Injured Chakvetadze retires from tennis

Russian former world No.

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5 and US Open semi-finalist Anna Chakvetadze, whose career was blighted by a horrific armed robbery in 2007, on Thursday announced her retirement from tennis, aged just 26, due to chronic back injuries.

“I no longer see myself in professional tennis so I am ready to say that my career is over,” Chakvetadze told the Sport Express daily.

“Of course, this was a difficult decision and I thought hard about it but now it is finally taken. I understood that the point of return to tennis was behind me.

“I have a chronic back injury,” she explained. “So I took the decision to stop and start a new life.”

In a decade-long career, which earned her more than $US3.9 million ($A4.2 million) in prize money, Chakvetadze reached the last four of the US Open in 2007, won eight WTA singles titles and was also a member of two Russian teams which won the Fed Cup twice.

In 2007, she also reached the quarter-finals of the Australian and French opens, lifting to a career-high world ranking but had since plunged to 577.

Many believe her subsequent decline can be traced to the trauma of being held at knifepoint at home at the peak of her career in December 2007 by robbers who stole $US300,000 ($A323,000) and beat up her father.

“After this, my season was a complete failure. They did not rob me at a good time,” she told the paper with heavy irony. “Yes, it affected my further career.”

But she said the trauma had changed her and made her “look more deeply at things”.

“When the attack happened, I thought that was it for us. But we stayed alive.”

She said her parents still live in the same house and the criminals were never found.

Real unlikely to overburden Bale at Villarreal

Soccer’s richest club by income, who like champions Barca have a perfect nine points from three matches, splashed a record 100 million euros (84.

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2 million pounds) to secure Bale’s services and he could make his debut at promoted Villarreal in Saturday’s late kickoff (9 p.m.).

The 24-year-old winger played the final half hour of Wales’s 3-0 World Cup qualification defeat at home to Serbia on Tuesday, his first competitive action since July, and coach Chris Coleman warned afterwards it would be unwise for him to play a full match this weekend considering his relative lack of fitness.

After arriving in the Spanish capital on Wednesday, Bale had his first workout with his new team mates and although Real have a number of players injured, coach Carlo Ancelotti is unlikely to deploy him from the start at the Madrigal.

Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo, Spain playmaker Isco and Brazil fullback Marcelo all returned from international duty with problems of varying degrees of seriousness.

Ronaldo and Isco trained apart from the rest of the squad on Wednesday, while Marcelo had treatment from medical staff along with long-term absentee Xabi Alonso.

Villarreal, along with Atletico Madrid the only other team to win their opening three games, are eager to test themselves against opponents of Real’s calibre after spending a year in the second division last term.

Under coach Marcelino they have shown real attacking flair and their performances so far this term suggest they are more likely to be challenging for a place in Europe than flirting with relegation come the end of the campaign.

“It’s a chance to show that we can compete with anyone and that we can fight against a team like Madrid,” captain Bruno Soriano told a news conference on Wednesday.

“Last year, we were dreaming about playing these teams and now the opportunity has arrived and we want to put in a great performance,” the midfielder added.

“Personally I prefer it if an opponent is at full strength and that the best come so we can take them on.

“Although even if Madrid has some players out, I am sure they will have the same level of quality.”

TRADEMARK SPRINT

Barca are waiting on the fitness of midfielder Sergio Busquets and fullback Daniel Alves as they prepare to host Sevilla on Saturday (7 p.m.).

Coach Gerardo Martino has used Neymar sparingly in the early stages of Barca’s title defence, although he did play 90 minutes of the 3-2 victory at Valencia in their last league outing before the international break.

The Brazil forward shone for his country in friendly victories against Australia and Portugal over the past week, scoring a goal in each game including a trademark sprint through the Portuguese defence followed by a clinical finish.

Barca’s World Player of the Year Lionel Messi also returned on Wednesday after helping Argentina secure qualification for next year’s World Cup in Brazil with two penalties in a 5-2 success in Paraguay.

