Sharks’ Lewis ready to join 300-game club

He’s won two NRL premierships, two rare NSW State of Origin series triumphs, and two Four Nations trophies for the Kangaroos, but Luke Lewis still isn’t satisfied with his NRL career.

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As he prepares to join the game’s exclusive 300-game club on Friday, Lewis admits his recently-signed one-year extension may not be his last as he craves more success with Cronulla.

And that includes winning back-to-back NRL titles with the Sharks.

“I really believe if we can put our head down and focus on what we can do well at Cronulla, we can definitely get to the end of the season in that big game,” Lewis said.

“You never know what can happen from there. I don’t want to be greedy, but I want to keep pushing forward and trying to win as many premierships as I can before I retire.”

That time may not even be at the end of next season despite the ageless warrior penning a one-year extension with the Sharks a fortnight ago.

If his body feels the same as it does in one year, there’s every chance he could play on.

“This year I was always planning on just seeing how the body felt and when I got to round 12, make a decision from there,” Lewis said.

“I feel amazing at the moment so I’ve done one year and if I get halfway through next year and I’m feeling amazing, I’ll go from there and maybe kick on.

“But if I’m not, I’m not going to drag it on. I don’t want to drag any club on, I just want to make sure I’m doing the right thing for myself and the club, so they can make the right decision.”

Lewis credited his longevity to the Sharks’ medical staff as well as his current teammates for pushing his body to the limits since his arrival from Penrith in 2013.

But he said it was only fitting he brought up his triple-century milestone in this week’s Women in League round, given his mum, sister, wife and daughter have played key roles in his career.

His mum Sharon, sister Krysti and wife Sonia were all critical in helping him overcome a thyroid cancer scare in 2012 when he questioned his future in the game.

“I remember when I got told about my thyroid cancer, I probably wouldn’t get peak fitness and all that stuff so I started to freak out,” he recalled.

“Would I get to play footy again? Would I always be able to play at the top of my game?”

He said his only regret came from failing to finish off his final year at Penrith.

“The only disappointing thing I found was that I didn’t get to finish off that season with Penrith and play the few games,” he said.

“I had to miss the rest of the year because I wasn’t allowed to play at that particular point.”

Counterterrorism response to involve military more easily

The army will be given new powers to respond to unfolding terrorist attacks, but the Federal Government says state police will still be the first responders.

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says most terrorist attacks are sudden and quickly finished.

“In the current threat environment, it’s most likely that a terrorist attack will use simple methodologies — a knife, a gun, a vehicle — and the attack itself could be over in minutes.”

But for attacks that go on for longer, particularly hostage situations, the Federal Government is giving the military new powers to intervene and help the police respond.

The Defence Act will be changed to remove a rule that says the states cannot ask the military for help until their own capabilities have been exceeded.

Mr Turnbull says Australian Defence Force officers will be embedded inside police counterterrorism units to improve cooperation.

“(It is) vitally important that we have that close liaison. It is no point operating in silos. Our enemies aren’t. We have to be completely connected at all times. And we’re clarifying the ability of the ADF to pre-position both personnel and material to fortify and enable the quickest possible response.”

The special forces will also offer training to police-response units.

But Justice Minister Michael Keenan says state police will still take the lead in terrorism incidents.

“It’s very important that everyone understands that domestic counterterrorism response remains primarily the responsibility of our police forces, but there will be certain circumstances — and we can’t always know exactly what form a terrorist attack might take in Australia — there will be certain circumstances where the ADF might be useful. When that is the case, I think Australians would understand we need arrangements that are going to allow that to happen.”

Labor has confirmed it is likely to support the reforms.

Opposition defence spokesman Richard Marles has promised a bipartisan approach, as is the norm with national-security issues.

“We have not yet seen the specifics of the legislation which is being proposed. We’ve asked that of the Government. But we will work with the Government to ensure that we come up with a bipartisan position for our country to deal with the threats that we face. And, indeed, I’d point out that, for more than a year now, Labor has been raising the question as to whether or not the call-out provisions have been strong enough to deal with the various terrorism threats that our country faces.”

The Government is not stopping there and plans to work with the states on further law changes.

Malcolm Turnbull says he wants to make sure prison sentences are high enough and ensure terrorism suspects can be detained without charge in any state.

The states will also be asked to give police more legal protection so they feel empowered to shoot and kill attackers.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Peter Jennings says police culture has already shifted away from prioritising arrests since the Lindt cafe siege in Sydney.

“Increasingly, because of what they call this active-shooter problem, police are basically training to kill terrorists on the spot. And in that sense, on that particular area, their culture is becoming more like the military culture.”

