Durant nets 41, Thunder drop Knicks in NBA

The match-up between NBA top scorers, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, turned out to be a mismatch.

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Durant put on another MVP-calibre performance with 41 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists on Sunday, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to their ninth straight home victory, 112-100 over the visiting New York Knicks.

“He makes it look easy,” said Anthony, whose 27.4 points per game is second to Durant’s 31. “When you get it going like that, it’s hard to stop it.”

Durant also sparkled on the defensive end, helping to limit Anthony to a season-low 15 points.

“In order for us to be a good team I have to be a two-way player. I realised that these past few years,” Durant explained. “I just try to play as hard as I can by using my length and my quickness to my advantage.”

Reggie Jackson scored 19 points while Serge Ibaka added 16 for West-best Oklahoma City (41-12), who shot 54.8 per cent from the field en route to their 13th win in 15 outings.

Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton netted 16 points apiece to pace the Knicks (20-31) who were victimised by Durant in their eighth loss in 10.

“He’s a tough cover, great scorer, makes good decisions with the ball,” Knicks Iman Shumpert said. “He made tough shots today.”

Durant had 19 points at halftime and the Thunder led 58-53, that extended to 86-78 entering the final frame.

The Knicks drew to within 92-86 on free throws by Tyson Chandler with 8.5 minutes left. Durant, however, drilled a three-pointer and the Thunder never let the lead dip below eight.

Elsewhere, rookie Victor Oladipo scored 13 of his 23 points in the final quarter and deflected Paul George’s potential game-winning jumper in the closing seconds, as the lowly Magic (16-37) stunned the league-best Pacers for a third straight win.

George scored 27 points for visiting Indiana (39-11), who blew a 17-point third-quarter cushion to snap a four-game winning streak.

The LA Clippers downed Philadelphia 123-78 and celebrated the return of All-Star guard Chris Paul by punishing the visiting 76ers for their biggest blowout in franchise history.

Paul finished with seven points, eight assists and four steals in 23 minutes in his first action after missing 18 games with a shoulder separation suffered on January 3.

The Chicago Bulls beat the LA Lakers 92-86, the Brooklyn Nets accounted for the New Orleans Pelicans 93-81, the Washington Wizards defeated the Sacramento Kings 93-84, the Dallas Mavericks were 102-91 winners over the Boston Celtics, and the Cleveland Cavaliers prevailed 91-83 over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Urban Melb needs fire education: premier

Premier Denis Napthine says more bushfire education and refuges are needed for communities on Melbourne’s fringe after homes were lost in Victoria’s fire emergency.

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Seven houses have been confirmed completely destroyed with the main impact on property happening in Melbourne fringe suburbs Gisborne, Mickleham and Warrandyte.

The Mickleham Road blaze in the city’s north remained the most dangerous fire in the state throughout Monday.

Dr Napthine said the government needs to look at more refuges on Melbourne’s fringe.

“We certainly need to look at the opportunity for safer places and refuges in outer urban areas,” he told ABC Radio.

Victoria has four registered community fire refuges, three of which were opened as part of a pilot program following the royal commission into the Black Saturday blazes.

After visiting fires at Gisborne, Warrandyte and Mickleham on Monday, Dr Napthine said the situation in Mickleham remained very active and dangerous.

He also has railed against people who deliberately lit fires on Victoria’s worst bushfire risk day since Black Saturday, saying he couldn’t stomach the thought of it.

At least 14 grass and scrub fires lit during the height of the emergency on Sunday are being probed by arson squad detectives.

So far they have found nine were deliberately lit.

“To think of any lighting of fires on days like yesterday is just absolutely unbelievable in the extreme,” Dr Napthine said.

“I can’t imagine who would do such a thing.

“Putting lives at risk in those circumstances, and putting the lives of our firefighters at risk is something I just cannot stomach.”

Dr Napthine said it was premature to make any conclusions about investigations into the source of blazes.

The community has learnt a lot of lessons since fires destroyed 1886 homes and killed 173 Victorians five years ago, Dr Napthine said, but he stressed continuing education was needed.

“Radiant heat can and does kill,” he said.

“People in some of those outer urban areas need to better understand how you need to dress appropriately with safe clothing on.

“If you’re going to be involved anywhere near the flame, dress appropriately.”

