Monthly Archives: April 2019

Israel puts ‘temporary hold’ on Gaza ground operation

“A decision was taken that for the time being there is a temporary hold on the ground incursion to give diplomacy a chance to succeed,” he said after a late-night meeting of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s key ministers, the Forum of Nine.


“They discussed both the state of the diplomacy and the military operation,” he said on condition of anonymity.

As an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire plan took shape at indirect negotiations in Cairo between Israel and a Hamas team, a stream of top-level diplomats headed for the region to throw their weight behind efforts to end the violence which on Tuesday entered its seventh day.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who is currently in Cairo, is to meet Israeli President Shimon Peres and US officials said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would break away from an Asia visit to travel to Israel, Egypt and the West Bank.

Palestinian officials said she was expected to visit Ramallah on Wednesday morning for talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

At the same time Israel is building up its ground forces along the Gaza border, ready to go in if required, the Israeli official told AFP.

“Preparations for the ground incursion continue,” he said.

“If we see that diplomacy does not bear fruit — and the time we’ve given to diplomacy is limited — all the preparations are being undertaken so that if and when the order is given the ground incursion can happen expeditiously.”

A statement from the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, said its Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee would meet during the day to rubber stamp a request by Defence Minister Ehud Barak to raise to 75,000 the number of army reservists he can call up, in a move already approved by the cabinet.

At least 16,000 reservists had been mobilised by the end of last week, out of 30,000 callups previously authorised.

The army would not give an updated number on Tuesday, saying only that reservists were constantly being drafted according to need.

Click the interactive map below to see more information about missile strikes in Gaza and Israel. This map is a guide only, and does not represent the hundreds of rocket attacks that have been reported in both Israel and Gaza in the last few days.

View Israel-Gaza conflict in a larger map

Indigenous festival launched at Bluesfest

The Byron Bay Bluesfest has wrapped up with the announcement of a new event that will bring together the world’s first nations artists.


As people from all over the world sampled the vast range of blues music on offer, an all-new Indigenous festival was announced, and it was an immediate hit with one of the high-profile international artists.

The festival, Boomerang, is the brainchild of owner and curator of Bluesfest, Peter Noble and renowned creative and festival director, Rhoda Roberts.

“We’re really excited — Boomerang festival is opening here on the Bluesfest site from the 4th-6th October this year,” said Ms Roberts.

“It really is a cultural immersion. It’s about celebrating world cultures, mother tongues and first instruments.

So we have people coming from the Asia Pacific rim, Canada, Finland, New Zealand, and of course remote communities and urban communities across Australia and it really is about all sectors of the arts”

Searching for Sugarman’s Rodriguez, who expressed interest in performing at Boomerang, is a strong supporter of an international indigenous festival.

“As a musician I think these kind of events happen… for the music exchange of course, but also for the cultural exchange,” he said.

“Actually I consider them more like conferences where people can exchange ideas, make plans and so forth. Music is a living art… I think it would be great to have an indigenous festival all over the world so people can be exposed to other cultures.”

Merindah Donnelly, Indigenous Program Officer for the Australian Council for the Arts, said the main focus has been supporting the artists and extending the life of their work beyond one show.

“So a festival like Boomerang provides the most incredible oppourtunity for them to be able to tour their work and for them to reach their full potential and develop and it provides a really good place for internationals to see that work and provide a potential touring outcome.”

Ms Roberts says the festival has taken a few years to get off the ground, but they are all really excited. “It’s really unique, it’s celebrating the oldest culture, Aboriginal culture in Australia.

But it’s really about audiences coming and immersing themselves, getting to know us and just having great fun, great bands, a bit of stomp, some traditional arts practices, rituals. So they get another perspective of us as artists.”

Plans for the new festival were unveiled at the weekend and tickets have already gone on sale.

Comment: Is the NRL enforcing its own concussion rules?

By Bradley Partridge and Wayne Hall

The new National Rugby League (NRL) season has quickly shown that the use of performance enhancing drugs is not the only ongoing threat to player welfare.


The sight of an unconscious Ashley Harrison from Gold Coast Titans, being stretchered from the ground after being knocked out was a vivid reminder of the importance of properly managing concussion in “collision sports”.

Since 2011, the NRL has made it mandatory for any player who may have suffered a concussion to be removed from the field and to be examined by a medical practitioner. The guidelines prohibit any player diagnosed with concussion from continuing to play on the same day.

Any breach of this “concussion exclusion rule” may be sanctioned with fines levied on the club or coaching or medical staff. The NRL has included these concussion guidelines as part of the official rules of the league.

Last week, the Australian Football League (AFL) hosted the Concussion in Football Conference 2013, which discussed an updated version of the global protocol for managing concussion in all sports.

At the conference, the chief medical officer of the NRL, Dr. Ron Muratore, presented an overview of how the football code had been managing concussion over the last two years. He also explained the reasons for his often-made statement that concussion is taken very seriously in rugby league.

Muratore also explained the way in which the NRL monitors compliance with its concussion guidelines. Currently, the chief medical officer may investigate incidents of suspected concussion to ensure that the guidelines were correctly followed. His findings are compiled in a report and one might expect the expert medical opinion of the NRL’s chief doctor is given weight by the code’s administrators in deciding whether to impose sanctions for failure to comply with the guidelines.

To date, no club, doctor, or trainer has been fined for breaching the concussion guidelines. Is this because medical and coaching staffs have fully complied with the concussion guidelines? Or does it mean that the monitoring of compliance has been less than rigorous? Anyone who saw a concussed Robbie Farah remain on the field for the whole of last year’s State of Origin decider may well wonder.

