Archive for February 2019

Williams is still seeing red

DAVID Williams admits he paid the price for a clumsy striker’s challenge on Sunday when he was shown a red card in Melbourne Heart’s heart-stopping win over Brisbane.

And in the end the one-match ban is almost immaterial, as he would have been forced to miss Heart’s trip to Sydney FC though a foot injury sustained in that same match.

But what rankles Williams is that he was sent off for a challenge that, he argues, was no worse than the one committed on him by Brisbane goalkeeper Michael Theo that left him injured.

Williams got to the ball in the first half, just before the Brisbane shot stopper, to score Heart’s opener in the 3-2 win, but was nursing the injury from then on.

”There was no ball taken at all. His feet were a lot higher than mine. I’m not being petty about it, but the refs have to be consistent. It was a clear tackle without the ball on myself – doesn’t matter if it’s a goalkeeper or an outfield player. If that’s not a red, I don’t see that mine should be a red.”

■THE evolving Brisbane Roar has quickly moved to add attacking spark after significantly bolstering its defence with the return of Socceroo Jade North. On Wednesday, the start of the January transfer window, Roar signed livewire Julius Davies from Melbourne Victory.

Davies, 18, had been unused by Ange Postecoglou this season but new Roar coach Mike Mulvey believes the speedy midfielder can be the man to unlock the packed defences that have frustrated the defending champions.

Davies said: ”I felt like I was going to play more this season but obviously that wasn’t the case so I think this is a perfect opportunity for me to now establish myself.”

The Roar has struggled to score in losing eight of 15 games to be seventh on the A-League ladder.

”Julius has a bit of X-factor about him,” Mulvey said. ”He’s got the ability to break down defences, and that’s something that we’ve lacked in recent times.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Saudi beheads Sri Lankan maid for murdering baby

Saudi Arabia beheaded a Sri Lankan maid on Wednesday after she was convicted of murdering her employer’s baby, the interior ministry announced, despite calls for a stay of execution.

Rizana Nafeek smothered the infant to death after an argument with the child’s mother, her employer, the ministry statement carried by the official SPA news agency said.

She was beheaded in the Dawadmi province near the capital Riyadh.

Human Rights Watch had on Tuesday urged Saudi King Abdullah and the interior ministry to halt Nafeek’s execution.

The New York-based watchdog said that Nafeek, who was only 17 when the incident occurred in 2005, had retracted “a confession that she said was made under duress, and says that the baby died in a choking accident while drinking from a bottle.”

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa had sent an appeal to King Abdullah on Sunday “requesting a stay of the execution until a settlement can be reached between the baby’s family and a Saudi reconciliation committee,” said HRW.

HRW “opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty and finality,” it said. “Given the possibility of mistakes in any criminal justice system, innocent people may be executed.”

This is the second execution of the year in Saudi Arabia after a Syrian was beheaded on Tuesday for drug trafficking.

Last year, the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom beheaded 76 people, according to an AFP tally based on official figures. HRW put the number at 69.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under its strict version of sharia, or Islamic law.


The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Wife fears for life of man accused of terrorism in Syria

AN AUSTRALIAN man seized in Syria has been accused of interacting with a terrorist group by the Assad regime.

Mohammad Alkakouni’s family fear he may have been killed, as they have heard little about the Australian-Syrian national since he was captured more than six months ago.

The office of the Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, has repeatedly tried to confirm the welfare of Mr Alkakouni, whose wife and three children live in south-west Sydney.

A list provided to the United Nations Security Council in October by the Syrian government named Mr Alkakouni among more than 100 foreign nationals who have been arrested for terrorism-related offences. The list has been published online this week.

But Mr Alkakouni’s wife, Saphia, said there was no evidence that her husband, who ran a business making dips in the city of Dar’a, was plotting against the Assad regime. She said he was captured when Syrian police surrounded the area of the city where Mr Alkakouni worked on June 30. He was bundled into a mini-bus and has not been seen since.

”We have heard he might have been moved to a jail in Damascus, but we have no real answers,” Mrs Alkakouni said. ”We’re just so worried that he won’t come back alive.”

Mrs Alkakouni said she fled Syria with her 14-year-old daughter and sons aged 11 and five in September. They stayed with relatives in Lebanon before returning to Sydney, where they had lived until 2011.

”It’s been very stressful for the children, it’s hard for them to settle in school,” she said.

”We left our home there, with everything inside. It’s hard explaining why we don’t have what we used to have, but it’s much harder explaining why their father is not here any more.

The Sydney Muslim community leader Keysar Trad said Mr Alkakouni, whom he knew, may have been targeted because of his dual nationality.

”I’m shocked they would do something like this to a person like him, such a good person.

”[But] dual nationals are very valuable scalps for the regime because they can concoct all sorts of stories about them, like that they’re spying for another country.”

A spokesman for Mr Carr couldn’t confirm Mr Alkakouni’s identity. He said the family of an Australian man taken from Dar’a on June 30 had contacted the government asking for assistance.

The Syrian government claims Mr Alkakouni was involved with a terrorist group in the city, but the nature of his involvement is unclear as the UN translation of that part of the letter says it was ”illegible”.

Mr Carr’s spokesman said the Department of Foreign Affairs officials had attempted to contact the Syrian government through the Hungarian and Egyptian embassies, but had not been able to confirm anything about what the man had been accused of, where he was being held, or whether he was alive.

