Larrazabal gets one-shot win in Abu Dhabi

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Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal has ended his title drought on the European Tour by holding off Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy to win the $US2.

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7 million ($A3.1 million) Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship by one shot.

At the Abu Dhabi Golf Club course on Sunday, the 30-year-old from Barcelona shot a final-round 67 to finish on 14-under par 274, while world number five Mickelson (69) and number seven McIlroy (68) were tied second at 275.

While Larrazabal was solid throughout the day, barring a bogey on the fifth hole, the tournament turned around massively in his favour when Mickelson made a mess of the 13th hole, where he hit the ball twice trying to come out from under a bush playing a right-handed shot.

Mickelson ended up with a triple bogey and from leading the tournament at 13-under par he dropped down the leaderboard, and even three birdies after that could not help him overtake Larrazabal.

McIlroy was left ruing the two-shot penalty that was imposed on him for not taking full relief from a spectators’ crossway in the third round Saturday.

South African George Coetzee (66) and Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello (68) were tied for fourth place at 12-under par 276.

Larrazabal said: “It just feels unbelievable. I’ve been working so hard for the last two years and this winter. They always say that the hard work pays off, but it’s hard to believe it.

“Today has been very special, to fight against Rory and Phil, top-five players in the world, both of them. It’s been a great fight.”

A disappointed McIlroy said: “I feel like I’m standing here and I should be 15-under par for the tournament and win by one. But that’s the way it goes.

“I played the least shots of anyone this week. So, I mean, I can count it as a moral victory more than anything else.

“It’s frustrating. I’ve played well the whole week. It’s a very positive start to the season so I’m not going to let one little negative ruin that.”

For Larrazabal this was his third European Tour title, his previous wins coming in 2008 and 2011.

Pakistan strike early but Sri Lanka extend lead to 220

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At stumps on the penultimate day of the series, Sri Lanka reached 133 runs for five wickets to add to their first-innings lead of 87.

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Jayawardene, who made 129 in his team’s nine-wicket win in Dubai in the second test, became the first Sri Lankan to cross 11,000 test runs and eighth batsman overall during his innings.

His careful knock came to an end when his bat-pad catch off Saeed Ajmal was smartly taken by Azhar Ali at short leg.

Left-arm spinner Rehman extracted good turn from the pitch and picked up the wickets of opener Kaushal Silva (36) and Kumar Sangakkara (eight) while Talha dismissed Dimuth Karunaratne (eight) and Dinesh Chandimal (13).

Khurram Manzoor did not help Pakistan’s cause by dropping an easy chance from Mathews at cover off fast bowler Junaid Khan with the batsman on nine.

Wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed also dropped a sharp chance from Prasanna Jayawardene (six not out) off Ajmal before the batsman had opened his account.

Earlier in the morning, Rangana Herath picked up his 17th five-wicket haul in tests for Sri Lanka as Pakistan were bowled out for 341.

Fast bowler Shaminda Eranga picked up the first two wickets to fall to take his innings tally to four as Pakistan went for quick runs to wipe off the deficit.

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq hit three sixes and a four in his knock of 63 before being caught at long-on trying to clear Herath over the ropes.

Junaid also struck two sixes to reduce the fist-innings deficit before he too was caught in the deep off Herath.

(Writing by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Justin Palmer)

Emergency warning as NSW fires flare up

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Residents in a NSW town under threat from grass fires that have intensified following a southwesterly wind change are being advised to take shelter.

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An emergency warning was issued on Sunday night for the Hebden Road grass fires near Singleton, in the Hunter Valley.

“Firefighters are responding to the scene, but it is too late to leave,” the Rural Fire Service (RFS) said on its website.

“Seek shelter now from the heat of the fire.”

Emergency warnings were earlier issued for the Minimbah fire, an out-of-control blaze that burnt through more than 8000 hectares around Wagga Wagga, and the fire in the Copperhannia National Park area, near Bathurst, which is also out of control.

The Minimbah bushfire was threatening properties as it moved towards Carabost, but the alert at 6pm (AEDT) decreased it to a watch-and-act level of danger.

Three homes have been confirmed destroyed by the Minimbah blaze.

Other buildings have also been lost and firefighters will assess the area when it’s safe to do so.

