Eagles captain Darren Glass to play on

West Coast skipper Darren Glass will play on into a 15th AFL season after agreeing to a new one-year deal.

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Glass was named the All-Australian skipper last year, and remains near the peak of his powers as a key defender.

The 32-year-old has missed just five games over the past three years, and is confident his body will hold up to the rigours of another season at the elite level.

“It was a question of talking to a few people about the decision,” Glass said.

“Just making sure it was the right thing for all parties and that the club wanted me to play on.

“This year has not produced the results we were looking for, but I have great confidence in the playing group and the coaching staff.

“I enjoy being around the football club, but left the decision until this stage of the season because I would not be continuing if I could not compete at the level I expect of myself and the club and my teammates expect of me.”

Glass has captained West Coast since 2008, and earlier this week indicated he would be keen to stay on in the role should his teammates vote him in again.

The four-time All-Australian is desperate to guide West Coast back into premiership mode next year following the club’s slide down the table in 2013.

Glass has played 258 games since making his debut in 2000, placing him fifth on the club’s all-time games played list.

Only Glen Jakovich (276), Dean Cox (269), Guy McKenna (267) and Drew Banfield (265) sit above him.

Fellow veteran Cox is also expected to play on next year, while wingman Andrew Embley is seeking a new deal.

But 29-year-old Adam Selwood is expected to retire at season’s end following a campaign blighted by injury and poor form.

Injury-plagued forward Mark Nicoski, who hasn’t played an AFL game for the past two years, may be forced to do the same.


Comment: How processed food makes you eat more

By Belinda Lennerz, Harvard University

In theory, weight reduction is as simple as cutting down on the number of calories consumed.

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But most people continue to overeat, driven by constant temptation.

While many argue that maintaining a healthy weight is an individual responsibility, the widespread availability of tasty but highly-processed food provides a temptation to overeat that many simply cannot resist.

Addicted to food?

This inability to resist gave us the idea of testing whether certain types of food can lead to “addiction”.

While some experts argue we can’t be addicted to food because eating is essential for life, people eat for many reasons unrelated to their daily energy requirements. Many eat out of stress, for instance, or frustration or for pleasure.

We wanted to know whether these eating behaviours are perpetuated by highly-processed, tasty food, especially those with a high glycaemic index. High glycaemic index foods include refined starches and concentrated sugar and cause a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar after consumption.

Typically, blood sugar falls below fasting level within a few hours of a high glycaemic index meal, causing hunger and leading to overeating.

Conversely, foods with a low glycaemic index, such as whole fruit, vegetables, legumes and minimally-processed grain, produce relatively little blood sugar fluctuation, and longer satiation.

Our research

We aimed to understand how highly-processed carbohydrates can cause such a strong surge to overeat. Is it just a matter of blood sugar levels? Or does the supreme tastiness of highly-processed foods play a role?

In order to answer these questions, we created two milkshakes, one with a high, and one with a low glycaemic index. The milkshakes were otherwise identical, with similar calories, macronutrients and taste.

We gave the milkshakes to 12 healthy, overweight men on different days and in random order. Four hours after the high glycaemic index shake, participants were hungrier than those who had consumed the low glycaemic index shake.

We also did functional MRI imaging on all 12 participants. The images revealed intense activation of the nucleus accumbens, a critical brain area in the dopaminergic, mesolimbic system that mediates pleasure eating, reward and craving.

Similar activation patterns have been found in people after consumption of addictive substances, such as heroin and cocaine.

What it all means

Our findings provide qualified support for the possibility of food addiction.

While food is necessary for life, we eat for reasons beyond our daily energy needs. When overeating becomes a pattern that is hard to break, we say someone is “addicted” to food.

Previous studies looking at food addiction have compared brain activation in response to palatable foods and linked addictive behaviours to the pleasure and reward that people experience after eating them.

But those studies typically compare grossly different foods, such as cheesecake versus vegetables, and raise the possibility of confounding. This means the addictive pattern may be caused by any number of food properties, such as appearance or taste, a subject’s preference for certain foods, or the number of calories consumed.

Our study controlled for confounding dietary factors and suggests that the glycaemic index can independently affect hunger and overeating. More research is needed to examine the relevance of the idea of food addiction and the treatment of eating disorders and obesity.

But the fact that a food property may affect addiction centres in the brain, independent of calories or pleasure, provides the basis to rethink current dietary recommendations.

