Warren Gatland and his assistant coaches will have been relieved when they’d completed their round of media duties yesterday. Coming hard on the heels of a particularly difficult selection meeting before finalising their 37-man Lions squad to tour South Africa, as is usually the case national identity fuelled much of the inquisition.
The Scots seemed close to delirious with eight players, their highest representation since 1989, and the Welsh were pretty satisfied with having 10 albeit with misgivings about the exclusion of Jonathan Davies, player of the tour four years ago, and Josh Navidi.
Despite a the strongest allocation with 11, the English media led the charge on behalf of Kyle Sinckler especially, and also Billy Vunipola, Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade. But even Gatland and Gregor Townsend had to confess that Ireland had the most hard luck stories, even if eight players would have appeared a positive outcome given the absence of any Irish coaches on the ticket save for Leinster’s forwards coach Robin McBryde.
Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, Conor Murray and Robbie Henshaw were nailed on, and Andrew Porter and Iain Henderson were strong candidates, while Bundee Aki and Jack Conan were unexpected bonuses. But Johnny Sexton, James Ryan and, again, Garry Ringrose could rightly feel aggrieved.
Sexton was omitted after recently being stood down for six weeks to avoid a third concussion episode since the turn of the year, and the Lions medical team were assured that he has passed all protocols and is, according to Stuart Lancaster “training the house down”.
As Gatland effectively admitted, it certainly wasn’t a form issue.
“I thought we was outstanding against Scotland, great against England. At the end of the day he is a quality player. It wasn’t about concussion for me. We made a tough call about durability.
“We went back and yeah he played the Six Nations. But the thing with the Six Nations is that you have a couple of games and then you get a week off because it is really tough. He’s been rested on a number of occasions for Leinster or Ireland.
“But the last time Johnny played three consecutive weekends in a row was 2018. And he has had some knocks, but he’s had a number of different injuries.
“I just wanted to send a message to the guys we have selected that ‘we have complete confidence in you to do a job’. And this is mitigating against the risk that if we picked Johnny and he doesn’t play games, doesn’t get through the tour, then having to call someone in, for me it’s such an important position I just wanted to get that right.”
The Lions head coach also pointed to Russell’s control and game management against France while still providing “a point of difference” from the other outhalves.
Gatland referenced Leinster’s defeats by Saracens last September and La Rochelle last Sunday when encountering Will Skelton, especially with the Springboks in mind, while admitting Ryan was also “very unlucky”.
Ringrose’s absence from Ireland’s win over England led to the Lions head coach being particularly taken by the “absolutely brilliant” performances of Aki and Henshaw, at 13 that day.
Believing his centres provide a good balance Gatland likened Aki to Tuilagi. “He brings that go forward, that physicality, and has a fantastic mix in his game. They (South Africa) are going to have a big physical midfield and be really direct. We have to have players to mirror that if we need to, but also have to go and play some rugby with centres that can distribute and a back three that can score tries.”
Townsend believes they have three options at 12, in Owen Farrell, Aki and Henshaw, and three at 13 in Chris Harris, Elliot Daly and Henshaw again.
Up front, eyebrows will have been raised over the non-selection of Cian Healy and Sinckler. Both Rory Sutherland and Zander Fagerson making the cut, and Gatland cited Scotland’s particularly low penalty count at scrum time as well as Andrew Porter’s flexibility in covering both sides of the scrum.
“With the loose forwards, and particularly with Sam [SIMMONDS]and Taulupe Faletau, we looked at number 8s being explosive in the way they carry, with footwork,” said Gatland, which assuredly applies to Conan as well. “Billy (Vunipola) at the moment he is probably not quite there.”
With its decided emphasis on meeting the Springboks’ physical challenge head on, Gatland admitted the squad may have looked “a little bit different if you were going to Australia or New Zealand.
“I think South Africa have gone back to their DNA. Looking at the World Cup, looking at the documentary they’ve done, it shows you what their mentality is. It’s about being physical and winning that physical battle.
“We want to play some really good rugby but at times we’re going to have to roll our sleeves up and get in the trenches and back each other up, because it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be brutal at times.”
Presuming the Exeter Chiefs reach the Premiership final, Saracens will be playing in the Championship promotion play-offs and also factoring in Finn Russell’s commitments with Racing, at least 10 players could well be missing from the training camp in Jersey.
Although the rising tensions in the fishing waters of Jersey were not expected to sink the Lions’ plans, Gatland quipped: “I’m only concentrating on the rugby side, not the gunboats and the other stuff that’s going on. We’ve just got to make sure that if we do go fishing we don’t go out too far.”
Spanish architecture: The story of Madrid’s abandoned ‘beach’ for its working class | Culture
La Playa de Madrid was just 15 minutes from the Spanish capital’s Puerta del Sol square when it was inaugurated. Nine decades later, the distance is the same, but the premises developed by the architect Manuel Muñoz Monasterio in 1932 to create a “beach” in the landlocked city are in a state of complete disrepair.
The great leisure project for Madrid’s working class on the banks of the River Manzanares now houses fetid mattresses, crumpled beer cans, rank swimming pools, tattered tennis courts and facilities that are at risk of disappearing altogether.