Tokyo stocks close up 1.77%

Tokyo stocks rose 1.

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77 per cent, tracking gains on Wall Street as investors took a positive view of last week’s below-forecast US employment report.

The benchmark Nikkei-225 index added 255.93 points to 14,718.34, while the Topix index of all first-section shares climbed 1.27 per cent, or 15.14 points, to 1,204.28.

The US Labor Department said on Friday that the economy added 113,000 jobs in January, far below the 175,000 forecast.

However, analysts said the report did include some upbeat news, such as a rise in labour force participation and a drop in the overall unemployment rate.

The news boosted Wall Street, with the Dow jumping 1.06 per cent, the S&P 500 up 1.33 per cent and the Nasdaq 1.69 per cent higher.

“The labour data certainly weren’t convincing enough to warrant strong confidence in the US economic recovery, which could have simply meant that US shares were oversold and ready for a rebound,” Daisuke Uno, strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp, told Dow Jones Newswires.

“(New US Fed Chair Janet) Yellen’s testimony before the Senate is going to be under scrutiny for how the data are being officially interpreted.”

Investors will be keeping a close eye on her comments for clues about the Fed’s plans for its stimulus program, which has been credited with buoying global equity markets.

In share trading, Sony rose 0.65 per cent to 1,702 yen and Uniqlo clothing chain operator Fast Retailing jumped 2.96 per cent at 37,335 yen.

Toyota closed up 1.59 per cent at 5,994 yen. After the market closed the firm said it was terminating production in Australia.

Automaker Nissan rose 0.11 per cent to 885 yen ahead of the release of its nine-month earnings.

In forex markets, the dollar was at 102.43 yen, up from 102.30 yen in New York on Friday.

Victorian coalmine fire top priority

A coalmine fire that could threaten Victoria’s electricity supply is the priority for emergency services as they continue to battle blazes across the state.

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The fire at Morwell, 130km east of Melbourne, is in the open-cut pit of the mine supplying the Hazelwood Power Station.

The escalation of the Morwell blaze came as Victoria’s police chief commissioner Ken Lay revealed at least a dozen fires were suspected of being deliberately lit.

Victorian Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the Morwell fire, which has destroyed several homes and is burning through logs and woodchip stockpiles at Australian Paper’s Maryvale mill, is now his major concern.

“It is not threatening lives but it has the potential to impact on critical infrastructure for Victoria,” Mr Lapsley said.

“It is not impacting on power generation in Victoria, but it has the potential to do so.”

Two aircraft, fire trucks and the chief officers of both the Metropolitan Fire Brigade and the Country Fire Authority are at the blaze.

Mr Lapsley said putting out the fire would be complex because normal extraction of the coal was continuing and it was essential that no hot or burning coal found its way onto the conveyors supplying the power station.

“That will be a lengthy operation, and for those living in Morwell, a very uncomfortable operation because there will be black smoke over the town most of the time,” he said.

“It’s more than just a fire. It’s about health issues within the town.”

The Morwell fire took over as the state’s most serious from the blaze that destroyed several homes on Sunday night as it spread from Mickleham, on Melbourne’s northern outskirts, to Kilmore, 40km away.

It had burned more than 16,000 hectares by Monday evening.

The Morwell and Mickleham fires are among 200 fought at the height of the crisis on Sunday, 12 of which are believed to have been started by arsonists.

“There is sufficient evidence to suggest (the fires) are more than likely to have been deliberately lit,” Mr Lay said.

He said some suspects had been identified.

None of the major fires are under suspicion, with Mr Lay reporting the most likely cause of the Mickleham fire is a tree branch falling across powerlines.

Mr Lapsley said more than 20 homes had been lost in the fires since Sunday morning, three of them in a built-up area at Warrandyte in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, as well as those at Morwell and Kilmore.

Fires in Gippsland had burned out some 100,000 hectares, with a fire that burned 78,000 hectares in the Snowy River National Park causing serious concern.

The Morwell fire’s impact on the community is limited and it isn’t among those that were the subject of emergency warnings in place late on Monday.

Heydon is a stickler for the law

John Dyson Heydon is a stickler for the letter of the law.

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And he has little time for judges who see their role as making law, rather than upholding it.

“Stronger judicial personalities tend to push the weaker into submission,” he wrote in an essay subtitled “The enemy within” on his aged-enforced retirement from the High Court in 2013.

