No sign of end to Qld Origin dominance

Reports of the Queensland State of Origin team’s demise have been grossly exaggerated.


Just when their remarkable dynasty looked set to end, the Maroons may yet have kick-started a new era of dominance after stunning NSW 22-6 to seal yet another series win at a sold out Suncorp Stadum on Wednesday night.

Man of the match Cameron Smith, debutant five-eighth Cameron Munster and hat-trick winger Valentine Holmes inspired the game three triumph in front of a ground record 52,540 to seal their 11th series victory in 12 years.

It was the perfect Origin farewell for injured Maroons five-eighth Johnathan Thurston, who received a pre-match tribute before being invited by skipper Smith to raise the shield on the podium.

It seemed the Blues never had a better chance to break Queensland’s vice-like grip on the Origin shield than this year.

The Maroons used eight debutants, three different five-eighths and a record 26 players for the series.

And no Thurston after his 37-game Origin career was ended by a shoulder injury in their come from behind game two win.

Yet they still overcame a record 28-4 opening loss at home to emerge victorious against a NSW 17 that remained the same throughout for the first time in 21 years.

“After what happened after game one here I am really proud of how they have performed under a lot of pressure,” Queensland coach Kevin Walters said.

“On Cameron (Smith), I don’t think I have seen a more dominant performance from anyone.”

The future of Queensland’s Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk may be up in the air, with both yet to decide whether to play on in 2018.

But fellow veteran Smith was already convinced the Maroons would be left in safe hands after their stirring series triumph.

“This would be one of the more pleasing series victories,” 42 Origin veteran Smith said.

“Using 26 players, that’s the most we’ve used, and they were in key positions. To be able to beat a Blues side that remained unchanged for the entire series, that’s a special effort.”

Smith said the future was bright after Munster was superb replacing Thurston at five-eighth.

“I know there will be a few older boys in the team who will be finishing up in the next year or two but I think the team is in a pretty good spot,” Smith said.

Slater and Cronk did not give anything away on their future while savouring the unlikely series win.

Off contract Slater is yet to commit to another season while Cronk is uncertain of his next move after announcing he will leave NRL club Melbourne and relocate to Sydney in 2018 to be with his fiancee.

“It’s hard to give up moments like that,”Cronk admitted, suggesting he may yet continue in Origin.

NSW coach Laurie Daley admitted he thought this would be the Blues’ year.

It remains to be seen if Daley remains at the helm after slumping to a 1-4 series record.

“They’ll eventually get there. Obviously we thought it was going to be this year. It will hurt for 12 months,” Daley said.

Cronk hints at playing on in 2018 Origin

Looking around a jubilant Queensland dressing room, Cooper Cronk admitted it would be hard to say goodbye to State of Origin after the Maroons’ 22-6 series-clinching win in Origin III.


Halfback Cronk, 33, is yet to decide his future after announcing he will leave NRL club Melbourne and join his fiancee in Sydney in 2018.

But the lure of Origin may yet persuade Cronk to run around again next year, judging by the 22-game Queensland playmaker’s beaming smile in the Maroons sheds on Wednesday night.

The XXXX flowed as family and friends mingled with Queensland greats like Wally Lewis and the Maroons toasted their 11th series win in 12 years.

“I’ve got some thinking to do, there’s no doubt about that,” Cronk said.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do but I’ll tell you, it’s hard to give up moments like that.

“You’re a kid, you watch Wally Lewis, Alfie Langer, Mal Meninga, Arthur Beetson play and you just want to be a part of it.

“And then to have moments like that, it’s pretty special.”

No doubt Cronk contemplated his own future when five-eighth Johnathan Thurston received an emotional pre-game tribute on Wednesday night after his 37-game Origin career was ended by a shoulder injury suffered in Queensland’s game two win in Sydney.

He said it was good to share the unlikely series win with veteran skipper Cameron Smith and another who may have played his last Origin, fullback Billy Slater.

Cronk still wouldn’t give a deadline on his own future despite the inspiring Origin win.

“It’s why you play the game. It’s why you get up and have ice baths late at night when you don’t really want to, to have moments like that for Johnathan Thurston’s last game,” Cronk said.

“It’s good to share it with Cameron and Billy. We’ve probably got less moments in front of us.

“John (Thurston) made his decision based on his personal circumstances and I’ll just do the same.”

If it was Cronk’s last hurrah, he left something to remember him by.

He provided one of Origin III’s highlights with a pin point perfect cross field kick that gifted hat-trick winger Valentine Holmes his second try in the 26th minute.

