Skiing wants joint opposition to 2022 winter World Cup ( admin posted on February 17th, 2019 )

Following a council meeting late on Sunday FIS said it planned to agree on a resolution with the other six winter sports federations in a combined attack on world soccer’s governing body FIFA’s plans to switch the dates of the tournament in Qatar.

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“FIS will submit a proposal to the other six International Winter Sports Federations to sign a resolution against organising the World Cup during the winter sports season in 2022,” it said in a brief statement.

FIS has long viewed FIFA’s plans with suspicion, aware that a football World Cup, the world’s biggest and most popular single sports event, would take away viewers and sponsors from the skiing season.

Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup at the expense of rival bids from the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has since said it was a mistake to award a summer tournament to Qatar and is now looking for dates in the winter.

A date for the tournament has yet to be finalised and the expected switch to a winter tournament to avoid the searing summer desert heat in the Gulf state has also angered other leagues and football clubs.

FIS President Gianfranco Kasper has repeatedly warned such plans would impact the skiing competition and has called on FIFA to respect other sports federations.

The International Olympic Committee is also closely monitoring FIFA’s deliberations, fearing that a World Cup in January of 2022 — one of the dates under discussion — could also affect their own winter Olympics that year.

(This story was refiled to fix typo in the headline)

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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Melbourne Cup: Excitement builds over ‘four-legged lottery’ ( admin posted on February 17th, 2019 )

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

The Melbourne Cup, held each year on the first Tuesday in November, is followed by millions of people across the country and many more worldwide.

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And a large part of its charm each year is its – usually – surprise result.

 

It’s now been over 150 years since horses were raced for the first time on the now-famous Flemington racecourse in 1861.

 

At that time, thousands of people flocked to see the first Melbourne Cup.

 

Victoria Racing Club consultant and historian, Dr Andrew Lemon, says the Cup is one of few events that started big – and kept growing.

 

“It began at a time when Melbourne was a very rich mining boom city, it was the gold period, it was a very young city. It was a time when there was a very big prize put up. People here just loved their horses, because that was the best way of getting around. And right from the start, it has attracted attention from all around Australia. Unlike some events, which start small, really the Melbourne Cup started big and just kept getting bigger.”

 

University of Sydney professor of religion, Carole Cusack, has an unusual view of the event.

 

The co-author of an essay titled “The Melbourne Cup: Australian identity and secular pilgrimage” says over the years and decades, it has come to represent an opportunity for the whole country to celebrate in a way that contributes to national identity.

 

“In the culture that we have now in the West, there’s a high degree of consumerism, there’s a low degree of serious or intense religious commitment and for a lot people, certain kinds of celebrations come to mean as much perhaps as the marking of time by religious ceremonies used to in the past. And so in Australia, we have a range of these sorts of ceremonies. Obviously the Olympics in Sydney in 2000 was a particular kind of bringing everybody together. But that kind of things are big things: in general people need more regular kinds of events to occasionally cut across different community groups and produce a moment of unity.”

 

Whatever its possible spiritual role, the Melbourne Cup is also an occasion to take a special outfit out of the wardrobe and drink something bubbling.

 

And then there’s the large-scale betting around the event.

 

Professor Cusack says, in Australia’s diverse society, some people may be uncomfortable with these particular traditions.

 

But she says other Cup rituals, such as the gathering in front of a TV screen with colleagues, family and friends, have the potential to foster social cohesion.

 

“The problem of course is the national identity question, because lots of Australians come from different ethnic groups and language groups. They have different religious beliefs or no religious beliefs at all. Some people don’t drink and don’t gamble and there is an element of the Melbourne Cup that is always about the champagne and the gambling, but I think also one of the interesting things about the Melbourne Cup is that the horses are such an emotional point for people. What you are seeing is a magnificent display of equestrian ability.”

 

The Melbourne Cup is a *handicapped race over a distance of 3,200 metres – a race for stayers, rather than sprinters.

 

This year’s prize money is 6.2 million dollars.

 

Richard Clancy is the Executive Director of the Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

 

He says the Cup and all other events in the Spring Racing Carnival contribute not only to the state’s economy but also to the nation’s finances.

 

Mr Clancy says last year the race managed to attract about 53,000 tourists.