Obesity is one of the hardest conditions to treat as dietary restrictions often cannot be maintained in the long term. Any help a person can get in maintaining a healthy energy balance is valuable. This line of research may inform novel and individualised approaches to a healthy weight.

Belinda Lennerz does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.


Comment: Culture under Abbott remains to be seen

When Paul Keating was on the ropes in 1996 he made one of his final pitches for re-election with a seemingly obvious but sobering proposition.

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“When the government changes, the country changes,” he said.

It did. And it did. Not just economically. But socially – and culturally.

Two weeks out from election day the Rudd Government is preparing for a shattering loss. Forget celebrity candidates. Forget trying to re-kindle the magical momentum of six years ago by re-contesting the Kevin ’07 election. Voters have long memories. And while much could yet happen, the race callers are all but calling it over.

The Federal Coalition is trying to keep a lid on hubris and corral the mounting controversy over its costings, pinching itself that it may be heading for a House of Representatives majority with a two in front of it. That’s right – think twenty-something seats.

The Labor Government, despite its manifest policy achievements – not least on disability insurance, paid parental leave, carbon pricing, education reforms and world-renowned tobacco plain packaging – has been a shambolic testament to the poison of division.

Meanwhile, Tony Abbott’s Liberals – with their mantra of Stop the Boats, Scrap the Carbon Tax and Mining Tax – have brought new meaning to the political potency of the simple message. It’s not hard to remember what they say they stand for – regardless of whether they’ll actually do any of it should they be elected.

Keating’s unheeded warning was, of course, as much about how the country would see itself – and be seen by others – under a new conservative government. It was a fair question to ask back then. For no sooner had the Howard Government been elected than the so-called culture war was declared.

The war took place on many fronts. But it was hardest fought around and within Australia’s cultural institutions, not least the ABC and the National Museum of Australia.

If a single item could symbolise the culture war as it manifested at the museum, it would be Mistake Creek Massacre – a painting by the Kimberley artists Queenie McKenzie.

Up to eight Aboriginal men, women and children were murdered at Mistake Creek in the eastern Kimblerly in 1915. It has always been hotly contested whether the killing party included white men – or just Aborigines exacting revenge as part of an internecine inter-tribal feud.

But the context is important.

By conservative estimates, at least 20,000 Aborigines and 2000 colonial settlers, troops, police and militia were killed in fighting on the Australian pastoral frontier between 1788 and the last know massacre of indigenous people at Coniston, Western Australia, in 1928.

It is a dark, long, ugly, chapter in Australia’s past – albeit one that is uncomfortably central to our nationhood. It has never been adequately dealt with in formal school curriculums (some of us were blessed to have history teachers who urged us to probe the uncomfortable truths) or by many of our cultural institutions, including the Australian War Memorial.

But the National Museum of Australia, which found a permanent home on a sacred Aboriginal site in Canberra in 2001, has endeavoured – consistent with its mandate to preserve and interpret Australia’s social history – to tell the story through its exhibitions such as Contested Frontier and acquisitions, such as Mistake Creek Massacre.

The museum purchased the painting in 2005. But the museum’s board – stacked with Howard Government appointees that shared the prime minister’s view that Australians should not dwell on a “black armband” interpretation of colonial history – rejected the painting for inclusion into the National Historical Collection.

Diverging accounts of Aboriginal massacres are common. Black trackers as well as white police, soldiers and settler vigilantes were often involved. The prosecutions of white protagonists was rare.

But the fact is that McKenzie’s 1997 painting depicts the massacre at Mistake Creek according to Aboriginal oral history.

In any event, last year – following a review of items in the broader museum collection – the institution’s council unanimously agreed to incorporate Mistake Creek Massacre into the National Historical Collection. While the decision was made without publicity or fanfare, it was lauded by progressive historians, curators and arts administrators as a major, decisive victory.

In March this year the Labor veteran Simon Crean unveiled Creative Australia – the first national arts policy (funded with $235 million) for 20 years.

Labor was imploding at the time. Crean – who was intricately caught up in the leadership intrigue – lost the Arts portfolio and went to the backbench. The policy, embraced by Australia’s artists, was subsumed by Labor turmoil.

Tony Burke has taken Crean’s portfolio. But Burke’s focus has been on his other portfolio, Immigration, and there has been little – if any – substantive debate on arts and broader cultural policy in the election campaign.

