Benzema brace as France overrun 10-man Honduras

Benzema bagged a brace himself, while a bizarre own goal by Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares saw goal line technology used for the first time in a World Cup to confirm the ball had crossed the line.

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In a bruising encounter, Honduras were reduced to 10-men after Wilson Palacios charged into French midfielder Paul Pogba seconds before the break in a challenge that had him sent-off for a second booking. Benzema smashed home the resulting penalty to give France a lead they deserved having dominated the first 45 minutes.

Three minutes into the second half, Benzema stole past the defence to shoot across goal with his shot coming back off the far post, rolling along the line and going in off Valladares.

Benzema struck again with 18 minutes left when he shot from a narrow angle on the right past Valladares and into the roof of the net, earning a rendition of “La Marsellaise” from the red, white and blue clad French fans.

The result will go a long way towards helping the 1998 champions banish the ghost of their disastrous campaign in South Africa, when the players mutinied against coach Raymond Domenech and returned home in disgrace.

It also signalled that Benzema could be one of stars of the tournament.

Coach Didier Deschamps will take heart that the French looked composed and did not get flustered when the goals were slow to come, although arguably they could have banged in a few more in the second half against the reduced Honduran side.

On top of Benzema’s performance, defender Mathieu Debuchy looked impressive, notably for his forays up the right.

“I think it is a marvellous start for us. It was a very important match indeed. Honduras played with high quality and defended aggressively and that was very complicated for us even though we hit the bar twice,” Deschamps said.

The penalty and sending off changed the situation, he said.

“We scored three goals, we could have scored even more goals but it was a good start for our team.”

The match, played before more than 43,000 fans in an almost full Beira Rio stadium, was the first between the two teams.

Despite accusations that Honduras were a thuggish side, France dished it out too and the first yellow card was handed to left back Patrice Evra after he body-checked young midfielder Andy Najar in the 7th minute.

France dominated almost from the start and might have opened their account earlier.

A shot by midfielder Blaise Matuidi was tipped on to the crossbar by Valladares in the 15th minute and Les Bleus rattled the bar again in the 23rd with a header by Antoine Griezmann from Evra’s cross.

The tackles were going in fast and hard and matters came to a head in the 28th minute when Palacios and Pogba tangled on the ground, the veteran Honduran appearing to stamp the Frenchman and receiving a kick in return. Both were given a yellow card but the incident was to have its denouement later.

Just before the break, Palacios clattered into Pogba in the penalty area. Given his second yellow card, he made an ignominious walk off the field and Benzema drilled in the penalty hard and high.

After that, the game was up for the Hondurans.

Three minutes into the second half, Benzema’s shot cannoned off the post and back across the face of goal before Valladares inadvertently pushed it towards his own net.

Despite his desperate efforts to scramble the ball clear, the referee awarded the goal with the aid of the technology. Initially, it was credited to Benzema then logged as an own goal.

“I don’t know if it is good to have goal line technology because football is like that, sometimes you don’t know whether the ball was in or not but the essential thing is that it counted and we won,” Benzema said.

“I’m happy, I’m proud the most important thing is the victory.”

The win puts France in a good frame of mind for the tougher challenge against Switzerland next Friday.

Honduras will have done nothing to lessen their reputation as perennial underdogs with a nasty bite. They will try to salvage some pride and clock up their first ever World Cup win when they tackle Ecuador.

Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez made no excuses for his side.

“They played better than we did. We will have to improve but sometimes it is difficult to play with less players for such a long time especially facing a team that is very well organised.” he said.

“The results would have been different if we had our 11 players but these things happen.”

(Addtional reporting by Rex Gowar and Steve Keating, Editing by Nigel Hunt)

Iran warns against Iraq intervention

Iran has warned that “any foreign military intervention in Iraq” would only complicate the crisis, after the United States said it was deploying a warship in the Gulf.

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“Iraq has the capacity and necessary preparations for the fight against terrorism and extremism,” foreign ministry spokesman Marzieh Afkham said, according to the ISNA news agency.

“Any action that complicates the situation in Iraq is not in the interests of the country nor of the region,” he said.

“The people and government of Iraq will be able to neutralise this conspiracy.”

Iraq is battling an offensive by Sunni militants who have advanced to within 80 kilometres of Baghdad’s city limits after seizing a swathe of the country’s north.

