Daily Archives: November 21, 2015

Western Sydney Wanderers win yet again


They are the hottest team in the Hyundai A-League right now but coach Tony Popovic feels his Western Sydney Wanderers are still some way off the finished article.

The Wanderers surged to a fourth straight win, with Mark Bridge’s classy 85th-minute strike handing them a 2-1 triumph over Wellington on Saturday.

“We’re delighted we’ve won four in a row but as a coach you’re never satisfied,” Popovic said afterwards.

“If I say today probably wasn’t our best with the ball, then we still are a fair bit off where we want to be…in terms of fitness as well.

“You’ve got players that are coming back from injury. Alberto who hasn’t played for a few weeks and it’s just his second completed game out of seven.

“So you envisage he will get even stronger and the communication at the back will improve. There’s a lot of room for improvement but you have to be happy when you win at home and it’s four in a row.”

The Wanderers went in front inside the first 10 minutes through Italian marquee Federico Piovaccari after superb lead-up work by Bridge.

Phoenix drew level soon after through Muscat and while the home side dominated for large periods, it seemed like a draw would be the end result.

But Bridge had other ideas, pouncing on some slack defending at a corner to slam home his second goal in as many games.

“That’s just his second start this year after a long injury in the pre-season and we expect him to only get better,” Popovic said of Bridge.

“He did great for the first goal setting up Piovaccari for a simple tap in and then the composure in the 85th minute, when I’m sure he felt fatigued, is the sign of the confidence and quality he has.”

The Wanderers made a concerted effort in the off-season to change their playing style, making a host of changes in personnel to help with the transition.
While the club received some criticism in the early rounds for their lack of results, Popovic said he never felt external pressure to get immediate success.

Asked if this winning streak was vindication, Popovic said: “I don’t need vindication or seek that.

“As a club we know where we’re heading. The Chairman, the CEO, the board, everyone’s on the same page. We know where we want to be and the vision we have for the club.

“Where we finish at the end of the year is where we deserve to be and if we’ve shown improvements in what we’ve been working on to evolve this club then we’ll be delighted.

“When we had our poor run at the start in terms of results we said we wanted to challenge for honours. That doesn’t change, we’ve put ourselves in a decent position at the start of the season but we’re not even a third of the way through the season so a lot of challenges to come.”


Michael Essien in top shape as Panathinaikos fans await the hugely-anticipated debut of the Ghana star


Ghana midfielder Michael Essien is in great physical shape ahead of his much-anticipated debut for Panathinaikos in Saturdays big derby against Olympiakos Piraeus in the Greek Super League, GHANAsoccernet.com can reveal.

The 33-year-old appears to be winning the fitness battle after showing immense improvement at training this week.

There is a huge sense of dj vu as fans await to see the Ghana international in a Panathinaikos shirt for the first time since joining in the summer.

Essien joined the Greens in June this year but is yet to kick ball due to his troublesome knee injury which has rocked his rather fine career.

He has endured more injury hell since joining the Greek giants from AC Milanbut it appears there is light at the end of the tunnel for theGhana international.

The former Chelsea midfielder has had serious fitness concerns but it appears hes making some immense progress from the nightmare with his comeback trail likely to kick-start on Saturday at the Stadio Apstolos Nikolaidis in Athens.

Newly-appointed coach Andrea Stramaccioni is a huge admirer of the famous Ghanaian and has consistently expressed his desire to work with him

Essien has notoriously been cursed by injuries over the years in a sorry episode which has affected his form and stature in world football.


PM Malcolm Turnbull gets it wrong on whether Darwin port is used by military


Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has made a significant error in trying to justify the decision to lease Australia’s crucial northern port to Chinese interests, by claiming it is not used by the military.

The Northern Territory Government sparked international controversy last month when it decided to lease the Port of Darwin facilities to a Chinese-owned company.

Some defence analysts have warned the company, Landbridge, has strong links to the Chinese Communist Party. They have also warned China will use the lease strategically to secure a presence in the north of Australia.

The ABC has also been told US president Barack Obama raised the sale directly with Mr Turnbull in a face-to-face meeting this week.

On Friday Mr Turnbull was questioned by Darwin radio station MIX 104.9 about the sale of the port.

“The port that is being leased is not being used by the military, it is a commercial port,” he said.

But according to an announcement by the Darwin Port Corporation on November 16, the lease includes East Arm Wharf commercial port outside Darwin and the Fort Hill Wharf close to the city’s CBD.