Coalition to adopt 49 of 50 Finkel energy suggestions but undecided on clean energy target

The Turnbull government is still deciding whether to support a clean energy target, as the federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg prepares to pitch the other 49 recommendations of the Finkel Review to a meeting of state ministers on Friday.


Australia’s chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel recommended 50 strategies to improve the reliability and affordability of the national energy market.

The head of the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), Audrey Zibelman, has urged the ministers at the upcoming COAG meeting to endorse the report.

The government has already agreed to 49 of the recommendations, Mr Frydenberg told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

Among them are a plan for more battery storage for renewables similar to the Tesla battery in South Australia, the Turnbull government’s so-called Snowy 2.0 and a new requirement that coal-fired power stations provide three years of notice before shutting down.

But the Coalition party-room has not decided on whether to back the report’s most controversial suggestion: a clean energy target that would require power companies to source a percentage of their electricity from renewable energy.

“I’m sure the states would like to discuss it and I’m happy to talk to them about it, but … the government’s position on a clean energy target is that we haven’t finalised our internal discussions,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“This is a very big decision, to move down the path of a new mechanism. It’s one that Dr Finkel himself said should be in place by 2020, so we don’t have to rush it.”

The minister said the government was continuing to question the assumptions behind some of Dr Finkel’s modelling, and to consult with “key stakeholders”. 

Some in the Turnbull Government are resistant to the idea of a clean energy target. Former prime minister Tony Abbot has argued for the existing renewable energy target (RET) to be cut back. 

Not a ‘conservative’ approach 

John Hewson, a former Liberal leader, told the ABC’s Lateline program that if Mr Abbott were a “true conservative” he would support a market-based solution on climate change via some kind of price on carbon emissions, rather than the ‘direct action’ policy left over from his government. 

Ms Zibelman, the head of AEMO, said the energy ministers needed to agree on a policy framework at COAG and move on quickly. 

“There is a path forward and we need to take it, and we need to move and we need to move quickly,” Ms Zibelman told a Committee for the Economic Develop­ment of Australia lunch in Melbourne, according to The Australian.

RelatedFuel efficiency

Meanwhile, the Turnbull Government has hosed down reports it is considering a new carbon pricing system that would penalise drivers who buy petrol-thirsty cars.

Wednesday’s front page of the Daily Telegraph claimed the government was planning to introduce a carbon tax on cars.

That prompted energy minister Josh Frydenberg to dismiss the idea on ABC’s breakfast program.

“There is as much chance of a carbon tax on cars as Elvis making a comeback,” he said.

But the government has not ruled out introducing new standards for the fuel efficiency of cars.

Mr Frydenberg said the government had been undertaking consultations since October 2015, but was only motivated by a desire to “reduce the fuel costs for families on their vehicles”.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said “no decisions” had been made.

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development has canvassed the idea and asked the auto industry for feedback.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries said it was “hugely disappointed” with the proposed standard, according to the Australian Financial Review, because it would add thousands of dollars to the cost of common medium-sized SUVs.

More mass graves found in Congo: UN

Another 38 probable mass graves have been found in central Congo, where deadly violence between troops and militia members has killed thousands of people since August, the United Nations says.


This means at least 80 mass graves have been identified so far, the UN peacekeeping mission in the vast Central African nation said on Wednesday.

The international community has expressed alarm over the violence in the once-calm Kasai provinces region. Some diplomats have suggested that the tensions are also tied to Congo’s presidential election that has been delayed since last year.

The Catholic church has estimated more than 3300 people have died in the fighting since a traditional chief was killed in a military operation in August. The UN says more than a million people have been displaced.

The latest mass graves were found this month in the Diboko and Sumbula areas of Kamonia territory by an investigative team from the local UN human rights office and Congo’s military justice authorities, the UN said.

On Tuesday, UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix expressed serious concern to the UN Security Council that violence in the Kasai provinces “has reached very disturbing levels”.

Congo’s government now points to the violence as the reason for further election delays. The country’s UN ambassador, Ignace Gata Mavita, has said voter registration has not yet begun in two provinces – Kasai and Kasai Central – as a result of the fighting. Registration is scheduled to begin July 20, he said.

President Joseph Kabila’s mandate ended in December, and after deadly protests the government and opposition reached a December 31 agreement that calls for the vote by the end of this year – without Kabila as a candidate.

The head of the electoral commission, however, now says that won’t be possible.

