Wallabies staying stubbornly optimistic

Their pride may have taken a hit but the Wallabies insist their confidence hasn’t been mortally wounded by their latest Bledisloe Cup embarrassment.

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Players and coaches are back at work ahead of Saturday’s second Test against New Zealand at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium, which Australia must win to keep the series alive.

Barring a form reversal of epic proportions or a sudden All Blacks capitulation, that seems highly unlikely – especially considering the Wallabies haven’t won across the ditch since 2001.

But after picking through the wreckage of last weekend’s demoralising 54-34 belting in Sydney, defence coach Nathan Grey said the team was staying stubbornly optimistic.

“No, they haven’t been wounded,” Grey said.

“It’s a matter of looking where we can improve things.

“The guys are resilient, they’re professional football players. They go through situations where they see things go wrong.

“Us, as coaches, look at where we can improve things and we work together to find those solutions. This week has been no different.”

The Wallabies have set up camp in Christchurch and will shift their training operations to Dunedin on Thursday evening.

There is one statistic they can hang their hat on as they slug through the final days of New Zealand’s bone-chilling winter – although they lost, they were only one point short of the highest score ever posted against their great rivals.

But most of their tries came in ‘garbage time’, with the All Blacks up by as much as 54-6 early in the second half, and Steve Hansen admitted they let themselves be “seduced” by the scoreboard.

That sort of talk spells more danger for the Wallabies, who should be braced for another ferocious opening from a side looking to atone for an uncharacteristically incomplete performance.

“Starting off really well is a big focus for this week and with defence, just sticking to our structures and trusting each other to make our tackles and back each other up,” winger Henry Speight said.

“That’s one of the main focuses we’ve looked into. You can’t let in that much points and try and chase them down.”

Finally, AFL finals loom again for Bombers

Everything about Essendon’s 2000 AFL premiership team said “dynasty”.

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No-one could have foreseen the succession of barren Septembers that would follow.

Provided they do not slip up against Fremantle – not out of the question, given their round-15 disaster against Brisbane – the Bombers will return to the finals.

They are eighth and control their own destiny.

It will be Essendon’s first finals series since 2014 and only their third September appearance in the last decade.

Much will be made of how much it will mean to Essendon, given their turnaround from the supplements debacle.

But the disastrous 2011-12 supplements program was itself a direct function of their slumping finals performances over the previous decade.

In 2000, Essendon lost only one game on the way to their 16th and most recent premiership.

The next season, Leigh Matthews awoke Brisbane with his famous “if it bleeds, we can kill it” challenge and the Lions beat Essendon in the grand final.

Brisbane, not Essendon, would have a dynasty.

The Bombers made the next three finals, but clearly were in decline.

Kevin Sheedy’s legendary reign as coach ended in 2007 and replacement Matthew Knights led Essendon to the finals only once – a 96-point hammering from Adelaide in 2009.

Knights was gone at the end of 2010, James Hird took over and what happened next became the biggest scandal in AFL history.

Essendon made the 2013 finals, but were thrown out as part of the AFL’s punishment for the ill-fated supplements regime.

For a club renowned as one of the strongest in the AFL, Essendon’s finals record over the past 16 years is winnow, not whale.

ESSENDON’S POOR FINALS RECORD SINCE THE 2000 FLAG

* 12 finals, five wins

* Most recent finals win in 2004 – four losses since

* Most recent finals appearance in 2014

* No preliminary final since 2001

* Thrown out of the 2013 finals series because of the supplements debacle.

Barcelona victim remembered for his smiles

Julian Cadman’s family will always cherish his smiles.

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The Australian boy’s grieving relatives say they feel blessed to have had the funny and cheeky seven-year-old in their lives.

Julian was sightseeing with his mum in Barcelona when terrorists struck, killing the dual Australian-British national and seriously injuring the Sydney woman.

Jumarie “Jom” Cadman remains in a Barcelona hospital, with her husband Andrew by her side after he flew to Spain from Sydney.

She has undergone surgery but will need several operations, Mr Cadman’s employer and friend Scott Bowman says.

“I’ve been told that she will be physically OK in the long run,” said Mr Bowman, who has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help the family.

Julian was a much-loved and adored family member, the Cadmans said in a statement.

“He was so energetic, funny and cheeky, always bringing a smile to our faces.

