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.”

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.

Comment: Governments will struggle to put Bitcoin under lock and key

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By Jonathan Levin, University of Oxford

The hearings in the US senate last week were the most high profile public discussions that have taken place on the subject of virtual currencies.

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The US showed its openness by broadcasting the hearing, and it was watched by many Bitcoin enthusiasts around the world.

The discussion looked at the potential risks and opportunities Bitcoin and other virtual currencies pose for society, without going into any of the technical details. Senators made analogies with previous technologies and offered personal anecdotes, placing Bitcoin among inventions such as the internet and mobile phones.

Positive comments from senators, the judiciary and US financial authorities sent the price soaring to its highest price yet, reaching US$900 at one point. At the start of this year, a single coin cost less than US$15.

 

Bitcoin price and google trends indexed at 100 on 19/11/13. Google Trends, Bitstamp.

 

But the knowledge gap between legislators, law enforcement and Bitcoin developers is still vast. Coalitions of government agencies across borders are beginning to collaborate on addressing the gap. In 2012, the FBI founded the Virtual Currency Emerging Threats Working Group (VCET), which alongside the US department of justice and financial crime agency also collaborates with the UK’s National Crime Agency. However, at times these bodies seem to lack an understanding of the basic principles behind cryptographic currencies.

In coins we don’t trust

Bitcoin was conceived as a currency that did not require any trust between its users. As a result there is no room for a central authority able to resolve disputes and enforce laws.

Our traditional financial system has intermediaries that sit on top of the narrow supply of coins and notes in the economy, creating layers of credit services and other financial products. In these account-based systems, individuals trust these institutions – banks, building societies, pension funds, and so on – to keep their wealth safe. But, it is these same trust lines that also facilitate government tax collection and legal enforcement.

At the moment, Bitcoin’s equivalent financial intermediaries are the exchanges used to move money between digital and government-issued currencies. These centralised services use accounts to store users’ Bitcoin and government currencies and hence can be regulated like other forms of money transmission.

Since Bitcoin cannot be policed as effectively as normal money, most regulatory work is directed at exchanges. Enforcement within a peer-to-peer, distributed network is difficult. Take cash, for example. There is a reason why it is still the medium of exchange favoured by criminals across the world – without a centralised store and written records, it is harder for authorities to keep track. Likewise, in peer-to-peer file sharing networks, download portals and broadband providers are both subject to regulation and have the responsibility to manage content and user behaviour respectively.

If you’re not on the list…

This does not mean enforcement is not possible; there are considerable efforts to ensure self-regulation within the Bitcoin economy. One example is the suggestion that stolen coins should be blacklisted to prevent them from re-entering the money supply. As every Bitcoin transaction is publicly announced this is entirely feasible if the network could find a way of coming to consensus on whether the coins were actually stolen.

With the operational failures of so many exchanges and continued problems ensuring funds in online wallets are kept safe, this seems an attractive option to increase adoption of the currency. However, such moves inevitably come at the expense of true decentralisation and blacklisting is controversial among current Bitcoin users.

Without a greater appreciation of the technical details behind virtual currencies, regulation will still be limited to the exchanges that sit on top of the Bitcoin protocol. While they serve as the bottleneck between government currencies, the possibility of consumer protection or detection of illicit uses will elude the regulators.

Depending on existing legislation, countries will also vary in the ease by which they are able to adapt definitions of the currency and ownership. These details are absent from the current policy debate and actually mark the distinctive features and possible future uses of these promising currencies.

Jonathan Levin owns 0.39 bitcoin, which he uses for research.

Meagher family backs cop over death photo

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Jill Meagher’s family supports a veteran detective who has apologised for using a crime scene photo of the murdered woman in a public presentation.

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Ms Meagher’s father told Homicide Detective Senior Sergeant Ron Iddles he had nothing to apologise for after he showed a photo of her body in a shallow grave during a talk about his job at a cancer fundraising event in regional Victoria.

Even though Ms Meagher’s family supported his use of the photo, the incident prompted outrage on Thursday, including criticism from Victoria’s premier, who said he was “sickened” by it.

But Det Snr Sgt Iddles stressed that only one person out of more than 400 who attended the event last Friday complained about the photo.

“It’s been taken totally out of context. The people who should be alarmed by it are (Jill’s) parents and they’re not, they totally support me,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

He said Ms Meagher’s father told him he’d done nothing wrong, didn’t need to apologise and also had the full support of Ms Meagher’s widowed husband in using the photograph.

