Shiels’ AFL return to boost Hawks v Dogs

The return of Hawthorn’s three-time AFL premiership contributor Liam Shiels is crucial to confront looming challengers the Western Bulldogs on Sunday at Etihad Stadium.

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As well as bolstering critical midfield battles, his hardness and fitness are often used to try to shut down key opposition playmakers.

“It gives us more quality and flexibility through the middle of the ground. He has been really unheralded in our side,” coach Alastair Clarkson said.

“… in terms of importance to our side … I think we’re going to need him – the Bulldogs have been strong in the midfield over the course of their first two victories.

“They’ve got (Tom) Liberatore back in their side this year and (Jordan) Roughhead going into the ruck has been really good for them, too.

“They’ve been really impressive in that area. If we can break even or get control in that area of the ground, then we give us a great chance. But certainly, if it’s the other way, the result will be pretty similar to what happened to Fremantle and St Kilda last week.

“It’s very difficult the way football is played nowadays where it’s so disciplined around game-plan and systems and roles to play that you can get manipulated with tags. So it doesn’t surprise me that clubs don’t tag as often as they once did.

“But at different stages, we all employ a run-with player and, if Sam (Mitchell) gets on top at different stages, I’m sure Bevo (Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge) will do something about it. And, similarly with some of the Western Bulldogs players, if they’re getting control of the ball and the game, then we’ll want to do something to stop individual players that are having big days,” Clarkson said.

“That battle in the middle of the ground between their mids and our mids is going to be pivotal.

“If they get control … and get a lot of centre-bounce clearances and stoppage clearances, they’re going to have the game on their terms and it’s our challenge to try to correct that during the course of the game.

“They’re on top of the ladder for a very good reason. It probably follows on from a trend last year – they’ve played some good footy for 12 months. So, there’s no surprises there.”

Clarkson downplayed any advantage for the unbeaten Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium compared to the Hawks’ superiority at the MCG.

“The ovals are pretty similar in size – the MCG is maybe a little wider. The record of the Bulldogs is outstanding at that ground and they’re very comfortable playing at that ground, but we’ve won 13 of 15 at Etihad too, so it’s not like we can’t play the oval,” he said.

Inflatable habitat heading to space

An inflatable human habitat is scheduled for launch to the International Space Station for a two-year test to see how the lightweight, fabric module compares with traditional orbiting enclosures made from metal.

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The prototype habitat, built by Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace, was packed inside a capsule slated for liftoff aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 4.43pm on Friday (0643 AEST Saturday) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The scheduled launch marks the fourth mission for high-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk’s privately owned Space Exploration Technologies since a rocket failure last June destroyed a cargo ship being carried on a resupply mission bound for the space station.

It also will serve as the latest bid by the California-based company to safely return the launch vehicle’s main-stage rocket booster to a landing platform in the ocean where it can be retrieved for future flights.

Four previous ocean landing attempts have failed, though a Falcon 9 did make a successful landing on the ground in December, a key milestone in SpaceX’s quest to develop a cheap, reusable rocket.

About a week after the delivery vehicle, or Dragon, reaches the space station, ground controllers will use a robot arm to pull the 1400kg Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, from the capsule’s trunk and attach it to a berthing port.

Roughly a month later, astronauts aboard the orbiting laboratory 400km above Earth will inflate BEAM with pressurised air, increasing its volume to about the size of a small bedroom.

Bigelow Aerospace, owned and operated by real estate billionaire Robert Bigelow, plans to follow BEAM with modules 20 times larger to serve as free-flying orbital outposts leased to companies and research groups.

NASA is interested in expandable habitats to serve as crew living quarters during three-year trips to and from Mars.

BEAM’s test run is intended to determine how well it withstands the temperature swings and high-radiation environment of space. BEAM, made of layers of fabrics and covered in a flexible, Kevlar-like material, also will be outfitted with sensors to monitor orbital debris and micrometeoroid impacts.

Friday’s launch will be SpaceX’s first cargo run for NASA since its launch accident in June 2015, though Musk’s company has since flown three times successfully for other customers.

