Kings’ new recruit has Australia’s Indian communities aflutter

Amritpal Singh, at 2m 12cm tall, is set to make a big impact in the backup centre position this season.

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Singh’s arrival has already been met with approval by the Punjabi community and he’s set to become the first India-born player to play in the NBL.

He was a late starter to the sport of basketball at the age of 19.

Before then he was more interested in playing Kabaddi, a contact team sport popular in South Asia.

Now 26 years old, Amritpal Singh is on the verge of his most exciting challenge as a professional basketballer.

The news he’s been contracted for next season has already caused great excitement in Sydney’s Indian community.

Surinder Singh is a director on the Australian Sikh Association.

“Singhs are Kings! That’s why we’re excited today, Singhs are Kings! It’s really great news for the community. And I can tell you community will be behind Amritpal and will be behind the Sydney Kings.”

Amritpal Singh played in Japan’s ‘B’ League last season, and he admits the step up into Australia’s National Basketball League will be a test for him.

“I played last year in Japan league, but this time this NBL league is a main league of Australia and this is a very tough competition for me.”

Last year the Sydney Kings were the first to have a China-born recruit play in the National Basktball League.

Bo Liu has since returned to China.

This year Amritpal Singh is one of 11 full-time contracted players at the club.

According to the club’s Managing Director Jeff Van Groningen, the move isn’t just a marketing exercise in community engagement.

“Perhaps if you had 30 or 40 players to sign you could say well there’s a guy in there that might be helpful for us in a marketing sense. He’s earned his way in and it’s categorically that he is one of the better players that we’ve looked at over the off-season at that back-up centre position.”

But Van Groningen does believe there are undeniable positives behind having a player that has already captained India’s basketball team on the Sydney Kings’ books.

“There’s media footage now going to India overnight. We understand most of the major sports agencies have at least a cursory interest in this move because it’s quite significant in the sport of basketball so we’re happy to do our part, we’re happy to get the Sydney Kings brand far and wide.”

The Sydney Kings coach is Andrew Gaze.

He believes Singh needs more experience before he can be a regular starter for his side.

Gaze says judging by first impressions, Singh has got the right ingredients to make it.

“It’s great for the game and the good thing about it too is with Amritpol he seems very friendly he seems willing to get out there and spread the word. He’s got that personality that’s very infectious. Already he’s only been with our team a couple of days, but you can tell that he’s bonded well with his teammates and hopefully that permeates into the community and they fall in love with him and they come along and support the Sydney Kings.”

As for Amritpal, he’s already fallen in love with Sydney.

“The City is very beautiful and I like it – its nice and I’m very excited the first time to play in Sydney.”

The Sydney Kings’ first match of the season is againt the Adelaide 36ers on October 7.

 

TV ad for same-sex marriage ‘No’ vote roundly condemned

Shown on commercial television, the ad features three mothers voicing their concerns about how changing the Marriage Act will affect what their children are taught in schools.

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“The school told my son he could wear a dress next year if he felt like it .. “

“When same sex marriage laws pass overseas this sort of program becomes widespread and compulsory .. “

“Kids in year seven are being asked to role play being in a same sex relationship .. you can say no.”

But less than 24 hours later, several of those claims have been refuted.

The high school at the centre of the claim that a male student was told he could ‘wear a dress next year’ has told SBS that simply isn’t true.

Principal of Frankston High School in Melbourne’s east, John Albiston, has called the statement a complete fabrication.

“We’ve spoken with all the teachers of her son’s classes and we know that didn’t happen and never did she raise that as a concern when I’ve met and spoken with her, which I do find interesting.”

The ad was commissioned by the Coalition for Marriage, a group led by the Australian Christian Lobby.

The Coalition’s David Van Gend has defended the claims, refering to material distrubuted by an LGBTI youth organisation that supports gender-neutral school uniforms.

“This is the sort of gender-bending material being inflicted on our kids and it’s confusing them. And that’s going to be exponentially worse if we bend gender within the Marriage Act.”

He says legalising same-sex marriage will lead to sweeping reforms about how the issue will be taught in schools.

However those claims have been rejected by the Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham.

“It is patently ridiculous to suggest that allowing same-sex couples to marry is somehow going to see some new wave of teaching reform sweep across the country, that’s just not going to happen. This is a simple issue, and it should not be conflated with other issues.”

