I learned from The Slap: Nathan Brown

Nathan Brown has compared his sideline slap on Trent Barrett to another slice of Dragons folklore, Graham Langlands wearing white boots in 1975 grand final.

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Newcastle mentor Brown goes head-to-head with rookie Manly counterpart Barrett for the first time in the Anzac Day NRL clash at Hunter Stadium on Monday.

It will be the first time they have crossed paths as head coaches since then St George Illawarra coach Brown slapped his Dragons five-eighth Barrett on the WIN Stadium sideline during a close match in 2003.

Brown refused to answer questions about The Slap in the lead-up to the match, telling reporters at a press conference in Newcastle on Tuesday: “Any questions about Trent Barrett and she’s all over”.

However Brown was in a more expansive mood in an interview with Channel Nine’s Sunday Footy Show.

“That was a part of me growing as a coach, some of those things will always come back up and the incident with Baz everyone is going to have a field day with it,” Brown said.

“I understand that because if you look at Graham Langlands, who is one of our immortals, people tend to talk more about his white boots than they tend to talk about the million Tests he played and how great a player he was.

“In Australia we tend to look for people’s mistakes as opposed to the great things that people may or may not do.”

However Brown said he learned plenty from his experience.

“There are things I have done as a coach that I wished I didn’t do but it is not about having regrets, it is about learning from the experience and getting better,” Brown said.

“The thing about being an experienced coach as opposed to a young coach, you just get it right a lot more times than you do getting it wrong.”

Brown’s Knights go into the match on the back of a 53-0 hiding from Brisbane and have notched just a win and a draw this year.

Both of those wins were at home for 15th-placed Newcastle.

Manly, who sit 12th with a 3-4 record, lost to Parramatta 22-10 last start.

Danny Levi, Jeremy Smith and Mickey Paea return for the home side.

Matt Parcell and Brenton Lawrence are back from injury for the Sea Eagles. Jorge Taufua (collarbone) is out and Brayden Wiliame comes onto the wing for him.

KEY STATS

* Manly have won eight of the last 10 matches between the sides, Newcastle victorious in just one of the last seven

* The Knights have only scored 15 tries in seven games this season

* Newcastle are the worst team in the competition in points conceded (32.7 per game, with the Roosters next on 26.7), tries conceded (5.9 per game), metres conceded (1526 per game), line breaks conceded (6 per game) and penalties conceded (9.1 per game).

China’s roadmap to self-driving cars

In the race to develop self-driving cars, the United States and Europe lead in technology, but China is coming up fast in the outside lane with a regulatory structure that could put it ahead in the popular adoption of autonomous cars on its highways and city streets.

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A draft roadmap for having highway-ready, self-driving cars within three to five years and autonomous vehicles for urban driving by 2025 could be unveiled as early as this year, said Li Keqiang, an automotive engineering professor at Tsinghua University who chairs the committee drafting the plan.

The panel is backed by the powerful Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

The draft will set out technical standards, including a common language for cars to communicate with each other and infrastructure, and regulatory guidelines – a unified framework that contrasts with a patchwork of state laws and standards in the United States.

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Without coordination, that patchwork could hold back the development of self-driving cars in the US, David Strickland, a former safety chief for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said at an event in Beijing this month.

China’s top-down approach could see it overtake the US and Europe, where automakers have generally been left to agree among themselves on industry standards. A push for self-driving and electric cars also fits with Beijing’s shift to an economy driven by high-tech and consumer industries rather than heavy industry and low-end manufacturing.

“If we can convince the government that every company, every car on the road must use this (single standard) … then there is a chance China can beat the rest of the world” to the widespread use of self-driving cars, said Li Yusheng, head of Chongqing Changan Automobile’s autonomous drive program.

China is ripe for the advent of self-driving cars. It’s the world’s biggest autos market and is blighted by choking air pollution, traffic congestion and often erratic driving. More than 200,000 people die each year in road accidents, according to World Health Organisation estimates.

