Gaza violence rises, US offers to mediate

Israeli warplanes have continued their deadly raids on Gaza, but failed to prevent Palestinian militants from firing rockets across the border, despite mounting international appeals for a truce.


As the violence escalated, with more than 30 Palestinians killed on Thursday alone, UN chief Ban Ki-moon appealed for an immediate ceasefire at an emergency meeting of the Security Council.

“It is now more urgent than ever to try to find common ground for a return to calm and a ceasefire understanding,” he said as the Organisation of Islamic Conference lobbied the UN to condemn Israel.

Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a similar plea in a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, urging an immediate end to the bloodshed and expressing concern over civilian casualties.

And US Secretary of State John Kerry warned the region was facing a “dangerous moment” after speaking to both Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

French President Francois Hollande called on both sides to exercise “restraint” and “appeasement”.

But Israel appeared bent on dealing a fatal blow to the Islamist movement Hamas, which controls Gaza, with Netanyahu reportedly saying talk of a ceasefire was “not even on the agenda”.

Hamas also appeared to have no interest in letting up, striking deep inside Israel in the past 48 hours, with rockets crashing down near Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and even as far away as Hadera, 116 kilometres to the north.

Since the start of the campaign in the early hours of Tuesday, 83 Palestinians have been killed and more than 500 injured, Gaza medics said.

As the number of victims in Gaza rose, Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing, with hospitals in north Sinai placed on stand-by to receive the wounded, the Egyptian state news agency MENA said.

There have been no Israeli deaths, although medics said one woman died on Thursday, a day after falling while running for cover.

But And Israel has confirmed preparations are under way for a possible ground attack, with tanks seen massing along the border and Netanyahu facing mounting pressure from coalition hardliners to put boots back on the ground in the territory from which Israeli troops and settlers withdrew in 2005.

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Neilson taken off criminal matters

Controversial Sydney judge Garry Neilson will not preside over new criminal cases until an investigation into his comments about incest and homosexuality is complete.


The Chief Judge of the District Court, Justice Reg Blanch, made the announcement late on Friday.

“I have now been advised by the attorney-general that he has referred the matter to the Judicial Commission and Judge Neilson will not sit in crime until this matter is determined,” he said in a statement.

Judge Neilson, aged in his 60s, has come under fire after saying the community may no longer see sexual contact between siblings and between adults and children as “unnatural” or “taboo”, just as homosexuality is now widely accepted.

“A jury might find nothing untoward in the advance of a brother towards his sister once she had sexually matured, had sexual relationships with other men and was now available, not having [a] sexual partner,” Fairfax media reported him saying.

NSW Attorney-General Brad Hazzard earlier on Friday asked Justice Blanch to prevent Judge Neilson presiding over criminal trials while he’s investigated by the judicial commission.

“In my view, the community would be rightly appalled at his reported comments,” Mr Hazzard said in a statement.

“Incest is completely reprehensible, unacceptable, disgusting and criminal.”

The comments were reportedly made in April during the case of a 58-year-old man charged with repeatedly raping his younger sister in the family’s western Sydney home in 1981.

Judge Neilsen said the only reason that incest was still a crime was because of the high risk of genetic abnormalities in children born from consanguineous relationships.

Judicial commission members will examine the complaint before potentially referring it on to the conduct division.

They decide whether a complaint justifies the removal of a judicial officer.

Child protection advocate Hetty Johnston called for the judge to step down from the bench for his “ludicrous and obscene remarks”.

Dr Cathy Kezelman, president of Adults Surviving Child Abuse, said the comments were archaic and “beyond belief”.

Justice Blanch said no further comment would be made on the matter.

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Game of Thrones, Fargo top Emmy nominations

Megahit TV fantasy series Game of Thrones has topped the nominations for the Primetime Emmy awards.


The grisly royal families feud saga scored 19 nods including for best drama series, followed by Fargo with nominations in 18 categories including two for lead actor in a miniseries.

Catch up on Fargo episodes on SBS here.

It was a slim year for Australia though, with only Australian cinematographer Adam Arkapaw being nominated this year.

He won an Emmy last year for his work on the Jane Campion mini-series Top of the Lake and has a great chance this year after scoring a nomination for his mesmerising images on the series True Detective.

Other notable nominees included breakthrough women’s prison show Orange is the New Black, in its first year of Emmys eligibility, while a slew of British acting talent was shortlisted.

For best drama series, Game of Thrones is up against Breaking Bad, Mad Men, House of Cards, True Detective and Downton Abbey.

