Greater Western Sydney Giants’ Irish import Brid Stack cleared of major injury after horror tackle


The good news is Stack will make a full recovery, with surgery not required nor any nerve damage revealed by scans.

The bad news is she has a stable fracture to the C7 vertebra in her neck, which will put her in a neck brace in the short term and put her out of action for six weeks.

That means she is highly unlikely to figure in GWS’ AFLW campaign, which is slated to begin in Perth against Fremantle on January 31 subject to border re-openings.

“This was an incredibly unfortunate accident and we’re thankful that Bríd has avoided serious injury,” said the Giants’ head of women’s football Bri Harvey.

“Bríd and her family have made incredible sacrifices to come to Australia to play in the AFL Women’s competition and we will be supporting them all the way through her recovery.

“We’d like to thank all those who provided Bríd with the best possible care both at the ground and in hospital across Sunday.”

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The Giants had been pursuing Stack’s signature for three years after a recommendation from Cora Staunton, another ex-Gaelic football icon and a teammate at GWS.

An 11-time All-Ireland winner with Cork, Stack retired in 2018, but accepted the overtures from GWS late last year and brought her husband and one-year old son to Australia with her.

The Giants said in a statement Stack would stay in the country and remain a “key part of the team” as she rehabs her injury.

GWS will be based in Adelaide for at least the next two weeks, having previously shifted their AFLW operations to Albury when the Victorian border was closed to NSW residents. It’s a disrupted pre-season which Stack described as a “stressful situation” to the Irish Examiner last week.

“Thankfully it all worked out and [her husband and son] are able to be with me and we’re able to experience this as a family, which I think is just going to be a once in a lifetime kind of opportunity,” she said.

“I am very competitive and I want to see what I’m made of so when this opportunity presented itself, it really was a no brainer. I really want to be immersed in a professional setup and see everything that it has to offer and challenge myself with a new sport. I just hope that I do myself and my family proud and the team justice going forward.”

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Virgin eyes ‘former glory’ after major C-suite appointments


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“There’s an industry here that needs to be rebuilt,” she said. “So I put quite a lot of priority on people coming in who were full of energy and passion, who don’t mind change and can handle navigating uncertainty without difficulty.”

“It’s just fantastic to have a great team, a lot of energy and passion, ready to go and help Virgin Australia get back to its former glory.”

Virgin is currently in the process of rebuilding and relaunching itself as a mid-market carrier with the backing of private equity giant Bain Capital following its collapse into administration last year at the hands of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In tandem, the business is also dealing with a bruised and battered aviation industry with few prospects of international travel in the next 6 to 12 months, and heightened competition from fellow carrier Qantas and new rival Regional Express (Rex).

The recovery has been further stymied by intermittent closures of state borders as coronavirus outbreaks continue to occur, with Ms Hrdlicka calling for a unified approach by local premiers.

“Domestic borders, that’s been really frustrating because there isn’t a common framework that enables both the general public as well as airlines to understand and be able to plan what’s coming,” she said.

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“Each state’s acting as an independent country, and is basically running by its own rules, which has added a huge amount of complexity to aviation. It’s hugely devastating to the tourism industry, and it’s a bit unsettling for everyday people trying to get between one place to another.”

Last week, Qantas boss Alan Joyce declared there could only be two survivors in the domestic market out of his business, Virgin and Rex, with fierce competition expected between the three on the lucrative Sydney to Melbourne route.

Ms Hrdlicka said all discussion over the potential future victors of Australia’s post-pandemic aviation sector was “academic”, noting there were numerous bridges to cross before that could be determined.

“The reality is that there’s a lot of work that all airlines need to do to rebuild the industry once the borders are open, and there’s a level of collaboration that’s going to be required, and then there’s going to be huge competition,” she said.

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Judges seek recusal as major Italian mafia trial kicks off



Prosecutor Nicola Gratteri stands outside during a pause in a trial against more than 320 suspected ‘Ndrangheta mafia mobsters and their associates, accused of an array of charges, in Lamezia Terme, Italy, January 13, 2021. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

January 13, 2021

By Yara Nardi and Gabriele Pileri

LAMEZIA TERME, Italy (Reuters) – One of Italy’s largest-ever mafia trials kicked off on Wednesday with more than 330 suspected mobsters and their associates facing an array of charges, including extortion, drug trafficking and theft.