 

Manus Island’s forgotten refugees

Australia’s first refugee processing centre on Manus still stands, housing West Papuans.

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Some of the refugees still live in the camp, built when PNG was an Australian colony.

There is a place on Manus island in Papua New Guinea lost in time and forgotten in Australian history.

Manfred Meho was just three months old when he arrived.

“Our parents, when they ran away, we came as refugees to Manus Island. The government transferred us to Manus, our parents. At the time I was a child, maybe three or four months old.”

Thousands fled Indonesia’s takeover of Dutch New Guinea in the 1960s into the then-Australian colony of Papua and New Guinea.

“Papua Merdaka. Papua Merdaka means ‘Papua independence’.”

About 50 years ago, the Australian government built houses on Manus to isolate politically active refugees from what is now known as West Papua.

Several dozen ended up on Manus, marking the start of the use of the island for refugee processing.

Professor Klaus Neumann, a historian from Deakin University, says Australia needed to find a way to avoid diplomatic embarrassment.

“They thought they were a nuisance, because potentially they caused a problem with Australia’s relationship with Indonesia. Australia had not objected to Indonesia’s takeover of the Dutch colony, and Australia had recognised that Indonesia was now in charge of former Western New Guinea, so for Australia to grant refugee status to these people would have posed a diplomatic problem.”

A disputed UN-sponsored referendum, known as the Act of Free Choice, secured Indonesia’s takeover.

Two West Papuans, Clemens Runawery and Willem Zonggonau, both now deceased, tried to bring international attention to the issue.

Clemens Runawery told what happened in an Australian political television advertisement from ten years ago.

“Wim and I fled West Papua to New Guinea to fly to New York to inform the United Nations that the Act of Free Choice was corrupt. We were forced off the plane by Australian government officials.”

In 1969 they were sent to Manus, along with dozens of other refugees.

The camp is just a hundred metres away from Australia’s current refugee transit centre in the remote island’s capital, Lorengau.

Klaus Neumann says it would be wrong to compare it to today’s detention centre.

“The holding camp was not a detention centre, it did not have a barbed wire fence around it, people could come and go as they wanted to. In fact the administration was quite upset that they were not working, they wanted them to work in Lorengau or somewhere on Manus Island, they wanted the kids to go to school, so in that sense it wasn’t at all like a detention centre.”

Most of the original refugees have now died or moved elsewhere in PNG.

Some returned to Indonesia’s Papuan provinces, like Amos Kimbri.

“They told us if we hold a flag for West Papua, then they will kill us, so I and my wife and son and daughter went back again to PNG.”

On PNG’s independence in 1975, Australia took no responsibility for these refugees.

Now after almost five stateless decades, the incumbent PNG government of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has made them an offer.

“We have quite a large number of West Irian Indonesian refugees in PNG. Under this government, close to 10,000, are classified as eligible for PNG citizenship and a few weeks ago the first 300 were able to participate in a ceremony resettling them in the country.”

One of the last original West Papuan refugees, Manfred Meho, welcomes the offer of citizenship.

“Last month migration officials come to us and tok to mepla to givem displa citizenship yeah.”

But for those remaining refugees on Manus, returning to a free West Papua still remains a distant dream.

 

Saudi executions alarming rights groups again

There has been widespread condemnation of recent executions in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province, including four men convicted in a secret, so-called “terrorism” court.

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Human-rights groups are voicing increasing concern over what they call an unprecedented rate of executions in Saudi Arabia, already with one of the highest rates in the world.

It comes after four men were executed in Qatif, in the country’s east, after being charged with protest-related crimes and acts of violence.

At least six others were executed the previous day on smaller, criminal charges.

The director of the London-based, prisoner-rights organisation Reprieve, Maya Foa, says it is alarming.

“We’ve now seen 11 executions in just two days, which is an unprecedented rate of executions for Saudi Arabia and deeply troubling. It recalls the mass execution that we had over a year ago now, where 47 people were executed in one day, and there are really troubling concerns that Saudi Arabia may be now ramping up its execution machinery to kill more people on its death row.”

Middle East researcher Adam Coogle, at Human Rights Watch, says his organisation reviewed more than a dozen Shiite convictions in the same region in 2011 and 2012.

“In nearly all of the cases, the Shia citizens were convicted almost solely based on confessions that they gave freely, supposedly, to Saudi police.”

Mr Coogle describes the case of a man named Yussuf al-Mushaikass.

