Lindt Cafe siege inquest: Hostage recalls ‘frightened’ manager

The first hostage to give evidence at the inquest into the 2014 Lindt Cafe siege initially thought the Reserve Bank was being robbed until he realised the “danger was inside”.

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Jarrod Morton-Hoffman has recalled noticing Man Haron Monis sitting alone in the cafe on the morning of the siege, and shortly afterwards talking with manager Tori Johnson at a table.

He said it was this moment that he realised that something was wrong.

He said Mr Johnson looked “frightened”, which was unusual, as he sat across from Monis.

He thought something was wrong but has told the inquest into the December 2014 attack that he believed the Reserve Bank in Martin Place was being robbed.

SBS reporter Alyshia Gates is reporting from the inquest.

“I was scared…a lot of responsibility and if I screwed up someone would have died.” Morton-Hoffman on making 000 calls for Monis @SBSNews

— Alyshia Gates (@alyshiagates) March 29, 2016

Morton-Hoffman was ordered by Monis to lock the doors to the cafe.

A short time later, Monis pulled out a shotgun and put on a bandanna with Islamic writing on it.

“The danger was inside the cafe, not outside,” Mr Morton-Hoffman told the inquest on Tuesday.

Mr Morton-Hoffman, who helped other hostages escape during the 16-hour ordeal, also told the inquest the “short and pudgy” Monis said Australia was under attack by Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

Morton-Hoffman says Monis more aggressive to #Lindtcafe manager Tori Johnson because of his position.”I thought he didn’t like him”@SBSNews

— Alyshia Gates (@alyshiagates) March 29, 2016

“This is an attack on Australia by the Islamic State. My brothers and I have bombs around the city.”

But he did not believe the gunman’s claims about bombs, or that he had explosives in his backpack.

“I thought he was a lone-wolf gunman, ISIS-inspired,” he said.

The inquest continues.

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England feeling at home in Delhi: Stokes

Allrounder Ben Stokes claims England’s World Twenty20 semi-final against New Zealand in Delhi will feel like a home game.

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Stokes and company may be more than 6000 kilometres from Lord’s, but by the time they take on the Black Caps on Wednesday they will have been based in India’s capital for 11 days.

They have already played and won two matches against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium and feel increasingly comfortable on a pitch that can be tricky to read.

New Zealand, on the other hand, have had a nomadic schedule, taking in games at Nagpur, Dharamsala, Mohali and Kolkata.

If there is a marginal gain to be had against the only unbeaten side in the competition, Stokes is happy to take it.

“This is our third game there, so you could say it’s like a home game, even though it’s in India,” he said.

“I think it does (offer an advantage), yeah. We learned a lot from the Afghanistan game leading into Sri Lanka, knowing we’re a little bit more used to the conditions, knowing it’s quite hard to get yourself in on a wicket like Delhi.

“And also having the experience of bowling here. We know that hitting that back-of-a-length is quite difficult, because it’s quite variable in bounce – some will skid through, others hold up. That’s one thing we’ll take into the game as well.”

Stokes’ destructive batting is known to New Zealand after blazing a rapid ton against them last year, but he has been honing his skills as a limited-overs death bowler.

In England’s last two outings, both must-win, he has been handed the final over of the match, giving up just eight against Afghanistan and half as many in a superb effort to close out victory over Sri Lanka.

“I’d much rather be doing that last over thing than sitting there watching and hoping whoever bowls it gets us through,” he said.

“I’d rather be the man doing it. It’s a lot easier on the nerves.”

Blood test may detect concussion

A simple blood test can detect whether or not someone has suffered a concussion, scientists say.

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The finding could mean that children who bang their heads may not need to undergo radiation-exposing scans to determine if they have suffered a brain lesion.

Researchers from Orlando Health in Florida detected a biomarker released by the brain during injury.

They found that the biomarker can stay in the bloodstream for up to a week – which means patients who suffer delayed symptoms of concussion could easily be identified.

“Symptoms of a concussion, or a mild to moderate traumatic brain injury, can be subtle and are often delayed, in many cases by several days,” said Dr Linda Papa, an emergency medicine physician and lead author of the study.

“This could provide doctors with an important tool for simply and accurately diagnosing those patients, particularly children, and making sure they are treated properly.

“If patients are not diagnosed properly and treated appropriately, it could lead to long-term problems. This test could take the guesswork out of making a diagnosis by allowing doctors to simply look for a specific biomarker in the blood.”

Concussion is the most common but least serious type of brain injury that occurs after a blow or other injury to the head.

