Sam Stosur falls to Halep at Miami Open

Australia’s Samantha Stosur wasted a match point before crumbling to a three-set loss to Simona Halep in the fourth round of the Miami Open.

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Stosur broke the Romanian third-seed twice to win the first set before charging to within a point of an upset victory with a 5-3 lead in the second.

But the world No.5 rallied to take the next seven games before running away a 4-6 7-5 6-2 winner on Monday (Tuesday AEDT).

Halep will meet Johanna Konta in the quarter-finals after the Briton steamrolled Spain’s Lara Arruabarrena 7-5 6-1.

It was world No.19 Stosur’s best WTA tournament performance this year after bettering third-round efforts in Doha and Taipei.

Top seeds Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova reached the quarter-finals while French Open champion Garbine Muguruza retired from her match with Caroline Wozniacki after dropping the first set.

German Kerber, the top seed, cruised by Japanese qualifier Risa Ozaki 6-2 6-2 while Czech second seed Pliskova beat 15th-seeded compatriot Barbora Strycova 6-1 6-4.

Kerber was barely tested in her 62-minute match during which she displayed a great arsenal of shots and was all over her opponents’ serve.

Pliskova cruised through her first set in 22 minutes and looked ready to wrap up a quick victory when she went ahead 5-2 in the second but Strycova found life late in the match breaking Pliskova then holding at love.

“Everything was fine, going well, until 6-1, 5-2,” Pliskova, who fought off three break points in the final game, said in a report on the WTA website.

“I was happy to close it because the end was tricky – the end was a little bit shaky.”

Sixth seed Muguruza took a medical time-out after dropping the first set 7-6 (7-1) to Wozniacki after feeling dizzy and decided she was unable to continue against the Dane.

“I started normal, and then like at 3-3 or something like this I started to feel headache, pain in my stomach,” Muguruza said. “And then it kind of went more and more during the match.

“When I was getting to the 5-4, something like this, I started to feel a little bit dizzy. I think it was the heat? The heat affected me suddenly like that.”

With the win, Wozniacki advanced to sixth quarter-final in seven 2017 events.

In other women’s action, former Czech world No.5 Lucie Safarova beat Slovakian fourth seed Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (7-5) 6-1 to reach the last eight.

For unseeded Safarova, who is on the comeback trail from a bacterial infection that hampered her for parts of the past two seasons, the win marked her first top-10 victory since 2015.

Big brain cancer study offers ray of hope

For far too long little has been known about who’s at risk of brain cancer, a rare yet deadly disease that appears to strike people at random.

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However that is changing, with scientists uncovering 13 new genetic errors associated with an increased risk of developing glioma – the most common form of brain cancer.

One of the newly discovered genetic changes increases a person’s risk by as much as a third, according to a study published in journal Nature Genetics. The others influenced risk by at least 15 per cent each.

This “hugely” exciting new research means doctors may be able to identify patients at risk earlier, said Michelle Stewart, Cure Brain Cancer Foundation’s Head of Research Strategy.

It could also mean that there are targets for “badly needed” new drugs to be developed.

“The information that they’ve learnt means that they can work out what drugs may be effective at those new targets because currently the treatment is not very effective at all,” Ms Stewart told AAP.

Around 1600 people are diagnosed with brain cancer in Australia annually and approximately 1200 die from the disease every year.

It kills more children than any other disease and more people under 40 than any other cancer.

Wanting to know more about the genetic causes of this deadly disease, scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research in London, along with colleagues in Europe and the US, led an international study of more than 30,000 people with and without glioma.

The 13 new genetic changes detected were found to affect a variety of cell functions, including nerve cell division, DNA repair, cell cycle control, protein production and inflammation.

Different sets of genes influenced a person’s risk of developing the two subtypes of glioma – glioblastoma and non-glioblastoma.

One of the DNA changes that influenced the gene HEATR3 increased the risk of glioblastoma – a particularly aggressive type of glioma with an average survival of only 10-15 months after diagnosis – by 18 per cent.

The study doubles the total number of genetic changes associated with risk of glioma to 26.

Co-lead author Professor Richard Houlston, a Professor of Molecular and Population Genetics says this was a gigantic step that has uncovered a “treasure trove” of new information.