 

“The Victorian state economy was estimated to benefit by approximately $366 million in financial stimulus last year from the Melbourne Cup Carnival and nationally the estimate was placed at $750 million.”

 

This year’s field includes nine overseas-trained horses.                                       

 

Five overseas stayers have so far won the Melbourne Cup: Dunaden and Americain from France, Delta Blues from Japan, Vintage Crop and Media Puzzle from Ireland.

 

But this year’s number one favourite is Fiorente, who came second last year and is trained by Sydney-based Gai Waterhouse.

 

To win her first Melbourne Cup, Ms Waterhouse will have to overcome the international raiders as well as businessman Lloyd Williams’ army of runners, that counts six of the field of 24, including last year’s winner, Green Moon.

 

Dr Lemon says Fiorente’s form is promising.

 

“Gai’s had several near-misses. She’s also got a horse, right down the bottom, who might sneak in called Tres Blue and that’s a European horse, who’s come here and she started training it as well. But Fiorente has the very good local form coming into this race. And if we were going on our traditional way, we’d be saying Fiorente is a very worthy favourite and it will be ridden by Damien Oliver, who’s won two Melbourne Cups before.”

 

However Dr Lemon shies away from speculating on a possible winner, describing the Cup as a “four-legged lottery”.

 

No doubt we’ll all be wiser once the race is over on Tuesday afternoon.

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Premier brushes off threats, presses ahead ( admin posted on January 15th, 2019 )

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman is standing firm on his tough new bikie laws, despite being threatened in an online video and having his personal contact details plastered across social media.

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Mr Newman says the views expressed in the video represent a minority and he will push on with his crackdown on criminal motorcycle gangs which the majority of Queenslanders support.

“These laws stand,” he said.

“They are not changing because we are determined to deal with criminal gangs.”

The four-and-a-half minute clip, which has attracted more than 200,000 hits, was purportedly posted by activist group Anonymous Australia who say Mr Newman’s anti-bikie laws have gone too far.

In the video, a person wearing the trademark Anonymous Guy Fawkes mask warns: “We do not forgive, we do not forget, Campbell Newman expect us”.

But the young Brisbane activist linked to the video, Daniel Walker, says Mr Newman’s staff and the media have turned those words, which are the group’s motto, into a threat.

“Okay, so what did we threaten to do? lol,” Mr Walker wrote on his YouTube account.

“I have never hurt anyone nor has anyone I associate with but we are watching and he can expect his lies to be made public.”

Police are probing the clip but won’t say whether they are investigating Mr Walker.

They are also examining how Mr Newman’s home address and personal mobile number was shared on social media by opponents of his tough new bikie gang laws.

While Mr Newman has been attacked, there have been no known threats made to police who are demanding extra protection in the wake of the new legislation.

Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart says he has no knowledge of threats against individual officers or the service in general.

“I’m not currently seeing any evidence of a heightened risk,” he said.

The police union wants officers to have access to extra body armour and the ability to take their weapons home amid the bikie crackdown.

Mr Stewart says police can already apply to have a covert protective vest and for permission to take guns home.

He admits there are few covert vests readily available but says the police service will be able to fund a mass rollout of the gear if required.

However, he said very few officers had put in requests for the hot and heavy vests in recent years.

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Housing sector shows signs of booming ( admin posted on June 17th, 2019 )

House prices are continuing to surge, especially in Sydney, as buyers take advantage of record low interest rates.

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In the year to September, the house price index rose 7.6 per cent, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Monday, the biggest increase in three years.

Of the eight capital cities, Sydney had the largest increase with a rise of 11.4 per cent, followed by a 8.6 per cent increase in Perth.

JP Morgan economist Tom Kennedy said the data showed the housing market, particularly in Sydney, was on the rise.

“In the nation’s largest property market, things really are starting to heat up,” he said.

“In Melbourne as well, price appreciation was very strong and also in Brisbane.”

Mr Kennedy said recent interest rate cuts by the Reserve Bank of Australia are making an impact on the housing sector.

“A big part of the Reserve Bank story is that they’ve been trying to revive the construction sector, so I think the big uptick we’ve seen in prices definitely is supportive of that, as higher prices encourage activity and investment,” he said.

