Ziebell relishing AFL captaincy at Roos

Jack Ziebell took over as North Melbourne captain at a fraught time, given the massive amount of experience that left the AFL club at the end of last season.

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But Ziebell says the only part of being skipper that bothers him so far is their 0-2 start to the season.

And the Kangaroos face another major test when they host the GWS Giants on Saturday in Hobart.

North are a transformed team after the departures of Brent Harvey, Michael Firrito, Drew Petrie, Nick Dal Santo and Daniel Wells.

But Ziebell said on Friday the new-look Kangaroos have the right attitude.

“The group we have … is very easy to lead,” he said.

“They’re very eager to learn, the effort they show on the weekend is second to none.”

Ziebell said it also helped that his predecessor Andrew Swallow had stayed in the leadership group.

And there is still plenty of experience at Arden St, such as Jarrad Waite, Shaun Higgins, Jamie Macmillan and Robbie Tarrant.

“They have some sway in our group and we’re really leaning on those guys to make sure they’re upholding what we expect from our footy club,” Ziebell said.

Ziebell will play his 150th game this Saturday, while Giants co-captain Phil Davis reaches the 100 milestone.

They came through the 2008 draft, with Ziebell going to North at pick No.9 and Davis joining Adelaide one selection later.

Davis later went to GWS and has reached his milestone after a succession of injuries.

Ziebell feels his career has gone quickly.

“I remember starting at the footy club probably nine years ago and listening to a couple of the older guys say ‘mate, make sure you enjoy it, because it goes bloody quick’,” he said.

“You sit there and laugh at them.

“But you blink and you’re nine years in and 150 games now.”

Ziebell feels he is now reaching his prime as an AFL player.

“It’s been a bit of a journey to get to this point, but I’m fully-confident in my body and everything like that, the way I’m playing, and hopefully I’m going to improve a whole lot more as well,” he said.

“So I think my best footy is definitely ahead of me.”

Ziebell also has backed himself and the rest of the North midfield to match the Giants.

“We’re more than capable of matching it with any midfield in the competition, which is exciting,” he said.

The forecast is for rain in Hobart – which drew an “oh, shit” from Ziebell under his breath as he thought it was going to be sunny.

“We love Tassie, Tassie’s awesome – we’ve had a pretty strong record down there,” he quickly added.

“If the weather comes in fairly average, I think that will suit us.”

This is now unofficially the Josh Kelly Cup, given the revelation that North are dangling a monster nine-year offer in front of the Giants midfielder.

“I might say it’s nice and sunny down here in Melbourne and all that sort of stuff,” Ziebell said.

Adidas to mass produce 3D-printed shoe

Adidas has launched a new sneaker with a 3D-printed sole that it plans to mass produce next year, part of a broader push by the German sportswear firm to react faster to changing fashions and create more customised products.

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Adidas already lets people customise the colour and pattern of shoes ordered online but new 3D printing methods will make small production runs, limited edition shoes and even soles designed to fit an individual’s weight and gait economical.

Rivals Nike, Under Armour and New Balance have also been experimenting with 3D printing but have so far only used the technique to make prototypes, soles tailored for sponsored athletes and a handful of high-priced novelty shoes.

That’s because traditional 3D printers are slower, more expensive and often create an inferior product than the injection moulds for plastic that are currently used to produce hundreds of millions of shoes each year, mostly in Asia.

However, Adidas says its new partnership with Silicon Valley start-up Carbon allows it to overcome many of those difficulties to produce a sole that can rival one made by an injection mould, and at a speed and price that allow for mass production.

“This is a milestone not only for us as a company but also for the industry,” said Gerd Manz, Adidas head of technology innovation, announcing the launch of its new “Futurecraft 4D” shoe.

“We’ve cracked some of the boundaries.”

Carbon, financed by venture firms such as Sequoia Capital as well as funds set up by General Electric and Alphabet’s Google, has pioneered a technique that prints with light-sensitive polymer resin that is then baked for strength.

