Emergency warning as NSW fires flare up

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Residents in a NSW town under threat from grass fires that have intensified following a southwesterly wind change are being advised to take shelter.

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An emergency warning was issued on Sunday night for the Hebden Road grass fires near Singleton, in the Hunter Valley.

“Firefighters are responding to the scene, but it is too late to leave,” the Rural Fire Service (RFS) said on its website.

“Seek shelter now from the heat of the fire.”

Emergency warnings were earlier issued for the Minimbah fire, an out-of-control blaze that burnt through more than 8000 hectares around Wagga Wagga, and the fire in the Copperhannia National Park area, near Bathurst, which is also out of control.

The Minimbah bushfire was threatening properties as it moved towards Carabost, but the alert at 6pm (AEDT) decreased it to a watch-and-act level of danger.

Three homes have been confirmed destroyed by the Minimbah blaze.

Other buildings have also been lost and firefighters will assess the area when it’s safe to do so.

Residents have been advised to leave if the path towards Tumbarumba, to the southeast, is clear.

“It is not safe to stay,” the RFS said on its website.

About 100ha have been burnt by the fire near Bathurst, which at 6pm (AEDT) was heading east towards Trunkey Creek.

People in Trunkey Creek need to be aware of burning embers, the RFS said.

“These embers can start spot fires well ahead of the main fire front,” it advises.

“Put out any spot fires that may start on your property.”

Two watch-and-act alerts remain in place.

Firefighters, assisted by water-bombing aircraft and heavy machinery, are backburning and building containment lines around the Minjary fire, which has burnt through 2675ha of scrub between Canberra and Wagga Wagga.

Stock animals have reportedly been killed in the Minjary fire but it’s unclear how many, the RFS said.

Another fire has entered a pine plantation near Bathurst and is “proving difficult to contain”, the RFS said.

More than 60 firefighters, aircraft and heavy machinery are working to bring the 350ha Redbank fire under control.

More than 900 firefighters were deployed across NSW on Sunday, fighting 92 fires, 28 of which are uncontained.

High temperatures in the 30s and another tough day for firefighters are predicted for Monday.

“The fire danger is going to be very high,” an RFS spokesman told AAP.

No “significant” rain is expected for the start of the week, he said.

“There’ll be crew out until all hours doing what they can to strengthen containment lines and also patrolling a lot of those fires to make sure they don’t get out of hand.”

An emergency warning was at 7.30pm (AEDT) issued for the Dog Rock forest fire, which is burning out of control between Rockley and Black Springs, south of Bathurst.

The 120-hectare fire is heading in a easterly direction.

“Only well prepared and actively defended homes can offer safety,” the RFS said.

“If you plan to leave, or you are not prepared and there is a safer place nearby, leave now if it is safe to do so.”

Pakistan strike early but Sri Lanka extend lead to 220

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At stumps on the penultimate day of the series, Sri Lanka reached 133 runs for five wickets to add to their first-innings lead of 87.

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Jayawardene, who made 129 in his team’s nine-wicket win in Dubai in the second test, became the first Sri Lankan to cross 11,000 test runs and eighth batsman overall during his innings.

His careful knock came to an end when his bat-pad catch off Saeed Ajmal was smartly taken by Azhar Ali at short leg.

Left-arm spinner Rehman extracted good turn from the pitch and picked up the wickets of opener Kaushal Silva (36) and Kumar Sangakkara (eight) while Talha dismissed Dimuth Karunaratne (eight) and Dinesh Chandimal (13).

Khurram Manzoor did not help Pakistan’s cause by dropping an easy chance from Mathews at cover off fast bowler Junaid Khan with the batsman on nine.

Wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed also dropped a sharp chance from Prasanna Jayawardene (six not out) off Ajmal before the batsman had opened his account.

Earlier in the morning, Rangana Herath picked up his 17th five-wicket haul in tests for Sri Lanka as Pakistan were bowled out for 341.

Fast bowler Shaminda Eranga picked up the first two wickets to fall to take his innings tally to four as Pakistan went for quick runs to wipe off the deficit.

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq hit three sixes and a four in his knock of 63 before being caught at long-on trying to clear Herath over the ropes.

Junaid also struck two sixes to reduce the fist-innings deficit before he too was caught in the deep off Herath.

(Writing by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Justin Palmer)

Weekend Sports Wrap

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We begin with the A-League, where Adelaide has shot from ninth to fifth on the ladder with a one-nil win over the West Sydney Wanderers.

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The Red’s have turned their season around with six games unbeaten – having gone eight previous matches without a win.