HSBC chief economist Paul Bloxham said the continued rise in house prices may mean that the housing sector is picking up where the mining and resources boom left off.

“The official house price data confirmed what the more timely indicators have been suggesting – that Australia is at the beginning of a house price boom.

“While some pick-up in employment will be needed soon, to keep the RBA from cutting rates further, we expect to see some improvement in coming months supported by low interest rates, rising asset prices and lifting confidence.

“Growth appears to be rebalancing, with a modest upswing underway in the non-mining sectors and regions of the economy.”

Australian capital city house prices rose 1.9 per cent in the September quarter, and were up 2.7 per cent in the June quarter.

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Gabon gets rare glimpse of solar eclipse ( admin posted on June 17th, 2019 )

Despite rain and overcast skies, residents of southern Gabon got a glimpse of a total eclipse of the sun, a rare phenomenon also visible in eastern Africa.

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“I saw a black disc progressively cover the sun. It’s magnificent,” said Clarence Diledou, who lives of the port town of Port-Gentil.

“But unfortunately the bad weather spoiled the party a bit.”

The west African nation got peak viewing of the total eclipse as it swept over a path nearly 60km wide.

At its peak over land in central Gabon, the sun was blocked out for about a minute.

Weather permitting, partial phases of the eclipse were also visible in southern Europe and in the eastern United States.

In Port-Gentil, families gathered together for the occasion along the sea front, facing the sun.

Like many in the town, Diledou used special glasses distributed by authorities to watch the rare event.

Those who did not have any came up with imaginative solutions, among them Pauline Koumba, who put a bowl of water in her courtyard and watched the reflected eclipse.

“I saw the brief passage of the eclipse in my bowl. But it was over quickly and the black clouds spoiled the effect,” she said.

Families also gathered in the capital Libreville, where the eclipse was less spectacular, but where the skies darkened noticeably for about half an hour from 1330 GMT on Sunday (0300 AEDT on Monday).

It then continued across Africa, passing through northern Uganda and northern Kenya, although overcast skies marred the effect.

Experts say a safe way to view an eclipse is by making a pinhole camera – piercing a tiny hole in a piece of paper then turning your back to the sun and using the pierced page to project the image of the sun on another sheet of paper.

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Ireland coach thanks NRL prop Brett White ( admin posted on June 17th, 2019 )

Ireland coach Mark Aston has publicly thanked Canberra Raiders prop Brett White for his bravery during Ireland’s difficult World Cup campaign.

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White was singled out by Aston for his part in the side’s opening 32-14 defeat by Fiji, while he lavished praise on the former Kangaroo for defying an early head knock to lead their challenge in Saturday’s 42-0 loss to England.

“He went back on but it was probably tougher for him to come off in the first place,” Aston said after the defeat which effectively ended Ireland’s hopes of qualification from the toughest group.

“He didn’t want to come off.

“He’d have stayed out there if we had let him.”

White, who qualifies through his Irish grandfather, was one of four NRL players recruited by Aston.

“He’s a champion,” Aston said.

“He’s certainly come over here and set the tone for us.

“The nice thing is that he’s mixing with the younger guys and giving them the experience he’s had.

“I know he’s helped (captain) Liam (Finn) really well. He just speaks sense and gets his point across.

“There’s nobody more disappointed than him at the moment. He wants to win every single game. That will rub off.

“And over the years we’ll build the culture that we want in Ireland and hopefully take it on to another level.”

The 31-year-old had put his hand up to play for Andy Kelly’s team in the 2008 World Cup but was ruled out by a foot injury.

He went on to play for the Kangaroos in the 2009 Four Nations Series and was in the team that beat England 46-16 in the final at Elland Road.

White is now set to face his fellow countrymen, including his Canberra teammate Josh Papalii, as Ireland prepare for their final group game against Australia in Limerick on Saturday night.

Aston’s men will need to pull off one of the biggest sporting shocks of all time if they are to topple the tournament favourites but captain Liam Finn insists his players will play with pride when they run out at Thomond Park.

“That 20-minute purple patch by England killed the game off but you’ve seen 17 blokes out there have a dig,” Finn said.