Standard 3D printers build up products with layers of plastic powder, a method used by Hewlett Packard which is working with Nike and says its newest machines work 10 times faster and at half the cost than earlier models.

Adidas hopes to sell 5,000 pairs of its “Futurecraft 4D” this year, and 100,000 next year as Carbon cuts the time it takes to print a sole from the current hour and a half to as low as 20 minutes per sole.

The shoes will sell at an unspecified premium price but Adidas plans to lower the cost as the technology develops.

Syria chemical attack: UN Security Council voting delayed

Western countries have blamed President Bashar al-Assad’s armed forces for Tuesday’s attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in a rebel-held area of northern Syria hit by government air strikes.

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Syria’s government has denied responsibility.

The United States, Britain and France proposed a draft resolution on Tuesday to condemn the attack and press Syria to cooperate with international investigators. Russia said the text was unacceptable and proposed a rival draft. 

The elected 10 members of the 15-member council proposed a third draft resolution, based on the text by Western powers, on Thursday evening in a bid to reach consensus. 

“U.N. Security Council will no longer vote on the (resolution) on Syria this evening. Consultations among Council members are ongoing,” British diplomat Stephen Hickey posted on Twitter. 

In February, Syrian ally Russia, backed by China, cast its seventh veto to protect Assad’s government from council action, blocking a bid by Western powers to impose sanctions over accusations of chemical weapons attacks. China has vetoed six resolutions on Syria. 

A Security Council resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, Britain, France, Russia or China to pass.

“Efforts continue to reach unity on a strong (Security Council) resolution w/ strong condemnation, immediate independent investigation & accountability,” Swedish diplomat Carl Skau posted on Twitter. 

An ‘appropriate response’

The US Thursday threatened Syria with military action as President Donald Trump warned ‘something should happen’ following a suspected chemical attack that left at least 86 dead and provoked global outrage.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson vowed an “appropriate response” to the attack in Khan Sheikhun in rebel-held Idlib province, whose victims included 27 children.

Trump has signaled a startling about-turn towards President Bashar al-Assad, who many in the international community hold responsible for Tuesday’s horrific events.

“What Assad did is terrible. What happened in Syria is truly one of the egregious crimes,” the US leader said Thursday. “I guess he’s running things, so I guess something should happen.”

Trump’s comments came as Tillerson — who like him was in Florida to welcome China’s Xi Jinping — called explicitly for “a political process that would lead to Assad leaving” and said his future role in the country was “uncertain.”

Watch: Rex Tillerson on the US’ response

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It remained unclear whether Assad’s main ally Russia would resort to its veto power to block the draft resolution presented to the UN, which was slightly revised following negotiations over the past two days.

Britain, France and the United States are backing the draft which demands a full investigation of the incident, which Turkey believes exposed victims to the nerve agent sarin.

The US Ambassador Nikki Haley has warned that Washington could take unilateral action if the world body fails to respond to the serious allegations of chemical weapons use.

A US official said the Pentagon is presenting the White House with a range of possible military options, including cruise missile or air strikes on Assad’s air fields in a bid to ground his air force — but that no decisions had been taken. 

Any such military action brings enormous risks, as strikes could be subject to skirting Russian air defenses. Moscow also has advisors on the ground in Syria.

Russia at UN warns US over possible military action in Syria

Russia warned the United States on Thursday that there could be “negative consequences” if Washington takes military action against Syria.

“All responsibility if military action occurs will be on the shoulders of those who initiated such a doubtful tragic enterprise,” Russian Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov told reporters following a closed-door Security Council meeting on Syria.

‘Scandal’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday it was a scandal that the United Nations Security Council did not pass a resolution condemning a suspected chemical attack in Syria this week which killed at least 70 people.

“It was a barbaric attack that must be cleared up. The use of chemical weapons is a war crime,” Merkel told a news conference in eastern Germany, adding there were some indications it was carried out by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

“It is a scandal that no U.N. Security Council resolution materialized and those who opposed it must consider what responsibility they bear,” she said. She declined to interpret U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments that the attack went “beyond a red line”.