Fort Hill Wharf is advertised as a “cruise ship and Defence vessel facility”.

The Darwin Port Corporation website promotes the wharf as catering to “frequent naval ship visits” for visiting international and domestic naval ships.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister has since issued a media statement, which said Mr Turnbull was making the point that the Darwin facility “is a commercial port not a military port”.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly defended the lease arrangements.

“Naturally Defence has access to the port if required,” the statement said.

“Regardless, Defence has made it very clear it has no security concerns about the lease.”

The Prime Minister also stressed Defence could step in and take over management of the port for national security reasons.

But Luke Gosling, the Labor candidate for the federal seat of Solomon in Darwin, said the Prime Minister had misunderstood the port lease deal.

“According to the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory’s release, the facilities that are included in the lease of the port for 99 years — almost a century — includes facilities like Fort Hill Wharf that are used not only by the Australian Navy but also the militaries of other countries as well, so it would be good if the Prime Minister, when coming to the north, knew what he was talking about,” Mr Gosling said.


Controversial Chinese investment in Australia is part of a bigger, more grand, multi-generational plan


The Port of Darwin 99-year lease to Chinese company Landbridge has cast an immediate cloud over the future of other major infrastructure sales such as that of the NSW electricity grid, TransGrid. Fairfax Media

Just over a month ago, Bob Katter – the eccentric independent from Far North Queensland – asked Josh Frydenberg, the newly-appointed Minister for Northern Australia, to explain a little-known deal to lease the Port of Darwin.

With his trademark delivery of man caught halfway between tears and hysterical laughter, Katter used Parliament’s question time to ask whether the Australian government’s decision to allow the sale of public asset, the Port of Darwin, to a Chinese company called Landbridge for $506 million would transform it into a “foreign corporate, unrestrained, monopolistic money machine” that dominated half of Australia’s vast northern coastline?

In the theatre of federal parliament, all attention was focused on Frydenberg’s reaction and none on the substance of the question.

Frydenberg started to give a stock-standard answer, but started spluttering with laughter at Katter’s increasingly frantic shouting and gesticulating. Eventually the Member for Kennedy walked out in disgust, muttering about the foolishness of appointing a Melbourne-based lawyer as the minister responsible for Northern Australia.

It was a five-minute diversion that was quickly forgotten in the hubbub of mainstream politics.

This week that small matter of a 99-year port lease signed last month to a Chinese company with links to the People’s Liberation Army has exploded into an international controversy. United States President Barack Obama publicly chided and embarrassed Malcolm Turnbull on the world stage for not keeping him in the loop, and defence analysts warned of national security risks in selling off a strategic asset used by the Australian navy, the US Marines and the navies of our friends and allies.

It cast an immediate cloud over the future of other major infrastructure sales such as that of the NSW electricity grid, TransGrid, and brought new scrutiny to bite-by-bite acquisitions of Australia’s gas and electricity network by Chinese interests.

But what appears on the surface as a conflict between national security and foreign investment, has actually revealed itself as a more profound realisation of Australia’s small role in China’s grand, multi-generational plan known as “One Belt, One Road”.

Bigger ambitions

More than 200 years ago military genius Napoleon Bonaparte warned China was a sleeping giant. “Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will move the world,” he said.

The sleeping giant metaphor has become a cliche for the rise of China. But this month, as new parents go searching for baby formula on empty Australian supermarket shelves cleaned out by opportunistic small-time exporters of China’s latest status product, Australia is starting to feel the tremors.

“One Belt, One Road sounds daggy to us but it’s deadly bloody serious,” says Hugh White, professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre.

The very name of the consortium buying the Port Darwin lease, Landbridge, is an obvious clue to China’s larger ambitions.

Australia is only a small part of China’s global spiderweb of trade routes and White says we can be part of that or we can choose to exclude ourselves but it would mean also locking Australia out of the majority of the future economy.

The sensitivity to foreign investment is hardly a new thing, starting more than 200 years ago with Britain’s colonisation of Australia, followed by waves of investment by Japan, then Russia in the 1990s, and the sale of farmland to rich Arab states like Qatar and finally China.

The difference this time comes through the sheer size of Chinese money flowing into Australia and what the geopolitical shift to Asia means for our old allies, the US and Britain.

Those surprised by China’s growing direct investment in Australia have been living under a rock. Reserve Bank of Australia governor Glenn Stevens said in July that markets need to prepare for a world where China invests $400 billion a year offshore, much of it in Asia as it increasingly liberalises. The figure is equivalent to more than 25 per cent of the Australian economy

China’s rapid rise was first made clear to the world’s economic elite in the early 2000s at events such as the Davos World Economic Forum.