The case targets the ‘Ndrangheta clan, which is based in Calabria, the toe of Italy’s boot, and is considered by prosecutors to be the most powerful mafia group in the country, easily eclipsing the more famous Cosa Nostra gang in Sicily.

The trial is being held in a converted call-centre in the Calabrian city of Lamezia Terme, with metal cages installed for the defendants and rows of desks set up for the hundreds of lawyers, prosecutors and spectators expected to attend.

But the initial hearing hit an immediate snag after the three judges assigned to the case asked to be recused, saying they had been involved in earlier aspects of the investigation.

Their request will be reviewed by a separate court, which will delay proceedings for several days, lawyers said.

Many of the accused are white-collar workers, including lawyers, accountants, business people, local politicians and policemen, who chief prosecutor Nicola Gratteri says willingly aided the ‘Ndrangheta in building its crime empire.

Speaking to reporters as he entered the courthouse, Gratteri said the investigation had encouraged locals to speak out.

“In the last two years we have seen a surge in lawsuits from oppressed entrepreneurs and citizens, victims of usury, people who for years have lived under the threats of the ‘Ndrangheta,” said the prosecutor, who has spent more than 30 years fighting the mob.

The state will call on 913 witnesses and draw on 24,000 hours of intercepted conversations to support the myriad charges. Gratteri said he expected the trial would take a year to complete, with the court due to sit six days a week.

Another 92 suspects have opted for a fast-track trial in the same case, with their hearings due to start later in January, while a much smaller group of defendants will stand trial in February over five murders – including the killing of a mafia hitman who was shot dead because he was gay, prosecutors say.

The last time Italy tried hundreds of alleged mafiosi simultaneously was in 1986 in Palermo in a case that represented a turning point in the fight against Cosa Nostra, marking the beginning of the group’s sharp decline.

That trial had a huge impact because it targeted numerous mob families. The Calabrian trial focuses primarily on just one group – the Mancuso clan from the province of Vibo Valentia – leaving much of the ‘Ndrangheta’s top hierarchy untouched.

“The road ahead is still very long, but we mustn’t give up because there are thousands of people who believe in us. We can’t let them down,” Gratteri told Reuters.

(Reporting and writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Mike Collett-White)



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Infrastructure boss holds senior racing club board position, as it embarks on major development | The Canberra Times


news, act-politics, Major Projects Canberra, Canberra Racing Club, thoroughbred park, Gungahlin light rail, Duncan Edghill

