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Scrapping the US alliance would force Australia to meet its own defence costs, hammering the federal budget, former chief of defence Angus Houston has warned, while also counselling the Turnbull government against over-reacting to China’s territorial expansion in the South China Sea. He said Australia should not contemplate naval exercises close to the recently constructed islands, and should instead focus on diplomatic representations designed to halt further militarisation.
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Tillerson talks tough about Russia, China
At his confirmation hearing, Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson says Russia “poses a danger” and that China should be denied access to islands it has built in the South China Sea. Sir Angus, arguably Australia’s pre-eminent defence elder, said the US-Australia and New Zealand defence pact known as ANZUS, had been the institutional key to Australia’s national security since the blackest days of World War II.
“It has been the cornerstone of our defence policy ever since,” he said during an address to the National Press Club on the topic of Australia’s US alliance.
Picking up the tab for defences provided as an alliance obligation by Washington, would see pressure put on already stretched health and education commitments. He estimated the replacement cost of the US alliance would cause a virtual doubling of the current spending on defence to as high as 4 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product.
In 2016-17, Australia will spend $33.931 billion on defence, which constitutes 1.94 per cent of GDP. If Australia were to increase to 4 per cent, its projected defence spend in 2017-18 would go from just over $35 billion to more than $72 billion – a jump of $37.3 billion. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is currently in Washington to strengthen the relationship with Trump administration officials, and is expected to discuss a possible request for an increased Australian contribution in Iraq in the fight against IS, and the refugee resettlement agreement.
Sir Angus Houston addresses the National Press Club in Canberra. Photo: Andrew Meares
Australian concerns over the reliability of the alliance have increased in recent months, fuelled by the volatility of policy emanating from President Donald Trump, who has railed against alliance partner countries that duck the full costs of their own protection. Speaking in Munich on Monday, US Vice-President Mike Pence, pointedly stopped short of withdrawing his boss’s warning that the failure of NATO member states to meet their obligations could see the US refuse to to come to their aid under the terms on that agreement.
Illustration: Ron Tandberg.
“We vowed in that treaty to contribute our fair share to our common defence,” Mr Pence said.
“The promise to share the burden of our defence has gone unfulfilled for too many for too long and it erodes the very foundation of our alliance. When even one ally fails to do their part, it undermines all of our ability to come to each other’s aid.”
Asked about China’s creation of artificial islands, Mr Houston said a diplomatic course was required, warning that engaging in direct freedom of navigation voyages within the 12-mile zone would be counter-productive.
“Frankly, I don’t see a need to put a ship in close proximity to an artificial island claimed by China, I thinks that’s something that may result in consequences that we’d rather avoid,” he said. Former Labor prime minister Paul Keating has proposed a more independent stance for Australia, arguing our security should be more rooted within the region than it has been in the past.
“Our future is basically in the region around us in South-East Asia,” he told the ABC’s 7.30.
“It’s time to cut the tag. It’s time to get out of it.”
Residents from throughout the Santa Ynez Valley are invited to welcome two U.S. Olympic Trials swimming pools when they arrive by truck Friday, March 3, to become the cornerstone of a new aquatic, wellness and sports medicine facility. A convoy carrying the pools in modular pieces will roll into Buellton on Friday afternoon following a two-day, 1,700-mile journey from Omaha, Nebraska, where they ve been stored since being used in the 2016 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials. The convoy is scheduled to leave Buellton about 2:45 p.m. and travel along Highway 246 to Solvang, where the welcoming celebration will take place from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the Old Mission Santa Ines east parking area at 1720 Mission Drive.
The event will include food and refreshments as well as remarks by a number of notable participants, including Kami Craig, a three-time Olympic water polo medalist and Santa Ynez native; Gary Hall Jr., a 10-time Olympic swimming medalist; and retired U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Timothy Sullivan of Mission: Readiness. A national security nonprofit organization of more than 650 retired admirals, generals and other retired senior military leaders, Mission: Readiness promotes smart investments in America s children and is part of the Council for a Strong America. Also participating in the celebration will be officials from the cities of Buellton and Solvang and Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, where the pools will eventually be installed for use not only by students but also by clubs, organizations and individual residents from throughout the Valley.
