he said.

“No terrorist target in Gaza is immune.”

The latest border flare-up – the deadliest since November 2012 – can be traced to last month’s kidnap and murder of three young Israelis in the occupied West Bank and the brutal revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish extremists.

Israel responded with a major crackdown on Hamas, even though the Islamist group declined to confirm or deny its involvement, while Gaza militants hit back with intensified rocket fire.

Despite international concern, truce efforts have been unsuccessful, according to Egypt, which has been key in mediating previous ceasefires between Hamas and Israel.

“Egypt has communicated with all sides to halt violence against civilians and called on them to continue with the truce agreement signed in November 2012,” the foreign ministry said.

“Unfortunately, these efforts … have met with stubbornness.”

Former British premier Tony Blair, the envoy for the so-called Quartet of Middle East diplomatic players, flew into Cairo on Saturday for talks on ending the violence.

Ismail Haniya, Gaza’s former premier and the most senior Hamas official in the coastal enclave, ruled out any halt to hostilities.

“(Israel) is the one that started this aggression and it must stop, because we are (simply) defending ourselves,” he said.

Israel says preparations are under way for a possible ground incursion, with tanks and artillery massed along the border and 33,000 reservists mobilised out of 40,000 approved by the cabinet.

More armour was seen heading south on Saturday morning.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he expected a political decision on a possible ground operation by Sunday.

“At the moment we are dealing with the first phase … air attacks,” he told Channel One television on Friday.

“I imagine we shall decide tomorrow (Saturday) or the day after on the next stage.”

So far, no one in Israel has been killed. Two have been seriously wounded.

Swans smash Blues to equal club record

Lance Franklin has helped Sydney make history at the SCG, smashing AFL rivals Carlton by 71 points on Saturday night to equal their all-time club record of 12 straight wins.

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Not since their days as South Melbourne have they enjoyed such a streak, the most recent in 1935.

The 18.14 (122) to 7.9 (51) victory keeps the Swans one game clear of Hawthorn at the top of the ladder and red-hot favourites to take out the 2014 premiership.

It’s a tag John Longmire’s men never looked in danger of losing against the Blues, who went into the match clear underdogs.

Carlton coach Mick Malthouse knew his side’s round-17 clash was going to be a challenge – claiming mid-week that Sydney had the strongest and deepest list he’d ever seen in football.

And, boy, did they prove him right.

A 10-goal, third-quarter blitz – including five from superstar forward Lance Franklin – turned what was a tough early battle into a whitewash in front 34,965 fans.

Wind and occasional rain kept goals at a premium early on, with just seven points separating the sides at half-time.

But that blew out to as much as 78 points in the final term, as the Swans looked to the stars and took flight.

Franklin booted an impressive six goals, while fellow forward Sam Reid nabbed four.

It did, however, take the home side nearly 18 minutes to get the game’s first major, thanks to a hard-running Gary Rohan.

The visitors hit back through Brock McLean moments later, only for Nick Malceski to nail a 50m penalty just before the first break to keep the Swans ahead by eight.

The 2012 premiers remained in control in the second quarter, although the Blues refused to give in.

They laid on four majors in the term, including one after the half-time siren from Blaine Johnson – his first in AFL – to take it to 6.6 (42) to 5.5 (35).

While the Blues managed to restrict $10 million man Franklin to just five touches – and no points – in the opening half, it later proved worthless.

A free kick early in the third term gave him his first goal of the night and triggered an avalanche of majors to the Swans.

Adam Goodes, Jared McVeigh and Luke Parker joined Franklin and Reid as scorers in the penultimate quarter, in which the Blues were kept goalless.

Brownlow Medal contender Josh Kennedy put in another stunning performance, finishing with a massive 29 contested possessions.

Dane Rampe also impressed in defence before being subbed, while Ben McGlynn successfully kept Blues star Chris Judd at bay.

After an “ok” first half and a few structural changes, Longmire put the Swans’ late rise down to persistence.

“We kept on persisting at it and then it sort of broke our way,” he said.

“Once you go on a bit of roll like that, you’ve got to make the most of it. And we certainly did that in the third quarter.

“That’s the benefit of a having some really strong leaders and good young kids coming through.”

Blues mentor Malthouse said his side’s third-quarter collapse was reflective of their season.

“It was a micro of the macro,” he said.

“It’s something we’ve got to address, we’ve got to find out exactly how to stop it.

“As much as we are the club, it’s simply got to be player driven.

“If there’s a stoppage, or kicking, or a passage of play, then players have got to take charge and see if they can arrest any momentum shift by the opposition.”