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    MTV VMAs: Which is the best video of the year?

    MTV has scrapped the gender categories of best female video and best male video as it announced nominations for this year’s VMAs.

    Those two categories will be replaced by a more general award – artist of the year.

    Rapper Kendrick Lamar leads the way in the 2017 Video Music Awards with an overall tally of eight nominations, including the artist category as well as video of the year for HUMBLE.

    HUMBLE. is up against Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic, Scars to the Beautiful by Alessia Cara, Wild Thoughts by DJ Khaled ft. Rihanna and Bryson Tiller, and The Weeknd’s Reminder.

    HUMBLE. also earned Lamar a spot in most of the technical categories, including best cinematography, direction, art direction and visual effects.

    Kendrick Lamar - Humble

    Video: Kendrick Lamar – Humble

    DJ Khaled feat Rihanna

    Video: DJ Khaled feat Rihanna – Wild Thoughts

    Bruno Mars - 24 K Magic

    Video: Bruno Mars – 24K Magic

    Alessia Cara - Scars To Your Beautiful

    Video: Alessia Cara – Scars To Be Beautiful

    The Weeknd - Reminder

    Video: The Weeknd – Reminder

    This is the first year MTV introduced gender neutral categories, allowing male and female performers to go head to head for artist of the year, and follows in the footsteps of the MTV Movie Awards.

    In the artist category are Lamar, Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, Ariana Grande, The Weeknd and Lorde.

    Sheeran is also nominated for best pop for Shape Of You and best cinematography for Castle On The Hill.

    MTV has also introduced a new category titled best fight against the system, for which Alessia Cara and Big Sean have been nominated among others, in a push to award activist music.

    For best collaboration, DJ Khaled, Rihanna and Bryson Tiller got a nod for Wild Thoughts, going up against, among others, Charlie Puth and Selena Gomez’ We Don’t Talk Anymore and the super collaboration between Calvin Harris, Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry and Big Sean in Feels.

    Winners in major categories are determined by voting by fans and the ceremony will be broadcast from Los Angeles on 27 August.


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    Didi Gregorius makes up for triple-play gaffe with key homer

    Didi Gregorius may be lost on the bases, but no Yankees hitter is more locked in at the plate.

    Gregorius’ second-inning base-running error Tuesday night resulted in the team’s first triple play in nearly six years, but the shortstop made up for his mistake with an insurance home run in the eighth inning in the Yankees’ 4-2 win over the Reds.

    Gregorius went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, and extended his hitting streak to seven games. Over that span, he is hitting .560 (14-for-25) with four home runs and zero strikeouts.

    “The whole trip I think I was feeling good, and not trying to miss every pitch, and stay consistent, which I think is the hardest part of the game,” Gregorius said. “You’ve got to work on that. … Before that, I had a couple weeks without getting any hits, but it finally turned around.”

    After the Reds cut their deficit to 3-2 in the eighth inning, the Yankees’ lead didn’t feel safe, with the bullpen restoring Cincinnati’s confidence, and a struggling Aroldis Chapman scheduled to enter in the ninth.

    Then, after two quick Yankees outs in the bottom of the inning, Gregorius homered to right-center off Michael Lorenzen. It was Gregorius’ 15th home run of the season, and his third in the past two games.

    “He’s just not missing his pitches,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You look at that last at-bat, he fouls a few pitches off until he gets one that he can handle. When you’re going good, that’s what happens.”

    Didi Gregorius is tagged out Jose Peraz which completed a triple play for the Reds.Charles Wenzelberg

    What happened in the second inning is still hard for anyone who was at Yankee Stadium to comprehend.

    With the bases loaded and no outs, Todd Frazier hit a ball hard to Reds shortstop Jose Peraza. Gregorius, who was on second, broke back for the bag, but the ball dropped, with Peraza turning two quick outs. Instead of then running to second, or going all out for third, Gregorius got caught between the bases, and eventually was tagged out in a rundown, producing the rare triple play.

    “It’s a line drive, so you got to go back on a line drive,” Gregorius said. “I tried to go back, and then it bounced, and it was kind of right in between, so I started running to third, but I was caught halfway.”