“The changes in the way we think about glioma could be quite fundamental. So for example, what we thought of as two related sub-types of the disease turn out to have quite different genetic causes which may require different approaches to treatment,” he explained.

Brain cancer is rare but research like this new study is essential to improving patient outcomes, Ms Stewart said.

“As we understand more about the biology of the disease we hope that the treatments can be developed effectively as well.”

“Brain cancer prognosis has been poor for far too long and we believe investment in brain cancer research is what is necessary to improve health outcomes.”

A senate select inquiry into brain cancer research in Australia is underway in Canberra, led by survivor and Labor Senator for Tasmania, Catryna Bilyk. Submissions close on Friday.

Stay inside during cyclone’s eye: experts

Residents and tourists on the normally idyllic Hamilton and Hayman Islands are being warned to stay indoors as the eye of Cyclone Debbie passes over.

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Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Deputy Commissioner Mark Roche said the calm of the eye often brought a false sense of security.

“Just because the cyclone passes, you may see beautiful blue skies, but the truth is the back end of the cyclone may not have come through,” he said.

“This could be many hours, so listen to the radio and we will advise people when it’s clear.”

Residents on Hamilton Island have reported that the eye wall – the most destructive part of the cyclone which comes before the calm eye – has damaged buildings and brought torrential rain.

Holiday makers stuck on Hamilton Island are bunkered down in their rooms away from windows and doors.

Helena Mo told AAP the wind had got worse throughout the morning.

“It just feels like it’s ripping through,” she said.

Wind gusts of 230-260km/h have been recorded on the island, as the Category 4 Cyclone makes its way towards the north Queensland coast.

Mr Roche said huge wind gusts had damaged buildings and ripped trees from the ground.

“There is significant damage occurring with the rain, we are going to see debris, we are going to see powerlines down, we are going to see structural damage,” he said.

“So we’re saying to people stay inside, ride the cyclone out.”

Tourist Chris McMahon told Nine his two young children were “taking it pretty well” on Hamilton Island but friends on the western side of the island had sent a message saying their apartment was “getting smashed”.

“We haven’t heard any of the rain or wind all week until today,” he said.

“About one this morning is when it really picked up and it hasn’t let off since.”

Labor disrupts parliament over 18C

Labor is disrupting parliament over proposed changes to race-hate speech laws, lashing the federal government for failing to consider the views of indigenous Australians.

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Leader of the opposition in the Senate Penny Wong has moved to suspend standing orders in a bid to push debate on the legislation to Thursday instead of Tuesday.

She accused the government of trying to push the legislation through so it could lose quickly and get it off the agenda, given it does not have the numbers to pass the changes.

The government hadn’t provided the opposition with amendments on the legislation before debate began on Tuesday, she said.

She said the government had denied indigenous Australians an opportunity to give evidence to an inquiry into the legislation.

“It really does say everything you need to know about this government… when it denies indigenous Australians the right to be heard,” she told parliament.

Attorney-General George Brandis accused Senator Wong of playing politics with what had been a “major issue” in public discussion for more than three years.

He said a joint parliamentary committee that looked into freedom of speech in 2016 held nine full days of public hearings, including a hearing in every capital city in Australia before a report was tabled in November.

The government consulted with Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs and took up many of her suggested amendments, Senator Brandis said.

“The merits had already been extensively canvassed,” he told parliament.

“We are now ready to debate the bill.”

Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the proposed changes were about internal coalition politics and Malcolm Turnbull satisfying the right wing of his party.

The Greens thought they had seen the end of the 18C debate when former prime minister Tony Abbott dropped the matter.

“This is like some bad zombie movie, it just keeps coming back and back and back,” he told parliament.

The government’s proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act would swap the words “offend”, “insult” and “humiliate” to “harass and intimidate”.

Manager of government business in the Senate Mitch Fifield said there was no attempt by the government to curtail debate on the proposed changes, with 20 speakers listed to debate the matter in parliament on Tuesday.

The government would move “purely technical” amendments to the legislation which were the product of discussions with Professor Triggs to satisfy issues she had with the initial draft, he said.

Labor’s bid to delay the debate failed after the majority of the crossbench including the Nick Xenophon Team voted with the government.