Also scheduled to attend are representatives of the LA84 Foundation, an organization created with a share of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games surplus to support youth sports programs and public education through grants. The arrival of the pools marks a major milestone in fulfilling the vision for a much-needed aquatic and sports medicine education complex for the Valley and Central Coast, said a spokesman for the Santa Ynez Valley Community Aquatics Foundation, a nonprofit organization that purchased the pools, manufactured by Myrtha Pools, and is raising funds for the installation of the aquatics complex. Once it s complete, it will be the only facility of its kind between Paso Robles and Long Beach, the spokesman said.
I m thrilled to be a part of bringing these pools to the Santa Ynez Valley, said Craig, a water polo Olympic gold medalist in 2012 and 2016 and an honorary member of the Santa Ynez Valley Community Aquatic Foundation committee.
As a young girl, the time spent participating in the Santa Ynez Valley aquatic programs is where my Olympic dreams were born, Craig continued. “I hope that these pools, filled with so much Olympic heritage and spirit, will inspire athletes and community members of all ages.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Hall, a member of the SYVCAF s executive committee.
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This new, state-of-the-art complex means our athletes and community will have the aquatics and sports medicine facilities they ve so long deserved and make our Santa Ynez Valley a health and wellness destination for world-class athletes, special needs athletes and sports tourism,” Hall said. The proposed complex at the high school will include an Olympic-size pool and support facilities and a second, smaller pool for fitness, wellness and therapeutic programs as well as recreational swimming. A joint-use agreement will allow concurrent community and school use of the facilities to maximize the pools benefit for everyone, a Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District spokesman said.
The timing of the SYVCAF-funded aquatic complex is ideal given the implementation of our broader Measure K and Proposition 51 high school campus facility improvements, district Superintendent Scott Cory said.
We will be able to integrate all the renovation and improvement projects to achieve cost savings and minimize campus and community disruption, Cory said.
Alabama women s basketball is back in the win column. UA broke its five-game losing streak by piecing together one of its best all-around performances of the season against Tennessee, defeating the Lady Vols for the second-straight time, and the fourth time in program history. Ball security was a huge reason Alabama was successful. Crimson Tide coach Kristy Curry has stressed that limiting turnovers to under 13 per game is crucial in conference play. On Thursday, she was spot-on. Alabama turned the ball over just 10 times against Tennessee, and no player had more than two turnovers for the game. Shelton State transfer Coco Knight had her best game at Alabama, while leading the way to the upset win. The junior guard used 25 minutes to score 16 points, grab eight rebounds and dish three assists. Knight s standout performance set career-highs in minutes, points, assists and rebounds.
The 5-foot-7 Knight trailed only juniors Hannah Cook and Ashley Williams in rebounds against the Lady Vols, and despite her small stature she was able to generate second-chance points by grabbing four rebounds on the offensive end.
The coaches kept telling us to go to the (glass), and that s what I did, Alabama guard Knight said. As a team we had 22 (offensive rebounds), and I think that s the highest we ve had in a while. Teams that finish in the top 10 of the Southeastern Conference standings will get a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament that begins March, 1. Alabama starts the final week of the regular season ranked eleventh in the conference with three games left to play.
New season marks new careers
The start of the Greg Goff era for the University of Alabama baseball team (2-1) was also the start of several new players careers. Nine players made their UA debut over the weekend, including three of the five relievers used in Alabama s series win over Presbyterian. Freshman Sonny Potter pitched a scoreless ninth inning on Saturday and redshirt freshman Davis Vainer needed just seven pitches to work through the ninth inning on Sunday. Junior college transfer Garrett Suchey pitched three innings on Sunday, giving up two runs.