The ad was also slammed at the launch of a group calling itself Australian Christians for Marriage Equality.

Anglican reverend Keith Mascord has accused the Coalition for Marriage group of scaremongering.

“To put out an ad that links same sex marriage or marriage equality with the safe schools program is, for me, an admission of failure. It’s not looking at the substance of the debate, it’s fear-mongering. It’s irresponsible and wrong.”

His comments are supported by the rector of Melbourne’s Xavier College, Father Chris Middleton.

Father Middleton is urging parents to consider all sides of the argument before voting, and called upon the church to reflect on the overwhelming support for marriage equality among young people.

“I think my first intention was, ‘let’s try and lift the debate and see where both sides are coming from’. Personally I don’t think the case has been made against same sex marriage. So I’d be leaning towards ‘yes’.”

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has called the ad offensive and hurtful to LGBTI Australians and their families.

“When I first saw the ad I wondered if it was send-up. I thought it was so primitive and thought it was rubbish. The idea that if you vote in this $122 million postal survey that somehow your little boys will go to school and be made to wear dresses it’s just ridiculous. It’s offensive.”

However Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says Labor rejected the chance for strict advertising standards to be in place when it rejected a plebiscite, and only has it itself to blame for this sort of advertising in the lead up to the postal vote.

“We offered the ALP a chance to have every single protection that they wanted and they rejected it. They rejected a legislated plebiscite. So I’ll leave that to Mr Shorten to explain why he rejected the protections.”

 

Curfew in Houston as Trump visits flood-ravaged Texas

Houston has imposed an overnight curfew beginning on Tuesday night for an indefinite period amid incidents of looting, armed robberies and people impersonating police officers, city officials said.

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The curfew will run from midnight after initially being ordered for 10pm, Mayor Sylvester Turner told a news conference on Tuesday evening.

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 A home is surrounded by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in Houston. AAP

The city is also bringing additional police from other regions.  “You cannot drive, nor be in any public place. We have had problems with armed robberies, with people with guns and firearms,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.

The city is opening several additional emergency shelters to alleviate crowding at the convention center, which has 10,000 people. Some of those will be moved to a nearby concert hall and basketball arena. 

Round the clock rescue

Four days after Harvey slammed onshore as a monster Category Four hurricane, turning roads to rivers in America’s fourth-largest city, emergency crews are still racing to reach hundreds of stranded people in a massive round-the-clock rescue operation.

Eager to strike a unifying tone as the country faces the first natural disaster of his presidency, Trump landed with first lady Melania in the coastal city of Corpus Christi, which bore the full brunt of Harvey’s fury, for a briefing by state and federal officials leading the relief effort.

Emerging from the meeting held inside a local fire house, Trump climbed up on a ladder for an impromptu address to the mix of supporters and banner-waving protesters gathered outside.

“We love you, you are special, we are here to take care of you,” the president called out. “It’s historic, its epic, but I tell you, it happened in Texas – and Texas can handle anything.”

Trump earlier expressed hope the Harvey response would come to be seen as a textbook case.

“We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as, this is the way to do it,” he said.

The US leader was not planning to visit Houston – swathes of which remain under water – and his spokeswoman said his schedule would be fine-tuned to avoid disrupting ongoing recovery efforts.

But he was nevertheless seeking to make a political statement, learning from the mistakes of former Republican leader George W. Bush, whose response to Hurricane Katrina – which walloped New Orleans exactly 12 years ago – was widely seen as botched.

Houston mayor confirms police officer died in Harvey’s aftermath

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said on Tuesday that a city police officer died in floodwaters over the weekend while driving to work.

“While I’ve encouraged other people to stay at home, our first responders they have been working 24 hours, 24-7, on behalf of the people of the city of Houston,” the mayor told reporters. “At the same time, they have been putting themselves in harm’s way.”

“Today, I’m sad and deeply saddened to announce the death of Sergeant Steve Perez,” he said, adding the 60-year-old officer died Sunday.

0:00 Rescue operations continue during widespread flooding in Texas Share Rescue operations continue during widespread flooding in Texas

Thousands displaced

More than 8,000 people have been driven into emergency shelters across the Lone Star State, and hundreds more still await rescue.