    Girardi didn’t think it should have been so confusing.

    “If he would’ve kept running, I think he’s safe,” Girardi said. “But it’s a strange play.”


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    10K evacuated as fire spreads around French Riviera

    PARIS — The top official of France’s Var region on the Mediterranean coast says that 10,000 people were evacuated as blazes hopscotching around the Riviera tore through the town of La Londe-les-Maures.

    The prefecture said in a statement on Wednesday that a violent fire took off just before 11 p.m. the night before, and 540 firefighters were sent in to the region.

    The statement said that some 10,000 people — about 3,000 of them campers — were evacuated from La Londe and nearby Bormes and La Lavandou.

    Four tracker planes and a fire-fighting aircraft were sent in. About 800 hectares of back-country forest had burned by morning.

    Fires began raging along the coast on Monday, forcing smaller, scattered evacuations with flames reaching a corner of Saint-Tropez.


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    Greg Bird not mad it took so long for injury to be diagnosed

    A week after undergoing surgery to remove a bone from his troublesome right ankle, Greg Bird was confident he would return to the level he reached before the injury he suffered during spring training sidetracked another season.

    “I know how it feels and I know what I can do,” Bird said Tuesday in front of his locker at Yankee Stadium. “And that’s the relief.”

    There hasn’t been much of that for Bird this season, whose problems began when he fouled a ball off his foot near the end of a terrific Grapefruit League season. He’s been sidelined since May 1 and was mostly ineffective even when he was on the field.

    For most of that time, he was treated for a bone bruise until that cleared up and he still felt discomfort.

    If Bird is discouraged by how long it took for the injury to be diagnosed, he insisted he wasn’t.

    “I’ve asked [why],” Bird said. “Everyone worked really hard on it. That’s how it goes. It’s not an exact science, figuring out what’s wrong.”

    There’s no timetable for Bird’s return, but the Yankees are counting on him as their first baseman heading into next season.

    Bird said he expects to wear a boot on his right foot for another “week or so” and he hopes that whatever rehab stint he needs won’t be excessive.

    “It will be nice to focus on putting this behind me and start playing,” Bird said. “It’s feeling a lot better each day.”

    Manager Joe Girardi said even with the addition of David Robertson — and Aroldis Chapman’s recent struggles — Chapman would remain the closer.

    Chapman had been largely ineffective over the last month before he picked up the save with a perfect ninth in Tuesday’s 4-2 win over the Reds.
    “I liked what I saw,” Girardi said. “He didn’t throw a lot of pitches and his changeup was pretty good.”

    Heading into the game, the lefty had given up six runs — five earned — on 13 hits and six walks in his last 11 games, covering nine innings. Chapman had struck out 10 in that span and pitched to a 5.00 ERA.

    “I have a lot of belief in [Chapman] and he’s gonna get things right,’’ said Girardi, who conceded the hard-throwing closer hadn’t produced his typical results lately.

    Aroldis ChapmanCharles Wenzelberg

    “Usually it has to do with fastball command,’’ said the manager, adding the team still doesn’t know the root of Chapman’s issues. He missed a month earlier in the season with rotator cuff inflammation.

    Nevertheless, Girardi said he was hopeful Chapman would return to his old self.

    “I don’t think it’s unrealistic,” Girardi said. “I expect him to be back. [He’s] our closer.”

    Aaron Hicks (strained right oblique) took swings for a third straight day and is scheduled to take batting practice in the cage Wednesday for the first time since suffering the injury last month.

    “I’m doing stuff with no pain,” Hicks said.

    Tyler Austin (right hamstring strain) ran in the outfield, but there’s no timetable for either player’s return.

    Michael Pineda, whose season is over after undergoing Tommy John surgery last week, acknowledged the timing of the injury wasn’t good, since he’s heading into free agency. And he knows he may have pitched for the Yankees for the last time.

    “I don’t know if it’s going to be my last game here,” Pineda said of his appearance on July 5. “Hopefully not.”