Residents have been advised to leave if the path towards Tumbarumba, to the southeast, is clear.

“It is not safe to stay,” the RFS said on its website.

About 100ha have been burnt by the fire near Bathurst, which at 6pm (AEDT) was heading east towards Trunkey Creek.

People in Trunkey Creek need to be aware of burning embers, the RFS said.

“These embers can start spot fires well ahead of the main fire front,” it advises.

“Put out any spot fires that may start on your property.”

Two watch-and-act alerts remain in place.

Firefighters, assisted by water-bombing aircraft and heavy machinery, are backburning and building containment lines around the Minjary fire, which has burnt through 2675ha of scrub between Canberra and Wagga Wagga.

Stock animals have reportedly been killed in the Minjary fire but it’s unclear how many, the RFS said.

Another fire has entered a pine plantation near Bathurst and is “proving difficult to contain”, the RFS said.

More than 60 firefighters, aircraft and heavy machinery are working to bring the 350ha Redbank fire under control.

More than 900 firefighters were deployed across NSW on Sunday, fighting 92 fires, 28 of which are uncontained.

High temperatures in the 30s and another tough day for firefighters are predicted for Monday.

“The fire danger is going to be very high,” an RFS spokesman told AAP.

No “significant” rain is expected for the start of the week, he said.

“There’ll be crew out until all hours doing what they can to strengthen containment lines and also patrolling a lot of those fires to make sure they don’t get out of hand.”

An emergency warning was at 7.30pm (AEDT) issued for the Dog Rock forest fire, which is burning out of control between Rockley and Black Springs, south of Bathurst.

The 120-hectare fire is heading in a easterly direction.

“Only well prepared and actively defended homes can offer safety,” the RFS said.

“If you plan to leave, or you are not prepared and there is a safer place nearby, leave now if it is safe to do so.”

Emotional SBW named world’s best

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Sonny Bill Williams was moved to tears at receiving an impromptu haka performance from his New Zealand teammates after being crowned the world’s best rugby league player.

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And the dual international hopes to repay them by helping the Kiwis defend their World Cup title in Saturday’s final against Australia at Old Trafford.

Williams capped his spectacular return to the code by taking out the Rugby League International Federation player of the year in Manchester on Wednesday night, beating out fellow nominees Kangaroos star Greg Inglis and Scotland playmaker Danny Brough.

Sydney Roosters star Williams felt shocked and emotional when his teammates rose and performed the haka while he was on stage to receive the award.

And he considered it a further sign he’s earning back the respect he lost after controversially walking out on the game at Canterbury in 2008.

“That was definitely by far the best part of the night for me,” Williams said of his teammates’ gesture.

“I can’t remember the last time I cried but I was a little bit teary up there just seeing the brothers get up and show that respect.

“… All I want is respect. I felt like after the way I left the game I lost a lot of respect.

“But this year the way I tried to carry myself, just tried to get across the real me, I felt like I earned a lot of respect.

“The biggest thing for me is earning the respect of my fellow players and coaches. I think that’s why I was a little bit emotional.”

“But I said to them straight way `one more week’ and hopefully I can put in another strong performance and hopefully we can do it for the Kiwis.”

Williams helped the Roosters to the NRL premiership after returning to the code following five years spent in rugby union and boxing, during which he played 19 Tests for the All Blacks.

He has been in devastating form at the World Cup and is crucial to New Zealand’s hopes of upsetting the Kangaroos again.

In taking out the gong, Williams broke an Australian stranglehold on the honour with Billy Slater (2008, 2011), Jarryd Hayne (2009), Todd Carney (2010) and Cameron Smith (2012) previous winners since it was established six years ago.

Williams was one three Kiwis named in the team of the year at a ceremony at The Lowry Hotel in Manchester, along with winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and hooker Issac Luke.

Inglis was named at fullback in the side, while Manly’s Clive Churchill medallist Daly Cherry-Evans was named halfback of the year.

Sea Eagles centre Jamie Lyon and Brisbane veteran Corey Parker were the other Australians in the side.

South Sydney and England front rower George Burgess beat out Sydney Roosters backrower Boyd Cordner to be named rookie of the year while older brother Sam was best prop.