 

But Wanderers goalkeeper Ante Covic told Fox Sports that Adelaide’s goal should have been disallowed for crossing the goal line in the build up.

 

“It’s not nice losing two games in a row. We’ve had a tough little period, but I still think we gave it our all, you know we weren’t really out of that game. It just seems that the field’s a foot longer for Adelaide over here. You know it’s disappointing we copped a goal that should never have stood.”

 

Sydney FC’s rotten run has continued, as they lost – also by one goal to nil – to the Central Coast Mariners.

 

Not even Alessandro Del Piero could inspire the Sky Blues as they slumped to defeat in front of their home fans, after Mile Sterjovski’s deflected strike proved the difference.

 

Coach Frank Farina had no excuses for the lacklustre performance, and warned heads could roll.

 

“Some of the performances weren’t as good as I expected, without naming individuals. If we have to change, we’ll change. It’s about winning games of football, getting points. And I’m not happy with that tonight.”

 

The shock of the round came in Wellington, where a rejuvenated Phoenix dismantled the Melbourne Victory, winning five-nil.

 

A first-half hattrick of goals, made in Costa Rica by Carlos Hernandez and Kenny Cunningham, gave coach Ernie Merrick a satisfying win against his old club.

 

“It was a case of it was going to come, we’ve been playing good football. I don’t think at any stage we were under real pressure, we controlled the midfield; our backline got it right – they pushed up, they dropped off, they pushed up. And our strikers were just in the right positions – maybe could have scored a couple more actually.”

 

To Tennis, where the big news from the Australian Open was the shock loss of five-time champion Serena Williams.

 

Hampered by a niggling back injury, the American was no match for an impressive Ana Ivanovic who won 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

 

The 2008 finalist was over the moon, telling Channel 7 it was some of the best tennis she’d ever played.

 

“Yeah, you know it was very consistent, I was very happy with that, it’s not easy playing such a champion and like you said I’ve never beaten her before, but you know she is also just a human and has lots of pressure on her, you know I just went out there to swing at the ball, and I did that really well.”

 

No such fairytale for Australia’s last remaining hope in the singles, Casey Dellacqua, as she lost to rising star, Eugenie Bouchard.

 

The Australian won the first set 7-6, but couldn’t match the Canadian teenager, who ran away with the next two sets 6-2, 6-love.

 

In the Men’s draw, there were no problems for World Number 2, Novak Djokovic as he breezed past Italian Fabio Fognini.

 

The four-time winner and reigning champion was in ruthless form as he won 6-3, 6-love, 6-2.

 

He told Channel 7, the only difficulty was keeping his emotions in check, playing against an opponent he considers a close friend.

 

“It is a bit different feeling when you have as opponent your long-time friend, someone you know over ten years. Obviously I wanted to laugh at his jokes, but on the other hand I didn’t want to have any loss of concentration, so it was very important to stay focused til the end.”

 

To cricket, and Australia have recored another emphatic win over England, to secure the One Day International series.

 

Powerful batting by David Warner and Sean Marsh saw the Australians comfortably chase down the English total of 243, with ten overs left to spare.

 

Warner continued his aggressive form from the Ashes series, hitting 71, with Marsh also finishing with 71 runs.

 

It’s the eighth consecutive win the Australians have recorded over a demoralised English side, who have two more one dayers and three T-twenty matches left on the tour.

 

In hockey, the Netherlands have won the inaugural Hockey World League Final, whalloping New Zealand 7-2, to win the gold medal.

 

World champions Australia who had lost to the Dutch in a tight semi-final, also succumbed to England in the bronze medal playoff match, 2-1.

 

And finally, some bad news for Socceroos fans, with reports coming from Germany that striker Robbie Kruse has torn his anterior cruciate ligament.

 

Australia’s international player of the year, looks set to spend a lengthy time on the sidelines, and is little chance to be fit again in time for the World Cup.

 

Vic Govt considers kids in cars crackdown

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The state government will consider tougher penalties for people who leave children in cars on hot days after almost 40 cases during Victoria’s record heatwave.

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Ambulance Victoria says 39 children were left in hot cars as Victoria sweltered with four consecutive days over 41C, and over the full week 60 cases had been reported.

Among them were two children under five years left in a car while their father placed a bet and a man who left four children under 10 in a car while he went to buy alcohol, Fairfax Media reports.

People can be jailed for three months or fined up to $2165 for leaving a child in a car on a hot day, but the state government is considering toughening penalties to further deter people, the report said.

Ambulance Victoria CEO Greg Sassella urged parents not to lock children in cars.

“Sadly we are still getting kids locked in cars and that is absolutely a lethal oversight from the parents,” he said.

