May 26
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French parliamentarian questions Jacques Chirac’s Elysée budget

Thursday, October 6, 2005

A member of the French National Assembly, René Dosière, denounces the “opacity” in the budget of the Élysée Palace, the office of the President of the French Republic.

According to him, the president’s real budget is approximately three times the budget given for his services in the yearly national budget voted by the French Parliament, because many employees and services are provided by other ministries and public services free of charge to the presidency, and thus are counted in other budgets. As an example, the French Ministry of Defense provides republican guards and other soldiers, as well as aerial transportation; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs funds official foreign trips; and repairs, furnitures etc. to presidential offices are funded by the Ministry of Culture. Mr Dosière reports that in 2003, the total spending was 82.6 million Euros, while the official budget of the presidency was 30.5 million.

Mr Dosière started inquiring about presidential expenses about four years ago, and since then has been a critic of the opacity of accounting at the presidency. In order to obtain the necessary information, he has had to ask numerous questions to the executive and administrations.

In addition, he points out that the official budget of the presidency has boomed under Jacques Chirac’s term: between 1995 and 2005, it climbed from 5,21 millions to 26,14 millions. In 1995, the president also had at his disposal some “secret funds”, the total amount of which was voted by parliament, but which could be spent at his discretion. “Secret funds” were originally meant to fund specific missions that could not be funded within the exacting rules of public accounting, such as secret operations abroad, but they gradually also came to serve to pay various gratifications to government officials. Since 2002, secret funds have been cut and are reserved for paying for secret operations, while services that used them for normal operations were given special compensation. In 2005, the special compensation for the presidency was 5.5 million Euros.

In 2001, the French Parliament voted a law known as the LOLF (Loi d’orientation relative aux lois de finances) reforming the budget system, with a timetable for gradual implementation. This law mandates that any public spending should be traced to an identifiable “mission” of government.

May 26
Massive explosion in North Toronto, Ontario
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Massive explosion in North Toronto, Ontario

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Multiple large explosions have been reported at Sunrise Propane Industrial Gases, a propane facility in northern Toronto near Keele Street and Wilson Street near the Highway 401, at approximately between 3:25 and 3:50 am EST, at Murray Rd. and Spalding Rd. A six-alarm fire continued to erupt from the explosion, now under control. The cause is currently unknown.

A person who was 10km from the explosion told Wikinews that “my house shook 10 km away. The sky was rumbling every few seconds.”

Windows were blown out, doors were broken, and balls of fire descended from the sky near the explosion.

A witness who was in Niagara-on-the-Lake at the time witnessed the entire skyline of Toronto lighting up; someone else in Aurora at the time saw and felt the explosion.

A user on YouTube named “wolfshades” said that “we don’t know whether the explosion was chemical or by virtue of its proximity to the Toronto Airport if a plane had crashed.” Some witnesses thought the explosion was thunder or a nuclear bomb; the explosion was seen at Ossington Avenue and heard in Bloor and Jarvis in Toronto.

At least eighteen injuries have been reported, with one person still unaccounted for. All of the injuries reported so far have been minor, although one man had a layer of skin burned off his back. A Toronto firefighter died near the scene from a non-traumatic cause, believed to be a heart attack while fighting a fire near Murray and Regent; efforts were made to revive him, but were unsuccessful.

Large numbers of police are on the scene to keep people away from the explosion.

There is concern that two large railcar-mounted propane tanks, each capable of carrying 220,000 litres, could explode with enough force to affect a 1.6km radius. The air was found not to be toxic at the site. Firefighters are working to cool the tanks down and keep flames away, reducing the risk of explosion. More than 12,000 people have been evacuated. Most evacuees were transported to Yorkdale Mall and York University.

At the time of writing, evacuated residents have not yet been allowed to return to their homes. The 401, a major highway has been closed near the area; Eastbound 401 has been shut down between 400 and Allen Road, westbound shut down from 404/DVP to Highway 400. Three TTC subway stations: Yorkdale, Wilson, and Downsview were closed, but later re-opened. It was reported that Yorkdale Mall had been evacuated, but the Toronto Mayor David Miller confirmed through a teleconference from Vancouver that the report was false.

May 26
Sevilla signs Sirigu on loan from Paris SG
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Sevilla signs Sirigu on loan from Paris SG

Monday, August 29, 2016

On Friday, French capital football club Paris Saint-Getmain announced they loaned Italian goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu to Spanish club Sevilla F.C. till the season end.

29-year-old Sirigu started his career in Italy and joined the Parisians five years ago, in 2011. After playing 60 Serie A matches from 2009 to 2011, Sirigu became the first-choice goalkeeper at PSG for four years, playing 145 matches.

In five seasons at Parc des Princes, Sirigu has won four consecutive Ligue 1 titles, three Trophée des Champions, three Coupe de la Ligue, and two Coupe de France. Sirigu has played seventeen international matches, debuting in 2010.

Last season, German goalkeeper Kevin Trapp joined PSG and became their first-choice keeper. Lacking playing time with PSG, Sirigu signed the contract with Sevilla on Friday, after passing the medical tests hours before.

Per the agreement between the clubs, PSG has not included an option for Sevilla to buy the player.

May 25
Simon’s Rock College tests Alan Turing theories with ‘Imitation Game’ experiment
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Simon’s Rock College tests Alan Turing theories with ‘Imitation Game’ experiment

Tuesday, April 19, 2005File:PICT4422.jpg

File:GuessingGame01.jpg

On Saturday April 16, students at Simon’s Rock College in Great Barrington, Massachusetts and Dr. Richard Wallace of the A.L.I.C.E. AI Foundation for their first time tested Alan Turing’s thought-experiment. The Imitation Game, based on the original Turing model for testing the ability of humans to recognize artificial intelligence (AI), was carried out with nearly eighty human and AI participants.

The ‘Original Imitation Game’ is described in Turing’s 1950 paper. A popularized version now dubbed the “Turing Test” involves a judge knowingly interviewing a software program and a human person during a computer chat, and then trying to discern which is which. The Turing Test has been conducted many times as Artificial Intelligence programs developed. However, no study was ever published following the guidelines of the original thought-experiment itself.

The Imitation Game involved playing a “gender guessing game”, wherein two human subjects, a male and a female, communicate via computer chat to the judge. Both the male and the female would try to convince the judge that s/he is female. Turing’s original question was, if a gender guessing game were done with two humans, and then with an AI replacing the male, would the judge be more accurate in guessing who the real female was?

Three students at Simon’s Rock — Cameo Wood, Melissa Leventhal, and Allyson Sgro — wrote a grant to support the experiment, and shepherded the proposal through the Human Research Review Committee under the oversight of Professor Anne O’Dwyer. The experiment was funded by the departments of Natural Science and the department of Social Science at the college.

The experiment utilized a program called A.L.I.C.E., which is designed to hold one end of an interactive conversation. The program was provided by the ALICE Artificial Intelligence Foundation. Dr. Richard Wallace was on hand during the experiment to troubleshoot the AI robot, later gave a lecture about on The Anatomy of A.L.I.C.E. and blogged the event.