“Human Rights Watch has reviewed his case file, and this was certainly true of his case. He alleged that he was tortured to get a confession. Some of the Shia sentenced to death also include individuals who supposedly committed their crimes, the crimes that they’re alleged to have committed, before they were 18, so they’re considered to be child offenders. We’re aware of, I believe, four or five of these cases, and these individuals are currently on death row.”

Maya Foa cites the widely publicised case of 22-year-old Ali al-Nimr, who has spent five years in a Saudi prison, three on death row.

“Ali Al-Nimr was, of course, a young man, a juvenile, just 17 years old, who was arrested after he attended a protest. He was tortured terribly and then convicted and sentenced to death — he was actually sentenced to death by crucifixion.”

He is the nephew of Saudi Shiite cleric Sheik Nimr al-Nimr, whose execution, along with 47 others in January 2016, sparked widespread international condemnation.

“He is among other juveniles who face imminent execution. The charges, just to be clear … I said ‘attending a protest,’ (but,) on the charge sheet, they have things like ‘inviting friends to the protest on their BlackBerrys,’ ‘administering first aid at the protest.’ These are not things that we would ever consider to be crimes, let alone meriting execution.”

Ali Al-Ahmed is a former political prisoner in Saudi Arabia who now heads the Institute for Gulf Affairs in Washington.

He links what he calls the targeted executions to the country’s quest to establish its legitimacy in the eastern region of Qatib.

“If you compare it to the rest of Saudi Arabia, it has always been a place where politics have been made. Movements from communist to pan-Arabist to Islamist to liberal movements have been born there, and activists from there dominate the country’s political opposition, historically. So this is an area which has been giving the Saudi monarchy a big headache for many years.”

He rejects the idea that the Saudi government is targeting militants there.

“Most of them, protesters. All of them are protesters, but, most of them, their only crime is to protest or to write slogans on the walls or to raise the words in Arabic ‘Death to Al-Saud’ or ‘Down to Al-Saud.’ And that is a very, very sensitive and huge embarrassment to the Saudi monarchy, who view themselves as human gods, basically. And insulting them personally has no punishment but death, and that’s why Sheikh Al-Nimr was executed, because he dared to speak badly in public inside Saudi Arabia about the Saudi royal family, by name.”

Reprieve’s Maya Foa cites the case of another juvenile executed during last year’s mass executions that included Sheikh Al-Nimr.

“We later found out that there were a number of juveniles among those executed, including Ali Al-Ribh, who was a young man pulled out of school by the police, tortured, forced to sign a forced confession, sentenced to death and executed before we knew about the case. His family only found out that he had been executed after it had happened by reading it in a newspaper.”

Reprieve is calling for more involvement from governments such as Australia.

Maya Foa says it wants them to make clear to the Saudi royal family and newly appointed Crown Prince they do not support the execution of juveniles for attending peaceful protests.

“Silence is effectively condoning this behaviour and could very quickly turn into complicity.”

 

Acupuncture punctures period pain: study

Acupuncture can help combat period pain in sufferers, as well as relieve associated headaches and nausea, a study by Australian and New Zealand researchers has found.

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A small pilot study of 74 women aged between 18 and 45 found that more than half had at least a 50 per cent reduction in the severity of their period pain after undergoing acupuncture treatment for three months, with the effects lasting for up to a year.

Many of the women also reported less need to use painkillers to treat their period pain and an improvement in secondary symptoms, including headaches and nausea , according to the study published in the international journal PLOS One.

Known in medical circles as primary dysmenorrhea, period pain is most common in women aged under 25 and the most common gynaecological problem among women generally, with four in five encountering it during their reproductive years.

The researchers from Western Sydney University and the University of Auckland also found that manual acupuncture, where thin needles are inserted at certain points on the body, provided more relief than electro-acupuncture, which involves a small electrical current passing through the needles.

“Our pilot study found that using manual stimulation of the needles, rather than an electrical pulse, commonly used in many Chinese studies for period pain, resulted in reduced need for pain-relieving medication and improvement in secondary symptoms such as headaches and nausea,” said Dr Mike Armour, a postdoctoral research fellow at Western Sydney University’s National Institute of Complementary Medicine.

“The latter was unexpected and will be explored further in future, larger trials.”

During the study, the women kept a diary and underwent one of four types of manual or electro acupuncture treatments.

Twelve treatments were carried out either once or three times a week over three menstrual cycles.

The women reported significant reductions in “peak pain” during the first three days of their period and in “average pain” experienced over their entire period, with the effects sustained for 12 months.

Many also experienced improvements in PMS-related symptoms such as mood swings.

“Treatment timing appears to play a small role, with high frequency of treatment providing greater improvements in health-related quality of life,” the researchers wrote.