Super League player of the year Brough was the five-eighth of the year.

Trent Robinson was awarded coach of the year after guiding the Roosters to the NRL title in his first season in charge.

Namatjira’s descendants meet the Queen

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Almost 60 years after Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira met the Queen in Canberra two of his grandchildren have had a rare audience with Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace.

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Kevin and Lenie Namatjira, both established watercolour artists in their own right, used the occasion to call for a better deal for indigenous Australia.

They said that while they were treated like royalty in London it was a different story back in the Northern Territory.

The cousins met the Queen and Prince Philip for 15 minutes on Wednesday.

They both presented the monarch with one of their own paintings and also a postcard made by schoolchildren from their community in Hermannsburg west of Alice Springs.

One of Albert Namatjira’s paintings was gifted to the Queen back in 1947 on her 21st birthday.

Seven years later the first indigenous artist to receive international acclaim met Her Majesty in Canberra during her 1954 coronation tour and presented her with another work. Albert died in 1959.

Kevin and Lenie Namatjira are in the UK for the international premier of the play Namatjira which tells their grandfather’s story.

During the London performance the cousins paint a large desert landscape on stage.

Albert’s grandchildren on Wednesday said they were proud to visit the palace but they also wanted people to know they were currently homeless.

Kevin Namatjira, who bought a new suit to visit Her Majesty, said he was being treated like royalty “but at home I’m not royalty”.

“After I come home from seeing the Queen I’ve got no house, no car,” the 54-year-old said in a statement.

“We need a car to get out to see the kids in Hermannsburg and teach them to paint. We need to drive around to do good painting.”

Lenie Namatjira said she was surprised how “wonderful” the palace was.

“We are feeling right to show the story of our grandfather,” the 62-year-old told reporters.

“We came from Australia to bring this story to everybody so all the nations can see what’s happened.

“We are battling to get a new arts centre back in Australia so our children can come and we all work together. We would like government funding to help us.”

Namatjira producer Sophia Marinos said backing arts centres in Alice Springs would help the painters support their wider families.

“They are living in very difficult circumstances and yet they’ve been invited to meet the Queen and to tell this story on an international stage,” Ms Marinos told reporters.

“There’s a real discrepancy between how they are honoured and their actual living circumstances.”

When the cousins met the Queen and Prince Philip an Albert Namatjira painting owned by the royals was on display.

So too were two artworks by his son Oscar Namatjira (Lenie’s father) and one by Rex Battarbee who taught Albert to paint.

The Queen spent time looking at the paintings and talking about their history.

Works by Kevin and Lenie Namatjira are being shown in London this week as part of the Living Watercolours exhibition which is running alongside Big hART’s production of Namatjira.

Villas-Boas under scrutiny as Spurs host Man Utd

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Back-to-back games against Manchester’s finest always looked like a yardstick for Tottenham’s progress in the wake of the world record sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid and a raft of expensive new signings in the close season with the proceeds.

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But few would have predicted the Portuguese would find himself as the bookmakers’ favourite to get the sack.

“It all looked good for AVB at the end of October but in a month Tottenham have turned from title contenders into a team clinging on to the top 10,” said a spokesman for betting firm Paddy Power, which slashed odds on his exit to 10-11 on.

“Common sense should prevail and the young manager should be given time but this is the bonkers world of Premier League.”

Last Sunday’s 6-0 drubbing at City was Tottenham’s worst defeat since 1996 and while they are only two points off the top four there is growing frustration at the time it is taking Villas-Boas to get his new-look side to click.

“I have the confidence of the board and players and I have to move on to do a proper job,” the Portuguese told a news conference.

“I am immune (to criticism) right now. I used to read a lot into situations like this, into pressure points when I was at Chelsea, but not any more. I am very indifferent.”

After being axed by Chelsea, Villas-Boas resurfaced at White Hart Lane last term and earned plaudits as Tottenham came fifth with 72 points – the club’s highest Premier League total – but just failed to earn a Champions League spot.

This season, despite the additions of Brazil midfielder Paulinho, Spain striker Roberto Soldado, record signing Erik Lamela of Argentina and Denmark playmaker Christian Eriksen, Spurs have managed only nine goals in 12 league matches.

