Steve Smith gives batting tips to Stokes

Australia skipper Steve Smith put the Ashes rivalry to one side during the recent Indian Premier League when he helped mentor England vice-captain Ben Stokes.

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Smith, who is a fiercely competitive batsman, and fiery all-rounder Stokes will be among the most high-profile combatants in the five-Test series that starts on November 23 at the Gabba.

However, during the IPL they were teammates at finalists Rising Pune Supergiant.

Stokes was sold for a staggering $2.8 million in the league’s auction, with Pune skipper Smith telling the franchise’s owner to “just do what you have to to get him”.

The Englishman returned the favour by being named the event’s Most Valuable Player (MVP); if he was available for the finals then Smith’s side may well have won their first title.

Stokes revealed on Monday in England that the pair talked tactics during the tournament.

“It was really good,” Stokes said.

“I remember doing a batting session with some power hitting towards the end, where the guy who I will actually be playing against in the Ashes … was helping me.

“Which is something that you would never be able to fathom when you are playing against each other.

“The IPL is probably the only place where you get that … once you get in the same team together you obviously want the same goal, which is to win.

“And if a guy wants to improve on something and another guy has a tip that can help, they are obviously going to share that with you.”

It isn’t always the case in the IPL.

India offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin largely kept to himself and bowled leg spin in the nets to IPL teammate Smith in 2016, not wanting to give the batsman any insights before this year’s Test series.

Smith and Stokes will square off in the pool stage of the Champions Trophy, which starts next week and is being hosted by England. Bookmakers expect both Australia and England to reach the final.

“We’ve earned the right to be the favourites,” Stokes said

Paceman Josh Hazlewood admitted Australia’s first-choice ODI side was far from obvious ahead of their tournament opener against New Zealand on June 2.

“Over the last six to 12 months there’s been a few people rested on different tours and injuries as well,” Hazlewood said.

“That first game is going to be a tough gig for selectors. Every player in the 15-man squad puts a good case forward.”

Most of the interest is centred on whether Australia finally unleashes a fearsome four-prong pace attack of Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and James Pattinson for the first time ever.

“It’s pretty exciting. We’ve grown up playing against each other a lot of the time in different tournaments, under-17s and under-19s,” Hazlewood said.

“It’s great to have us all here together and bowling well.”

Manchester blast "carnage": witnesses

WHAT WITNESSES HAVE SEEN AND HEARD:

* “It was a huge explosion – you could feel it in your chest.

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It was chaotic. Everybody was running and screaming and just trying to get out.” – concertgoer Catherine Macfarlane told Reuters.

* “Everyone was in a huge state of panic, calling each other as some had gone to the toilet whilst this had gone off, so it was just extremely disturbing for everyone there.” – concertgoer Majid Khan said.

* “It’s shocking what happened. Just carnage everywhere. There was a good 20 to 30 of them [victims]. Some were young kids, some were disabled people.” – Andy, a father said.

* “My 2 daughters caught up in the Manchester explosion at the arena. They are thankfully safe, but I fear for others.” – Liverpool City Region metro mayor Steve Rotheram tweeted.

* “Everyone just fled. Some people were injured. We saw blood on people when we got outside. People were just running all over the place.” – concertgoer David Richardson told Manchester Evening News.

* “It almost sounded like a gunshot. That’s how I would describe it. It was very loud.” – 18-year-old Calvin Welsford told BBC.

* “The bang echoed around the foyer of the arena and people started to run. I seen (sic) people running and screaming towards one direction and then many were turning around to run back the other way.” – eyewitness Oliver Jones said.

* “We saw young girls with blood on them, everyone was screaming and people were running. There was lots of smoke.” – Sasina Akhtar told MEN.

* “Just as the lights have gone down we heard a really loud explosion… Everybody screamed. When we got out they just said ‘keep on running, keep on running’.” – Michelle Sullivan who attended the concert with her daughters aged 12 and 15 told BBC.

Lib MP queries compo for Stolen Generation

A federal Liberal backbencher has questioned whether any compensation paid to the Stolen Generation should be passed down to their descendants.

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Twenty years after the landmark Bringing Them Home report there are fresh calls for compensation.

West Australian Senator Chris Back has some concerns.

“I have heard comments saying there’s a need for compensation to be passed down to grandchildren. I have difficulty with that argument,” Senator Back told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

He agreed the Stolen Generation should get government support for mental health, medical or other issues.

“I think you need to think very careful about what the level (of compensation) would be and what it would be used for,” the senator said.

Queensland Labor senator Murray Watt said there was merit in a compensation scheme, pointing to the ex-gratis payments made by his state to indigenous people whose wages had been stolen.

“Twenty years on I think we need to think about how we properly recognise the immense trauma people went through,” he told reporters.

Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek would not be drawn on the question of compensation but pointed to the impact of the Bringing Them Home report.

“Ordinary people could no longer pretend they didn’t know about the life long multi-generational impact of government policies to remove Aboriginal children from their families and their communities,” she said.

“We can’t turn a blind eye to this and as a nation, we have a responsibility to make amends for what happened.”

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge said the government was focused on other measures to improve the lives of indigenous Australians.

“It’s focused on getting kids into schools, it’s focused on getting adults into work and of course keeping communities safe,” he said.

Liberal MP Andrew Laming is not “terribly keen” on the idea of compensation.