The Shadow Arts Minister George Brandis has made some noteworthy noises, however, saying that Labor did not take the arts serious. He declared former Treasurer Wayne Swan to be a Philistine; said former Arts Minister Peter Garrett had narrow interests confined to popular music and Aboriginal art; that the Liberal Party was full of arts patrons; that Tony Abbott was better versed in the “classics” than any MP and that Malcolm Turnbull is “as close to a Medicean figure as any in Australian politics”.

Does this suggest a rather top-down approach to Arts policy? Will a Coalition Government seek to reinforce its own tastes? Will it seek to pick and cultivate winners from within communities and cultural sectors that it favours? Or will it encourage musicians, artists and writers to stay in the field and to tell the stories that reflect the beauty, complexity, natural fortune and yes, the difficult history, of this country?The jury is out, of course, and the election not yet run.

Shadow Education Minister Christopher Pyne has outlined as a Coalition Government priority the restoration of Anzac Day to its rightful place in the national curriculum – parts of which, he says, presented a “black armband view of history”.

“We think that of course we should recognise the mistakes that have been made in the past. But . . . we don’t want to beat ourselves up every day.”

Fair enough.

Let’s wait and see. And keep an eye on the ABC too.

When the government changes . . .

Paul Daley is the recipient of the Walkley Award for Investigative Journalism and the Paul Lyneham Award for Excellence in Press Gallery Journalism.

The Observer Effect airs Sundays 8.30pm AEST on SBS One.


Further criticism of mainland excision

There has been widespread criticism of controversial legislation which excises the Australian mainland from the migration zone.

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The law, which passed the Senate this week, is supposedly designed to deter asylum seeker boat arrivals.

 

But as Erdem Koc reports, refugeee advocates say it won’t go far in achieving that aim.

 

The Amendment Bill to the Migration Act now awaits royal assent after passing the Senate with the support of Labor and the Coalition.

 

The new laws means all asylum seekers arriving by boat can be processed at Australia’s overseas detention facilities on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

 

Previously, only people arriving on Ashmore Island, the Cartier Islands, Christmas Island and the Cocos Islands were subject to overseas processing.

 

Anyone who arrived in mainland Australia — such as the 66 Sri Lankans who arrived in Geraldton last month — could apply for asylum and remain on the mainland while their claims were being processed.

 

Now, the law applies to any asylum seeker who arrives by boat.

 

The legislative change mirrors a failed plan put forward by the Howard government in 2006 — something Labor had bitterly opposed.

 

Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor says it will discourage people from embarking on life-threatening boat journeys.

 

It’s a notion adamantly denied by Social Justice Network spokesman Jamal Daoud.

 

“I don’t think we can stop boats to come to Australia totally anyway, during any other time in the Australian history. But if the government is looking for more humane way to deal with this issue and save lives and to break the people smugglers’ module as they claim, they could introduce for example, a processing centre in Indonesia in Jakarta.”

 

This is a sentiment echoed by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

 

Its chief executive Kon Karapanagiotidis says the legislation fails to acknowledge and deal with the larger issues at play.

 

“Why do these people get on to boats in the first place? It’s because of war and conflict. Why do we spend billions locking them up? Because we want to appease red-necks. What is the alternative? It’s actually building regional frameworks, tackling the reason people fleeing, and processing people compassionately. People, when fleeing for their lives, are going to keep getting on boats when our government and our country offers no other safe passage for them in our region.”

 

The idea was one of the 25 recommendations put forward by Labor’s expert panel on asylum seekers.

 

The Houston panel was tasked with advising the government on the best way to dissuade asylum seekers trying to reach Australia on boats.

 

Amnesty International’s refugee campaign coordinator, Graeme McGregor, says there’s really only one way to achieve that goal.

 

“In order to deter people from making that journey, we would have to make conditions in Australia even worse than they are in other countries in the Asia-Pacific where people are persecuted for seeking asylum, where they’re publicly caned or imprisoned and treated as criminals. We would have to make conditions for asylum seekers in Australia and its territories as bad as the conditions that people are actually fleeing because at the end of the day these people are fleeing for their lives – that’s why they make the journey to Australia.”

 

Graeme McGregor says the fact that the legislation only applies to asylum seekers who arrive by boat suggests it’s a political move on part of the government.

