Vic firies confident they can beat heat

A return of heat and high winds is re-energising the destructive bushfire on Victoria’s surf coast, but firefighters are confident they can keep the fire in check.

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Fire crews endured temperatures into the 30s and increased winds on Monday ahead of a scorching Wednesday, with temperatures to reach the high 30s in the area with strong northerly winds.

At least 350 firefighters and eight water-bombing aircraft worked through Monday to strengthen containment lines around the 2500-hectare Wye River-Jamieson Creek blaze, which destroyed 116 homes over Christmas.

It’s expected the fire will burn right through summer.

“There’s no doubt that we are seeing increased smoke and increased fire activity and that will continue until Wednesday,” incident controller Alistair Drayton told AAP.

“The fire is burning in a very deep, dangerous ravine at the moment and we have done a lot of good work in there, but we will be pulling those crews out of there and increasing our aerial presence.”

Those firefighters will be re-deployed to the flanks of the fire and to the towns of Wye River, Separation Creek and Kennett River, Mr Drayton said.

Additional aircraft will be assigned to fire-bombing duties, he said.

“The temperatures will get up to the high 30s and the winds will increase a lot but we have done a lot of good work over the past week and we are reasonably confident that it won’t be too big an issue come Wednesday,” Mr Drayton said.

In the meantime, crews will continue to strengthen containment lines around the fire.

Residents of Wye River and Separation Creek are being advised to think about their fire plans.

A second group of New Zealand firefighters will join 22 compatriots already at the scene to assist in the fire fight.

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Vic firies confident they can beat heat

A return of heat and high winds is re-energising the destructive bushfire on Victoria’s surf coast, but firefighters are confident they can keep the fire in check.

杭州桑拿

Fire crews endured temperatures into the 30s and increased winds on Monday ahead of a scorching Wednesday, with temperatures to reach the high 30s in the area with strong northerly winds.

At least 350 firefighters and eight water-bombing aircraft worked through Monday to strengthen containment lines around the 2500-hectare Wye River-Jamieson Creek blaze, which destroyed 116 homes over Christmas.

It’s expected the fire will burn right through summer.

“There’s no doubt that we are seeing increased smoke and increased fire activity and that will continue until Wednesday,” incident controller Alistair Drayton told AAP.

“The fire is burning in a very deep, dangerous ravine at the moment and we have done a lot of good work in there, but we will be pulling those crews out of there and increasing our aerial presence.”

Those firefighters will be re-deployed to the flanks of the fire and to the towns of Wye River, Separation Creek and Kennett River, Mr Drayton said.

Additional aircraft will be assigned to fire-bombing duties, he said.

“The temperatures will get up to the high 30s and the winds will increase a lot but we have done a lot of good work over the past week and we are reasonably confident that it won’t be too big an issue come Wednesday,” Mr Drayton said.

In the meantime, crews will continue to strengthen containment lines around the fire.

Residents of Wye River and Separation Creek are being advised to think about their fire plans.

A second group of New Zealand firefighters will join 22 compatriots already at the scene to assist in the fire fight.

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Tyre fire keeps burning in Melbourne

Firefighters expect an out-of-control fire blazing inside a tyre dump in Melbourne’s north to burn for another day and a half and are warning people to stay away from the toxic smoke.

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The fire, which has already burnt through more than 130,000 tyres, started about 9am on Monday at an industrial area in Broadmeadows, attracting some onlookers as it emitted a plume of toxic black smoke visible 75 kilometres from the site.

Metropolitan Fire Brigade’s deputy chief Andrew Zammit said emergency crews have been attacking the fire with more than 10,000 litres of water and fire retardant each minute.

Two extra-large fire trucks from Melbourne Airport’s fire services were sent to help.

“We knew that these types of fires aren’t easy to extinguish,” he told reporters on Monday.

“We have our friends from the airport who have sent two large trucks that actually deliver quite a large amount of fire-extinguishing medium.”

Sky cranes dropping foam and water from above have helped crews make good headway in extinguishing the blaze, Mr Zammit said.

The EPA is monitoring air quality and fire run-off – such as water and fire-retardant – into nearby rivers and creeks, but Mr Zammit said the MFB’s quality control shows carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide levels to be “well within our expected limits”.

Residents have nonetheless been warned to stay away and shut windows and doors.

“The smoke is toxic, and if you can, please just watch it on TV,” he said.

Crews will work overnight to put out the blaze, the biggest they have had in a while.

“I have no idea what started this – yet,” Mr Zammit told reporters.

Cooler conditions and forecast rain on Tuesday will help.