Raise a glass & congratulate #GameofThrones, Peter Dinklage, @IAMLenaHeadey & Diana Rigg on their #Emmys nominations. pic.twitter南宁桑拿网,/No49d4Ymsx

— Game Of Thrones (@GameOfThrones) July 10, 2014

Celebrating #EmmyNoms on set. LOVE my cast! @UzoAduba @thedanieb @TaySchilling @LauraPrepon @Lavernecox #oitnb #Emmys pic.twitter南宁桑拿网,/PDWX5Gr8jn

— Adrienne C. Moore (@amoore9) July 10, 2014

In the best comedy race, newcomer Orange is the New Black was nominated alongside long-running series The Big Bang Theory, Louie, Modern Family and Veep, as well as Silicon Valley.

Powerful police drama True Detective scored lead actor nominations for its co-stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, up against Kevin Spacey (House of Cards), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) and Jon Hamm (Mad Men).

Couldn’t work beside more talented people, congratulations @HouseofCards on 13 #Emmys nominations!

— Kevin Spacey (@KevinSpacey) July 10, 2014

Lead drama actress nods went to Lizzy Caplan, for Masters of Sex, Claire Danes for Homeland, Michelle Dockery for British period drama Downton Abbey, Julianna Margulies for The Good Wife, Kerry Washington for Scandal and Robin Wright for House of Cards.

Premium cable channel HBO won the most overall nominations with 99, while online streaming giant Netflix doubled its number of nods from last year with 31, according to industry journal Variety.

We are humbled and honored to receive the most #Emmys nominations of any network for the 14th year in a row. pic.twitter南宁桑拿网,/rq6fGmkiFY

— HBO (@HBO) July 11, 2014

The nominations were announced in a pre-dawn presentation by TV stars Mindy Kaling and Carson Daly, at the headquarters of the Television Academy in Los Angeles.

The 66th Primetime Emmys show will be held in Los Angeles on Monday, August 25.


The Nominees

For a full list of nominees, visit the Emmys website.


Drama series

Breaking Bad

Downton Abbey

Game of Thrones

House of Cards

Mad Men

True Detective


Comedy series

The Big Bang Theory


Modern Family

Orange Is the New Black

Silicone Valley




American Horror Story: Coven

Bonnie & Clyde




The White Queen


TV movie

Killing Kennedy

Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight

The Normal Heart

Sherlock: His Last Vow (Masterpiece)

The Trip to Bountiful


Variety series

The Colbert Report

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart

Jimmy Kimmel Live

Real Time With Bill Maher

Saturday Night Live

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon


Lead actor in a drama series

Bryan Cranston – Breaking Bad

Kevin Spacey – House Of Cards

Jon Hamm – Mad Men

Jeff Daniels – The Newsroom

Woody Harrelson – True Detective

Matthew McConaughey – True Detective


Lead actress in a drama series

Michelle Dockery – Downton Abbey

Claire Danes – Homeland

Robin Wright – House of Cards

Lizzy Caplan – Masters of Sex

Kerry Washington – Scandal

Julianna Margulies – The Good Wife


Supporting actor in a drama series

Aaron Paul – Breaking Bad

Jim Carter – Downton Abbey

Peter Dinklage – Game Of Thrones

Josh Charles – The Good Wife

Mandy Patinkin – Homeland

Jon Voight – Ray Donovan


Supporting actress in a drama series

Anna Gunn – Breaking Bad

Maggie Smith – Downton Abbey

Joanne Froggatt – Downton Abbey

Lena Headey – Game of Thrones

Christine Baranski The Good Wife

Christina Hendricks – Mad Men


Lead actor in a comedy series

Jim Parsons -The Big Bang Theory

Matt LeBlanc – Episodes

Don Cheadle – House of Lies

Louis C.K. – Louie

Ricky Gervais – Derek

William H. Macy – Shameless


Lead actress in a comedy series

Lena Dunham – Girls

Melissa McCarthy – Mike & Molly

Edie Falco – Nurse Jackie

Taylor Schilling – Orange Is the New Black

Amy Poehler – Parks and Recreation

Julia Louis-Dreyfus -Veep


Supporting actor in a comedy series

Andre Braugher – Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Adam Driver – Girls