 

“Asylum seekers arriving by boat have as much right to seek asylum in Australia as asylum seekers applying from overseas or arriving by plane. That is the right for them granted under international law. The reality is that these people are desperate and they’re seeking safety. And so the method in which they arrive here really should not be an issue.”

 

Mr McGregor points to what he says is the irony in the new legislation.

 

While it’s supposedly attempting to stop asylum seekers from undertaking the dangerous boat journey to Australia, he says those who do will be placed in even more dangerous environments on Manus Island and Nauru.

 

It’s the same concerns that Greens leader Christine Milne raised as the Bill passed through the Senate.

 

“In ten years, 15 years, 20 years, when there is a national apology to the children detained indefinitely in detention for the sole, supposed crime of seeking a better life in our country because they’re running away from persecution with their families — not one of you will be able to stand up and say, oh, we didn’t know, oh it was the culture of the period, oh it was the best way we thought of saying their lives by locking them up in places which t he UNHCR has said is completely unsuitable.”

 

Kon Karapanagiotidis from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre says the new law will be effective for a long time to come.

 

And he says now, there are simply not enough people who are prepared to speak up against it.

 

“The way in which most media would report this and the way in which most of our so-called leaders would report this is some great day and some bullshit message that they’re sending to the people smugglers. Unfortunately I think the misinformation and lies are so deeply embedded in our psyche and culture, I think most Australians won’t have an issue with it, and how sad is that. What an indictment on our country is that.”

 


Concerns over ‘PNG solution’ expansion to Nauru

The federal government’s efforts to be seen to be doing ‘something’ about asylum seekers have widened to incorporate Nauru.

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Asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat can now be processed on the tiny Pacific island and can be resettled there if found to be genuine refugees.

 

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Nauru’s President Baron Waqa signed a memorandum of understanding on Saturday.

 

And refugee activists are among those who oppose the plan, as Kerri Worthington reports.

 

Kevin Rudd made the announcement that unauthorised maritime arrivals could be transferred to Nauru about 24 hours before announcing the general election date.

 

Like the recent deal with Papua New Guinea, it will deny boat people the chance to be resettled in Australia.

 

And like the PNG deal, the details are not clear.

 

What is clear, according to many critics, is that the Rudd government’s latest asylum seeker policies are geared towards a domestic audience, not the people smugglers they’re purported to want to stop.

 

Former human rights lawyer Frank Brennan — a long-term confidant of Kevin Rudd — has told the ABC the policy needs to be seen in the context of an election announcement rather than a credible attempt to stop people smuggling.

 

“But it obviously is designed for the election. It’s obviously very expensive. There’ll be no children sent to Nauru under this scheme before an election so obviously it’s designed for consumption in western Sydney and not in the streets of Indonesia where people are waiting to get on boats.”

 

Mr Rudd says the new deal is consistent with Australia’s obligations under the refugee convention.

 

He also says he understands Nauru is a small country and it’s up to the government of Nauru to decide on the number of people who could be permanently resettled there.

 

But the resettlement aspect of the plan appears to have been thrown into doubt by the Nauru government.

 

A spokeswoman for the Nauru government has told Fairfax Media that none of the asylum seekers will get citizenship or be considered permanent residents.

 

Greens leader Christine Milne says it’s absurd to even think about settling asylum seekers on Nauru — a 21 square kilometre rock with no food production, insecure water supply and high unemployment.

 

“Within two days, the wheels had fallen off this cruel, cruel plan, with Nauru now saying they never had any expectation that people would be permanently resettled on Nauru. What they’re saying is that they would be effectively a permanent warehouse. People left in limbo in this cruel situation, and the Prime Minister Rudd thinks that that is okay.”

 

However, Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Coalition says Kevin Rudd was careful not to say refugees would definitely be resettled on Nauru.

 

“My understanding is that Nauru has agreed to resettle people who request to stay. So if someone is processed and found to be a refugee — well actually they’ll only accept families and there are no families on Nauru at present and very unlikely to be there for the next few months but if there was to be a family found to be refugees then the Nauru government would consider resettling someone who requested to resettle. But it’s very different in that respect to the Manus Island (policy) but those details are being glossed over.”

 

Mr Rintoul says the government details will start to trickle out as they have with the PNG deal.

 

PNG politicians are now saying that deal was only signed on the expectation that very few people were going to be sent there.

 

But Ian Rintoul says it’s not in the government’s interests to allow too much scrutiny of either agreement because Kevin Rudd needs to get to the election before their unravelling becomes apparent.