Incident Controller David Youssef said the community could be confident the MFB would control the fire but it would take time.

A watch and act message remains for Broadmeadows, Campbellfield, Coolaroo, Dallas, Fawknew, Gladstone Pk, Glenroy, Gowanbrae, Hadfield, Janaca, Lalor, Meadow Heights, Reservoir, Thomastown and Westmeadows.

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ImpediMed considers heart failure trial

Medical technology developer ImpediMed expects to undertake clinical trials of bioimpedance spectroscopy (BIS) to detect fluid levels in chronic heart failure patients.

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ImpediMed on Monday said it had established a medical advisory board to advise the company on the trials’ design.

Bioimpedance technology involves applying a very mild electrical current to the body with the body’s resistance to the current measured by sophisticated electronics.

The measurements can provide useful information on a patient’s fat mass, fat-free mass and fluid levels.

Detailed knowledge of fluid levels is useful in the treatment of heart failure, cardiovascular complications, potential adverse events in dialysis patients, chronic swelling and lymphoedema (localised fluid retention).

Improving fluid and body composition measurements can lead to better treatment outcomes.

“Management of heart failure is currently a major challenge for patients, their physicians and healthcare systems,” Harvard Clinical Research Institute chief scientific adviser Dr Laura Mauri said.

“We intend to work together to develop clinical studies that will establish whether detection of fluid overload with this non-invasive technology can be used to improve care.”

The medical advisory board will work closely with Dr Mauri on how to incorporate bioimpedance spectroscopy in fluid monitoring and management of chronic heart failure patients.

ImpediMed has already launched a device in the United States, called L-Dex, which can be used to detect lymphoedema.

Shares in ImpediMed closed 0.5 cents lower at $1.075.

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Instagram famous magpie gets book deal

Penguin Bloom, the rescue magpie who has touched hearts of Instagrammers and Australians, will be celebrated in an upcoming book, Penguin Bloom: The odd little bird who saved a family.

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The book, published by ABC Books, will tell the story of Penguin, an injured magpie chick who entered the Australian Bloom family when they needed her most.

Wife and mother, Sam Bloom, had recently suffered a near-fatal fall that had left her paralysed and deeply depressed.

Penguin was abandoned and injured when she, too, fell from her nest.

The parallel of their stories struck a chord with the Bloom family, who took the young chick home and rehabilitated her.

The Bloom family maintain by saving Penguin, they gained a love that saved them from the tragedy their family had just faced.

Penguin’s Instagram page now has over 100,000 followers, and features shots of the magpie as a loved member of the Bloom family.

The photos on the Instagram page are taken by Cameron Bloom; his photography will also feature in the upcoming book.

The new book will be released April 1, 2016.

 

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Guam, Hong Kong face stern World Cup road trips

Buoyed by their first ever wins at this level in June — 1-0 over Turkmenistan and 2-1 against India — English coach Gary White believes his side, who top Group D, are ready to take on the three-times Asian champions.

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“We know the size of the challenge we are faced with, up against a team that has won several Asian Cups and which has been a regular qualifier for World Cups,” he told Pacific Daily News.

“(But) that’s the position that we want to put ourselves in.”

The fixture was in doubt at one point after Guam complained that Iran were delaying visa applications, requiring the Asian Football Confederation to step in and mediate.

Some in Hong Kong have also been angered ahead of their Group C fixture in China, with complaints that tickets for the Shenzhen clash have been made unnecessarily difficult to buy.

The fixture is likely to be a tense affair after Hong Kong fans booed the Chinese anthem, adopted by the territory in 1997, before they beat Bhutan 7-0 and Maldives 2-0 in June to top the group with FIFA warning of punishments if there is a repeat.

The tie has seen Hong Kong fans reminisce over one of their rare successes against China when they won a World Cup qualifier in Beijing 30 years ago, but China boss Alain Perrin is not expecting an upset nor five days later when they host Maldives.

“Our target is to collect six points in the two matches and to score as many goals as possible against the weaker teams,” the Frenchman was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post.

They are two of 15 matches taking place on Thursday in the joint 2019 Asian Cup qualifying campaign that has minnows and giants clashing but only the eight group winners guaranteed a spot in the second round of Asian qualifying for Russia 2018.

Four-times Asian champions Japan host lowly Cambodia, perennial World Cup qualifiers South Korea welcome Laos, Saudi Arabia, under the guidance of Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk for the first time, take on East Timor, while Asian champions Australia host Bangladesh.

(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O’Brien)

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Mums say leave crackdown devalues women

Lieutenant Commander Sandra Croft has fought for Australia and now she is fighting to be able to spend six months at home with her baby.