Jesse Tyler Ferguson – Modern Family

Ty Burrell – Modern Family

Fred Armisen – Portlandia

Tony Hale – Veep


Supporting actress in a comedy series

Mayim Bialik – The Big Bang Theory

Julie Bowen – Modern Family

Allison Janney – Mom

Kate Mulgrew – Orange Is the New Black

Kate McKinnon – Saturday Night Live

Anna Chlumsky – Veep


Lead actor in a mini-series or TV Movie

Chiwetel Ejiofor – Dancing on the Edge

Martin Freeman – Fargo

Billy Bob Thornton – Fargo

Idris Elba – Luther

Mark Ruffalo – The Normal Heart

Benedict Cumberbatch – Sherlock: His Last Vow (Masterpiece)


Lead actress in a mini-series or TV Movie

Jessica Lange – American Horror Story: Coven

Sarah Paulson – American Horror Story: Coven

Helena Bonham Carter – Burton and Taylor

Minnie Driver – Return to Zero

Kristen Wiig – The Spoils of Babylon

Cicely Tyson – The Trip to Bountiful


Supporting actor in a mini-series or TV Movie

Colin Hanks – Fargo

Jim Parsons – The Normal Heart

Joe Mantello – The Normal Heart

Alfred Molina – The Normal Heart

Matt Bomer – The Normal Heart

Martin Freeman – Sherlock: His Last Vow (Masterpiece)


Supporting actress in a mini-series or TV Movie

Frances Conroy – American Horror Story: Coven

Kathy Bates – American Horror Story: Coven

Angela Bassett – American Horror Story: Coven

Allison Tolman – Fargo

Ellen Burstyn – Flowers in the Attic

Julia Roberts – The Normal Heart

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Swimmers ‘need perspective out of pool’

As we continue to hear about high-profile swimming and diving stars battling personal problems outside of the pool, is it fair to ask if there’s something in the water?

Television audiences are standing by for Sunday night when Ian Thorpe is set to open up to Michael Parkinson about the depression battle he’s fought over the past few months.


Grant Hackett has recently sought treatment in the United States for addiction to prescription drugs, and Geoff Huegill was this year charged with drug possession.

On Friday, a sad story emerged about former diving champion Chantelle Newbery.

The Athens gold medalist was fined and placed on a drug diversion program after police allegedly found bags of methylamphetamine in her wallet and used syringes in a bedside table.

Matthew Mitcham, Scott Miller and Neil Brooks are others to have struggled with addiction problems, prompting commentators to question whether there’s some kind of correlation between life in the pool and mental health issues.

Paul Penna from Focus Perform Psychology says it’s not that simple.

Penna worked as the team psychologist with the Australian swim team at the Beijing Olympics and says there’s nothing about swimming that makes athletes more at risk to personal problems than any other sport.

Not the chlorine, nor the early morning starts and not the loneliness of the training.

Penna says the only plausible link is the high profile swimming has in Australian sports culture and the expectations Olympic athletes deal with from a young age.

“If I had my actions at 15 years of age displayed to the rest of the world, I’d feel a bit uncomfortable too,” Penna told AAP.

“We want all our athletes to be brilliant.

“By the nature of the sport and the way it’s held within the Australian psyche, people in swimming hold out a greater identity than people from other sports.

“It just so happens we know swimmers names.”

Penna has spent his career working with athletes from sports as diverse as swimming, golf and rugby league and says he’s come to the realisation that young performers need to have a better sense of perspective instilled in them from a young age.

Over the past few years, Penna has used one particular exercise with patients, of which the results are telling.

He asks them to name five Australians who won an Olympic gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.

Penna reckons he’s asked in excess of 4000 athletes that question, and only two have been able to answer correctly.


“Because those events aren’t personal to us. We won 14 gold medals in Beijing. But it’s got nothing to do with us,” he said.

“Athletes develop this concept that whatever I do is significant and matters. No it doesn’t. It’s where a part of the psyche of a young athlete gets twisted.

“They’re taught everything matters. You’ve got to perform now or else.

“We’ve got to change that in our athletes so we make them more robust.”

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Kerry seeks to mediate in Afghan election

US Secretary of State John Kerry has begun a difficult mission to mediate an end to the political crisis in Afghanistan, warning that a bitter dispute over presidential polls threatens the country’s future.


“Obviously we are at a very critical moment for Afghanistan,” Kerry said on Friday as he met the head of the UN assistance mission in the country, Jan Kubis.

“The election legitimacy hangs in the balance. The future potential of the transition hangs in the balance, so we have a lot of work to do.”

The top US diplomat also met outgoing President Hamid Karzai, and former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani, who is well ahead in the preliminary results of June’s second-round run-off.