Responding to the crisis, the Pentagon said on Saturday the United States had ordered an aircraft carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush, into the Gulf.

Afkham’s comments come a day after President Hassan Rouhani said he believed the Iraqis have the capacity to “repel terrorism” and that Iran had not been asked for help by its neighbour.

But in surprise comments, he added that Iran may consider cooperating with its arch-foe the United States to fight the Sunni extremist militants in Iraq.

“If we see that the United States takes action against terrorist groups in Iraq, then one can think about it,” he said, despite the lack of diplomatic relations between Tehran and Washington for more than three decades.

“We have said that all countries must unite in combating terrorism. But right now regarding Iraq… we have not seen the Americans taking a decision,” Rouhani added.

However, National Supreme Security Council chief Ali Shamkhani dismissed any US-Iran cooperation over Iraq.

“That is part of a psychological war, and is totally unreal,” Shamkhani said, denouncing “information published in the West’s media”.

How has Iraq lost a third of its territory to ISIS in three days?

By Ali Mamouri, Australian Catholic University

ISIL is an amalgam of Sunni paramilitary forces that operate in Iraq and Syria.

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It is the latest and most successful extremist group to emerge in the region and combines former Ba’th era military officers, former Al-Qaeda members and fundamentalists from countries energised by the Arab Spring. Alienated Muslims from the West have also been attracted by the achievements of ISIL in Syria’s civil war.

Recent territorial gains by ISIL mean the group controls practically the entire Sunni majority regions of Iraq along the Syrian frontier. How could a rebel force of fewer than 10,000 fighters defeat Iraq’s security apparatus of over a million personnel? Can Iraq’s elected government overcome this threat to its authority and very existence?

Why has Iraq’s military failed?

A new Iraqi army was re-established from militia members and low-ranking members of the Ba’th army when it was dissolved in 2003. Senior officers in Saddam Hussein’s forces were dismissed, which gave rise to at least two security issues. Firstly, military officers of the previous army were steered towards terrorist groups. Secondly, Iraq’s new military suffered from the loss of expertise and military discipline instilled by their former officers.

As a result, Iraq’s army lacks the essential expertise and discipline to fight a terrorist group. ISIL fighters in most situations have superior combat experience to the government’s better-equipped forces.

The lack of an effective intelligence agency in Iraq has also enabled ISIL to infiltrate the army. Additionally, political leaders who make the final decisions on military operations are typically inefficient, as the government does not have a clear vision, strategy and effective tactics to overcome national problems.

Poor governance has led to widespread corruption in both political and military spheres. Military personnel are routinely reported to be soliciting bribes, especially in Sunni areas of Iraq.

One of the most dramatic and comical examples of corruption was a recent $85 million contract to acquire ADE 651 bomb-detection devices. At $40,000 per unit it was later revealed that the delivered sonar was a hoax, not more than a child’s toy.

The British government intervened by suspending production, closing the manufacturing company and investigating the contractor, Jim McCormick; he was sentenced to 10 years’ jail in 2013. Despite the ineffectiveness of this military hardware, Iraq’s government still uses these devices without trying to find functional alternatives.

The failure of transitional justice

Transitional justice is one of the most important components of the democratisation process in countries such as Iraq, which has suffered from the long-term effects of dictatorship followed by violent sectarianism. This project has been another policy failure by Iraq’s new government.

Iraq’s elected government officials have tried and punished a few prominent criminals associated with the former regime. They have, however, neglected other aspects of the transitional justice process: truth-seeking, national reconciliation and the combatting of sectarianism and discrimination.

Sunni Iraqis now experience the same issues that Shiites used to endure under Saddam Hussein’s regime. Significant numbers of Sunnis are imprisoned without charge. National and international organisations report a variety of human rights violations involving the government. High rates of sectarianism and discrimination are perpetrated against Sunnis by military forces.

Iraq’s government also discriminates in favour of Shiite militias to the detriment of Sunni militias. The government permits Shiite militias to operate freely across Iraq and Syria and does not consider them terrorists. Some, such as Al-Asaeb, even operate as government allies.

At the same time, the government suppresses any kind of Sunni opposition militia groups – including some civilian-dominated ones. This has all led to a widespread discontent among Sunni people. They may not subscribe to ISIL, but welcome any alternative to their current situation.

