Monthly Archives: December 2018

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Djokovic on emotional crusade

‘‘At the end, life has much more important things than win or lose a tennis match,’’  Rafael Nadal said   after easing into the French Open quarter-finals. The point would not be lost on his chief rival  Novak Djokovic, who suffered a  bereavement when his childhood coach and ‘‘second mother’’ Jelena Gencic passed away at the weekend.

At the memorial service in Belgrade on  Monday, Djokovic’s real mother Dijana read out a letter from her son. Novak described Gencic,  who had coached him from the age of six,  as an angel and said ‘‘not being able to see you off makes me endlessly sad’’.

In other circumstances, Djokovic would surely have returned to Serbia. But the last time he spoke to Gencic,  a fortnight ago, he promised her  he would do his utmost to bring back the Coupe des Mousquetaires.

‘‘Listen, you have to focus,’’ she told him. ‘‘This is a tournament you need to win.’’ She also deliberately withheld the truth about her illness. At 77, she must have known  her breast cancer was becoming  serious, yet she said  she was in hospital for a routine check-up.

Djokovic’s  rivals will  be supportive and sympathetic.  Yet they must also be groaning at the idea of the world No.1 on an emotional crusade.  That, however, is exactly how Djokovic is  looking at this tournament.

‘‘I feel even more responsible to go all the way,’’ he said on Monday  night. ‘‘I want to do it for her, because she was a very special person in my life.’’

If Djokovic is to deliver on his promises, he has three more matches to win at this tournament after beating Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber on Monday.

He never quite found his most irresistible form, dropping the first set on a cold and windy afternoon  but, even so, Kohlschreiber never threatened an upset. Djokovic will next play Tommy Haas, who is the oldest man – at 35 – to reach the quarter-finals in Paris since 1971.

As for Nadal, he had a stroke of luck when his next opponent  Stan Wawrinka was pushed to the very limit in an extraordinary five-set match with Richard Gasquet.

Despite hitting a mind-boggling 92 winners, Wawrinka had to fight all the way to 8-6 in the decider.

In the women’s tournament,  Americans Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Jamie Hampton and Sloane Stephens all lost in straight sets, the latter 6-4, 6-3 to defending champion Maria Sharapova.  Serena Williams, who faces Svetlana Kuznetsova  in the quarter-finals, is still going strong.

The Daily Telegraph

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Discipline disintegrates in face of poor polls

Resigned: Kevin Rudd and Joel Fitzgibbon discuss a point during Question Time. Photo: Alex EllinghausenDespair within Labor is threatening a total breakdown of internal discipline, as MPs lecture the leadership and key figures either give up or express contempt for the lines they are instructed to use.

An emerging ”every man for himself” mindset appears to have taken hold in the federal caucus with most now resigned to a wipe-out on September 14.

As Tony Abbott reminded his charges to maintain their discipline and to take nothing for granted, despondent Labor MPs met in Canberra for one of the last remaining caucus meetings this term, weighed down by a Newspoll putting them 16 points behind the Coalition on 42 per cent to 58 per cent.

Another poll showed Labor’s vote in the supposedly safe Melbourne seat of Isaacs, held by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, collapsing.

In caucus, Ms Gillard was told to do more to counter Tony Abbott’s effective ”stop the boats” slogan and expose it as undeliverable given the complexities of dealing with Indonesia, Malaysia, and the extent of the people-smuggling trade.

Laurie Ferguson, a western Sydney backbencher aligned to the Prime Minister, said Labor was ”dead” in the west unless it could explain its position on asylum seekers better, in a direct reflection on Ms Gillard’s approach to date.

Mr Ferguson, who holds the seat of Werriwa by less than 7 per cent, is one of a slew of MPs – some of them seen as potential future leaders – facing defeat based on current polling.

With the government preparing to toughen the 457 skilled temporary migration visa scheme in a bid to appease unions and appear tougher on foreign labour competition, outgoing former minister Martin Ferguson called for more evidence of alleged employer rorting. Kevin Rudd also sought more information.

South Australian backbencher Nick Champion went the other way, calling for the 457 scheme to be initially capped and then scrapped. He said it left workers beholden to employers for fear of being left visa-less, and was therefore more akin to a ”guest-worker” program.

In other outbreaks of frankness:

NSW Senator Doug Cameron complained that a promised lift in the government’s standing with voters under Ms Gillard had not materialised

Former minister and ex-chief whip Joel Fitzgibbon ridiculed the ”talking points” handed to MPs as he laughed on breakfast TV about the government’s fate.

MPs resorted to humour to explain why they were now stuck with the leadership despite: ”If my aunt had testicles she’d be my uncle, wouldn’t she,” said Queensland MP Graham Perrett said.

Letters – Page 20

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Time is right for Maloney to make mark: Florimo

More than five years after recommending James Maloney to then Warriors coach Ivan Cleary, former NSW five-eighth Greg Florimo believes the Bears junior is ready to help the Blues to victory in the Origin opener.

Florimo, who played alongside Cleary at North Sydney, advised him of Maloney’s potential after witnessing the central coast product’s rise through the Bears junior ranks.

At the time, Maloney was playing lower grades at Parramatta and while he also had a one-year-stint at Melbourne, the 26-year-old playmaker eventually agreed to join the Warriors in 2010.

”He is one of the most competitive players in the game and if you look at the size of him you couldn’t imagine the way he plays the game,” said Florimo, who is the Bears chief executive. ”It blows me away that he is so direct and physical.

”He started out in our Jersey Flegg team and then halfway through the season he knocked Ben Black out of the halfback spot in the NSW Cup team.