“They put plenty of pride in the shirt and that’s all we’ve asked for from day one.

“If we do that (against Australia), we’ll walk away from the tournament happy with ourselves.”

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Comments: Progressives are losing the language war ( admin posted on June 17th, 2019 )

Australians aren’t ones to mince words when it comes to sharing what we really think.

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We’re known for being cynical, snarky, upfront and incredibly direct. We’ve taken to social media networks like Facebook and Twitter in a big way – often dominating global conversation. It’s no wonder that programs like the ABC’s Q&A and SBS’ Insight regularly feature as major “trending” topics – we love to voice our opinions.

In an age where we can read, see and hear thousands of opinions in an instant you can easily see the kinds of themes that are dominating public conversation. In the last few years we’ve seen a plethora of opinions shared by Australians on topics such as asylum seekers, the economy, gay marriage,  climate change, politics, gender and more.  We’re more aware than ever of how politicians and media seek to influence us on these topics and there’s one thing that I think has become particularly noticeable in the last couple of years.

Australia is in the throes of a great war on language – and progressives are losing.

You only need to look at the words of Rupert Murdoch speaking at the annual Lowy Lecture to see how progressives have lost control of the conversation – somehow we’ve let one of the richest, most influential and recognisable members of the global media and business elite turn the word “elitist” into the latest attack word against progressives. Almost unquestioned we’ve let one of the most  (to use his words) narrow-minded and stuffiest of elitists turn “elitism” into anything that doesn’t represent a pro-business, pro-conservative philosophy – and it’s working. Murdoch has led a very powerful narrative which turns progressive thinkers and leaders into “stuffy elitists”

Another example is gay marriage. As the rest of the world finally moves on, Australia is still caught on the semantics of the word “marriage”. Despite a clear back history showing a diversity of understandings of the word “marriage” somehow “between a man and a woman” has been accepted as a largely unquestionable fact. Read the comment sections of an article about gay marriage and you’ll see how powerfully this narrative has made its way into the mindsets of many Australians.

Asylum seekers is another area in which the language war rages with Immigration Minister Scott Morrison making it clear that he wants asylum seekers who arrive by boat to be spoken about as illegals. At the time of Morrison’s initial directive to his department the ALP’s Immigration spokesperson Richard Marles referenced just how important language is in policy debates saying “This is an area where language is bullets: it is really important that we are careful about what language we use and that we depoliticise this area of policy.”

If language is being used as bullets – then conservatives are using bazookas and flamethrowers whilst progressives are firing back on their own. The problem for progressives is that whilst they preach to the already converted –  conservatives are taking control of broader cultural language and winning.

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard even conceded one of her biggest mistakes was “not contesting the label “tax”” when it came to the ALP’s toxic carbon tax. The now Prime Minister Tony Abbott may not be one of the most eloquent orators in recent Australian history, but he was (throughout his years of opposition) and continues to be a master of dominating language politics. Whenever he speaks his words echo throughout the day and hit their target audience with maximum effect.

If progressives want to bring their ideas and their parties back to electoral sustainability they must take back the conversation and stop letting conservatives and economic elites win the language war. They must not only contest the language used by their ideological opponents, but redefine the language and reframe the language to make sense to the broader community. They managed to do it with the Howard Government’s wildly unpopular WorkChoices legislation, but it has to be relatable beyond their own progressive audience. Merely responding on issues like asylum seekers or gay marriage – progressives need to find new ways to dominate the language again and it work it to their advantage to the broader, mainstream public.

As Australians increasingly use tools like social media to voice their opinions (often parroting/reflecting the dominant narratives) – the best thing progressives can do at this point is come up with their own weapons in the language war and take back control of the conversation.

Jonathan Brown is a media educator based in Melbourne.

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Danish cyclist asked dad to donate blood ( admin posted on June 17th, 2019 )

Retired Danish professional cyclist Michael Rasmussen, who earlier this year admitted to doping, said on Sunday he even persuaded his father to donate blood as part of efforts to conceal doping.

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“It felt like stepping over the line,” Rasmussen said about approaching his father, Finn, about donating blood to be used for blood doping.

“It was not easy,” Rasmussen said about the conversation with his parents.

“But they were aware I took medicine to race faster.”