In a swift boost for Kerry’s diplomacy, Ghani threw his backing behind US calls for a wide audit of the elections amid accusations by his rival, Abdullah Abdullah, of massive fraud.

“Our commitment is to ensure that the election process enjoys the integrity and the legitimacy of the people of Afghanistan and the world,” Ghani told reporters as he was welcomed to the heavily fortified US embassy in Kabul.

“Therefore we believe in the most intensive and extensive audit possible to restore faith.”

Ghani said he and his supporters were committed to “an inclusive government. A government that could represent all of Afghans, and serve every Afghan citizen in the manner that every Afghan deserves according to the constitution.”

Kerry, who will meet Abdullah on Friday, stressed “no one is declaring victory at this time. The results are yet to be finalised”.

The stakes could not be higher: the next president will have to steer the war-torn country as international troops withdraw, leaving Afghan forces to fight a bloody, stubbornly resilient Taliban insurgency.

Preliminary results have put Ghani in the lead, but Abdullah, who has already once lost a presidential bid in controversial circumstances, has declared himself the true winner, saying massive fraud robbed him of victory.

The election stand-off has sparked fears that protests could spiral into ethnic violence, and even lead to a return of the fighting between warlords that ravaged Afghanistan during the 1992-96 civil war.

The US was “going to push for the very best, most credible, most transparent and most broadly accepted outcome that we can under the circumstances”, a senior US official said.

Auditors may look at districts with a very high turnout, or a perfectly round number of recorded votes, or where the number of women voters outnumbered men, “which in the Afghan context seems like an unlikely outcome”.

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Ukraine forces clash near airport

Intense battles have raged around the airport in the main stronghold of pro-Kremlin insurgents as Ukraine’s new leader laid out tough terms for a ceasefire demanded by his European allies and Russia.


A news team outside Donetsk International Airport – a gleaming hub shuttered since coming under a bloody rebel attack at the end of May – saw exchanges of fire on Friday and an anti-aircraft missile being shot at a Ukrainian military jet.

“Here we go again. This is just like yesterday,” said one vendor from a nearby outdoor market as dozens of people looked nervously up at the cloudy sky.

“Everything is shutting down,” said another man in his fifties who was preparing to escape across the border to Russia with his daughters and grandchildren.

“There is nothing to do here. No work – and it is getting too dangerous,” he said.

Pro-Kiev authorities in Lugansk also said four miners were killed and 16 injured when their bus came under artillery fire on Thursday.

But government forces reported making significant progress in their attempts to choke the encircled pro-Russian gunmen off from what they allege are vast quantities of Russian weapons supplies.

“At least 50 rebels were wiped out in the past 24 hours,” a Ukrainian military spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov wrote in a Facebook post.

A spokesman for Ukraine’s national security and defence council added that at least four servicemen were killed and 25 wounded in a barrage of rebel attacks.

The tide in Ukraine’s worst crisis since its 1991 independence turned last weekend when resurgent government forces managed to flush out the separatists from a string of eastern towns and cities they had seized in early April.

Most of the militias have since retreated to Donetsk and the neighbouring industrial city of Lugansk – both capitals of their own “People’s Republics” that refuse to recognise Kiev’s new West-leaning government and are seeking annexation by Russia.

The conflict has claimed the lives of more than 500 people, while Amnesty International also said there had been “hundreds” of abductions and acts of torture committed by the separatists.

An Amnesty report published Friday also said that “excessive force may have been used… by Ukrainian forces” on several occasions – a charge repeatedly made by Moscow.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko now finds himself trapped between European pressure to agree an immediate truce and massive domestic support for his troops to finish off an insurgency that has threatened the 45-million-strong nation with disintegration and economic collapse.

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Pamplona bull run sends seven to hospital

Seven people have been sent to hospital after fighting bulls trampled and knocked over daredevils on a run through the streets of Spain’s northern city of Pamplona.


No one was gored on Friday but three people suffered head injuries, including a 19-year-old woman from Valencia, a 48-year-old man from New York and a 46-year-old man from Paisley in Scotland, the regional government of Navarra said.

A 33-year-old Spanish man dislocated his right shoulder and another three Spaniards suffered bruises and cuts to the face or knee.

The seven injured were taken to hospital by ambulance after receiving first aid at the scene. None of their injuries were deemed serious.

Emergency services workers loaded a man whose head was wrapped in a bandage on a stretcher to an ambulance.

The six bulls from the Jandilla ranch in the eastern province of Badajoz charged in a pack over most of the 850m course from a holding pen to Pamplona’s bull ring in two minutes and 56 seconds.

