2019
04/14

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Giant marsupial fossil found on Vic beach

A fossilised giant wombat-like skeleton as large as a small car has been found on a Victorian beach by a local beachgoer.

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It is believed to be the Diprotodon, the largest marsupial ever to have lived, and may be as old as 200,000 years and have weighed up to 1000kg.

Museum Victoria senior paleontologist Erich Fitzgerald said it was an exciting discovery because of its potential to shed new light on the extinct species.

“What we know is that it appears to be the most complete and best preserved discovery of this species in Victoria and one of the more complete found in Australia,” Dr Fitzgerald told AAP on Wednesday.

“We may be able to get a lot more information about the animal’s appearance and also potentially about its lifestyle from this particular specimen, given how much of it we actually have.”

The skeleton was discovered earlier this year on a beach in Mornington Peninsula National Park by a Sorrento local who noticed bones eroding out of a rock.

“It was found by completely by chance. The person did exactly the right thing and contacted Parks Victoria,” Dr Fitzgerald said.

The discovery came as a surprise to paleontologists as the area had never revealed any significant fossils.

“The ones that had been found have not been very complete,” Dr Fitzgerald said.

“It suggests further exploration may lead to additional discoveries.”

The job of removing the specimen from the site is ongoing and it may be months before researchers know for sure how much of it is preserved and intact.

The species was widespread across Australia when the first indigenous people arrived but became extinct about 25,000 years ago.

2019
04/14

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Nalbandian retirement a ‘loss’: del Potro

Former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro on Wednesday paid tribute to fellow Argentine David Nalbandian after the one-time top-three player announced his retirement from tennis due to injury.

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“Everyone knows Nalbandian was a really great player – he won so may good tournaments,” world number seven del Potro told reporters in Tokyo, after reaching the quarter-finals of the Japan Open. “We have lost a really talented played from the tour.”

Nalbandian, who had a heated rivalry with Australian Lleyton Hewitt after the pair contested the 2002 Wimbledon final and several Davis Cup matches in the 2000s, hung up his racquet because of a persistent right shoulder problem.

The gritty 31-year-old, winner of 11 ATP Tour titles, had slipped to 231st in the world rankings after another injury-hit season.

“On his day he could beat anyone,” del Potro said of Nalbandian, who also reached the 2002 Wimbledon final where he lost to Lleyton Hewitt.

“I remember when he reached the final at Wimbledon,” added the 25-year-old del Potro. “I was very young at the time. There were also a lot of big Davis Cup wins and important matches he won, like when he beat Federer at the Masters Cup in Shanghai.

Nalbandian had called the decision “difficult” when he made the announcement earlier on Wednesday.

“It is a sad day but my shoulder simply can’t cope any more at the highest level,” he said.

He will play a final exhibition match against Rafa Nadal on November 23 in Buenos Aires.

Nalbandian, who reached his career-high three in the world in 2006, also inspired Argentina to three Davis Cup finals, although they lost all of them.

He once told French newspaper L’Equipe a few years ago that he would also like to compete in the Rally World Championship.

Nalbandian began the year in promising fashion, reaching the final in Sao Paulo where he lost to Nadal, but then his shoulder problem returned and an operation did not improve the situation.

2019
04/14

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Record $33m on offer at Aust Open tennis

Australian Open organisers expect all of the world’s top 100 men and women to play in January’s tennis grand slam, chasing a record prizemoney pool of $33 million.

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Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley, who is also the Open’s tournament director, said it would be a boost to have reigning US and French Open champion Rafael Nadal back, after he missed this year’s event through illness and injury.

Nadal could next week regain the No.1 ranking from Novak Djokovic, who has won the Australian Open for the past three years.

“We’re very pleased as things stand today that we’re expecting all the top 100 men and all the top 100 women,” Tiley said at Wednesday’s launch of the 2014 tournament.

“It’s great, we’ve got our defending champions Novak and Victoria (Azarenka) and having them back, they’ve done extremely well here.

“Novak’s dominated this event over the past five years.

“But Nadal missed it last year. Having Rafa back, he’s excited and wants to come back and play.”