China dissident Liu’s condition critical

Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo is in critical condition and his breathing is failing, the hospital treating him says.


Liu, a prominent participant in the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests of 1989, was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” after helping to write a petition known as “Charter 08” calling for sweeping political reforms.

He was recently moved from jail to a hospital to be treated for late-stage liver cancer.

Liu’s kidney and liver functions are failing, and he suffers from blood clots, among other ailments, the hospital in the city of Shenyang said on its website on Wednesday.

However, Liu’s family has declined the use of intubation machinery to help him breathe with the aid of a plastic tube in his windpipe, the hospital said.

The announcement suggested a significant deterioration in Liu’s health since early on Wednesday, when the hospital said he was being treated for worsening liver function, septic shock and organ dysfunction.

Rights groups and Western government have urged China to allow Liu and his wife, Liu Xia, to leave the country to be treated abroad, as Liu has said he wants to.

But the government has warned against interference in its internal affairs and said Liu is getting the best care possible and is being treated by renowned Chinese cancer experts.

The state-backed Global Times tabloid said the “confrontational tone” of those in the West voicing their opinions on Liu failed to focus on his illness.

The government allowed two foreign doctors, from the United States and Germany, to visit Liu on Saturday and they later said they considered it was safe for him to be moved overseas, but any move should be done as quickly as possible.

After the doctors’ Sunday statement, China released short videos of their visit, apparently taken without their knowledge, in which the German doctor appeared to praise the care Liu had received.

Liu’s friends voiced suspicion about the hospital’s earlier statement, which suggested a worsening of his health soon after two foreign doctors said he was well enough to travel abroad.

No one answered the telephone at the hospital’s publicity department on Wednesday.

UN blames warring sides for Yemen’s ‘man-made’ cholera crisis

“This cholera scandal is entirely man-made by the conflicting parties and those beyond Yemen’s borders who are leading, supplying, fighting and perpetuating the fear and fighting,” Stephen O’Brien told the UN Security Council.


The humanitarian crisis “is a direct result of the conflict and serious violations of international law,” he said.

More than 320,000 suspected cholera cases have been reported in nearly all of Yemen’s districts and at least 1,740 people have died from the outbreak, said O’Brien, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs.

Describing the humanitarian crisis as “appalling”, Yemen’s UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said the country was in the throes of not “a single emergency but a number of complex emergencies”.

0:00 Cholera vaccine ‘unlikely’ for Yemen Share Cholera vaccine ‘unlikely’ for Yemen

More than seven million people are at risk of famine including 2.3 malnourished children under the age of five in Yemen, already among the Arab world’s poorest countries.

Yemen’s health system has collapsed during the war pitting the Saudi-led coalition backing the internationally recognized Yemeni government and Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels since March 2015.

The Huthi rebels still hold the capital Sanaa and Taez, the country’s third largest city.

O’Brien appealed for $250 million in funding for the UN response to the cholera crisis. So far, only $47 million has been received.


He also urged council powers to take action to ensure public servants are paid so that health facilities can reopen.

The airport in Sanaa, which closed last year, must be reopened and the port of Hodeida, a crucial lifeline for deliveries of food and medicine, must be kept safe from attack, O’Brien said.

The aid chief urged Saudi Arabia to allow mobile cranes left in Dubai to arrive at Hodeida port.

Riyadh has accused the Huthi rebels of using the port to smuggle weapons into the country.

“You will have to lean much more heavily and effectively on the parties and those outside Yemen who are leading this policy and action,” O’Brien told the council.

Trillion-tonne iceberg snaps off West Antarctic shelf: Scientists

A trillion-tonne iceberg, one of the largest ever recorded, has snapped off the West Antarctic ice shelf, scientists who have monitored the growing crack for years said on Wednesday.


“The calving occurred sometime between Monday, July 10 and Wednesday, July 12, when a 5,800-square kilometre (2,200-square mile) section of Larsen C (ice shelf) finally broke away,” the Swansea University said in a statement.

The massive ice cube, larger than the US state of Delaware, has a volume twice that of Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes. It is about 350 metres (1,100 feet) thick.

“The iceberg weighs more than a trillion tonnes, but it was already floating before it calved away so has no immediate impact on sea level,” the team said. It will likely be named A68.

How reporters around the world described the scale of the massive iceberg that broke off from Antarctica 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/OGKAIHbEC1 pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/uwT0kAx4C0

— Nikhil Sonnad (@nkl) July 12, 2017

With the calving, the Larsen C ice shelf lost more than 12 per cent of its total surface area.

