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Qld launches crackdown on synthetic drugs

Queensland’s police commissioner has vowed to crack down on convenience stores that unwittingly sell harmful synthetic drugs.

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The state last year became the first and only jurisdiction in Australia to ban any product that mimicked the pharmaceutical effects of an illicit drug, not just certain active ingredients.

But Commissioner Ian Stewart says convenience stores and adult shops are still selling the illegal highs that have been known to cause hallucinations and even death.

“There are still some people in Queensland who might run a service station, for instance, who aren’t quite up with the law,” he told reporters at the launch of a synthetic drugs awareness campaign in Brisbane.

“I can tell you now that they will be prosecuted whether they’re bringing them in or selling them almost from a naivety of not understanding the law because they’ve seen them on sale in another state.

“I’m still concerned at the education of small business owners is not as complete as perhaps what we’d like it.”

Dr Christian Rowan, an addiction medicine specialist who is also the Queensland president of the Australian Medical Association, said synthetic drugs can cause stroke, heart and kidney failure along with mental health and cognitive problems.

“We’d say they’re all dangerous,” he said.

“You can’t simply identify one as more dangerous than another.”

Synthetic drugs are sold interstate as bath salts and kronic, an artificial marijuana.

Last year, Sydney teenager Henry Kwan jumped to his death from a balcony after taking synthetic LSD bought online.

In May, Liam O’Shea-Leamy, 17, drowned in a Townsville pool after having a psychotic reaction to a synthetic drug.

Wallaby Robinson in great shape

Wallabies prop Benn Robinson enters the new Super Rugby season in his best shape for some time as he strives to re-establish himself as a Wallaby starter after one of the toughest years of his career.

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In 2013, NSW Waratahs and Wallabies scrum anchor Robinson found himself left out of both starting sides at different stages of the season.

He didn’t start the Waratahs first Super Rugby game and was the high-profile omission from new Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie’s initial squad for the Rugby Championship.

Robinson was recalled for the latter part of that tournament and went on the Spring tour, but his past seven caps were all won off the bench behind James Slipper.

He missed the Scotland Test last November after he was one of six players stood down for a late-night drinking session in Dublin.

“It was very tough,” Robinson said reflecting on his year in 2013.

“To go through the events that happened last year, it was probably one of my tougher years, on the field and off the field as well.

“I think off the field, there’s always the challenges there and there was all those highlighted events that we had.”

“Missing out (on the Wallabies’ squad) was always tough. The toughest thing you can do is to get dropped from a side that you love dearly.

“Then you get brought back in the side and have some success. It was a very pleasing thing for me.”

Robinson said he felt he continued to improve as a player and had a pretty good season with NSW, culminating in him winning their best forward award.

He spoke to McKenzie on the Spring tour about what he needed to do to regain a starting spot, which he virtually had a mortgage on from 2008 to last year.

“It’s about not just offering up, scrummaging or tackling, just making sure that I’m across the board and continually improving as a player in all aspects,” Robinson said.

The 29-year-old prop heads into the Waratahs’ Super Rugby season opener against Western Force in Sydney on Sunday delighted with his state of fitness.

“This is the best I’ve felt in a long, long time,” Robinson said.

Another Wallabies and Waratahs stalwart in good shape is powerful but injury-prone No.8 Wycliff Palu who, for one of the few times in his NSW career, has played all three trials.

“It’s been good. I’ve really enjoyed it, playing back-to-back footy – you kind of miss it,” Palu said.

Barcelona offer Man City toughest test to date

Both teams will start what promises to be a memorable duel at the Etihad Stadium boosted by superb wins on Saturday, with City returning to their best form in beating Chelsea 2-0 in the FA Cup and Barcelona crushing Rayo Vallecano 6-0 in La Liga.

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Both were also boosted by the return of important players after injury.

Samir Nasri came on as a second-half substitute for City after missing seven games and scored City’s second against Chelsea within minutes of his arrival while Neymar also returned as a substitute in the second half for the Spanish champions to score a stunning goal after four matches out to complete Barca’s scoring.

Neymar is likely to be on the bench at the start on Tuesday, which may offer some relief for the home team, who will probably have to raise their already impressive game to even greater heights if they are to knock out the four-times European champions.

City coach Manuel Pellegrini is well aware of what Barca are capable of from his time with Villarreal, Malaga and Real Madrid in Spain, while City’s free-ranging midfielder Yaya Toure spent three years at the Nou Camp and won every major honour with them, including the Champions League in 2009.

In an interview with Champions Magazine, Toure said he expected City to win the first leg to show how far the club have come since the injection of Sheikh Mansour’s cash totally transformed them from domestic also-rans to potential European champions.

“Our fans deserve a victory against a big club to show how the club is progressing,” he said. “Barcelona are a perfect example, a great club with an exceptional history with players who might currently be the best in the world, like Lionel Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Pique, Busquets.

“It will be a great match and we really have the desire to show City are on the right track.”

City are in uncharted waters as far as the Champions League is concerned, having been knocked out at the group stage in their two previous appearances.

But they are the highest scoring team in this season’s competition with 28 goals.

“Our experience from our defeats last year has made us more mature,” Youre added.

“We have the players, the manager, but you also need to play against great teams to test your level.”