Messi missed the 1-0 win La Liga at Malaga last month before notching a hat-trick at Valencia to take his tally for the season to five goals in two games including a double at home to Levante in the opening round of matches.

Atletico, who are at home to promoted Almeria (1400) on Saturday, made a couple of new signings this month, bringing in Belgium defender Toby Alderweireld from Ajax Amsterdam and France midfielder Josuha Guilavogui from St Etienne.

Fellow Champions League participants Real Sociedad, who lost 2-1 at home to Atletico in their most recent outing, play at Levante, also on Saturday (5 p.m.).

(Editing by John O’Brien)

Comment: Podcast confessions

Headphones are a blessing of modern life, particularly for those us of who prefer to cultivate our human interactions with a specificity unsuited to living in a highly populated urban space.

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They are one of the most effective ways to enact the role of being a stranger in public – of putting up a wall between you and the seething mass of humanity around you.  But there comes a point when you have exhausted the music available to your tastes and require something more intellectually stimulating.

I’ve long looked forward to the day that information can be beamed directly into my head, and with the rising popularity of audiobooks and podcasts, that day is here. The problem is, where to start?

Systems of crowdsourced valorisation for podcasts are impractical because of the way podcasts are made for and consumed by niche audiences. Consumers are moving away from broadcast television and radio, and are cultivating their cultural consumption in narrowcast channels. We watch television when and how we choose, thanks to the wonder of time-shifted viewing. Podcasts can be seen as a variation of time-shifting for broadcast audio.

The problem shifts from value to discovery. Recommendation from both loose and close ties in your social orbit are still the most popular and effective way to find your next favourite book, tv show, movie and yes, podcast. Despite Amazon’s algorithmic prowess and iTunes list rankings, we still hold our human interactions in more esteem than our machinic ones. So read on for this human’s recommendations from the world of podcasts.

For the aspiring science nerd – Aeon Magazine

Aeon magazine features experts writing about interests ranging in  diversity from astronomy – the night sky as a necropolis of alien civilisations – to vegan carnivores. They record an audio version of some of the essays from the site, often offering fascinating insight into the chosen topic.

For the recreational history user – Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History

American political commentator Dan Carlin has two podcasts. Common Sense focuses on his world of almost anarchist suspicions about mainstream US politics. The more popular Hardcore History podcast is the place to start, as he discusses historical events by framing them in terms of current and relatable concepts. They’re a major commitment – recent episodes have clocked in at  over 4 hours – but that’s the beauty of podcasts. Pause at will.

For some 90s pop culture nostalgia – Bring a Plate with Peter and Bec

You might be familiar with Bec as @brocklesnitch on twitter, and if you enjoy her 140 character musings you are going to adore the extended audio version. Peter and Bec discuss recent newsworthy events, and then watch and recap a movie from the 90s. It’s both hilarious and enlightening for those of us who grew up in the 90s, and useful trivia for those who didn’t.

For the pop-economics buff – Econ Talk

Russ Roberts is a professor of economics at George Mason University, and hosts a one-on-one discussion with a guest every week. The guest often has recently written a topical book or is knowledgeable regarding a recent newsworthy event, making this podcast one of the most useful for learning about economic ideas and theories with real world examples.

For the media-savvy – On The Media

A behind the scenes look at the issues concerned in reporting the news and current events. Warm and often humorous, it takes a reflective and cerebral approach to examining how the media “sausage” is made. Highly recommended for those inside news reporting as well as outsiders with more than a passing interest.

For the genre-fiction fan – Podmentum

Full disclosure, this “official podcast of Momentum books” used to be my baby. I have now handed the solemn duty of discussing sci-fi, urban fantasy and romance fiction over to my former colleagues and fellow book nerds, and their last episode about political erotic fiction did not disappoint.

Okay, excited about listening to podcasts? Chosen which one you want to hear? Don’t have a clue how to access them? Here’s a handy guide I prepared earlier. And if you’re looking for more recommendations, come find me on twitter @annetreasure.

Anne Treasure is a recent survivor of the book industry.

