From Big Brother to Big Kidney

February 5th, 2019

Producers of the new Dutch reality TV show will defy protests and go ahead with their program, despite the outrage that it has caused in the Netherlands.

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VIDEO: Kidneys up for grabs

The production company behind Big Brother says its new program Big Donor Show, scheduled to air in the Netherlands on Friday, will highlight the country's shortage of organ donors.

But the program has been attacked as unethical and tasteless.

Several members of the Dutch parliament have said it is a bad idea, and one plans to ask the government to block the broadcast.

"We know that this program is super controversial and some people will think it's tasteless, but we think the reality is even more shocking and tasteless: waiting for an organ is just like playing the lottery," said chairman Laurens Drillich of the BNN television network in a statement.

She said waiting lists in the Netherlands are more than four years long and 200 patients die annually for lack of a donor.

‘Lisa’s’ choice void after death

The network identified the donor as "Lisa", a 37-year-old terminally ill woman with an inoperable brain tumour.

During the show, she will hear interviews with the candidates, their families and friends before choosing who will receive her kidney.

The show is being produced by Endemol, the creator of the worldwide controversial hit, Big Brother.

A spokeswoman for BNN said that there could be no guarantees the donation would actually be made, "but the intention is" Lisa's donation would be carried out before she died.

That is because her wish to donate to a particular candidate "wouldn't be valid anymore after her death" under Dutch donation rules, Marieke Saly said.

If Lisa does donate one kidney while living, the other kidney may still be awarded to someone else on a national donation waiting list according under the country's organ allotment system.

Viewers will be able to vote for the candidate they feel is most deserving via SMS text message, but "Lisa will determine who the happy one is," BNN said in a statement.

Ms Saly could not say how much it will cost to send an SMS, but most TV programs charge around one Euro ($AU1.64).

’This is truly not permissible’

Parliamentarian Joop Atsma of the ruling Christian Democrats said he would try to persuade the health and communications ministers to halt the program.

"I want to block this.

“This is truly not permissible," he told NOS radio.

"How are the two rejected candidates supposed to feel after the broadcast?"

In Brussels, the European Union Commission, which is due to announce an organ donor policy tomorrow, criticised the program.

"It seems in rather bad taste to do a real TV show on something like this, which is after all a very serious issue," said EU spokesman Philip Tod.

Paul Beerkens, director of the country's Kidney Institute, said he thought it was "fantastic" that BNN was drawing attention to the problem of donor shortages.

"But the way in which they're doing this is definitely not our choice," he was quoted saying by Dutch news agency ANP.

"This is not a structural solution."

Virginia Tech awards degrees

February 5th, 2019

In an address to about 600 of the nearly 1,200 graduate students who received master’s degrees, Virginia Tech president Charles Steger spoke to the community’s grief while encouraging the graduates to be proud of their accomplishments and hopeful for their futures.

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“Our hearts are saddened and our minds are troubled,” Steger said.

A larger ceremony for some 3,600 graduating seniors was set for the evening, where the school planned to issue class rings to relatives of the 26 slain students, followed by diplomas in smaller ceremonies tomorrow.

“Short was their stay on this mortal stage. Great was their impact,” Steger said of the killed students.

Gunman Seung-hui Cho also killed five faculty members and himself.

His family will not receive a ring or diploma.

During the graduate ceremonies, nine slain graduate students were awarded posthumous master’s degrees or doctorates. Faculty members hugged the relatives who received them, some wiping away tears and all drawing long and loud applause from the crowd of several thousand.

Security employees checked the bags of guests, armed police officers patrolled the grounds and state troopers stood guard at every entrance.

Guests did not have to pass through metal detectors, though, and school officials said the level of security was comparable to what they would see at a home football game.

Some families could not bear to attend graduation. Others said they had no choice but to come.

“We have to. This is right for us,” said Peter Read, whose freshman daughter Mary Karen Read was among those killed.

Peter and Cathy Read returned to campus for more than their daughter’s degree. They also returned to erase an unsettling image from the minds of their two youngest sons, Patrick, four, and Brendan, two.

