Hajj: The Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha explained

The festival, also known as the feast of the sacrifice, marks the third day of the Hajj.

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The Hajj is an annual journey to Mecca, a desert valley in western Saudi Arabia, that all able-bodied and financially capable Muslim adults are expected to make at least once in their lifetime.

Eid al-Adha will be celebrated on September 1, 2017, and is the day after the Day of Arafat.

Muslims praying in Lakemba during the festival of Eid al-AdhaSBS

Muslim worshippers pray during the Hajj pilgrimage outside Namrah Mosque in Arafat, near Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 31 August 2017. One day prior to Eid al-Adha.AAP

What does it commemorate?

Eid al-Adha marks the holy ritual when the Prophet Abraham was going to sacrifice his son to God.

In Islam, the Prophet Abraham was tempted by Satan to abandon his sacrifice, but showed the willingness to carry through the act and cast the devil away with stones.

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However, upon preparing the sacrifice Allah replaced his son with a ram.

Celebrated through prayer and sacrifice

On the morning of the public holiday, Muslims often dress up in new clothes and attend prayer at local mosques.

Community prayer is also often held in open spaces such as public parks.

Muslims often share food and gifts when meeting up with friends and family.

An Iraqi sheep vendor displays sheep for sale ahead of the Eid-al-Adha festival at a livestock market in Baghdad, Iraq, on 31 August 2017.AAP

Pilgrims at the Hajj travel back to Mina and throw the stone pebbles at pillars. The act resembes casting away the temptations of the devil.

Then after meeting with family and friends, Muslims often slaughter a sheep, goat, cow or camel – to complete the re-enactment of when Abraham went to sacrifice his son, only to find God had placed a ram there to be slaughtered instead.

Muslims give a third of the meat to the poor, a third to friends and leave the final third for the household as a gesture of parting with something precious.

How long does it last?

In some countries with large Muslim populations the festival is a national hoilday and can run for three days, but can also go for longer depending on the nation.

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Drug runner chasing ‘easy money’: court

A would-be Melbourne paramedic turned to drug running to make some easy money to keep up with his peers.

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Michael Ung, 24, is now facing a maximum term of life in jail and his girlfriend Beatrice Chang – who was in the car with him when police uncovered the stash – is pleading to be spared conviction.

Ung was trafficking four kilograms of methylamphetamine, or ice, from Sydney to Melbourne when stopped on the Hume Highway as part of a pre-planned intercept on January 24, the County Court was told on Friday.

He made $6000 from the trip and up to $25,000 in total for his drug running journeys, spending the money on a car and entertaining Chang, Prosecutor Kathryn Hamill said.

The court was told Chang knew Ung was involved in trafficking because they had discussed what they’d do with the money.

Ung pleaded guilty to trafficking a large commercial quantity of a drug of dependence while Chang, 24, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of trafficking a drug of dependence.

Defence barrister Trevor Wallwork said Ung became involved as a drug courier for “easy money” because he lacked hope for the future and felt he was falling behind his peers.

The former paramedic student suffered lupus, a chronic illness, which at times left him bedridden and he had gambled away his savings.

Ung told police he had “screwed up a lot” and told them not to blame his girlfriend.

“It’s not hers, please don’t do anything to her,” he told investigators.

“It was my choice in the end.”

Mr Wallwork said his client was grappling with the impact of his actions on his relationship and his family.

It prompted Judge John Carmody to respond: “I’ll see the impact of the methylamphetamine in the community for the rest of my time as a judge.”

Chang’s defence urged she be spared conviction due to her minor involvement.

John Dickinson QC said Ung had put the love of his life in a “big bind”.

“He’s put her in an awful position, and put himself in an awful position too,” Mr Dickinson said.

Chang has already served 43 days in pre-sentence custody and Mr Dickinson urged that the masters graduate be spared a conviction.

“You can’t really expect a naive, student-aged, gullible, inexperienced young woman to walk away in that situation,” he said.

The pair will be sentenced at a later date.

Research gives mesothelioma sufferers hope

There may be light at the end of the tunnel for mesothelioma sufferers.

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The rare cancer, which results from exposure to asbestos, kills most patients but a team of Sydney oncology experts has found injecting sufferers with missing genetic information can reverse tumour growth.

“This has created considerable excitement in the scientific world,” the study’s principal investigator, Professor Nico van Zandwijk, said on Friday.

Researchers first identified that mesothelioma sufferers’ cancerous cells were missing important nucleotides, called microRNA.

This genetic information, present in all normal cells, not only controls cell function but prevents cancer growth.

