Record heat sweeps country

BRISBANE – Australians have been asked to heed safety advice from authorities as much of the country swelters through what is already shaping up to be a record-breaking heatwave.
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In the southern states, firefighters battled hundreds of blazes in searing heat and ambulance officers treated children who had been left in cars.

On January 1, Adelaide recorded its hottest start to a new year since 1900 when the mercury reached 41.6 degrees.

Extreme temperatures and strong winds prompted a South Australian power company to cut electricity supplies to about 3300 properties on the Fleurieu Peninsula on Monday.

The decision left many tourism-related businesses without power for several hours, prompting criticism over the lack of notice.

But ETSA Utilities defended the decision, raising concerns about potential bushfires.

Victoria’s ambulance service treated 45 patients for heat-related illnesses on Monday, including four cases of children left in cars. Paramedic Darren Murphy said there was a case reported every five minutes.

”We’ve gone to patients who are nearly 100 years old, they live at home alone, wearing heavy clothes, they have an air conditioner but they’re not using it for whatever reason,” Mr Murphy said.

”We’ve gone to people who are in their mid-30s, who have been working outside all day, were drinking (water) but just not drinking enough and then we’ve also gone to young children who have either been at the beach or they’ve been left in their cars for short periods, who have been heat-affected as well.”

South-west Queensland councils directed their warnings at tourists, advising motorists to carry extra water and petrol.

”We’re expecting just shy of 44 degrees today, and even hotter on Wednesday and Thursday,” Diamantina Shire Council’s Steve Baldwin said. He said there were some minor benefits of oppressive heat, such as drying clothes more quickly and enjoying a cold beer in an air conditioned pub.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Cycle touring madness

There don’t seem to be shades of responses to touring by bicycle. At one end people will tell me I must be mad, or they’ll ask why, as in “why don’t you go by car?”, and at the other end is the wistful wish that he or she could do the same. At times, I admit, I ask myself why, and I like to assure the wistful wishers that with a bit of training they, too, can ride from one place to another.
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Last week three mates and I rode from one place to another in northern NSW, and once again I had the sense that travelling by bike is an elemental experience, one that somehow immerses the rider in the environment. As the occupant of a car, for example, hills are meaningless, but as a cyclist hills have a special meaning! We crossed some particularly meaningful hills between Lismore and Murwillumbah and between Byron Bay and Alstonville, and the climb on dirt roads over the range of Mount Jerusalem National Park from Uki to Mullumbimby is etched in our memory banks.

We started in Grafton, a city given character by the architecture of many of its houses, pubs and public buildings, and by the fact that I was born there. The first night was spent at Maclean, the Scottish town on the banks of the Clarence River, and day two to Lismore took us through a network of bush tracks and forest roads and Coraki, which has few reminders that it was once a bustling river port. Lismore has a remarkable strip retail district, hundreds of shops stretching along a network of inner streets, and most of the shops appear to be individually owned rather than franchised or part of a chain.

Day three was to Murwillumbah via the colourful Nimbin and many hills, and thankfully we skirted around Mount Warning. Day four we retraced our steps to Uki then turned left to cross Mount Jerusalem National Park, an especially meaningful climb on rough dirt roads, and the country around Main Arm as we left the park is the lushest I’ve seen anywhere in Australia.

Mullumbimby, or Mullum to the locals, is slightly alternative and interesting, and in an old sandstone bank building occupied by Santos Wholefoods we had a quinoa salad we voted the best salad any of us had had. A raw-food lime pie at the same place was extraordinarily good. That night and the next we spent at Byron Bay, which has its attractions despite the hype. The lingering schoolies were friendly, happy and sober, although we didn’t see them at midnight!

On Wednesday we set off following whereis南京夜网 instructions to Coraki, and soon we found we were riding along farmland tractor tracks that, we assumed, had once been public paths. Coraki, once a busy river port with seven big wharves and seven pubs, now has one pub, no wharf, and a former pub, the Club Hotel, in which we stayed. The owner of the former pub has been working for six years to restore it to its former glory and reopen it as a pub, and it seems to be an especially ambitious undertaking.