“They’re a little concerned that the bad man’s going to shoot them,” Cathy Read said. “We can’t let that idea grow in their heads.”

In Washington, President George W Bush issued a statement praising “the compassion and resilient spirit” of the Virginia Tech community and the 3,600 graduating seniors and others earning advanced or associate degrees.

“Laura and I salute the Virginia Tech Class of 2007. We also remember the students and teachers whose lives were taken last month,” he said. “They will always hold a special place in the hearts of this graduating class and an entire nation.”

Bush veto gets backing from PM

February 5th, 2019

On the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war, in a show of defiance to the Democrat-dominated Congress, President Bush has acted to block the legislation.

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In only the second veto of his presidency, Mr Bush has rejected legislation that would have required the first US combat troops to be withdrawn from Iraq by October 1 with a goal of a complete pullout six months later.

He vetoed the bill immediately on his return to the White House from a visit to MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, headquarters of US Central Command, which oversees military operations in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.

Democrats unhappy

Democrats made a last-minute plea for Mr Bush to sign the bill, knowing their request would be ignored.

"The president has put our troops in the middle of a civil war," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"Reality on the ground proves what we all know: a change of course is needed."

Lacking the votes to override the president, Democratic leaders quietly considered what might be included or kept out of their next version of the $US124 billion ($A150 billion) spending bill.

It was a day of high political drama, falling on the fourth anniversary of Mr Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech on an aircraft carrier and his declaration that major combat operations in Iraq had ended.

Democrats held an unusual signing ceremony before sending the bill to the White House.

"This legislation respects the wishes of the American people to end the Iraq war," said Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives.

symbolic pen

Mr Bush signed the veto with a pen given to him by Robert Derga, father of Marine Corps Reserve Corporal Dustin Derga, who was killed in Iraq on May 8, 2005.

The elder Mr Derga met Mr Bush on April 16 when the president hosted military families in the East Room of the White House.

Mr Derga asked Mr Bush to promise to use the pen in his veto.

Today, Mr Derga contacted the White House to remind Bush to use the pen, and so he did.

Minutes after Mr Bush vetoed the bill, an anti-war demonstrator stood outside the White House with a bullhorn and shouted: "How many more must die? How many more must die?"

Support from John Howard

Prime Minister John Howard said withdrawing troops too early would cause chaos in Iraq.

"As far as we are concerned, as part of the coalition of the willing, my attitude is clearly the same attitude President Bush has taken and that is if the coalition pulls out before the Iraqis are able to look after themselves then Iraq will be plunged into deeper chaos than they are experiencing at the present time," he told Sky News.

Mr Howard said the only suitable way to determine withdrawal was based on security conditions at the time in Iraq.

"Withdrawal of American, and indeed Australian forces, should not be according to a pre-determined timetable," Mr Howard said.

"It should be according to the conditions that prevail in the country.

"It is not helpful for me, or the president, or the American administration to be setting a timetable, rather .. (it) should be conditions-based, as conditions improve then it will become possible to look at these things.

"But until they have improved it is entirely premature and I therefore support what President Bush has said and done."

Stokes leads England to dramatic win at Lord’s

September 8th, 2019

The fiery all-rounder dismissed Kane Williamson for 27 and Brendon McCullum for a golden duck before a defiant sixth-wicket partnership of 107 between Corey Anderson and BJ Watling gave New Zealand hope of salvaging a draw.

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But Mark Wood removed Watling for 59, Anderson was lbw to Joe Root for 67 and England quickly got rid of Mark Craig and Tim Southee.

Last-wicket-pair Matt Henry and Trent Boult survived for eight overs amid mounting tension before the latter was brilliantly caught at third man by a diving Moeen Ali off Stuart Broad as the Kiwis were bowled out for 220.

New Zealand, chasing 345 for victory, collapsed to 12 for three before lunch but Williamson and Watling lifted them to 61 for three.