City gave a hint of their growing strength with a 3-2 win away to champions Bayern Munich in the group stage, and they have scored 117 goals in all competitions this season.

PERFECT WARM-UP

The Spanish champions had the perfect warm-up on Saturday when Messi, who looks to be back to his best after returning in early January from a two-month injury layoff, scored twice to overtake Alfredo di Stefano in La Liga scoring history.

Messi’s 228 goals in 263 games took him to joint third on the all-time list with Raul, behind Telmo Zarra (251) and Hugo Sanchez (234).

Messi has now scored 337 goals for Barcelona, a record for one club, but has only ever managed one for Barcelona in England – in the 2011 Champions League final against Manchester United at Wembley.

As well as Messi having an outstanding game on Saturday, midfielders Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta turned in scintillating displays and in-form forwards Pedro and Alexis also scored as Barca totally overwhelmed second-from-bottom Rayo at the Nou Camp.

“The victory will help us build confidence for our next few matches, which are going to be very tough,” Pedro told reporters.

“We have had some good performances this season but today was one of the best,” the Spain international added.

“Tuesday’s game against City will be very closely fought, we are both good teams.”

Barcelona will also be seeking to end a run of five games in England other than the Wembley final without a win, but even a draw at City could well tip the tie in their favour ahead of the second leg in Barcelona on March 12.

(Editing by Steve Tongue)

Wobbling Leverkusen bullish ahead of PSG test

It will be the first time the sides have met in Europe and the Germans have an excellent home record against French opposition in European competition, winning four out of six matches.

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Domestically, however, Leverkusen have struggled recently and have lost five of their last seven, including a shock home defeat by second-division side Kaiserslautern in the German Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Sami Hyypia’s side played better despite losing 2-1 at the Bayer Arena to Schalke 04 on Saturday, although striker Stefan Kiessling is struggling to reclaim his touch in front of goal.

Kiessling, 30, scored two goals in six games in the Champions League group stage this season as Bayer finished second in Group A behind Manchester United.

“I’m very happy with the way my team played. It was very different from Wednesday’s game,” Hyypia told the club’s website after Saturday’s loss.

“The lads showed a lot of character. We can get a result on Tuesday if we play like that.”

Bayer continue to sweat on the fitness of centre back Emir Spahic who was substituted in the 60th minute with a thigh injury and midfielder Emre Can will miss the match through suspension.

Spahic’s absence could be a big blow to a side which conceded nine goals in two group matches against United and face the tough task of controlling Ibrahimovic.

IBRAHIMOVIC’S THREAT

With Edinson Cavani recovering from a thigh problem and expected to return before the end the month, the talismanic Swede will lead the attack.

Ibrahimovic, who scored a personal best eight goals in the group stage and has 19 league goals this campaign, said he was determined to help PSG win the Champions League – a feat he has not achieve despite playing for Barcelona, Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Ajax.

“If we can get further than the quarter-finals this year it would be a big step for us. This project has been ongoing for two years and I’ve been here for one and a half – it is developing,” he told UEFA上海桑拿,.

“We have a team with a lot of potential and high quality and I think the collective part has grown a lot this year.”

PSG are five points clear of second-placed Monaco in Ligue 1 and are cruising toward their first back-to-back titles, although coach Laurent Blanc said he wanted his side to covert more opportunities on goal.

“We create a big amount of chances but we have not converted enough in the past month and a half,” Blanc told reporters after his side beat Valenciennes 3-0 in the league on Friday.

With Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lucas Moura and Javier Pastore all suffering from inconsistency this season, PSG will attempt to better last year’s quarter-final appearance after Barcelona went through on away goals following two drawn matches.

The club’s latest acquisition Yohan Cabaye has been added to PSG’s Champions League squad and could feature in what would be his fifth appearance for the club since arriving from Newcastle in January.

The return leg will take place at the Parc des Princes on March 12.

(Reporting by Gregory Blachier; Editing by Mark Pangallo)

Vic coal-mine fire could burn for weeks

A Victorian coal-mine fire that is creating health problems for firefighters will likely burn for weeks.

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Nineteen firefighters have been treated for higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide from the 3km-long fire in the Hazelwood open-cut coal mine in the Latrobe Valley.

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley says there are high levels of carbon monoxide in the pit itself and authorities are also monitoring levels from smoke over Morwell.

“It’s a fire that’s not going to be easy to put out,” Mr Lapsley said on Monday.

“I think the Hazelwood mine will burn for a number of weeks and the biggest concern with that is the amount of smoke that it’s putting up over Morwell.”

The fire is burning more than 100 metres up the 150 metre wall of an old part of the mine.

Two hundred firefighters and 100 mine staff have been working on the fire, with 80 tankers and other support staff.

The grass fire that started on Sunday February 9 also spread into the Yallourn open-cut mine and burned into wood stocks at the Australian Paper Mill north of Morwell.

Mr Lapsley said the fire in the Yallourn mine is very small and is being managed, while the fire near the paper mill has been controlled.

Fires that started in mid-January are still burning further east in Victoria in East Gippsland, with some people only now regaining access to their homes and communities.

The fires in far East Gippsland have burnt more than 130,000 hectares between the Snowy River and NSW border.

Bushfires have destroyed 78 homes across Victoria so far this summer, including 45 lost in the past week.