Now he’s setting his steely judicial gaze on the trade union movement and the alleged and yet-to-be-uncovered corruption within.

Heydon, on the face of it, is an unsurprising choice as royal commissioner.

A renowned judicial conservative, he was appointed to the High Court in 2003 by the Howard government in a bid to stem what the coalition saw as the court’s over-enthusiasm for judicial activism.

Of his reputation as a black-letter judge, he once said: “I wear it as a badge of honour.”

In other words, legal precedence and established law are paramount when making judgments.

Heydon eschews judicial activism, the philosophy whereby judges allow their personal views about public policy, among other factors, to guide their decisions.

But if the Abbott government thinks it can rely on Heydon to take a particularly helpful political line with his royal commission, it better think again.

Heydon has a reputation for being his own man.

On the High Court bench he enjoyed a dissent rate of nearly 50 per cent, including his decision to support the Gillard government’s right to strike a controversial people-swap deal with Malaysia in 2011.

“With all respect to my colleagues I think it was a field where the government had to be left to run its foreign policies as it saw fit,” he says of the case.

And even when he agreed with his colleagues, Heydon preferred to write separate judgments.

But he did collaborate with another judicial figure – Roderick Meagher – in 1989 to write a report on the duties and fiduciary obligations of officials of industrial unions of employers and employees.

The report recommended that the finances of trade unions be administered in the same way as companies.

Coincidentally, the Abbott government has legislation before the parliament that aims to subject corrupt union officials to the same penalties that apply to company directors found guilty of fraud.

Since his retirement from the High Court at age 70, Heydon has headed an inquiry into allegations of altered staff contracts at NSW’s largest state-owned electricity generator, Macquarie Generation.

Heydon’s plan for a relatively quiet retirement – he now rises at 5.15am each day instead of the 3.30am start of his working days – are on hold for at least a year while he undertakes his new commission.

Menzies joins Fittler in NRL comeback

Manly legend Steve Menzies will join Sydney Roosters great Brad Fittler in a return to rugby league at this weekend’s NRL Auckland Nines.

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The involvement of Fittler, 42, in the Eden Park event was confirmed by the NRL last month and Menzies, 40, will be unveiled as part of the Sea Eagles’ 16-man squad at a promotion on Tuesday.

But fears the short-form tournament will be a haven for returning veterans and lesser-name NRL players have been allayed with the majority of teams naming strong sides for the inaugural event.

Kangaroos prop Andrew Fifita was added to a Cronulla roster containing captain Paul Gallen, Todd Carney and Wade Graham on Monday, after initially being ruled out due to eye surgery.

Captain Robbie Farah will spearhead the Wests Tigers’ Nines campaign with Aaron Woods, Curtis Sironen, David Nofoaluma, Pat Richards, Adam Blair, Marika Koroibete and young gun Mitchell Moses also among those named.

One of the few props likely to play in the tournament, Woods said he didn’t know what to expect.

“I’m looking forward to it but not quite sure what will happen,” he said.

“I’ll just be looking to hold up the middle and stop the little blokes from darting their way through.

“It’s going to be a challenge but it is also going to be a lot of fun.”

Australian winger Brett Morris was named in St George Illawarra’s line-up alongside NSW stars Josh Dugan and Trent Merrin and Kiwi representative Jason Nightingale.

Morris said he was humbled to be named skipper in the absence of Ben Creagh, whose wife recently gave birth.

“It’s really exciting. This is a club I’m proud to play for and it’s a huge honour to be made captain,” Morris told the Dragons’ website.

“It’s going to be a great tournament. It’s a whole new concept and there will be a whole new set of tactics.

“There will be a bit more space out there which should give us smaller blokes a chance to show what we can do with the ball.

“Hopefully the fans will love it.”

However, none of Melbourne’s big three of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater will play.

The World Cup-winning Kangaroo trio were all left out of coach Craig Bellamy’s squad.

NSW back-rower Ryan Hoffman will captain the Storm side, with stars Will Chambers, Justin O’Neill, Kevin Proctor, Jesse Bromwich (emergency 17th man) also included alongside Canterbury recruit Joel Romelo.

Winger Matt Duffie has been included after a successful comeback from knee and shoulder injury in the under-strength Storm’s 20-12 loss to Canberra on Saturday.