Ms Meagher was raped and murdered in September last year in a case that gripped Melbourne.

The respected detective, who played a key role in the high-profile investigation, said he’s surprised by the criticism because he’s given the presentation about half a dozen times – and always in a professional and compassionate manner.

“If I have offended you in any way, I totally apologise,” he said.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Stephen Fontana said using the photo was an unfortunate error of judgment, even though the family had no objections.

“It’s probably about us as an organisation, thinking about what is appropriate in terms of presentations,” he said.

But Bendigo councillor Mark Weragoda, who attended the event, said he supports the detective.

He said he was stunned by seeing the photo for a couple of seconds on a big screen, but feels the officer’s message about looking after each other has now been lost.

“I think this is a big overreaction,” he said.

His comments came after Victorian Premier Dennis Napthine said he was shocked to hear of the photo being shown.

“This sort of thing is just totally and utterly unacceptable,” he said.

Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said showing the photo wasn’t the right thing to do.

“Victoria Police saying sorry, the recognition that it was an error of judgment, hopefully that can be the end of it,” he said.

Police have now banned all further public presentations on operational matters until appropriate protocols have been developed.

Sex, drugs and alcohol: what really goes on at schoolies?

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By Amy Pennay, Monash University; Dan Lubman, Monash University, and Nic Droste, Deakin University

After finishing year 12, more than 50,000 young Australians attend schoolies celebrations, with most ending up on the Gold Coast.

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Other schoolies (or “leavers”, as they’re known in Western Australia) head to the Sunshine Coast, Byron Bay, Victor Harbor (South Australia), Dunsborough and Rottnest Island (WA), and Lorne and Torquay (Victoria).

Schoolies marks the end of secondary school and new beginnings. For many young people it’s their first opportunity for a holiday with friends without supervision, and takes place as they are approaching legal drinking and driving age.

It also comes at a time when teens are experimenting with booze and other substances; harmful alcohol consumption and involvement in risky behaviour tends to peak around the age of 18.

Drug of choice

Alcohol is the most commonly used substance at schoolies – and past research shows young people are loading up.

A 2009 Victorian study involving interviews with 1,116 schoolies found that just under half reported typically consuming five or more drinks in a schoolies session. Participants reported consuming more alcohol at schoolies than they typically drink.

Interviews with 405 schoolies at Rottnest Island found that males consumed an average of 18 drinks and females consumed 13 drinks per day during schoolies.

Similarly, studies from the Gold Coast have found that more than half of 658 schoolies reported getting drunk in the previous 24 hours. Of 1,796 schoolies, more than half of males and nearly 40% of females reported getting drunk every night at schoolies.

There is also evidence of illicit drug use at schoolies. One Gold Coast study found that one-third (32%) of males and 17% of females interviewed at schoolies had used cannabis in the previous 24 hours, and 6% of males and 3% of females had used ecstasy.

A study of Rottenest Island Schoolies found that 20% of school leavers used illicit drugs at schoolies, with 15% using cannabis, 12% using ecstasy and 11% using amphetamine.

But Victorian research has found lower amounts, with just 11% of young people reporting cannabis use and 3% reporting use of cocaine, amphetamine and ecstasy during schoolies.

 

More than half of schoolies report drinking more than 11 standard drinks in a day. GabrielaP93

 

Of particular concern is the range of harmful behaviours that teens engage in at schoolies:

58% of young people reported blacking out

41% reported being injured

16% reported passing out drunk

10% reported being involved in a fight.

In addition, casual and unprotected sex among schoolies is common. Up to 60% of young men and 40% of young women report engage in casual sex at schoolies, with 20% of males and 30% of females reporting not using condoms on their last occasion.

Other studies have shown variation: 11% of young people in Victoria reported engaging in unprotected sex at schoolies and up to 45% of young women on the Gold Coast reported not using protection during sex at schoolies.

Perhaps surprisingly, young people attending schoolies on the Gold Coast and Rottnest Island appear to engage in more risk-taking behaviours than young people attending schoolies celebrations in Victoria.

Getting the complete picture

There are also some gaps in the research. Past studies haven’t included objective measures of alcohol consumption or intoxication (such as breath alcohol readings).

Nor have they gathered detailed information about specific consumption practices such as combining alcohol with energy drinks, combining alcohol with illicit drugs, playing drinking games and other risky drinking practices.