“Children die when they’re locked in cars, animals die when they’re locked in cars. So please, we are still pleading with the community to be very careful with their children.”

On Wednesday as temperatures reached nearly 42C, 13 children were left in cars.

The heatwave saw a record number of calls to Triple-0, with 2553 calls received on Friday.

Thursday’s 2506 calls is the second most ever received.

Cardiac arrest calls were up 700 per cent on Friday, with 77 calls received.

At one stage cardiac arrest calls were coming through on average every six minutes.

Between Monday and Saturday night ambulance officers attended 208 cardiac arrests and 505 cases of heat exhaustion.

Russia’s Putin denies large-scale Olympic corruption

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Western and Russian opposition critics have made allegations that large amounts of money have been stolen during construction for the 2014 Olympics in the Black Sea city, but have provided little concrete evidence.

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Some Olympic subcontractors have said corruption has been endemic during preparations for the games, which start on February7.

“We don’t see any large-scale instances of corruption during our preparations …in Sochi. If anyone has any information about corruption in Sochi, please hand it over, we will be glad and grateful,” Putin said in an interview with ABC, BBC and Russian and Chinese journalists broadcast on Sunday.

“A few years ago local bureaucrats tried to buy and sell land intended for Olympic venues. Investigations were carried out, these people were tried by Russian courts and are serving their punishments.”

Russia has spent more than $50 billion on preparations for the Winter Games, making them the most expensive in Olympic history. Putin’s government hopes to show the world a modern face of Russia, which has faced increased criticism from the West over human rights.

A law passed last year banning the promotion of homosexuality among minors has drawn criticism from the West and human rights activists. Calls for a mass boycott of the games have failed, but the row has clouded the build-up to the event.

Critics say the law is discriminatory and part of a rolling back of human rights and democratic freedoms under Putin, who has taken a more conservative course on social issues since returning to the presidency in mid-2012.

Putin said on Sunday he has gay acquaintances and would be happy to meet members of the U.S. Olympic delegation, which includes openly homosexual athletes.

“I will be glad to see the representatives of any country, including those of the United States, there is no doubt about this. If they have any desire to meet, to talk about anything, for the love of God, I don’t see any problem,” he said.

In a separate interview with the BBC broadcast in London, Putin said: “If you want my personal attitude I don’t care about a person’s sexual orientation. I myself know some people who are gay. We are on friendly terms. I am not prejudiced in any way.”

Asked whether he would meet gay British celebrities like singer Elton John and actor Ian McKellen if they travelled to Russia to discuss his policies towards homosexuals, he said he would “definitely” talk to them.

“I’ve honoured several members of the gay community in this country but for their personal achievements regardless of their sexual orientation,” said Putin.

With less than three weeks to go before the start of the games, Putin said while all of Sochi’s venues had been completed, the host city still needed some cleaning.

“Everything has been done, now we have to get things in order: organise the work of hotels, remove construction equipment, construction waste, that is prepare like any host or hostess does before having guests.”

(Additional reporting by Andrew Osborn in London, Editing by Rosalind Russell)

NZ beat India in first ODI

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A thundering innings by Corey Anderson and a magic spell of bowling by Mitch McClenaghan brought New Zealand a 24-run win over India in their opening one-day international on Sunday.

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Chasing New Zealand’s 7-292, India were all out for 268 in the 49th over despite Virat Kohli (123) posting his 18th ODI century in Napier.

It was the first time India have lost an ODI in which Kohli has reached three figures.

They appeared to have victory in their grasp when they needed just 70 from the last eight overs, and Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni looked comfortable in a 95-run partnership for the fifth wicket.

But in the space of six deliveries, McClenaghan removed Dhoni (40), Ravi Jadeja (duck) and Kohli to have India reeling at 7-237, and they never recovered.

That brief spell was where the game was lost, Dhoni said.

“Those three wickets that was tough on the team. You don’t expect your tailenders to win the game and it was very important that one of us should’ve carried on. It was disappointing to lose the game.”

New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum said it was “a captain’s nightmare” when Kohli and Dhoni were in full flight but he had faith in McClenaghan.

“He’s in the team to attack and take wickets and the message was pretty simple, ‘try and find a way to take a wicket. Be aggressive as you can and be as hostile as you can and if it falls your way, great’. I thought he was outstanding.”

Anderson had earlier returned to his brutal best with the bat after going off the boil following his record-breaking century in 36 balls against the West Indies three weeks ago.

In his first start against India, the world’s top-ranked ODI side, Anderson blasted an unbeaten 68 off 40 deliveries.