Watch: Angela Merkel lambasts the UN for not passing a resolution condemning the attack

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‘Terrible responsibility’

The UN children’s agency UNICEF says at least 546 people were wounded in the suspected chemical attack.

More than 30 people were transferred across the border into Turkey for treatment, and Ankara said a preliminary probe found a link between these injuries and sarin.

If confirmed to be a chemical attack, this would be among the worst such incidents in Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 320,000 people since it began in March 2011.

The draft UN resolution backs a probe by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and demands Syria provide information on its operations.

The OPCW said Thursday it has opened an “ongoing investigation” and has “initiated contact with the Syrian authorities.”

Russia has previously used its veto seven times to shield Syria at the UN.

France warned Moscow it would face a “terrible responsibility in front of history” if it did so once more.

Syria officially relinquished its chemical arsenal and signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013 to avert military action after it was accused of an attack outside Damascus that killed hundreds.

But there have been repeated allegations of chemical weapons use since.

Watch: Idlib surgeon gathers evidence of the ‘chemical’ attack

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Russia, Syria hit back as pressure builds over ‘chemical attack’

Britain, France and the United States have pressed for a vote on a UN Security Council resolution to investigate dozens of civilian deaths in a northwestern Syria town, which Turkey said it suspected were the result of exposure to nerve agent sarin.

At least 86 people were killed early Tuesday in rebel-held Khan Sheikhun, and dozens more treated for convulsions, breathing problems and foaming at the mouth.

World powers have pointed the finger at the government of Bashar al-Assad, but Foreign Minister Walid Muallem repeated the regime’s denial Thursday.

“The Syrian army has not, did not and will not use this kind of weapons — not just against our own people, but even against the terrorists that attack our civilians with their mortar rounds,” he said.

WATCH: Father describes horror of Idlib attack

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Russia also stood by its longtime ally, with President Vladimir Putin warning against a rush to judgement.

Putin underlined “the unacceptability of making unfounded accusations against anyone before a thorough and impartial international investigation is carried out”.

More than 30 people were transferred across the border into Turkey for treatment following the incident, and Ankara said a preliminary probe found “a link between these injuries and the use of chemical weapons”.

“According to the results of the initial analysis, the findings suggest the injured were exposed to a chemical substance (sarin),” its health ministry said.

After an emergency session of the UN Security Council on Wednesday, Western diplomats are expected to push for a vote as early as Thursday on a resolution demanding an investigation into the incident.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the resolution, presented by Britain, France and the United States, remained a priority.

But “it’s difficult because up to now every time we have presented a resolution, there has been a veto by Russia and sometimes by China,” he added.

Geert Cappelaere, Middle East director at the UN children’s agency UNICEF, said at least 27 children were killed and 546 wounded in the suspected attack.

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If confirmed as an attack, it would be among the worst incidents of chemical weapons use in Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 320,000 people since it began in March 2011.

It has also prompted an about-face from US President Donald Trump, who in 2013 urged then-president Barack Obama not to intervene against Assad after a major suspected chemical attack.

Senior US officials had also recently suggested it was no longer a priority that Assad be removed from power.

Trump described the alleged attack as an “affront to humanity” and warned it had changed his view of Assad.

“It crossed a lot of lines for me,” he said, alluding to Obama’s failure to enforce his own 2013 “red line” on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

As she held up pictures of lifeless children at the UN on Wednesday, US ambassador Nikki Haley warned of unilateral action if the UN failed “in its duty to act collectively”.

The draft UN resolution backs a probe by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and demands Syria provide information on its operations.

The OPCW said Thursday it has opened an “ongoing investigation” into the suspected chemical attack, and has “initiated contact with the Syrian authorities” as part of the probe.

WATCH: Father mourns twins killed in Idlib attack

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Earlier, Muallem said such an investigation “must guarantee that it is not politicised, that it has broad geographic representation and that it is launched from Damascus, not Turkey”.