Owned by the state agency Patrimonio Nacional, which manages Spain’s national heritage, La Playa de Madrid has been closed for six years. Defaults in rent payments forced it to close, and it subsequently became the target of vandalism. “There is no longer even any security,” says Juan García Vicente from the green group Ecologists in Action, who is upset by the state of dereliction of a site with social and architectural significance in the city’s history.
The access point to the “beach,” which borders La Zarzuela racetrack on one side and the Puerta de Hierro Sports Park (previously known as Parque Sindical) on the other, has not been opened since the authorities evicted staff and members at the end of October 2014. The company running the complex at that time, which belonged to the former president of the Spanish employers association CEOE, Arturo Fernández, received a court order to vacate the premises as it had failed to pay rent or any tax despite operating the five swimming pools, 11 tennis courts, four paddle courts, one roller-skating rink, four frontón courts, the cafeteria, the restaurant and the parking lot.
Arturo Fernández has left a hole in the National Heritage agency’s accounts to the tune of €867,006, which will have to be paid as soon as his company’s bankruptcy is resolved. The 3,000 Playa de Madrid members who had paid their fees were also denied access. Fernández’s contract had been renewed in 2011, despite the fact that he was already €466,831 in arrears. It was a sum that, according to the Court of Auditors, “he paid a few days before signing the new contract.”
To add insult to injury, EL PAÍS has learned that on July 30, National Heritage filed a complaint in court in a bid to evict the new company running the complex, Centro de Eventos Playa de Madrid, which is also behind on payments.
“It has not paid even one month’s rent and has run up a debt of €530,523,” says a National Heritage spokesperson. The new contract went into effect on October 17, 2017, after the president of National Heritage at the time, Alfredo Pérez de Armiñán, decided to lease the 184,800 square-meter property to a company that not only failed to pay rent, but also reneged on a commitment to invest €3.2 million to renovate the complex.
Meanwhile, under the National Heritage’s current president, Llanos Castellanos, an initiative is underway to revamp the more than 22,000 hectares of green spaces owned by the institution throughout the country, including the Playa de Madrid complex, which will be finalized when the judicial process ends. “The aim is to turn it into a sustainable property that is financially self-sufficient, and to make sure that what has happened does not happen again,” says Castellanos.
The phony beach was fashioned from a shallow river, from which “a beautiful arm of the sea” was created, to quote an ad from that period. But the dam that stored up the water to create a 300-meter shoreline was dismantled this January by the Tajo Water Confederation so that the river could follow its natural course unimpeded, according to García Vicente.
“It was a very interesting dam because it still allowed the water to flow and remain clean,” says Alberto Tellería, a member of the Madrid Citizenship and Heritage Association, who still remembers the complex’s dance floor and the announcement of a design competition for cheap evening dresses in 1934.
The “beach” was very popular among the working classes during the Second Republic, before Francisco Franco’s air forces razed it. And it was there that the photojournalist Robert Capa constructed his iconic image of of two militiamen greeting each other under the lighthouse tower.
But unpaid dues and ignored commitments have proved the ruin of the site, which is these days trapped between two highways. “These are public facilities of extraordinary significance,” says Juan García Vicente, who has been fighting for years for a path that will connect Madrid with El Pardo, on the left bank of the river.
This path should be ready in a couple of months and access to the “beach” will be reserved for pedestrians and cyclists. Meanwhile, the dignity of the complex is still to be restored, which according to Carlos Ripoll, a member of the Madrid Architects Association (COAM), has an “impeccable” language all of its own.
The simple and modern lines of the structures designed by the creator of the Las Ventas bullfighting ring and the Santiago Bernabeu soccer stadium are hidden behind pines, cork oak and poplars, and they are reminiscent of the international tone set by Swiss architect Le Corbusier. Muñoz Monasterio, who sided with the regime after the civil war (1936-1939), carried out the post-war reconstruction in 1948, refurbishing it according to Franco’s taste, with slate roofs and spires. But the subsequent inauguration of the nearby Parque Sindical (now known as the Puerta de Hierro Sports Park) and water contamination ended Madrid’s dream of having a beach.
English version by Heather Galloway.
Russians’ Alcohol Consumption Drops 80% in 7 Years
Alcohol consumption has been reduced by 80% over the past 5-7 years in Russia, Minister of Health Veronika Skvortsova stated at a working breakfast during the Gaidar Forum today, reports RIA-Novosti.
The Gaidar Forum is an annual event in Moscow hosted by the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, which brings together economist, Nobel Prize winners, leading professors, and representatives of the Russian and foreign elite to discuss the most acute problems of the day, especially as concerns Russia’s position and strategic role in the world.
“We have managed to reduce the consumption of alcoholic beverages by 80% per capita…” Skvortsova stated. Meanwhile, “the number actively engaged in sports has grown by more than 40%.”
She also noted that smoking among adults has dropped 22%, and has been reduced thrice over among children and adolescents.