Iraq as a regional sectarian warfront

Iraq has become a battleground for competing sectarian interests in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have thrown their support behind Sunni militias in Iraq to pressure Iran and distract it from supporting Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Iran, for its part, has stuck to extremist Shiite parties, showing no tolerance towards moderate Sunni or even moderate Shiite parties.

This has led to the opening of a deadly rift within Iraqi society. Sunnis accuse Shiites of following Iranian agendas. Shiites accuse Sunnis of being the fifth column of Saudi Arabia and Qatar because they do not want to live under the rule of the Shiite majority in their own country.

Even though ISIL cannot maintain its recently gained territory, the current situation is far from optimistic and remains very fragile. Serious problems resulting from decades of dictatorship have combined with the issues arising from a failed new regime.

At the same time, the solution of dividing the country along sectarian lines is rejected by vast numbers of Iraqis, who want to live in a united Iraq. The continued existence of common Sunni-Shiite areas makes any carve-up of Iraq along sectarian lines a very painful and bloody process – one that ISIL’s victories may have initiated.

Ali Mamouri 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.

Bombers rule out injured Carlisle

Essendon have ruled out key forward Jake Carlisle for Saturday night’s AFL elimination final against North Melbourne because of a hamstring injury.

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Carlisle missed last weekend’s final-round clash against Carlton with what had been described as a “one-week hamstring”.

But coach Mark Thompson says he always knew Carlisle would be unable to make a quick return for the cut-throat encounter with the Kangaroos, despite what the club’s medical staff had told him.

“He’s had a scan today and I think they’ve decided he’s going to miss one game, so he’s not playing,” Thompson told reporters on Monday.

“I haven’t seen the scan myself. They’re just saying there’s something there still … there’s damage there.

“So he’s not playing.

“When you have a scan and they say ‘he’s done a hammy’ and then ‘it’s a one-week hammy, we’ll test him Monday again’, I pretty much knew it was going to be two weeks.”

Carlisle’s absence means ruck-forward Tom Bellchambers, who came into the side last round, is set to hold his spot for the MCG clash on Saturday night.

Bellchambers would provide valuable ruck back-up for Paddy Ryder, allowing the latter to push forward and support Joe Daniher.

Ryder and Daniher kicked two goals apiece in Saturday’s draw against Carlton, a result which Thompson acknowledged was not a good dress rehearsal for an elimination final.

“You quickly forget about that and just look forward to the game coming,” he said.

“I know we’ll get the good Essendon. The players are just ready for it.

“They’ll be fine.

“The plan is to start well and play well all day.

“If it doesn’t happen, well the thing is we’ve got pretty good experience at coming back.”

Thompson said David Myers, who missed last week’s game because of illness, would definitely come back into the side this week.

“Apart from that, not too many (changes),” he said.

Mark Baguley was in no doubt despite a cut head last week.

“He’s pretty hard to knock out. He’s got a hard head,” Thompson said.

“He’ll pass the (concussion) test. He probably didn’t get a great score in the first place.”

Batts bureaucrats could face repercussions

Action could be taken against public servants responsible for the deadly pink batts scheme, but the federal ministers who oversaw it, including former prime minister Kevin Rudd, will avoid punishment.

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The royal commission into the scheme found four young men would not have been killed if the Rudd government hadn’t rushed out its $2.8 billion home insulation program in a desperate scramble to boost the economy.

Commission head Ian Hanger, QC, found the deaths of Matthew Fuller, Rueben Barnes, Marcus Wilson, and Mitchell Sweeney, all killed while installing insulation under the program, were avoidable.

Mr Hanger found the ambitious scheme sacrificed planning for speed and unnecessarily exposed workers to an unacceptably high risk of injury or death.

“The Australian government conceived of, devised, designed and implemented a program that enabled very large numbers of inexperienced workers, often engaged by unscrupulous and avaricious employers … to undertake potentially dangerous work,” he found.

“It should have done more to protect them.

“In my view each death would, and should, not have occurred had the HIP (home insulation program) been properly designed and implemented.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott told parliament on Monday the report detailed a “litany of failures” arising from the Rudd government’s “dysfunctional culture”.