Tohu Harris will play his first official game since being bumped out of New Zealand’s World Cup squad by Sonny Bill Williams.

The Nines take place at Eden Park on Saturday and Sunday.

Corby faces freedom in faceless fashion

The saga of convicted drug smuggler Schapelle Corby has at times resembled a soap opera, and her release from jail – swaddled in cloth to conceal her face – was yet another bizarre episode.

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Corby emerged on Monday from Bali’s Kerobokan Prison nine years after she went in, convicted of smuggling marijuana into the holiday island and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.

More than 100 police officers turned out to aid her exit from the prison, where scores of shouting, shoving journalists have been camped since news came that the 36-year-old’s release on parole was close.

There was little to report.

Corby said nothing and her face was wrapped in a thin sarong, a black scarf and a white hat, giving the cameras little more than an outline of her visage.

It is believed Corby went to such lengths to remain under wraps to collect the proceeds of an exclusive TV deal with the Seven Network, reportedly worth as much as $3 million.

As a prison van transported Corby to her first stop outside jail, the prosecutor’s office, she was tailed through the narrow streets by dozens of jostling international reporters and photographers, some on mopeds, others in cars.

At the prosecutor’s office, where she was fingerprinted, journalists used cameras on poles to pry into the interview room, with little success.

It was the same for her next trip, to the corrections office, with the trail of desperate media again failing to capture her image.

Even the official in charge of corrections, Ketut Artha, was granted only a glance at Corby’s face.

He complained to reporters that with the media commotion, he wasn’t able to ask all the questions of Corby that he wanted, and she gave short answers anyway.

“I got a chance to ask to see her face and she only opened her cover a bit,” Mr Artha said.

After the truncated interview, where she was reminded of the terms of her parole, private vans were waiting to whisk Corby to a plush spa villa in Seminyak.

She remained there for much of the afternoon, believed to be interviewed by Mike Willesee for Seven’s Sunday Night program.

Mr Artha told AAP later that even though the Kuta home of Corby’s brother-in-law, Wayan Widyartha, was listed as her address for parole, if she didn’t stay there on Monday night it wouldn’t be a breach of her conditions.

“It’s possible that Corby does not stay in Wayan’s house or sleeps somewhere else,” he said.

“The most important thing is that (her location) is still in the Kuta area and any time when we reach her, she’s ready to explain her whereabouts and ready any time if she’s needed.”

In Australia, champagne corks were popping at the Queensland home of Corby’s mother Rosleigh Rose, but she didn’t speak to reporters looking on, raising speculation she also has an exclusive media deal.

Earlier she told the Seven Network: “It was just beautiful to see my beautiful Schapelle come out from those doors.”

Sister Mercedes Corby released a brief statement expressing her gratitude.

“We’ve been waiting almost 10 years for this moment – it’s very emotional for Schapelle and our family. We are all very relieved and happy,” it said.

Centurion curator says pitch will be OK

It’s more green than ethically-sourced, home-grown wheatgrass, but Centurion curator Hilbert Smit says Australia need not worry about the pitch for the first Test against South Africa.

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Some members of the Australian camp were in disbelief when they trained at the venue last week and couldn’t find anything closely resembling a cricket pitch in the middle.

Smit told AAP that while heavy rain threw his schedule out a little bit, the green pitch will be cut back and ready on Wednesday for a five-day contest.

“We had a lot of people here last week saying ‘where is the pitch?! What about these blokes, they haven’t even started preparing it!’,” Smit said.

“The pitch has been pre-prepared if you want to put it that way. It’s been put on hold, and the grass has come back and grown nicely.

“We’re right up to where we want to be; nothing is holding us back. The rain slows up the process of preparing the pitch, but we’ve been preparing this pitch for more than a month.”

Proteas coach Russell Domingo has publicly asked for pace-friendly pitches throughout the three-Test series, which will feature two of the world’s finest pace attacks.

“I don’t think you have to be a rocket scientist to say it’s going to have some pretty good bounce and carry,” Australian wicketkeeper Brad Haddin said of the centre strip.

But with days four and five of the Test falling on the weekend when big crowds could attend, Domingo isn’t the only Cricket South Africa employee Smit has to satisfy.