Britain, France and the United States asked the Security Council to hold a vote later Thursday on the resolution, diplomats said.

But it remained unclear whether Russia would support the measure, which was slightly revised after negotiations in the past two days.

Russia has previously used its veto seven times to shield Syria.

France warned Russia it would face a “terrible responsibility in front of history” if it vetoed it.

Turkey said Russia’s support of the Syrian regime was “utterly wrong”, in Ankara’s most bitter recent attack on Moscow after a dramatic warming of ties in recent months.

Syria officially relinquished its chemical arsenal and signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013 to avert military action after it was accused of an attack outside Damascus that killed hundreds.

But there have been repeated allegations of chemical weapons use since.

Analysts said it was unclear whether the Trump administration would follow through with its threats of action.

“We have no precedent to use to assess whether the Trump administration’s words yesterday were bluster or a representation of genuine threat,” said Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute.

“Trump… was exposed to the horrific footage that we all saw and quite clearly that had a transformative effect on him.

“Now we need to wait to see whether that transforms into real policy shifts or not.”

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International markets roundup

NEW YORK: The New York Stock Exchange was closed on Tuesday because of the Independence Day public holiday.

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LONDON: A spate of dealmaking news swept European stocks on Tuesday, with share in Worldpay soaring after approaches to buy the company helped mitigate a broad based pull back from the previous session’s strong gains.

The pan-European STOXX 600 fell 0.3 per cent, in line with a dip in euro zone stocks and Britain’s FTSE index.

The FTSE 100 ended the day 0.27 per cent lower at 7,357.23 points,

On Monday, European shares had their strongest day since April 24, when Emmanuel Macron won the first round of France’s presidential election.

The closure of the US market for the July 4 national holiday also meant volumes were lower than usual.

“Today is a consolidation day after gains yesterday, as we don’t have a US market,” said Angelo Meda, head of equities at Banor Capital.

But dealmaking was back with a vengeance as a key driver of individual share moves.

Payments company Worldpay shares soared 27.7 per cent to a record high after it received rival takeover approaches from credit card tech firm Vantiv and JPMorgan.

This came after Danish rival Nets said on Monday it had received offers. Nets and another German rival Wirecard rose more than four per cent.

“This is one of the most intriguing sub-sectors in the financials space. There are a lot of companies still, and we are probably going to have only one or two big leaders in the payments space,” said Meda.

A further boost to the sector came from news that the European Commission gave its blessing to a state bailout of Monte dei Paschi di Siena, paving the way for a deep restructure of the troubled lender.

TOKYO: Asian shares turned lower on Tuesday as earlier gains were quashed by tensions on the Korean peninsula after North Korea fired a missile that landed in Japanese waters, deepening concerns over the isolated nation’s nuclear capabilities.

European shares were also set to open in the red, with financial spreadbetters expecting Britain’s FTSE 100 and Germany’s DAX to start off 0.2 per cent each, and France’s CAC 40 down 0.3 per cent.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.6 per cent after rising earlier.

Japan’s Nikkei also surrendered earlier gains to drop 0.1 per cent, and South Korea’s KOSPI extended losses to trade 0.6 per cent lower.

The Shanghai Composite Index lost 13.11 per cent to 3,182.80 points.

North Korea test-launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile on Tuesday, South Korean and US officials said, days before leaders from the Group of 20 nations are due to discuss steps to rein in Pyongyang’s weapons programs.

The missile flew 930 kilometres before landing in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the South Korean military and Japanese government said.

Tokyo strongly protested what it called a clear violation of UN resolutions, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he will ask the presidents of China and Russia to play more constructive roles in efforts to stop Pyongyang’s arms program.

The South Korean won dropped 0.4 per cent to 1,151 won to the dollar as of 0532 GMT.

The nervous mood pushed the safe-haven yen up 0.4 per cent to 113.02 yen per dollar.