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The military has a rigid maternity leave system requiring women to take either 14 weeks at full pay or 28 weeks on half pay.

The half-pay option would leave Lt Cmdr Croft with just $120 a fortnight after bills, she told a Senate committee on Tuesday.

“You just can’t live on that,” she told senators examining the government’s plan to crack down on so-called double dipping of government and employer paid parental leave schemes.

The only reason she could take six months off with her son was because of the taxpayer-funded minimum wage leave scheme topping up that $120.

Lt Cmdr Croft is now contemplating having a second child.

If the government passes its changes, which will cut women off from the taxpayer-funded scheme if their employer offers leave worth $11,800 or more, she will only be able to spend 14 weeks at home with the new baby.

“I just can’t imagine leaving for work at seven in the morning and not getting home until six o’clock at night and having that three-month-old baby bond with somebody else,” Lt Cmdr Croft said.

Another mother, Rachel Green, who like Lt Cmdr Croft is a member of advocacy group The Parenthood, told the committee women’s salaries mattered to family budgets.

“To have, in my case, 70 per cent of the household income disappear for a time, that creates a massive hole,” she said.

“Every bit of support to be able to stay afloat is essential.”

Ms Green said it was distressing on her first Mother’s Day back in May to hear ministers describe her as a rorter and double dipper because she intended to access all the leave she was legally entitled to.

She warned of a “stampede on childcare places” if women were forced back to work earlier because they couldn’t afford to have as much time off.

Those concerns are shared by unions and advocacy group Women On Boards, which said the measures could force women into work earlier or create a shortfall in childcare places.

Mums may decide it’s too hard to get a place and end up falling back on parental welfare payments.

“That’s very undesirable,” chair Ruth Medd said.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry boss Kate Carnell believes the government won’t achieve most of the billion-dollar saving from the changes.

She conceded women working for small businesses were less likely to get parental leave.

Ms Carnell said employers were likely to rejig the way they pay parental leave to employees.

“They’re not going to sit back and allow their female employees to lose $11,800 and say well that was just a bit bad,” she told ABC radio ahead of the inquiry.

AI Group warned the changes could make it difficult to determine if employers were legally obliged to pay leave.

The proposed changes could also create industrial claims for employers to meet the cost of the government’s leave payments, it added.

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China state media announce confessions in stock market investigations

Chinese state media announced a slew of confessions on Monday following investigations into dramatic stock market fluctuations, including from a reporter who said he had spread false information that had caused “panic and disorder”.

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An official from China’s securities regulator and four senior executives from China’s largest brokerage, CITIC Securities, confessed to insider dealing, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

China is trying to restore value to its stock markets, where shares have lost around 40 per cent since mid-June on concerns over the slowing economy and a devaluation of the yuan in mid-August.

Authorities have announced crackdowns on fabricated trading information, alleged malicious short selling and other strategies seen as weakening confidence in the stock market.

Wang Xiaolu, a reporter at the respected Caijing business magazine, read a confession about his reporting on the stock market on a national state television broadcast on Monday.

“I shouldn’t have sought to make a big splash just for the sake of sensationalism,” he said on China Central Television, adding that his actions had “brought great harm upon the country and investors”.

It was not possible to verify whether Wang was forced to make the confession or did so of his own free will.

Chinese state media often publish confessions of those detained in high-profile cases before they are tried in court, a practice that rule of law advocates say violates the rights of the accused to due process.

Xinhua said Wang had confessed to writing about the Chinese stock market “based on hearsay and his own subjective guesses”.

Caijing could not be reached for comment. In a statement last Wednesday, a day after Xinhua said Wang was being held, Caijing said it had not been given a reason for his detention, adding it would support his actions within the normal course of reporting. It was unclear if Wang had a lawyer.

Xinhua also said Liu Shufan, an official with the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC), had confessed to insider trading, forging official seals and using his position to boost a company’s share price in return for several million yuan of bribes. It was unclear if Liu had been detained or had a lawyer.

The CSRC could not be reached for comment.

Xinhua added that Xu Gang, Liu Wei, Fang Qingli and Chen Rongjie, whom it described as senior executives at CITIC Securities, had confessed to insider trading, although it gave few details.

A CITIC Securities spokesman declined to comment. On Sunday, the brokerage said several senior managers had been asked to assist with a public security investigation and that the company was actively cooperating with the request.

It was unclear if the four were being detained or had legal representation.

Eight CITIC employees were being investigated for suspected illegal securities trading, Xinhua has previously said.