As relative newcomers to mass car ownership Chinese also tend not to share the West’s love affair with driving. In a 2015 World Economic Forum survey, 75 per cent of Chinese said they would likely ride in a self-driving car, versus half of Americans. Within 20 years, China will be the largest market for autonomous features, accounting for at least a quarter of global demand, says Boston Consulting Group.

Afghan general wants Australia to stay

Amid a resurgent Taliban, the head of Kabul’s main security force says he would like to see Australia’s military presence in Afghanistan extended.

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After 14-and-a-half years of involvement in the war-torn country, Australia’s role is now chiefly one of advising and assisting the Afghan security forces.

And while the Australian forces will remain in Afghanistan for at least three more years, the Commander of the Kabul Garrison Command, Major-General Salim Ibrahimi, says he would prefer that commitment extended, warning too that terrorism “doesn’t have a border”.

“They bring a lot of changes here,” Maj Gen Ibrahimi said, speaking at the grounds of the Kabul Garrison Command compound.

“We work on every single thing shoulder-to-shoulder and try to find a solution for whatever problem we have.”

“We want them here permanently, we want them to be working with us shoulder-to-shoulder.”

The comments come after a blast last week signalled the deadly beginning of the Taliban’s annual spring offensive, and amid further signs of a deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.

The attack last Tuesday in central Kabul during the morning rush hour – which killed at least 64 people and wounded scores more – came two days after the United Nations said that civilian casualties in Afghanistan for the first three months of 2016 were two per cent higher than in the same period of 2015.

There were more than 11,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan last year – the highest number since 2001. And the Taliban holds more territory than it has at any time since 2001.

Since February, the Kabul Central Command has been under the wing of a team of 11 Australian advisers, led by Colonel Andrew McBaron.

They are already proving effective.

But “forever is a long time,” Colonel McBaron said.

“I don’t think that we’ll be here forever. I am very pleased with the way the Afghan security forces are progressing in their development. There’s always going to be setbacks, that’s just life.

“But every day we see improvements here.

The comments from both men come after Air Vice Marshal Tim Innes, Australia’s commander of operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan, said last week that Australian forces would remain in Afghanistan for at least three more years.

“At the moment I think we’ve committed for another three years – when we get to the end of that period we’ll reconsider it,” he told reporters at Camp Baird.

Still, Maj Gen Ibrahimi warns that terrorist groups like the Taliban are not just a threat to Afghanistan.

“They are threat for all the countries and I think we kind of lucky that we have all the security forces from all over the world (and) we try to keep them busy here and try to get rid of them before they get into other countries to do these type of bad activity,” he said.

“Terrorism doesn’t have border. They go anywhere they can and they try to commit their coward acts.”

Islamic State has also gained a foothold in Afghanistan, while al-Qaeda has regrouped.

Earlier this month, Brigadier General Charles Cleveland, the top spokesman for the NATO mission in Afghanistan, told the Washington Post that al-Qaeda had also forged close ties with the Taliban.

Colonel McBaron said he largely agreed with the sentiments expressed by Maj Gen Ibrahimi.

“I think the general’s comments are very true. If we can fight the terrorists here, then we don’t have to fight them elsewhere,” he said.

“In many ways I think that’s why Australia is here; helping the Afghans to prevent Afghanistan ever becoming that safe haven for terrorism and its global reach again.”

Calf injury ends Pietersen’s IPL stint

The 35-year-old faced only one ball in Rising Pune Supergiants’ match against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Friday but retired hurt after he damaged the muscle when he turned sharply back to the crease when he aborted an attempted single.

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“Over & out, India! Injuries are all part of the job! Horrible tear in my calf!” Pietersen said on his Instagram account.

“Sad to be leaving a really great bunch of boys but looking forward to being back with my family! London bound for a summer off! Vacation till November!”

Sacked by England in 2014 after repeated run-ins with team management, Pietersen has not completely abandoned hope of a return to international cricket.

He is toying with the idea of an improbable comeback with the country of his birth once he is eligible to represent South Africa next year.

