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  1. Banned Amir praying ICC will grant him second chance

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    May 17, 2019 by admin

    Amir, a bright prospect who made his international debut at 17, served three months in an English jail for corruption and is three years into a five-year ban for his role in a spot-fixing scandal surrounding a test against England at Lord’s in 2010.


    The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), currently run by an interim committee headed by Najam Sethi, will take up Amir’s case at an ICC board meeting this weekend and plead for a review of his ban on legal and compassionate grounds.

    “What I did in 2010 was terrible and wrong and I have paid the price for it. I have lost my image and hurt my country and family,” Amir told Reuters on Friday.

    “But everyone gets a second chance in life… I pray the ICC will give me a second chance.”

    Tafazzul Rizvi, the PCB’s legal advisor, said the board was trying to convince the ICC to allow Amir, whose ban ends in 2015, to resume training at the board’s facilities in Lahore or even play some club or domestic cricket.

    “We have sent a report to the ICC from a Queen’s Counsel (QC) we hired in London to look into the case and we are hoping it will help us plead our case strongly at the ICC meetings,” Rizvi said.

    The PCB had raised Amir’s case at the last ICC meeting following which the governing body formed a sub-committee, headed by England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke, to look into the issue.

    The sub-committee’s findings would also come up for discussion during the ICC meetings in London, Rizvi added.

    The left-arm paceman, now 21, added he wanted to rectify the mistake and start playing again.

    “I have learnt my lessons and it has been frustrating not being able to play cricket which I love so much,” said Amir, who has represented Pakistan in 14 Tests, 15 one-day internationals and 18 Twenty20 Internationals.

    “It hurts because the ban is my own doing and my family has also suffered. I just want to rectify the big mistake I made then.”

    Amir’s team mates Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif were also handed jail terms and bans for their role in the scandal.

    (Editing by Sudipto Ganguly and John O’Brien)

  2. Fierce clashes in Syria, US pushes talks

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    May 17, 2019 by admin

    Fierce fighting is raging in Syria’s east, where rebels have killed a top intelligence officer and executed 10 soldiers, as the US pushes for new peace talks.


    US officials said Secretary of State John Kerry would head to Europe for discussions on a planned peace conference in Geneva, which a Syrian official said could come at the end of November.

    But the prospects for the conference, dubbed Geneva 2, remain unclear, with the Syrian opposition divided and due to vote next week on whether to take part.

    On the ground, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported fierce clashes that began in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor overnight continued on Friday.

    The group, which relies on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers, also reported regime air strikes wounded several people and damaged homes in Deir Ezzor city.

    They followed rebel advances in the Rashdiya neighbourhood, where a top intelligence officer, Major General Jamaa Jamaa, was killed on Thursday.

    State television said Jamaa was “martyred while carrying out his national duties to defend Syria and its people and pursuing terrorists in Deir Ezzor”.

    The Observatory said Jamaa, who was in charge of military intelligence in Deir Ezzor province, was hit by sniper fire during clashes in Rashdiya between troops and jihadist fighters.

    It also reported that fighters of the al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front executed 10 soldiers after capturing them during the clashes.

    The fighting came a day after Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil said proposed peace talks in Geneva could take place on November 23-24.

    “We are closer than ever to holding the Geneva 2,” he said in Moscow, though Russia’s foreign ministry quickly pointed out that the UN would decide the timetable.

    Speaking on US radio, Kerry insisted on the need to “move forward” the peace process on Syria.

    “There is no military solution, absolutely not,” he said.

    “So we are trying to move the process forward. I’ll have meetings next Tuesday in London with the support group of the opposition.”

    On Tuesday, Kerry and other officials are due to attend, alongside the Syrian opposition, a meeting of the so-called Friends of Syria in London to review progress towards convening the Geneva conference.

    Whenever the conference is held, the prospects for a negotiated solution to the conflict remain slim, with Syria’s opposition divided on even attending peace talks.