It has not said if that investigation is linked to the one involving the CSRC official.

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Forecast warns of increased bushfire risk

Australia’s east coast, much of Victoria and large parts of Western Australia face a higher risk of severe bushfires this summer.

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Large parts of the country have experienced below-average rainfall across successive years while a developing El Nino weather system in the Pacific could bring drier conditions and higher temperatures.

Together, these factors could increase the severity and duration of the bushfire season, the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre said on Tuesday.

“Such impacts will challenge the limited resources of the fire and land management agencies and have created the situation where each fire season is likely to be more demanding than the last, both in economic and human costs,” it said.

Victorian Fire Authority emergency management commissioner Craig Lapsley said central and western parts of the state were already dry, almost in a mini-drought.

“We’ve got dry fuels, dry soils already,” he said.

“El Nino is strong and getting stronger, which says we’ll have a dry, hot summer and it will be a long summer.

“We shouldn’t be scaring Victorians but they should understand that October and November is the time to do fire prevention work.”

South Australian Country Fire Service chief officer Greg Nettleton said the state’s southeast has an above-average chance of fires but other areas could also be hit.

“All we need is one afternoon of high temperatures, low humidity and very strong winds and we can have a serious and dangerous fire anywhere in the state,” he said.

The east coast of Tasmania, which was hit by serious fires two years ago, is forecast to have an increased risk.

In WA below-average rainfall and high fuel loads point to a higher risk in a large section of the state, including the area around Perth.

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Top seeds in a hurry on day of U.S. Open upsets

Opening day at Flushing Meadows produced plenty of shock and awe as Djokovic delivered a jaw-dropping performance, speeding past Joao Souza of Brazil 6-1 6-1 6-1 as if the Serb had a taxi metre running outside the National Tennis Center.

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Williams also played as if she had an appointment to keep as she began her final push towards a calendar year Grand Slam by pounding Vitalia Diatchenko 6-0 2-0 before the ailing Russian waved the white flag and retired injured.

Eighth seed Rafa Nadal, a two-time U.S. Open champion, needed a bit more time to get the job done, the Spaniard taking nearly three hours to fight off a challenge from 18-year-old Croatian prospect Borna Coric 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-4.

Following a Broadway-style opening ceremony complete with orchestra and choir, Williams stepped onto centre court under a spotlight to loud applause from an adoring New York crowd just seven matches from her quest to sweep this season’s slams.

The six-time champion would exit Arthur Ashe Stadium just 30 minutes later to more applause and her target reduced to six more wins to join the exclusive club of calendar Grand Slam winners Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court and Steffi Graf.

“It’s been really amazing, I can feel the support and the love on my journey for this milestone,” said Williams, who won the first of her 21 majors at Flushing Meadows 16 years ago.

“I’m so ready. Whatever happens I’m here, I’m at home where it all began in 1999, so this is incredible for me to still be here and playing well.

“It’s kind of awesome that this is the last grand slam of the year, because if it were in a different country, I think I would still love it but it’s not the same as being an American playing in New York, playing for that ultimate goal.”

NISHIKORI NIGHTMARE

Frenchman Benoit Paire provided the big shock of the day, grinding out a 6-4 3-6 4-6 7-6(6) 6-4 win over Nishikori, after the Japanese fourth seed squandered two match points in the fourth set tiebreak.

Marin Cilic, who beat Nishikori in last year’s final, had no such opening day hiccups as the ninth-seeded Croat began the defence of his title with a 6-3 7-6(3) 7-6(3) win over Argentine qualifier Guido Pella.

“It’s always very sad to lose in the first round, but I think he was playing good tennis,” Nishikori lamented. “I

don’t think I played badly. Didn’t play great, but still, it’s never easy first match.”

The 25-year-old had plenty of company at the departure lounge following a string of shocks that included Serbian seventh seed and former world number one Ana Ivanovic, eighth seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova and 10th-seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain.

A hot, muggy day got off to an ominous start when 50th-ranked Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova dispatched Ivanovic 6-3 3-6 6-3 on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court.

Anna Tatishvili gave the home fans a reason to get excited as the 121st-ranked American qualifier destroyed Pliskova 6-2 6-1 while Frenchwoman Oceane Dodin kept the upsets trending with 2-6 7-5 6-3 victory over Jelena Jankovic, the 21st seed and 2008 U.S. Open runner-up.

Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic, one of just two players to beat Serena Williams this season, strolled past Bulgarian Sesil Karatantcheva to stay on track for a quarter-final showdown with the 33-year-old American.

(Editing by John O’Brien)

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