The new study, published in the journal Jama Neurology, shows that when an injury occurs to the brain, a biomarker – the glial fibrillary acidic protein – is released.

The biomarker passes the blood-brain barrier and enters the bloodstream which means it can be detected with a simple blood test.

Researchers analysed nearly 600 patients for three years and found the blood test was able to detect mild to moderate traumatic brain lesions with up to 97 per cent accuracy in adults.

The blood test also indicated which patients were in need of life-saving neurosurgery, the authors said.

“Physicians really want to minimise the amount of computerised tomography (CT) scans in patients, especially children, who are a lot more sensitive to radiation and the side effects that can come with it. Fortunately, this simple blood test appears to give us nearly the same information as a CT scan,” Dr Papa said.

“This could ultimately change the way we diagnose concussions, not only in children, but in anyone who sustains a head injury.”

Southern Stars set for World T20 semi

The Southern Stars confront familiar foes England in their World Twenty20 semi-final, with Jess Jonassen saying her side’s past glories count for nought.

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The business end of Australia’s bid for a fourth straight women’s World T20 title will start at 8pm (AEDT) on Wednesday at New Delhi.

The two sides squared off seven times during last year’s Ashes series, and met in the final of the past two World T20 tournaments.

“We know their players quite well and they obviously know us quite well too,” Australia coach Matthew Mott said.

England are well aware of Jonassen’s potential to dominate with bat and ball.

The left-arm spinner grabbed three wickets in the 2012 World T20 decider, while she scored 99 on Test debut against England in 2015.

But it’s a performance the allrounder has long moved on from.

“The Ashes has been and gone. It doesn’t really matter what has happened in the past,” Jonassen told AAP.

“It’s different conditions and a completely different situation.

“I always love playing against England. It’s always a highlight. I think for most of the players in this group it’s the same.

“It feels even bigger now it’s the semi-final of a World Cup.”

England captain Charlotte Edwards can’t wait for her chance at revenge.

“It’s going to be one hell of a semi-final,” Edwards said.

“We’re looking forward to it.

“We know when you come to a World T20 you have to beat everyone.”

The Southern Stars banked three wins to reach the knockout phase, having been humbled by New Zealand in the pool stage.

Finishing second in their pool meant staying in India’s capital, where they defeated Sri Lanka and Ireland in their past two hit-outs.

It has allowed the squad to mentally refresh, including a trip to the Taj Mahal on Sunday.

“We’re certainly loving Delhi and it’s great to not have to travel,” Mott said.

“While we wanted to top the group, to stay here is an enormous advantage for us. We know the wicket well and our players have all played well on it.”

Much has been made of the role of spin at the tournament but Jonassen wasn’t expecting too much assistance against England.

“It’s been a pretty good batting wicket in the games we’ve played there and I expect much the same on Wednesday,” she said.

“Bowling in India is always an interesting challenge, not being a massive turner of the ball.

“I’ve had a few different roles in games as well.”

Offspinner Erin Osborne, who missed Australia’s last-start thumping of Ireland because of split webbing in her bowling hand, is expected to return to the XI.

Move to assess if chemo works in real time

Cancer patients could one day be able to know whether their chemotherapy has worked in “real time”.

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Scientists are homing in on a technique which can assess the effectiveness of the cancer treatment in as little as eight hours after administration.

Conventional methods of testing the effectiveness of treatment, such as scans, usually cannot detect whether a tumour is shrinking until a patient has received multiple cycles of therapy.

But experts from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States, have developed an approach which can alert them to the death of cancer cells the moment the drugs being to work.

Using a nanoparticle that delivers cancer therapy and then glows green when cancer cells die, researchers were able to see whether a tumour is resistant or susceptible to chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

The finding was published in The Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences.

“Using this approach, the cells light up the moment a cancer drug starts working. We can determine if a cancer therapy is effective within hours of treatment,” said Dr Shiladitya Sengupta,a principal investigator in Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Bioengineering.

“Our long-term goal is to find a way to monitor outcomes very early so that we don’t give a chemotherapy drug to patients who are not responding to it.”

The technique takes advantage of the fact that when cells die, an enzyme known as caspase is activated. The researchers developed a “reporter element” which glows green when in the presence of this enzyme.

They then tested whether they could use “reporter nanoparticles” to distinguish whether tumours were sensitive to treatment in lab tests.

Using nanoparticles loaded with anti-cancer drugs, the team tested a chemotherapy called paclitaxel, in a pre-clinical model of prostate cancer and an immunotherapy in a pre-clinical model of melanoma.