“As concerns surrounding the firing of ballistic missiles brewed midday, we are seeing the slide in the Japanese market spreading across to the rest of Asia,” said Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG in Singapore.

WELLINGTON: New Zealand shares were higher on Tuesday, led by Spark New Zealand and Westpac Banking Corp.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index gained 0.4 per cent, or 32.21 points, to 7,620.64.

Asian stars of Hawaii Five-0 quit the show after being offered less money than white co-stars

Their characters, Chin Ho Kelly and Kono Kalakaua, will not appear in the upcoming eighth season.

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The characters’ absence will be referenced in the season premiere.

Sources tell Variety that Park and Kim had been seeking pay equality with stars Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan, but were unable to reach satisfactory deals with CBS Television Studios, which produces the series.

CBS’s final offer to Kim and Park was believed to have been 10-15% lower than what O’Loughlin and Caan make in salary.

O’Laughlin and Caan each have deals that also provide them percentage points on the show’s back end.

“I will never forget meeting Daniel while still writing the pilot and being certain there was no other actor who I’d want to play Chin Ho Kelly,” said executive producer Peter Lenkov.

“Needless to say, Daniel has been an instrumental part of the success of ‘Hawaii Five-0’ over the past 7 seasons and it has personally been a privilege to know him.

Grace’s presence gave ‘Hawaii Five-0’ a beauty and serenity to each episode.

She was the consummate collaborator, helping build her character from day 1.

“They will always be ohana to us, we will miss them and we wish them both all the best.”

A CBS spokesperson said in a statement: “We are so appreciative of Daniel and Grace’s enormous talents, professional excellence and the aloha spirit they brought to each and every one of our 168 episodes.

They’ve helped us build an exciting new Hawaii Five-0, and we wish them all the best and much success in their next chapters. Mahalo and a hui hou…”

Kim and Park have both been cast members on “Hawaii Five-O” alongside O’Loughlin and Caan since CBS premiered a rebooted version of the classic television cop show in 2010.

The “Hawaii Five-0” changes represent the latest in a series of cast overhauls at returning broadcast dramas.

NBC’s “Taken” and ABC’s “Quantico” and “Once Upon a Time” have also parted ways with veteran cast members in the lead up to the coming season.

Rudd says Abbott and Turnbull are ‘tweedledee and tweedledum’ on policy

The government’s policies on climate change, healthcare and the NBN are likely to stay the same even if a leadership spill one day replaces Malcolm Turnbull with Tony Abbott, according to former prime minister Kevin Rudd.

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Speaking on ABC Radio this morning, the former Labor leader was asked whether friction between Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott was proof the Liberals had failed to learn from the leadership tussle that plagued Mr Rudd’s own prime ministership.

He said the differences between the two men were superficial on the “big policy changes facing Australia”.

Among those policies were “the future of the national broadband network, the future of climate change action, the future of a sustainable economic growth strategy, NDIS and the future of health reform,” Mr Rudd said.

“Frankly if I look at Mr Abbott and Mr Turnbull it just seems to be tweedledum or tweedledee.”

It comes following a week in which Mr Abbott made frequent media appearances, suggesting changes to government policy.

Mr Abbott has also blasted his Liberal colleague Christopher Pyne for a recently leaked recording in which the Turnbull Government minister promised swift action on same-sex marriage and said his moderate faction had gained control of the party.

Mr Abbott has denied claims he is seeking to topple Malcolm Turnbull to regain the prime ministership. 

“I am very happy being a backbench member of the government because it gives me the freedom to speak as I think best, and it gives me more time to be a very conscientious local member,” he said in an interview published in The Manly Daily  on Wednesday.

Vocus shares up as KKR moves closer

US private equity giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts has moved a step closer to a takeover of Vocus Group with the telco’s board opening its books to a non-exclusive due diligence.

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KKR had announced a conditional $3.50 a share takeover proposal for Vocus on June 7, valuing the telecom operator at $A3.3 billion, a far cry from the almost nine dollars a share Vocus was commanding in August last year.