The head of the ACT’s infrastructure department holds a senior committee position at Canberra Racing Club, which is embarking on a major residential and commercial development at Thoroughbred Park. Major Projects Canberra and the racing club say Duncan Edghill has made all of the necessary conflicts of interest disclosures and is not involved in any dealings between the government agency and private organisation. But the presence of Mr Edghill, who is charged with overseeing light rail’s expansion and the Canberra hospital upgrade, on the racing club’s board does raise questions, particularly given the club’s planned transformation of its Flemington Road racecourse precinct. The Canberra Times last month reported the club’s masterplan flagged up to 3200 homes on the site, as well as commercial space and possibly a hotel and aged-care complex. The racecourse would be retained. The 12-to-15-year project could inject up to $1 billion into the Canberra economy and support more than 2000 jobs, according to an internal government brief. The club has been keen to leverage its proximity to the Gungahlin light rail line to spur a redevelopment of Thoroughbred Park, which chief executive Andrew Clark said was key to the organisation and sport’s long-term future. Mr Edghill was one of the key people in charge of delivering the first stage of light rail in his previous role as Transport Canberra boss. The racing club’s records show Mr Edghill was first appointed to the committee on June 30, 2019 – about two months after light rail took its first passengers. He was elected treasurer of the racing club last year. Mr Edghill moved from Transport Canberra to head up the newly created major projects agency in July 2019, initially on an interim basis and then full-time. As chief projects officer, he is charge of the procurement and delivery of the ACT government’s infrastructure program, an agenda headlined by light rail’s second stage to Woden and the $500 million Canberra Hospital expansion. The infrastructure agency would not be responsible for assessing or approving the racing club’s masterplan or any development applications related to the Thoroughbred Park precinct revamp. Those decisions would fall to the ACT’s independent planning and land authority. The racing club plans to start community consultation on the proposal in February. It hopes to gain government approval within three years. In statements to The Canberra Times, Major Projects Canberra and Canberra Racing Club indicated Mr Edghill’s involvement with the two organisations was above board. A racing club spokeswoman said Mr Edghill, who fills the treasurer’s position on a volunteer basis, had made all of the necessary conflicts of interests to both parties and abided by confidentiality obligations. Mr Edghill hadn’t provided the club with any information which wasn’t already publicly available, the spokeswoman said. She said Mr Edghill did not represent the club in talks with the ACT government and had on a number of occasions stepped out of board meetings when discussions turned to the relationship between the two. However, she confirmed he had been involved in committee discussions about the proposed Thoroughbred Park redevelopment when there was “no conflict”, such as on matters related to club members and trainers. “Mr Edghill’s role within the ACT government does not involve any matters relating to the Canberra Racing Club, and Mr Edghill always acts with professionalism and integrity in disclosing any potential conflicts and adhering to his confidentiality obligation,” she said. “The Canberra Racing Club does not have access to information from Mr Edghill which is not already in the public domain, but values the leadership, project management and financial experience Mr Edghill brings to the committee – and by extension to the Canberra community – on a voluntary basis from his years in the private and public sectors.” A Major Projects Canberra spokeswoman confirmed Mr Edghill had made a conflict of interest disclosure to the head of the ACT public service, and did not represent the racing club in any meetings or correspondence with territory officials. ANU emeritus professor John Wanna, who is an expert in public administration, said it was reasonable, and not uncommon, for senior public servants to sit on boards of non-government organisations. What was important was how they managed potential conflicts of interest, he said. “On all of these kinds of matters there could be perceptions of too much insider knowledge,” he said. “But from my experience, they often take great steps to ensure that everything is above board.” A spokesman for Chief Minister Andrew Barr said Mr Edghill had met the requirements on senior public servants to disclose private interests.

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‘Major incident’ declared in London as hospitals on the brink of being overrun



London Mayor Sadiq Khan has declared a major incident with the city’s hospitals on the brink of being overrun.

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US tops 4000 daily COVID-19 deaths; London declares major incident


In the US, the scourge has left more than 365,000 dead and caused nearly 22 million confirmed infections.

Cases and deaths are soaring in California, Arizona, Texas and Florida. Those four states had a combined nearly 1500 deaths and 80,000 cases on Thursday.

Thursday ranks as one of the deadliest days in US history, with the COVID-19 toll far outstripping the nearly 3000 killed on 9/11 and exceeding the combined total of nearly 3900 US lives lost on D-Day and at Pearl Harbor.

Many hospitals in Los Angeles and other hard-hit areas are struggling to keep up and warned they may need to ration lifesaving care. Many nurses are caring for more sick people than typically allowed under the law after the state began issuing waivers to the strict nurse-to-patient ratios.

In Los Angeles County’s Henry Mayo New Hall in Valencia, nurse Nerissa Black said the hospital was overwhelmed with patients, likening the situation to New York’s at the beginning of the pandemic.

She was assigned six patients but could spend only about 10 minutes with each of them per hour, including the time it takes for her to change her protective gear.

“It’s very hard to decide which one should I go see first: the patient who has chest pain or the patient whose oxygen level is dropping,” she said.

At St Joseph Hospital south of Los Angeles, nurses in the COVID-19 ward described being overwhelmed as the deaths mount.

“Just today we had two deaths on this unit. And that’s pretty much the norm,” said Caroline Brandenburger.

“I usually see one to two every shift. Super sad.”

She added: “They fight every day, and they struggle to breathe every day even with tons of oxygen. And then you just see them die. They just die.”

The outbreak has taken another turn for the worse in Arizona, with the state now leading the nation with the highest COVID-19 diagnosis rate over the past week.

More than 132,000 people nationwide are hospitalised with the virus.