For this flight, SpaceX modified the capsule’s software so that in case of an accident during liftoff, the Dragon can parachute to a splashdown in the ocean, potentially saving its cargo.

Paul Walker’s daughter gets $US10.1m

The 17-year-old daughter of late actor Paul Walker has reached a $US10.

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1 million ($A13.5 million) settlement with the estate of the man driving the car that crashed and killed them both in 2013, her lawyer says.

Walker was a passenger in a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT driven by Roger Rodas when the car, travelling at speeds of 129 to 150km/h, careened into trees and a utility pole in Santa Clarita, northwest of Los Angeles.

Meadow Walker’s lawyer, Jeff Milam, said on Saturday the settlement would go into a trust for the teenager.

The settlement, reached in November 2014, went unnoticed for nearly a year-and-a-half because it was filed under “Meadow W”, according to celebrity news website TMZ, which first reported the story.

According to Milam’s statement, Rodas was only partially responsible for the crash, and the settlement covers a “fraction of what her father would have earned as an international movie star had his life not been tragically cut short”.

Lawyers for Rodas’ estate could not immediately be reached for comment.

Walker’s death at age 40 led to a lull in production of Furious 7, the latest movie in the mega-hit action series about illegal street racing that propelled his career.

The 2015 film grossed more than $US1.5 billion worldwide, making it among the highest-earning films of all time.

Milam said the actor’s daughter was continuing her lawsuit against Porsche AG and that she “intends to hold the company responsible for producing a vehicle that was defective and caused Paul Walker’s death”.

Meadow Walker, the actor’s only child and sole heir, filed the complaint against the German automaker last September, accusing it of skimping on safety features that could have prevented the crash or at least kept him alive.

Porsche has maintained that the actor was responsible for his own death. After a four-month investigation Los Angeles officials said the crash was caused by excessive speed, not mechanical failure.

Milam said Paul Walker survived the impact of the crash, but “burned to death because of Porsche’s defective design”.

A federal judge presiding over a similar lawsuit filed by Rodas’ estate against Porsche in Los Angeles ruled in favour of the car company on Monday, saying: “Plaintiff has provided no competent evidence that Rodas’ death occurred as a result of any wrongdoing on the part of Defendant.”

No need for bank royal commission: govt

Government ministers are lining up to defend financial industry regulators amid Labor calls for a royal commission into the banking sector.

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Labor, the Greens and some coalition MPs have been agitating for an inquiry in the wake of a series of scandals and investigations involving the Australian financial sector in recent years.

Labor has said a Labor government would establish a royal commission if the coalition didn’t act before the federal election.

But senior government ministers continued to defend the industry on Saturday, saying it already had ample regulation.

Coalition frontbencher Greg Hunt said the sector had a “standing equivalent of a royal commission” in the form of corporate regulator ASIC.

He questioned whether Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was withholding evidence from ASIC to accuse the body of not acting effectively.

“If he isn’t then he should make a case why ASIC is incapable of continuing to do its job,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Saturday.

Industry Minister Christopher Pyne earlier questioned why Labor didn’t back a royal commission just months ago while saying a royal commission would undermine industry.

“(Mr Shorten) is more than happy to undermine the Australian banking sector,” he told Sky News on Saturday.

But Labor frontbencher Richard Marles said a royal commission would uncover what was going on within the financial sector and how governments could resolve the issues.

Labor’s proposed commission, costing about $53 million and lasting two years, would examine:

* Illegal and unethical behaviour in the financial services industry.

* The industry’s duty of care to customers.

* Culture, ethical standards and business structures of financial institutions.

* Whether regulators are well-equipped to identify and prevent illegal and unethical behaviour.

Day chasing big names at Augusta

World No.

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1 Jason Day is determined to fight his way up the leaderboard after Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy held court at the halfway mark of the Masters.

Day continued to struggle on the back nine at Augusta National on Friday but still moved closer to the lead after a windy second round.

The Australian shot a one-over 73 to be one-over 145 for the week and heads into the third round five off the pace and tied for 15th.

“I’m close enough if good enough but it will be tough with those guys up top,” Day said.

World No.2 Spieth leads after scoring a 74, putting him at four-under 140.