But, rather than recommending any action against the government ministers involved, Mr Hanger recommended the public service commissioner consider action against the senior bureaucrats concerned.

Mr Hanger said by law public service employees must act with “care and diligence”, but it was apparent this did not always happen.

“I recommend that relevant agency head/s or the prime minister consider whether the findings in this report justify a request that the public service commissioner inquire and determine any appropriate action,” he wrote in his report.

Mr Hanger did not recommend action against ministers who oversaw the program, including former prime minister Mr Rudd who announced the scheme in 2009 to stimulate the economy.

However, he noted the terms of reference asked him to examine the actions of the Australian government, not particular individuals.

Former Labor senator Mark Arbib, whose evidence to the commission was described as “guarded and defensive”, came under fire for being focused on potential rorting of the scheme ahead of safety risks.

But Mr Hanger found neither he nor former environment minister Peter Garrett were warned of the risks to installers before the first death in October 2009.

Senior environment department bureaucrats Kevin Keeffe and Beth Brunoro were criticised for not investigating risks posed by foil insulation while their colleague David Hoitink was blamed for wrongly concluding the federal government could leave health and safety regulation to the states and territories.

A lawyer representing Rueben Barnes’ family likened public servants rolling out the program to the crew of the Titanic.

“Too frightened, in essence, to call out ‘iceberg ahead.’ The reason for that is that they were told ‘get this done and get it done quickly’,” Bill Potts told reporters.

Aaron Anderson, the lawyer for Matthew Fuller’s parents, said the couple would work closely with the government to ensure the recommendations are addressed.

Other recommendations include a ban on reflective foil laminates in retrofitting ceiling insulation and a new minimum standard of qualification for all workers in roof cavities.

The government is considering the findings and will response by the end of the month.

Book Week is good for kids – and book clubs are great for adults

By Ariella Van Luyn, James Cook University

If my Facebook feed is anything to go by, last month parents scrabbled to make costumes of popular characters from children’s books.

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They were preparing for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s annual reading extravaganza, Book Week, a series of events across Australia designed to get kids reading.

Book Week shows that we are keen to encourage kids to read, and demonstrates the value of talking about books to promote reading. What’s less often acknowledged is that reading socially can be beneficial for adults too, although the politics are in some ways more complicated.

Reading books on your own improves empathy and theory of mind, the ability to understand that others might think or behave differently to you. Fiction shows characters’ thoughts – and how those thoughts drive or are hidden by characters’ words and actions.

With the popularity of Oprah’s Book Club and, more recently, Jennifer Byrne’s The First Tuesday Book Club, it’s clear that many adults enjoy connecting with each other over novels. I helped run a book club in Brisbane for more than two years and there’s a growing body of research on the value of social reading.

Social reading in book clubs is valuable because readers can make sense of big ideas through personal experience. Book clubs invite readers to connect the themes of books – ideas such as racism, gender, nationhood and representations of the past – by linking the characters’ experiences to their own. I noticed how books such as Andrew McGahan’s Underground invited readers to discuss, from their own personal experience, the impact of corporations on government in Australia, and how Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber prompted discussion about the ways fairytales shape readers’ thoughts about their own sexualities.

Novels invite this kind of discussion because they explore wider ideas through characters’ inner lives.

It’s true that book club discussions of what book to read next may be influenced by the tastes and attitudes promoted on TV and do not necessarily promote access to a diverse range of titles, and researchers point out that these celebrity book clubs are not necessarily empowering for readers.

Publishers have picked up on the selling power of book clubs. Random House, for example, runs a Book of the Month Club, suggesting novels for book clubs and offering a set of questions. Many publishers provide free questions with selected books, directing readers not only to what texts are worthy of discussion but also how to make sense of them.

Universities and schools also play a role in identifying “valuable” books by introducing readers to books considered beneficial or worthy of study, as researchers show. Those forces make social reading subject to power struggles by shaping what book clubs choose to read and, by extension, what books are considered valuable. For example, book clubs could easily end up reinforcing dominant ideas about the divide between literature and genre.

But they also allow readers to talk about these very divides and create a more personal sense of what makes a good or valuable book.

Research in the UK suggests that most book clubs meet in people’s home, making them more private than public. While the tastes of celebrities and publishers may influence readers in the home environment, the grassroots nature of these book clubs offers a space to resist these forces. Simply asking each other questions such as “did you like the book?” and “why?” allows readers to challenge accepted ideas of literary value.