During a public question-and-answer session that followed his presentation, Muratore was asked if he had written any reports in which he concluded that a team doctor or trainer had, or may have, breached the concussion guidelines. He said this had been the case on “two or three occasions” but made no mention of any consequences.

Why have no sanctions for failure to comply with the concussion guidelines been recorded (or, if imposed not, made public) by the National Rugby League? To whom were Muratore’s reports sent within the NRL’s administration? Was the football code’s head of football operations aware of each of these reports?

If he was not, this raises serious questions about who is responsible for ensuring that concussions are managed according to the NRL’s code.

In the interests of transparency, all investigations of possible breaches of the concussion guidelines in the NRL (and the reasons for findings) should be made public. For some, the lack of any fines or other substantial sanctions raises the suspicion that the NRL is reluctant to acknowledge that cases of concussion may have been mismanaged.

Sanctioning any clubs found to have breached the concussion guidelines would be the best way for the NRL to demonstrate its commitment to managing concussion. It’s a step that would reinforce the necessity for the thousands of amateur and junior rugby league players to take the issue of concussion seriously.

If the NRL is, as it claims, putting player welfare first, then it must ensure that its clubs plays by the rules for managing concussion.

Bradley Partridge receives funding from NHMRC and ARC.

Wayne Hall receives funding from NHMRC via an Australai Fewllowship to work on the ethical implications of addiction neuroscience and he has received funding for research from ARC on topics unrelated to the subject of the article.

Yankees plan A-Rod discipline

Already in trouble with Major League Baseball, Alex Rodriguez now faces a penalty from his own team.


The New York Yankees intend to discipline A-Rod for seeking a second medical opinion on his injured leg without their permission, a person familiar with the team’s deliberations said on Thursday.

The exact penalty had not been determined but a fine appeared to be the most likely option.

It is understood that during a conference call Thursday, the Yankees and Rodriguez agreed to a timetable that would have the third baseman resume minor league rehabilitation games or simulated games next Thursday.

Rodriguez, who has been sidelined since hip surgery in January, issued a statement earlier in the day saying he wanted to be activated for Friday’s homestand opener against Tampa Bay. But that apparently wasn’t in the Yankees plans.

MLB has been investigating Rodriguez as part of its probe of the closed Biogenesis clinic in Florida , accused in media reports of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs. A suspension appears likely, but Rodriguez could ask the players’ association to contest a drug penalty – making it possible he might not have to serve any time until next year.

He is among the dozen or so players under investigation by MLB; he has said in the past that he used PEDs from 2001-03 while with Texas but maintained he has not used them since.

Rodriguez has angered the Yankees by seeking a second opinion on his thigh injury, and declaring his fitness.

“I think the Yanks and I crossed signals,” Rodriguez said on Thursday.

“I don’t want any more mix ups. I’m excited and ready to play and help this team win a championship. I feel great and I’m ready and want to be in the lineup Friday night. Enough doctors, let’s play.”

But Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he had not spoken to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman about the third baseman’s status and said he would be surprised to have him in the lineup on Friday against Tampa Bay.

“I am sure they will go through all the proper rehab channels and we’ll move forward every day,” Girardi said.

In a Twitter posting, the Yankees said that while Rodriguez has shown improvement, he is not ready to return, although he may soon be able to participate in a rehabilitation game.

“Brian Cashman says @AROD’s quad has improved, the hope is he could have sim/rehab game 8/1 but he is not @MLB ready,” the Yankees tweeted.

Tsvangirai urges fair Zimbabwe election

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has warned President Robert Mugabe not to “steal” a crunch vote next week, so that his veteran rival can exit office with dignity.


“Mugabe stole an election in 2002, he stole the election in 2008. This time we want to tell him that he will not steal again,” Tsvangirai said to thousands of supporters on Saturday.

“As a party we don’t have intentions of retribution. What we only want and what we are saying is: ‘Mr Mugabe run this election freely and fairly so that we can give you a dignified exit.'”

After two previous polls condemned by observers as unfair, Tsvangirai is vying to end Mugabe’s 33-year rule and a four-year shaky coalition forced after chaotic elections in 2008.

Speaking in the farming town of Chinhoyi, 100km northwest of the capital Harare, he hit out at the electoral authority after a disorganised special early vote and the absence of an electoral roll.

“I have not been given the voters roll, three days before the elections,” Tsvangirai said, saying this was a loophole for rigging.

He again accused the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) of printing eight million ballots – instead of 6.2 million, the number of registered voters.

“I am saying this in full view of observers,” he said.

“We know you have printed eight million ballots for (the) presidential election, eight million for (the) parliamentary election. You don’t explain why you need two extra million ballots.”

The lead-up to the July 31 election has been marred by flawed voter registration, chaotic early polling for security forces, and lopsided campaign coverage in state media.

A special early vote held on July 14 and 15 for police officers and soldiers saw polling stations open without ballot papers, leaving thousands unable to cast their vote.

The country’s Constitutional Court on Friday ruled that the thousands of officers who were unable to vote due to the disorganisation, will get a second chance to cast ballots during the Wednesday general elections.

Tsvangirai claims his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party had also discovered that some of the ballot papers that were cast were later thrown away.

“You (ZEC) messed up the special vote of 70,000 people. In two days you could not handle those people,” he said.

“How are you going to handle the 6.2 million voters who are going to line up for one day.”

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