Danish public broadcaster DR was to air the exclusive interview on Sunday evening.

Rasmussen said he felt he needed to use the same methods as his rivals to keep pace.

In 2003 he discussed various blood doping with his cycling team’s physician, who mentioned the method known as homologous doping where blood from a second person is used.

The following year Rasmussen’s father went to Belgium where his blood was analysed in a hotel room after the La Fleche Wallonne race, the former cyclist said.

“The blood samples were analysed and we discovered they were not compatible,” Rasmussen said.

“It (the blood doping) never took place.”

DR News said team Rabobank, which Rasmussen raced for at the time, declined to comment about the allegations.

Rasmussen’s parents told DR while they were shocked over the extensive use of various substances in cycling, they hoped his disclosures would help clean up the sport and help him move on.

“It is wrong that he is the only person to be branded a cheat,” Finn Rasmussen said.

“Our impression was that there was a culture (of doping).”

Rasmussen in January admitted to using a wide range of performance-enhancing drugs over a 12-year period from 1998, and has since cooperated with the Danish anti-doping agency.

Rasmussen was forced to pull out of the 2007 Tour de France, while seemingly heading towards an overall victory amid controversy surrounding the non-disclosure of his prior whereabouts to cycling officials, preventing them from conducting doping tests.

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Report prompts calls to speed up car plan ( admin posted on May 17th, 2019 )

The federal government is again being pressured to fast-track more subsidies for Australia’s loss-making car industry, following warnings its collapse could cost the broader economy.

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Modelling commissioned by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) showed there would be a $7.3 billion reduction in gross domestic product growth if the sector shut down in the next five years.

The economic pie was already much larger because of the industry, despite it receiving a relatively low level of government subsidies by international standards, advisory firm Allen Consulting found.

The government currently subsidises the industry by about $500 million a year but the new coalition regime has ordered the Productivity Commission to review the viability of the payments. A final report is due next year following the interim report before Christmas.

Ford already plans to end manufacturing in Australia by 2016, while Holden’s US owner General Motors could reach a decision on the fate of the local operations before Christmas.

South Australia and Victoria would be severely affected, given the states are major bases for car making plants and related vehicle auto parts manufacturers that support thousands of jobs.

SA Manufacturing Minister Tom Kenyon said the federal coalition government, which has previously questioned the feasibility of throwing more funds at the industry, needed to quickly make up its mind.

“The federal government should stop hiding behind the Productivity Commission report and get out and make a decision,” Mr Kenyon told AAP on Monday.

Independent South Australia senator Nick Xenophon said the impact of a local car industry shutdown would be “chilling”, given the report’s findings.

“Make no mistake – while the closure of the car industry would have an impact of earthquake proportions in Adelaide and Melbourne, those tremors would be felt right across the country,” he said.

The federal Labor opposition’s industry spokesman Kim Carr said the government’s indecision was threatening more than 200,000 jobs.

“Gross regional product in Adelaide and Melbourne would not recover for almost two decades until 2031,” he said.

“If the Prime Minister is serious about the budget bottom line and protecting jobs then he would realise he has to act to ensure the future of this critical industry.”

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said the Productivity Commission should be left to do its job.

“The inquiry will provide the government with necessary information to respond … in a measured way that focuses on long-term sustainability and identifies options that are sustainable, accountable and transparent,” he said.

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Danish cyclist asked dad to donate blood ( admin posted on May 17th, 2019 )

Retired Danish professional cyclist Michael Rasmussen, who earlier this year admitted to doping, said on Sunday he even persuaded his father to donate blood as part of efforts to conceal doping.

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“It felt like stepping over the line,” Rasmussen said about approaching his father, Finn, about donating blood to be used for blood doping.

“It was not easy,” Rasmussen said about the conversation with his parents.

“But they were aware I took medicine to race faster.”

Danish public broadcaster DR was to air the exclusive interview on Sunday evening.

Rasmussen said he felt he needed to use the same methods as his rivals to keep pace.

In 2003 he discussed various blood doping with his cycling team’s physician, who mentioned the method known as homologous doping where blood from a second person is used.

The following year Rasmussen’s father went to Belgium where his blood was analysed in a hotel room after the La Fleche Wallonne race, the former cyclist said.