Stokes, who struck the fastest test century at the home of cricket on Sunday, had the obdurate Williamson caught by Root in the slips for 27 before bowling captain McCullum with a venomous delivery that cut back sharply.

Anderson survived the hat-trick ball and immediately went on the attack, hitting Stokes for two fours and a six, and he continued to play positively alongside the more circumspect Watling as New Zealand took tea on 134 for five.

Wood broke the partnership when Watling gloved a fast straight delivery to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler and Anderson was trapped by Root.

Stokes returned to bowl Craig for four with a rapid full-pitched delivery and Southee was caught and bowled by Moeen for 20.

James Anderson and Broad had ripped out the top order to give England the scent of victory before lunch.

Martin Guptill edged Anderson’s second ball of the innings to Gary Ballance at third slip.

Broad trapped Tom Latham lbw with his first delivery to reduce the touring side to nought for two and he also dismissed Ross Taylor in the same manner as New Zealand slumped to 12 for three.

Earlier, Kiwi left-armer Boult picked up the last four wickets in under an hour as England were bowled out for 478.

The hosts resumed on 429 for six and Boult had captain Alastair Cook caught by wicketkeeper Latham for 162 before bowling Broad for 10.

Moeen was lbw for 43 and Anderson was bowled for nought to give Boult figures of five for 85 in the innings and nine wickets in the match.

(Editing by Justin Palmer)

Coric leads teenage assault on Roland Garros

September 8th, 2019

Coric, who plays with a maturity way beyond his years and is already in the world’s top 50, beat experienced American Sam Querrey in four sets while wildcard Kokkinakis, one of his country’s exciting brigade of young guns, battled past Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili, also in four.

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Tiafoe, who only turned 17 in January and is the youngest of the seven teenagers in the main draw, found his first grand slam appearance a chastening one as he lost 6-2 6-1 6-4 to hard-hitting Slovakian Martin Klizan.

“It was great. I had a blast. I didn’t play my best today. Hopefully I can play again in the main draw next year,” wide-eyed wildcard Tiafoe, looking every bit the nervy teenager, said in front of the world’s media.

“It’s definitely different, walking around, seeing the greats in the locker room.

“But it’s great. Definitely fun.”

Tiafoe will be one to watch in the future but Coric is already looking like the real deal, with comparisons already being made to a young Novak Djokovic.

The 18-year-old, also making his debut at Roland Garros having rapidly scaled the ATP rankings to reach 46th, looked like a seasoned professional, saving a set point in the opener on his way to a 7-6(8) 6-3 0-6 6-3 victory over Querrey.

Apart from a wobble in the third set Coric had too much craft for the world number 38.

“It’s for sure a motivation, it gives you more self-belief to know that someone else who’s your age can do it,” Coric said of the new brigade.

Spanish claycourt specialist Tommy Robredo waits in the next round, although with a win against Nadal and Murray already on his CV, Coric will not go in to that clash feeling daunted.

Nick Kyrgios, 20, is already established as head boy in Australia’s new golden generation after his stunning Wimbledon upset of Nadal last year, but Kokkinakis, 19, looks like keeping him company in the years ahead.

Already up to 84th in the rankings after winning his first claycourt title, a Challenger in Bordeaux this month, he delighted a sizeable Aussie contingent with some dazzling tennis against Basilashvili.

Fellow Aussie Bernard Tomic, himself only 22, is next.

“Feel like I’m playing good enough tennis to knock him off. Should be a good match,” Kokkinakis said.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Justin Palmer)

Stosur keen to come up for air

September 8th, 2019

Samantha Stosur expressed relief at overcoming a frantic French Open build-up to safely progress to the second round at Roland Garros for the 10th time.

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Stosur’s 6-1 6-3 dispatch of American Madison Brengle on Monday edged the in-form 26th seed to within a win of a likely third-round confrontation with defending champion Maria Sharapova.

The former runner-up and two-time semi-finalist will be a raging favourite to keep up her end of the bargain with victory over lowly-ranked French qualifier Amandine Hesse on Wednesday.