“We’re Trumponites. I trust he’s going to take care of us,” said Darla Fitzgerald, a 58-year-old nurse based in a Red Cross shelter in Winnie, a town east of Houston, where the rain fell heavily Tuesday.

Ray Henrichson, a white-haired 74-year-old shelter volunteer, was equally upbeat.

“I think it’s nice that he’s coming,” she said.

“He’ll probably fly around in a helicopter and see some flooded lands which we saw on the way driving here,” she said. “It is pretty dramatic.”

Levee breached

Harvey is known to have left at least 11 people dead and officials warned the danger has far from passed.

Rising floodwaters breached a levee in Brazoria County south of Houston, with officials urging residents of the 50 homes in the immediate vicinity to leave immediately.

“The levee at Columbia Lakes has been breached!!” the county government tweeted. “GET OUT NOW!!”

The US Army Corps of Engineers has already moved to open the Addicks and Barker dams — under pressure from what the agency has dubbed a “thousand-year flood event” — to prevent a catastrophe on the outskirts of Houston.

People push a stalled pickup to through a flooded street in Houston, after Tropical Storm Harvey dumped heavy rains Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017. AAP

With neighboring Louisiana squarely in the storm’s path, Harvey, now a tropical storm, is pressing eastward and is expected to make landfall again late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

Residents of low-lying New Orleans — which bore the brunt of Katrina’s wrath in 2005 — are bracing for heavy rain and flash floods.

RELATED READINGSouth Texas Project nuclear plant running despite Harvey storm

The two nuclear reactors at the South Texas Project plant 90 miles from Houston are operating at full capacity despite calls from watchdog groups for the facility to shut due to Tropical Storm Harvey, a spokesman for the plant said on Tuesday.

“We’ve got significant rain but flooding has not been an issue here,” spokesman Buddy Eller said in a phone call.

The reactors, 44 percent of which are owned by NRG Energy Inc, provide 2,700 megawatts of power to 2 million customers in Texas. The rest of the reactors are owned by the city of San Antonio’s CPS Energy utility, with 40 percent, and the city of Austin’s Austin Energy, with 16 percent.

0:00 Houston inundated by water as Harvey pummels Texas Share Houston inundated by water as Harvey pummels Texas

New Orleans ‘a wild card’

“The single greatest threat continues to be the rainfall,” Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the Miami-based National Hurricane Center, told AFP, describing the situation as “catastrophic.”

“This is not over,” he said.

The National Weather Service tweeted Tuesday that Harvey appears to have broken a US record for most rain from a single tropical cyclone, with 49.32 inches (125.27 centimeters) recorded at a gauge southeast of the city.

The Texas bayou and coastal prairie rapidly flooded after Harvey struck the coast on Friday, but the region’s sprawling cities where drainage is slower were worst hit.

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Highways were swamped and homes were rendered uninhabitable, with power lines cut and dams overflowing, sparking massive floods across Houston — a city of 2.3 million people — and its wider metropolitan area of six million.

Houston can expect two to four more inches of rain as the storm moves away, but flooding will likely linger through the week, meteorologist Eric Holthaus told AFP.

In New Orleans, as of Tuesday morning, two inches of rain had already fallen over the city famous for its jazz music and Cajun cuisine – but particularly vulnerable because it lies below sea level.

“It is really sort of a wild card right now,” Holthaus said.

“There are some forecasts for up to 10 inches of rain over the next 36 hours or so for New Orleans. I would definitely not be surprised if it became more than that.”

Federal officials estimate that up to half a million people in Texas will ultimately require some form of assistance – but for now the focus remains immediate disaster relief, with many lives still at stake.

“Recovery is a slow process,” Brock Long, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said as he welcomed briefing Trump in Corpus Christi along with Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Long said.

0:00 Widespread devastation in the wake of Hurricane Harvey Share Widespread devastation in the wake of Hurricane Harvey

Bangladesh eye series triumph after maiden Australia win

The 20-run victory at Shere Bangla National Stadium came five months after Bangladesh secured their first test win over Sri Lanka and a month before the first anniversary of their maiden triumph over England in the longest form of the game.

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Mushfiqur said the first innings partnership of 155 between Man-of-the-Match Shakib Al Hasan and opener Tamim Iqbal had been crucial to the victory with the former also taking 5-85 with his spin-bowling to help wrap up the win on Wednesday.