According to a 2012 report from the World Health Organization, the number of Russians who drink several times a week had by then declined to 5%, and the number who drink several times a month to 33%. Russian citizens were found to drink about as much as citizens of Denmark, Great Britain and Croatia.
The Russian Orthodox Church has played a key role in reducing the amount of alcohol consumption in the country. There are more than 500 active anti-alcoholism projects in Russia today under the auspices of the Church.
“One of the Church’s most successful works in the sphere of temperance education is the celebration of the All-Russian Day of Sobriety on September 11,” stated Valery Doronkin, head of the Coordinating Center for Combating Alcoholism and Endorsing Sobriety of the Synodal Charity Department.
Special prayers are added to the Litany of Peace and the Litany of Fervent Supplication on the Day of Sobriety. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill stated on this day in 2016:
By decision of the Holy Synod in 2014, the day of the Beheading of St. John the Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist is deemed the Day of Sobriety, because precisely the mad state of Herod, drunk on wine at his banquet, was the cause of such a frightful order which he gave—to behead the holy prophet.
We know what terrible sufferings drunkenness has brought our people in the past, and which continue today: the destruction of families, the birth of sick children, people, losing the meaning of life and health, called to the fullness of existence, becoming invalids in youth only because they didn’t have enough strength to turn from sinful attractions and stop drinking.
According to the primate, not only the health of the nation, but also “the very existence of our people and state” depends upon this question.
Source: Orthodox Christianity
G7 countries accused of prioritising military spending over climate action
G7 countries “are stuck in the 1970s and 1980s” and avoiding profound societal changes needed to address the climate crisis, while embracing “the ruse of net-zero” carbon emissions, according to leading climate scientist Prof Kevin Anderson.
Speaking at a briefing on climate issues at the summit of the Group of Seven leaders, comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States, in Cornwall, Prof Anderson said: “Net zero is the latest ruse that we’re using to avoid making profound social changes and to avoid the rapid and just phasing out of our existing oil, gas and coal industries.”
The former director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the UK said this was also avoiding the adoption of challenging policies and the huge transformation of infrastructure required.
Net zero was “a way of passing the buck to future generations”, he said at the event hosted by the COP26 Coalition – the campaign group seeking greater climate justice commitments at the United Nations climate conference in November.
“We need leaders now who are prepared to grasp the enormity of the climate challenge but also the wider ecological crisis – rather than the eloquent, simple greenwashing of ‘business as usual’. And that’s what we’re seeing currently.
“Despite ramping up of good news stories in advance of COP26, the reality is that the gap between the necessary action and actual cuts in emissions for both 1.5 degrees and 2 degrees is just getting bigger. Playing into this ongoing failure is the ubiquitous language of ‘net zero’, under which almost any organisation, region or country can claim to be aligned with the Paris commitments,” Prof Anderson said.
“But dig a little deeper and claims of net zero are often little more than a ruse whereby immediate cuts in actual emissions are substituted for future speculative ‘negative emissions’, offsetting and other forms of mitigation denial,” he said.
Niamh Ní Bhriain of the Transnational Institute’s war and pacification programme said prioritisation of military spending, costing almost $2 trillion (€1.7 trillion) a year, was an issue that “must be brought into the room in discussing climate justice and global poverty”.
A total of 57 per cent of that spend on military, security, intelligence and borders came from G7 countries, she added. “This is a political choice. This is a question of political will; that we’re spending this much on the military.”
Unprecedented spending on borders by rich countries of the global north to prevent migrants coming to their shores was part of a militarised response to migration, which she predicted would become even more prevalent when parts of the world became uninhabitable as the climate crisis deepened.
COP26 Coalition spokesman Asad Rehman of War on Want said G7 countries, who bear the greatest responsibility for fuelling crises that threaten the lives and livelihoods of billions, could no longer make empty statements or hollow promises to act. “Leaders must listen to the millions of people in every corner of the world who are demanding a justice transition.”
As a first step the G7 must commit to doing their fair share of emissions reductions by 2030 to limit warming to well below 1.5 degrees, he said, and commit “to unlocking the trillions needed to build a sustainable economy of the future – one that guarantees universal public services, living wages and puts people before profit.”
Rising sea levels
Meanwhile, Extinction Rebellion Ireland have been staging theatrical displays along the coast of Ireland calling on G7 leaders to take adequate action against sea level rise.
The UN estimates there could be anywhere between 25 million and 1 billion environmental migrants by 2050, with many of those on the move because of the effects of sea level rise, an Extinction Rebellion Ireland spokeswoman said. “These estimates envisage flooding of Irish coasts; meanwhile, other island nations around the world are already suffering,” she said.
“Since signing the Paris Agreement in 2015 these nations have utterly failed to meet their commitments to reduce emissions and mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Greenwashing and empty promises won’t stop the sea levels from rising; our crops from failing or the entire ecosystem on which our lives rely on from collapsing. 2021 is a critical year and the decisions made by the G7 are make or break,” she added.
In Cork, protestors used a tape measure to mark the rising sea levels and highlight the risk of flooding that coastal communities face. Off the Down coast Extinction Rebellion Northern Ireland members dressed as red rebels served tea at a table half submerged in the sea.
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