Blanchett, Minchin snubbed at Tony Awards

Cate Blanchett’s already overstocked trophy cabinet will have to wait a little longer to add a coveted Tony Award.

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The Australian actress, a winner of two Oscars, three Golden Globe trophies, three Screen Actors Guild Awards and three BAFTAs for her remarkable film career and just hours after receiving a Companion of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday honours, missed out on a Tony in New York.

Blanchett was not alone, with Australia’s Tim Minchin and his musical Groundhog Day given the cold shoulder at Broadway’s night of nights despite seven nominations.

Australian producers Stuart Thompson (best play Sweat and best revival of a play Six Degrees of Separation) and duo Rodney Rigby and Sam Levy (best musical Come From Away) also missed out.

The musical Dear Evan Hansen dominated the ceremony with six wins, including beating Groundhog Day for best musical.

Bette Midler stole the 71st Annual Tony Awards ceremony at Manhattan’s Radio Music City Hall when she won best actress in a musical for Hello, Dolly! and then gave an hilarious, expletive laden speech.

“Thank you to the Tony voters, many of whom I’ve actually dated,” the 71-year-old diva, who had only claimed a “special” Tony Award in 1974 for her contribution to Broadway, told the audience.

When the orchestra began to play her off as she spoke on stage she told them: “Shut that crap off”.

Blanchett was nominated for best lead actress in a play for her Broadway debut in The Present, a Sydney Theatre Company update of Anton Chekhov’s Platonov penned by her husband Andrew Upton.

Laurie Metcalf, for A Doll’s House, Part 2 won the Tony.

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul for Dear Evan Hansen took the original score trophy ahead of Minchin for Groundhog Day.

The ceremony was hosted by Oscar winner, stage veteran and star of the hit TV series House of Cards, Kevin Spacey.

Titans look to Kevin Proctor for NRL lift

Gold Coast forward Kevin Proctor is poised to make his NRL return from a four-match illicit drug ban with the Titans facing a tricky task to make the finals.

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Proctor copped the suspension from the Titans – as well as a $20,000 fine – after being caught using what was believed to be cocaine in Canberra on May 5 following the Test match between Australia and New Zealand.

Chris McQueen often partnered Proctor in the second row and says he’s chomping at the bit after spending seven weeks on the sideline.

“He’d be a massive inclusion for us, the suspension’s been burning away at him I’m expecting a big game for him this week,” McQueen said.

“He knows how to win games and he’s not scared of the hard work, he’s more than willing to put his body on the line for the team.

“He brings a lot of leadership, we have still got a lot of young guys who haven’t got a lot of experience and to have a guy like him is invaluable.”

Proctor’s last match for the Titans was their 38- 8 win over Newcastle in round nine and since he’s been banned Gold Coast have lost three of their last four fixtures.

A veteran of 186 games, Proctor averages 25 tackles per game this season and his stability in defence is much needed with Gold Coast conceding the third highest amount of tries in the NRL.

The 13th-placed Gold Coast are out of form losing their last three games on the trot but McQueen is demanding a fight for the rest of the season.

“Mathematically speaking, I think we’ve only got two or three losses in us for the rest of the year,” McQueen said.

“We’ve put ourselves into a difficult position but we’re going to fight until the end of the year.”

‘March against Sharia’: Protesters rally against Islamic law across the US

ACT for America, a self-described grassroots organisation focusing on national security, staged rallies in New York, Chicago, Boston, Denver and Seattle, as well as many smaller cities.

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Hundreds of people pledged on social media to attend an event that ACT billed as “March against Sharia.”

On the steps of the Pennsylvania state capitol in Harrisburg, barricades and a heavy police presence, including officers mounted on horses, separated about 60 anti-sharia demonstrators from an equal number of counter-protesters. Many of the latter were dressed in black masks and hoods and chanting “No Trump, no KKK, no Fascist USA.”

The atmosphere was tense but the protest went off with no violence and only one arrest, police said.

More than a dozen men belonging to the anti-government Oath Keepers were on hand, invited by ACT to provide security. Most of them carried handguns.

Chris Achey, 47, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, said he did not hate Muslims but believes that much of Islam is incompatible with Western culture.

“The Constitution is the law of the land,” he said. “We have to be careful with who we let in the country.”

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On its website, ACT described sharia, which covers many aspects of Muslim life including religious obligations and financial dealings, as incompatible with human rights. It said sharia justifies the oppression of women and homosexuality, and advocates female genital mutilation.

But critics say the organization vilifies Muslims and has repeatedly equated Islam with extremism. In their view, the rallies are part of a wave of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment fueled by President Donald Trump, who called for a ban on Muslims entering the country during his election campaign.

Molly Freiburg, 33, of Philadelphia, was one of the counter-protesters but not part of the larger group clad in black.

“America is not in danger from sharia law,” she said. “This manifestation at the Capitol is actually a way to make our Muslim neighbors feel uncomfortable.”

A representative for ACT for America could not be reached for comment.

In Seattle, about 75 anti-sharia protesters were outnumbered by counter-protesters at a rally that was moved from Portland, Oregon. Tensions are running high in Portland after a man yelling religious and racial slurs at two teenage girls on a commuter train fatally stabbed two men who tried to stop him.

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Talbot Sleater, a 62-year-old construction foreman, said that the Seattle protest was the first of the kind that he had attended. A Briton who moved to the United States, he said he had decided to go after recent attacks in his home country.