“Right now I think there’s a need for a greater focus on the fundamentals,” he said.

Trump ‘reaffirms’ US closeness to Israel

Donald Trump has followed his two-day Saudi Arabian stay with another two-day visit, this time in Israel.

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The US President was reunited with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, a man he has long called an “old friend”.

Mr Trump says they reaffirmed the bond between their countries.

“We are more than friends, we are great allies. We have so many opportunities in front of us. But we must seize them together. We must take advantage of the situation and there are many, many things that can happen now that would never have been able to happen before and we understand that very well.”

On his first day in Israel, Donald Trump became the first sitting US president to visit Jerusalem’s Western Wall.

He placed his hands on the holiest prayer site in Judaism, and left a note in a crack in the wall.

And in his meetings with Benjamin Netanyahu, he again took aim at Iran, Israel’s long-term bitter rival.

Mr Netanyahu has repeatedly denounced a deal struck between the US and Iran under the Obama administration.

The 2015 agreement aims to curb Tehran’s nuclear program, in exchange for a relief in economic sanctions.

But the Israeli Prime Minister believes Iran will ignore the deal and build atomic bombs.

Donald Trump says he will ensure that won’t happen.

“The United States and Israel can declare with one voice that Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon, never ever, and must cease its deadly funding, training and equipping of terrorists and militias and it must cease immediately. On those issues there is a strong consensus among the nations of the world, including many in the Muslim world.”

Tehran has repeatedly denied an intent to build atomic bombs.

Iran’s newly re-elected President, Hassan Rouhani, was sharp in his response to President Trump’s continued criticism.

“We are waiting for this (US) government to become stable intellectually, and in terms of its stances and its future plans. I hope it can settle down so that we can more accurately pass judgements on their leaders in Washington.”

Attention also turned to the generations-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Donald Trump reiterated he wants a peace deal between the sides, but remained vague about what form it should take.

“We are willing to work together. I believe that a new level of partnership is possible and will happen – one that will bring greater safety to this region, greater security to the United States, and greater prosperity to the world. This includes a renewed effort at peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And I thank the Prime Minister for his commitment to pursuing the peace process. He is working very hard at it – it’s not easy. I’ve heard it’s one of the toughest deals of all. But I have a feeling that we’re going to get there eventually.”

Benjamin Netanyahu said he shares Mr Trump’s commitment to peace.

“The peace we seek is a genuine and durable one in which the Jewish state is recognised. Security remains in Israel’s hands and the conflict ends once and for all.”

But analysts say many people on both sides of the conflict are deeply sceptical about the chances of progress.

Donald Trump is struggling to contain two scandals engulfing him back in the US, after firing James Comey as FBI director.

Last week the President admitted he shared sensitive security details with the Russian foreign minister.

That information was a provided by a partner state – without its permission – with the White House all but confirming that was Israel.

At the end of a meeting with Mr Netanyahu, Mr Trump made a point to mention it to reporters.

“Just so you understand I never mentioned the word or the name, Israel, never mentioned it during that conversation, they’re all saying I did, so you had another story wrong, never mentioned the word Israel.”

News outlets had not accused Mr Trump of naming Israel as the source of information in his meeting wih the Russians.

A special prosecutor has also been named to investigate Russia’s alleged involvement in last year’s presidential election.

Donald Trump will later meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.

 

 

Human ancestors from Europe, not Africa

Just where the last common ancestor between chimps – our closest relatives – and humans existed is a matter of hot debate in the scientific community.

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The new hypothesis, released on Monday, says the origin of mankind is based on 7.2 million-year-old pre-human remains found in caves in Greece and Bulgaria.

Researchers from France, Germany, Bulgaria, Greece, Canada and Australia analyzed the dental roots of two known specimens of the fossil hominid Graecopithecus freybergi.

Using a specialized X-ray known as computer tomography to scan a lower jaw from Greece and an upper premolar from Bulgaria, they found characteristics suggesting these ape like creatures – nicknamed “El Graeco” – were likely pre-humans, or hominids.

“We were surprised by our results, as pre-humans were previously known only from sub-Saharan Africa,” said co-author Jochen Fuss, a researcher at the University of Tubingen.

The findings also showed Graecopithecus is far older than the oldest known potential pre-human from Africa — Sahelanthropus from Chad, which is six or seven million years old. 

The fossil in Greece was dated to 7.24 million years, while the Bulgarian one was 7.175 million years old, said the report in the journal PLOS ONE.

“This dating allows us to move the human-chimpanzee split into the Mediterranean area,” said co-author David Begun, a University of Toronto paleoanthropologist.

Environmental changes may have helped drive the evolution of pre-human species, separate from apes, said co-author Madelaine Bohme, a professor of human evolution at the University of Tubingen.

“The incipient formation of a desert in North Africa more than seven million years ago and the spread of savannahs in Southern Europe may have played a central role in the splitting of the human and chimpanzee lineages,” said Bohme. 

The two fossils were found in sediment that contained red-colored silts “and could be classified as desert dust,” said the report.

“These data document for the first time a spreading Sahara 7.2 million years ago, whose desert storms transported red, salty dusts to the north coast of the Mediterranean Sea in its then form,” it said.

Severe droughts and wildfires may have forced apes to seek out new food sources, and begin walking upright more often.

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