In the tumours that were sensitive to paclitaxel, there was a 400 per cent increase in fluorescence compared to tumours that were not sensitive to the drug.

The team also saw a significant increase in the fluorescent signal in tumours treated with the immunotherapy after five days.

The researchers now plan to see whether the findings can be tested in humans.

Falkland Islands lie in Argentinian waters: UN

A UN decision that expands Argentina’s maritime territory in the South Atlantic Ocean to include the Falklands will be key in its dispute with Britain over the islands, the Argentine foreign ministry says.

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The Argentine foreign ministry says its waters had increased by 35 per cent or 1.7 million square kilometres.

Argentina lost a brief, bloody 1982 war with Britain after Argentine troops seized the South Atlantic archipelago that Latin Americans call the Malvinas.

The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf sided with Argentina earlier this month, ratifying the country’s 2009 report fixing the limit of its territory at 320-560km from its coast.

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“This is a historic occasion for Argentina because we’ve made a huge leap in the demarcation of the exterior limit of our continental shelf,” Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra said. “This reaffirms our sovereignty rights over the resources of our continental shelf.”

Oil exploration is already pumping millions of dollars into the Falkland Islands economy. Many islanders remain concerned about Argentina’s claim as well as the potential for problems from rapid change brought by the new industry.

The UN commission’s finding included the caveat that there is an unresolved diplomatic dispute between Argentina and Britain over the islands.

The Falklands are internally self-governing, but Britain is responsible for its defence and foreign affairs. The British government says islanders cannot be forced to accept Argentine sovereignty against their will.

The Falkland Islands government said on Monday that it is seeking clarification from the British government on “what, if any, decisions have been made, and what implications there may be” for the territory in relation to the UN ruling.

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“As soon as we have any firm information we will make it available,” Mike Summers, chairman of the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands, said in an emailed statement.

“Our understanding has always been that the UN would not make any determination on applications for continental shelf extension in areas where there are competing claims.”

There was no immediate comment from Britain’s government.

Two ministers embroiled in donations saga

There are calls for two federal government ministers to answer questions about their role in the NSW Liberal Party political donations controversy or stand aside.

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The NSW Electoral Commission is refusing to pay the Liberals more than $4.4 million until it reveals the secret donors who poured about $700,000 into the party’s coffers ahead of the 2011 state election.

Cabinet secretary Arthur Sinodinos was the party’s treasurer and finance director at the time.

Prime Minister Turnbull insists Senator Sinodinos has provided a detailed response to the matters.

“Arthur Sinodinos is a very important member of the cabinet,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.

Senator Sinodinos’ lawyers have sought from the commission a retraction of parts of its summary of facts which the senator says used “loose language which could convey erroneous impressions”.

Meanwhile, Angus Taylor became the second federal government frontbencher to become tangled up in the controversy.

Fairfax Media claims the cities minister was a member of the party’s finance committee when he discussed using the controversial Free Enterprise Foundation to channel prohibited donations.

“Full compliance and disclosure is the standard I adhere to and will always adhere to,” Mr Taylor said in a statement, adding that the media report had left out other key facts.

Labor frontbencher Brendan O’Connor said the matters have not been fully resolved by the NSW anti-corruption watchdog.

“These are very serious questions of these two ministers but also a very serious question of character and judgment of Malcolm Turnbull,” Mr O’Connor told reporters in Melbourne.

He said the duo must answer questions candidly or if they refuse, Mr Turnbull must stand them down.

We don’t need the empire to give us any presents, Fidel Castro tells Obama

Fidel Castro has responded to President Barack Obama’s historic trip to Cuba with a long, bristling letter recounting the history of US aggression against Cuba, writing that “we don’t need the empire to give us any presents.

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The 1500-word letter in state media titled “Brother Obama” was Castro’s first response to the president’s three-day visit last week, in which the American president said he had come to bury the two countries’ history of Cold War hostility.

Obama did not meet with the 89-year-old Fidel Castro on the trip but met several times with his 84-year-old brother Raul Castro, the current Cuban president.

Obama’s visit was intended to build irreversible momentum behind his opening with Cuba and to convince the Cuban people and the Cuban government that a half-century of US attempts to overthrow the Communist government had ended, allowing Cuban to reform its economy and political system without the threat of US interference.

Fidel Castro writes of Obama: “My modest suggestion is that he reflects and doesn’t try to develop theories about Cuban politics.”

Castro, who led Cuba for decades before handing power to his brother in 2008, was legendary for his hours-long, all-encompassing speeches.

