Cartwright queries Titans’ NRL board

Former Gold Coast coach John Cartwright has questioned the leadership and experience of the Titans NRL board following the sacking of Neil Henry.

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The Titans board agreed to end Henry’s tenure with the club a year early following a board meeting on Saturday, before the decision was confirmed on Monday.

The Titans have six highly-accomplished business people on their board, who have helped lift the club out of the financial sponsorship doldrums they found themselves in two years ago.

But none of the group have previously played or coached in the NRL.

And Cartwright, who was released mid-season by the club in 2014, questioned if the football inexperience had been evident throughout the past month.

“It’s probably a sign of bigger issues,” he told Fox League’s NRL360.

“Some of the stuff that has come out of there over the past few weeks, it’s contradicting and there seems to be a lack of a leadership there … It’s inexperience perhaps on the board.

“Do you go total business orientated people or do you need some football people on the board?

“The biggest thing just looking at it, it looks like a lack of leadership.”

Two board members remain from Cartwright’s final year at the club, while the rest have been the subject of an NRL clean out after they took over the embattled franchise in 2015.

The decision to sack Henry comes following a feud with star player Jarryd Hayne, who was brought to the club late last year.

Again Cartwright, who is now an assistant at Manly, believed this was an indication of the board’s inexperience.

“When they signed Jarryd 12 months ago there was a lot of people with their arms around him getting photos,” Cartwright said.

“There were a lot of people then claiming that Jarryd was the greatest signing the club has ever made.

“But now, 12 months later – again I think it comes back to leadership.”

Cartwright’s comments come after foundation player Matt Rogers revealed to News Corp he applied for a spot on the Titans’ board two years ago, only to be knocked back by a recruitment officer who didn’t know his background in the game.

“The club lacks leadership in numerous areas,” Rogers said.

“I can’t see the Gold Coast fulfilling its potential until they get it right at the top end.”

Bill Cosby hires Michael Jackson’s lawyer

The lawyer who successfully defended Michael Jackson against child molestation charges will represent Bill Cosby when he is retried on sex assault charges later this year, the comedian’s spokesman says.

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Tom Mesereau, one of three lawyers named as forming Cosby’s new legal team, is best known for helping to secure an acquittal for Jackson in the pop star’s 2005 child molestation trial in California.

Cosby, 80, was long beloved by US television audiences for his family-friendly style of comedy, before dozens of women came forward to accuse him of a series of sexual assaults dating back to the 1960s.

He is due to be retried beginning on November 6 on charges of sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former administrator at his alma mater Temple University, at his Philadelphia-area home in 2004.

Cosby denies wrongdoing, saying any sexual contact he may have had with his accusers was consensual.

The jurors who heard Cosby’s first trial in the Constand case were unable to reach a verdict and Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven O’Neill declared a mistrial in May after 52 hours of deliberations that often stretched late into the night.

Besides Mesereau, lawyers Kathleen Bliss and Sam Silver will represent Cosby, according to a statement by Andrew Wyatt, Cosby’s publicist, on Monday.

Cosby is due in court on Tuesday for a hearing on changes to his legal representation after both his lawyers from the original trial, Brian McMonagle and Angela Agrusa, withdrew.

Each has declined to give reasons for withdrawing, but toward the end of the trial they appeared at odds with Wyatt, who would deliver impromptu news conferences outside the courthouse without McMonagle’s knowledge.

At one point during jury deliberations, the judge expressed annoyance that Wyatt had told reporters the time had come to declare a mistrial, prompting McMonagle to make it clear that Wyatt did not speak for the legal team.

The peak of Cosby’s career came in the 1980s when he earned a reputation as “America’s favourite dad” for his role as Heathcliff Huxtable on the TV hit The Cosby Show.

While dozens of women have accused Cosby of assaulting them, sometimes after plying them with drugs and alcohol, all but one of the alleged incidents was too old to be the subject of criminal prosecution. He was charged in the Constand case in December 2015, just days before the statute of limitations was to run out on her claim.

Islamic State attacks rose in 2016: study

Although Islamic State is losing fighters and territory in Iraq and Syria, it remained the world’s deadliest militant organisation last year, according to a report from the University of Maryland.