Prizemoney increases from $30 million last year.

US greats and former Open champions Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras will attend as guests, with Sampras to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first of his two Australian Open titles.

But Tiley confirmed Bernard Tomic’s father John, still serving a 12-month ban from the tour, after being found guilty of assaulting his son’s then-hitting partner Thomas Drouet in Madrid in May, won’t be allowed inside Melbourne Park.

Tiley said the Australian Open and lead-up events were obligated to abide by the ban, but they remained supportive of the Tomic family.

“We talk to them,” he said.

“He’s Australian and at the end of the day it’s about Bernard and it’s about his opportunity.

“He played Davis Cup for us and did a great job.

“It’s unfortunate, the situation, but it is what it is, the ruling, and we uphold that.”

Tiley said Tomic Sr wouldn’t be given dispensation to attend, even if his son made it deep into the event.

Melbourne Park’s third main showcase court, Margaret Court Arena, will be in use, but a retractable roof being built over it remains under construction and will stay open throughout the event.

2019
04/14

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Microsoft hands user data to Aust govt

Microsoft handed Australian government agents personal information about more than a thousand users in the first half of 2013, a transparency report reveals.

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Between January and June, authorities made 1219 requests for access to data relating to 1462 accounts.

Microsoft granted 1050 (86 per cent) of those requests – handing over information such as email addresses, names, locations and internet protocol (IP) addresses.

However, the company did not disclose user-generated “content data” – which includes emails, documents and photographs.

Six requests did not meet legal requirements and were rejected, while the company was unable to find the requested data in 163 cases.

The report is the second Microsoft has released on government data requests.

The first revealed the company received 2238 requests from Australian authorities last year.

Globally, 64 governments made 37,000 requests concerning 67,000 accounts. More than 70 per cent came from the US, UK, France, Germany and Turkey.

Microsoft provided information 80 per cent of the time but only one in fifty requests led the company to release sensitive “content data”.

The requests usually relate to criminal investigations but some involve “imminent emergencies” such as suicide threats.

The company sought to reassure users, stating on its website that fewer than one in every 10,000 users were affected by law enforcement requests during the reporting period.

Microsoft was unable to confirm the number of active Australian users.

“We place a premium on respecting and protecting the privacy of our users,” the company said in the report.

“At the same time, Microsoft recognises that law enforcement plays a critically important role in keeping our users and our technology safe and free from abuse or exploitation.”

Twitter, Facebook and Yahoo! have all released similar reports in recent months.

Transparency has emerged as a sensitive issue this year in the wake of leaks by former US government contractor Edward Snowden, which revealed that nine companies had turned over user data to the US National Security Agency.

Last month, Yahoo! released its first global transparency report, which revealed it had received 704 requests from Australian agents in the first six months of 2013, regarding 799 accounts or users.

The company granted full access to “content data” in response to 11 requests – handing over information such as the content of emails, uploaded files and Yahoo address, calendar and notepad entries.

It handed over “non-content data” in response to 305 of the requests, rejected 242 and found no data in 146.

Facebook’s first transparency report, released in August, reported the social networking site received 546 requests regarding 601 Australian-held accounts in the first six months of 2013.

It granted information in response to 64 per cent of the requests.

In the same month, Twitter revealed it received 58 information requests from Australian authorities in the first half of the year, compared to fewer than ten in the second half of 2012. The microblogging site responded with information in a quarter of cases.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) recently confirmed to AAP that it made requests for data from Facebook but would not disclose the number or their nature.

2019
04/14

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Greens request WA Senate recount

Australian Greens Leader Senator Christine today confirmed the party had requested a recount after senator Scott Ludlam lost his West Australian Senate seat to the Palmer United Party (PUP).

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After a tight count involving complicated preference votes, three Liberal senators, two Labor senators and Zhenya Wang from PUP were declared winners.

Scrutineers have identified the result may have come down to a 14-vote margin.

thanks to everyone who went through this wait with us. checking for recount possibility; meantime your support means a lot #ausvotes

— Scott Ludlam (@SenatorLudlam) October 2, 2013

Ms Milne said The Greens had lodged a recount request with the Australian Electoral Commission.