London declares a major incident

Britain has the world’s fifth-highest official death toll from COVID-19 at nearly 80,000, and the 1325 deaths reported within 28 days of a positive test on Friday surpassed the previous daily record from last April.

“Each life lost to this virus is a tragedy, but sadly we can expect the death toll to continue to rise until we stop the spread,” said William Welfare, director for the COVID-19 response at Public Health England.

A further 68,052 COVID-19 cases were reported – also a new daily high – meaning almost three million people have now tested positive for the disease in the United Kingdom, which has a total population of around 67 million.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, from the opposition Labour Party, said hospital beds in the capital would run out within the next few weeks because the spread of the virus was “out of control”.

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“We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point,” Khan said.

The designation of “major incident” is usually reserved for attacks or grave accidents, notably those likely to involve “serious harm, damage, disruption or risk to human life or welfare, essential services, the environment or national security”.

London’s last “major incident” was the Grenfell Tower fire in a high-rise residential block in 2017, when 72 people died.

AP, Reuters

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Major Queensland highway severed by flash flooding



Queensland’s major highway has been severed in both directions due to flooding for communities north of Townsville.

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Major bushfire continues to burn north of Perth as firefighters brace for ‘challenging’ days ahead


The spread of a dangerous bushfire burning north of Perth has been slowed but authorities fear extreme weather conditions in coming days will continue to challenge efforts to bring it under control.

The Red Gully fire has destroyed 9,500 hectares in the shires of Gingin and Dandaragan and has a perimeter of more than 100 kilometres after burning since Saturday.

An emergency warning remains in place for some local communities with most concerns held for the residential developments at Ocean Farms Estate and nearby Seaview.

People still in those areas, as well as residents at Lancelin, are strongly advised to leave if they can do so safely.

Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said the efforts of ground crews and aerial support managed to halt the western flank of the fire about three kilometres from Ocean Farms Estate.

But he said there was still a considerable amount of work to be done in the face of more hot, dry and windy conditions in the days ahead.

“The next two or three days are going to be particularly challenging for fire services,” he said.

“These conditions are not something we’ve seen for the last two or three years.

“There hasn’t been that typical strong easterly weather that we’ve been experiencing the last four days with gusts of up to 80 kilometres an hour.

“It makes it incredibly difficult for firefighters. Not only is it not safe to put firefighters at the head of the fire in those types of circumstances but it’s also incredibly difficult once fire hops over, to be able to get around and put it out.”

A fast-moving bushfire continues to rage north of Perth threatening lives and homes.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services

There have been no reports of homes being lost, but pine plantations, olive groves and some sheds are believed to have been damaged.

About 200 firefighters are battling the blaze with strong aerial support, including two of the large air tankers flown in from Victoria.

Mr Klemm said planning was also underway to bring fresh firefighters down from the Pilbara and Kimberley regions as well as from other cooler parts of WA should they be needed.

Nine fires were still burning on Wednesday fanned with conditions across those areas expected to remain very hot ahead of a cooler change on Sunday.

In other areas, a watch and act warning remains for a fire at Mundaring, east of Perth, with that blaze contained but not controlled, and bushfire advice messages are current for fires at Geraldton, north of Perth, and at Nowergup, north of the city.

Wednesday’s continuing emergency followed an easing of the danger on Monday after a string of fires threatened various areas to the north and south of Perth, on the state’s southwest coast and in the Goldfields.

Premier Mark McGowan called on everyone in the fire danger zones to remain vigilant.

“I urge all Western Australian to understand and acknowledge that this is a dangerous period,” he said.



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Assassination of Major General Soleimani, a blessing from U.S. to Daesh/ISIS & other terror organisations


 

These days Iran honors the fallen hero, Martyr Major General Qassem Soleimani, the Commander of the Quds Force, an official branch of the armed forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran – and his companions, who were assassinated on the third of January 2020 at Baghdad International Airport.

For every Iranian and even those outside of Iran in countries who have suffered from terrorism, the name of General Soleimani signifies unmatched bravery, and selfless sacrifice against terrorism.

Throughout the last decade, our region has witnessed the rise of ISIS through their rapid advancements and occupation of territories, which involved countless atrocities against Christians, Yazidis and Muslims civilians. However, with the resistance made by a variety of courageous and devoted soldiers lead by Qassem Soleimani, ISIS’s reign and terror came to an eventual end.