Back in 2002, Chinese officials and business leaders hit the forum in force, foreshadowing the nation’s rise over the subsequent decade to a level where it now challenges the US economy’s dominance. In closed-door sessions, the abiding memory of participants was that China’s leaders were thinking and planning over the long-term, across multiple generations, as opposed to the west, which was stuck in tight, multi-year political cycles and the emerging fight against terrorism.

The fall-out

China is by far Australia’s biggest trade partner, with two-way trade hitting a record $152 billion in 2014, more than the combined trade with Japan and the US, the second and third biggest. Two-thirds of the trade with China is exports from Australia.

For the first time this year, China became Australia’s biggest source of approved foreign investment after a $12.4 billion splurge on real estate last financial year. Chinese investors planned to spend $27.7 billion here, according to the Foreign Investment Review Board annual report, overtaking US investors who were approved to spend $17.5 billion.

But in Australia – somewhat embarrassingly – most of the political and media attention in the real-estate obsessed major cities have been focused on the proliferation of Asian faces. Similarly the foreign investment debate has largely been captured by the Nationals’ campaign to limit China’s acquisitions of farming land, leading to a dramatic tightening of foreign investment rules so that any cumulative acquisitions of agribusiness and farmland worth more than $15 million requires the approval of the FIRB.

Stung by fallout from the Port of Darwin lease – as well as the looming sale of the NSW electricity grid – Treasurer Scott Morrison moved this week to review laws that allow states to sell strategic assets to foreign companies without federal scrutiny.

FIRB often doesn’t need to be called in when states and territories sell assets, a potential shortcoming that will be subject to a Senate inquiry launched by independent senator Nick Xenophon.

The question of where exactly FIRB oversight should kick in was highlighted by Morrison’s decision on Thursday to block the sale of Australia’s largest privately-owned land holding and cattle company, S Kidman & Co, to a Chinese bidder because of its proximity to Woomera.

No simple answers

Two Chinese companies offered to buy the business for between $325 million and $350 million, a price that drew the automatic attention of FIRB’s investigators.

White says there are no simple answers to the way Australia deals with China’s encroaching reach on our landholdings, infrastructure assets and even our politics.

“Should we be concerned? Yes. Should we say no to Chinese investment? No,” White says.

This is not about spies, or intelligence gathering by our biggest trading partner. It’s about a fundamental reshaping of the global economy and Australia’s relationship with the world’s biggest economy.

White believes the national security implications of having a Chinese government-linked company owning a strategically important asset like Darwin’s port are “manageable” because the potential to spy on a few US marines nearby is only of small importance to China, which is far more interested in building a land bridge between Australia and China.


Sydney man, 91, alleged to be the world’s oldest drug smuggler to stand trial


A 91-year-old Sydney man accused of smuggling cocaine has been committed to stand trial early next year.

Victor Paul Bernard Twartz, a retired oral surgeon, was arrested in July at Sydney Airport on his return from a trip to India. Police say they found in his luggage 4.5 kilograms of cocaine encased in 27 bars of coloured soap.

The Eastwood man was charged with drug trafficking. If guilty, he may be the world’s oldest drug smuggler.

Mr Twartz was arraigned in the Sydney Downing Centre District Court on Friday morning, his trial date set down for February 22.

Mr Twartz lives in a nursing home with special care. He said he was a teetotaller and “1000 per cent against any drug”.

He is older than Ola Mae Agee, who was labelled the world’s oldest dealer in 2011 when she was jailed, at age 87, for selling crack from her house in Florida.

Francis Cook was labelled Britain’s oldest drug dealer in 2012 when he was convicted at age 83 of growing almost 200 cannabis plants.

In Sydney, great-grandmother Barbara Stiff, 78, was handed a four-month suspended jail sentence in 2014 for selling cannabis from her Malabar unit.

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Mr Twartz’s arrest prompted warnings to travellers to pack their luggage carefully and be wary of inadvertently becoming drug couriers for overseas criminal syndicates.

The maximum penalty for drug trafficking in NSW is life imprisonment.

In June, the ABC reported the Australian Federal Police had intervened to stop 43 elderly and vulnerable Australians becoming drug mules. Police sources said a West African crime syndicate was using emails to groom traffickers.


Stadium Guide: Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium, Panathinaikos


Athens’ Game of the Eternal Enemies is one of the most fiercely contested derby matches in Europe.