”While he was at Parramatta [in 2008] I had a conversation with Ivan who had his eye on Liam Foran and I said ‘mate, I have got a better one for you’ and I think that started James Maloney’s conversation with the Warriors. I thought he proved a good buy for them.”

Since joining Sydney Roosters this season, Maloney’s game has gone to another level and Blues coach Laurie Daley has made no secret of the fact that his relationship with halfback Mitchell Pearce ensured both a place in the NSW team.

”They work well off each other,” Florimo said.

”James has got a wide array of tricks in his bag and I think as he has matured he has become more savvy at making the right decisions at the right times.

”I think that has helped to take a little bit of pressure off Mitchell because he was doing all of the running, kicking and passing, and now James has taken that load on one side of the field.”

Storm coach Craig Bellamy, who was disappointed to lose Maloney after just four NRL appearances for the club in 2009, also predicted he would perform well in his Origin debut.

”The way he plays his footy, he’s a real Origin player and there’s no better person to pick the NSW five-eighth than Laurie Daley,” Bellamy said.

”Laurie knows what it takes to be a good five-eighth at Origin level so I’m sure James will succeed and do a really good job.

”He really kicked on over there with the Warriors and had a couple of tremendous seasons and it looks like he’s gone to another level with the Roosters,” Bellamy said.

”He’s obviously worked very hard, he didn’t have an easy ride and now he’s got the ultimate reward, playing for NSW.

”I’m sure he will make a good stick of it; he’s a tough, gritty player and he’s got skills and a good kicking game.”

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Fort Hood shooting suspect to represent himself in court

The army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009 will represent himself when his trial begins next month, the latest twist in a long-delayed case that is likely to provide him with a stage to promote his radical Islamic beliefs.

The judge overseeing the court-martial of Major Nidal Malik Hasan approved his request to release his court-appointed military lawyers and determined that he was physically and mentally capable of representing himself. Mr Hasan was shot by police at the time of the attack and is paralysed below the chest.

He has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the November 2009 shooting in Killeen, Texas. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

Representing himself means he may cross-examine witnesses and there is also the possibility that he will interview prospective jurors when selection of the panel starts.

Experts said Mr Hasan could not do as effective a job defending himself as his lawyers have done. His lead lawyer, Lieutenant-Colonel Kris Poppe, helped him keep the beard that became a focus of pretrial hearings and delayed the trial.

Mr Hasan said he grew his beard out of devotion to his faith, in violation of army grooming regulations. The previous judge overseeing the case had ordered Mr Hasan to be forcibly shaved, but a military appeals court removed the judge because of an appearance of bias.

”One possibility is that he wants to use this trial as a platform, and he wants to make a spectacle of it,” said Geoffrey Corn, a professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston.

Mr Hasan, a US-born Muslim of Palestinian descent, has so far been a calm presence in the courtroom, referring to the judge as ”ma’am” and removing his knit cap before she enters the room.

New York Times

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Cameron push to tackle radicals

British Prime Minister David Cameron has launched an inquiry into whether universities, prisons, Islamic charities and the internet have been allowed to become a ”conveyor belt” of Islamist radicalisation of the kind that apparently motivated the hacking death of a soldier on a London street last month.

Mr Cameron told MPs that Britain needed to do a better job of understanding the root causes of ”an extremist ideology that perverts and warps Islam to create a culture of victimhood and justified violence”.

He said that a new taskforce was convened on Monday to tackle the problem and that a parliamentary panel would look into whether the May 22 hacking attack on soldier Lee Rigby could have been prevented.

The group is to focus on ways of combating the radicalisation of young people and to gauge the influence of clerics seeking to recruit militants in prisons, schools, colleges and mosques.

Government officials said it would meet once a month.

Mr Cameron described the killing of Drummer Rigby as ”a despicable attack on a soldier who stood for our country and way of life”, but cautioned against any recriminations against Muslims.

”It was a betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities who give so much to our country,” he said, saluting the ”spontaneous condemnation” of the attack from mosques and Muslim groups across the country.

Only a few hours before Mr Cameron spoke, the two primary suspects in the assault appeared in court for procedural hearings. One of the men, Michael Adebolajo, held and kissed a copy of the Koran during the brief proceedings and asked the judge to address him as Mujahid Abu Hamza, according to reporters who were present.

The Arabic word mujahid is used to describe someone who has taken up jihad, and in this case would appear to confirm that Mr Adebolajo sees himself as engaged in a religiously justified war of self-defence against those who attack Muslims.

The 28-year-old was filmed shortly after the attack in south-east London carrying butcher’s knives covered in blood and describing the death of Drummer Rigby as vengeance for the killings of Muslims by British soldiers in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. He and his alleged co-conspirator, 22-year-old Michael Adebowale, were shot and wounded by police before their arrest. Both are British citizens of Nigerian descent.

”When young men born and bred in this country are radicalised and turned into killers, we have to ask some tough questions about what is happening in our country,” Mr Cameron told the House of Commons. ”It is as if for some young people there is a conveyor belt to radicalisation that has poisoned their minds with sick and perverted ideas. We need to dismantle this process at every stage – in schools, colleges, universities, on the internet, in our prisons, wherever it is taking place.”

Mr Cameron said authorities have tried aggressively to counter extremism by expelling radical preachers and by patrolling the internet. He noted the British government has taken down 5700 items of ”terrorist material” from the internet and nearly 1000 more hosted on servers outside Britain.

Drummer Rigby’s death was the first on British soil as a result of Islamist terrorism since the July 2005 suicide bombings in London.

However, 18 people have already been convicted this year of planning terrorist attacks, including one plot that failed only because the intended target, a rally by members of an anti-Muslim far-right group, ended earlier than expected. The plotters were caught afterwards because of an unrelated traffic violation.

Los Angeles Times, New York Times

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