Don Dale girl’s self harm ‘out of control’

A girl who attempted suicide six times over five days at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre had just been returned from hospital for self harming and was put straight back into isolation.

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The man in charge of Don Dale operations in March 2015, James Sizeland, told the Northern Territory juvenile justice royal commission he didn’t have the authority to take the inmate out of lock down.

The girl, known as AN, had a history of trying to kill herself when placed in solitary confinement.

She had just arrived back at the jail from hospital after another self harm episode when she was put back in a cell for 34 hours with only a 30 minute respite, AN’s lawyer Stewart O’Connell said.

Then “all hell broke loose” and the young offender was hospitalised three times over the next five days.

Last week, AN told the inquiry that “dying was better than staying in isolation”, saying she constantly pleaded to be taken out.

The situation was completely out of control yet a mental health team didn’t show up for four days, Mr O’Connell said.

“Did it ever occur to you that that decision was actually making the situation more traumatic and less safe for this young girl?” he asked.

“You doggedly pursued a process … knowing you were actually increasing the risk of harm to this girl.”

“If she was not in an at risk cell we could have very well lost her life,” Mr Sizeland replied.

Co-commissioner Mick Gooda said doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results was the definition of insanity, and asked why alternative options to detention weren’t explored.

But Mr Sizeland admitted the approach was ineffective, but said he didn’t have the resources or a suitable facility, and putting the girl into normal cells placed herself, other detainees and staff in danger.

“If we dropped the ball it could have had a very tragic effect. That was the absolute best we could do in the situation we were in,” he said.

Mr Sizeland said in January 2015 the girl was made to wear handcuffs during an ambulance ride to the emergency department after self harming, despite bleeding from an injured hand.

He said another incident where a group of guards cut the girl’s clothes off with Hoffman knives while her hands were held through a Judas hatch wasn’t a commonly practised move.

Earlier on Monday, another former Don Dale detainee said he was paraded in front of adult prisoners who yelled “fresh meat” and threatened to rape him when they were kept in the same court cells.

The hearing continues.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

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US investigates civilian death tolls as ‘ferocious battle’ for Mosul continues

Iraqi forces renewed their assault Monday against jihadists in Mosul’s Old City, after days in which the battle was overshadowed by reports of heavy civilian casualties from air strikes.

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The Pentagon said Monday it was reviewing more than 700 video feeds of coalition air strikes on west Mosul after reports of a large number of civilians killed in bombings.

Amid rising concern over a jump in civilian casualties in fighting in Iraq and Syria, Colonel J.T. Thomas from US Central Command said they were putting a high priority on investigating the Mosul reports.

Nineveh provincial governor Nawfal Hammadi said “more than 130 civilians” were killed in strikes over several days in Mosul’s al-Jadida area, and attention has focused on one allegedly particularly deadly strike on March 17.

US investigators are also looking at the apparent bombing of a school in Mansura near Raqa, Syria on March 21, and a building next to a mosque on March 16 in Al-Jineh, in Aleppo province.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said that 33 people were killed in the Mansura bombing and 49 in Al-Jineh, where the US target was a meeting of Al-Qaeda officials.

Thomas called examining what happened in west Mosul “the priority at this time” for Central Command.

He said the reports of a heavy civilian toll in the northern Iraqi city could represent several days of bombing against the Islamic State group.

“We know that we were dropping bombs in the immediate vicinity,” he said, stating that the bombs used were “quite precise.”

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Battle for Mosul continues

Iraqi forces began the massive operation to retake west Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) group last month and have recaptured a series of neighbourhoods, but the battle poses a major threat to civilians in the city.

Iraqi officials and witnesses have said air strikes took a devastating toll on civilians in the Mosul Al-Jadida area in recent days.

“Federal Police and Rapid Response Division units began to advance today on the south-western axis of the Old City,” Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat, the commander of the federal police, said in a statement.

Jawdat said that one of their targets is Faruq Street, which runs near the Al-Nuri mosque.

IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his only known public appearance at the mosque after IS seized Mosul in 2014, calling on Muslims to obey him.

Iraqi interior ministry forces have been operating in the area of the Old City for several weeks, but they have faced tough resistance and progress has been slow.

The Counter-Terrorism Service, which along with the Rapid Response Division is one of two special forces units spearheading west Mosul operations, has made faster progress in areas farther west.