Heavy rain overnight and into the Thursday made the bush tracks we’d planned to ride for much of the 110 kilometres to Grafton unrideable, and so we hired a van to take us and our bikes to Grafton, loaded up my wife’s LandCruiser and headed home. The trip home reminded us that passengers in a car miss so much!

What adventure would you plan if you could, and why don’t you?

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Journalist joins East Timor peacekeepers

Herald journalist Ben Smee is on an East Timor peacekeeping mission alongside Hunter members of the defence reserves and their day-job bosses.
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Today the Hunter woke up to another Monday morning. Many of my colleagues were, no doubt, nursing Christmas party hangovers. And I was on a plane to join a peacekeeping mission in East Timor.

At 3am I was on my way to Darwin Airport.

For those of you whose morning sleep-in was disturbed by a hyperactive alarm clock, please think of me.

While you’ve been at work today, probably watching the clock tick as it rolls towards the end of another year, I’ll have been put through my paces with Hunter members of the defence reserves and their day-job bosses.

We’re on a regular exercise knows as “Boss Lift”. Employers, who have given their workers up to a year away to spend time in the reserve forces, are here to get a taste of life in Operation Astute.

Over the next few days, I’ll spend time with Hunter bosses and their employees in East Timor. They will include the former workmates of Craftsman Beau Pridue from Speers Point, who tragically died in a heavy vehicle crash while serving in East Timor in September.

The reservists here are from the 8th Brigade, which contains mainly forces from Northern NSW.

The brigade was formed in Egypt in 1915, and soldiers from Cessnock and Merewether were killed in action at Fromelles during the later stages of World War I.

The soldiers here are engineers, tradesmen, teachers and transport workers.

We’ve been promised Black Hawk helicopter flights, experience firing military weapons, tours of defence bases, hard-core personal training, and other experiences typical of the peacekeeping forces in East Timor.

Australian reservists make up a large proportion of the International Stabilising Force that assists the local government and the United Nations to maintain order in the young nation.

Check back tomorrow to find out how Ben has fared so far.

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Sa’u slims down to make tight squeeze in centres

SLIM: Junior Sa’uNEWCASTLE Knights fans can expect to see a lot less of Junior Sa’u next season.
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Not that the Kiwi international centre has any plans to vacate his favoured spot on Newcastle’s left edge, but Sa’u has stripped five kilograms from his chunky frame and aims to play next season at the lightest weight since his NRL debut in 2008.

‘‘I’ve trimmed down a bit and it’s helping me move a lot better around the park at training,’’ Sa’u said yesterday.

‘‘I can definitely see the change … I’ve lost five kilos.

‘‘I’m about 97 or 98kilos at the moment.

‘‘I’m normally about 102.

‘‘Playing at 102, I thought it was my best weight, but that was sort of like extra fat I was carrying.

‘‘They’ve trimmed me right down and I feel much better and a lot sharper.’’

Sa’u attributed his transformation to hard yards during the pre-season and a new-found diligence to what he eats.

‘‘It’s just doing all the little things right,’’ he said.

‘‘I’ve given up fast foods and I’m paying more attention to what meals I’m having before training and after training.

‘‘We’ve got a dietitian and the plan she has made for me is basically working.

‘‘I’ve just got to stick to it.’’

Sa’u is capable of trampling any defender when he has a full head of steam and he is confident he will still make an impact next year despite his reduced body mass.

‘‘I feel like I haven’t lost any strength when I’m running the ball at our skills sessions,’’ he said.

‘‘In the gym, I’m feeling probably the strongest I’ve ever been. It’s heading in the right direction but I have to keep knuckling down.’’

New coach Wayne Bennett and high-performance manager Jeremy Hickmans have insisted on lowering skinfold levels since arriving in Newcastle as they set about creating a leaner, meaner team.

Sa’u, who has been a mainstay of Newcastle’s backline for the past four seasons, admits he will have to be in peak condition to fend off a host of challengers eyeing his position.

Wes Naiqama played the best football of his career last season before suffering an elbow injury, and rookie Siuatonga Likiliki showed potential in his two top-grade games.

New signings Timana Tahu and Alex McKinnon add to the competition Sa’u will face for the berth he has occupied for 78 NRL games.