But before plotting a path past the world No.272, Stosur was eager to come up for air.

Stosur’s last-minute acceptance of a wildcard into Strasbourg may have yielded a morale-boosting first title of the season, but it also left the Australian No.1 in mad scramble to make it to Paris.

She only arrived at midnight on Saturday before squeezing in brief practise session on Sunday and hitting Court 3 for her tournament opener less than 24 hours later.

The former US Open champion hadn’t even unpacked before powering past Brengle, the world No.36, in barely an hour.

“I have done a few loads of washing and there is stuff everywhere. I need to go to the supermarket to get some food,” Stosur said.

“You feel like everything has been kind of a whirlwind. Obviously this was a very quick turnaround, coming here and then playing straight away, so it was nice to get through this one.

“Now I feel like I can practice and then settle in, do a few things and then take it from there.”

Stosur’s resurgence since reuniting with long-time coach David Taylor last month – after falling out of the top 20 for the first time in five years – has raised hopes of another title push on her favourite claycourt surface.

“I have played some of my best tennis here. I like the court and the surface and everything else,” she said.

“Having said that, I have also had some disappointing experiences as well, so it doesn’t mean that is all plain sailing and that you are rolling in and everything is fantastic.

“But I know that my game suits here, if I can put it all together and keep doing what I am doing, I know that I can do well.”

Sharapova and Murray show off title credentials

September 8th, 2019

Defending champion Sharapova was nursing a cold but opened her bid for a third Roland Garros title in four years with a 6-2 6-4 victory over Estonian Kaia Kanepi on a breezy Court Phillipe Chatrier.

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Men’s third seed Murray then took his winning streak on the red dust to 11 matches by overpowering Argentine lucky loser Facundo Arguello 6-3 6-3 6-1, maintaining his unbeaten run since marrying long-term partner Kim Sears.

Sharapova, who was also champion in 2012 and runner-up in 2013 despite an intense dislike for the surface earlier in her illustrious career, produced her usual power tennis to ease through to the second round.

It was not a perfect performance, perhaps due to the cough that was troubling her, but she never looked in danger as she set up a meeting with fellow Russian Vitalia Diatchenko.

Sharapova left to a few boos though after declining an on-court interview.

“Unless I’m really in my coffin I’m going to be out there,” she told reporters. “I got sick a week before the tournament, not right before.

“I guess it’s a little bit better timing but it’s just the way it is. I’m getting over it, hopefully it will pass soon.”

DARK HORSE

The world number two is in the opposite side of the draw to her old nemesis, top seed Serena Williams, and will need to be 100 percent to negotiate her way through to the final.

Former runner-up Samantha Stosur, an easy winner against American Madison Brengle, could await in the third round while eighth seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, tipped as a dark horse for the title, is a possible foe in the quarter-finals.

Suarez Navarro beat Monica Niculescu of Romania 6-2 6-2 but several seeds tumbled on day two in swanky western Paris.

Spain’s Feliciano Lopez, the men’s 11th seed, became the highest casualty so far, losing 6-3 7-6 (9) 6-3 to Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili while women’s 14th seed Agnieszka Radwanska’s slump continued as the former world number two succumbed 6-2 3-6 6-1 to Germany’s Annika Beck.

American veteran Venus Williams, seeded 15, also lost, although a 7-6 (5) 6-1 defeat by compatriot Sloane Stephens barely registered on the shock scale.

With nine-times champion Rafa Nadal and top seed Novak Djokovic keeping their powder dry until Tuesday, Murray joined Roger Federer in getting a head start with a confident display on Court Phillipe Chatrier.

There were a few early nerves, a double-fault in the opening game giving Arguello a break point that he could not convert and again when he allowed his 137th-ranked opponent to recover from 3-0 down to level at 3-3 in the first set.

Once Murray, twice a French Open semi-finalist, broke in the eighth game though he was untroubled.

“I hope (nerves) are always there,” he said. “I can’t remember the last time I played a first-round match in a slam and did not feel nervous.”