A mean defence has kept them in and around the top four but things unravelled in spectacular fashion at City.

WOEFUL RECORD

United may not have been setting the world alight either under new manager David Moyes but they are unbeaten in six league games and have not lost at Tottenham since 2001.

Wednesday’s qualification for the Champions League last 16 after a 5-0 away thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen has also boosted confidence.

Spurs did win at Old Trafford last term for the first time since 1989 – a result that proved the springboard for Villas-Boas’s encouraging first season at the club – but their record against United in recent years is woeful.

Tottenham’s cause is hardly helped by Thursday’s trip to the Arctic Circle to face Tromso in the Europa League, while United have an extra day to prepare.

Spurs have lost two of their last three home league games and only beat Hull City with a questionable penalty.

Former Tottenham midfielder Graham Roberts believes Villas-Boas must decide quickly on his strongest side.

“I wish he wouldn’t swap the team around so much,” Roberts told radio station Talk Sport. “We haven’t had the same team two games running.

“If you are going to get players knowing how they play with each other, to get that connectivity, you need to play your best team but he doesn’t seem to know what it is.”

Tottenham’s Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen said facing United could work in their favour.

“We can solve the problem. We will talk and bounce back on Sunday against Manchester United,” he said this week.

“It is a good thing we play United next at home. I know we have the support of our crowd and we can win that game.”

SOARING ARSENAL

While Spurs toil, neighbours Arsenal go from strength to strength with Jack Wilshere scoring twice in a midweek win over Olympique Marseille that put the Gunners on the brink of reaching the last 16 in the Champions League.

Arsenal can go seven points clear of the Premier League pack with victory at Cardiff City on Saturday, a fixture that will see in-from Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey return to the club where he began his career.

“We’ve created a fantastic opportunity for ourselves in the early part of this season and hopefully we can continue that,” Ramsey, who has scored 11 goals this term, told Walesonline.

Arsenal will be wary of the Welsh side, however, after they beat Manchester City and drew 2-2 with United last week.

Second-placed Liverpool visit Hull on Sunday when stuttering Chelsea, who are third, host fifth-placed Southampton.

Swansea City will travel to Manchester City with a fair degree of trepidation on Sunday.

Manuel Pellegrini’s City side have scored 13 goals without reply in their last two home games and have a 100 percent record there in the league this season, scoring 26 goals in six games.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

Brazil stadium death may force delay

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The fatal accident at a Brazilian World Cup stadium could mean it misses a December 31 deadline for completion, authorities say.

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Two workers died after a crane toppled at Sao Paulo’s Itaquerao Stadium on Wednesday, the venue for the opening match of the 2014 World Cup finals.

Football’s world governing body FIFA has said all along all 12 arenas hosting games for the first World Cup to be held in Brazil since 1950 must be ready by the end of the year.

And although lead contractor Odebrecht insisted on Wednesday the accident had not “compromised” the stadium’s structural integrity, others insisted safety now had to come before deadlines.

Andres Sanchez, former chairman of Corinthians club, which owns the stadium, said the work could now face a delay.

“I don’t want to know about (FIFA), or anything else,” Sanchez said.

“We are worried about the families” of the victims, said Sanchez in response to reporters’ questions on whether the works completion calendar would be affected.

An AFP photographer at the scene saw the extent of the damage after a crane hoisting a 500-tonne metallic piece to the top of the roof collapsed on part of the stand and a huge LED panel.

Civil defence officials said work on 30 per cent of the site would be stopped, throwing the completion date into doubt at a site which Odebrecht said earlier this month was 94 per cent complete.

The Sao Paulo state prosecutor opened an investigation which it prefaced by saying work would be halted “if technical elements indicate it is necessary to suspend them”.

FIFA has said maintained the December 31 World Cup deadline is non-negotiable.

The Sintrapav construction workers union called for an immediate halt to work pending the outcome of the investigation.

“This is the third accident in the past few months things have gone too far. It cannot be tolerated,” union chairman Antonio Bekeredjian told AFP.

In June 2012 a 21-year-old stadium worker fell to his death at the new arena in the capital Brasilia and last March another death occurred at the Amazonas Arena in Manaus in the north.