At 1020 AEST, Vocus shares were ahead by three per cent, at $3.41.

On Wednesday, Vocus said its board had carefully reviewed KKR’s proposal and decided to allow due diligence in order to establish whether an acceptable transaction could be agreed.

“While we are confident that the management team can deliver on the strategic plan, we believe it is in the best interests of shareholders to grant KKR due diligence to explore whether a potential whole of company proposal is available that takes into account the benefits that the plan delivers,” Vocus chairman David Spence said.

Vocus said it will update shareholders in due course.

KKR’s offer is subject to shareholder and regulatory approval, including a nod from the Foreign Investment Review Board; due diligence and a unanimous Board recommendation.

Vocus, which has expanded to become Australia’s fourth-biggest telecommunications company through a series of mergers and acquisitions, cut its full year profit guidance in May, for the second time in six months.

The company, however, reaffirmed the revised guidance in early June, with full-year underlying profit expected to come in between $160 million and $165 million.

Medicare breach: Government criticises fearmongers, says exposure is limited

It’s believed someone breached the security surrounding Medicare details, potentially exposing Australians to fraud.

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Federal police are now investigating the “traditional criminal activity”, which was revealed on Tuesday.

A report on ‘The Guardian Online’ website detailed how one of its own reporters was able to buy his Medicare card number from a darknet trader for less than $30.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge declined to elaborate on the “most likely problem”, but cited previous cases of doctors’ surgeries being broken into.

“I have my strong suspicions but we’re leaving it obviously up to the police to do a proper investigation,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

He again admitted the government wasn’t aware Medicare details were being sold on the dark web until the report.

But he insisted personal health records aren’t at risk and those saying otherwise were indulging in fear-mongering and being irresponsible.

“Someone hasn’t hacked into a database,” Mr Tudge said.

“There is no indication this is widespread.”

At least 75 files are believed to have been sold since October last year.

However, Mr Tudge couldn’t confirm this, saying only that the government believed the number of those affected was a “small number in the dozens”.

“The people that we know had a Medicare card number breach, we have contacted,” he said.

Doctors are seeking government assurances that patient records are secure.

“This is a deeply concerning,” Australian Medical Association president Michael Gannon said.

The AMA fears the Medicare issue might dissuade Australians from taking part in the government’s ‘My Health Record’ online patient health information program.

“It is so important for the success of the My Health Record that doctors and patients both have absolute confidence in the integrity of the system,” Dr Gannon said.

Mr Tudge later told Sky News he had given the AMA president a confidential briefing.

Woosha backing in Dons after AFL shocker

Essendon coach John Worsfold isn’t planning to swing the axe after their dismal loss to AFL cellar-dwellers Brisbane.

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After leading Sunday’s clash at Etihad Stadium by 27 points early in the last term, the Bombers were found wanting again in a tight finish, going down by eight points.

It was another frustrating capitulation a week after losing to Sydney by a point after surrendering a three-goal lead in the dying minutes.

Essendon have lost four of their past five games to remain two wins outside of the top eight but Worsfold is backing change from within ahead of Saturday’s clash with Collingwood.

“I’m not expecting to make too many,” Worsfold said on Wednesday.

“I’m a coach who definitely expects the players to drive what they expect from each other.

“We’re very clear on the way we want to play footy and we’re very clear that we didn’t play that way on the weekend.”

The shock loss to the last-placed Lions prompted Bombers chief executive Xavier Campbell to vent his frustration on Twitter in a post retweeted by the club’s official feed.

“Not good enough. Not even close. Fans deserve so much better. 41,000 came out today and we let you down,” Campbell wrote.

Campbell has since apologised to the players but Worsfold said he had no problem with the reaction.

“When I saw it I said ‘that pretty much sums up how we all feel’,” Worsfold said.

“We felt like we let our fans down but we let ourselves down as well.”

Worsfold said there were obvious similarities between the 11th-placed Bombers and 15th-placed Magpies ahead of Saturday’s game.

“They’re playing pretty good footy without getting wins on the board,” he said.