    The National Coalition, Syria’s main opposition bloc, said it would hold internal discussions next week to decide whether to attend the conference.

    The Syrian National Council, a key member of the Coalition, has already said it opposes the Geneva conference and threatened to quit if the umbrella group takes part.

    The international community has for months been pushing Syria’s rebels and the regime to participate in talks on a negotiated solution to the conflict, which has killed an estimated 115,000 people since March 2011.

    But the government of President Bashar al-Assad says his departure from office will not be on the table, while the opposition insists he cannot remain in power.

    The renewed push for the peace talks, which were mooted as early as May this year, comes after a September deal under which Syria agreed to turn over its chemical arsenal for destruction.

    The agreement, enshrined in a UN Security Council resolution, staved off threatened US military action against Assad’s regime after an August 21 sarin attack outside Damascus that killed hundreds.

    A team from the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has been in Syria since October 1 to oversee the destruction of its chemical arms by mid-2014.

    On Thursday the OPCW, which was awarded the Nobel Peace prize for its work, said nearly half of its inspections were complete, but said security remains a key concern.

    “We have done nearly 50 per cent of the verification work of the facilities that have been declared to us,” said Malik Ellahi, a political adviser on Syria for the OPCW.

    The mission has key deadlines it must meet, including verifying Syria’s disclosed chemical weapons, identifying key equipment, destroying production facilities and starting the destruction of Category 3 chemical weapons by November 1.

  3. Swede dreams of Perth golf fairytale

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    May 17, 2019 by admin

    England’s Paul Casey missed the cut but little-known Swede Peter Hedblom was dreaming of a fairytale win after taking control of the $US2 million ($A2.


    08 million) Perth International at Lake Karrinyup.

    Casey, a 12-time winner on the European Tour, missed the cut by one stroke after finishing his second round at three-over.

    Rising South African star Branden Grace (two-over) only just snuck through, while Brett Rumford (one-over) produced three birdies in a row on the back nine to secure his spot for the weekend.

    World No.21 Dustin Johnson is six shots off the pace after a disappointing two-over 74, while defending champion Bo van Pelt sits at three-under for the tournament.

    Hedblom, the joint overnight leader, moved to seven-under on Friday, giving him a two-shot buffer over England’s Ross Fisher.

    The next two days will be make-or-break for Hedblom, who needs to win the tournament if he is to retain his European Tour card for next year.

    In 2009, Hedblom’s good friend Michael Jonzon was in a similar position in Spain and managed to save his card.

    World No.830 Hedblom is hoping lightning strikes twice.

    “I love fairytales,” Hedblom said.

    “The last two years I’ve been really deep down trying to find my game.

    “It’s hard when you know you can compete with the best players for 18 holes, but you can’t do it for 72 holes.

    “It’s been hard. If I can do it this week, it would be unreal. It would mean a lot for me and my whole family.”

    And if he doesn’t get the win he needs?

    “I have a guy who’s going to come down and chop my head off. And that’s it. No more Hedblom,” he said with a laugh.

    “No, life is good. If I don’t do it, I still have a great family and great friends.”

    Fisher was a little tired after being woken by his alarm at 4.35am (WST) in preparation for his 6.40am tee off.

    The lack of sleep didn’t seem to affect him on the course, with a 20-metre chip-in from the bunker on the par-3 eighth the highlight of his day.

    “It was a decent lie but it was coming down the green and downhill, so I knew it was going to be pretty quick,” said Fisher, who shot a five-under 67.

    “But it was one of those ones where, as soon as I struck it, I knew it was pretty decent.

    “I thought I played really nicely but I just couldn’t buy a putt.

    “I’m still getting used to the greens.

  4. Comment: Labor’s new team and old games

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    May 17, 2019 by admin

    By Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

    The more things change… Labor is making a new start with Bill Shorten but the old ways are alarmingly entrenched in the form of ALP factional power.