Murray was joined in the second round by fourth seed Tomas Berdych who beat Yoshihito Nishioka 6-0 7-5 6-3.

Nishioka was one of seven teenagers in the men’s draw, two of whom produced excellent wins on Monday.

Croatian Borna Coric, 18, beat American Sam Querrey 7-6 (8) 6-3 0-6 6-3 while Australian wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis, 19, put out Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili.

Kokkinakis will face countryman Bernard Tomic next.

Nick Kyrgios, yet another Aussie young gun, lived up to his 29th seeding by breezing past Denis Istomin.

Home crowds flocking in to the grounds had plenty to cheer too with French number one Alize Cornet opening proceedings on centre court with a fighting 4-6 6-4 6-1 triumph over Italian Roberta Vinci and the ever-popular Gael Monfils, the 13th seed, defeating compatriot Edouard Roger-Vasselin.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

Stephens downs Venus to advance into Paris round two

September 8th, 2019

It was not a major surprise though as Stephens has reached the fourth round of the claycourt grand slam in the past three years.

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She will face Briton Heather Watson next.

Seven-times grand slam champion Williams, whose best result in Paris is a runner-up spot in 2002 but had not gone past the second round in the last four years, made the better start, opening a 2-0 lead but Stephens proved more accurate.

The 22-year-old broke back and sent the opening set into a tiebreak, which she easily won as her opponent, whom she had never met, netted a forehand.

The 34-year-old Williams never recovered and looked short of energy in the second set as Stephens raced to a 3-0 lead and never looked back, ending the baseline contest with an ace.

“I feel like I had some good practices coming into Roland Garros but sometimes things don’t always work out the way you would like,” said Williams.

Stephens’s biggest fright of the match came in the second game of the second set, when a pigeon came down flying past her as she was about to receive a serve.

“First of all, I didn’t know what it was,” an amused Stephens, who reached the semi-finals at the Strasbourg Internationals last week, told a news conference.

“I thought it was way closer to me than it actually was. So that was why I screamed so loud. And I don’t know, in the moment, things just happen and it was just scary and I was like, ahhh and a scream came out.

“And then she probably wasn’t happy because she probably would have hit an ace and it was just a weird moment.”

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Martyn Herman and Justin Palmer)

First Irish gay marriages likely in July

August 7th, 2019

Ireland’s new laws on gay marriage will be enacted by the end of July.

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After the country’s resounding support in a world-first vote, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said on Monday she was working to fulfil the wishes of same-sex couples who want to wed as soon as possible.

With the standard three-month notification to register a wedding day, the first ceremonies are likely to take place in the country’s autumn.

“The Irish people have chosen decisively to extend the right to marry to same-sex couples,” Fitzgerald said.

“I am particularly proud that the right to marriage equality will now be enshrined in our constitution as a result of a popular vote. I would like to compliment all of those who voted and who campaigned on both sides for what was a passionate and yet civilised referendum campaign.

“I am very conscious that many couples will want to get married as soon as possible. I am working to make that happen.”

Government officials are currently drafting the Marriage Bill to reflect the vote and constitutional change.

It is expected to be finalised in June when it will go to Cabinet before passing through both houses of the parliament in Dublin.

The new laws will also give same-sex couples who have already made plans to enter a civil partnership to switch their notification to a planned marriage.

“This means that couples who have already registered their intention to enter a civil partnership will be instead able to get married once the law is enacted on the basis of the same registration of intent,” the minister said.

The referendum made Ireland the only country where same-sex marriage reform was backed by popular vote.

Real sack coach Ancelotti after mediocre season

August 7th, 2019

“The board of directors have decided this evening to relieve Carlo Ancelotti of his duties,” president Florentino Perez told a news conference on Monday.

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“It was a very difficult decision … but we have not come to Real Madrid to take easy decisions but to take decisions that we believe are the best for an institution that is a reference point around the world,” added the construction magnate.