“We’re not assessing them as a team that’s a lot lower than us on the ladder and therefore not performing well.”

The Bombers will likely turn to Michael Hurley or Michael Hartley to stand the 211cm-Mason Cox, who booted three goals during the Pies’ loss to Hawthorn on Sunday.

Service sector activity up in June

Activity in the Australian services sector activity lifted in June, expanding for the fourth straight month, but businesses are finding high energy costs a problem.

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The Australian Industry Group’s Performance of Services Index (PSI) rose 3.3 points to 54.8 points in the month, staying above the 50-point level signifying expansion.

Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox said the services sector ended the financial year in positive territory, but conditions remain patchy across the sub-sectors.

“On the business inputs side, more businesses, across a wider range of sectors, are telling us that energy pricing and availability outlook is highly challenging,” Mr Willox said on Wednesday.

“The energy problem has become real and immediate for Australian business.”

The input prices sub-index lifted by 1.2 points to 59.3 points in June, with businesses continuing to single out high energy cost pressures across various sectors.

The wage sub-index also rose – up 4.4 points to 56.3 points – indicating stronger upward pressure on wages across the services sector.

Sales, new orders and employment all expanded.

Selling prices lifted after being weak over the last 18 months, but the lift suggested only mild price rises for customers.

Five of the nine services sub-sectors – property and business, finance and insurance, wholesale trade, personal and recreational services, and hospitality – expanded in June.

But transport and storage, health and community services, retail trade, and communication services contracted.

The Ai survey said some respondents had noted positive demand for business-to business services from the construction and infrastructure investment sectors.

Some businesses said consumer confidence had improved but this had not translated into better sales in retail.

Others said greater competition from offshore and online providers was negatively affecting activity across sectors that are consumer-oriented.

Migrant experience installation redesigned for Trump’s America

They may be fast disappearing from the streets of New York, but an Afghan-American artist has installed public telephone booths in Times Square to spotlight the immigrant experience in Donald Trump’s America.

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New York today boasts no more than four public phone booths, the last vestiges of a pre cell-phone era. The arrival of three in Times Square as part of Aman Mojadidi’s ‘Once Upon a Place’ installation has nearly doubled that number.

Passers by can pick up the handset, but cannot talk. Instead they listen. At the end of the line are the voices of New Yorkers telling their personal stories of immigration – legal or illegal – from around the world.

Mojadidi asked each to narrate their experiences in their own language for a maximum of 15 minutes, without interrupting with any questions. Nor has their testimony been translated into English.

“Even if you don’t understand the language, you can feel the emotion as if it is a song maybe,” he explained to AFP.

The art project boasts more than five hours of recordings from 70 different New Yorkers and will remain in Times Square until September 5.

Mojadidi first started working on the project in 2014, well before Trump ran for president and unleashed vehement rhetoric against unauthorised immigrants and took office attempting to restrict immigration from certain Muslim countries.

The shifting political environment saw Mojadidi scrap initial plans to dot the project around the city and hold formal workshops in different communities. He said his subjects became “very nervous” about the idea.

“Even if you don’t understand the language, you can feel the emotion”: Aman Mojadidi. Pic: Times Square Arts长沙桑拿,timessquarenyc长沙楼凤,

“‘Why do we need to come there? Who else is going to be there?'” he quoted them as saying.

“In the end, it was all very one on one. So the way I implemented the project changed a lot.”

Nor is the choice of telephone booths insignificant.

“When I learned how phone booths were starting to be removed from the streets, not just in New York but in other cities around the world, I immediately thought about all of the stories that are trapped inside of these phones,” he said.

“I thought of a natural way to bring stories back to the streets by using the phone booths, bring back the spirit of the phone booths.”

Aman Mojadidi’s ‘Once Upon A Place’ is in Times Square until September 5. Pic: Times Square ArtsTwitter/Times Square Arts

Palmer rejects Queensland Nickel lawsuit

Clive Palmer has rejected a federal government lawsuit against him and nephew Clive Mensink over the collapse of Queensland Nickel as baseless and politically motivated.