Trekkers attacked by PNG bandits tell of horror

A group of Australian and New Zealand trekkers brutally attacked by bandits in Papua New Guinea told Thursday of their harrowing ordeal and horror as two porters were butchered.

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The eight tourists were in their tents on the remote jungle-clad Black Cat Track in the lawless Pacific nation’s northern Morobe province when a mob of six armed men struck at dusk on Tuesday.

   

Two porters were hacked to death with machetes and four of the Australians were injured, including one who was speared through the leg.

   

“It started to rain and some of us were inside the tents when there was a whole lot of noise, shouting. I thought the boys had found a bush kangaroo, an animal or something like that,” one of the survivors, Nick Bennett, told Channel Nine after arriving in the capital Port Moresby.

   

“Next thing, I thought ‘what’s going on’, I put my head outside tent and smack — I thought I’d been shot actually,” he said of being hit with a rifle butt.

   

“Blood just erupted out of my head and I looked up and I saw this guy with a mask on standing over me, and then the whole thing unfolded.

   

“They were laying into the porter boys. I realised they were butchering the porters. It was just appalling and we’re very fortunate.”

   

Another survivor, Peter Stevens, told Australian Associated Press he and the rest of the group were forced to lie on the ground as the men ransacked their backpacks, stealing passports and other items.

   

“They then laid into us with bush knives, hitting us with the flats of the knives,” Stevens said.

   

“You can’t tell whether they’re going to hit you with the flat side. Some people were cut.”

   

Stevens said two of the attackers were clearly on drugs and “they did the most damage”.

   

The group managed to hike some four hours back to safety, reportedly carrying the porters’ bodies.

   

Papua Prime Minister Peter O’Neill vowed the tribesmen responsible will face the death penalty if caught and convicted.

   

“I make no apology whatsoever for the death penalty being the punishment available to be applied for such crimes,” he said in a statement.

   

While the attack was believed to be a robbery, some reports suggested it could also stem from growing resentment that the booming trekking industry is not giving back to local communities.

   

Crime in Papua New Guinea is rampant, including in Port Moresby where in June four Chinese nationals were hacked to death, with one reportedly beheaded and the others dismembered.

   

Brutality against women is particularly endemic, with high rates of domestic violence. In April, a US academic was gang-raped while she was trekking along a jungle trail with her husband and a guide.

   

The Black Cat Track runs between Wau and Salamaua in northern PNG through leech- and snake-infested jungle with precarious drops and potentially dangerous river crossings.

   

It was the scene of bitter fighting in 1943, pitting Australian and US troops against Japanese forces.

  

Jobless rate hits four-year high

The unemployment rate rose to a four-year high in August, posing a challenge for both the central bank and the incoming Abbott government.

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New data on Thursday showed the jobless rate rising to 5.8 per cent, as economists had expected, compared to 5.7 per cent in both June and July.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said the number of people in employment dropped by 10,800 in August, when economists had expected a 10,000 increase.

Full-time employment fell by 2600, while those in part-time work decreased by 8200.

Forward indicators of employment, such as job advertisements, point to a continued reluctance to hire by business in the coming months.

Treasury has forecast the unemployment rate rising to 6.25 per cent by June next year.

Among the states, the jobless rate rose to 5.9 per cent from 5.7 per cent in NSW, while in Queensland it increased to six per cent from 5.9 per cent.

In Western Australia the rate jumped to five per cent from 4.6 per cent and in Tasmania it rose to 8.3 per cent from 8.2 per cent.

South Australia bucked the trend with its unemployment rate easing to 6.8 per cent from 7.1 per cent, while in Victoria it was unchanged at 5.7 per cent.

In The ACT the rate was also unchanged at 3.7 per cent, while in the Northern Territory it rose to 5.5 per cent from 5.4 per cent.

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED UNEMPLOYMENT RATES STATE BY STATE:

   

NSW – 5.9% in August, up from 5.7% in July

Vic – 5.7%, unchanged from July

Qld – 6.0%, up from 5.9%

SA –  6.8%, down from 7.1%

WA –  5.0%, up from 4.6%

Tas – 8.3%, up from 8.2%