The bulls, which weighed between 510kg and 595kg, will face matadors and death in the afternoon in the arena.

Hundreds of runners collided with each other or pushed one another out of the way in panic as the galloping animals neared.

“It was intense. You barely have time to think about what is going on, you are just focused on avoiding crashing into people,” said Jonathan Sweeney, a 27-year-old bartender and law student from Los Angeles who was taking part in a bull run for the first time.

Friday’s run was the fifth in the nine-day San Fermin festival, which was immortalised in Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises.

San Fermin has become a global tourist attraction, with tens of thousands of Spaniards and foreigners pouring into the Navarran capital.

Many bull run participants take part after drinking and dancing almost all night.

Fifteen people have been killed in the bull runs since records began in 1911. The most recent death occurred five years ago when a Spanish man was gored.

Four Spaniards and one American have been gored so far this year in the festival, which wraps up on Monday.

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Employers paid $10,000 to hire older workers

The government wants older Australians to work for longer.


Today the government launched its $524.8 million Restart program, announced in the federal budget. 

Employers will receive up to $10,000 over two years if they hire someone 50 years or over who has been on social security for at least six months.

“There are lots and lots of people who don’t just want to be social contributors but economic contributors as well,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.

“For too long we’ve had this idea that once you hit a certain age you’re just sliding into retirement,” he added. “If we are to be the strong and dynamic economy in the future that we’ve always been in the past we need to encourage older people to stay in the workforce.

“We need to remember that the best form of welfare is work.” 

Employers and recruitment agencies have praised the incentive as good for encouraging bosses to hire mature workers.

‘Ageism rife in workplace’

However, official statistics show ageism in the workplace kicks in as early as 45.

An AAP analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows people who lose their jobs when aged between 45 and 54 can expect to be out of work for about a year.

And according to 55-year-old John Bain, the older you are, the harder it is to find work.

Retrenched last August with a Master’s in marketing, he spends three hours every day looking at job advertisements.

Mr Bain has applied for over 270 positions, but has only got 15 interviews.

“It gets very frustrating particularly when you know that a lot of these positions I’ve done comfortably in the past,” he told SBS.

Mr Bain assumes his age is a major factor.

But he’s not sure $10,000 is enough of an incentive.

“I think it’ll be a step in the right direction but I’m not convinced that the amount they’re talking about is going to be that appealing to a company.”

Recruitment firm Randstad’s employment analyst Steve Shepherd said ageism was rife in the workplace.

He cited the case of a 47-year-old woman client who was asked during a recent job interview if she still had the passion to work at her age.

“Employers do have perceptions that older people are going to be less energetic and less technology savvy,” he said.

“This incentive will help employers, particularly small businesses, to see beyond a person’s age.

“I think this culture against older workers will have to change because at the end of the day we have an ageing population.”

The Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman said he’s expecting retail businesses to take advantage of the incentive, including home improvement giant Masters.

“People in car part areas will make excellent workers in hardware stores,” he said.

“We know Masters is in the process of opening stores across Australia so there are opportunities there.”

Building products group CSR managing director Rob Sindel said the average age of the company’s employees, particularly in the company’s factories, was between 45 and 55.

“We have never shied away from hiring people in that age group,” he said.

“If there is some long-term unemployed person, who is right for the organisation and the role, then we would apply for the grant but it wouldn’t be our primary driver.”


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Man Utd still tops sponsors’ league after poor season

That partnership and a shirt sponsorship with car brand Chevrolet, which also set a new benchmark for the sport, will help to underwrite the rebuilding of the team under new manager Louis van Gaal.


Negotiations for a new kit supply deal were a test of United’s marketing muscle after a season in which the team won nothing and finished too low in the Premier League even to qualify for the lucrative European Champions League.

The normally bullish Nike pulled out of contract renewal talks, saying that the price had gone too high and signalling an end to a partnership dating back to 2002.

A source with knowledge of the negotiations said rival Adidas had offered upwards of 60 million pounds ($102 million) a season for a 10-year deal that will see it replace Nike from 2015.

The current Nike deal was worth 38 million pounds to United in 2012-13, including a share of the earnings from the sale of shirts and other merchandise to fans around the world.

United, majority owned by the American Glazer family and listed on the New York Stock Exchange, are determined to ensure that last season was a one-off failure and have replaced manager David Moyes after a short and unhappy tenure.

“Brands are about the history and the promise that will continue into the future,” said Peter Walshe, a global account director with marketing company Millward Brown.