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    Jerusalem protests will continue until cameras and railings removed: Muslim cleric

    A senior Muslim official in Jerusalem said Wednesday that worshippers would not return to a contested shrine until Israel removes the new railings and cameras it installed after a deadly attack there.

    Ikrema Sabri, the head of the Supreme Islamic Committee, said that even after Israel removed metal detectors at the site more steps were required. He said mass prayer protests would continue until the gates of the compound were opened, metal railings and an iron bridge removed and newly installed cameras taken down. He said a lawyer working on behalf of the Muslim administration of the holy site will be in touch with Israeli police to make the demands.

    “We will not enter the mosque until these things are implemented,” he told The Associated Press. “Now we are awaiting the response of the police.”

    The demand sets off the prospect of a renewed showdown ahead of Friday prayers at the site, when a large number of worshippers arrive for the centerpiece of the Muslim prayer week, and extends a crisis Israel was eager to resolve.

    Israel installed the new security measures earlier this month after Arab gunmen shot and killed two police officers from within the site. Under intense pressure, it removed the metal detectors and said it planned to install sophisticated security cameras instead.

    Israel says the measures were a natural response and necessary to prevent further attacks while Palestinians claim Israel is trying to expand its control over the site.

    The continued standoff highlighted the deep distrust between Israel and the Palestinians when it comes to the shrine — the third-holiest in Islam and the most sacred in Judaism.

    The 37-acre esplanade, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, has been a lightning rod for the rival religious and national narratives of the two sides. It has triggered major confrontations in the past.

    The latest development could put Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a tough spot, as he tries to tamp out a wave of unrest that has triggered international pressure while not appearing to his hard-line base as capitulating.

    His government has faced a growing backlash at home for what critics said was hasty decision-making and embarrassing policy reversals.

    In a face-saving compromise, and after Netanyahu spoke to Jordan’s King Abdullah II and others, Israel’s security Cabinet announced Monday that in place of the metal detectors it would employ nonintrusive “advanced technologies,” reportedly smart cameras that can detect hidden objects. The new security system is said to be set up in the next six months at a cost of $28 million.

    Palestinian politicians and Muslim clerics say that isn’t enough and are demanding Israel restore the situation at the shrine in Jerusalem’s Old City to what it was before the July 14 deadly attack.

    In response to that attack, Israel closed the shrine for two days for weapons searches and installed the metal detectors. The decision quickly triggered Muslim protests amid rumors that Israel was trying to expand its control at the site under the guise of security — a claim Israel strongly denied.


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    US sanctions ‘close prospect for normalizing ties’: Russian diplomat

    MOSCOW — A senior Russian diplomat said Wednesday a new package of U.S. sanctions against Russia harms chances for improving the ties between the two countries, pushing them into “unchartered territory.”

    Russian officials welcomed Donald Trump’s presidential win last year, hoping to mend relations with the United States which reached a post-Cold War low under President Barack Obama. But six months into Trump’s presidency ties between the two countries remain tense, and the much-anticipated first meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin early this month did not seem to produce any tangible results.

    Eager to punish Russia for meddling in the 2016 election, Congress on Tuesday overwhelmingly backed a new package of sanctions against Moscow that prohibits Trump from waiving the penalties without first getting permission from Congress.

    Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov criticized the sanctions on Wednesday as “closing off the prospect for normalizing ties.” He told the Interfax news agency the new sanctions are pushing Russia and the U.S. “into uncharted territory both in political and diplomatic sense.”

    Elsewhere in Moscow, Frants Klintsevich, first deputy chairman of the defense committee at the upper chamber of Russian parliament, warned that the new sanctions could hurt Russia’s efforts to work with the U.S. in fighting terrorism. Cooperation on counter-terrorism between Russia and the U.S. “will be extremely problematic if at all possible,” Klintsevich said in comments carried by Russian news agencies on Wednesday.


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    Iran’s president says country will ‘take action’ if US sanctions pass

    TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani says his country will respond if U.S. legislation imposing sanctions on people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program becomes law.

    The House of Representatives passed the bill on Tuesday and it now goes to the Senate.