He hit four sixes, two of them out of the ground, then returned with the ball to display his all-rounder credentials by removing two of India’s top-order batsmen Shikhar Dhawan (32) and Ajinkya Rahane (seven).

India, who stand to forfeit their world No.1 ranking if they lose the five-match series to the eighth-ranked New Zealand, chose to bowl first on a wicket with a history of favouring the side batting last.

The second ODI is in Hamilton on Wednesday.

US okays mental disability test for babies

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The US Food and Drug Administration has cleared a first-of-a-kind blood test that can help diagnose mental disabilities in babies by analysing their genetic code.

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The laboratory test from Affymetrix detects variations in patients’ chromosomes that are linked to Down syndrome, DiGeorge syndrome and other developmental disorders. About 2 to 3 per cent of US children have some sort of intellectual disability, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The test, known as the CytoScan Dx Assay, is designed to help doctors diagnose children’s disabilities earlier and get them appropriate care and support. It is not intended for prenatal screening or for predicting other genetically acquired diseases and conditions, such as cancer.

While there are already genetic tests used to detect conditions like Down syndrome, doctors usually have to order them individually and they can take several days to develop.

Pediatricians said that Affymetrix’s test should offer a faster, more comprehensive screening approach. Dr Annemarie Stroustrup stressed that such tests are generally only used after children exhibit certain physical or behavioural signs that suggest a disorder.

“When there’s something about the child that strikes us as unusual or pointing to a potential genetic disease, that’s when we would use this testing,” said Stroustrup, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

“This is not a screening test to be done on all newborns to predict how they are going to do in school when they are 5.”

The technology behind Affymetrix’s test has already been used for several years to screen fetuses for potentially debilitating diseases. Known as microarray analysis, the technique involves a high-powered computer scanning a gene chip of the patient’s DNA for slight chromosome imbalances. Older techniques involve scientists looking at chromosomes under a microscope for major irregularities.

The FDA said it approved the new test based on studies showing it accurately analyses a patient’s entire genome and can accurately spot variations associated with intellectual disabilities.

Hospitals in all 50 states are now required to screen newborns for at least 29 disorders that can be detected though laboratory testing, including sickle cell anaemia and cystic fibrosis. Generally those tests pick up irregularities in metabolism, not genetic variations.

The mandatory screening program, begun a half-century ago, is considered one of the nation’s most successful public health programs.

Inter’s troubles continue at Genoa, Napoli held

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Substitute Hernanes scored a last minute goal to give Lazio a 3-2 win at Udinese after they twice trailed and Parma left it even later in a 2-1 win at Chievo Verona 2-1, courtesy of a stoppage time goal by Alessandro Lucarelli.

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Sassuolo, whose sensational 4-3 win over AC Milan last week brought about coach Massimiliano Allegri’s sacking, were brought back to earth by Torino who won 2-0, hurling them back into the relegation dogfight. They are joint 16th with Chievo and Bologna.

Allegri’s replacement Clarence Seedorf was set to make his debut at home to Hellas Verona in the evening match at San Siro

(1945).

Napoli have 43 points from 20 games, four behind Roma and 12 adrift of Juventus who both won on Saturday. Fiorentina have 40 while Inter are joint-fifth with Hellas Verona on 32.

Luca Antonelli easily out-jumped a static Inter defender to head in from a corner with seven minutes left on another miserable afternoon for Walter Mazzarri’s team who have won only one of their last eight league games.

In appalling conditions, with large puddles on the pitch, Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin ensured three points with a superb late save from Ruben Botta’s header.

It was an especially enjoyable win for Genoa coach Gian Piero Gasperini who had a miserable spell at Inter at the start of the 2011/12 season and suffered the indignity of being sacked after five games in charge.

Rafael Benitez’s exasperatingly inconsistent Napoli trailed at halftime at Bologna after Rolando Bianchi got away from his marker to score with a glancing header.

Gonzalo Higuain equalised with a penalty in the 62nd minute and Jose Callejon fired Napoli ahead with 10 minutes to go after Bologna lost possession.

The hosts had Panagiotis Kone dismissed for a second bookable offence but Napoli relaxed too soon as they left Bianchi unmarked to fire the equaliser in the 90th minute.

Matri needed only 45 minutes to better his tally of only one goal in 15 appearances for Milan.

Having set up the first goal for Matias Fernandez just before the half hour, he scored twice from close range in a 13-minute spell before the break, showing the kind of opportunism he lacked at Milan.

Matri was hired after strikers Mario Gomez and Giuseppe Rossi both suffered knee ligament injuries.