Six human subjects from Simon’s Rock composed the human players in the game; the judges were recruited from various non-technical internet communities. Roughly eighty individuals participated in the experiment, which required the organizers to maintain strict secrecy about the experiment until it was concluded. All subjects who participated in the experiment were required to be over 18, not affiliated with the college, and were not allowed any foreknowledge of the use of AI in the experiment. Roughly 70 interviews were conducted over a three hour period last Saturday, via AOL’s Instant Messenger, a messaging tool that allows individuals to write to one another online.

The research team at Simon’s Rock has started to analyze the data they acquired during the experiment and will be writing a paper for publication in the coming months. Inquiries regarding the experiment may be directed to researcher@theguessinggame.net.

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May 25
Court rules Massey can appeal US restrictions in mine disaster investigation
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Court rules Massey can appeal US restrictions in mine disaster investigation

Monday, June 13, 2011

In a unanimous decision, a US federal appeals court issued a ruling Friday against the federal government, in favor of Massey Energy Co, owner of the Upper Branch Mine in West Virginia, the location of last year’s mine disaster that killed 29 workers. The court ruled the company may appeal the restrictions placed on it by a government order hindering the company’s ability to conduct its own internal investigation of the disaster.

The order controlling Massey’s investigations into the disaster was placed on Massey immediately after the incident by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) when it seized control of the coal mine six hours after the blast on April 5.

MSHA’s controls prohibited Massey from “taking or retaining photographs, collecting and preserving mine dust samples, employing mine mapping technology, and participating in or objecting to any destructive testing of materials gathered underground.” Massey said MSHA’s restrictions prevented the company from evaluating the accident site before it was altered by investigators, and denied Massey the chance to gather evidence to use in the company’s defense.

The story of Upper Big Branch is a cautionary tale of hubris. A company that was a towering presence in the Appalachian coal fields operated its mines in a profoundly reckless manner, and 29 coal miners paid with their lives for the corporate risk taking.

Massey’s appeal to the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (the commission that decides disputes over mining regulations) to void the order by MSHA was denied by the commission. It based its decision on its interpretation of the Mine Act that it had no authority to consider Massey’s appeal. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit set aside this decision, finding the commission’s interpretation of the act was “simply untenable” and the government’s actions had denied Massey the opportunity to gather “potentially important exculpatory evidence”.

The court rejected the commission’s position that the Mine Act’s language was ambiguous, allowing the government flexibility in its implementation. Rather, the court said, “No matter how you parse it, [the act] is a model of near-perfect clarity. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a clearer expression of congressional language.” It also rejected the commission’s position that the case was moot: “This case is not moot. Indeed, even the [Labor] Secretary’s counsel recognized the near-frivolity of this argument, and made only a half-hearted attempt to persuade us.”

This case is not moot. Indeed, even the Secretary’s counsel recognized the near-frivolity of this argument, and made only a half-hearted attempt to persuade us.

The court’s ruling comes after a state government-comissioned report issued on May 19 by investigators found Massey Energy responsible for the deaths of the 29 workers. The workers were killed in an explosion that could have been avoided, the report said, if Massey had put in place standard safety procedures.

“The story of Upper Big Branch is a cautionary tale of hubris. A company that was a towering presence in the Appalachian coal fields operated its mines in a profoundly reckless manner, and 29 coal miners paid with their lives for the corporate risk taking,” the report read. “The company’s ventilation system did not adequately ventilate the mine. As a result, explosive gases were allowed to build up.” The report detailed claims Massey threatened miners with termination if they stopped work in areas that lacked adequate oxygen levels and listed numerous other state and federal safety standards that Massey failed to follow. Also blamed in the report was MSHA for failing to enforce federal regulations.

The report was considered by the those in the mining industry as especially direct and “hard hitting”. It firmly rejected conclusions reached by Massey officials that the incident was caused by an unexpected, massive, and uncontrollable methane bubble eruption, an occurrence that Massey said it could neither predict nor manage.

The company immediately challenged the report and issued its own report on June 3, blaming the blast on an act of nature and denying the company’s safety culture was at fault. MSHA also have an as-yet unreleased report in the works.

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May 25
Two nuclear submarines collide in the Atlantic Ocean
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Two nuclear submarines collide in the Atlantic Ocean

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Nuclear ballistic missile submarines Triomphant, from France, and HMS Vanguard, of the British Royal Navy, collided deep under the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of the night between February 3 and 4, despite both vessels being equipped with sonar. The collision caused damage to both vessels but it did not release any radioactive material, a Ministry of Defence (MOD) official confirmed Monday.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said nuclear security had not been breached. “It is MOD policy not to comment on submarine operational matters, but we can confirm that the U.K.’s deterrent capability was unaffected at all times and there has been no compromise to nuclear safety. Triomphant had struck ‘a submerged object (probably a container)’ during a return from a patrol, damaging the sonar dome on the front of the submarine,” he said.

A French navy spokesman said that “the collision did not result in injuries among the crew and did not jeopardise nuclear security at any moment.” Lack of communication between France and other members of NATO over the location of their SLBM deterrents is believed to be another reason for the crash.

According to Daily Mail, the vessels collided 1,000ft underwater in the Bay of Biscay (Golfe de Gascogne; Golfo de Vizcaya and Mar Cantábrico), a gulf of the North Atlantic Ocean. It lies along the western coast of France from Brest south to the Spanish border, and the northern coast of Spain west to Punta de Estaca de Bares, and is named for the Spanish province of Biscay, with average depth of 5,723 feet (1,744 m) and maximum depth is 9,151 feet (2,789 m).

Each submarine is laden with missiles powerful enough for 1,248 Hiroshima bombings, The Independent said.

It is unlikely either vessel was operating its active sonar at the time of the collision, because the submarines are designed to “hide” while on patrol and the use of active sonar would immediately reveal the boat’s location. Both submarines’ hulls are covered with anechoic tile to reduce detection by sonar, so the boats’ navigational passive sonar would not have detected the presence of the other.

Lee Willett of London’s Royal United Services Institute said “the NATO allies would be very reluctant to share information on nuclear submarines. These are the strategic crown jewels of the nation. The whole purpose of a sea-based nuclear deterrent is to hide somewhere far out of sight. They are the ultimate tools of national survival in the event of war. Therefore, it’s the very last thing you would share with anybody.”

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathon Band GCB, ADC of the United Kingdom, the most senior serving officer in the Royal Navy, said that “…the submarines came into contact at very low speed. Both submarines remained safe. No injuries occurred. We can confirm the capability remains unaffected and there was no compromise to nuclear safety.”

“Both navies want quiet areas, deep areas, roughly the same distance from their home ports. So you find these station grounds have got quite a few submarines, not only French and Royal Navy but also from Russia and the United States. Navies often used the same nesting grounds,” said John H. Large, an independent nuclear engineer and analyst primarily known for his work in assessing and reporting upon nuclear safety and nuclear related accidents and incidents.