 

“Kevin Rudd wants to give the appearance that he’s got a solution every bit as harsh as Tony Abbott. We’ve got policy for domestic consumption designed only for it to be believable to the election and that Kevin Rudd will deal with all the contradictions and the fact that the thing is untenable after the election.”

 


Are we neglecting our elderly?

Australian of the Year, Ita Buttrose says she’s prepared to pressure governments into acting over concerns about aged care.

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Ms Buttrose says she wants to publish first hand accounts from people who’ve written to her about how their loved ones have been treated in aged care facilities.

 

She says she’s appalled by the stories of neglect and poor treatment, including people being left malnourished and prescribed anti-psychotic medications.

 

This report by Greg Dyett.

 

It’s something Ita Buttrose has been doing for decades – campaigning to get governments to take public health challenges seriously.

 

In the 1980s it was over HIV-AIDS where she played a key role in shaping a national response which prevented thousands of people from becoming infected.

 

These days she’s campaigning to improve Australia’s response to dementia as the national president of Alzheimer’s Australia.

 

Ita Buttrose says the stories of neglect and inappropriate care are a symptom of a society that doesn’t put enough importance on how it treats its older citizens.

 

She says politicians and the bureaucrats who administer the system should ask themselves what they would expect if they were in aged care.

 

“What kind of care would we all want, would people in government, would people in the public service want if they had to go in to an aged care facility and if they had dementia, how would they wish to be looked after, would they wish to be given anti-psychotic drugs which happens in many nursing homes so that they remain passive and not a problem to anybody, would they wish to be not fed well, not fed sometimes at all or would they like to have the sort of care that one would expect to have in our later years? A loving, attentive, well fed, warm, things to do, activities, I mean people with dementia still need activities, they can’t just sit in front of the television and do nothing.”

 

One factor contributing to the problems Ita Buttrose identifies is a degradation in training.

 

Nurse educator Doctor Maree Bernoth has spent almost two decades teaching nursing and carrying out research.

 

Dr Bernoth has been studying health care outcomes in aged care since 2006 and she says standards are dropping partly because some of the people providing care in nursing homes are not as well trained as they could be.

 

“When the national, nationally accredited course came in, people had to do a course, it was around about a 12 month course and people had to have 150 hours of clinical experience before they got their Certificate 3. Now you can do a Certificate 3 in aged care work in a weekend. Over a weekend, you can do it online, you can do the Certificate 3 aged care work without actually touching an older person.”

 

There are other problems too for families who are looking for culturally-appropriate aged care.

 

Ljubica Petrov is the manager of the Melbourne-based Centre for Cultural Diversity and Ageing.

 

She says elderly people from migrant backgrounds would be better served if there was a greater use of language services in nursing homes.

 

“In residential aged care services there is a very minimal use of language services. The Department of Health and Ageing does fund language services to be available to improve communication between service providers, carers and their service users. However I do know that that service is not utilised to its maximum.”

 

Ljubica Petrov says Australia’s aged care regulators have a role to play in helping to improve the way aged care service providers treat people from diverse backgrounds.

 

“The aged care standards that are monitored by the aged care standards and accreditation agency often tend to relegate cultural diversity into the sphere of lifestyle. However our message is that cultural diversity needs to be addressed across all standards. That is it’s imperative for people to be able to communicate effectively and to know about specific needs that belonging to a particular culture might have with it when they’re delivering clinical care, pastoral care, any service that they provide.”

 

Ita Buttrose believes the power lies with the people.

 

She says it’s going to take a public campaign to force governments to address the issues.

 

Ita Buttrose says publishing the letters she’s received will prompt action.

 

“I’m going to seek permission of those people who have written to me to publish their letters, I’m very happy to remove names and places and all those sort of things and naturally I wouldn’t put anything that no one would give me the tick to do (permission to do) but the only way, the only way I think we can really convince governments that they need to take action is by publishing or putting on our website the real life stories of people and you can tell from the way they write that what they’re telling you is very true and very truthful, no one is making anything up here.”

 

 

 

 

 


Cameron warns Spain PM over Gibraltar

British Prime Minister David Cameron has warned his Spanish counterpart that the Gibraltar border tensions risked damaging relations between London and Madrid.

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Cameron also told Mariano Rajoy in a telephone conversation on Wednesday that Britain’s stance on Gibraltar’s sovereignty would not change.