Armed with this knowledge, the team began injecting patients’ deficient cells with microRNA.

After four years of trials they discovered replacing the missing microRNA nucleotides stopped cancer growth and could reduce tumour size.

“This is a magnificent finding,” Prof van Zandwijk from Sydney University’s Concord Clinical School told AAP.

But there’s a lot more work to be done before the treatment could be used to fight mesothelioma in the real world.

Prof van Zandwijk says more clinical trials are required over at least six years before the treatment could be registered.

Australia has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world due to mining and the widespread use of asbestos in building materials up until the 1980s.

The cancer, which originates in the tissues lining the lung, is resistant to almost all forms of therapy.

Only 40 per cent of patients respond to standard chemotherapy which adds just months to their lives.

The results of the trial have been published in the latest issue of Lancet Oncology.

Roos quick to move on after Dusty fend-off

Unlike most of Dustin Martin’s on-field opponents, North Melbourne are adamant they won’t be stopped in their tracks by the superstar’s contract fend-off.

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The Kangaroos went hard in their bid to lure the powerful midfielder with a mammoth seven-year deal reportedly worth about $11 million.

North coach Brad Scott and members of the club’s leadership group even met with Martin as part of their audacious bid to sign him.

Their season-long serenade ended in heartbreak on Thursday night when Martin stuck with the Tigers on a seven-year deal worth about $2 million less.

But the Roos aren’t crying over what might have been.

“(Fans) should know that we are leaving no stone unturned to aggressively improve our list,” North football boss Cameron Joyce said.

“We want to add elite talent … and we will look at Plan B and C, if we need to get to that.

“We are very prepared. We are not going to just go and try and get any player … we targeted the elite to add to our group and we will continue to do that if we can this year, otherwise it might be next year.”

Greater Western Sydney star Josh Kelly has also been strongly linked with a move to Arden St with the lure of an even longer contract than the one offered to Martin.

With Dusty now a Tiger for life it follows that some of the money they had earmarked for him can be used to make their offer to Kelly even more difficult to resist.

Kelly is understood to be leaning towards staying with the Giants, but continued to play his cards close to his chest when he received his first All-Australian nod on Wednesday.

“(There’s) no timeline but I’m not even considering it at the moment,” he said of his contract status.

“I’m fully focused on the finals and excited by that.”

Despite Martin’s decision to stay at Punt Road, Joyce is adamant Arden St remains a desirable address for potential high-profile recruits.

“We went right down to the wire on this one,” Joyce told the Herald Sun.

“We are talking about a potential Brownlow medallist, a multiple All-Australian, best-and-fairest winner and a superstar of the competition who was seriously considering coming to North Melbourne.

“That is the huge positive in this.”

Rival netball coaches see eye-to-eye

The long-standing netball rivalry between Australia and New Zealand hasn’t stopped coaches Lisa Alexander and Janine Southby seeing eye-to-eye on one key issue.

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Going into Sunday’s quad series finale in Invercargill, both are demanding a more ruthless approach from their teams.

On the surface, the Diamonds are in better shape than the Silver Ferns in the four-nation tournament.

They have recorded two wins from two starts, edging a fast-finishing England 54-50 first up before downing South Africa 58-52 in Canberra on Wednesday.

In contrast, Southby’s Silver Ferns are coming off an upset 49-45 defeat to England two days ago in Auckland, just the fifth time they’ve lost in 88 Tests against the Roses.

The Kiwis were also unconvincing in accounting for South Africa 63-56 last Saturday in Brisbane.

Both Alexander and Southby know exactly where they want to see improvement when the two arch-rivals clash at Stadium Southland.

They talk about consistency across four quarters, with both teams having faded in and out of their games against South Africa and England.

Alexander wants the Diamonds to replicate the strong start they delivered against South Africa, but she also wants to see them extend their lead with every quarter.

“We got off to a good start, then we let it go and that’s what was so disappointing,” she told NZ Newswire on Friday.

“We were 7-3 at one stage, and should have pushed on. We really need to work on that – we need to make sure we put the foot down and keep going.”

The Silver Ferns also struggled to maintain pressure against England, culminating in a chaotic final quarter where they were outscored 7-1 in the final five minutes.

Southby says that inconsistency proved costly throughout the whole game.

“We’d be up by five or six goals, then we’d go back to being one or two up – that seemed to be the pattern of the game,” she told NZ Newswire.

“A learning for this group is that when you get the chance, you’ve got to put the foot down, because other teams will just keep pushing back.”