President of the Royal Naval Association John McAnally said that the incident was a “one in a million chance”. “It would be very unusual on deterrent patrol to use active sonar because that would expose the submarine to detection. They are, of course, designed to be very difficult to detect and one of the priorities for both the captain and the deterrent patrol is to avoid detection by anything,” he said.

The development of stealth technology, making the submarines less visible to other vessels has properly explained that a submarine does not seem to have been able to pick out another submarine nearly the length of two football pitches and the height of a three-story building.

“The modus operandi of most submarines, particularly ballistic-missile submarines, is to operate stealthily and to proceed undetected. This means operating passively, by not transmitting on sonar, and making as little noise as possible. A great deal of technical effort has gone into making submarines quiet by reduction of machinery noise. And much effort has gone into improving the capability of sonars to detect other submarines; detection was clearly made too late or not at all in this case,” explained Stephen Saunders, the editor of Jane’s Fighting Ships, an annual reference book (also published online, on CD and microfiche) of information on all the world’s warships arranged by nation, including information on ship’s names, dimensions, armaments, silhouettes and photographs, etc.

According to Bob Ayres, a former CIA and US army officer, and former associate fellow at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, however, the submarines were not undetectable, despite their “stealth” technology. “When such submarines came across similar vessels from other navies, they sought to get as close as possible without being detected, as part of routine training. They were playing games with each other – stalking each other under the sea. They were practising being able to kill the other guy’s submarine before he could launch a missile.Because of the sound of their nuclear reactors’ water pumps, they were still noisier than old diesel-electric craft, which ran on batteries while submerged. The greatest danger in a collision was the hull being punctured and the vessel sinking, rather than a nuclear explosion,” Ayres explained.

Submarine collisions are uncommon, but not unheard of: in 1992, the USS Baton Rouge, a submarine belonging to the United States, under command of Gordon Kremer, collided with the Russian Sierra-class attack submarine K-276 that was surfacing in the Barents Sea.

In 2001, the US submarine USS Greeneville surfaced and collided with Japanese fishing training ship Ehime Maru (????), off the coast of Hawaii. The Navy determined the commanding officer of Greeneville to be in “dereliction of duty.”

The tenth HMS Vanguard (S28) of the British Royal Navy is the lead boat of her class of Trident ballistic missile-capable submarines and is based at HMNB Clyde, Faslane. The 150m long, V-class submarine under the Trident programme, has a crew of 135, weighs nearly 16,000 tonnes and is armed with 16 Trident 2 D5 ballistic missiles carrying three warheads each.

It is now believed to have been towed Monday to its naval base Faslane in the Firth of Clyde, with dents and scrapes to its hull. Faslane lies on the eastern shore of Gare Loch in Argyll and Bute, Scotland, to the north of the Firth of Clyde and 25 miles west of the city of Glasgow.

Vanguard is one of the deadliest vessels on the planet. It was built at Barrow-in-Furness by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd (now BAE Systems Submarine Solutions), was launched on 4 March, 1992, and commissioned on 14 August, 1993. The submarine’s first captain was Captain David Russell. In February 2002, Vanguard began a two-year refit at HMNB Devonport. The refit was completed in June 2004 and in October 2005 Vanguard completed her return to service trials (Demonstration and Shakedown Operations) with the firing of an unarmed Trident missile.

“The Vanguard has two periscopes, a CK51 search model and a CH91 attack model, both of which have a TV camera and thermal imager as well as conventional optics,” said John E. Pike, director and a national security analyst for http://www.globalsecurity.org/, an easily accessible pundit, and active in opposing the SDI, and ITAR, and consulting on NEO’s.File:Triomphant img 0394.jpg

“But the periscopes are useless at that depth. It’s pitch black after a couple of hundred feet. In the movies like ‘Hunt for Red October,’ you can see the subs in the water, but in reality it’s blindman’s bluff down there. The crash could have been a coincidence — some people win the lottery — but it’s much more possible that one vessel was chasing the other, trying to figure out what it was,” Pike explained.

Captain of HMS Vanguard, Commander Richard Lindsey said his men would not be there if they couldn’t go through with it. “I’m sure that if somebody was on board who did not want to be here, they would have followed a process of leaving the submarine service or finding something else to do in the Navy,” he noted.

The Triomphant is a strategic nuclear submarine, lead ship of her class (SNLE-NG). It was laid down on June 9, 1989, launched on March 26, 1994 and commissioned on March 21, 1997 with homeport at Île Longue. Equipped with 16 M45 ballistic missiles with six warheads each, it has 130 crew on board. It was completing a 70-day tour of duty at the time of the underwater crash. Its fibreglass sonar dome was damaged requiring three or four months in Drydock repair. “It has returned to its base on L’Ile Longue in Brittany on Saturday under its own power, escorted as usual by a frigate,” the ministry said.

A Ballistic missile submarine is a submarine equipped to launch ballistic missiles (SLBMs). Ballistic missile submarines are larger than any other type of submarine, in order to accommodate SLBMs such as the Russian R-29 or the American Trident.

The Triomphant class of strategic missile submarines of the French Navy are currently being introduced into service to provide the sea based component (the Force Océanique Stratégique) of the French nuclear deterrent or Force de frappe, with the M45 SLBM. They are replacing the Redoutable-class boats. In French, they are called Sous-Marin Nucléaire Lanceur d’Engins de Nouvelle Génération (“SNLE-NG, literally “Device-launching nuclear submarine of the new generation”).

They are roughly one thousand times quieter than the Redoutable-class vessels, and ten times more sensitive in detecting other submarines [1]. They are designed to carry the M51 nuclear missile, which should enter active service around 2010.

Repairs for both heavily scraped and dented, missile-laden vessels were “conservatively” estimated to cost as much as €55m, with intricate missile guidance systems and navigation controls having to be replaced, and would be met by the French and British taxpayer, the Irish Independent reported.

Many observers are shocked by the deep sea disaster, as well as the amount of time it took for the news to reach the public. ”Two US and five Soviet submarine accidents in the past prove that the reactor protection system makes an explosion avoidable. But if the collision had been more powerful the submarines could have sunk very quickly and the fate of the 250 crew members would have been very serious indeed,” said Andrey Frolov, from Moscow’s Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.

“I think this accident will force countries that possess nuclear submarines to sit down at the negotiating table and devise safety precautions that might avert such accidents in the future… But because submarines must be concealed and invisible, safety and navigation laws are hard to define,” Frolov said, noting further that there are no safety standards for submarines.

The unthinkable disaster – in the Atlantic’s 41 million square miles – has raised concern among nuclear activists. “This is a nuclear nightmare of the highest order. The collision of two submarines, both with nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons onboard, could have released vast amounts of radiation and scattered scores of nuclear warheads across the seabed,” said Kate Hudson, chair of Britain’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

“This is the most severe incident involving a nuclear submarine since the Russian submarine RFS Kursk K-141 explosion and sinking in 2000 and the first time since the Cold War that two nuclear-armed subs are known to have collided. Gordon Brown should seize this opportunity to end continuous patrols,” Hudson added. Despite a rescue attempt by British and Norwegian teams, all 118 sailors and officers aboard Kursk died.