“The entire Party Room is devastated at the thought of Scott leaving the Senate next year,” she said.

“It would be particularly hard given how close the result was.

“Scott is widely respected in the Parliament and in the community for his passion, his wealth of knowledge and his calm and reasoned demeanour. And I know between now and when the Senate changes over Scott will be fiercely advocating for digital rights, keeping uranium in the ground, keeping the carbon price and getting big solar up and running in WA.”

Senator Ludlam has thanked the 124,000 people who voted Green in WA, and the Western Australian and national campaign teams for their work during the election campaign.

“In particular, I acknowledge Senator Christine Milne for her dedicated and tenacious leadership: the role of the Greens has never been more crucial than now,” Senator Ludlam said.

David Johnston, Michaelia Cash and Linda Reynolds will represent the Liberals, David Johnston and Louise Pratt will represent Labor, and Mr Wang will be the PUP’s latest parliamentary representative.

confirming we will shortly be lodging a formal request for a recount of elements of the WA senate vote #ausvotes

— Scott Ludlam (@SenatorLudlam) October 2, 2013

AEC says a Senate recount has never been done before. Greens can’t simply ask for one cos of close result. Has to be a procedural issue

— Andrew Tillett (@andrewtillett) October 2, 2013

“Everyone is going to have a close look at the numbers and see if there is cause for a recount,” he told ABC radio.

“But it appears they (PUP) have been elected on roughly half the vote of the Greens, and that is the sort of result our voting system throws up from time to time.

“(Losing) is still sinking in, but I would love to keep working on the things I have been working on – and if you think politicians do a crap job, then you should just try it.” Senator Ludlam said there was an urgent need for electoral reform.

“It is an elegant system being expertly gamed and manipulated,” he said. “The whole purpose of an electoral system is to accurately as possible reflect the voting will of the Australian people. It has let us down in this instance.”

The Australian Sports Party, which was in the running, also lost out on preference votes.

2019
03/15

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What will be the consequence of the US shutdown?

According to experts, that depends on how long it continues, and whether it leads to US default on government debt repayments.

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The partial US government shutdown came into effect after the Republican-controlled House of Representatives refused to pass a new budget.

 

The main point of contention has been President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, popularly known as Obamacare.

 

David Smith is a lecturer in American politics at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

 

“This is the first time in American history that there is going to be something approaching universal health coverage. Now to Democrats this is fantastic, but Republicans see this as a precursor to a government takeover of medicine and a government takeover of the healthcare system and even though in most other advanced industrial democracies the government does actually play a very major role in the health care system as it does in ours. This is not traditionally the way that its been done in the United States where everything is being done privately often with government money, but through private medical providers and private insurance providers and a lot of people in the conservative part of the Republican party actually see this as an entree into socialism and they see it as completely un-American and destructive of American capitalism.”

 

President Obama has condemned the blockage of the legislation by the Republicans.

 

“But I want every American to understand why it did happen. Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to fund the government unless we defunded or dismantled the Affordable Care Act. They’ve shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans. In other words, they demanded ransom just for doing their job.”

 

However, House Speaker John Boehner accused the President and the Democrats of an unwillingness to negotiate.

 

“The bill we passed last night would have funded the government through December 15th and provide fairness to the American people under Obamacare – no exemptions, no exceptions, let’s treat everyone the same. Last night they not only rejected that, but they also rejected our call to sit down and resolve our differences under the Constitution which makes it clear that if the two Houses disagree we should sit down and discuss and try to resolve those matters.”

 

US government bodies seen as doing work regarded as essential, like the military, are continuing to function.

 

But the partial closure of the government means that many non-essential federal services have been closed, and up to 800,000 public servants have been told to stay at home or left working without pay.

 

This man was angry over the inability of veterans to visit the now-closed National War Memorial in Washington.

 

“These guys they’ve flown three or four hours today. They got up at 4 o’clock in the morning to get here, they’re 80 and 90 years old. The Germans and the Japanese couldn’t stop them and now the God damn politicians in Washington are. This is ridiculous and these guys are paying the price.”