“In this country, everyone pushes us to go as long as possible in a Test,” he said.

“We’ve tried to get a decent cricket pitch. It’s two of the world’s best sides, so you don’t want one session to favour one team so much it decides the game.”

Centurion is South Africa’s fortress.

In 18 Tests there, they have lost just once – a highly controversial defeat to England in 2000 in which both sides forfeited an innings at the suggestion of then Proteas skipper Hansie Cronje.

Smit suggested he could not take credit for the home team’s incredible record.

“It’s not like we’re preparing them a pitch that suits all the time,” he said.

“They’ve played on flat decks, on friendly decks, lots of different decks and they’ve always won.

“It’s a question we’ve all been asking, and nobody has an answer yet.”

Shorten greets Griffith election ‘victor’

School is back for federal Labor MPs and there’s a new kid in class: Terri Butler.

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Ms Butler received a rousing welcome as she accompanied Opposition Leader Bill Shorten into the caucus meeting on Monday, where he introduced her as the member-elect for Griffith two days after the by-election in Kevin Rudd’s vacated seat.

Her main rival Liberal National Party candidate Bill Glasson has not conceded defeat but admits Ms Butler is likely to hold the seat.

Mr Shorten noted Ms Butler had only been preselected a week before Christmas and she’d had a steep learning curve.

“With Terri Butler we’ve just increased our firepower and we’ll hold this mob to account,” he told the caucus meeting, to cheers.

“Terri Butler’s values, her dedication of her whole working life to standing up for working people … will be skills and values that we will appreciate and the nation’s parliament will appreciate.”

Mr Shorten also pre-empted Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s expected announcement of a royal commission into unions, tying it to attacks on workers and their conditions as SPC Ardmona.

“When 54,000 people have lost their jobs in the last 12 months … why is it the Abbott government can find $100 million-plus to pursue a political stunt but it can’t spend $25 million to save thousands of jobs in the Goulburn valley?” Mr Shorten asked.

Labor MPs responded with cries of “shame”.

Mr Shorten said the government finished 2013 poorly and now had started the new year “back to the future, trying to run negative campaigns more suited to the 1980s than 2014”.

“This nation can engage in a race to the top or a race to the bottom,” he said.

“We can choose to be a smarter nation or a poorer nation.

“This will be the year when Labor will take the fight up to the government.”

Seven refuses to confirm Corby deal

The Seven Network is refusing to confirm reports that it has a struck a multi-million media deal for an exclusive interview with drug smuggler Schapelle Corby.

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Corby was granted parole on Monday after more than nine years in an Indonesian prison for trying to smuggle more than 4kg of marijuana into Bali.

However, on Monday Corby covered herself from head to foot, in a style reminiscent of the way the late popstar Michael Jackson would shroud his children to make it difficult for them to be photographed.

It’s believed Corby went to great lengths to cover her face and body in order to protect a media deal with Seven, estimated to be worth between $1.5 and $3 million.

The agreement is believed to embrace an exclusive interview with Seven’s current affair show Sunday Night, plus a magazine photo-shoot and interview with one of the network’s affiliated magazines.

Despite several requests for Seven to confirm or deny speculation about the deal, on early Monday evening the network was still refusing to comment.

Seven seems to be both fuelling the rumours and keeping some of its own network in the dark. Seven’s Brisbane nightly news service was reporting: “There’s strong speculation Seven’s Sunday Night program has secured an exclusive interview with Schapelle Corby but that has yet to be confirmed.”

Veteran Aussie journalist Mike Willesee appears to have scored the interview for Sunday Night.

Willesee has been spotted in Bali following Corby’s every movement since her release on Monday morning.

After a frenetic few hours surrounded and chased by press following her release on Monday morning from Bali’s Kerokoban prison, Corby was taken to the luxury Sentosa Seminyak hotel.

The Nine Network will re-screen the telemovie Schapelle on Monday night, to follow a news special on Corby’s release from an Indonesian jail.

The arrest, trial and conviction were the centrepiece of the telemovie Schapelle, which aired on Sunday night and attracted more than a million viewers.

The drama had originally been scheduled to first screen on Monday, but Nine pulled it forward by a day.

Nine will broadcast the news special, Schapelle: Finally Free, at 8.40pm on Monday, and follow it at 9.40pm with a repeat of the telemovie.