“We are so blessed to have had him in our lives and will remember his smiles and hold his memory dear to our hearts.”

Students, staff and parents at Julian’s Sydney school have been devastated by the death of the year two student, who hugged his teachers as he said hello each day.

The community of St Bernadette’s Catholic Primary in Lalor Park are deeply feeling the loss of the much-loved student, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta executive director Greg Whitby said.

“Julian was a delightful little boy – curious and energetic with a kind and generous heart,” Mr Whitby said on Monday.

Julian had attended St Bernadette’s since kindergarten.

He attended preschool in England before moving to Sydney.

Ms Cadman is a 43-year-old Filipina whose husband is British, the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs said.

The family has been living in Australia for the past three or four years, it said.

Ms Cadman and Julian were in Barcelona for a family wedding.

They became separated when a van was driven into crowds on the busy Las Ramblas promenade on Thursday (Spanish time), killing 13 people and injuring more than 100.

The Cadman family thanked those who helped search for Julian, adding their thoughts and prayers were with all people affected by the attack.

Sydney woman Suria Intan, who was on the last few days of a European holiday with friends, was also seriously injured in the attack.

Two Melbourne men hit by the van, friends Robert Bogdanovski and Anthony Colombini, were released from hospital soon after.

Judge Trump’s substance, not style: Howard

The world should judge Donald Trump on substance and not style, says former Australian prime minister John Howard.

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Speaking at a US-Australia relations conference in Sydney on Monday evening, Mr Howard said the American president’s actions universally justified cause “for a positive response”.

“Its impossible to talk about our relationship without acknowledging that President Trump has brought a different style to the position,” Mr Howard told the function, hosted by Australian and US embassies and think tanks.

“It is very important to look to the substance of what the American administration is doing and not be distracted by the style and externalities.”

Mr Howard pointed to Mr Trump’s military response to the chemical attack on Syrian civilians by the Assad regime earlier this year as an example of good leadership.

“That was consummately executed, both in a military sense and also in a diplomatic sense and it won the applause of the world.”

Mr Howard went on to say he believed the seemingly continual turnover of senior White House staff was beginning to settle following this week’s ousting of controversial strategist Steve Bannon.

“I think I see a return to normalcy in the personnel,” Mr Howard said, prompting an subtle murmur.

Afterwards, his comments were described as “delusional” by audience member, Sydney University academic James Curran.

“I think he’s got the blinkers on with the US,” the history professor told AAP.

“He’s delusional in the belief that now that Bannon is gone, the Trump White House is slowly settling down into some kind of normalisation.”

Prof Curran challenged Mr Howard’s assertion that there was any “substance” behind Mr Trump’s unconventional style.

“I’m not too sure where the substance is, I haven’t seen it,” he said.

“Yes, he spoke about Syria strikes, well what was the strategy to back that up?”

Prof Curran said he didn’t believe Australia’s current prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was as confident in Mr Trump.

“As I understand it, Turnbull is privately scathing of Trump – privately scathing.”

Distinguished research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute Kori Schaki said while she believed Mr Howard had a point, she wasn’t convinced Mr Trump had yet proved it.

“I think style matters and I think words matter, so I’m not entirely persuaded by his argument,” Ms Schaki told AAP.

“But his point to watch what they do, not just what they’re saying – I do think he’s right about that.”

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.

Alleged Barcelona killer was ‘a normal factory worker’

Younes Abouyaaqoub, a 22-year-old Moroccan, was shot by police not far from Barcelona in northeastern Spain after a four-day manhunt for the man who allegedly drove a van through crowds in the popular Mediterranean city, killing 13.

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He didn’t stop there, fleeing his vehicle on foot after Thursday’s attack, hijacking a car and stabbing its driver to make his getaway.

“I’m happy and sad all at once,” Hassan Azzidi, a Moroccan factory worker, said in the Catalan town of Ripoll where many members of the terror cell that planned the Barcelona attack and another car rampage in the seaside resort of Cambrils came from.

“This had to end, because we’re living as if in a war, but at the same time, someone brainwashed such a young boy.

“Younes lived normally, he worked in a factory, he had everything… I don’t know how they manage to eat their brains.”

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Police suspect an imam of radicalising Abouyaaqoub, his younger brother Houssein and nine other young men.