But the Old City – a warren of narrow streets and closely-spaced buildings in which the UN said 400,000 people still reside – poses unique challenges in terms of the difficulty of advancing as well as the danger to civilians.

Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, the spokesman for Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, said that interior ministry units have deployed snipers to target IS jihadists using civilians as human shields.

The toll on civilians

However, Iraqi forces have also frequently fired mortar rounds and unguided rockets during the battle for Mosul – weapons that pose a much greater risk to residents of areas where fighting is taking place.

The battle has already taken a heavy toll on civilians, pushing more than 200,000 to flee in addition to others who have been killed or wounded in the fighting.

An AFP photographer saw civil defence personnel and volunteers digging through the remains of houses to recover the dead in Mosul al-Jadida on Sunday.

The remains of at least 12 people – among them women and children – were placed in blue plastic body bags.

Rasool said that the defence ministry has opened an investigation into the reports that strikes killed civilians in west Mosul.

The US-led coalition against IS has indicated that it may have been responsible for at least some of the civilian deaths.

“An initial review of strike data… indicates that, at the request of the Iraqi security forces, the coalition struck (IS) fighters and equipment, March 17, in west Mosul at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties,” it said in a statement on Saturday.

But that only addresses one day, while Iraqi officials referred to strikes carried out over several days.

On Sunday, US Central Command chief General Joseph Votel called recent civilian deaths in Mosul a “terrible tragedy”.

“We are investigating the incident to determine exactly what happened and will continue to take extraordinary measures to avoid harming civilians,” he said in a statement.

Iraq is also carrying out strikes against IS with warplanes and helicopters.

The Joint Operations Command announced on Monday that Iraqi F-16 strikes had destroyed targets including bomb factories and weapons stores in the IS-held town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul.

Related:Straight from the frontline: Vice News in Mosul

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Debbie help unlikely until Wednesday: SES

Residents in the path of Cyclone Debbie could be waiting until Wednesday for emergency help, as the destructive slow-moving storm keeps the region in lockdown for hours.

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Northern region SES manager Dale Camp said strong winds are expected to continue into the evening.

The high-level category four system is not expected to weaken to a tropical low until midday on Wednesday.

“It’s a very slow-moving cyclone, so we’re talking anywhere between six and 14 hours until it’s completely over in each location,” he said.

“So that puts it well into this evening, and that’s the problem, everyone is going to have to stay in their house all day, and then stay there all night as well.

Mr Camp said poor light in the evening will hamper any clean-up efforts.

“We have to wait for that wind to die down before we move around, and if it’s at night time it makes it very difficult to see things like floodwaters, so they’ll probably be waiting until first light tomorrow,” he said.

Debbie had moved as slow as 4km/h in heading to the north Queensland coast on Tuesday morning but quickened to 12km/h as the eyewall made landfall near Airlie Beach just after midday.

Whitsundays councillor John Collins said Cyclone Debbie was one of the slowest he had experienced.

“I’ve been through a few cyclones that are quick and nasty but this one is going to go all day,” he told AAP.

“It’s a long wait, sitting here waiting while it tears everything up.

“This is going to be a terrible disaster when it is all over and done with.”

People needing assistance from the SES after the cyclone should call 132 500, and jobs will be prioritised in order of importance.

People with life threatening emergencies should call triple-zero.

Cybersex trafficking the future: Scipione

The first NSW case of a person being charged with cybersex trafficking paints a “very worrying scenario for the future”, Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione has told a parliamentary inquiry.

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A Sydney man faced the NSW District Court on Monday after he instructed and watched the abuse of children during a live stream from the Philippines.

He had previously pleaded guilty to more than 20 charges of causing a child under 16 to have sex outside of Australia.

Appearing before a NSW parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday, Mr Scipione described human trafficking offences as abhorrent, insidious and “a scourge”.

But he said this week’s case was “particularly troublesome”.

“We think that’s probably the future of this crime type,” the outgoing commissioner said.

“You don’t necessarily need to move people across borders if you can move the images … in real-time.

“At the end of the day, it paints a very worrying scenario for the future.”

The commissioner, in his last week in the top job, was asked whether NSW could be aided by a human trafficking commissioner.