It represents a record sixth straight Masters round in the lead for the defending champion, tying Arnold Palmer’s record from 1960-61.

He leads over World No.3 Rory McIlroy after the Northern Irishman put up the equal best score of the day with a 71 to finish second at three-under 141.

McIlroy is chasing the career grand slam and would be just the sixth player in history to achieve the feat.

With wind gusts up towards 25mph causing havoc around the course it was the first time a player failed to break 70 in the Masters since 2007.

Day, who dropped five shots on the back nine on Thursday, dropped three more on Friday and is now seven-under on the front nine but eight-over on the back.

“I’m just trying to say to myself, just kind of keep myself in it, just got to keep grinding out until it’s over. A three, four, five shot lead can change in a hole or two,” he said.

“It’s stressful and sometimes I hate it, but I enjoy it. The tougher the better because then I can just keep grinding it out.”

In his 17 rounds leading into the tournament Day was three under on the front side but 11 under on the back, making his form all the more baffling.

“It’s no good. Hopefully I can get the back side like I have the front side the last two days,” Day said.

“If I can do that then I can kind of start leapfrogging some guys.

“It’s just really hard to commit to a lot of the golf shots out there (in the wind) and you have to be very mentally strong to be able to do that.”

New Zealand’s Danny Lee (74) and American Scott Piercy (72) are tied for third at two under.

American Brandt Snedeker (72), Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama (72) and Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen (74) sit fifth at one under, leaving just seven players under par.

Masters rookie Cameron Smith shot a one-over-73 to finish three over for the tournament, making it three from three cuts made in major championships.

Adam Scott will play the weekend after a 72 left him at four-over and just eight off the pace but the championship is over for Marc Leishman (+7) and Steven Bowditch (+17).

Tigers struggling again early in AFL

Here we go again – Damien Hardwick’s Tigers have started another AFL season chasing their tails.

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Adelaide made Richmond pay dearly for their turnovers, dominating Saturday’s match at Etihad Stadium and cruising to a 36-point win.

The Crows’ 52-point lead early in the last quarter said far more about the match than the final 19.14 (128) to 13.14 (92) scoreline.

While Adelaide have started the season at full steam ahead, once again Richmond are on the back foot.

Hardwick argues that this time, the backward step is necessary if they are to go forward following three-straight elimination final losses.

“It’s stock-standard for us, isn’t it, starting like this,” he lamented.

“It’s disappointing, but this side isn’t the same as last year.

“We are trialling some blokes in some different positions.

“We might have to take a little half-step back to go two step forwards, but I’m very confident we will take the two steps forwards.”

Since Hardwick took over as coach in 2010, this is the fifth time they have opened with a 1-2 record, or worse.

The exceptions were 2013 – 3-0, then three losses – and last season – 2-1, then three losses.

The sub-standard performance followed a torrid week where Hardwick and the club railed against a harsh media focus on captain Trent Cotchin.

Richmond circled the wagons tighter post-match, taking the unusual step of banning any player interviews in the rooms with print or radio media.

They now play West Coast next Friday night in Perth – a challenge which Hardwick predicts will galvanise his misfiring team.

While not much separated the two teams statistically, one key figure told the story of Saturday’s game.

Richmond calls them 12-point turnarounds, where they look certain to kick a goal, but turn the ball over and the opposition score instead.

Hardwick said they conceded around eight.

“Who do you reckon is the AFL’s No.1 kicking side at the moment? Us,” he said.

“What it is, it’s those unforced errors that are killing us – the blatant ones where we’re just missing targets and they’re going straight to the opposition.”

After scraping through in round one against Carlton, the Tigers inexplicably coughed up a 17-point lead deep in the last quarter and lost to Collingwood by a point.

Two issues that Hardwick spoke about pre-season stood out against Adelaide – the search for a third key forward, and the need for more grunt around Cotchin in the midfield.

Saturday also showed that the spotlight on Cotchin this week was misplaced – it should be on the wider Richmond player leadership.

By contrast, the Crows have started the season with a narrow away loss to North Melbourne, a thumping Showdown win and now a class victory on the road.

Surfers’ great white scare in WA

A group of top surfers has had another close encounter with a shark, less than a year after Mick Fanning’s dramatic incident in South Africa.