His letter reflects that style, presenting a sharp contrast with Obama’s tightly focused speech in Havana.

Castro goes over crucial sections of Obama’s speech line by line, with pointed critiques of perceived slights and insults, including Obama’s failure to give credit to indigenous Cubans and Castro’s prohibition of racial segregation after coming to power in 1959.

He returns to a review of a half-century of US aggression against Cuba. Those events include the decades-long US trade embargo against the island; the 1961 Bay of Pigs attack and the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner backed by exiles who took refuge in the US.

Castro ends with a dig at the Obama administration’s drive to increase business ties with Cuba. The Obama administration says re-establishing economic ties with the US will be a boon for Cuba, whose centrally planned economy has struggled to escape from over-dependence on imports and a chronic shortage of hard currency.

The focus on US-Cuba business ties appears to have particularly rankled Castro, who nationalised US companies after coming to power in 1959 and established the communist system into which his brother is now introducing gradual market-based reforms.

“No one should pretend that the people of this noble and selfless country will renounce its glory and its rights,” Fidel Castro wrote.

“We are capable of producing the food and material wealth that we need with with work and intelligence of our people.”

 

Barba in Origin reckoning: Walters

Even Ben Barba said he might never reach his stellar best form again.

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But new Queensland coach Kevin Walters believes the Cronulla fullback is now the closest he’s been to reproducing that sizzling play that earned him the Dally M Medal in 2012.

And it could earn him a Maroons State of Origin debut, with Walters on Tuesday naming Barba one of three contenders to replace injured fullback Billy Slater this season.

Greg Inglis remains the frontrunner, with Darius Boyd also a strong option, however Barba’s early-season NRL form has put him in contention.

“He (Barba) is back to somewhere near what he was showing in 2012,” said Walters.

“Obviously he’s been involved in our different emerging programs over the years. Selectors are certainly aware of Ben’s talents.

“It was a good performance from him again (against Melbourne on Monday), so that’s good signs from him and good signs for Queensland as well.”

So impressed has Walters been with Barba’s opening month that the former Canterbury star could also be in contention to oust 2015 supersub and North Queensland grand final hero Michael Morgan from the bench.

Morgan played all three games in last year’s series, replacing previous utility Daly Cherry-Evans.

“(Barba’s) got the x-factor when he comes into those sorts of games. It’s worked well for Queensland in the past to have someone of his calibre on the bench,” Walters said.

“Michael Morgan’s done a terrific job there for Queensland over the past couple of years. It depends on who’s available for June 1. We’re still several weeks away from that.”

The Maroons are well-served for fullback candidates across the NRL, with Inglis, Boyd, Dane Gagai and Barba all currently wearing the No.1 for their respective clubs.

However skipper Cameron Smith said Inglis deserved first crack in an Origin positional shift from centre to No.1.

“I think going off game three last year, you’d have to consider Greg to be the fullback,” he said.

“Given Greg’s playing fullback for his club each week and he’s been quite outstanding when he’s played there for us in the past, you’d lean towards Greg being our fullback at this stage.”

Queensland name their side for game one after round 11.

No concerns over Duncan report: Scott

Geelong coach Chris Scott is confident Mitch Duncan will have no case to answer for a flying elbow that could sideline Hawthorn skipper Luke Hodge with a broken arm.

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Duncan was reported for the bump in the final term of Monday’s 30-point win over the Hawks, with Hodge leaving the field to have ice applied to his right forearm after the clash.

Despite the possible consequences for Hodge, Scott was confident the AFL match review panel would throw out the report.

“I’ll preface what I’m about to say by saying that we haven’t looked at it exhaustively, but we’ve got no concerns over that – no concerns at all,” Scott told reporters immediately after the game.

“In fact, if you asked Hodgey, I think he would say that he should have no concerns either.

“If that’s reportable, Luke Hodge would have been reported 50 times in his career.”

Hodge went straight from the MCG to hospital for X-rays and will consult with club doctors on Tuesday to decide if surgery is necessary.

Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson wasn’t optimistic Hodge would get a favourable report from his medical staff.

“I would suggest it doesn’t look too good because he is a pretty fierce warrior and he doesn’t usually come off the ground,” Clarkson said.

“He was icing up after the game and was pretty sore, so we’ll just wait and see, but he is probably likely to miss a bit of footy, I reckon.

“Hopefully it’s not (broken) because if it’s not broken he’ll play next week, but as I said, he doesn’t usually come off the ground for an injury like that, so it must be pretty sore.”