“This reminds us that we could have a new catastrophe with a nuclear submarine at any moment. It is a risk that exists during missions but also in port. These are mobile nuclear reactors,” said Stephane Lhomme, a spokesman for the French anti-nuclear group Sortir du Nucleaire.

Nicholas Barton “Nick” Harvey, British Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for North Devon has called for an immediate internal probe. “While the British nuclear fleet has a good safety record, if there were ever to be a bang it would be a mighty big one. Now that this incident is public knowledge, the people of Britain, France and the rest of the world need to be reassured this can never happen again and that lessons are being learned,” he said.

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson MP for Moray has demanded for a government statement. “The Ministry of Defence needs to explain how it is possible for a submarine carrying weapons of mass destruction to collide with another submarine carrying weapons of mass destruction in the middle of the world’s second-largest ocean,” he said.

Michael Thomas Hancock, CBE, a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and a City councillor for Fratton ward, and who sits on the Commons defence committee, has called on the Ministry of Defence Secretary of State John Hutton to make a statement when parliament sits next week.

“While I appreciate there are sensitive issues involved here, it is important that this is subject to parliamentary scrutiny. It’s fairly unbelievable that this has happened in the first place but we now need to know that lessons have been learnt. We need to know for everyone’s sakes that everything possible is now done to ensure that there is not a repeat of the incident. There are serious issues as to how some of the most sophisticated naval vessels in the seas today can collide in this way,” Mr. Hancock said.

Tory defence spokesman Liam Fox, a British Conservative politician, currently Shadow Defence Secretary and Member of Parliament for Woodspring, said: “For two submarines to collide while apparently unaware of each other’s presence is extremely worrying.”

Meanwhile, Hervé Morin, the French Minister of Defence, has denied allegations the nuclear submarines, which are hard to detect, had been shadowing each other deliberately when they collided, saying their mission was to sit at the bottom of the sea and act as a nuclear deterrent.

“There’s no story to this — the British aren’t hunting French submarines, and the French submarines don’t hunt British submarines. We face an extremely simple technological problem, which is that these submarines are not detectable. They make less noise than a shrimp. Between France and Britain, there are things we can do together….one of the solutions would be to think about the patrol zones,” Morin noted, and further denying any attempt at a cover-up.

France’s Atlantic coast is known as a submarine graveyard because of the number of German U-boats and underwater craft sunk there during the Second World War.

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May 25
Israeli bombardment spills 35,000 tons of heavy fuel oil
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Israeli bombardment spills 35,000 tons of heavy fuel oil

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Resulting from the Israeli bombings on July 13 and 15, 2006 of the Jiyeh power station, located on the coast 30 kilometers south of Beirut, Lebanon, approximately 35,000 tons of heavy fuel oil have spilled into the Mediterranean Sea. The Lebanese Ministry of Environment expects additional tonnage to flow into the sea as a result of the damage. For comparison, the Exxon Valdez oil spill released nearly 40,000 tons.

According to Berj Hatjian from the Lebanon Ministry of Environment, “What we have here is equivalent to a tanker sinking, and 20,000 to 30,000 tonnes reaching the shoreline.” Furthermore, several storage tanks caught fire due to the blast of the bombardment and continued to burn uncontrollably for 10 days after. Wind and water currents have spread the oil slick across 70-80 kilometers of Lebanon coastline.

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May 24
Israel “illegally annexing” east Jerusalem, EU reports
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Israel “illegally annexing” east Jerusalem, EU reports

Friday, December 4, 2009

A classified European Union report for 2009 says Israel is actively pursuing the annexation of east Jerusalem. The report accuses Israel of implementing an intricate policy including expanding Jewish settlements and demolishing Palestinian homes. It says policies “are undermining prospects for a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem and incrementally render a sustainable two-state solution unfeasible”; this is described as, “an integral part of a broader Israeli strategy.”

Israeli Foreign ministry spokesperson, Yigal Palmor, told AFP that the report was “dishonest”, “reflects the Palestinian propaganda” and “is based exclusively on Palestinian versions and figures.” This comes as EU foreign ministers prepare a statement on the Middle East. To allow for US initiatives, EU foreign ministers have not commented on the stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians over past months; but, diplomatic sources say there are “sensitivities” over a Swedish proposal to divide Jerusalem in any peace deal.

Israel is, by practical means, actively pursuing its illegal annexation of east Jerusalem by weakening the Palestinian community in the city, impeding Palestinian urban developments and ultimately separating east Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.

Citing official Israeli statistics from the Ministry of Interior executive director of Israel’s HaMoked (Center for the Defence of the Individual) said Wednesday that, “Israel has stripped Palestinians of Jerusalem residency status last year at a faster rate than at any time in the history of the state”. 4,577 residents of East Jerusalem have had their residence revoked in 2008, this is more than half the total revoked in the past 40 years. The Jerusalem municipality places severe restrictions on issuing building permits for Palestinian houses in east Jerusalem, since 2000 over 600 Palestinian-owned structures have been demolished and Palestinians receive fewer than 200 of the 1,500 building permits needed per year.

Developments in east Jerusalem in 2009 were marked by the continued expansion of Israeli settlements and a considerable number of Palestinian house demolitions and eviction orders.

The 14-page annual report dated November 23 was drafted by European envoys and consuls in Jerusalem and Ramallah and presented to Brussels EU institutions a few days ago. This is the first time the annual report has been made public. Haaretz says, in the past, Israel has pressed the EU not to publish fearing it would undermine the European public’s view of Israel. The report was leaked to Israel’s Haaretz daily newspaper and obtained by AFP yesterday.

HAVE YOUR SAY
What measures should the EU take to protest Israeli policy, help Arab residents and stop “settlement activity” in East Jerusalem?
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The expansion of Israeli settlements has sparked a trend of settler violence against the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem. Such criminal actions have been witnessed by Israeli police but are not met with adequate intervention.

The EU report claims the Israeli government and Jerusalem municipality discriminate against Arab residents with regard to building permits, health services, education, sanitation and more. Allegations of assisting private right-wing Jewish organisations, such as Ateret Cohanim and Elad, to alter the city’s demographics are included.The report advises sanctions against people and groups involved in “settlement activity”, and taking other measures to protest Israeli policy and to stop the harming of the Arab population, including an “EU presence at Israeli court cases on house demolitions or evictions of Palestinian families when there is a risk of demolition or eviction of Palestinian families”, and “information sharing on violent settlers in East Jerusalem to assess whether to grant entry to the EU.” The report also recommends implementing measures to strengthen the Palestinian National Authority‘s presence in the city.

Archaeological excavations in Jerusalem near the Temple Mount are mentioned, suggesting “archaeology in this case has become an ideologically motivated tool of national and religious struggle carried out in a manner that modifies the identity and character of the city and threatens to undermine its stability.”

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May 24
Get A Quote So You Can Sign The Best Auto Insurance Policy

byAlma Abell

Whenever you own or operate a vehicle, it’s important to have adequate insurance to meet state requirements and to protect your investment. Before signing an auto insurance policy, comparison shop by getting auto insurance quotes from different companies. You can do this online or by visiting a local insurance company office. Be prepared so you won’t have to return with more information. Use the following guidelines when you get an quote for auto insurance.