One of the biggest derbies in European football is the clash between Greek giants Panathinaikos and Olympiacos. One is steeped in tradition, the other wealthy, dominant and champions the last five seasons running.

‘The Game of the Eternal Enemies’ has given rise to so much trouble, the fixture has long been played out before home fans only. In 2015, it even stopped the whole Greek league entirely, invasions and missile throwing by the Panathinaikos crowd at the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium causing the country’s sports minister to suspend all domestic football the following day. He soon went back on his rash pronouncement – and Olympiakos duly won that fifth league title on the bounce.

It’s more than 20 years since anyone from outside the big two has won the Greek championship.

Olympiacos have a fan base of blue-collar workers from the port of Piraeus while Panathinaikos are typified by the wealthier support of Ambelokipi in the comfortable north-west of Athens. Grainy black-and-white footage of the infamous cup semi-final between the two in 1964 shows Olympiacos fans literally break up the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium piece by piece. The game was abandoned during extra-time and the trophy awarded elsewhere. The away fan ban was imposed in 2004 after the equally notorious derby the year before, typified by showers of missiles being launched at the pitch for 90 minutes and beyond.

The aristocrats of Panathinaikos were formed by gentleman sportsman, Rear Admiral Giorgos Kalafatis in 1908. Winning the league at least once every decade, ‘PAO’ are the only Greek club to have made a major European final, in 1971.

A mini-revival in the 1990s saw PAO reach the last four of the Champions League, but they have since failed to break the long-term dominance of Olympiacos at home. For Panathinaikos, home is Ambelokipi in comfortable north-west of Athens – more specifically, modest Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium, along the main road Leof Alexandras, close to where Rear Admiral Kalafatis was born.

Panathinaikos enjoyed their first golden era in the 1960s. Under Stjepan Bobek, stars Mimis Domazos and Takis Loukanidis helped PAO win five titles in six years. Domazos, who made more than 500 appearances over 20 years, also played in the side spearheaded by prolific centre-forward Anton Antoniadis that won another three titles and lost to Ajax in the European Cup Final of 1971. That Wembley appearance was the finest achievement of Ferenc Puskás as a coach.

By the time they had moved into the newly built Olympic Stadium, PAO were picking up titles on a regular basis, helped by the riches of shipowning president Giorgios Vardinogiannis. PAO made two European Cup/Champions League semi-finals in just over a decade, the second thanks to the goals of Polish striker Krzysztof Warzycha.

By the time oil tycoon Yiannis Vardinogiannis, nephew of Giorgios took over in 2000, PAO were firmly second banana to Olympiacos.

Behind the scenes, a supporters’ group was trying to wrest control of the club from the Vardinogiannis clan, succeeding in the summer 2012 when the Panathinaikos Alliance gained over 50% of the shares with money raised from an internet campaign.

After a shaky start, these fans were able to celebrate winning the Greek Cup in 2014, a 4-1 win over PAOK at the Olympic Stadium, and runners-up spot in the league. Cup hat-trick hero, The Shamrocks hadn’t the strength in depth to stake a place in the subsequent group stage of the Champions League – but this is a club owned and run by its fans, in a Greek game ruled by the bulging wallets of shipping magnates.

On the ground

Site of the club shop, ticket office and fans’ bar, the Apostolos Nikolaidis has come back into use as the club’s home stadium, and PAO have vacated the Olympic Stadium. Plans for a new arena, however, have been put on ice.
After vacating the Olympic Stadium in 2013, PAO settled back in their spiritual home of the Apostolos Nikolaidis beside Ambelokipi metro station (blue line, three stops from central Syntagma). Its exterior decked in huge images from PAO’s history (note the wonderful shot of Puskás in front of his team), this traditional old ground, the first in Greece to have a stand, floodlights and an all-grass pitch, was the de facto national stadium until the arrival of the Olympiako.

Too tightly squeezed for expansion, the venerable homestead then proved too limited even for PAO, who joined the Greek national side up in Maroussi. After a €7 million upgrade in 2001, various attempts to rehouse PAO back in Ampelokipi proved fruitless, until the club had a change of ownership. After a €2 million renovation in 2013, the stadium was deemed worthy of a staging top-flight matches, its capacity 16,000.