(Reporting By Brian Homewood; Editing by Justin Palmer)

Australia thrash England to add ODI series to Ashes win

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Warner blasted seven boundaries and two sixes in his 71 off just 70 balls at the top of the order while fellow left-hander Marsh remained unbeaten on 71 to anchor the chase as Australia maintained an utter dominance of their arch-rivals.

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The hosts comfortably chased down their 244-run target with 10 overs to spare as England continued the search for a first win of their wretched tour Down Under, during which they also lost the Ashes series 5-0.

Warner added 78 for the second wicket with Marsh before he hit Ben Stokes straight to Ian Bell at cover but there was little respite for England as Marsh and captain Michael Clarke then combined for a 51-run stand to take the team closer to victory.

Brad Haddin (37 not out) was promoted after Clarke (34) chopped Ravi Bopara onto his stumps and the Australia wicketkeeper continued his good form, racing to the target with Marsh with an unbroken stand of 72 in just 68 balls.

Earlier, England wasted a brisk start from openers Alastair Cook (35) and Ian Bell (29) to end on a below-par 243 for nine wickets in their 50 overs.

LOST MOMENTUM

Most of England’s batsmen got starts after captain Cook won the toss and opted to bat but they failed to convert them to big scores in the face of some tight bowling and outstanding fielding from Australia.

Cook’s quickfire innings was cut short when Glenn Maxwell took a sharp catch at cover, while Warner found a direct hit from the outfield to run Bell out.

Clarke also took a low catch at square leg to remove Stokes (15) before Daniel Christian dived full length to take a return catch off the leading edge of key batsman Eoin Morgan.

Morgan (54) was once again the top-scorer for England and his dismissal after hitting four boundaries and two massive sixes robbed the visitors of any momentum in the closing stages.

It was left to a slogging Tim Bresnan to take England to a fighting total with a 29-ball 41 which included two sixes off Christian in the last over.

Nathan Coulter-Nile was the most successful bowler for Australia, picking up three wickets for 47 runs, while James Faulkner and Christian picked up two wickets apiece.

Paceman James Pattinson, playing his first match for Australia since last July’s test match at Lord’s, struggled for rhythm in his return from injury and leaked 41 runs during his six overs.

(Writing by Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by John O’Brien)

Dellacqua’s Open over but not her rise

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Casey Dellacqua’s Australian Open is over but her late-career resurgence is just getting started.

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That’s the Australian 28-year-old’s assessment after being knocked out of the Open in the fourth round by fast-rising Canadian teenager Eugenie Bouchard on Sunday night.

Bouchard, 19, started last year as the world No.144 before shooting up the rankings to earn a spot as the Open’s 30th seed.

Playing in the fourth round of a major for the first time, she showed composure beyond her years to notch a comeback 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 6-0 win over Dellacqua.

She’ll play Ana Ivanovic in the quarter-finals, after Ivanovic upset world No.1 Serena Williams earlier in the day.

Both Dellacqua and Bouchard were seeking to chart new career territory, and the nerves showed early, with both making errors to give up breaks of serve before the Australian steadied to win the first-set tiebreak.

But once the hard-hitting Canadian teenager found her rhythm, she piled the pressure on Dellacqua to control the second set and dominate the third.

Dellacqua was predictably disappointed but exited the singles event with $135,000 prizemoney and, more significantly for her, a firm belief that a mountain of hard work on her fitness and form in recent months is paying off.

Her ranking will jump from No.120 to double figures

Her confidence has soared at least as much.

“It’s finding that belief within yourself that I can beat those girls,” Dellacqua said.

“I think that’s a really big thing in our sport.

“So probably if I can take one thing away from the last month of tennis, not even just here, but from Brisbane, Hobart and here, it’s that I can beat girls like this.”

It comes just three months after Dellacqua had a heart-to-heart conversation with coach Shannon Nettle, after bombing out of the US Open in the first round, to decide how dedicated she was to reviving her slumping singles career.

“My answers were always, ‘Yeah, I want to do it, yeah, I want to work hard.’ Now only three months later, I’ll be back inside the top 100.”

By reaching the fourth round, Dellacqua matched her previous best major performance, having reached the same stage of the 2008 Open.

Since then, she has had to overcome career-threatening foot and shoulder injuries.

Dellacqua said this time she felt much better prepared to capitalise.

“I’m probably in a lot better position right now,” she said.

“I’m older, I understand where I’m at with my game.

“In ’08 I was playing good tennis, I got to 39 in the world, but I was struggling with injuries. It was a tough year for me.

“I remember it being a great year, but I also remember it being tough. Now it’s about enjoying it.”