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Islamic State operatives carried out more than 1,400 attacks last year and killed more than 7,000 people, a roughly 20 per cent increase over 2015, according to the university’s Global Terrorism Database. The increase occurred even as overall militant attacks worldwide and resulting deaths fell by about 10 per cent in 2016.

IS claimed credit for the van attack on Thursday in Barcelona that killed 13 people.

Senior US counterterrorism officials said the latest attacks fit a pattern in which IS adapted to significant battlefield setbacks in Syria and Iraq, where its control of territory peaked in August 2014, by intensifying calls for attacks by individuals or small groups using whatever means possible.

In addition to violence tied to IS’ core group in Iraq and Syria, other groups affiliated with it carried out more than 950 attacks last year that killed nearly 3,000 people, the university report said.

In 2016, four additional groups pledged allegiance to Islamic State. Affiliates in Bangladesh, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan-Pakistan and the Philippines killed significantly more people and executed more attacks than in the previous year, the report said.

Most of the affiliates were already engaged in conflicts before allying with Islamic State, said a senior State Department official. Islamic State “was able to manipulate and hijack” them, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The group also has issued more calls for its followers to carry out lone-wolf attacks such as those that occurred in recent years in Orlando, Florida, San Bernardino, California, London and Manchester and Nice.

“During this same time period, we (also) saw an increase in the number of individual assailants,” said Erin Miller, author of the University of Maryland study.

Eclipse turns day into night across the US

Millions of Americans have gazed in wonder through telescopes, cameras and disposable protective glasses as the moon blotted out the sun in the first full-blown solar eclipse to sweep the US from coast to coast in nearly a century.

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“It’s really, really, really, really awesome,” said nine-year-old Cami Smith as she watched the fully eclipsed sun from a gravel lane near her grandfather’s home at Beverly Beach, Oregon.

The temperature dropped, birds quieted down, crickets chirped and the stars came out in the middle of the day as the line of darkness raced 4200 kilometres across the continent in about 90 minutes, bringing forth oohs, aahs, shouts and screams.

In Boise, Idaho, where the sun was more than 99 per cent blocked, people clapped and whooped, and the street lights came on briefly, while in Nashville, Tennessee, people craned their necks at the sky and knocked back longneck beers at Nudie’s Honky Tonk bar.

At the Nashville Zoo, the giraffes and rhinos started running around crazily when the sun came back. Several minor-league baseball teams – one of them, the Columbia Fireflies, outfitted for the day in glow-in-the-dark jerseys – briefly suspended play.

At the White House, despite all the warnings from experts about the risk of eye damage, President Donald Trump took off his eclipse glasses and looked directly at the sun.

It was the most-observed and most-photographed eclipse in history, with many Americans staking out prime viewing spots and settling on to blankets and lawn chairs to watch, especially along the path of totality – the line of deep shadow created when the sun is completely obscured except for the delicate ring of light known as the corona.

The shadow – a corridor just 96 to 113km wide – came ashore in Oregon and then travelled diagonally across the Midwest to South Carolina, with darkness from the totality lasting only about two to three wondrous minutes in any one spot.

The rest of North America was treated to a partial eclipse, as were Central American and the top of South America.

With 200 million people within a day’s drive from the path of totality, towns and parks saw big crowds. Skies were clear along most of the route, to the relief of those who feared cloud cover would spoil this once-in-a-lifetime moment.

NASA reported 4.4 million people were watching its TV coverage midway through the eclipse, the biggest livestream event in the space agency’s history.

Astronomers were giddy with excitement. NASA and other scientists watched and analysed from telescopes on the ground and in orbit, the International Space Station, aeroplanes and scores of high-altitude balloons beaming back live video.

Citizen scientists monitored animal and plant behaviour as day turned into twilight. Thousands of people streamed into the Nashville Zoo just to watch the animals’ reaction and noticed how they got noisier at it got darker.

The path of totality passed through 14 states, entering near Lincoln City, Oregon, at 1.1pm, moving over Casper, Wyoming; Carbondale, Illinois; and Nashville, Tennessee, and then exiting near Charleston, South Carolina, at 2.4pm east coast time.

Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois saw the longest stretch of darkness: 2 minutes and 44 seconds.