“People are being run over in the street with trucks and little kids are being blown up,” Sleater said, referring to recent attacks in London and Manchester. “I don’t want that to happen here.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the country’s largest Muslim advocacy group, urged Americans to participate in one of several local educational events being organized in “a peaceful challenge to Saturday’s hate rallies.”

It also warned Muslims to take extra precautions against potential violence over the weekend.

Anti-Muslim incidents rose 57 percent last year, including a 44 percent jump in anti-Islamic hate crimes, CAIR said in a report released in early May.

Oath Keepers said on its website that it was “answering the call to defend free speech against those who would use terrorist violence or the threat of violence to shut it down.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center says Oath Keepers is “one of the largest radical antigovernment groups in the United States,” organized around a “set of baseless conspiracy theories.”

Refuse Fascism, a coalition of activists advocating confrontational tactics to oppose what it calls the Trump “regime,” said it would show up at the rallies “to counter the xenophobic hatred and lies, defy intimidation and drown it out.”

India knock sloppy Proteas out of Trophy

India captain Virat Kohli praised his bowling attack as they demolished the South Africa batting line-up to seal a spot in the Champions Trophy semi-final.

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The reigning champions were far too good for their opponents at the Oval as they won by eight wickets after easily chasing down a modest target of 192.

South Africa started slowly with the bat but were seemingly building a sensible innings, with opener Quinton de Kock hitting 53.

The likes of skipper AB de Villiers (16) and David Miller (one) were victims of poor communication as three players were run out – with India taking eight wickets for 51 runs.

In return they never looked in trouble as Shikhar Dhawan (78) and Kohli (76 not out) enjoyed themselves with some big hitting.

But it was the bowlers who were hailed by Kohli after the convincing win.

“The pressure was built by the bowlers and that I think resulted in those breakthroughs we got in the field,” Kohli said.

“It is important to grab those opportunities. We wanted to improve our fielding, it was something we required and before we went out we had a chat in the huddle and I said I wanted everyone’s intensity to go up, that is a conscious effort we have to make.

“All of the bowlers executed their plan so well in such a big game and to be able to bowl like that against a batting line up of their ability, we can feel confident and would like to take it forward into the semis.”

Kohli said there was nothing for him to criticise as India continued on in their quest to defend the trophy.

“I can’t pinpoint any negatives from the day, it was our best game yet,”

“The small things are something we are focusing on. Until you have a team effort you can’t win games, especially in conditions you are unfamiliar with.

“You have to understand how to finish games off, luckily we got their big strikers out early. The bowlers stuck to their lines and got us the breakthroughs when we needed them.”

South Africa captain de Villiers was one of the three players run out in the opening innings and it was his dismissal which led to the collapse.

Despite that, the 33-year-old still believes he is the right man to take the team forward and feels he can lead them to long-awaited World Cup success in 2019.

“It is always very disappointing when we lose but the way we lost was the most disappointing,” de Villiers said.

“Through soft dismissals we lost our way and that was the part that hurt the most. Run-outs happen but three in one innings is not how we want to play our cricket that is for sure.

“I’m a good captain and I can take this team forward and win the World Cup I believe, I love doing it.

“Not a lot of people believe me but I feel it is pretty close, it is very difficult to say that after a performance like this but that is what I believe in my heart.”

PM urged to pull party into line on energy

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will face a showdown over the merits of a proposed clean energy target when government MPs meet on Tuesday.

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The coalition partyroom on Tuesday is expected to discuss the government’s position on Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s energy review released last week.

The report has sparked debate within government ranks over the role of coal under Dr Finkel’s recommended clean energy target, which would require a proportion of electricity each year to come from generation below a set emissions level.

Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly says he would not support a benchmark emission target of 0.6 tonnes per megawatt hour – the level used by Dr Finkel to model economic effects – while former cabinet minister Eric Abetz hit out at what he labelled “creative assumptions” in the report.

Labor opposition’s climate spokesman Mark Butler said the same old toxic internal divisions in the coalition were re-emerging.

“Malcolm Turnbull tomorrow, at his party room meeting, needs to pull his party into line – particularly senior Liberals like Tony Abbott, who are clearly trying to wreck this process before it even begins,” he told reporters in Adelaide.

Dr Finkel insists his proposed emissions reduction reforms would not block new coal projects, saying those decisions will be up to governments.

“There is no aspect of allowance or permission here. Permission comes from government. Permission is not decided by the clean energy target at all,” Dr Finkel told The Australian on Monday.

Where that level is set – a task Dr Finkel left up to politicians – could effectively rule out coal generation unless it uses the newest technology.

Energy policy experts say this is an important strategic shift from focusing on pricing or suppressing emissions to the economics of building a cleaner energy grid.

Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood says that shift means the market will determine which technology is cheapest.

“If it turns out that a clean coal plant with or without CCS (carbon capture and storage) is actually commercially viable when the emissions intensity is considered, then there will be investors who will build those plants,” he told ABC radio.

“It may not be likely, but this will test the commercial viability of the very coal technologies people would like to support.”

Australian Energy Council chief executive Matthew Warren said old coal-fired generators didn’t have to be forced out because they were leaving faster than they could be replaced.

Mr Warren cautioned the only way forward was to have bipartisan support for the final policy position.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale was scathing of the plan, which he says will leave Australia still generating power from coal and gas until 2070.

“The problem is that because the climate debate has been so toxic I think there’s a sense that any plan is better than nothing,” he told ABC radio.