Because books are about people’s lives, and because the social setting of the book club creates a space for the discussion of personal experience, social reading fosters thinking about the personal as an example of the big picture. In responding to others’ interpretations and experiences, discussion also becomes an opportunity to reconsider life narratives from a different point of view, to reinforce or challenge beliefs unconsciously or consciously held. In linking the personal with wider issues, readers discussing books actively work to represent themselves to others.

It’s easy to dismiss book clubs as, at worst, frivolous or pretentious or, at best, only having an impact on a personal level. But book clubs’ social and personal qualities are actually their main strengths – they allow readers to link the personal with the political.

Ariella Van Luyn is affiliated with James Cook University and the Townsville Writers and Publishers Centre.

ANZ Stadium surface to get worked on

The AFL has responded to criticism of the ANZ Stadium playing surface by insisting on some repair work to the ground before Saturday’s finals clash between Sydney and Fremantle.

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Players frequently slipped over during the course of last Saturday’s clash between the Swans and Richmond, though stadium officials stressed record August rainfall had affected conditions.

The match was played just two days after an NRL game at the venue between South Sydney and Canterbury.

There are no rugby league games scheduled at the venue this week leading up to the Swans’ qualifying final with Fremantle on Saturday.

Sydney coach John Longmire revealed the AFL had acted on Monday to try to improve conditions for this weekend.

“We’ve been notified by the AFL that they are actually going to make some changes to that surface, two patches which is a good thing,” Longmire told the media on Monday.

“Obviously the people in Melbourne didn’t understand the amount of rain that was around last week and it was really wet.

“Those patches on the sidelines from the rugby league on the Thursday were soft.

“You’d like them better than that and fortunately the AFL have acknowledged that and those changes will be made this week, which is a good thing for both teams.”

In one instance late in Saturday’s game, Sydney key defender Ted Richards lost his footing, allowing Richmond’s Dustin Martin a clear run to score what turned out to be the match-winning goal.

“Teddy is certainly blaming the surface,” Longmire joked.

ANZ Stadium officials pointed to August’s record rainfall in Sydney as a factor in the state of the ground.

A retractable roof is expected to be in place at the venue by 2018, following proposed work on the venue likely to start by 2016.

“Western Sydney has experienced its wettest August in history and this obviously affected playing conditions last Saturday,” an ANZ Stadium spokesperson told AAP.

“The stadium is about to undergo a major redevelopment with plans for a retractable roof.

“It would be nice to have the ability to close the roof in future.”

The Swans are contracted to play three games a year at ANZ Stadium until 2016.

The surface conditions at the ground were also called into question after AFL games there in 2011 and 2013.

In 2011, Swans star Jude Bolton wrote to the AFL Players’ Association, noting some sections of the ground were “substandard”.

Abbott defends new Aust role in Iraq

Prime Minister Tony Abbott understands apprehension about Australia again getting involved in an Iraq conflict but says doing nothing also has its risks.

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Mr Abbott on Monday used a speech to parliament to spell out the government’s reasons for taking part in an air drop of weapons and aid to Kurdish fighters taking on Islamic State extremists in northern Iraq.

“Many Australians are understandably apprehensive about the risk of becoming involved in another long and costly conflict in the Middle East,” Mr Abbott said.

“Doing anything involves serious risks and weighty consequences. But doing nothing involves risks and consequences too.”

He said he would no longer be referring to the extremists as Islamic State.

“It is not a state, it’s a death cult,” Mr Abbott said.

“Australia cannot leave the Iraqi people to face this horror, this pure evil, alone.”

Mr Abbott said if the Obama administration and the Iraqi government requested military support it would be considered against four criteria.

These included a clear and achievable overall objective, a proportionate role for Australian forces, a proper risk assessment and an overall humanitarian objective in accordance with Australia’s national interests.

“Like President Obama, Australia has no intention to commit combat troops on the ground, but we’re not inclined to stand by in the face of preventable genocide either.”

He said there was a risk that Australians involved in the conflict could bring their skills home with deadly consequences.

Labor and the coalition earlier rejected an Australian Greens bid for a parliamentary vote to approve Australian action in Iraq.