The British prime minister called Rajoy “to raise serious concerns about actions by the Spanish at the border with Gibraltar”, a Downing Street spokeswoman said.

The British premier said the issue “should not damage our bilateral relations. However there was a real risk of this happening unless the situation at the border improved,” the spokeswoman said.

Gibraltar had accused Spain of deliberately holding up cars entering the tiny British overseas territory by searching every vehicle and creating delays of up to six hours during the last weekend in July.

Gibraltar’s chief minister argued that the heightened border checks were in retaliation over its decision to build an artificial reef in surrounding waters, aimed at stopping alleged incursions by Spanish fishing boats in waters around the peninsula which Madrid claims as its own.

On Wednesday, Rajoy told Cameron that Gibraltar’s move to build the reef was “unacceptable”, a Spanish government statement said.

Tensions rose further over the weekend when Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo suggested that Madrid could impose a 50-euro (about $A75) charge to cross the Gibraltar border in either direction.

Cameron called Rajoy “to raise serious concerns about actions by the Spanish at the border with Gibraltar and suggestions from (Garcia-Margallo) that they may introduce further measures”, the spokeswoman said.

“The PM made clear that our position on the sovereignty of Gibraltar and its surrounding waters will not change.

“He also reiterated, as the PM and Mr Rajoy had previously agreed, that the issue should not damage our bilateral relations. However there was a real risk of this happening unless the situation at the border improved.

“Mr Rajoy agreed that he did not want the issue to become an obstacle in the bilateral relations and that we needed to find a way to de-escalate the issue.

“As a next step, the Foreign Secretary (William Hague) should speak to Mr Garcia-Margallo to discuss a way forward.

“In the meantime, Prime Minister Rajoy committed to reducing measures at the border. Both leaders agreed that there should be a solution to the fishing dispute.”

Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in perpetuity in 1713 but has long argued that it should be returned to Spanish sovereignty. London says it will not do so against the wishes of Gibraltarians, who are staunchly pro-British.

The internally self-governing British overseas territory, measuring just 6.8 square kilometres, is home to about 30,000 people.

The peninsula, dominated by the giant limestone Rock of Gibraltar monolith, overlooks the only entrance to the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean.


Japan probes festival blast, 59 injured

Japanese police are investigating the cause of an explosion at a fireworks festival which left at least 59 people injured, including some with serious burns when it ripped through the crowded site.

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Witnesses recounted seeing victims, including children, screaming as they rolled around on the ground to try to extinguish the flames, while the thousands who had gathered for the Thursday night festival fled in panic.

The explosion is believed to have erupted at one of hundreds of snack counters lining a nearby riverbank at the festival, which is held annually outside the ancient capital of Kyoto and attracts upwards of 100,000 people.

Video footage showed the stalls, which had been selling drinks and food, going up in flames and sending smoke into the night sky, before a larger blast erupted.

Early accounts said the incident was believed to have been caused by a gas cylinder, but Jiji Press news agency said police suspect the fire may have started when a vendor added petrol to a running power generator.

“I heard a bang and then saw a billow of smoke,” one 37-year-old man, who had been volunteering near the site, told Kyodo news agency.

Koichi Tanimura, head of the local chamber of commerce which organised the festival, apologised for the accident at a press conference on Friday afternoon.

“I believe the vendor should be held responsible, but we also have a moral responsibility,” Japanese media quoted him as saying.

“I would like to apologise to those who were injured.”

Pictures from the scene showed charred snack booths and an abandoned baby stroller among the picnic blankets and clothing left behind after the crowd fled in the aftermath of the blast.

Of the 59 injured, at least 19 people suffered major burns and other serious injuries, according to police. One 10-year-old boy remained in intensive care on Friday.

“I heard a boy crying, ‘atsui, atsui (hot, hot)’,” one middle-aged man told Nippon Television from the scene on Friday morning.

“People gathered ice cubes from wherever they could and used them to cool peoples’ burns,” he added.

The fireworks display was cancelled after the incident. It was unclear how many spectators were in the immediate vicinity of the festival, which was held in Fukuchiyama city, about 70 kilometres north of Kyoto.

A 27-year-old male witness told the top-selling daily Yomiuri Shimbun that he saw the fire start near a jerry can sitting next to a generator at the back of a snack counter.