    One small episode tells the wider story. Right wing power broker Senator Don Farrell, among the so-called faceless men who helped oust Kevin Rudd in 2010, has himself been ousted by the voters of South Australia. The 59 year old Farrell is due to leave the Senate mid next year.

    Despite this, earlier in the week he was chosen for the frontbench by his faction and rubber stamped by caucus. Bill Shorten, in his allocation of positions, has now made him shadow minister for the centenary of ANZAC.

    That commemoration falls in 2015. No matter. Deputy leader Tanya Plibersek tried to argue that this job was not to attend the event, just to make preparations. If this sounds a stretch, it is. The truth is that the ALP is expected to punt one of its own SA senators so Farrell’s parliamentary career can continue.

    This is not the only current example of Labor treating the electorate with contempt. Bob Carr, recruited by Julia Gillard to become foreign minister during the last parliament, has just been elected for a six-year Senate term. Now Carr is set to announce his departure. He had a great time, albeit a very short time, in federal government, mostly spent travelling the world, but he’s not going to hang around for the drudgery of opposition.

    The NSW right has already lined up a defeated MP, Deb O’Neill, to get his spot. It’s all neatly sorted.

    It is one thing for a leader to bail out of parliament immediately after a defeat but another for others to do so in this cavalier fashion (or, in Farrell’s case, to push someone else out so you can stay there). In the Senate these shenanigans are temptingly easy because replacements don’t require byelections but that’s not an excuse.

    In doling out jobs to his team, Shorten has flagged significant personal priorities. He will himself be taking on specific responsibility for science and for small business. The first signals that he wants the opposition to develop and push clever country ideas, a smart tactic because it should give the opportunity for some innovative policy. Small business has been a natural constituency for the Coalition, but there are many “battlers” there; Shorten will seek to reach what he described as “the backbone of many communities of Australia”. It is an example of his wider desire to broaden Labor’s base and appeal.

    Among the winners in the jobs carve up is Tony Burke, from the NSW right. When he regained the leadership Kevin Rudd put Burke, a solid Gillard man, into the immigration portfolio, perhaps the worst ministry. In opposition he’s escaped to one of the best positions, becoming finance spokesman. This provides an insight into every area of policy. He’ll also be manager of opposition business (both Shorten and Anthony Albanese promised him that). It’s a role bringing constant exposure when parliament sits, useful for Burke, who harbours long term leadership aspirations.

    Jason Clare, another NSW right winger also in the queue of aspiring leaders (probably ahead of Burke), will be pitted against Malcolm Turnbull in communications. The western suburbs of Sydney versus the eastern suburbs, as one ALP source described it.

    A couple of clear winners are Kate Ellis (education) and Catherine King (health). They are in traditional core areas for Labor. Ellis will be particularly tested against minister Christopher Pyne, but should have some fertile material as the government grapples with the Gonski patchwork.

    The well qualified and just elected Jim Chalmers, former staffer to then treasurer Wayne Swan, has a couple of plum shadow parliamentary secretaryships – to Shorten and to Penny Wong (who will shadow Andrew Robb in trade and investment).

    One interesting move is Stephen Conroy (former communications minister) to defence. After he quit the frontbench on the demise of Gillard, Conroy virtually opted out, spending some of the campaign overseas. It was thought he might leave parliament. Taking defence suggests he is re-engaging. This is a challenging job, where substance is more important than the short term politics.

    A number of frontbenchers stay in their areas, including the capable former treasurer Chris Bowen and environment spokesman Mark Butler, who will be in the front line of the imminent battle over the carbon price legislation.

    In detailing his team’s statistics, Shorten said almost half of the shadow executive would be women and “there will be more working parents than ever before in the shadow executive”.

    “In fact, in our leadership group, all of us have a child that is six or under, as we perform our tasks at work. There’s generational change. There’s more Gen X in the shadow line up than has existed before in Australian politics.”