Mr Abbott said speeches in response to his statement should suffice for a debate.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor’s support for the government was underpinned by three key principles – effective response to the growing humanitarian crisis, promoting a unity government in Iraq and dealing with Australian foreign fighters.

“We should not confuse empty jingoism and aggressive nationalism with steady decision-making. Neither can we ignore the dreadful consequences of fanaticism and extremism,” he said.

Mr Shorten said Islamic State was an enemy of humanity engaged in crimes against humanity.

“We cannot co-operate with this evil by refusing to support the innocent,” he said.

Hardwick mulls best 22 for AFL final

Should you change a side that has knocked over the minor premiers in the last round of the AFL season?

It’s a conundrum Richmond coach Damien Hardwick will wrestle with this week, as he mulls which 22 players are best suited for Sunday’s elimination final against Port Adelaide.

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“It’s a good question. One I’m not prepared to answer at this stage,” Hardwick said on Monday.

The Tigers were relentless against Sydney at ANZ Stadium, holding on by three points to grab a ninth consecutive win and the last finals berth on offer.

But Ty Vickery and Dan Jackson, two players with genuine claims they belong in Richmond’s best 22, played no part in the memorable triumph.

Vickery had served his four-match ban for punching West Coast ruckman Dean Cox and was available, while Jackson was sidelined due to a one-game VFL ban.

Jackson is the club’s reigning best and fairest and the experienced midfielder will come under serious consideration.

“He’s ready to go,” Hardwick said of Jackson.

“Selection-wise, it will be another decision.

“He’s a finals-type player. He’s hard, he’s tough. He’s in our leadership group. He’s a quality bloke.

“He hasn’t had probably the season he would’ve liked – ruined generally through injury.

“But it’s one of those decisions we’ll make. If he helps us win, we’ll put him in.”

Vickery’s hopes of returning appear more doubtful.

The 24-year-old is short of match fitness due to his indiscretion in round 18, while fellow ruck-forward Ben Griffiths is in form and will not be dropped.

“Griff’s obviously secured a spot, absolutely,” Hardwick said.

“Whether we have the third tall this week (is a decision we have to make).

“Last week we chose to go without it. It will be a selection call we make on Thursday or Friday.”

The Tigers will create a live site for fans on Sunday, screening the final at Punt Rd Oval.

Richmond have also chartered ‘Tiger Army Express’ buses to help fans get to Adelaide Oval.

Neutrals are also hopping on the yellow-and-black bandwagon, given their incredible run to the finals.

“I think we’re probably like the second cousin that all of a sudden becomes the first cousin, if you become famous,” Hardwick said.

“We just hope we can get as many as 10,000 supporters over there to (Adelaide Oval).

“Because I guarantee you our 10,000 will sound like 20,000.”

Warming, decanting and swirling: do they make wine taste better?

By Alex Russell, University of Sydney

Do you inhale deeply while describing the flamboyant nature of your Shiraz? Do you do that slurpy thing that some love but others loathe?

Or maybe you just crack open the screwcap and dig straight in.

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If you’re in the latter group, then the ceremony that goes with wine may seem like pure wankery. But is the science on your side?

Temperature

Basic wine etiquette states that you serve white wines chilled and red wines at room temperature. Does it really matter? Actually, yes.

Our senses of taste and smell involve chemical reactions. As with all chemical reactions, colder means slower, which means less aroma for both whites and reds, although we’re not exactly sure of the exact physiology behind temperature’s effect on taste.

So don’t serve your whites too cold – aim for about 11°C. Keep in mind that your fridge is generally a bit too cold for whites, as are ice buckets. Excessive heat can permanently damage a wine, but your fridge won’t.

If the wine is too cold, hold the bowl of the glass in your hands to warm it up, or just wait a while – if you can. You can also use this to your advantage. If you’re stuck drinking a wine that should really go back into the horse from whence it came, chill it right down and drink it quickly before it warms up.

Decanting and aerating

Decantation is the process of removing the sediment that has built up in a wine over time. This used to be necessary for all wines, including whites.

These days, it’s only necessary for reds that have “thrown a crust”, because no one wants a mouthful of sediment. You can find plenty of tips online, including one which involves a candle – ideal for those romantic moments.

 

Alessio Baù/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

 

A secondary reason for decanting is aeration. Opinions vary as to whether aeration is a good thing.