 

David Smith from Sydney University says the shutdown won’t have an immediate impact on the US economy.

 

“If it’s only a few days, then it’s an inconvenience and it’s unpleasant. But if it goes on for say, a week or more, then that is a lot of money that doesn’t go into the economy, so that’s a lot of employees who can’t do grocery shopping, who can’t fill up their cars with petrol and not only is it just incredibly inconvenient for them it means that their communities suffer a lot economically.”

 

And Mr Smith says that could also have a significant impact on the rest of the world.

 

r”The real problem is that in two or three weeks time, the United States is going to reach its debt ceiling again and there’s actually a serious possibility this time that the US could default on its debt. Now if this government shut down is a precursor to a debt default, then that is going to have a really serious effect on global financial markets, because a government default would signal to investors that the United States is actually too politically dysfunctional to be trusted to pay back its debts and this would lead to a massive downgrade in United States credit, which would mean a huge interest rate rise right across the United States, right through out the American financial system and it would cause massive insecurity within the global financial system because there is so much United States debt sloshing around in the system.”

 

Barack Obama says he’s worried about the possibility of default.

 

“If they go through with it this time, and force the United States to default on its obligations default for the first time in history, it would be far more dangerous than a government shutdown, as bad as a shutdown is. It would be an economic shutdown. So I’ll speak more on this in the coming days. Let me repeat: I will not negotiate over Congress’ responsibility to pay bills it’s already racked up. I’m not going allow anybody to drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud just to refight a settled election or extract ideological demands. Nobody gets to hurt our economy and millions of hard-working families over a law you don’t like.”

 

Despite the partial government shutdown, the Obamacare health policy has actually been launched.

 

 

 

 

2019
03/15

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AFL’s Saints sign US ruck prospect

St Kilda have signed a 203cm former US college basketballer whose brother plays in the NFL and whose athletic capacity they predict will excite AFL fans.

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Jason Holmes, a 23-year-old from Chicago whose older brother Andre plays with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, has been tested alongside other hopefuls at this week’s draft combine in Melbourne.

Saints head of football Chris Pelchen said learning the finer points of the game would be a gradual process for ruck prospect Holmes, a newcomer to the sport, but the athletic feats he displayed at the combine couldn’t be ignored.

“That’s exciting for not just Saints fans but all AFL people,” Pelchen told reporters.

“I think we all watch American sport with great interest and are obviously sometimes amazed by their athletic prowess.

“Jason comes from a basketball background, played at college level and I think he’ll bring some very interesting aspects to the game in terms of his athletic ability in the short term.”

Holmes has been signed as an international rookie for the next two seasons.

He’s the second international rookie for the Saints, who recruited New Zealander Joseph Baker-Thomas in April, while in Wellington for their Anzac Day clash with Sydney.

Holmes, who was introduced to the sport at a talent-spotting camp in the United States in April, said deciding to shelve his basketball career was a tough choice but he was committed to trying to make it in the AFL.

“My passion is to compete,” he said.

“Obviously I had time to think about what I want to do and I’m glad I did have that time and I wouldn’t be here if this wasn’t serious to me.”

2019
03/15

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NZ no consolation prize for refugees: PM

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat that they should not expect to get New Zealand as a “consolation prize”.

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Mr Abbott hosted NZ Prime Minister John Key on Wednesday, the first foreign leader to visit Australia since the change of government last month.

The pair discussed NZ’s previous commitment to annually settle 150 refugees that Australia has processed, under a deal struck with former prime minister Julia Gillard in February.

AAP understands NZ has left the offer on the table but the Abbott government has indicated it won’t take it up because it wants to focus on sending asylum seekers to Nauru and Manus Island.

The intake had been slated to start in 2014 and was to make up part of New Zealand’s annual quota of 750 refugees.

Mr Abbott cast doubt over the arrangement during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday.

“We’re grateful for New Zealand’s help,” Mr Abbott said.

“If and when it becomes necessary obviously we’ll call on it.”