Από ποια κράτη tweetάρουν οι οπαδοί του Ισλαμικού Κράτους;


Μια εκτενή κι αναλυτική έρευνα για την χρήση του Twitter από τους οπαδούς/μέλη της ISIS διεξήγαγαν δυο Αμερικανοί συνεργάτες του Ινστιτούτου Μπρούκινγκς, ο συγγραφέας και αναλυτής σε θέματα εξτρεμισμού, Τζέι Εμ Μπέργκερ και ο ειδικός σε θέματα τεχνολογίας και στατιστικής, Τζόναθον Μόργκαν.

Οι δύο ερευνητές συνέλεξαν στοιχεία και δημοσίευσαν την «Απογραφή χρήσης του Twitter από το ISIS», με στόχο την όσο το δυνατόν καλύτερη μελέτη των συνηθειών των διαδικτυακών υποστηρικτών του Ισλαμικού Κράτους.

Με βάση τα προφίλ 20.000 υποστηρικτών της ISIS που βρήκαν στο Twitter από τον Σεπτέμβριο έως τον Δεκέμβριο του 2014, οι δυο ερευνητές έφτασαν σε μια σειρά από ενδιαφέροντα συμπεράσματα όσον αφορά στην χώρα προέλευσης των ανθρώπων αυτών, την προτιμώμενη γλώσσα επικοινωνίας των μηνυμάτων τους, ακόμη και τα «άβαταρ» [τη φωτογραφία προφίλ] που επιλέγουν οι υποστηρικτές του Ισλαμικού Κράτους για τους λογαριασμούς τους στο Twitter.

Ο τόπος προέλευσης των tweets αποτελεί ένα πολύ σημαντικό κομμάτι της ερευνάς. Από τους 20.000 χρήστες που εξετάστηκαν, δεν είχαν όλοι τους ενεργοποιήσει την τοποθεσία τους. Απ’ όσους όμως το είχαν κάνει, το 28% είχε βάση το Ιράκ και την Συρία, με την Σαουδική Αραβία να ακολουθεί (27%).

Από την Σαουδική Αραβία βρέθηκαν να προέρχονται 866 προφίλ χρηστών του twitter, κι άλλα 507 από τη Συρία, ενώ έκπληξη προκαλεί η ύπαρξη των ΗΠΑ στην τέταρτη θέση προέλευσης tweet από υποστηρικτές του ISIS.


Ανάμεσα στα υπόλοιπα βασικά συμπεράσματα που εξήχθησαν συγκαταλέγονται τα:

· Το Twitter ως εργαλείο γνώρισε πρωτόγνωρη άνθηση μέσα στους κύκλους της οργάνωσης το 2014, όποτε και δημιουργήθηκαν 11.902 νέα προφίλ, σε αντίθεση με το 2013 που είχαν δημιουργηθεί 4.378 νέοι λογαριασμοί.

· Ο κάθε λογαριασμός είχε περίπου 1.000 «ακολούθους» (followers), ενώ έχει αναρτήσει κατά μέσο όρο 2.219 tweets.

· Ένας στους πέντε (18%) έχει επιλέξει να μεταδίδει τα μηνύματά του στα αγγλικά. Τρεις στους πέντε (73%) διάλεξαν ως γλώσσα τα αραβικά. Ένα 6% επιλέγει τα γαλλικά.

· Όσον αφορά στα κινητά με τα οποία συνδέονταν οι χρήστες, σε μεγάλη πλειοψηφία (69%) ήταν τύπου Android.

· Όσον αφορά στα ονόματα που επιλέγουν οι χρήστες να εμφανίζονται στα προφίλ τους, κυριαρχούν ορισμένες λέξεις όπως «Dawla» (στα αραβικά σημαίνει «κράτος» κι είναι συντομογραφία για το «Ισλαμικό Κράτος»).

· Όσον αφορά στα «άβαταρ» που επιλέγουν οι υποστηρικτές του Ισλαμικού Κράτους για τα προφίλ τους, τα δυο πιο δημοφιλή είναι είτε η ασπρόμαυρη σημαία της οργάνωσης, είτε η φωτογραφία του αρχηγού τους, του Αμπου Μπακρ αλ Μπαγκντάντι, ενώ ακολουθεί ο Οσάμα μπιν Λάντεν.

Τέλος, σύμφωνα με τα στοιχεία της έρευνας, μεταξύ Σεπτεμβρίου 2014-Ιανουαρίου 2015 διαγράφηκαν 790 προφίλ χρηστών, εκ των οποίων τα 678 ήταν λογαριασμοί που είχαν μεγάλο κοινό και ακολουθούνταν κατά μέσο όρο από 1.995 χρήστες.