“There is a lot of excitement about the future after the disastrous handover to Moyes,” he added. “It shows the United brand is bigger than one decision or individual.”


English champions a record 20 times, United have built up a huge global following over the decades thanks to players like George Best, Eric Cantona and David Beckham.

Just before their stock market flotation in 2012, United produced a survey showing they had 659 million global followers – not far short of one in 10 of the population.

That appeal helped persuade General Motors to put its Chevrolet brand on the team’s red shirts in a deal worth $559 million that will run until 2021. As with the sportswear sponsorship, that was double the going rate for most major European teams.

“The key thing here is the increasing power that the brand has internationally,” said Andy Sutherden, global head of sports marketing and sponsorship at communications firm H+K Strategies.

“The pool of fans from all over the world is the asset that they sell,” he added.

Indeed, the focus for General Motors will be the Asian markets where United is popular, as the car maker is pulling the Chevrolet brand out of European markets.

United this week launched their new red shirts bearing the Chevrolet logo, a kit that will be the last one featuring the Nike swoosh and will be worn through the 2014-15 season.

For Adidas, the United deal fits with a strategy of defending market leadership in soccer against the advances made by larger American rival Nike, which has been involved in the sport for only two decades.

“If you can keep out a key rival that is worth a lot more to you rather than just the positive value of having that brand,” said Millward Brown’s Walshe.

United fans on social media reacted positively to the prospect of Adidas returning as kit supplier, reviving a partnership from the 1980s.

Nike had the right to match the bid from its rival, but walked away, saying it did not offer good value for shareholders.

More than 2 million United shirts are sold every year, which will help Adidas to recoup its investment, provided the team can return to the top of the European game.

That is where Dutchman Van Gaal comes in, fresh from taking a workmanlike Netherlands team to the World Cup semi-final this week.

Just as importantly, he appears to have some of the aura of former manager Alex Ferguson, who retired last year after winning 13 Premier League titles in two decades.

“What van Gaal has done with the Netherlands whets the appetite of fans and sponsors alike,” said Sutherden.

“He has done enough with Holland to show he is a manager who will create a positive and immediate impact.”

(Writing by Keith Weir; Editing by Will Waterman)

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High rates of mental health issues in Australia’s detention centres, inquiry hears

The mental health of asylum seekers in the Australian detention network came under renewed scrutiny today.


A senate inquiry heard about 30 per cent of detainees have mental health issues, with that number expected to rise in offshore detention facilities.

“We find that across the entire network we have about 30 per cent prevalence of individuals with mental health issues,” Manus Island medical provider Mark Parrish, from the International Health and Medical Services, told the senate inquiry.

“We feel that this is likely to increase offshore.”

The mental health of those within the detention network has been in sharp focus this week after the government confirmed reports that some women on Christmas Island have attempted self-harm.

Fairfax Media reported that the women tried to end their lives because they believed their orphaned children would be allowed to settle in Australia.

But Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the government would not capitulate to “moral blackmail” when it came to border protection.

“This is not going to be a government which has our policy driven by people who are attempting to hold us over a moral barrel – we won’t be driven by that,” he told the Nine Network on Wednesday.

At a forum focusing on refugee women in Sydney, Liberal senator Michaelia Cash had warm words for women accepted on humanitarian grounds, but declined to comment on women currently in detention.

“They are women who have suffered from security threats, sexual and gender based violence, intimidation, torture and exploitation,” she said.

Government tight-lipped on safety of 153 asylum seekers

During the Inquiry, the military commander of the government’s border protection operation, Angus Campbell remained tight-lipped about the safety or circumstances of the 153 asylum seekers intercepted by the Australian Navy.

Earlier this week, the High Court temporarily barred the return of 153 asylum seekers to Sri Lanka. But their fate remains unclear, so do their current whereabouts.

“That is a matter under consideration by the high court it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment further,” Mr Campbell said.

What Mr Campbell did reveal was that the controversial turn-back policy was deterring asylum seekers from making the dangerous journey from Indonesia.

“No ventures have departed Indonesia since early May 2014. There have been no known deaths at sea since the 9th of December since 2013,” he said.

Former refugee “Tenneh” told SBS he hoped the government was listening to their concerns over the needs of women who have been forced to flee their homes.

“I think the Australian government should end the detention of women and children. If someone comes to your country looking for asylum, they are not criminals. They are looking for safe haven,” he said.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78 or Suicide Callback Service 1300 659 467.

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