“Yes, it is a thought in my head,” Pietersen said earlier this month. “If it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Obviously, playing international cricket is something I have done for a very long time.”

Pune are currently second bottom in the IPL standings with only one win from four matches and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said Pietersen’s injury could be a “blessing in disguise” for the team, who have 10 more regular season matches remaining.

“We’re playing with six bowlers, yet our death bowling isn’t great,” Dhoni said after the defeat by Bangalore.

“Maybe we can look to bring in (all-rounder) Albie Morkel or Mitch Marsh in the next game. With the kind of players we’ve got, it has always been difficult to drop someone. We need to strengthen our bowling line a bit.”

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by John O’Brien)

Ecuador earthquake toll surpasses 650

The death toll from Ecuador’s devastating 7.

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8 magnitude earthquake last week has risen to 654 people.

Last Saturday’s quake, the worst in nearly seven decades, injured about 16,600 people and left 58 missing along the country’s ravaged Pacific coast.

One hundred and thirteen people were rescued from damaged buildings.

“These have been sad days for the homeland,” President Rafael Correa said during his weekly television broadcast earlier on Saturday.

“The country is in crisis.”

Several strong tremors and more than 700 aftershocks have continued to shake the country since the major quake, sparking momentary panic but little additional damage.

Tremors are expected to continue for several weeks.

With close to 7000 buildings destroyed, more than 25,000 people were living in shelters.

Some 14,000 security personnel were keeping order in quake-hit areas, with only sporadic looting reported.

Survivors in the quake zone were receiving food, water and medicine from the government and scores of foreign aid workers, although Correa has acknowledged that bad roads delayed aid reaching some communities.

Correa’s leftist government, facing mammoth rebuilding at a time of greatly reduced oil revenues for the OPEC country, has said it would temporarily increase some taxes, offer assets for sale and possibly issue bonds abroad to fund reconstruction.

Congress will begin debate on the tax proposal on Tuesday.

Correa has estimated damage at $US2 billion ($A2.58 billion) to $US3 billion ($A3.88 billion).

Lower oil revenue has already left the country of 16 million people facing near-zero growth and lower investment.

The country’s private banking association said on Saturday its member banks would defer payments on credit cards, loans and mortgages for clients in the quake zone for three months, to help reconstruction efforts.

Housing affordability an election hotspot

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has made housing affordability a key battleground in the upcoming election.

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He and Treasurer Scott Morrison confirmed on Sunday that tax offsets through negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount won’t be changed in the May 3 budget.

It wasn’t a big surprise given the government’s strident criticism of Labor’s plans to limit negative gearing to new properties should it win the likely July 2 election while halving the CGT discount from 50 to 25 per cent.

The prime minister said the opposition’s tax plan would deliver a “reckless trifecta” of lower home values, higher rents and less investment.

“This is not fine tuning, this is a big sledgehammer they are taking to the property market,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Sydney on Sunday.

“We won’t have a bar of it.”

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said everyone knows there is a housing affordability crisis, but the prime minister “couldn’t care less”.

He challenged Mr Turnbull to show the evidence that house prices would crash under Labor’s policy.

“It’s a lie,” Mr Bowen told reporters in Sydney.

“He doesn’t have a plan for housing affordability. His plan for the election is to run a scare campaign.”

Mr Morrison, who will hand down a tax reform package with his first budget, said Labor’s proposal was nothing more than a housing tax.

“We have the commonsense to know we need to leave the system as it is,” he said.

Mr Turnbull said there was going to be big choice this election.

“If you vote for Labor and Labor wins government that means higher rents, lower home values, less investment. We believe … you need to see more investment in Australia.”

Greens leader Richard Di Natale said Mr Turnbull had turned out to be a “great disappointment”.

“We have some enormous challenges ahead of us as a nation … (but) he wants to have a silly little scare campaign about house prices,” Senator Di Natale told reporters in Melbourne.

He said by refusing to make changes to negative gearing and the CGT discount, the prime minister was continuing with unfair tax breaks that would mean less money to spend on schools and hospitals.