Icebergs calving from Antarctica are a regular occurrence. But given its enormous size, the latest berg will be closely watched as it travels, for any potential risk to shipping traffic.

The calving may have heightened the risk of the remaining ice shelf disintegrating, the Swansea team said.

Ice shelves float on the sea, extending from the coast, and are fed by slow-flowing glaciers from the land. 

A handout photo made available by the European Space Agency showing a crack in the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica.

They act as giant brakes, preventing glaciers from flowing directly into the ocean.

If the glaciers held in check by Larsen C spilt into the Antarctic Ocean, it would lift the global water mark by about 10 centimetres (four inches), researchers have said.       

The calving of ice shelves occurs naturally, though global warming is believed to have accelerated the process.

Warmer ocean water erodes the underbelly of the ice shelves, while rising air temperatures weaken them from above.

The nearby Larsen A ice shelf collapsed in 1995, and Larsen B dramatically broke up seven years later.

The final break was detected by a NASA satellite.

“We will continue to monitor both the impact of this calving event on the Larsen C ice shelf and the fate of this huge iceberg,” said lead investigator Adrian Luckman of the university’s MIDAS project.

The fate of the berg is hard to predict. It may stay in one piece, but could also break into fragments.

“Some of the ice may remain in the area for decades, while parts of the iceberg may drift north into warmer waters,” said Luckman.

The team said the calving at the iceberg cannot be directly placed at the door of global warming, describing it as a “natural event”.

Human actions have lifted average global air temperatures by about one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial levels, according to scientists. 

Antarctica is one of the world’s fastest-warming regions.


Smith gives JT fitting Origin farewell

A tribute may have honoured Johnathan Thurston before the State of Origin series decider at Suncorp Stadium but Queensland captain Cameron Smith provided the fitting farewell.


Smith at times choked back tears when he reflected on Thurston’s 37 Origin Maroons career before inviting the champion five-eighth to help him lift the victors’ shield after Queensland’s series-clinching 22-6 game three win on Wednesday night.

Thurston’s glittering Origin career was ended by a shoulder injury suffered in Queensland’s game two win in Sydney.

Denied a last hurrah at home by injury, Thurston received a pre-match video tribute at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night before a brief on-field interview with his family by his side.

The formalities appeared over for Thurston until an emotional Smith took to the podium to receive the winners’ shield yet again.

“I know there’s been plenty said and plenty of presentations this week and tonight, but I reckon you’re the greatest person to have ever pulled on a Maroon jersey mate,” Smith said to Thurston standing sideline with his right arm in a sling.

“It was unfortunate that he couldn’t finish here tonight in front of his beloved Queensland fans.

“I don’t know if I’ve come across a more passionate Queenslander.

“For what you’ve done in this jersey, I don’t think anyone could ever thank you enough mate.

“I wish you all the very best for the future. Let’s lift this shield up together.”

Thurston gratefully accepted the honour before sitting front and centre in the team victory photo brandishing the winners’ shield.

The champion five-eighth was then chaired off the ground by Smith and halfback Cooper Cronk after Queensland’s 11th series win in 12 years.

“It was a pretty special moment,” Smith said of raising the shield with his close mate.

“I would have much preferred for him to be out there with us on the field to be honest.

“I think he deserved to be up there.

“He’s not going to get another opportunity to play in this arena again. I just wanted him to enjoy the moment as much as he could.”

The bond between the pair was clear on the podium but Smith revealed the full extent of their tight relationship as he reflected on the series win post-match.

“He’s one of my best mates. We’ve been through a whole heap together.

“We’ve known each other since we were 10.

“For us to play against each other as 10-year-olds and our careers to pan out the way it has through Origin and Kangaroos it is pretty special.

“I wanted to give him the moment he deserved.

“I don’t think we are going to see a guy like him again for a long time.”

China envoy says North Korea trade growth picture ‘distorted’

Last week US President Donald Trump denounced China’s trade with North Korea, saying it had grown almost 40 percent in the first quarter, and cast doubt on whether Beijing was helping to counter the threat from North Korea.


Data released in April showed China’s trade with North Korea grew 37.4 per cent year on year in the first quarter, in spite of a ban on coal imports China announced in February.

“This is a distorted picture,” China’s ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, said in a speech to a Washington think tank on Monday.

Cui said bilateral trade declined in 2015 and 2016, and Chinese imports from North Korea dropped by 41 percent in April and 32 percent in May as a result of the coal import ban.