“The demands are huge and we believe it is the right moment to give fresh impetus that will allow us to win more titles and reach our optimum competitive level in a new phase.”

The club will announce a successor next week, Perez said, and local media say former Liverpool and Chelsea boss Benitez, who once had a stint as a Real youth team coach, is the frontrunner to replace Ancelotti.

Others to have been linked with the job are German Juergen Klopp, who has quit Borussia Dortmund, and former Real player Michel who has had spells running the B team at the Bernabeu and clubs including Getafe and Sevilla.

Italian Ancelotti, who had a three-year contract that was due to run until the end of next season, led the club to a record-extending 10th European crown and a King’s Cup triumph in his first term in charge in 2013-14.

However, this term they were eliminated in the Champions League semi-finals by Juventus while Barcelona won their fifth La Liga title in seven years. Real also lost to Atletico Madrid in the King’s Cup last 16 in January.

Real won the European Super Cup and the Club World Cup but Ancelotti’s failure to win any of the three trophies that make up the traditional treble was deemed unacceptable.

Perez’s decision came despite strong public backing for Ancelotti from players including top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, midfielder Luka Modric and forward James Rodriguez.

Ancelotti told the Italian daily Il Giornale on Monday he was suffering from cervical stenosis and would be travelling to Vancouver for an operation.

The condition, a narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck area or upper part of the spine, has caused tingling in his hands and was part of the reason he planned to take a year off if Real sacked him, he told the paper.

After Real announced his sacking, Ancelotti said on his Twitter feed: “I leave with the memory of two fantastic years… thank you to the club, the fans and my players.”

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

Six Aussies into French Open second round

August 7th, 2019

Nick Kyrgios hailed Australia’s “unbelievable” start to the French Open after leading six through to the second round at Roland Garros.

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Kyrgios and fellow seeded flagbearers Samantha Stosur and Bernard Tomic, along with teenage ace Thanasi Kokkinakis and exciting young imports Daria Gavrilova and Ajla Tomljanovic all advanced in Australia’s best start to the claycourt major in five years.

“It’s unbelievable,” Kyrgios said after outclassing Denis Istomin 6-3 6-4 6-3 in his first outing as a grand slam seed.

“I am really, really happy with Thanasi getting through. Bernard surprised me a little bit today. He fought really well and Dasha (Gavrilova) has been playing some really good tennis, and Sam as well.

“All in all, it was a pretty good day for the Aussies.”

Riding high after claiming her first title of the year in Strasbourg at the weekend, Stosur swept past American Madison Brengle 6-1 6-3 in 77 minutes.

“It was a good start. I guess I was in control of the match and it was on my racquet,” Stosur said.

“I just had to keep concentrating, keep doing the things that were working and I thought I did pretty well.”

Stosur’s victory thrust the 26th seed and former finalist into a meeting on Wednesday with French wildcard Amandine Hesse, who earlier eliminated Jarmila Gajdosova in three sets.

Still struggling with a virus that forced his withdrawal from last week’s Nice Open, Tomic dug in for an impressive 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4 victory over Italian qualifier Luca Vanni.

“It was not easy. He beat me before, so I was very happy to win,” Tomic said.

“I wasn’t feeling that good. Still sick. I’m getting better, but still a little bit down. So it was tough out there.

“Everything felt much, much longer than it was. I was really feeling the fatigue out there. Happy I won in the end.”

Tomic’s first victory at Roland Garros since 2012 and Kokkinakis’ 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 success over Georgian qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili set up a second-round showstopper between the Davis Cup teammates.

The reward for Wednesday’s victor is a likely third-round shot at world No.1 Novak Djokovic.

“Yeah, I’d love to get a crack at Novak, but Bernie is a tough task,” Kokkinakis said after claiming his first-ever win at Roland Garros.

“I’ve got to go out and try and play the ball. I know his game and he knows mine.

“I think we know what each other is going to try to do.”

A quarter-finalist at Wimbledon and the Australian Open in the past 10 months, Kyrgios next faces British qualifier Kyle Edmund and has a golden opportunity to book a third-round blockbuster with Andy Murray.