When you get a quote, you will be getting an estimation of how much monthly premiums will cost. This estimation often includes a downpayment. Since most states require the owner or operator of a car to at least have liability coverage, it’s essential to know what your state’s laws regarding car insurance. It’s also vital to learn what your lender’s requirements are when you are financing your car. Lenders generally require full coverage for the duration of an auto loan. You may be required to have comprehensive as well as uninsured motorist coverage. Not having proper coverage could result in your car being repossessed by your lender.

You will need to have certain information ready when you get quotes for insurance. An insurance agent will ask you for your full name, address, place of employment, years at your present job, social security number, and driver’s license number. You may be asked about your criminal background and driving history. Although these can be checked at a late time, being honest in advance will enable you to get a more accurate quote based on your personal situation. Ensure that you have the make and model of your car as well as the vehicle identification number ready. You may be required to give additional details, such as your marital status and number of children you have.

Some information may seem unnecessary to give. However, remember that an insurance company collects this information to assess the risks when giving you insurance. Being accurate and comprehensive with your answers will let you sign an auto insurance policy to protect you against damage caused by a car accident. For more information on auto insurance, please Gilmartinagency.com. This insurance carrier handles many types of insurance coverage for auto users and auto owners.

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May 23
Wikinews interviews Australian wheelchair basketball player Tina McKenzie
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Wikinews interviews Australian wheelchair basketball player Tina McKenzie

Friday, January 3, 2014

Preston, Victoria, Australia —On Saturday, Wikinews interviewed Tina McKenzie, a former member of the Australia women’s national wheelchair basketball team, known as the Gliders. McKenzie, a silver and bronze Paralympic medalist in wheelchair basketball, retired from the game after the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London. Wikinews caught up with her in a cafe in the leafy Melbourne suburb of Preston.

Tina McKenzie: [The Spitfire Tournament in Canada] was a really good tournament actually. It was a tournament that I wish we’d actually gone back to more often.

((Wikinews)) Who plays in that one?

Tina McKenzie: It’s quite a large Canadian tournament, and so we went as the Gliders team. So we were trying to get as many international games as possible. ‘Cause that’s one of our problems really, to compete. It costs us so much money to for us to travel overseas and to compete internationally. And so we can compete against each other all the time within Australia but we really need to be able to…

((WN)) It’s not the same.

Tina McKenzie: No, it’s really not, so it’s really important to be able to get as a many international trips throughout the year to continue our improvement. Also see where all the other teams are at as well. But yes, Spitfire was good. We took quite a few new girls over there back then in 2005, leading into the World Cup in the Netherlands.

((WN)) Was that the one where you were the captain of the team, in 2005? Or was that a later one?

Tina McKenzie: No, I captained in 2010. So 2009, 2010 World Cup. And then I had a bit of some time off in 2011.

((WN)) The Gliders have never won the World Championship.

Tina McKenzie: We always seem to have just a little bit of a chill out at the World Cup. I don’t know why. It’s really strange occurrence, over the years. 2002 World Cup, we won bronze. Then in 2006 we ended up fourth. It was one of the worst World Cups we’ve played actually. And then in 2010 we just… I don’t know what happened. We just didn’t play as well as we thought we would. Came fourth. But you know what? Fired us up for the actual Paralympics. So the World Cup is… it’s good to be able to do well at the World Cup, to be placed, but it also means that you get a really good opportunity to know where you’re at in that two year gap between the Paralympics. So you can come back home and revisit what you need to do and, you know, where the team’s at. And all that sort of stuff.

((WN)) Unfortunately, they are talking about moving it so it will be on the year before the Paralympics.

Tina McKenzie: Oh really.

((WN)) The competition from the [FIFA] World Cup and all.

Tina McKenzie: Right. Well, that would be sad.

((WN)) But anyway, it is on next year, in June. In Toronto, and they are playing at the Maple Leaf Gardens?

Tina McKenzie: Okay. I don’t know where that is.

((WN)) I don’t know either!

Tina McKenzie: (laughs)

((WN)) We’ll find it. The team in Bangkok was pretty similar. There’s two — yourself and Amanda Carter — who have retired. Katie Hill wasn’t selected, but they had Kathleen O’Kelly-Kennedy back, so there was ten old players and only two new ones.

Tina McKenzie: Which is a good thing for the team. The new ones would have been Georgia [Inglis] and?

((WN)) Caitlin de Wit.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah… Shelley Cronau didn’t get in?

((WN)) No, she’s missed out again.

Tina McKenzie: Interesting.

((WN)) That doesn’t mean that she won’t make the team…

Tina McKenzie: You never know.

((WN)) You never know until they finally announce it.

Tina McKenzie: You never know what happens. Injuries happen leading into… all types of things and so… you never know what the selection is like.

((WN)) They said to me that they expected a couple of people to get sick in Bangkok. And they did.

Tina McKenzie: It’s pretty usual, yeah.

((WN)) They sort of budgeted for three players each from the men’s and women’s teams to be sick.

Tina McKenzie: Oh really? And that worked out?

((WN)) Yeah. I sort of took to counting the Gliders like sheep so I knew “Okay, we’ve only go ten, so who’s missing?”

Tina McKenzie: I heard Shelley got sick.

((WN)) She was sick the whole time. And Caitlin and Georgia were a bit off as well.

Tina McKenzie: It’s tough if you haven’t been to Asian countries as well, competing and…

((WN)) The change of diet affects some people.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah. I remember when we went to Korea and…

((WN)) When was that?

Tina McKenzie: Korea would have been qualifiers in two thousand and… just before China, so that would have been…

((WN)) 2007 or 2008?

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, 2007. Maybe late, no, it might have been early 2007. It was a qualifier for — Beijing, I think actually. Anyway, we went and played China, China and Japan. And it was a really tough tournament on some of our really new girls. They really struggled with the food. They struggled with the environment that we were in. It wasn’t a clean as what they normally exist in. A lot of them were very grumpy. (laughs) It’s really hard when you’re so used to being in such a routine, and you know what you want to eat, and you’re into a tournament and all of a sudden your stomach or your body can’t take the food and you’re just living off rice, and that’s not great for anyone.

((WN)) Yeah, well, the men are going to Seoul for their world championship, while the women go to Toronto. And of course the next Paralympics is in Rio.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, I know.

((WN)) It will be a very different climate and very different food.

Tina McKenzie: We all learn to adjust. I have over the years. I’ve been a vegetarian for the last thirteen years. Twelve years maybe. So you learn to actually take food with you. And you learn to adjust, knowing what environment you’re going in to, and what works for you. I have often carried around cans of red kidney beans. I know that I can put that in lettuce or in salad and get through with a bit of protein. And you know Sarah Stewart does a terrific job being a vegan, and managing the different areas and countries that we’ve been in to. Germany, for example, is highly dependent on the meat side of food, and I’m pretty sure I remember in Germany I lived on pasta and spaghetti. Tomato sauce. Yeah, that was it. (laughs) That’s alright. You just learn. I think its really hard for the new girls that come in to the team. It’s so overwhelming at the best of times anyway, and their nerves are really quite wracked I’d say, and that different travel environment is really hard. So I think the more experience they can get in traveling and playing internationally, the better off they’ll be for Rio.

