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.

‘He is an American hero’: Joey Chestnut downs 72 hot dogs in 10 minutes

He certainly stretched that limit on Tuesday, downing 72 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes at the annual wiener-eating contest on New York’s Coney Island, a tradition that marks every Independence Day holiday in the United States.

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Chestnut won the competition for the 10th time and improved on the speed-eating tally he posted last summer.

In the 2016 edition of the eat-fest at the Nathan’s Famous beachside hot dog stand — it began way back in 1916 — Chestnut wolfed down 70 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes to win the title.

His personal record — and the world record — is 73.5 dogs and buns in 10 minutes, but that came during a qualifying round rather than an actual contest. 

After Tuesday’s victory, organizer George Shea praised Chestnut as if he were a warrior returning from a distant battlefield.

“He is an American hero. He stands as a representative of freedom, of the American ideal,” said Shea to the 30,000 people who turned out to watch the competition.

Chestnut spoke of himself in more measured language. 

“I am just a goofy dude who likes to eat. I am a lucky guy, to travel around the world and eat and make people smile,” he told reporters.

And Chestnut — who began eating competitively in 2005 in an asparagus-munching contest — does in fact want to get better for next year.

“I need to work on my condition so I don’t sweat as much, because it slowed me down. I’ll figure it out. I’ll make my body work better. I have to figure out my body so I can push it to the absolute limit,” said Chestnut.

America is famously fat, with obesity affected some one in three adults. So the hot dog contest is perhaps not a great example of healthy habits.

Nor is it easy to watch.

The rules allow the 18 competitors to soak their hot dogs and buns in water to make them easier to choke them down. Using their fingers, they slammed the frankfurters back into their mouths and leaned their heads back to help the food ooze its way south.

Besides the 30,000 on hand to watch the event, many more took in the spectacle on TV. Sports network ESPN carried it live for the 11th straight year.

The event is overseen by a federation called Major League Eating, which holds about 80 such competitions each year in a season that runs from February to September. There are separate bouts for men and women.

Tuesday’s female winner was Miki Sudo, who ate 41 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes.

Pregnant drinking linked to youth deaths

Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder remains a major problem in WA’s Kimberley region and is a driver of the mental health problems that lead to youth suicide, a coronial inquest in to 13 suicides among Aboriginal young people has heard.

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The inquest is examining a cluster of 13 deaths of Aboriginal youths in Western Australia’s far north between November 2012 and March last year, including five children aged between 10 and 13, two of whom were sisters.

While all of the young people had been exposed to trauma and physical abuse, there were strong links between the behavioural and developmental problems they showed in the community and FASD, which is the result of a mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

As well as facial and other physical abnormalities, FASD has been linked to brain and behavioural issues including cognitive, communication, executive functioning, impulse control and other problems.

Paediatrician James Fitzpatrick and clinical neuropsychologist Carmela Pestell told the inquest about their research that had found alarming levels of heavy drinking among pregnant women in WA’s far north, with more than half surveyed drinking at dangerous levels.

At least one in three young people in detention in WA had FASD and were in the bottom three per cent for cognitive function, according to a study of mostly Aboriginal male youths.

The problem of drinking during pregnancy was described as a general problem around Australia that affected various ethnic and socio-economic groups.

However the remoteness of Kimberley indigenous communities and lack of “scaffolding and structural” support services led to a greater risk that youths in those areas would not be treated for or diagnosed with FASD, leading to problems and possibly suicide, the inquest heard.

“Sadly I think FASD is one of the most potent drivers of mental health problems that lead to suicide in places like the Kimberley,” said paediatrician James Fitzpatrick, an expert on the condition who says no amount of alcohol in pregnancy is safe.

“One of my great fears is that I will sitting here in 20 years talking about the same problems and solutions, that this is another in a long line of inquiries into this issue.”

Just last week Dr Fitzpatrick said eight out of nine children tested in the Kimberley were diagnosed with FASD, including a boy aged less than 10 who witnessed his own mother take her life and is “verbalising this intent” about himself.

Dr Fitzpatrick described FASD as Australia’s most common preventable cause of disability but it was not on the the National Disability Insurance Agency’s list of recognised disabilities, preventing Medicare access to some support services.

He said there were solutions and the federal-funded “Making FASD history” project he had run in the Fitzroy Valley for six years in collaboration with families, doctors and teachers had reduced alcohol use in pregnancy by 65 per cent to 15 per cent and he would be expanding it.

Bangladesh ends search for survivors as factory blast toll hits 13

Dozens of workers were inside the factory on the outskirts of Dhaka when the boiler exploded on Monday evening, causing a section of the six-storey building to collapse.

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It was unclear what caused the explosion, which occurred during maintenance work on the boiler at a time when most of the factory’s 5,000 workers were off for the Eid holidays.

Authorities called off the nearly 22-hour-long search after rescuers found two more bodies in a toilet next to the destroyed boiler room, bringing the death toll to 13.

“Our fire fighters have completed searching the entire section of the debris,” local administrator Mahmud Hasan told AFP.

The government said it had formed a committee to investigate the explosion, the latest disaster to strike the country’s $30-billion garment industry.

The plant in the Gazipur industrial district is owned by manufacturer Multifabs, which makes clothing for brands including Littlewoods and Aldi according to its website.

The collapse of the nine-storey Rana Plaza factory complex in April 2013 in which more than 1,100 people were killed was seen as a wake-up call for the industry, which supplies clothing for major brands all over the world.

In the wake of the disaster, authorities pledged to improve working conditions at factories but accidents are still commonplace.

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Only a few hundred of the country’s 4,500 textile factories have been certified as safe and last year a fire at a factory just miles from Rana Plaza claimed 34 lives.

A survey this year by global charity Action Aid of more than 1,400 Rana Plana survivors found nearly half were still jobless while roughly 31 percent were too traumatised to work.

There have also been demands for an increase in the basic monthly wage of $68 for the country’s four million garment workers, most of whom are young women.

One of the injured workers receiving treatment at nearby hospitals blamed the factory authorities for not replacing the boiler despite the fact that it was allegedly “beeping danger signals continuously”.

Worker Harunur Rashid told Bangla daily Prothom Alo that the boiler’s safety bulb was beeping danger lights but the device’s operators assured them there was nothing to worry about.

“Within ten minutes after we returned to work, the boiler exploded. It’s absolutely the authorities’ negligence,” he said.

Mesba Faruqui, the operations director of the factory, said the operators were doing maintenance duty as the factory was meant to open on Tuesday after the long Eid holidays.

“If the accident had happened today, God forbid, there might have been many more casualties,” he told AFP.

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