“I’ve tried not to think about it, but it is hard not to,” Kyrgios said.

“On social media, I see it every day – Kyrgios v Murray, third round – and I hadn’t even won a round yet.

“So I have probably thought about it.”

Tomljanovic crushed compatriot Casey Dellacqua 6-2 6-2 in 62 minutes to set up a second-round clash German 11th seed Angelique Kerber, while Gavrilova added to Australia’s triumphant day with 6-1 7-6 (7-3) victory over Swede Johanna Larsson.

The Russian-born 21-year-old’s maiden grand slam win earned her a crack at 20th-seeded German Sabine Lisicki.

Like Dellacqua, Jarmila Gajdosova, Sam Groth and Marinko Matosevic all crashed out on day two, but James Duckworth will be looking to continue Australia’s flying start when he plays Italian qualifier Andrea Arnaboldi on Tuesday.

HOW THE AUSSIES FARED AT THE FRENCH OPEN ON MONDAY (PREFIX DENOTES SEEDING)

27-Bernard Tomic bt Luca Vanni (ITA) 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4

29-Nick Kyrgios bt Denis Istomin (UZB) 6-3 6-4 6-3

Thanasi Kokkinakis bt Nikoloz Basilashvili (GEO) 3-6 6-4 7-6 (7-4) 6-2

Marinko Matosevic lost to Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) 6-1 6-2 6-4

Sam Groth lost to 21-Pablo Cuevas (URU) 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-3 6-3

Women’s singles, first round

26-Samantha Stosur bt Madison Brengle (USA) 6-1 6-3

Daria Gavrilova bt Johanna Larsson (SWE) 6-1 7-6 (7-3)

Ajla Tomljanovic bt Casey Dellacqua 6-2 6-2

Jarmila Gajdosova lost to Amandine Hesse (FRA) 2-6 6-3 6-2

AUSSIES IN ACTION ON TUESDAY

James Duckworth v Andrea Arnaboldi (ITA)

Levy heads 11 qualifiers from Walton Heath for U.S. Open

August 7th, 2019

Levy fired a six-under-par 66 on the Old Course in the morning and a five-under 67 on the New Course in the afternoon to lead 11 players who booked berths at the year’s second major.

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Also advancing were India’s Shiv Kapur, England’s John Parry and Jason Palmer, Swede Alex Noren, Dane Lucas Bjerregaard, Germany’s Marcel Siem, South Africans Garth Mulroy, Tjaart van der Walt and Thomas Aiken and Australian Marcus Fraser.

Triple major champion Padraig Harrington missed out after rounds of 72 and 68.

“I’m really happy,” Levy told reporters after booking his place at the June 18-21 U.S. Open to be played at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington.

“I played really good golf…I was positive and had a good attitude.

“It will be my first time in the U.S. Open. I missed the Masters so it will be great to play another major.”

Palmer, renowned for his unusual one-handed chipping and bunker play technique, was elated to earn a maiden appearance at a major championship.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” the 30-year-old said after scores of 69 and 68. “I’ve always wanted to play in a major.

“I knew this would present a good opportunity to do it because I love Walton Heath.”

The final four spots on offer at Walton Heath were decided in a playoff after van der Walt carded a birdie and two eagles in his last six holes to make it a five-way tie for eighth place on five-under 139.

Fraser advanced at the first extra hole before van der Walt, Aiken and Mulroy secured their spots at the third extra hole, with Welshman Oliver Farr missing out.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes, editing by Tony Jimenez)

Islamic State faces battle in Iraq, bombs in Syria

August 7th, 2019

In Palmyra, the Syrian air force struck at buildings captured by the Sunni militant group, whose arrival has raised fears that the city’s famed Roman ruins will be destroyed.

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The air force leveled Islamic State “hideouts” and killed a large number of its members around Palmyra’s military air base, Syrian state media said.

