Support for McCain after cancer diagnosis

US Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee known for political independence during more than three decades in the Senate, has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, his office says.

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The 80-year-old congressman and former navy pilot has been recovering at home in Arizona since undergoing surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix on Friday to remove a blood clot from above his left eye.

Tissue analysis since that procedure revealed a brain tumour known as a glioblastoma was associated with the clot, his office said on Wednesday.

McCain’s doctors said he was recovering from surgery “amazingly well” and his underlying health was excellent.

Treatment options include a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.

However, glioblastoma is considered a grade IV tumour, the most malignant of gliomas.

Medical experts said it can be very aggressive and spread into other parts of the brain quickly.

McCain’s daughter, Meghan McCain, said the family was shocked by the diagnosis but her father was the “most confident and calm” of them all about the situation.

McCain has had non-invasive melanomas removed at least three times.

He also overcame injuries suffered as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, where he endured beatings and torture by his North Vietnamese captors.

His fellow members of Congress rushed to offer support to McCain and wishes for his quick recovery.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a long-time friend, said McCain was “resolved and determined” when they spoke by telephone.

“This disease has never had a more worthy opponent,” he said

“Senator John McCain has always been a fighter,” President Donald Trump said.

“Get well soon.”

Former Democratic president Barack Obama, who defeated McCain for the White House in 2008, called McCain “an American hero and one of the bravest fighters I’ve ever known. Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against. Give it hell, John.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he looked forward to having McCain, the chairman of the armed services committee, back in Washington.

McCain, the son and grandson of admirals, was a US Navy pilot.

His plane was shot down over Vietnam in 1967 and he spent five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war.

When he was offered release because of his father’s rank, McCain refused to be freed before those who had been held captive longer.

He finally returned to the US in 1973.

McCain’s absence this week has complicated efforts by his fellow Republicans to repeal Obama’s Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.

McCain’s absence from Washington makes it difficult for McConnell to gather the 50 votes he needs in a chamber where the party holds only a 52-48-seat margin.

No break until health bill passed: Trump

US President Donald Trump have taken Senate Republicans to task for failing to reach agreement on overhauling Obamacare, as a new report showed 32 million Americans would lose health insurance if the law was repealed without a replacement.

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Trump gathered 49 Republican senators on Wednesday for a White House lunch after a bill to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act collapsed on Monday following dissent from a handful of the party’s conservatives and moderates.

After Trump’s exhortation, party members met Vice-President Mike Pence on Capitol Hill to try to come together on a major Republican campaign promise for the past seven years – undoing former president Barack Obama’s signature legislation.

After taking a hands-off approach last week and suggesting on Tuesday he was fine with letting Obamacare fail, Trump demanded senators stay in Washington during the August recess until they found common ground.

“We can repeal but we should repeal and replace, and we shouldn’t leave town until this is complete,” Trump said at the meeting.

Even with Trump’s new push, Senate leaders faced a difficult task getting moderates and conservatives to agree on an overhaul that could pass.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had planned to hold a straight repeal vote next week but several Republican senators have already said they oppose that approach.

Senator John McCain’s absence due to health issues, including a diagnosis of a brain tumour, has added to McConnell’s vote-counting troubles.

Thirty-two million Americans would lose their health insurance by 2026 if Obamacare is scrapped without an alternative in place, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reported on Wednesday, while 17 million would become uninsured next year alone.

At the same time, premiums on individual insurance plans would double by 2026.

“President Trump and Republicans have repeatedly promised to lower premiums and increase coverage, yet each proposal they offer would do the opposite,” Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer said.

Dugan-Fergo pub visit was wrong: coaches

Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson’s decision to drink on their day off during NSW State of Origin III camp was wrong, according to their respective NRL club coaches.

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Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson revealed meeting with Ferguson to explain how his visit to a north-coast NSW pub had affected his individual preparation for the decider.

“He didn’t associate that with affecting the game,” Robinson said on Thursday.

“It was their time off and they didn’t have any rules around any of that sort of stuff. There’s some responsibility there.

“He agrees that it wasn’t the right choice to be made going into an Origin game.”

St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor also met with Dugan to discuss his reported six-hour stint at Lennox Point Hotel, five days before the Origin defeat.

“He knows how I feel on the matter,” McGregor said.

“That was a different environment and what happened there was Josh’s choice. Has he done anything wrong? No one can answer that.”

McGregor pointed out that Dugan had a clean rap sheet since joining the Dragons in 2013.

“Has he ever been in trouble since he has been at the club and I’ve been coaching here? No. I’m just looking after my club and my team and he hasn’t done anything wrong here,” he said.

McGregor also questioned former NSW coach Ricky Stuart’s comments, who argued both Dugan and Ferguson should have been banned from Origin selection because of their history.