However, Housing Industry Association chief executive for industry policy Graham Wolfe said negative gearing promoted private investment in the residential rental market, stimulated economic activity and relieved pressure on social housing and the public purse.

“Negative gearing is not the domain of so-called ‘wealthy investors’,” Mr Wolfe said in a statement.

Australian Taxation Office data showed nearly eight of every 10 taxpayers with a rental property declare a taxable income of less than $100,000, while 70 per cent earn less than $80,000, he said.

Berlin wants refugee ‘safe zones’ in Syria

Germany is seeking the creation of “safe zones” to shelter refugees in Syria, Chancellor Angela Merkel says, an idea Turkey has long championed in the face of UN caution.

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Keeping refugees on the Syrian side of the border would help Brussels and Ankara, which hosts 2.7 million Syrian refugees, stem the flow of migrants to European shores.

The UN has warned against the plan unless there was a way to guarantee the refugees’ safety in the war-torn state. Aid workers have opposed it.

The cessation of hostilities in Syria which began at the end of February and was sponsored by Russia and the United States to allow for peace talks, has since faltered.

The opposition, which walked out of negotiations in Geneva said the truce, which excluded powerful jihadist groups such as Islamic State and the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, was no longer in place.

At a news conference in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, Merkel called for “zones where the ceasefire is particularly enforced and where a significant level of security can be guaranteed.”

As tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria are unable to cross into Turkey, and instead are camped near the Azaz border crossing where local agencies offer humanitarian support, some have accused Turkey of stealthily forming such a zone.

The EU-Turkey agreement to send back thousands of migrants from the Greek islands to Turkey has also been fiercely criticised by United Nations refugee and human rights agencies, as immoral and a violation of international humanitarian law.

Rights groups say Turkey is not a country where returnees can be guaranteed proper protection.

The agreement, coupled with border closures in Europe that meant smugglers could not secure passage to northern Europe, initially slowed the numbers of new arrivals to Greece.

But boats have been arriving with about 150 people a day, indicating the “hermetic sealing” of the route appears to be over, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

One side of the bargain, used to sell the migrant deal to the Turkish public, was Turks winning quicker visa-free travel to Europe, a pledge that now could go unfulfilled, at least by the June deadline Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had wanted.

On Saturday Davutoglu said there would be no more readmissions if visa liberalisation was not enacted, but that he believed the EU would take the necessary steps.

“We have said that Turkey naturally must fulfil the conditions, these are 72 projects that must be implemented,” Merkel said. “My aim is that we stick to those understandings. Provided that Turkey delivers the relevant results.”

Davutoglu, Merkel, EU Council President Donald Tusk and Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans visited a refugee camp in Nizip and the inauguration of a child protection centre in Gaziantep.

US aquarium cuts fossil fuel for sea heat

Thousands of people visit the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward for a look at Steller sea lions or harlequin ducks.

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What’s in the basement is almost as interesting.

The centre, which combines aquariums with research and wildlife rescue, says 98 per cent of its heating and cooling requirements are no longer filled by fossil fuel.

The centre is using alternative energy: heat extracted from ocean water in Resurrection Bay.

The heat exchange system is saving money and fulfilling the centre’s mission of sharing scientific knowledge to promote stewardship of Alaska’s marine resources, said special projects co-ordinator Darryl Schaefermeyer.

It demonstrates that seawater is a potential heating source for Alaska, which has more coastline than the rest of the nation put together.

“Simple payback is estimated to be 13 years at the estimated annual savings on electricity of $48,000,” he said.

“Since starting the system, we have averaged just over $US4000 ($A5170) savings on electrical energy cost per month.”

It’s used with a seawater system the centre installed in 2012.

The new system was designed by Andy Baker of YourCleanEnergy, an Anchorage consulting firm.

It uses equipment manufactured by a Japanese firm, Mayekawa, and relies on a complex system of pipes to heat some parts of the building and cool others.

“The trick is to getting all those loops to transfer heat at the correct rate,” Baker said.

Resurrection Bay absorbs solar heat over summer months.