He reiterated his determination to stop the boats.

“One of the ways we stop the boats is by making it absolutely crystal clear that if you come to Australia illegally by boat you go, not to New Zealand, but to Nauru or Manus and you never ever come to Australia,” Mr Abbott said.

“People ought not think that New Zealand is some kind of a consolation prize if they can’t come to Australia.”

There’s strong support from NZ to take refugees from Australia with 60.8 per cent of people surveyed in a Herald-DigiPoll backing the arrangement.

2019
03/15

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Trade balance narrows in August

Australia’s recent trade deficits have been pushed further into the red by the new inclusion of small purchases by consumers of goods made overseas.

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The total value of imports below $1,000 ordered directly from overseas vendors in the 2012/13 financial year was $7.61 billion.

The ABS estimates that between 88 per cent and 95 per cent of that was consumer goods.

The ABS has also revised figures going back to 1998, and JP Morgan economist Ben Jarman said it shows domestic spending is leaking overseas more than previously thought.

“This is an attempt to get more of a handle on the increasing prevalence of online consumer spending with offshore retailers,” he said.

“The revisions get smaller as we move back through history, but were worth over $600 million in July alone, taking the balance for that month down.”

For the record, Australia’s total trade balance remained in the red in August, with a deficit of $815 million, official figures show, which was worse than the $450 million deficit the market was expecting.

Still, the August figure was a little bit better than the July deficit of $1.375 billion, which was revised from the original deficit estimate of $765 million.

Mr Jarman said the improved trade balance came via a surge in iron ore exports.

RBC fixed income and currency strategist Michael Turner said he expects Australia’s trade balance to improve as more mining and resource projects go into production and export shipments start moving.

“The ABS estimate of total imports includes the value of goods falling under the low value threshold,” he said.

“Beyond these distractions, the trade data were reasonably positive.

“Exports were up three per cent, led by iron ore and gold, while the one per cent rise in total imports was driven largely by broad rises in consumption goods – which ties in well with the slightly better environment for retail reported for August.”

2019
03/15

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Atletico demonstrate credentials with victory at Porto

Buoyed by a stunning 1-0 win at Real Madrid on Saturday, their first success against their bitter city rivals in La Liga this century, Atletico recovered from conceding a 16th-minute Jackson Martinez goal at the Dragao stadium to secure a ninth victory in 11 matches in all competitions this term.

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Their only blemish was a reverse on away goals to Barcelona in the two-legged Spanish Super Cup and they top the La Liga table alongside the champions with a perfect 21 points from seven matches.

Atletico’s progress under coach Diego Simeone has been spectacular since the Argentine took over at the end of 2011 and he has moulded his squad into an outfit that looks capable of challenging the Barca-Real duopoly in Spain and progressing to the latter stages of Europe’s elite club competition.

A combative and passionately committed midfielder for his country and during stints at Atletico, Sevilla, Inter Milan and Lazio, Simeone has instilled the same qualities in his players and praised their grit in Tuesday’s post-match news conference.

Their success against the Portuguese side was all the more remarkable given that forward and top scorer Diego Costa was suspended and that they sold prolific Colombia striker Radamel Falcao to Monaco in the close season.

“We have an extraordinary group,” Simeone said. “I am no doctor but the players were wounded and tired and that is a source of satisfaction as it shows they gave their all.”

Atletico’s Uruguay centre back Diego Godin headed the equaliser in the 58th minute before a well-worked free kick routine set up Turkey playmaker Arda Turan to snatch the winner four minutes from time.

The Spanish side top the group with six points from two games, with Porto on four in second and Zenit St Petersburg and Austria Wien, who drew 0-0 in Russia on Tuesday, on one point each in third and fourth respectively.

“We are just taking each match at a time,” Godin told reporters.

“We are fighting to the death in every game and I think that is the right path to follow,” he added. “Then we’ll see how far that takes us.”

Atletico’s next outing is a La Liga clash at home to Celta Vigo on Sunday before away and home matches against Austria Wien on October 22 and November 6 respectively.

(Editing by John O’Brien)