Murray to lead America’s Cup challenge

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The man in charge of this year’s America’s Cup, Iain Murray, has been chosen to head up Australia’s challenge in the 35th edition of sailing’s most celebrated contest.

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Murray was on Thursday named chief executive of Hamilton Island Yacht Club’s Team Australia, who are also representing all challengers in dealings with the defender Oracle Team USA of Golden Gate Yacht Club, San Francisco for the next race.

Murray most recently held the dual role of CEO and regatta director of the last America’s Cup sailed on San Francisco Bay which ended in September.

The 55-year-old New South Welshman has accumulated vast experience on and off the water in a career which included competing in three America’s Cup, in 1983, 1987 and 1992.

The 55-year-old will be responsible for helping determine the rules, venue and boats used in the next race.

Winemaker Bob Oatley, backer of Australia’s fledgling tilt, said Murray was the only man for the job.

“Iain knows what it takes to win an America’s Cup,” Oatley said in a statement.

“We’ve had the great pleasure of being able to work closely with him over the last three decades, and have found him to be a consummate professional and also now a dear friend.

“I have a huge amount of respect for him and we’re overjoyed to be able to officially announce his appointment as leader of our great challenge.”

Murray said he had long been an avid supporter of Oatley and said there was “only ever going to be one answer” when asked to lead the first Australian challenge since 2000.

He said he has already had preliminary talks with Oracle Team USA boss Sir Russell Coutts and they were working towards firming up protocol and equipment for the next America’s Cup.

“I’m looking forward to working closely with the defender and on behalf of the Challengers to mould the 35th Cup into another magnificent sporting spectacle,” he added.

Comment: Hundreds of years later, this rose still has thorns

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After seeing the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor there was only one thing I wanted to talk about.

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One of the most famous time travellers in pop culture: “So, The Doctor was married to Elizabeth I? But that wouldn’t necessarily have made him the King of England. In fact, if Elizabeth had married, her husband would probably have been a consort, like Victoria’s husband Albert. I often wonder if Elizabeth never got married because-“

There has been enduring fascination with the Tudors since they ruled England 500 years ago, and from Shakespeare onwards popular culture has catered to this obsession with a never-ending flow of art and literature inspired by their lives. Just this year saw the release of several books, and two new television series based on the dynasty.

Even during the reign of Victoria, one of the other great monarchs of English history, the Tudors dominated popular culture. Harrison Ainsworth’s The Tower of London, and Delaroche’s The Execution of Lady Jane Grey (on the throne for just 9 days after the death of boy-king Edward VI) captured public imagination in mid-1800s.

Another revival occurred in the mid-1900s, with the romance novels of Jean Plaidy, based on the lives of the Tudor women, lending colour and drama to the dreary post-war period.

Best known for their scandalous private lives, the Tudors reshaped not just English society and religion but also oversaw the start of the English conquest of the world, when Elizabeth sent explorers to establish English colonies in the Americas. When the Tudors came to power after the War of the Roses, England was a feudal backwater and merely an afterthought to the great powers of Europe. By the time the dynasty came to an end with the death of Elizabeth I, Britain was well on its way to Empire status.

As compelling as the political side of the Tudors is, it will always be secondary in the public imagination to their personal lives. The six wives of Henry VIII, two of whom lost their heads on charges of treason and adultery; an entire state religion abolished because of a love affair; a Virgin Queen, who ruled alone despite the unquestioned patriarchy, and was rumoured to have had numerous lovers.

Are the Tudors so enduringly popular because we recognise ourselves in their stories of sex and power, betrayal and intrigue, lust and politics? Is that why their reputations transcend both time and space, making them the most enduring time lords of all?

Some Tudoresque recommendations:

Literature

Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, told from the point of view of Henry VIII’s advisor Thomas Cromwell.

CJ Sansom’s Shardlake series, starting with Dissolution. Set during the period of the Reformation, when Henry VIII broke from Rome and established the Church of England.

Historian David Starkey is renowned for his Tudor scholarship, bringing accuracy to the soap opera history of Tudor legend. Another well-known English historian, Peter Ackroyd has undertaken to write a six volume history of England, the second of which is entitled Tudors. The first volume was Foundation, if that gives any indication as to the importance of the dynasty to English history.