We still don’t know whether particular substances influence the likelihood of teens engaging in risky or harmful behaviour at schoolies. But to address these gaps, last year we surveyed 500 schoolies in Lorne and Torquay in Victoria. These findings will be published in early 2014.

 

Gold Coast and Rottnest Iland schoolies tend to take more risks that shoolies in other parts of the country. Matthew Kenwrick

 

We do know that young people are likely to drink risky levels of alcohol and engage in a range of risk-taking behaviours. And those who travel to other states for schoolies, particularly to the Gold Coast, are likely to get more drunk and take more risks.

We also know that risk-taking behaviours have not reduced over time, despite local and state governments initiating a range of non-alcohol-related activities and support services for young people during schoolies, such as Red Frogs.

So it’s important that parents, teachers and friends have honest conversations with young people about schoolies prior to the event. These tips for minimising harm might help kick start the discussion:

Make sure you have food when you consume alcohol

Drink water when you consume alcohol and try to alternate each alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic drink

Avoid combining alcohol with other substances, including energy drinks, licit and illicit drugs

Always look out for friends

Practice safe sex: be prepared by buying condoms prior to schoolies

Access local services such as Red Frogs for harm-reduction information and support services.

Amy Pennay receives funding from ARC, beyondblue and NDLERF.

Dan Lubman receives funding from the ARC, NHMRC, beyondblue and Rotary.

Nic Droste receives a PhD stipend from ARC, and has received funding from NHMRC, AERF, NSW Health, and St John of God.

Central Coast Mariners deny desire to relocate to North Sydney

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The club’s owner Mike Charlesworth claims he’s losing more than a million dollars a year, and with 20 percent of the Mariners members living in Sydney’s northern suburbs the players understand a business decision may have to be made.

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“We’re not in charge,” Mariners midfielder Michael McGlinchey told SBS.

“It’s up to Mike and he’s got a business to run and if he’s haemorrhaging money and he thinks he can save it by doing that [relocating], it’s his decision and it’s not for us to question.”

 

Although the Mariners have ruled out a permanent move to North Sydney, if the North Sydney Oval stands are filled with football fans next month the experiment may be continued.

 

“I think it’s all up to the fans,” North Sydney Council Mayor Jilly Gibson says.

“It’s all up to those that love their footy, come along and support this game and if it’s a success we’ll have more games I’m sure.”  

 

The now defunct Northern Spirit attracted big crowds to the venue in the late 1990’s so there’s clearly an appetite for the game in the area.

 

The Mariners will study the off-field success of the Phoenix match before any decision on future games there will be made.

 

But the local council is eager for more A-League football.   

 

“We’d love more games, we love to see our oval used as much as it can, “ Mayor Gibson says.

“I think its Sydney’s most beautiful oval and it looks fantastic when there’s a capacity crowd there.”

 

Football Federation Australia confirmed today its happy for the December 19 match to go ahead, but that the North Sydney Oval requires significant investment to become a permanent A-League venue. 

Government urged to reconsider asylum baby case

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The immigration minister is being urged to consider granting a newborn and his asylum seeker family protection visas as the case plays out in court.

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The case of a baby born in Brisbane to refugees from Myanmar returned to the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane on Thursday.

Baby Ferouz was born in Brisbane’s Mater Hospital this month after his diabetic mother was brought from Nauru for the birth, along with her husband and two other children.

Lawyers for the family of five are seeking an injunction to prevent their return to Nauru without “procedural fairness”, that is, without family members being able to present independent medical evidence.

The lawyers also want to prevent the family’s removal before it can be determined if Ferouz is entitled to Australian citizenship.

Lawyers for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison were granted a third hearing on Thursday to argue the case can only be determined in the High Court because it involves “unauthorised maritime arrivals”.

Judge Margaret Cassidy said she would give a decision about jurisdiction on Friday afternoon.

Maurice Blackburn associate Murray Watt, for the asylum seeker family, said Mr Morrison can intervene to help the family, including by granting them protection visas.

“He can step in at any moment to do that and then this whole legal action would go away,” Mr Watt told reporters.

“But rather than doing that the Commonwealth continues to stall and continues to bring this before the court.

“I’d encourage the Commonwealth to really reflect on its position about that especially in the wake of some of the things we’ve seen in the public debate this week.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees delivered a scathing report on living conditions in the Nauru detention centre this week, finding the facility was inappropriate for children.

And Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi reportedly told a Sydney audience on Wednesday night that in Ferouz’s case Australia must remember “justice has to be tempered by mercy”.