Related reading

At the same time, Cui stressed that U.N. Security Council sanctions on North Korea did not constitute an embargo. “Normal trade … is not banned by these sanctions,” he said.

The Chinese embassy released a copy of Cui’s speech, originally delivered in an off-the-record setting, on Tuesday.

Cui said China backed further U.N. action against North Korea for violations of UN resolutions such as nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

He did not though make clear whether China believed North Korea’s latest missile test last week, which the United States described as a first ICBM test, was of that type of missile.

Diplomats say the United States is aiming for a vote within weeks to strengthen UN sanctions on North Korea over the test, but Russia has objected to a Security Council condemnation of the launch as a US-drafted statement labeled it an ICBM.

Cui said sanctions were necessary, but could not solve the North Korean problem alone. He repeated a call for Washington to back a Chinese “suspension for suspension” proposal under which North Korea would freeze weapons testing in return for suspension of US-South Korean military exercises.

Washington says the exercises are needed to maintain defenses against North Korea and US officials say Beijing could face U.S. economic and trade pressure unless it does more to rein in North Korea.

Washington is expected to press the issue when senior US and Chinese officials meet on July 19 to discuss bilateral economic issues.

Brazil’s ‘Car Wash’ scandal: three years of upheaval

Campaigning anti-corruption Judge Sergio Moro sentenced Lula, who ruled Brazil from 2003-2010, to nine and a half years in prison for accepting a bribe of a luxury seaside apartment and $1.


1 million.

The conviction sent a chilling message to much of Brazil’s political class as the vast corruption scandal shakes Latin America’s biggest economy.

Here are key moments in the unprecedented corruption investigation known as operation Lava Jato, or “Car Wash:”

Related reading2014: Stumbling on a mega-scandal 

March 17: Probably Brazil’s biggest ever corruption scandal starts by accident.

Police detain black market money dealer Alberto Youssef in what starts as a routine money laundering probe involving a gas station.

But the probe leads investigators to massive state-owned oil company Petrobras. Paulo Roberto Costa, a Petrobras director, is arrested and testifies that the company has been funneling dirty money into the ruling Workers’ Party and its allies.

2015: Massive scope becomes clear

March 6: The Supreme Court authorizes probes against 12 senators and 22 lower house deputies suspected of participating in a scheme to embezzle from Petrobras.

June 19: The CEO of Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, Marcelo Odebrecht, is arrested and later sentenced to 19 years in prison for corruption. His company is found to have systematically bribed politicians to win inflated contracts from Petrobras.

Other arrests in 2015 include leading Workers’ Party figures Jose Dirceu and Delcidio Amaral, and Andre Esteves, the head of Latin America’s biggest investment bank, BTG.

2016: Political unrest erupts 

March 4: Once hugely popular ex-president Lula — who founded the Workers’ Party and was in power during much of the period under investigation — is taken in for questioning.

May 12: With popular anger against corruption growing, Congress votes to suspend Lula’s successor, President Dilma Rousseff, for illegally manipulating government accounts. She is impeached and removed from office on August 31.

Michel Temer, Rousseff’s deputy, takes over as president, but is immediately caught up in the Car Wash scandal. Several ministers are forced to resign after being implicated.

2017: Temer faces probe, Lula falls from grace

January 26: Plea deals by 77 Odebrecht executives provide Car Wash investigators with a flood of new testimony.

Fallout from Odebrecht goes international as it emerges that the company also paid bribes for contracts in a string of other countries. The company agreed with the US Justice Department in December 2016 to pay a record $3.5 billion fine to settle.

March 30: Former lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha, until then one of the most powerful men in Brazil, is sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for corruption.

April 11: The Supreme Court authorizes the latest wave of probes. Nine Temer ministers are targeted, along with 29 senators and 42 members of the lower house of Congress, according to a count by the respected Estadao newspaper.

May 17: Temer falls into the fray, facing calls for removal after reports surface that he discussed payments of hush money to buy Cunha’s silence — accusations the president’s office denies. 

May 19: The Supreme Court authorizes an investigation into suspected corruption and obstruction of justice targeting the conservative president.

June 20: Brazil’s federal police say they have enough solid evidence Temer received bribes — which a jailed suspended lawmaker allegedly accepted on his behalf — to merit an investigation into the embattled president.

July 12: Lula is convicted of graft — and vows an appeal — in the largest scalp yet of “Car Wash” and a stunning blow to the leftist’s prospects for political comeback.