((WN)) One of the things that struck me about the Australian team — I hadn’t seen the Gliders before London. It was an amazing experience seeing you guys come out on the court for the first time at the Marshmallow…

Tina McKenzie: (laughs)

((WN)) It was probably all old hat to you guys. You’d been practicing for months. Certainly since Sydney in July.

Tina McKenzie: It was pretty amazing, yeah. I think it doesn’t really matter how many Paralympics you actually do, being able to come out on that court, wherever it is, it’s never dull. It’s always an amazing experience, and you feel quite honored, and really proud to be there and it still gives you a tingle in your stomach. It’s not like “oh, off I go. Bored of this.”

((WN)) Especially that last night there at the North Greenwich Arena. There were thirteen thousand people there. They opened up some extra parts of the stadium. I could not even see the top rows. They were in darkness.

Tina McKenzie: It’s an amazing sport to come and watch, and its an amazing sport to play. It’s a good spectator sport I think. People should come and see especially the girls playing. It’s quite tough. And I was talking to someone yesterday and it was like “Oh I don’t know how you play that! You know, it’s so rough. You must get so hurt.” It’s great! Excellent, you know? Brilliant game that teaches you lots of strategies. And you can actually take all those strategies off the court and into your life as well. So it teaches you a lot of discipline, a lot of structure and… it’s a big thing. It’s not just about being on the court and throwing a ball around.

((WN)) When I saw you last you were in Sydney and you said you were moving down to Melbourne. Why was that?

Tina McKenzie: To move to Melbourne? My mum’s down here. And I lived here for sixteen years or something.

((WN)) I know you lived here for a long time, but you moved up to Sydney. Did your teacher’s degree up there.

Tina McKenzie: I moved to Sydney to go to uni, and Macquarie University were amazing in the support that they actually gave me. Being able to study and play basketball internationally, the scholarship really helped me out. And you know, it wasn’t just about the scholarship. It was.. Deidre Anderson was incredible. She’s actually from Melbourne as well, but her support emotionally and “How are you doing?” when she’d run into you and was always very good at reading people… where they’re at. She totally understands at the levels of playing at national level and international level and so it wasn’t just about Macquarie supporting me financially, it was about them supporting me the whole way through. And that was how I got through my degree, and was able to play at that level for such a long time.

((WN)) And you like teaching?

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, I do. Yeah, I do. I’m still waiting on my transfer at the moment from New South Wales to Victoria, but teaching’s good. It’s really nice to be able to spend some time with kids and I think its really important for kids to be actually around people with disabilities to actually normalize us a little bit and not be so profound about meeting someone that looks a little bit different. And if I can do that at a young age in primary school and let them see that life’s pretty normal for me, then I think that’s a really important lesson.

((WN)) You retired just after the Paralympics.

Tina McKenzie: I did. Yeah. Actually, it took me quite a long time to decide to do that. I actually traveled after London. So I backpacked around… I went to the USA and then to Europe. And I spent a lot of time traveling and seeing amazing new things, and spending time by myself, and reflecting on… So yes, I got to spend quite a bit of time reflecting on my career and where I wanted to go.

((WN)) Your basketball career or your teaching career?

Tina McKenzie: All the above. Yeah. Everything realistically. And I think it was a really important time for me to sort of decide sort of where I wanted to go in myself. I’d spent sixteen years with the Gliders. So that’s a long time to be around the Gliders apparently.

((WN)) When did you join them for the first time?

Tina McKenzie: I think it was ’89? No, no, no, sorry, no, no, no, ’98. We’ll say 1998. Yeah, 1998 was my first tournament, against USA. So we played USA up in New South Wales in the Energy Australia tour. So we traveled the coast. Played up at Terrigal. It was a pretty amazing experience, being my first time playing for Australia and it was just a friendly competition so… Long time ago. And that was leading into 2000, into the big Sydney Olympics. That was the beginning of an amazing journey realistically. But going back to why I retired, or thinking about retiring, I think when I came home I decided to spend a little bit more time with mum. Cause we’d actually lost my dad. He passed away two years ago. He got really sick after I came back from World Cup, in 2011, late 2010, he was really unwell, so I spent a lot of time down here. I actually had a couple of months off from the Gliders because I needed to deal with the family. And I think that it was really good to be able to get back and get on the team and… I love playing basketball but after being away, and I’ve done three Paralympics, I’ve been up for four campaigns, I think its time now to actually take a step backwards and… Well not backwards… take a step out of it and spend quality time with mum and quality time with people that have supported me throughout the years of me not being around home but floating back in and floating out again and its a really… it’s a nice time for me to be able to also take on my teaching career and trying to teach and train and work full time is really hard work and I think its also time for quite a few of the new girls to actually step up and we’ve got quite a few… You’ve got Caitlin, and you’ve got Katie and you’ve got Shelley and Georgia. There’s quite a few nice girls coming through that will fit really well into the team and it’s a great opportunity for me to go. It’s my time now. See where they go with that, and retire from the Gliders. It was a hard decision. Not an easy decision to retire. I definitely miss it. But I think now I’d rather focus on maybe helping out at the foundation level of starting recruitment and building up a recruiting side in Melbourne and getting new girls to come along and play basketball. People with… doesn’t even have to be girls but just trying to re-feed our foundation level of basketball, and if I can do that now I think that’s still giving towards the Gliders and Rollers eventually. That would be really nice. Just about re-focusing. I don’t want to completely leave basketball. I’d still like to be part of it. Looking to the development side of things and maybe have a little bit more input in that area would be really nice though. Give back the skills I’ve been taught over the years and be a bit of an educator in that area I think would be nice. It’s really hard when you’re at that international level to… you’re so time poor that it’s really hard to be able to focus on all that recruitment and be able to give out skill days when you’re actually trying to focus on improving yourself. So now I’ve got that time that I could actually do that. Be a little bit more involved in mentoring maybe, something like that. Yeah, that’s what I’d like to do.

((WN)) That would be good.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah! That would be great, actually. So I’ve just been put on the board of Disability Sport and Recreation, which is the old Wheelchair Sports Victoria. So that’s been a nice beginning move. Seeing where all the sports are at, and what we’re actually facilitating in Victoria, considering I’ve been away from Victoria for so long. It’s nice to know where they’re all at.

((WN)) Where are they all at?