“I couldn’t rule it out,” he replied.

“Probably what would need to be looked at was what that person would do … what level of connectedness that person would have in the global law-enforcement effort.”

Detective Superintendent Linda Howlett, the head of the NSW sex crimes squad, says technology is constantly challenging law enforcement agencies.

“A lot of the devices we’re coming across are encrypted,” she told the committee earlier this month.

“We have a number of sites posted overseas that we have no control over.”

Det Supt Howlett says police expect to see an increase in cybersex offences in third-world countries.

Parliamentary report recommends passing 18C changes

The Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs has recommended passing the government’s controversial changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, despite dissenting reports from Labor and the Greens.

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Composed of senators from all the major parties, the committee was only given a few days to report on the proposed legislation.

“The committee has found that this bill will make overdue reforms to the RDA, strengthening the protections against hateful speech based on race, colour or national or ethnic origin,” it said.

Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act currently makes it illegal to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate someone on the basis of their race or ethnicity.

The Turnbull Government is proposing to remove the words ‘insult’, ‘offend’ and ‘humiliate’ and replace them with ‘harass’, while retaining ‘intimidate’.

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The parliamentary committee agreed ‘insult’, ‘offend’ and ‘humiliate’ were too open to interpretation.

“The subjectivity of these terms and the disconnect from their ordinary meaning has had a chilling effect on freedom of speech,” it said.

However, Labor and Greens politicians on the committee each made dissenting reports which were critical of the official line.

“If passed, the changes to section 18C would result in a period of uncertainty about the scope of the new provisions,” Labor said in its report.

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Public submissions to the report also blasted the changes as unwarranted.

“There is little if any judicial interpretation of the word ‘harass’ in the Australian authorities,” a submission from the Law Council of Australia said.

“The Law Council maintains the view…that sections 18C and 18D of the RDA, as interpreted by the Courts, strike and appropriate balance between freedom of expression and protection from racial vilification, and should not be amended.”

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Similarly, the Federation of Communities’ Councils of Australia didn’t support the proposal.

“FECCA believes that by replacing the words ‘insult’, ‘humiliate’ and ‘offend’ in section 18c with ‘harass’, the Government sends a message to the community that racism is acceptable and that Australia condones insulting and offensive speech on the basis of race and ethnicity,” it said.

The bill will be debated in the Senate this week with a vote likely at the end of the week.

The government will need the support of Senate crossbenchers to pass the bill, although Senator Derryn Hinch has already labelled the legislation a ‘dead parrot’.

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The Feed: Hate Speech?

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Cars no more a symbol of freedom for young

A car is no longer the great symbol of freedom for young people.

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Millennials – people aged between 18 and 34 – are less likely to drive than people their age a decade ago, and a third have chosen not to fork out for a car.

Some 67 per cent of millennials who participated in Roy Morgan Research’s 2016 car industry survey are driving, down from 72.5 per cent of the same age group in 2006.

Almost one in five milliennials have the Uber app on their phone or tablet, and two thirds of those had used the service in the past month.

Of the 200,000 Australians who use car sharing services like Go-Get and Flexi-car, almost half are millennials, compared with only 20,000 baby boomers.

Consumer services innovator Scott Browning, the chief executive of mobile startup Quickar and former marketing director at JB Hi-Fi, says fewer people will own and drive a car in the future, because there won’t be a need.

Attitudes towards cars have changed, with technology and the internet changing the way people connect with family, friends and work, he said.

“Connection and mobility have very little to do with cars anymore,” Mr Browning said.

“Cars are just appliances, they’re not the symbol of freedom that we had because that was the only way we could get out of the house as kids.”

WHAT AUSTRALIANS THINK ABOUT CARS

– A smaller proportion of young people are driving than a decade ago

– Almost two thirds of Australians would pay more for a zero-emissions car

– More than half of millennials would consider buying a hybrid car and nearly one third would buy an electric car

– Just over half of Australians are not ready for travelling in a driverless car

– Almost two thirds are unaware of car sharing services, and almost 200,000 are using services like Go-Get and Flexi-car

– Over one in three are ready to dispense with dealerships and buy their car online

Source: The State of the Nation Report with a spotlight on the Australian Automotive Industry by Roy Morgan Research