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American Kanoa Igarashi has told of the frightening near-miss at Margaret River in Western Australia, the evening before the start of the third event on the world tour.

Igarashi said he and a handful of other professionals were surfing Margaret River’s famed Mainbreak at sunset when the estimated 4.5m-long great white appeared.

“We were in the water about 10 minutes before dark, which was a really bad idea,” Igarashi told Stab Magazine.

“We went over a wave and me and Caio (Ibelli) are looking out and see this fin emerging out of the water – it looked like a submarine – it kept growing,” Igarashi told Stab Magazine.

“Then it was flustering and thrashing, making so much water and then it just shot down and I looked over at Caio and he had the most scared face I’ve ever seen. No one said a word.”

Igarashi said the true size of the shark dawned on him when what he thought was a second marine creature several feet away from the main fin turned out to be its tail.

“I looked over and I’m like ‘wow there’s a dolphin next to the shark’, but it was actually the tail fin. It was seven or eight feet away from the main fin,” he said.

“We turned around and bolted in.”

Last July, Fanning’s J-Bay Open final against fellow Australian Julian Wilson was called off because of their incident.

Fanning had to fight off the shark and Wilson paddled over to help.

The scare is one reason Fanning is not surfing at the Margaret River Pro.

Thursday’s near-miss prompted the World Surf League to outline the shark safety measures in place at Margaret River.

Each competitor has an allocated jetski driver, plus there is a safety boat for equipment caddies and watercraft for all event photographers.

The event is also trialling a new prototype for underwater surveillance.

Mum still detained in Lebanon over kidnap

The Lebanese father of two children at the centre of an alleged kidnapping attempt says he won’t push for charges against their Australian mother, who remains in custody.

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Ali el Amien has been reunited with his children, but their mother, Sally Faulkner, has been detained by local police for allegedly kidnapping them using an international child recovery agency on a busy Beirut street.

A TV crew with the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes program who were in Lebanon to film the attempt have also been detained.

Mr el Amien says he won’t file charges against Ms Faulkner.

“She is the mother of my children,” Mr el Amien told The Guardian.

“I saw her and I was thinking, `Oh what did you do? What were you thinking’?

“I wasn’t angry. I was disappointed. You could have just showed up and said you wanted to see the kids. She knows that.”

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has confirmed the TV crew, including journalist Tara Brown, a producer and a cameraman, are still being held in detention.

“The question of charges is an issue that will be determined shortly,” she told reporters.

“I cannot understate the seriousness with which the Lebanese authorities are viewing the case, but we’re doing all we can to maintain contact with all of the parties involved.

“Given the sensitivities of this case and the fact children are involved, we are handling this very carefully.”

Mr el Amien has also said he had access to his ex-wife’s emails and knew that a recovery operation was being planned.

It is unknown what charges Ms Faulkner may face from Lebanese authorities.

Mr el Amien has previously told media he believes the recovery attempt put the children’s safety in jeopardy, with security camera footage appearing to show them being bundled into a car by several people in southern Beirut.

Ms Faulkner, from Brisbane, claims her ex-husband refused to bring them back to Australia after taking them on holiday to Beirut.

She has long hoped to get her children back to Australia and in October last year set up a petition calling on Ms Bishop to do more to help.

Reports that Lebanese officials have unconfirmed evidence that Nine paid more than $100,000 for the recovery operation were not confirmed by the network.

Australia’s largest Islamic school defiant despite uncertainty over funding cuts

The future of Australia’s largest Muslim School remains uncertain after $19 million in federal funding was cut off.

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Malek Fahd’s interim board says the school will re-open in term two, following financial management issues.

The last day of the school term is usually a cause for celebration, but for parents at Malek Fahd Islamic School in Sydney’s west, uncertainty remains.

On April 4, Malek Fahd lost an appeal to have $19 million in federal government funding reinstated, after it was found to have failed to comply with financial transparency measures.

The school has lodged an application with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, but a request for a stay, to allow funding to continue during that process, has been denied.

Rick Mitry is Malek Fahd Islamic School’s lawyer.