The imam Abdelbaki Es Satty died in an explosion believed to have been accidentally detonated by the suspects themselves in their bomb factory in the seaside town of Alcanar, also in Catalonia.

Other suspects have either been killed by police or detained.

Determined

Like his elder brother, Houssein Abouyaaqoub is believed to have been shot dead by police.

He and four others drove their car into pedestrians in Cambrils early Friday morning, just hours after the Barcelona attack. One of them got out and stabbed a woman, who later died.

Since last week’s twin attacks, Ripoll — which has a population of 11,000, five percent of whom are Moroccan — is under shock.

In the Esperanza Moroccan cafeteria, card players — refusing to be named — say they feel “betrayed by the imam”, a man in his forties described as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” who influenced the boys.

Nuria Perpinya, who until two years ago worked on a programme to combat social exclusion, had helped some of these “children” do their homework.

And despite the carnage they caused, she has only “good memories” of “normal boys, completely integrated” in Catalan life — words echoed by many others in Ripoll.

In the Moroccan town of M’rirt, meanwhile, relatives of Abouyaaqoub accused the imam of radicalising the young man as well as his brother Houssein.

Younes used to visit his elderly grandfather every summer in the modest family home where he was born before leaving for Ripoll with his parents.

But the grandfather told AFP that “over the last two years, Younes and Houssein began to radicalise under the influence of this imam.”

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And the day of the attack, Younes showed steely determination.

After ploughing into people at great speed in Barcelona, he got out of the van, went through the city’s most famous food market La Boqueria and walked six kilometres for an hour and a half until he got to the university district.

There he hijacked a car, stabbed its 34-year-old driver Pau Perez, threw his body in the back seat before driving away.

At a police checkpoint, he sped through, injuring a police officer, before abandoning the car and disappearing.

He only re-emerged on Monday, when several people spotted him, reported it to the police, who eventually shot him dead.

Former refugee dedicating her life to helping others awarded national education prize

For former refugee Jolie Kaja, helping others is a natural instinct – it’s something she’s done her entire life.

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On Monday, Ms Kaja’s compassion and hard work were recognised as she was awarded the national Community Education Student of the Year award from Community Colleges Australia.

Growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, she worked as a Red Cross volunteer, but was forced to flee her home when war broke out 10 years ago.

She sought shelter at a refugee camp in Zambia, where she lived for seven years as a single mother looking after her four daughters.

“It was very hard. If you are not strong, it’s very… it’s terrible. The people who are living in the refugee camps, they’re suffering too much,” she says.

Jolie Kaja at the refugee camp in Zambia.SBS World News

Ms Kaja and her family were resettled as refugees in Coffs Harbour on the NSW north coast. It’s been a life-changing move and she says she’s grateful for the opportunities the community has given her. 

She is fluent in French, Swahili and several other African languages, but did not know a word of English when she arrived in Australia.

Then she took up English language classes at TAFE and went on to study aged care as a way to give back to the community.

One of her trainers, Amanda Johnston, from Coffs Coast Community College, says the staff was impressed by Ms Kaja’s ability and willingness to learn. 

“She came across as an extremely caring student, to start with, but she did have difficulties with language. And she overcame all those barriers and proved us all very wrong. She actually shone in the class and was extremely liked by all her classmates,” Ms Johnston stated.

Ms Kaja now works at the Saint Joseph’s Aged Care facility in Coffs Harbour as an Assistant in Nursing.

“I love to help other people because, when I help them, I feel happy,” she grins.

Jolie Kaja (left), the winner of the Aged Care Award.SBS World News

Her generous spirit rarely goes unnoticed by those around her.

Fellow aged care worker Jane Donovan offered her praise.

“Jolie is very compassionate. I saw that straight away in her; she’s very caring towards the residents.”

The NSW Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, presented the award to her.

“Jolie’s an example of a great refugee story: from being a refugee single mum of four, who’s used community college and the opportunity to learn some skills in a sector that is growing, like aged care,” he said.

“Her contribution will be like the many before her, refugees and migrants, that have made this nation the great nation that we are.”

Jolie Kaja with her supervisor.SBS World News

After all she’s achieved and all she has seen, Ms Kaja is determined to use her new skills to continue helping others.

“My dream is to take this knowledge to the Congo and Zambia to help other people,” she told SBS World News.

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