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.

‘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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Common weedkiller could make cane toads deadlier

Cane toads could become even more deadly because of their exposure to a common weedkiller.

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Scientists in Hungary have found that when toad tadpoles come into contact with the widely used weedkiller Glyphogan, their bodies produce more of the toxic chemicals they use to ward off predators.

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The scientists say their findings, published by ‘The Royal Society’ on Wednesday, are particularly relevant to Australia’s cane toad population which they fear could become even more toxic given they live in a wide variety of habitats that are exposed to pollutants and pesticides.

“Our results indicate that pesticide pollution might exacerbate the problem of invasive toxic species,” study author Veronika Bokony, of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences said.

“For example, in Australia, the survival of native tadpoles is reduced by poisoning from ingestion of toxic cane toad eggs, and predators suffer drastic mortality due to ingesting or mouthing cane toads.”

The scientists tested the effects of the glyphosate-based weedkiller Glyphogan on large batches of common tadpoles in a laboratory and a pond at an experiment station near Budapest.

All the tadpoles produced significantly more amounts of bufadienolides – the toxic steroids used by toads, fireflies, some snakes and plants to poison or deter predators – after being exposed to Glyphogan for between nine days and three weeks.

The scientists said that if toads become more toxic, their predators may switch to other more palatable prey, posing an even greater threat to other animals.

Cane toads store toxins containing bufadienolides in glands on their shoulders, using them to deliver a poisonous blast that can cause heart convulsions or death for predators.

The cane toads have had a huge impact on native animals since arriving from Hawaii in 1935 and spreading across most of northern Australia.

Northern quoll populations were devastated by the toad, whose poison also has been known to kill freshwater crocodiles, snakes and goannas.

Cane toad expert professor Rick Shine, of the University of Sydney, says the new research adds to a growing body of evidence showing how toads develop their defensive chemical “weapons” in reaction to their experiences.

But he says while weedkiller can increase the amount of poison in a toad, it might not necessarily mean the cane toad will have an even greater ecological impact in Australia.

“Most native predators in areas where cane toads live have already learned that toads are deadly, and don’t eat them – or can tolerate the poison, and thus are not at risk no matter how much the toad ramps up its poison content,” he said.

The Hungarian scientists have called for more studies to be done on how environmental contaminants like weedkillers affect the chemical defences in bufadienolides.

Arab nations: we have Qatar’s response

Four Arab nations say they have received Qatar’s response to their demands for ending a diplomatic crisis gripping the Persian Gulf, just before a planned meeting in Cairo.

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Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday they would respond “in a timely manner”.

The countries did not elaborate on what steps they could take, though credit rating agency Moody’s warned it had changed Qatar’s economic outlook to negative over the turmoil.

The countries cut ties to the FIFA 2022 World Cup host in early June over its alleged support for extremist groups and ties with Iran.

Qatar denies supporting extremists and has defended its warm relations with Iran.

The nations issued a 13-point list of demands on June 22, giving Qatar 10 days to comply.

They later extended the deadline to Wednesday at the request of Kuwait, which has acted as a mediator.

Foreign ministers from the four Arab countries will meet in Cairo later on Wednesday to discuss their next move.

Qatar has called the demands, which include shutting down its al-Jazeera satellite news network, expelling Turkish military forces based in the country and paying restitution, as an affront to its sovereignty.

Earlier, in a move that could affect Australia, Qatar announced plans for a steep rise in liquefied natural gas (LNG) production, suggesting it is ready for a protracted dispute with its Gulf neighbours.

State-owned Qatar Petroleum announced plans to raise LNG capacity by 30 per cent.

The immediate effect of the increase will be to worsen a glut on the LNG market, where Australia, the US and Russia vie.