“I’m just quite frankly flabbergasted that the government hasn’t given [the school] the opportunity it needs, just a short time more to put the place into shape.”

The representative body, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils runs six schools across the country.

Malek Fahd and the Islamic School of Canberra have both had their federal funding permanently cut, after a government audit found they failed to comply with Commonwealth regulations.

Malek Fahd was found to be operating for profit and is now working to prove its independence from AFIC.

Although it’s a private school, Commonwealth funding accounts for more than 60 per cent of Malek Fahd’s funding.

Keysar Trad is the newly appointed treasurer of AFIC and says it has complied with government requests.

“There had been some wrongdoings, AFIC acknowledges the wrongdoings and AFIC did everything from this end to satisfy the Minister for Education. The rest of it is between the school and the Minister for Education.”

If Malek Fahd is forced to close its gates, 2,400 students will have to be absorbed into schools in the local area.

In a written statement today, the school’s interim board said it would re-register Malek Fahd as an existing entity to secure the “best chance” of continued funding.

It said the school will continue to operate next term and “will be working hard during term 2 to address outstanding issues and, ultimately, satisfy the Commonwealth that funding should be restored.”

The Commonwealth Department of Education and Training said it’s working to ensure those impacted by the funding decision receive appropriate support.

On Thursday night, two emergency meetings were called by Sydney’s Malek Fahd Islamic School – one for its interim board, and the other for parents to elect a group that will liaise with the board and address concerns about the school’s future.

This parent told SBS about her concerns.

“I’m just upset about the students and about how they’re feeling. Last night a girl almost had an anxiety attack in front of all the parents upset about what’s happening. The situation with the funding. Because it’s not fair. Why should they pay the price?”

 

 

Belgians seize key terror attack suspects

Mohamed Abrini, wanted for November’s Islamic State attacks in Paris, is among five people arrested in Brussels, Belgian prosecutors say, adding that he’s also tied to last month’s Brussels bombings.

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They said they were checking whether Abrini, a 31-year-old Belgian, was the “man in the hat” seen on security footage at Brussels airport on March 22 with two suicide bombers. Belgium’s public broadcasters said it was “more than likely” he was.

The arrests mark a signal success for Belgian security services, which have faced fierce criticism at home and abroad since Brussels-based militants organised the attacks that killed 130 in Paris on November 13 and 32 in Brussels four months later.

The arrests came a day after police issued new images and detail on the “man in the hat”. They follow the arrest in Brussels on March 18 of a key surviving suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam. He was seen driving with Abrini towards Paris two days before the attacks in the French capital.

Four days after Abdeslam was arrested, the brothers Brahim and Khalid El Bakraoui and a third local man, Najim Laachraoui, set off bombs that killed 32 people at Brussels airport and on a metro line running under European Union institutions.

Another suspect held on Friday may be a man seen with Khalid Bakraoui at a metro station shortly before Bakraoui blew himself up on a train on the same line downtown.

Prosecutors named him as Osama K, adding he had used the false name Naim al-Hamed.

Osama K. was identified by police near Ulm in Germany some weeks before the Paris attacks in a car rented by Salah Abdeslam, prosecutors said.

They did not confirm reports he was a Swede named Osama Krayem, a former fighter in Syria who may have returned to Europe along with other militants among refugees who reached the Greek island of Leros in September.

Abrini was arrested in the borough of Anderlecht, local media said, next to the western district of Molenbeek, which has been at the heart of Belgium’s troubles with Islamist militants.

He had been on Europe’s most wanted list since being seen on a motorway service station CCTV video driving with Abdeslam towards Paris from Belgium. The car they drove was used two days later in the attacks, in which Abdeslam’s elder brother was a suicide bomber.

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Abrini and Abdeslam had also rented an apartment used by some of the Paris suicide attackers, prosecutors said. Abrini’s fingerprints and DNA were found in two Brussels apartments, including the one from where three men, including the two bombers, took a taxi to the airport on March 22. It was later found to have been used as a bomb-making factory.

The man in the hat left the airport shortly after the twin suicide bombings and was tracked on CCTV walking into the city centre. On Thursday, investigators released new video footage of him and urged people to look for his discarded coat.