'One of the worst renditions of the anthem I've ever heard' - Denver Test singer heavily criticised for NZ anthem

The anthem singer at the Denver Test has produced a version of the New Zealand anthem the commentator dubbed "one of the worst renditions of the New Zealand anthem I've ever heard at a sporting event".

The singer performed both God Save The Queen, God Defend New Zealand and E Ihowā Atua [te reo Māori version] before the clash at Mile High Stadium.

The rendition of E Ihowā Atua barely included a full word, with both versions out of tune.

The rendition even prompted a scathing review from the commentator.

"That would just about have to go down as one of the worst renditions I've ever heard of the New Zealand anthem at a sporting event," he said. 

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Virginia suspends new policy barring women visiting inmates from wearing tampons, menstrual cups

Virginia is suspending a newly introduced policy that would have barred women who visit inmates at state prisons from wearing tampons or menstrual cup.

Secretary of Public and Homeland Security Safety Brian Moran said today on Twitter that he had ordered an "immediate suspension until further review."

The abrupt about-face comes a day after widespread media coverage of state prison officials' plan to ban tampons starting next month as a way to prevent contraband from being smuggled into prisons.

Moran said he understands the worries about contraband, but added that "a number of concerns have been raised about the new procedure."

"I feel it appropriate to immediately suspend the newly developed policy until a more thorough review of its implementation and potential consequences are considered," Moran said.

Inmate advocates have been sharply critical of the now-suspended policy, saying it violates the privacy rights of female visitors.

ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Gastanaga said the policy should be permanently put to rest rather than simply suspended.

And Phyllis Randall, a former chairwoman of the state Board of Corrections, sent Moran a letter Tuesday saying the policy "represents a major systemic failure and an admission" that Moran and Department of Corrections Director Harold Clark "have lost the ability to effectively keep contraband out of Virginia's prisons."

Corrections spokeswoman Lisa Kinney previously said that the agency had consulted with the state Attorney General's Office about how to implement the policy and "it was decided that facilities would offer pads to women who are wearing tampons while visiting a prison so the tampons don't appear as possible contraband on a body scan."

She said that when potential contraband is seen on a body scan, visitors are offered the choice of a strip search or leaving the prison without visiting with an inmate. She said at the time that the new policy "aims to help visitors avoid that altogether."

"Offenders in Virginia have died of drug overdoses while inside our prisons. It's our job to keep the offenders and staff as safe as we can," Kinney said.

Close-up of male feet in chains
Source: istock.com

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Texas mum pleads guilty over deaths of two toddlers left for hours in hot car

A 20-year-old Texas mother whose two toddlers died after they were left for hours inside a hot vehicle has pleaded guilty.

The Kerrville Daily Times reports Amanda Kristene Hawkins pleaded guilty yesterday in Kerrville to two counts each of child abandonment child endangerment and injury to a child in the June 2017 deaths of her two daughters.

Hawkins could receive up to 20 years in prison for each count when she's sentenced December 12.

Investigators believe Hawkins intentionally left one-year-old Brynn Hawkins and two-year-old Addyson Overgard-Eddy in her vehicle through the night and into the following day while she visited friends.

Temperatures reached the late 20s while the girls were in the car.

Kerrville is 105 kilometres northwest of San Antonio.

Amanda Kristene Hawkins. Source: Kerr County Sheriff's Office

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Storm star Billy Slater fatigued by judiciary fight

Melbourne are giving Billy Slater time to recover from the emotional toll of fighting his case at the NRL judiciary, which threatened to rule him out of Sunday's grand final.

Slater overturned a shoulder-charge citing on Tuesday night, allowing him to play against the Sydney Roosters in his career swansong.

Storm football manager Frank Ponissi said Slater was emotionally exhausted but that the successful hearing had brought a buzz to the club.

The retiring Storm star will get his swansong after getting his one match ban reversed. Source: NRL.com

The Melbourne No.1 was put on light duties at training on Wednesday before the team flew to Sydney, with plans for him to build up his workload leading into the ANZ Stadium title showdown.

"There's no doubt he's emotionally fatigued," Ponissi said.

"He's put a lot of work in. He's sent me countless texts and emails over the last few days and some of that footage that was shown (at the hearing) was put together by he and (wife) Nicole.

"Coming home he was happy but just exhausted."

The retiring Storm star could face suspension for this hit on Sosaia Feki. Source: SKY

Ponissi said Slater's judiciary success had given the Storm a boost as they strive to become the first club in the NRL era to claim back-to-back titles.

He said the value that the Test custodian brought to the side in such a high- stakes match game couldn't be under estimated.

"We all saw in the preliminary final exactly how important he is," Ponissi said.

"He's a vital part of our team for lots of reasons.

"We would have had a wonderful replacement in Jahrome Hughes but there's only one Billy Slater and the way he's playing at the moment, especially in big games, you can't buy that sort of experience."

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 21: Sosaia Feki of the Sharks is shoulder charged over the sideline by Billy Slater of the Storm during the NRL Preliminary Final match at AAMI Park on September 21, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Sosaia Feki of the Sharks is shoulder charged over the sideline by Billy Slater of the Storm during the NRL Preliminary Final match at AAMI Park in Melbourne. Source: Getty


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Boy, 13, found naked, chained in US home, forced to sleep in dog crate - officials

A 13-year-old boy was forced to sleep in a dog crate at night and was found naked and chained at the ankles in a home in the US state of Alabama, officials say.

Three people have appeared in court on charges of aggravated child abuse, Fox News reports, citing the Montgomery Advertiser.

Danielle Martin, 32, and Joshua Martin, 26 - the boy’s mother and stepfather - and  Vickie Higginbotham, 58, the boy’s grandmother, were taken into custody after police received an anonymous call last Friday NZT about the child being chained inside the home in the city of Prattville.

An investigation showed the boy had been bound by chains and padlocks for at least 18 hours before police went to the house, the newspaper reported.

Officials said the child had been chained before and was even forced to sleep in a dog crate at night.

The Martins blamed Higginbotham for the alleged abuse and claimed they didn’t know what was happening to the child. 

Joshua Martin placed blame on his long work hours.

"How can you do these things, allow these things to take place, when you are in a lucid, conscious state?" Autauga County District Judge Joy Booth was quoted as saying during the court appearance today.

The trio are being held on $US30,000 bond.

The 13-year-old boy was taken to the hospital and treated for malnutrition. 

Two other children, aged five and 12, were taken from the home and placed in custody with the Alabama Department of Human Resources.

Danielle Nicole Martin, 32, Joshua Daniel Martin, 26, and Vickie Seale Higginbotham, 58, were arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse. Source: Autauga County Sheriff's Office