    Without giving details, Rouhani said in a Wednesday cabinet meeting that Iran will “take any action that is necessary for the country’s expedience and interests.” State TV broadcast his remarks.

    He added that Iran will improve its “defensive means without attention to others.”

    The U.S. legislation imposes mandatory penalties on people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The measure would also apply terrorism sanctions to the Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo.


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    Simpson going nowhere despite Eagles' woes — and history shows why he shouldn't

    A tight head and shoulders shot of Adam Simpson with his eyes closed and his head bowed wearing an Eagles jacket.

    If Adam Simpson was unprepared for the dramatic changes of fortune an AFL coach can experience during the course of a season, he probably learnt quickly after taking the reins at West Coast in 2014.

    Three rounds into his fledgling career, Simpson’s Eagles were sitting pretty on top of the competition.

    His team went on to lose nine of its next 12 over the following three months, ending the season in a disappointing ninth place.

    Fast-forward three years — and West Coast is again struggling to secure a finals spot.

    That has led to questions about Simpson’s future at the helm, especially following the Eagles’ embarrassing surrender to Collingwood on Sunday.

    Adam Simpson speaks to his Eagles players in a tight huddle during a night AFL match, with his arms around two of them.

    However, Simpson is not about to start entertaining the calls for his head.

    “I’m not going to get into that. All I can say is I’m up for the fight and I am optimistic about the future,” he said.

    Pressed on whether he had sought assurances from the club’s board about the safety of his position, Simpson suggested such conversations were the farthest thing from his mind.

    “I haven’t needed that. I think I am [the man for the job],” he told a packed media scrum.

    While questions will continue to be asked about whether Simpson is the man to guide the Eagles through their next period of transition, the statistics suggest the club would be wise to back the dual North Melbourne premiership midfielder.

    Simpson’s favourable record

    Of the 18 current senior coaches, Simpson’s winning percentage of 62.64 is almost identical to Hawthorn’s Alastair Clarkson (62.67) and the Bulldogs’ Luke Beveridge (63.64).

    Only John Longmire (Sydney, 68.07), Chris Scott (Geelong, 71.70) and Don Pyke (Adelaide, 73.17) can boast a better winning record.

    Simpson’s record also compares favourably to the only two men who have coached West Coast longer than himself.

    Mick Malthouse’s first four years at the helm (1990-1993) netted him a win-loss record of 62 wins and 23 losses plus a draw, equalling a winning percentage of 72.1 per cent.

    An analysis of the early years of Simpson’s predecessor John Worsfold makes even better reading.

    Worsfold’s first four years in the job (2002-2005) resulted in a record of 54 wins, 32 losses and two draws. That percentage: 61.36 per cent.

    Decision time looms for Eagles

    Looking ahead, West Coast are clearly at a crossroads player-wise.

    Mark LeCras and Drew Petrie celebrate a goal for the West Coast Eagles with two Fremantle Dockers players on the ground.

    Off season recruits Drew Petrie and Sam Mitchell seem unlikely to go on next year, while stalwarts like Matt Priddis and Mark LeCras are also under the gun.

    Simpson admitted those decisions would need to be made at some point.

    “What’s really important is we identify where we’re at as a club,” he said.

    “I think we’re pretty clear where we’re at internally. We’ll make decisions in due course.”

    But a decision on the coach himself seems a long way off yet.

    Simpson signed an extension in the wake of the 2015 Grand Final loss to Hawthorn and is now contracted through to the end of 2019.

    Had that 2015 decider gone a different way, discussions over his future would almost certainly not be taking place now — and Simpson’s pre-match press conferences would instead centre on preparations for the next opponent.

    That is something the man himself would clearly prefer.

    “It’s about us as a collective. I’m not really thinking about myself at the moment,” he said.

    “It’s about how we can get the back half of the season right and have some real growth in the future.”


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    Aldi says water taps safe to use, after lead contamination scare

    Aldi Australia CEO reassures customers on spiral spring mixer tap

    Supermarket chain Aldi has confirmed its Spiral Spring Mixer Tap has passed additional tests and is safe for use, after concerns the product may have be contaminating drinking water with lead.