Television

Elizabeth I (2005) miniseries on the later years of Elizabeth’s reign, starring the queenly Helen Mirren.

The Tudors (2007-2010) historical inaccuracies aside, this is one of the most opulent, attractive and extensive renderings of the life of Henry VIII in modern popular culture.

The White Queen (2013), set during the War of the Roses, and Reign (2013) both focus on the lives of Tudor women – the latter on Mary, Queen of Scots, who Elizabeth I had executed for treason. She later named Mary’s son James as her heir.

Film

Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) if only for Richard Burton as Henry VIII.

Elizabeth (1998) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) starring Cate Blanchett as the Virgin Queen, and written by Matthew Hirst, who also created The Tudors TV series.

Anne Treasure works in communications, is a recent survivor of the book industry, and exists mainly on the Internet.

Govt slates PPP investment targets

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The federal government will seek guidance on setting national targets for public-private infrastructure investment.

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As part of its 15-year national plan the coalition will make a submission to a Productivity Commission inquiry into public infrastructure, assistant minister Jamie Briggs told a meeting of stakeholders in Sydney on Thursday.

“If we were to set economy-wide investment targets, this could deliver more certainty and, with it, a pipeline of projects,” Mr Briggs said.

Investment subject to fiscal challenges and therefore uncertain, can lead to project cost blowouts while deterring future offshore spending, Mr Briggs said.

A public-private partnership benchmark would send a very clear message to the market that not only is there a project pipeline, but it’s backed by financial certainty, he said.

The coalition has made it a priority to attract private sector investment and while it acknowledges the support of global banking and financial institutions, the government wants a broadened investment base.

“I would like to see greater involvement by our locally-based super funds which manage billions of dollars of Australians’ retirement savings,” Mr Briggs said.

The Productivity Commission is due to release an initial issues paper on infrastructure financing options later on Thursday with a final report expected in May.

Meanwhile, the government continues to champion its idea of a tax incentive plan for states and territories which sell off public assets and put the money into new “economically-productive” infrastructure.

But the Electrical Trades Union said the move was a cash grab.

“Sure, a state government can pocket a one-off windfall through selling, but that would be wiped out within a decade once you take foregone income into account,” union national secretary Allen Hicks said.

Kenya, Ethiopia in barren CECAFA draw

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Kenya have held Ethiopia to a barren 0-0 draw in the opening match of the East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) Challenge Cup at the Nairobi Nyayo National stadium.

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The home side started the Wednesday match on a high note with Allan Wanga coming close to giving them the lead in the third minute after being put through by his striking partner Edwin Lavatsa.

But Wanga’s feeble shot at the Ethiopia goal narrowly missed the target.

The Ethiopians, who fielded an entirely new outfit to the one that lost to Nigeria in the World Cup play-offs, twice raided the Kenyan goalmouth in the opening half hour but were denied by the experienced hands of the Kenyan goalkeeper Duncan Ochieng.

Ochieng first halted Gebremichael Yakob’s header in the 30th minute and, nine minutes later, he went full stretch to punch out a dangerous shot from Ethiopian skipper Fasika Asfew.

Kenyan assistant coach James Nandwa said he was disappointed with the result but promised to make amends in the next match against South Sudan on Saturday.

“We plan to make some changes in the midfield for the match against South Sudan. We need to stay with the ball more to be competitive,” said Nandwa, who deputised for head coach Adel Amrouche, who was not feeling well.

The day’s other Group A game ended in a 2-1 win for Zanzibar against South Sudan.

Suleiman Kassim put the Zanzibaris in the lead after five minutes and Saleh Ahmed added the second in the 65th minute only for substitute Fabiano Loko to pull one back for the losers two minutes later.

The Zanzibari coach Salum Nassor blamed Nairobi’s high altitude weather for slowing down his players, who had been expected to trample their inexperienced opponents – playing in only their second CECAFA championships.

Non-mining investment picking up pace

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Business investment is surprisingly strong across all of the sectors of the economy, which may mean there won’t be a central bank interest rate cut in the coming months.

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Business investment rose by 3.6 per cent in the September quarter, Australian Bureau of Statistics official figures show, better than the 1.2 per cent fall the market was expecting.