“Obviously a great feeling, beating Australia. A great effort by the boys, especially Shakib and Tamim were outstanding,” Mushfiqur said at the post-match presentation.

“If you look at our home performance, it has been pretty consistent. Against England (last year) also, we were very close in the first test and beat them in the second test. That’s the belief we have.

“I think the spinners did a great job. I thought Taijul (Islam), Miraj (Mehidy Hasan) and Shakib bowled really well in both the innings (but) I think Tamim-Shakib partnership in the first innings set up the game for us.”

Mushfiqur said the lower order woes that prevented Bangladesh from driving home their first-innings advantage showed there was plenty of room for improvement.

“The lower order is working hard and if you see at the last few series, they are much better now,” he said.

“In this test, the wicket was pretty tough to bat on, that has to be said, because the top order also found it difficult to bat.

“The boys showed character. All the credit goes to the bowlers, and fielders. They did miss some (catches) but it can happen. Hopefully we’ll come harder at them in the next test and hopefully we’ll seal the series.”

Australia did well to make the contest so close after starting the second innings needing 265 to win on a deteriorating pitch.

David Warner top-scored with a brilliant 112 but captain Steve Smith said they ultimately paid the price for a poor performance in the first innings, when they made 217.

“It was a great test match, credit to Bangladesh the way they played,” he said.

“In the first innings the partnership between Tamim and Shakib really set the game up for them and then I thought we really fought back well after that.

“We probably let ourselves down in the first innings with the bat, probably should have made a few more there. It was pretty difficult batting here in the second innings and I thought we did pretty well to get 240 in the end.

“It’s set it up for a really good series.”

Chittagong hosts the second and final test from Monday.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney,; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Aussies Bangladesh Test loss: ‘no excuses’

Australian captain Steve Smith says there are no excuses after a disastrous 20-run defeat to minnows Bangladesh in a gripping first Test in Dhaka.

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Set an imposing 265 to win, the visitors collapsed to be bowled out for 244 shortly after lunch on Wednesday’s fourth day, with man-of-the-match Shakib Al Hasan claiming 5-85 to finish with 10 wickets overall.

It is Bangladesh’s first Test victory over Australia. A similar triumph in next week’s second and final Test in Chittagong would result in Australia tumbling to No.6 in the world rankings.

David Warner’s aggressive century had given Australia hope of achieving their second-highest fourth-innings chase in Asia.

But the visitors lost five wickets in the final hour before lunch and were unable to hold on in the following session despite a valiant unbeaten 33 from tailender Pat Cummins.

The match unravelled for Australia during a disastrous first innings in which they fell to 4-33 on the way to 217, with Warner, Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja all dismissed cheaply.

Australian skipper Smith said there was no excuse for his side failing to adjust to the conditions after making great strides earlier this year during their tour of India.

“I think we made a few errors, a few guys getting out ways they’ve got out before and not learning from their mistakes, which is really disappointing,” Smith said.

“But you’ve got to keep trying to learn and keep trying to get better in these conditions. It’s a difficult place to play.

“We’re a young team and a team that is hopefully going to continue to improve.”

An embarrassed Australia lost to a side ranked No.9 in the world who had only won nine of 100 Tests.

The first Test between the two sides in more than a decade had loomed as an opportunity for Australia to overcome their dreadful record on the subcontinent and notch their first series win in Asia since beating Sri Lanka 1-0 in 2011.

But for all their dominance at home, Australia showed they remained a fragile side overseas who could be easily exposed by quality spinners.

Shakib confirmed his status as the world’s No.1-ranked allrounder across all three formats, taking five-wicket hauls in both digs after top-scoring with 84 in the first innings.

Australia had reached a competitive 2-158 on day to be on track for victory before their five-wicket collapse.

After resuming on 75, Warner raced to triple figures before being trapped lbw by Shakib on 112.

Smith, who survived a tight stumping decision from his first ball on day three and had twice been dropped, finally ran out of lives a short time later, caught behind on 37.

Peter Handscomb (15) and Matthew Wade (four) soon followed, while Glenn Maxwell (14) was bowled by Shakib with the first ball after lunch.

Cummins belted offspinner Mehedi Hasan for two sixes in one over to reduce the deficit but it was all over when Taijul Islam trapped Josh Hazlewood lbw for a duck.