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, dunno. They’re not very far at all. Victoria… I think Victoria is really struggling in the basketball world. Yeah, I think there’s a bit of a struggle. Back in the day… back in those old times, where Victoria would be running local comps. We’d have an A grade and a B grade on a Thursday night, and we’d have twelve teams in A grade and B grade playing wheelchair basketball. That’s a huge amount of people playing and when you started in B grade you’d be hoping that you came around and someone from A grade would ask you to come and play. So it was a really nice way to build your basketball skills up and get to know that community. And I think its really important to have a community, people that you actually feel comfortable and safe around. I don’t want to say it’s a community of disabled people. It’s actually…

((WN)) It’s not really because…

Tina McKenzie: Well, it’s not. The community’s massive. It’s not just someone being in a chair. You’ve got your referees, you’ve got people that are coming along to support you. And it’s a beautiful community. I always remember Liesl calling it a family, and it’s like a family so… and it’s not just Australia-based. It’s international. It’s quite incredible. It’s really lovely. But it’s about providing that community for new players to come through. And you know, not every player that comes through to play basketball wants to be a Paralympian. So its about actually providing sport, opportunities for people to be physically active. And if they do want to compete for Australia and they’re good enough, well then we support that. But I think it’s really hard in the female side of things. There’s not as many females with a disability.

((WN)) Yeah, they kept on pointing that out…

Tina McKenzie: It’s really hard, but I think one of the other things is that we also need to be able to get the sport out there into the general community. And it’s not just about having a disability, it’s about coming along and playing with your mate that might be classifiable or an ex-basketball player. Like I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and she’s six foot two…

((WN)) Sounds like a basketball player already.

Tina McKenzie: She’s been a basketball player, an AB basketball player for years. Grew up playing over in Adelaide, and her knee is so bad that she can’t run anymore, and she can’t cycle, but yet wants to be physically active, and I’m like “Oooh, you can come along and play wheelchair basketball” and she’s like “I didn’t even think that I could do that!” So it’s about promoting. It not that you actually have to be full time in the chair, or being someone with an amputation or other congenitals like a spinal disability, it’s wear and tear on people’s bodies and such.

((WN)) Something I noticed in the crowd in London. People seemed to think that they were in the chair all the time and were surprised when most of the Rollers got up out of their chairs at the end of the game.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah.

((WN)) Disability is a very complicated thing.

Tina McKenzie: It is, yeah.

((WN)) I was surprised myself at people who were always in a chair, but yet can wiggle their toes.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, it’s the preconceived thing, like if you see someone in a chair, a lot of people just think that nothing works, but in hindsight there are so many varying levels of disability. Some people don’t need to be in a chair all the time, sometimes they need to be in it occasionally. Yeah, it’s kind of a hard thing.

((WN)) Also talking to the classifiers and they mentioned the people playing [wheelchair] basketball who have no disability at all but are important to the different teams, that carry their bags and stuff.

Tina McKenzie: So important, yeah. It’s the support network and I think that when we started developing Women’s National League to start in 2000, one of the models that we took that off was the Canadian Women’s National League. They run an amazing national league with huge amounts of able bodied women coming in and playing it, and they travel all over Canada [playing] against each other and they do have a round robin in certain areas like our Women’s National League as well but it’s so popular over there that it’s hard to get on the team. They have a certain amount of women with disabilities and then other able bodied women that just want to come along and play because they see it as a really great sport. And that’s how we tried to model our Women’s National League off. It’s about getting many women just to play sport, realistically.

((WN)) Getting women to play sport, whether disabled or not, is another story. And there seems to be a reluctance amongst women to participate in sports, particularly sports that they regard as being men’s sports.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, a masculine sport.

((WN)) They would much rather play a sport that is a women’s sport.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, it’s really hard. I think it’s about just encouraging people, communicating, having a really nice welcoming, come and try day. We run a… like Sarah [Stewart] actually this yeah will be running the women’s festival of sport, which is on the 30th of January. And that’s an amazing tournament. That actually started from club championship days, where we used to run club championships. And then the club championships then used to feed in to our Women’s National League. Club championships used to about getting as many women to come along and play whether they’re AB or have a disability. It’s just about participation. It’ll be a really fun weekend. And it’s a pretty easy weekend for some of us.

((WN)) Where is it?

Tina McKenzie: Next year, in 2014, it’ll be January the 30th at Narrabeen. We hold it every year. And last year we got the goalball girls to come along and play. So we had half of the goalball girls come and play for the weekend and they had an absolute brilliant time. Finding young girls that are walking down the street that just want to come and play sport. Or they have a friend at high school that has a disability. And it’s just about having a nice weekend, meeting other people that have disabilities or not have disabilities and just playing together. It’s a brilliant weekend. And every year we always have new faces come along and we hope that those new faces stay around and enjoy the weekend. Because it’s no so highly competitive, it’s just about just playing. Like last year I brought three or four friends of mine, flew up from Melbourne, ABs, just to come along and play. It was really nice that I had the opportunity to play a game of basketball with the friends that I hang out with. Which was really nice. So the sport’s not just Paralympics.

((WN)) How does Victoria compare with New South Wales?

Tina McKenzie: Oh, that’s a thing to ask! (laughs) Look I think both states go in highs and lows, in different things. I think all the policies that have been changing in who’s supporting who and… like, Wheelchair Sports New South Wales do a good job at supporting the basketball community. Of course, there’s always a willingness for more money to come in but they run a fairly good support and so does the New South Wales Institute of Sport. It’s definitely gotten better since I first started up there. And then, it’s really hard to compare because both states do things very differently. Yeah, really differently and I always remember being in Victoria… I dunno when that was… in early 2000. New South Wales had an amazing program. It seemed so much more supportive than what we had down here in Victoria. But then even going to New South Wales and seeing the program that they have up there, it wasn’t as brilliant as… the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, cause there there good things and there were weren’t so great things about the both programs in Victoria and in New South Wales so… The VIS [Victorian Institute of Sport] do some great support with some of the athletes down here, and NSWIS [New South Wales Instituted of Sport] are building and improving and I know their program’s changed quite a lot now with Tom [Kyle] and Ben [Osborne] being involved with NSWIS so I can’t really give feedback on how that program’s running but in short I know that when NSWIS employed Ben Osborne to come along and actually coach us as a basketball individual and as in group sessions it was the best thing that they ever did. Like, it was so good to be able to have one coach to actually go and go we do an individual session or when are you running group sessions and it just helped me. It helped you train. It was just a really… it was beneficial. Whereas Victoria don’t have that at the moment. So both states struggle some days. I mean, back in 2000 Victoria had six or seven Gliders players, and then New South Wales had as many, and then it kind of does a big swap. It depends on what the state infrastructure is, what the support network is, and how local comps are running, how the national league’s running, and it’s about numbers. It’s all about numbers.

((WN)) At the moment you’ll notice a large contingent of Gliders from Western Australia.

Tina McKenzie: Yes, yes, I have seen that, yeah. And that’s good because its… what happens is, someone comes along in either state, or wherever it may be, and they’re hugely passionate about building and improving that side of things and they have the time to give to it, and that’s what’s happened in WA [Western Australia]. Which has been great. Ben Ettridge has been amazing, and so has John. And then in New South Wales you have Gerry driving that years ago. Gerry has always been a hugely passionate man about improving numbers, about participation, and individuals’ improvement, you know? So he’s been quite a passionate man about making sure people are improving individually. And you know, Gerry Hewson’s been quite a driver of wheelchair basketball in New South Wales. He’s been an important factor, I think.