    Key points:

    • Tests confirm Aldi’s Spiral Spring Mixer Tap safe to use
    • There was concern the taps may be contaminating water with higher-than-safe levels of lead
    • Initial alarms raised by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission

    Aldi Australia’s CEO Tom Daunt took to Facebook to make the announcement.

    “I am pleased to announce that we have just received confirmation from independent, accredited and certified testing laboratories, that the Spiral Spring Mixer Tap meets all Australia /New Zealand 4020 tests for WaterMark certification,” he said.

    That means the product is completely safe for use.

    In a statement Aldi said the latest results, tested under the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, were consistent with previous independent testing conducted prior to sale.

    Mr Daunt said he was alarmed by the claims suggesting that the taps, sold as a Special Buy on June 10 this year, may contaminate drinking water with higher-than-safe levels of lead.

    “I can assure you that as soon as this matter was brought to ALDI’s attention, we initiated a priority investigation,” he said.

    “Our teams have worked tirelessly with authorities and independent testing laboratories to confirm that the tests conducted prior to sale were accurate, and the product is safe.”

    The spiral spring mixer tap is shown in a catalogue on sale for $79.99.

    Alarms were raised earlier in July when the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) said it conducted tests on the tap during an investigation into a separate issue.

    “Our initial test results show that there is a cause for concern, and that the tapware may cause lead contamination of drinking water,” QBCC commissioner Brett Bassett said at the time.

    The product was immediately removed from sale and tested.

    Mr Daunt said he was disappointed so many customers were provided with information that generated such unnecessary concern and inconvenience.

    “The QBCC published statements about the safety of the tap based on tests they had carried out that were not conducted in accordance with the Australian Standard and were not conducted by an appropriately accredited laboratory,” Mr Daunt said.


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    Storm Boy remake to showcase Murray-Darling

    Director Shawn Seet on the left with actors Finn Little in the middle and Geoffrey Rush on right of picture.

    A remake of a classic Australian film that put South Australia’s Coorong wetlands region on the global stage is about to start, at a time when debate is again raging about protecting the Murray-Darling river system.

    The 1976 classic Storm Boy will be retold by its central character, Mike, now as an older man.

    Actor Geoffrey Rush will relate his childhood adventures to his troubled granddaughter.

    Much loved characters including Mr Percival, the pelican, Fingerbone Bill and Hideaway Tom will be in the new version.

    Rush, an Academy Award winner, said he was delighted to be involved and making a return to South Australia.

    “I played a pelican in Finding Nemo and, when I got the [Storm Boy] script, I thought ‘Wow, I like a challenge’,” he said.

    He joked that he had expected to be cast as Mr Percival: “Then, of course, I realised they wanted me to play an old guy.”

    Cinema release expected in 2018

    The Storm Boy remake is expected to be in cinemas next year and there are hopes of international sales.

    “I know this version that’s been written is really a beautiful, fresh evocation of [author] Colin Thiele’s original 1950s setting,” Rush said.

    Mr Percival and Storm Boy

    Producer Matthew Street said the film would be shot at several locations in Adelaide and regional South Australia but stay true to the locations in the original.

    “We really wanted to do this at the location at Colin Thiele’s heart,” he said.

    “We’re actually doing a retelling … in a way that’s new and fresh, for a new generation.”

    Director Shawn Seet said he felt honoured to have been chosen to work on the project.

    Pelicans on a lake, some taking to the sky.

    “It was one of the first films I saw when I was a kid when I first came to Australia,” he said.

    “It’s been one of the films that made me want to get into film-making, so it thrills me that we can come to use the beautiful and unique locations in South Australia which inspired Colin Thiele to write the beautiful book.”

    Arts Minister Jack Snelling said the South Australian Government had put in $500,000 toward the production.

    “I think this is a great opportunity to make the rest of Australia, and the rest of the world, aware of the unique environment we have in the Coorong and how important the protection of the Murray-Darling Basin is,” he said.

    “[It] is even more topical than it was in the 1970s when the original Storm Boy was filmed.”

    Filming is due to start in the next few days.