Ferguson was dumped from NSW after one Origin game in 2013 after he indecently assaulted a woman on a night out with Dugan.

“They’re bringing up something from four years ago now,” McGregor said.

McGregor’s views come after Dugan took to social media on Tuesday to take aim at his critics.

“It is easy to point the finger from the outside without all the facts,” Dugan posted on Instagram.

“No matter who the comments harm, true/false, they are said without a blink of an eye. Some journalists think they are untouchable while others actually have decency.

“We are human too and make mistakes, no one is perfect.

“I’ve put my hand up for an error in judgement but at the end of the day did not break any rules or misbehave, simply we as a squad did not perform.”

Robinson believes it is important players be given the freedom to make choices when in representative camps, but denied the incident played a role in their game three performance.

“People are trying to associate them drinking with NSW losing. That’s a long bow, but I think they made a poor choice about preparation for the game,” he said.

“Queensland were the better team. They obviously prepared better, they played better and they deserve to win. I don’t think that would’ve changed the result.

“Would it have improved it a bit? In my view, possibly.”

Wood re-commits to Bulldogs in AFL

Easton Wood has given the Western Bulldogs a lift ahead of their crunch AFL match with Gold Coast, committing to the club until the end of the 2020 season.

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Wood, who captained the Bulldogs to their unlikely premiership win last season, has agreed to a two-year contract extension to stay at Whitten Oval.

Bulldogs list manager Jason McCartney said Wood was an essential part of the club’s furniture.

“On the field, he’s (sic) athleticism and intercept marking abilities are elite and he rarely gets beaten in a one-on-one contest,” he said.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Easton as a player and as an individual.”

Wood is the highest profile of 10 re-signed Bulldogs this season, coming a week after Norm Smith Medallist Jason Johannisen’s agreement to a five-year deal.

Coach Luke Beveridge will hope it lifts his team, who languish outside the top eight.

The Bulldogs are yet to win this season outside Melbourne but young gun Caleb Daniel says Saturday’s game in Cairns presents the perfect chance to do so.

“We haven’t won interstate but we’re trying to rectify that this week and come out all guns blazing,” he said.

The Bulldogs have won each of their meetings with the Suns at Cazaly’s Stadium over the past three years by an average of five goals.

Travis Cloke wasn’t sighted on Thursday at Melbourne Airport, meaning the Bulldogs could be short on tall forwards for the clash.

Jake Stringer is out and Jack Redpath is unlikely to play.

Daniel said it wouldn’t hurt the side’s confidence.

“It’s always pretty sticky and humid up there. The ball tends to be on the ground a little bit which suits our smaller forwards,” he said.

“I think we’ll go alright.”

Phil Gould slams NSW Blues culture

Phil Gould says he wouldn’t want his Penrith players involved with the NSW State of Origin team at the moment because the environment and culture aren’t good enough.

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Blues coaching great Gould said too much had been made of the “stupid” drinking session involving Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson as answers were sought following the latest Origin series defeat.

But he slammed the culture and leadership structure of the NSW squad.

“The culture of this team is not right. But it wasn’t just this year, it’s been happening for years and years. This is just a culmination of it,” Gould said in his Six Tackles with Gus podcast on Thursday.

He described coach Laurie Daley as “cooked” and said there were too many people making decisions involving the team, with his role reduced to a “bit player”.

“It all starts with leadership. It all starts with who’s going to take control over this NSW Origin character, personality. What does it look like? How is it perceived?,” Gould said.

“It’s been a dog’s breakfast for a long time. We don’t know what to expect from our NSW side other than disappointment.”

Teenage Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary has been touted as a possible playmaking option for the Blues next year as they attempt to break Queensland’s dominance.

Gould had no doubt Cleary would become a representative-class player but believed it was ludicrous to think a 19- or 20-year-old halfback was going to solve the Blues’ problems.

“Honestly, we’ve discussed this at club level. I don’t want any of our players involved in that culture, in that current environment,” he said.

Gould was especially critical of the leadership structure.

“I just don’t think Laurie is in control of the campaign. I think too many people are running it for him,” he said.

“Too many other people are picking the teams … setting the agenda … deciding where the camp is going to be, what the media is going to be, what stories they’re going to put out every day.

“How they perceive themselves and ownership of Laurie’s team has been handed out to so many people that he’s just a bit player in the whole process.”

He questioned whether Daley returning to coach the Blues next year would be a good thing.

“I think Laurie’s in a bad place at the moment around his football team. Looking at him in that last game and particularly looking at his body language – he wanted to be anywhere else.

“Laurie’s cooked. You’ve only got to look at the body language over the series to see that this takes a really heavy, emotional toll on him.

“We all wanted Laurie to succeed … but I don’t know that we’re doing him a favour by saying ‘We’ve got to get you a win, you’ve got to come back and do it again’.”