Capital expenditure in mining sector rose four per cent, manufacturing was up 2.5 per cent and the “other selected sectors” category gained 3.1 per cent.

“For the mining sector, manufacturing and the services sector things were probably as good as you could hope and maybe a little bit stronger than three months ago,” Macquarie Bank senior economist Brian Redican said.

“We have seen an improvement in business confidence and that seems to have underpinned the investment outlook.”

Mr Redican said the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) likely would wait for the next capital expenditure data release before deciding whether to cut the cash rate.

“The Reserve Bank did downgrade its investment outlook in November, so after these numbers they won’t be further downgrading the numbers,” he said.

“The key test for the Reserve Bank will come in February when we get the first estimate for planned (business) spending for 2014/15. I think that will be far more influential in terms of the interest rate outlook.”

RBC fixed income and currency strategist Michael Turner said the pickup in non-mining investment was encouraging, as it would be needed when mining investment eventually falls.

“The non-mining components will provide the RBA an opportunity to assert that there are signs of non-mining investment picking up – albeit slowly,” he said.

“The more recent fall in the exchange rate is also likely to provide some reason for optimism on this front.”

Mr Turner said he was reluctant to believe mining investment was rising and maintained his forecast of a cash rate cut in the second quarter of 2014.

Commonwealth Bank economist Diana Mousina said business investment was still in good shape and a fall in mining and resources spending was still a way off.

“We’re seeing this peak in mining investment but the peak is not kind of falling off the cliff as some had been anticipating,” she said.

“It’s really showing that this peak in mining investment is more of a plateau and that really means you’re going to have more time for the non-mining economy to make a stronger contribution to growth.”

The closely-watched figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics cover investment in capital goods which includes things like buildings and equipment.

The fourth estimate for capital expenditure in 2013/14 is $166.832 billion, which is two per cent lower than investment in 2012/13.

AAP jcc/cdh

Comment: Suu Kyi on democracy, human rights and national reconciliation in Myanmar

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By Fron Jackson-Webb, The Conversation

Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded an honorary doctorate from UTS and the University of Sydney, in her first official visit to Australia.

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Along with the addressing the rule of law and ethnic conflict, Suu Kyi said amending the constitution was a key battle in ensuring Myanmar could become a truly democratic nation. 

Here, we publish her formal speech in full.


Aung San Suu Kyi:

Now, first of all I’d like to thank all of you for your tremendous support. I would like to say that throughout our years of struggle we have been encouraged by friends from all over the world.

The honorary degrees which were presented to me earlier, these were not just honorary degrees. These were signs that the world was with us, that we had not been forgotten in our struggle and for this I would like to thank all of you – all of you in Australia and all over the world.

Now, the subject I had chosen to speak on formally for the next ten minutes, is Burma’s future. Not Burma’s future as predictions or even Burma’s future as hopes but for Burma’s future as choices – the choices that we have to make for the future of our country.

Now, as I said earlier, I’m a politician. I am practical, I hope, and pragmatic and I try to be honest so I want to talk about the choices that we have made – we the National League for Democracy and our supporters with regard to the future of our country and to ask for your support to help us make sure that these choices can be made as soon as possible.

The very first choice that we made with regard to our future was more than 20 years ago when we opted for democracy. Even when there was a very, very brutal – one has to be honest – military regime in power, we never let go of that choice. We were going to opt for democracy, the kind of democracy that was rooted in strong institutions and in respect for human rights but along with our dedication to democracy and human rights we never forgot the need for national reconciliation.

So these were the three pillars of the National League for Democracy – democracy, human rights and national reconciliation – because we did not want either of those three pillars to be built up at the expense of any of the other two. These three we need that our country might be the kind of union of which we had dreamed for very many decades.

Those of our leaders who fought for independence, including my father, dreamt of such a union. They wanted to see Burma as a union of many peoples who were strong in their dedication to the idea of a nation that worked together for its people, that was bound together by dedication to the best principles of nationhood.

We decided to follow that path. This was a choice we made. I have often said that I find it embarrassing when people talk about the sacrifices that I have made and I always try to point out that those were not sacrifices but choices. Throughout my life I feel I have made the choices that I thought were best and we have been wrong and we have been right. But those choices were mine and I would bear responsibility for them and accept whatever consequences came thereby. So those are the choices we made back in 1988.