Wines certainly change when they are exposed to air. Remember that bottle of wine that you tried a week after opening it? It wasn’t very pleasant, was it? This is because the wine oxidised, similar to how an apple turns brown. In the presence of oxygen, naturally-occurring bacteria convert sugar and alcohol into acetic acid, making the wine taste vinegary.

The question here is whether wine improves with some exposure to air before becoming undrinkable. This depends on at least three variables:

    the wine in question (such as region or grape type)how long you decant ithow you like your wine, so there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

An informal test conducted at the Australian Wine Research Institute indicates that the sensory properties of wine that goes into a decanter may not change very much compared to wine that stays in the bottle. They do, however, note the exception that aeration allows hydrogen sulphide (a wine fault) to disperse, which generally only matters for poorly made wines.

In the 1983 book The Taste of Wine, French wine expert Émile Peynaud discusses aeration. He reports results from experiments that suggest that the age of a wine is an important factor – decanting older wines for hours may actually reduce their bouquet.

So should you decant? Yes, to avoid sediment. Should you aerate? Depends on your preference and on the wine. There are some pretty funky looking decanters out there, so feel free to go nuts, if just for show.

Swirling

There has been some pretty interesting research on swirling, including a fluid dynamics study. The authors found that various factors (including diameter of the glass) can have an effect on the type of waves that you get while swirling – a cool party trick, no doubt. See the video below.

A gentle circular movement of the glass generates a wave propagating along the glass walls, enhancing oxygenation and mixing.

The purpose of the process appears to be to allow more of the wine to come into contact with oxygen, to agitate the wine to unlock odours or to increase the surface area of the wine, which in turn increases the amount of odour released. But does it make a difference to the odour or flavour of the wine?

Why not conduct an experiment yourself? Ask a friend to help you out. Put on a blindfold and get the friend to pour three samples from the same bottle into identical glasses. Get them to swirl one. Smell all three (no peeking!) and see if you can pick which one smells different.

For scientific rigour, do this a few times (let’s say 10 trials with fresh glasses) and see how many you get right. You’ll get a score out of 10, with chance being 3.33, although you’ll need to get a few people to do it in order to draw any conclusions. It shouldn’t be hard to get friends involved – someone will need to drink all that wine.

Serving temperature is important, but swirling and aerating are more debatable. It is entirely possible that people believe that they work simply because they expect them to, and there is a lot of work in the wine literature about the impacts of expectations on wine perception.

There are other things to consider, too, such as glassware. But if you want to go through the ceremony, and if it works for you, then who am I to stop you?

Alex Russell 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.

Feminism pushed child abuse reform: report

The crime of child sexual abuse has been denied, marginalised and “discovered and rediscovered” at various stages throughout Australia’s history, a new report says.

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The report, commissioned by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse, found broader social awareness of child sexual abuse emerged in the 1960s because of the efforts of feminist groups.

Prior to women’s rights advocates challenging government responses to sexual violence, psychoanalysts and other theorists downplayed the significance of sexual abuse on children and officials downplayed its prevalence and impact.

Between the late 1800s and 1960s “child sexual abuse was denied or minimised by academics, psychoanalysts and the broader community as the fantasies of disturbed individuals or the result of sexually promiscuous or aggressive children,” the report said.

The report, prepared by the Australian Institute of Criminology, found that the greatest period of reform in Australia’s child abuse laws occurred after the 1970s.

“Feminist groups contradicted historical understandings of child sexual abuse as infrequent acts perpetrated by sexual deviants,” the report said.

“These groups sought to raise awareness and understanding of sexual violence, and were openly critical of government and criminal justice system responses to victims of violence.”

Prior to the late 1800s, the report found, only a small number of offences criminalised sexual contact between children – then defined as under 10 or 13 years of age – and adults.

Attitudes to child sexual abuse have evolved considerably in the past century.

Child protection laws began not as government initiatives but as a result of social pressure and campaigns by activists.

One influential event, the report said, was the case of “Mary Ellen”, who was found badly beaten in her home in New York in 1873.

Police were unable to intervene and the social worker involved sought help from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which succeeded in court in getting Mary Ellen removed from her abusive mother and in having her mother charged with assault.