This brave and Godly man fought by his heart and soul against the Saddam regime’s invasion on Iran back in 1980 to defend his country against the invaders. Likewise, Soleimani decided to accept the formal request of the governments of Iraq and Syria for assistance and visited the high danger zones in person.

Soleimani’s assassination helped shine light on the Trump Administration’s true colors. The assassination on Soleimani was also a blessing for ISIS and other terrorist groups in the region, who welcomed his assassination, calling it “an act of divine intervention that benefitted them”. It is clear that the costs of this terror attack for the American government proved to be way higher than its benefits. 

It weakened the fight against Takfiri terrorism in the entire region and the world, and also tarnished the process of managing the current conflicts and crisis in the Middle East. Soleimani sought to reduce tensions and differences within the region, and his last visit to Iraq was part of his efforts to resolve the tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia’s relations.

The attack to assassinate Martyr Soleimani was a “terrorist act”, the legitimacy and legality of which cannot be justified on any ground or basis. The designation of a nation’s armed forces as a “foreign terrorist organization” is unlawful and cannot justify any threat or use of force against them.

The irresponsible policies and unlawful practices of the current US administration continue to not only endanger the very foundations of international law and order, but also pose a threat to overall global peace and security. The international community should not condone or tolerate this situation and must demand that the United States put an end to its continued unlawful and destabilizing measures in an already volatile region that is the Middle East, by withdrawing its forces from the region.

The United States has attempted to portray itself as an advocate for dialogue and peace in the region. It is clear that such an assertion is mere duplicity and void of any sincerity. The imposition of illegal and inhumane sanctions, especially in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic by the United States, as well as its other hostile practices against Iran runs contrary to such a claim.

Warning about any military adventurism or further acts of terror against Iran and Its citizens, Iran stresses the fact that it will not hesitate to exercise its inherent right to self-defense.

Recalling that the current insecurity and instability in the broader Persian Gulf region is the direct result of the unlawful invasion of Iraq by the United States in 2003, as well as its massive military presence and its “divide and rule” policy in the region, it is also worth noting that all the above mentioned threats, including to dispatch more troops and “brand new beautiful equipment” to this already volatile region, would indeed further complicate the current situation.

Likewise, the United Nations member states must condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the unlawful threats and unfettered policies of the United States government, and to also hold it accountable for all of its unlawful acts and practices while compelling it to abide by the principles and boundaries of international law.

Although the region has lost a crucial warrior for peace and stability, Soleimani’s legacy from his contribution to the Bonn Conference, and to a relentless struggle to rid the region of ISIS will live on the in region.

We will remember Major General Soleimani and continue to commemorate his acts of courage and bravery.

 

Forouzadeh Vadiati

Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Finland


This is a “Viewpoint” opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or position of The Helsinki Times.  



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China warns of retaliation after New York Stock Exchange delists three major companies



China says it will take necessary “counter-measures” in response to the New York Stock Exchange’s move to delist three major Chinese telecoms, in the latest flare-up of tensions between Beijing and Washington.

The stock exchange announced on Thursday that it would delist China Telecom Corp, China Mobile and China Unicom Hong Kong, with trading of the companies to be suspended some time between January 7 and January 11.

The move stems from an executive order President Donald Trump issued on November 12, barring investment in publicly traded companies that the US Government says are owned or controlled by the Chinese military.

“China opposes the Americans from abusing national security by listing Chinese companies into the so-called ‘Communist China Military Companies’ list and will take the necessary counter-measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies,” a spokesperson for the Chinese Commerce Ministry said in a statement.

The actions will also “greatly weaken all parties’ confidence in the US capital market”, the statement said.

The ministry did not offer details on what the measures might be.

Under Mr Trump, the US has stepped up economic sanctions and travel bans against Chinese companies, government officials and Communist Party members, especially in Mr Trump’s last few weeks in office.

In December, the US announced plans to limit visas for members of the Chinese Communist Party and their family members to one month, instead of 10 years.

Chinese tech giant Huawei has been shut out of the US market and the US has lobbied other countries to follow suit, albeit with mixed results.

AP



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