Islamic State has killed at least 217 people execution-style, including children, since it moved into the Palmyra area 10 days ago, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Another 300 soldiers were killed before the Syrian city was captured, the monitoring group said.

The insurgents reinforced Ramadi on Monday, deploying fighters in preparation for battle against security forces and paramilitary groups advancing on the provincial capital, which lies 110 km (70 miles) northwest of the capital, Baghdad.

Iraqi forces have regained ground east of Ramadi since launching a counter-offensive on Saturday, a week after it was overrun, and on Monday retook a rural area south of the city.

Police sources said Iraqi forces supported by Iran-backed Shi’ite militia and locally recruited Sunni tribal fighters had retaken parts of al-Tash, 20 km (12 miles) south of Ramadi.

Pro-government Sunni tribal fighters, with the help of the army, laid land mines to reinforce their defensive lines around Baghdadi, a settlement northwest of Ramadi which controls access to a major Iraqi air base. Islamic State attacked Baghdadi with seven suicide car bombs on Sunday.

In Ramadi, residents said trucks carrying Islamic State fighters arrived on Sunday evening.

Local man Abu Saed heard a commotion outside his house in the city’s southeastern Officers neighborhood. “I saw two trucks pull up outside with dozens of fighters carrying arms running quickly into nearby buildings and taking cover.”

Another resident said at least 40 fighters had jumped out of three trucks that arrived in the southern al-Tamim district on Sunday evening.

“They were carrying weapons and wearing mostly khaki dress with ammunition belts wrapped around their chests,” said Abu Mutaz. “They were talking in an Arabic dialect, they were not Iraqis.”

Major setback

The seizures of Ramadi and Palmyra were Islamic State’s biggest successes since a U.S.-led coalition launched an air war against it last year.

The near simultaneous victories against the Iraqi and Syrian armies have forced Washington to examine its strategy of bombing from the air while leaving fighting on the ground to local forces.

In a sharp criticism of Washington’s ally, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Sunday accused the Iraqi army of abandoning Ramadi to a much smaller enemy force.

A spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi dismissed the comments as “untimely and surprising at a time when Iraqi security forces are preparing to launch a counter offensive to retake Ramadi”.

The general in charge of Iran’s paramilitary activities in the Middle East said the United States and other powers were failing to confront Islamic State.

“Today, in the fight against this dangerous phenomenon, nobody is present except Iran,” said Major General Qassem Soleimani, who is often seen on the battlefields of Iraq.

But in a move that could mark an expansion of U.S. involvement in the conflict, Turkey said it and the United States had agreed in principle to give air support to some forces from Syria’s mainstream opposition.

Meanwhile, the United States and its allies carried out 10 air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and 25 strikes in Iraq since Sunday, the U.S. military said.

Most of the strikes in Syria were in the northeast, near Al Hasakah, while in Iraq, Islamic State positions were attacked near Baghdadi, Bayji, Fallujah and Mosul, among other sites.

Days after taking Ramadi, Islamic State defeated Syrian government forces to capture Palmyra, home to 50,000 people and site of some of the world’s most extensive and best-preserved Roman ruins.

The Observatory said there had been no reports so far of Islamic State destroying Palmyra’s ruins and artifacts.

The militants have proclaimed a caliphate to rule over all Muslims from territory they hold in Syria and Iraq. They have carried out mass killings in towns and cities they have captured, and destroyed ancient monuments, which they consider evidence of paganism.

In Syria, Hezbollah fighters captured two hilltops from al Qaeda’s Syria wing, the Nusra Front, in areas close to the Lebanese border and killed dozens of enemy combatants, Hezbollah-run al-Manar television reported on Monday.

Iranian-backed Hezbollah has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country’s civil war. The group’s leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has vowed to clear the border area of Sunni Muslim militant groups that have carried out attacks on Lebanese soil.

(Reporting by Baghdad Bureau, Isabel Coles in Erbil, Sylvia Westall in Beirut, Andrea Shalal in Washington; Editing by David Stamp and Sonya Hepinstall)