When a man, who appeared to be the vendor, opened the can’s lid, a hissing noise was heard just before a fire started, the Yomiuri said.

“We’ll have to see the results of our on-site investigation to determine the cause of the fire,” a local police officer said on Friday.


Vic murderer told ‘preposterous’ lies

The man who killed Melbourne prostitute Johanna “Jazzy O” Martin told scurrilous and preposterous lies in his own defence, a judge says.

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Steve Constantinou was last week found guilty of murdering Ms Martin, a 65-year-old sex worker and stripper also known as Honi, at his Port Melbourne apartment in October 2011.

Victorian Supreme Court Justice Phillip Priest said Constantinou had not shown any remorse at all for his crimes, and had lied to avoid being held accountable.

“In my observation his defence was scurrilous and time wasting,” Justice Priest said during Constantinou’s plea hearing on Wednesday.

“I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that he perjured himself and perjured himself deliberately.”

Constantinou, 49, had claimed Ms Martin’s death was the result of a sex act gone wrong, but prosecutors said he murdered her to avoid repaying a debt of several thousand dollars.

Justice Priest said he found Constantinou’s evidence to be preposterous.

“Anyone with a modicum of intelligence would have rejected his evidence,” he said.

After he killed Ms Martin, Constantinou stole some of her jewellery and sold it at a Footscray pawn shop, before putting bets on at a nearby pub.

He later returned to the apartment, wrapped Ms Martin’s body and dumped it in bushes on Lorimer Street.

Ms Martin’s friend Barbara Bushell told the court Ms Martin was very happy in the months leading up to her death and was looking forward to an overseas holiday.

“This lady for the first time in her life had found peace,” she said.

Defence barrister Shane Tyrrell said Constantinou had suffered a gambling addiction since 1987, and conceded that he was a petty thief.

However, he said the killing was totally out of character and Constantinou had mostly been a kind friend to Ms Martin.

Constantinou’s trial heard that Ms Martin had about $3 million in assets that included properties and cars.

Justice Priest will sentence Constantinou on Friday.


Stagg named as latest Broncos centre

Utility David Stagg has been asked to fill the huge shoes left behind by injured Broncos centre Justin Hodges in Friday night’s must-win NRL clash with Parramatta at Suncorp Stadium.

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But prop Josh McGuire looks set to face the most daunting test after admitting fiery Eels forward Mitch Allgood will be looking for him following their round nine stink.

Stagg will hope to add some backline punch after being thrust into the centres for Hodges, who underwent surgery on Tuesday on his season-ending Achilles injury.

McGuire has also been tipped to come out swinging when reunited with Allgood.

The last time the teams met Jarryd Hayne inspired a 19-18 Parramatta win but the talking point was McGuire’s toe-to-toe fisticuffs with Allgood that resulted in a sin bin stint for both.

McGuire reacted to Allgood’s huge hit on then halfback Peter Wallace – and did not rule out doing it again despite the “one punch and you’re off” rule that is now enforced.

“You have to protect your halves,” McGuire said on Tuesday.

Asked if he expected Allgood to come looking for him on Friday night, McGuire said: “I am a frontrower, he is a frontrower – you go looking for each other in the game anyway.

“I am sure that will happen.

“But I have moved on (from the round nine fight).”

Fellow Broncos prop Ben Hannant agreed the Broncos’ constant backline reshuffles this season due to injury have been a worry but believed combating the Eels’ front row would be the key issue against the Eels.

“That’s what we have to handle first – their big guys in the middle,” he said.

“The last couple of times we have played them they have blown us off the park up the middle.”

The Eels may be wooden spoon favourites, two wins adrift of second last Wests Tigers, but Hannant was wary following Parramatta’s last round 26-22 win.

“No one wants to get the wooden spoon and they have to cement positions in the team for next year,” he said.

“We are not going into the game thinking we are playing the wooden spooners. We are up against a side with a lot to prove.”

The 11th placed Brisbane’s last round 26-24 win over the Dragons kept them in the finals mix but Hannant said they were a “long way off” thinking about a top eight finish.

“If you are looking four weeks ahead you are kidding yourself from the position we are in,” he said.

But McGuire wasn’t so sure.

“The sky’s the limit. I think we have broken the ice. Each week we are building. We have belief in ourselves,” he said.

Besides Stagg, Jordan Kahu (hand) returns from injury to replace last round’s debutant winger Jordan Drew.