There will likely be more newcomers on against Southern Miss. The game, which was originally scheduled for Tuesday, has been moved to 6 p.m. on Wednesday due to threat of rain.
I definitely think you ll see some guys throw that haven t thrown yet, head coach Greg Goff said. We re still trying to decide who we re going to lock in and throw and our bullpen. When you have a bunch of new guys, in a first year, I ve never seen these guys play a game. For me, we ll kind of get our feet wet as we go. Sophomore righty Brock Love is expected to pitch at some point Wednesday, but some freshmen are still awaiting their turn. Freshman lefthander Garret Rukes hasn t pitched yet, nor has righty Deacon Medders.
Transfer sees more playing time
In late January, there was reason to wonder if Ar’Mond Davis was going to have a role for the University of Alabama men’s basketball this season. Davis, a junior college transfer from Tacoma, Washington about as far as one can get from Tuscaloosa and still remain on the continental United States was far down the Alabama bench. He played just two two minutes against Georgia and didn’t play at all in a home win against Mississippi State. Then improvement met opportunity. Davis started to see a slight increase in playing time. Then, with the Crimson Tide in foul trouble and fighting to hang on in a four-overtime win at South Carolina, Davis came off the bench to play 38 minutes and score a career-high 19 points. Last Saturday, he added a 16-point performance against LSU.
Crimson Tide coach Avery Johnson said it was part of a season-long maturation for Davis that was not unusual for a junior college transfer.
“I think sometimes when a junior college kid enrolls at a Division I school, especially in a Power Five conference, the immediate thinking is that he really is a junior,” Johnson said after the Crimson Tide victory over LSU. “I disagree with that.
“With some juco kids, it takes a while to understand the entire process — school life at a Power Five (college), the way we travel, the way we practice. Especially when you’re playing for me, that’s not an easy thing to do.
“So there were a lot of growing pains for a long time. But I would say that about three weeks ago, we started to see some progress in the way he practiced, in the maturity level, and we started to get a little more confidence to play him a little more in games.”
Johnson said he was still advising Davis on various matters, on the court and on social media as well.
“In the last game (at Missouri), he didn’t feel well. So he tweeted about it. I told him that probably wasn’t a good thing to tweet about because you don’t to send people thinking that you’re making excuses about going 0-for-4 from the 3-point line.
“He’s a a kid I get after every day (at practice.) He and A.J. (Avery Johnson, Jr.) have some tough skin, because they get it a lot. But he’s responded.”
Gymnastics improves score before postseason
It s time to shake things up in the college gymnastics world. Since most teams have now completed in at least six meets, rankings are determined by regional qualifying score (RQS). This takes a team s top six scores (three of which have to be from away meets), drops the highest and then averages out the remaining five. The University of Alabama is No. 4 with a 197.085 RQS. Oklahoma (197.89), LSU (197.655) and Florida (197.435) go down in order for the top three. Those are the only four programs in the nation with a 197-plus RQS.
Without the RQS, the Crimson Tide would have remained No. 6 with an overall average of 196.803. Scores dropped this week for Alabama included the Arkansas meet (195.325), the Elevate the Stage meet (195.85) and the Florida meet (197.825). All of this is meant to give a more consistent representation of each team s abilities before postseason.
On Monday, Alabama coach Dana Duckworth said Aja Sims is fine after being pulled from the lineup last Friday. While warming up, Sims fell off the uneven bars, took a hit to the head and underwent concussion protocol. The senior is tied for 10th on the floor exercise with a 9.895 RQS. She also has a season-high 9.975 and is the Crimson Tide s anchor performer.
Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin will be at Coleman Coliseum on Friday for Alabama s meet against No. 12 Boise State. She was a member of the 2008 U.S. women s gymnastics team that took home the team silver from Bejing, China.
Alabama’s Coco Knight (13) moves toward the goal during the first half of a game against Tennessee at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa on Thursday. [Staff Photo/Erin Nelson]