((WN)) The news recently has been Basketball Australia taking over the running of things. The Gliders now have a full time coach.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, which is fantastic! That’s exciting. It’s a good professional move, you know? It’s nice to actually know that that’s what’s happening and I think that only will lead to improvement of all the girls, and the Gliders may go from one level up to the next level which is fantastic so… and Tom sounds like a great man so I really hope that he enjoys himself.

((WN)) I’m sure he is.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, I’ve done some work with Tom. He’s a good guy.

((WN)) Did you do some work with him?

Tina McKenzie: Ah, well, no, I just went up to Brisbane a couple of times and did some development days. Played in one of their Australia Day tournaments with some of the developing girls that they have. We did a day camp leading into that. Went and did a bit of mentoring I guess. And it was nice to do that with Tom. That was a long time before Tom… I guess Tom had just started on the men’s team back them. He was very passionate about improving everyone, which he still is.

((WN)) Watching the Gliders and the Rollers… with the Rollers, they can do it. With the Gliders… much more drama from the Gliders in London. For a time we didn’t even know if they were going to make the finals. Lost that game against Canada.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, that wasn’t a great game. No. It was pretty scary. But, you know, we always fight back. In true Gliders style. Seems to be… we don’t like to take the easy road, we like to take the hard road, sometimes.

((WN)) Apparently.

Tina McKenzie: It’s been a well-known thing. I don’t know why it is but it just seems to happen that way.

((WN)) You said you played over 100 [international] games. By our count there was 176 before you went to London, plus two games there makes 178 international caps. Which is more than some teams that you played against put together.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, I thought I’d be up to nearly 200. Look, I think it’s an amazing thing to have that many games under your belt and the experience that’s gained me throughout the years, and you’ve got to be proud about it. Proud that I stayed in there and competed with one of the best teams in the world. I always believed that the Gliders can be the best in the world but…

((WN)) You need to prove it.

Tina McKenzie: Need to get there. Just a bit extra.

((WN)) Before every game in London there was an announcement that at the World Championships and the Paralympics “they have never won”.

Tina McKenzie: No, no. I remember 2000 in Sydney, watching the girls play against Canada in 2000. Terrible game. Yet they were a brilliant team in 2000 as well. I think the Gliders have always had a great team. Just unfortunately, that last final game. We haven’t been able to get over that line yet.

((WN)) You were in the final game in 2004.

Tina McKenzie: Yep, never forget that. It was an amazing game.

((WN)) What was it like?

Tina McKenzie: I think we played our gold medal game against the USA the first game up. We knew that we had to beat USA that day, that morning. It was 8am in the morning, maybe 8:30 in the morning and it was one of the earliest games that we played and we’d been preparing for this game knowing that we had to beat USA to make sure that our crossovers would be okay, and knew that we’d sit in a really good position against the rest of the teams that we would most likely play. And I think that being my first ever Paralympic Games it was unforgettable. I think I’ll never, not forget it. The anticipation, adrenalin and excitement. And also being a little bit scared sometimes. It was really an amazing game. We did play really, really well. We beat America by maybe one point I think that day. So we played a tough, tough game. Then we went into the gold medal game… I just don’t think we had much left in our energy fuel. I think it was sort of… we knew that we had to get there but we just didn’t have enough to get over the line, and that was really unfortunate. And it was really sad. It was sad that we knew that we could actually beat America, but at the end of the day the best team wins.

((WN)) The best team on the court on the day.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, absolutely. And that can change any day. It depends where your team’s at. What the ethos is like. and so it’s… Yeah, I don’t think you can actually say that every team’s gonna be on top every day, and it’s not always going to be that way. I’m hoping the Gliders will put it all together and be able to take that way through and get that little gold medal. That would be really nice. Love to see that happen.

((WN)) I’d like to see that happen. I’d really like to see them win. In Toronto, apparently, because the Canadian men are not in the thing, the Canadians are going to be focusing on their women’s team. They apparently didn’t take their best team and their men were knocked out by Columbia or Mexico or something like that.

Tina McKenzie: Wow.

((WN)) And in the women’s competition there’s teams like Peru. But I remember in London that Gliders were wrong-footed by Brazil, a team that they had never faced before. Nearly lost that game.

Tina McKenzie: (laughs) Oh yes. Brazil were an unknown factor to us. So they were quite unknown. We’d done a bit of scouting but if you’ve never played someone before you get into an unknown situation. We knew that they’d be quite similar players to Mexico but you know what? Brazil had a great game. They had a brilliant game. We didn’t have a very good game at all. And it’s really hard going into a game that you know that you need to win unbeknown to what all these players can do. You can scout them as much as you want but it’s actually about being on court and playing them. That makes a huge difference. I think one of the things here in Australia is that we play each other so often. We play against each other so often in the Women’s National League. We know exactly what… I know that Shelley Chaplin is going to want to go right and close it up and Cobi Crispin is going to dive underneath the key and do a spin and get the ball. So you’ve actually… you know what these players want to do. I know that Kylie Gauci likes to double screen somewhere, and she’ll put it in, and its great to have that knowledge of what your players really like to do when you’re playing with them but going into a team like Brazil we knew a couple of the players, what they like to do but we had no idea what their speed was like or what their one-pointers were going to do. Who knows? So it was a bit of an unknown.

((WN)) They’ll definitely be an interesting side when it comes to Rio.

Tina McKenzie: I think they’ll be quite good. And that happened with China. I’ll always remember seeing China when we were in Korea for the first time and going “Wow, these girls can hardly move a chair” but some of them could shoot, and they went from being very fresh players to going into China as quite a substantial team, and then yet again step it up again in London. And they’re a good team. I think its really important as not to underestimate any team at a Paralympics or at a World Cup. I mean, Netherlands have done that to us over and over again.

((WN)) They’re a tough team too.

Tina McKenzie: They’re a really tough team and they’re really unpredictable sometimes. Sometimes when they’re on, they’re on. They’re tough. They’re really tough. And they’ve got a little bit of hunger in them now. Like, they’re really hungry to be the top team. And you can see that. And I remember seeing that in Germany, in Beijing.

((WN)) The Germans lost to the Americans in the final in Beijing.

Tina McKenzie: Yes. Yeah, they did.

((WN)) And between 2008 and 2012 all they talked about was the US, and a rematch against the US. But of course when it came to London, they didn’t face the US at all, because you guys knocked the US out of the competition.

Tina McKenzie: Yeah, we did. It was great. A great game that.

((WN)) You won by a point.

Tina McKenzie: Fantastic. Oh my God I came. Still gives me heart palpitations.

((WN)) It went down to a final shot. There was a chance that the Americans would win the thing with a shot after the siren. Well, a buzzer-beater.

Tina McKenzie: Tough game. Tough game. That’s why you go to the Paralympics. You have those tough, nail-biting games. You hope that at the end of the day that… Well, you always go in as a player knowing that you’ve done whatever you can do.

((WN)) Thankyou very much for this.

Tina McKenzie: That’s alright. No problems at all!

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