    At least child care policies should be top of mind.

    Listen to Clare O’Neil and Angus Taylor on the Politics with Michelle Grattan podcast, available below, by rss and on iTunes.

    Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

  5. When galaxies collide: the growth of supermassive black holes

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    May 17, 2019 by admin

    By Vikram Ravi, University of Melbourne and Ryan Shannon, CSIRO

    Galaxies may look pretty and delicate, with their swirls of stars of many colours – but don’t be fooled.


    At the heart of every galaxy lies a supermassive black hole, including in our own Milky Way.

    Black holes in some nearby galaxies contain ten billion times the mass of our sun in a volume a few times the size of our solar system. That’s a lot of mass in a very small space – not even light travels fast enough to escape a black hole’s gravity.

    So how did they get that big? In the journal Science today, we tested a commonly-held view that black holes become supermassive by merging with other black holes – and found the answer is not quite that simple.

    Searching for gravitational waves

    The answer may lie in a related question: when two galaxies collide to form a new galaxy, what happens to their black holes?

    When galaxies collide, they form a new, bigger galaxy. The colliding galaxies’ black holes sink to the centre of this new galaxy and orbit each other, eventually combining to form a new, bigger black hole.

    Black holes, as the name suggests, are very hard to observe. But orbiting black holes are the strongest emitters in the universe of an exotic form of energy called gravitational waves.


    Orbiting black holes generate gravitational waves. NASA


    Gravitational waves are a prediction of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and are produced by very massive, compact objects changing speed or direction. This, in turn, causes the measured distances between objects to change.

    For example, a gravitational wave passing through your computer screen will cause it to first stretch in one direction, then in a perpendicular direction, over and over again.

    Fortunately for your laptop, but unfortunately for astronomers, gravitational waves are very weak. Gravitational waves from a pair of black holes in a nearby galaxy causes your screen size to change by one atomic nucleus over ten years.

    But fear not – a way to detect these waves exists by using other extreme astronomical objects: pulsars, which are leftovers of massive stellar explosions called supernovae.

    While they’re not quite as extreme as black holes, pulsars are massive and compact enough to crush atoms into a sea of nuclei and electrons. They compress up to twice the mass of our sun into a volume the size of a large city.

    So how do pulsars help? First, they rotate very quickly – some of them up to 700 times per second – and very predictably. They emit intense lighthouse-like beams of radio waves, which, when they sweep by the Earth, appear as regular “ticks” – see the video below.



    So here’s the punchline: gravitational waves from pairs of black holes throughout the universe will disrupt the otherwise extremely regular ticks from pulsars in a way we can measure.

    Our pulsar measurements

    We found that the theory that black holes grew mainly by absorbing other black holes is not consistent with our data.

    If the theory was right, gravitational waves would exist at a level that would cause the ticks to appear less regularly than our measurements. This means that black holes must have grown by other means, such as by consuming vast swathes of gas churned up during galaxy mergers.

    We used measurements of pulsar ticks from the CSIRO Parkes Radio Telescope (the Dish) collected by the Parkes Pulsar Timing Array project led by the CSIRO and Swinburne University of Technology.

    The measurements span over ten years, and are some of the most precise in existence.

    These data are being collected to eventually directly observe gravitational waves. In our work, however, we compared the data with gravitational wave predictions from various theories for how black holes grew.

    Our work gives us great encouragement for the prospects for using pulsars to detect gravitational waves from black holes.

    We are confident that gravitational waves are out there – galaxies, after all, do collide – and we have shown that we can measure pulsar ticks with sufficient accuracy to be able to detect gravitational waves in the near future.

    In the meantime, we can even use the absence of gravitational waves to study elusive super-massive black holes.

    Vikram Ravi receives funding through a John Stocker Scholarship from the Science and Industry Endowment Fund. He is affiliated with the University of Melbourne and CSIRO.

    Ryan Shannon is affiliated with CSIRO.