The water warms through late October and, below the surface, retains enormous amounts of heat throughout winter.

Heat exchangers are devices that transfer heat from one loop of liquid to another without mixing the liquids.

The centre’s new system draws seawater and pumps it into a heat exchanger with non-corrosive titanium plates, where it heats a loop of water and 10 per cent glycol, an antifreeze.

The warmed water and glycol loop is passed alongside a loop of liquid carbon dioxide, causing the liquid CO2 to boil into a vapour.

A compressor squeezes the vapour, which raises its temperature.

The heated CO2 vapour is exposed to yet another loop: the water that circulates through the SeaLife Center’s building.

The system has been operating since January 21.

On Seward’s coldest nights, about two per cent of the time, the centre had to turn on an electrical boiler for more heat.

Princes Charles has a crack at Hamlet

The Prince of Wales became the Prince of Denmark as he joined acting royalty on stage to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

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Charles made a surprise appearance as Hamlet in a star-studded televised gala performance in the Bard’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon.

The town’s riverside Royal Shakespeare Theatre hosted performances from famous names including Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen, Benedict Cumberbatch and David Tennant as acting greats paid tribute to the playwright’s continuing legacy.

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Charles, who had been watching the Shakespeare Live! From The Royal Shakespeare Company show with the Duchess of Cornwall, was heard to speak from the wings, asking: “Might I have a word … “

Then followed the opening lines to what is one of Shakespeare’s best-known soliloquys: “To be or not to be, that is the question.”

The show, which featured Shakespeare-inspired work spanning a range of musical genres, was screened live to 368 cinemas in the UK and Europe.

The surprise royal appearance marked the end of a day celebrating the town’s most famous son.

Earlier Charles visited the last resting place of the Bard at Holy Trinity Church, laying a wreath at his grave, after touring the site of a new garden located on what was the location of the world-renowned playwright’s former home.

The Prince was shown an inscription of Shakespeare’s grave stone which reads “cursed be he who moves my bones”.

The Rev Patrick Taylor explained how it was believed the writer had his grave inscribed with the curse because he was “petrified” his remains might be moved to a nearby charnel house, which lies behind a church door just a yard or two from the grave.

Charles replied: “It certainly reminds you of your mortality”.

Charles had a little earlier toured the New Place on the former site of Shakespeare’s town house, now long since demolished, where a garden is being established to remember the poet’s legacy and works.

Earlier, US president Barack Obama was treated to a special performance of scenes from Hamlet at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London.

Shakespeare, who penned almost 40 plays, over 150 sonnets, and coined well-known phrases still widely used to this day, died in 1616.

Report backs tunnel for Perth Freight Link

A tunnel as part of the controversial Perth Freight Link will reduce road deaths, increase house values and create more jobs, a study has found, but the opposition has rejected the findings.

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The report, prepared by Matusik Property Insights, found the tunnel was likely to have a greater positive effect on residential values than improving surface traffic routes.

Transport Minister Dean Nalder admitted he was surprised about the potential uplift in residential values over the long term, which could be up to 86 per cent.

But the report stresses current local end prices, which are high when compared to the Perth average, might not rise as much as the findings suggest.

“All of our case studies are based on infrastructure provision, which took place many years ago at a time when end price points were more affordable than today,” the report read.

Mr Nalder said it was important to note a potential drop in the number of road fatalities by up to 70 per cent.

“Since announcing Roe 8, we have consistently said it would reduce congestion and make our roads safer,” he said.

“The evidence of other similar road projects proves that with reduced congestion, the roads are safer and there are fewer fatalities.”

But opposition transport spokeswoman Rita Saffioti has rejected the analysis.

“I’m not sure how a Queensland property consultant can tell me how many road fatalities are going to happen in WA,” she told reporters.

Ms Saffioti said it was merely another attempt from the state government to try to justify the flawed project.

The $1.9 billion project, mostly funded by the federal government, will provide a more direct route to Fremantle port for trucks and is the largest road infrastructure development of its kind ever undertaken in WA.