In 2012 last year we had to make another choice. We had to make the choice to contest the by-elections and to work as far as possible together with the existing system to carry on with our quest to realise democracy, human rights and national reconciliation.

 

The National League for Democracy has been conducting public meetings across Myanmar to acquaint the locals with the issue of the constitution. EPA/Lyn Bo Bo

 

When we contested the elections we had an election platform built on three main planks which were rule of law, eternal peace and amendments to the constitution.

Rule of law because for very many decades Burma had been under authoritarianism which knew nothing about rule of law. It knew a lot about law and order but that is quite different from rule of law. Especially as law and order translates very unhappily into Burmese.

Now the literal translation is [spoken in foreign language] which means quiescent, crouched, crushed and flattened.

I don’t want our people to be crouched and crushed and flattened.

I want them to be able to lift up their heads in the security of rule of law. So rule of law is very important for our country especially because we have hardly any judiciary to speak of. We have a judiciary which is totally limited by the constitution which places it under the authority of the executive.

The second plank of our election platform was internal peace. That is see an end to ethnic conflict, eternal conflict. I think that I hardly need to explain why we want peace, why we want an end to all internal conflict. That is necessary if ours is to be a truly peaceful and strong union.

Then the third plank was amendments to the constitution. Some may ask why. Because this constitution is preventing our country from becoming a truly democratic nation. Those of you who think that Burma has successfully taken the path to reform would be mistaken. If you want to know why you are mistaken you only have to study the Burmese constitution. Not a pleasant task, I can tell you.

But if you read it carefully you will understand why we cannot have genuine democracy under such a constitution.

I usually mention just one point about it because that drives home it’s lack of democratic principles far more effectively than going through a number of other sections. The provision for amendments to the constitution is, I’m told, about the most rigid to be found anywhere in the world. In order to make any major amendment more than 75% of the members of the legislature must vote for it. That’s just the first step.

Now I don’t know how many of you are aware that 25% of the members of the legislature are from the military. That means that in order for the constitution to be amended the members of the military, I always say at least one brave soldier but actually more than one because we don’t have the full quota of 75% civilian electorate representatives. So the military must support any amendment of any consequent for it to go through.

This is not all. All the military members are appointed by the Commander in Chief. He alone decides who the members are going to be. Not only that, they can be changed at any time. They are not appointed for the lifetime of the parliament.

So the Commander in Chief at any time can decide who represents the military in the legislature. That means in effect that the Commander in Chief decides whether or not the constitution can be amended. Because if he says yes then the military representatives will vote yes. If he says no then they will vote no.

So I put this to you very simply, how can you call a constitution democratic when it can be amended or not amended in accordance with the will of one man who is in an unelected post. Because the Commander in Chief is not there by election. Now this is just the beginning of a series of sections in the constitution which make it totally undemocratic.

If Burma is truly to be on the road to democracy we have to amend this constitution.

 

Aung San Suu Kyi: ‘We want everybody in our country to be part of the process that will take us forward to genuine democracy’. EPA/Nyein Chan Naing

 

Now my time is almost up so I will just conclude by saying that in recent months, my party has been conducting public meetings all over the country to acquaint our people with this issue. First of all what a constitution is. Secondly, how it affects the lives of every one of its citizens. Thirdly, the history of our constitutions; we’ve had three, this is a third one. How this one was adopted. How this one was written up and why it is not democratic and why we want it amended.

We have found that the moment our people understand what is really at stake, the great majority of them – I would say that at the public meetings we find that more than 80% of them – are very much in favour of constitutional amendment.

Now, don’t think that the remaining 20% or so are against amendment. What those people want is a total rewrite of the constitution.

So this is our choice for Burma’s future. A genuine democratic constitution that will help us to uphold democracy, human rights, and we want to achieve these amendments through national reconciliation. Never forgetting that all our citizens belong to our country and the whole country belongs to all our citizens.

It’s not just the military that owns a country and we do not want the military to be left out either. We want everybody in our country to be part of the process that will take us forward to genuine democracy.