Mrs Alkakouni said she was not convinced the department had done everything it could to contact Syrian officials.

Three Australians have been killed in Syria in the past four months, with their families saying they had travelled to the troubled country as aid workers.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Weather watchers look to red-hot outback town to predict temperatures

IT’S perhaps no accident the tiny outback town of Meekatharra is an early warning site for the Bureau of Meteorology’s weather watchers as they plot what’s ahead for Australia’s great summer of heat.

Believed to mean “place of little water” in the local indigenous language, Meekatharra has been a place of little relief when it comes to scorching temperatures.

On Tuesday, the town in the mid-west region of Western Australia hit 47.1 degrees, smashing its previous maximum temperature by 1.4 degrees in a series that dates back to 1944.

“You don’t expect to break inland area temperatures by this amount,” David Jones, head of climate analysis at the bureau, said.

Measured at an elevation of roughly 500 metres, that heat would be the equivalent of 51-52 degrees at sea-level, he said.

And as a “source region” of Australia’s heat, Meekatharra, along with a handful of sites dotted across the country’s red-hot heart, offers the bureau signals of the heat ahead for the more populated areas to the south and east.

”This is where Australia’s air masses get very, very hot,” Dr Jones said. Forecasters ”look for these high temperatures there because that’s the source region for our heatwave”, he said.

Blistering heat in such places, with the help of northerly or westerly winds, means the mercury will climb in Adelaide, Melbourne or Sydney.

Nationally, important records are still tumbling. Monday and Tuesday posted consecutive record days for mean temperatures – averaging maximums and minimums – reaching 32.22 and 32.32 degrees, respectively.

The two results easily eclipsed a 40-year record of 31.86 degrees by almost half a degree.

“The extent and intensity of the heat now is clearly unprecedented for Australia for two consecutive days,” Dr Jones said.

Tuesday’s average minimum of 24.52 degrees was the second highest on record, and arguably more important for human health consequences than the maximums, said John Nairn, the bureau’s acting regional director of South Australia.

”Once you get higher minimum temperatures you have a problem in discharging the heat that day before you go into the next day,” he said.

Even if temperatures remain stable, ”your heat impact is rising because you are accumulating more heat both in the support infrastructure and the human body.”

In terms of climate change trends, the rising mean temperatures provide a clearer ”fingerprint”, not to mention the rate and scale of the new records being set, Dr Jones said.

“At least in the past we used to break records by small margins most of the time,” he said. “This tendency to break records by large margins is really something that’s emerging quite quickly globally,” he said, noting that the US revealed it had posted its hottest year on record for the lower 48 states, beating the previous record by about 0.6 degrees.

Looking ahead for Australia, cooler conditions are bringing relief to firefighters and the wider populations of the south-east. However, more hot temperatures – as signalled by Meekatharra – are on the way.

The bureau predicts temperatures may reach 48 at Marree in South Australia on Sunday, while Weatherzone says 50 may be reached on Sunday or Monday, with towns like Bourke in NSW candidates for that peak.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Rush to douse 130 blazes before new hot spell moves in

FIRE crews are racing to ensure that more than 130 bushfires still burning across NSW are under control before the forecast return of hot and windy conditions poses another serious threat to the state on the weekend.

While a southerly change on Wednesday brought much-needed cooler weather to more than 2000 firefighters battling blazes primarily in the state’s south and west, 30 fires last night remained uncontained.

Three were of particular concern to the Rural Fire Service; one that had a perimeter stretching to 44 kilometres at Deans Gap near Sussex Inlet, a 16,000-hectare scrub and grass fire near Yass, and a 9000-hectare blaze in the Kybeyan Valley, near Cooma.

The lower temperatures did not stop further outbreaks, including a fire near Lithgow, just west of the Blue Mountains, which burnt through more than 50 hectares and at one stage posed a serious threat to homes. Police believe that fire had been deliberately lit.

Early estimates say the fires, which have now burnt out more than 345,000 hectares of the state, have caused $1 million in stock losses, including the death of 10,000 sheep near Yass.

Only one home has been lost, a cottage in the Kybeyan Valley in southern NSW, and there has been no loss of life which the Premier, Barry O’Farrell, said was a ”remarkable tribute” to the planning of the RFS and the other emergency services. However, the RFS warned against complacency, with more dangerous weather forecast across NSW from Friday.

”We’re looking at deteriorating weather on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So the temperatures will be elevated again,” the RFS Deputy Commissioner, Rob Rogers, said.

”We’re going to go into another hot spell and we’re looking at potentially three days of that.”

The biggest threat on Wednesday night was posed by the grass and shrub fire burning in an easterly direction about 11 kilometres outside Yass.

The RFS said rural properties could be affected and fire crews would work through the night carrying out property protection. The township of Yass was at present not under threat. ”It certainly has the potential to cause quite significant devastation if it were to continue along its current path,” Mr Rogers said.

”But I’m confident we will protect the township of Yass.”

The fire that began on Tuesday at Deans Gap in Shoalhaven remained out of control, having burnt out more than 4000 hectares.

While it posed no immediate threat to property, the forecast return of high temperatures and strong winds on Friday meant that it still could pose a threat to the coastal village of Sussex Inlet and nearby Wandandian.

A watch-and-act advisory was also in place for the fire at Yarrabin near Cooma, which had a front of about 20 kilometres.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.