“As an issue of social and political importance, child sexual abuse has been, at various stages throughout Australia’s history, marginalised, denied, `discovered’ and `rediscovered’,” the report says.

Royal Commission chief executive officer Philip Reed said the report, and a second one looking at the development of relevant legislation, would assist the commission and other organisations working in the area of child sexual abuse.

“Both of these reports will contribute to the Royal Commission’s understanding of the historical context of child sexual abuse in Australia and the development of relevant legislation,” Mr Reed said.

NSW incest suspect tried to kidnap son

A NSW mother at the centre of inter-generational incest and child sex abuse claims is accused of hatching a plan to kidnap one of her 12 children from state care.

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Twelve youths from the Colt family, a pseudonym provided by the NSW Children’s Court, were plucked from their squalid living conditions in southwest NSW in 2012 and put in out-of-home care.

Caseworkers and police visited their rural property at Boorowa, near Young, and found 40 adults and children living in dirty, rubbish littered tents and caravans.

According to the details in a Children’s Court judgment released last year, children on the property showed signs of neglect, lacked basic hygiene and oral health and had difficulty speaking.

Others did not know how to bathe or use toilet paper.

Some children later told caseworkers they had sex with their siblings and relatives, including brothers and uncles.

Genetic testing revealed 11 of the 12 children, aged between five and 15 had parents who were related or closely related, according to the judgement.

Half of the children removed by NSW Community Services were Betty Colt’s.

Ms Colt is accused of recruiting one of her sons to kidnap a younger son from foster care.

She is also charged with procuring a young person to be removed from state care.

Prosecutor Matt Zalunardo told a hearing on Monday Ms Colt was the “mastermind” of the escape plan.

Mr Zalunardo told Moss Vale Local Court there was evidence Ms Colt wanted to take her younger son to South Australia to work and provide money for her.

“The defendant does have the distinct ability to coerce the young person and in essence put her views onto them,” he said.

The plan was foiled after police intercepted the family’s phone conversations and intervened.

Ms Colt was allegedly heard telling her son she wanted to get him home and make it “f***ing hard” for authorities to get him back, the court heard.

Mr Zalunardo said in a conversation with his mother, Ms Colt’s son said: “They know who my father is, don’t they?”

Ms Colt replied: “No, they are bluffing”.

However, Ms Colt’s lawyer Philip Carey said the plan to flee foster care was in fact one of the son’s.

“And he was saying ‘I want to be with my mum’,” he told Moss Vale Court on Monday.

Ms Colt only facilitated the meeting time and place in her son’s scheme, Mr Carey submitted.

Magistrate Mary Ryan will deliver her judgment on September 12.

Barca academy graduates stealing early-season limelight

Barca struggled to break down a determined Villarreal side at the Madrigal but got the breakthrough eight minutes from time when 19-year-old substitute Sandro Ramirez, making his official debut, turned a Messi centre into the net from close range.

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Ramirez’s effort came after fellow academy graduate Munir el Haddadi, also 19 and also making his first official appearance, struck in the 3-0 opening day victory at home to Elche.

Their success appears to confirm that new coach Luis Enrique’s strategy of deploying Barca-trained youngsters is working well in the early stages of the campaign.

A former Barca and Spain midfielder, Luis Enrique replaced Argentine Gerardo Martino, who was sacked after the Catalan club ended the 2013-14 season without major silverware.

“It is gratifying seeing that the youngsters are helping us so much,” Luis Enrique told a news conference.

“We are happy for him (Ramirez) and for the dedication of all the young players,” he added.

“We have a lot of room for improvement but the response of the players has been monstrous. It’s still early but there is room for optimism.”

Barca’s “La Masia” soccer school has produced a host of top players in recent decades, including Argentina captain Messi and former player and coach Pep Guardiola.

Luis Enrique is hoping he can create a side with the right mix of home-grown talent and players purchased from other clubs like new arrivals Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic and the established Neymar.

The Brazil forward, returning from an injury layoff, came on as a substitute for the final half hour on Sunday and his pace and skill gave Barca an extra attacking edge.

But it was Ramirez who stole the show and he and Munir earned praise from another La Masia graduate, Spain midfielder Sergio Busquets.

“We know what Munir and Sandro can bring to the team and if they continue like this they will have their place in the first team,” Busquets told reporters. “We have to be patient.”

(Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)