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Mr Palmer said in a statement that the claim, lodged late last week in the Supreme Court in Brisbane by the government-appointed liquidators of QN, had “no legal basis” and was “just a desperate attempt for the government to act for political purposes”.

The 280-page claim is attempting to claw back some of the $300 million in debts left when QN collapsed in early 2016, leaving hundreds without a job.

It names 21 defendants including Mr Mensink, a string of Mr Palmer’s companies, former QN director Ian Ferguson, Mr Palmer’s father-in-law, and two mystery women in Hong Kong and Kyrgyzstan .

Mr Palmer, who is currently on a luxury European cruise with his family, is being personally pursued for $73 million he allegedly transferred from QN.

He is also being sued for $207 million in compensation for allegedly breaching his duties as director.

The liquidators want a declaration Mr Palmer acted as a ‘shadow director’ for QN after formally stepping away from the company.

They claim he exerted power over the company’s direction and finances from behind the scenes.

“During the periods when Mr Palmer was not a validly appointed director of QNI prior to 18 January 2016, Mr Mensink and Mr Ferguson, being validly appointed directors of QNI, were accustomed to act in accordance with Mr Palmer’s instructions and wishes,” the claim reads.

It alleges Mr Palmer used emails and text messages to give instructions to Mr Mensink and Mr Ferguson, that he remained a signatory to QN bank accounts even when he ceased to be an appointed director, and that he also signed documents that shaped the business.

Mr Mensink is being sued for $110 million in compensation for alleged breaches as a director, while Mr Ferguson is being sued for $25 million.

The claim also alleges Mr Palmer and Mr Mensink continued to trade after the company became insolvent in October 2015, and so are responsible for the $13 million in debts wracked up by QN before it collapsed a few months later.

Mr Mensink has been out of the country since June last year, and has failed to appear at the Federal Court in Brisbane on a number of occasions to face liquidators over QN’s collapse.

Mr Palmer said he has filed a lawsuit against the liquidators in the Federal Court.

I was too young for Origin decider: Pearce

If anyone knows how hot the State of Origin cauldron will be for Queensland rookie Cameron Munster next Wednesday night, it’s the most maligned halfback for NSW.

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Munster is poised to become the first playmaker to debut in a State of Origin series decider since a 19-year-old Mitchell Pearce was thrust into that pressure-cooker environment in game three of the 2008 series.

Pearce ended up missing a tackle on Johnathan Thurston that resulted in the series-winning try for Billy Slater.

It was the start of a Blues career that has been forever under scrutiny as the Maroons extended their dominance in the interstate arena.

A decade on and Pearce concedes that, in hindsight, he wasn’t ready for his 2008 call-up.

“I was too young,” Pearce said.

“I remember, I was a bit different. I was 19 so I didn’t think too much at that stage. It’s probably less pressure back then because you haven’t been a part of a series and all the rest of it.”

However Pearce believes 22-year-old Munster will be far more comfortable, thanks to the close presence of influential Melbourne teammates.

The Storm’s star playmaking trio of Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith will all be alongside the man asked to wear the jumper of injured champion Thurston.

It is arguably the most celebrated jumper in Origin, also following in the footsteps of Maroons legends Wally Lewis and Darren Lockyer.

“If we’re talking about Munster, he’s a great player and I think he’d be really comfortable around their spine that they’ve got there,” Pearce said.

“Obviously Johnathan Thurston’s one of the greatest of all time so he brings a whole other dimension to their team. I don’t think they’ll be changing too much.”

Pearce, who is the Blues’ second-most experienced Origin player with 17 games, again finds himself under pressure to deliver the Blues a series win in his seventh year in the arena.

However the 28-year-old insists he’s grown accustomed to the hot seat.

“I’m pretty relaxed right now. There’s always pressure. We’re here to prepare as a winning team and go out there and do our best to win the series for NSW,” he said.