‘‘That will definitely be good for me and good for the club,’’ Sa’u said.

‘‘I think competition brings the best out in everyone. We’ve got people there like Timana and Wes and Likiliki and they’re all good players, so that will keep me on my toes.’’

Having represented New Zealand in nine Tests, Sa’u, 24, said he had no regrets about turning down an opportunity to pull on the Kiwis jersey during the recent Four Nations series.

‘‘Towards the end of the year my body needed a rest,’’ he said.

‘‘It felt like it was starting to break down a bit. I had an ankle injury and I needed to get my body right for next year.

‘‘It was hard for me to pull out of the squad but it’s something I needed to do.

‘‘This is my first proper pre-season in three years and I just needed a break to freshen up a bit.’’

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Football tragedies demonstrate need for care with Jets defender’s heart problem

CONCERN: Byun Sung-hwanTHEY are three names that will mean little to most Australian sports fans – Marc Vivien Foé, Phil O’Donnell and Anthony Van Loo.
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But as Jets defender Byun Sung-hwan awaits the result of medical tests that have cast a cloud over his professional career, the stories of three fellow footballers warrant close consideration.

Byun was stood down from training on Tuesday after an electrocardiograph (ECG) test, which all players underwent in the pre-season, revealed he had left ventricular hypertrophy, or an enlarged left ventricle.

The condition can occur naturally as a reaction to aerobic exercise and strength training. But it can also be a symptom of a rare genetic disease known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which in extreme cases can cause heart failure, especially during intense exercise, and prove fatal.

Jets officials did not want to speculate on Byun’s condition or jump to false conclusions until they had considered all the information available.

CEO Robbie Middleby said Byun’s welfare was their primary concern, but if he received appropriate clearances, there was a chance the Korean could play against Central Coast tomorrow in the F3 derby in Gosford.

The 32-year-old has experienced no episodes that would suggest he has a potentially life-threatening condition.

But neither did Foé nor O’Donnell, both of whom are remembered more for the tragic circumstances in which they died than their impressive careers.

Foé was a Cameroon international who played for West Ham and Manchester City in the English Premier League.

In June 2003, while representing his country in a semi-final of the Confederations Cup, he collapsed on the pitch and died, despite attempts to revive him.

An autopsy revealed the 28-year-old had unwittingly suffered from HCM.

O’Donnell was a former Scotland international who played for Motherwell, Celtic and Sheffield Wednesday.

In December 2007 he was playing for Motherwell against Dundee United and collapsed just as he was about to be substituted.

The 35-year-old father of four was rushed to hospital but died. A post-mortem indicated his death was caused by left ventricular failure, believed to be as a result of HCM.

After the deaths of Foé and O’Donnell and other such tragedies, football clubs around the world started to test their players for heart defects.

It was such a screening process that may have saved the life of young Belgian defender Van Loo.

In 2008, when he was playing for Belgian second-division club Roeselare, the 20-year-old collapsed to the turf unconscious. But as teammates rushed to help him, Van Loo visibly jolted on the ground and slowly regained his feet.

He was taken to hospital but returned after the match to join in his team’s victory celebrations.

Van Loo’s life had been saved by a defribillator, implanted in his chest six months earlier when he was diagnosed with HCM.

Defribillators contain a small computer that detects when a heart loses its rhythm, often causing a blackout, at which point a life-saving electric shock is delivered.

After the remarkable incident, which can be seen on YouTube, the club doctor said: ‘‘There was a moment of panic, but the device saved his life.’’

Van Loo, a Belgian under-23 representative, now plays in Belgium’s top football league.

There has been no confirmation that Byun has HCM.

Middleby said the Jets would wait until they had received all medical advice.

‘‘Then we will sit down with all the doctors and specialists and consider all the options,’’ he said. ‘‘If there is any risk, we want him to know what it is and do the right thing by him.’’

He said communal heart screening had been ‘‘recommended’’ by Football Federation Australia, but the Jets ‘‘haven’t done it in the past’’.

This year, the club decided it was a better policy to be safe rather than sorry.

And at least one of their players may have cause to be grateful for the rest of his life.

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