“The blood samples were analysed and we discovered they were not compatible,” Rasmussen said.

“It (the blood doping) never took place.”

DR News said team Rabobank, which Rasmussen raced for at the time, declined to comment about the allegations.

Rasmussen’s parents told DR while they were shocked over the extensive use of various substances in cycling, they hoped his disclosures would help clean up the sport and help him move on.

“It is wrong that he is the only person to be branded a cheat,” Finn Rasmussen said.

“Our impression was that there was a culture (of doping).”

Rasmussen in January admitted to using a wide range of performance-enhancing drugs over a 12-year period from 1998, and has since cooperated with the Danish anti-doping agency.

Rasmussen was forced to pull out of the 2007 Tour de France, while seemingly heading towards an overall victory amid controversy surrounding the non-disclosure of his prior whereabouts to cycling officials, preventing them from conducting doping tests.

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Comment: The mobile generation – a communication breakdown? ( admin posted on May 17th, 2019 )

Parents will do almost anything to limit the tears at bedtime.

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That’s why when an acquaintance said she lets her 18-month-old go to sleep in his cot with an iPad, I almost understood. Almost.

I also sort of felt sad for her boy. Gone are the times when a snuggle, a cuddle and a bedtime story will do. This boy instead has an episode of his favourite TV show played on the iPad, which he watches before falling asleep next to the device. “And there are no tears,” his mother says. But at what cost?

A recent survey released in America has shown that kids’ usage of mobile devices and tablets have gone through the roof. 72% of under 8’s and almost 40% of under 2’s have used a mobile device to engage with some kind of media, such as videos, games and apps.

It used to be that television was the regular babysitter in most households. It still is to a great extent. But now we have mobile devices so these electronic babysitters can travel with us. These days it’s a regular sight to go out for a meal and see the adults at the table engaging in conversation – while their children are engaged with their devices.

There have been many studies that have shown that screen time, including watching TV and the use of mobile devices, is bad for children. It’s been recommended that under 2’s have no screen-time at all and that for young children’s screen-time is limited to an hour or so per day. Too much screen-time for kids has been linked to obesity, behavioural issues, sleeping problems and impaired academic performance.

Yet despite all this, parents can’t help themselves when it comes to letting children use these devices.

I have two young children so I understand the amount of guilt and pressure being put on modern parents. Nothing we do is adequate enough. And I know, sometimes it’s easy to go with the flow; to choose the path of least resistance. Both my kids have used apps and watched videos on mobile devices – and I’ve found them a godsend at times when they have to stay in one place for extended periods of times – like in GP’s waiting rooms, or on flights. But I’m conscious of limiting their usage, and I’m also aware that the use of these devices will have consequences.

As adults we have all lived in a time where communicating through a mobile device wasn’t the norm. We had landlines that we used to call and – gasp –  speak to people. We went to school without mobiles in our schoolbags. We switched off our computers at work and left, and that was the end of the working day. There was no nagging feeling to check emails when at home, on the bus, on the toilet…

How quickly and easily things change. Fastforward to the present day. It’s a time where, it seems, the preferred mode of communication for most people is a non-verbal one. Send a text, a tweet, an email – just don’t call. And if you have to call, most of us are secretly hoping for voicemail. Come on, aren’t we? Well, unless you’re trying to sell something.

If it was that easy for us to transform into what we are today, ask yourself: what’s it going to be like tomorrow? What does it mean for Generation Z – for  the kids being born today, who might never have to get used to verbally communicating in the first place? Who will never have to call up someone up for a date? Or call a company to see if they’re hiring? Or endure the awkwardness of making friends IRL?

Every one of these tasks can be done online. Are we raising a generation of kids who don’t really have to learn to speak?

Perhaps. What’s certain is that in our rush towards technological advancement little heed is being given to such concerns. Despite all the warnings about screen-time, tablets and other devices are being used more frequently in our schools, and even in our pre-schools, as learning aids. Some researchers, such as the ones trialling the usage of iPads in kindergartens in Queensland think it’s a good thing that young children use these devices. They are now a fact of life and the earlier our kids can use them, the better they can advance – in school, in work, in life.

Perhaps instead of trying to change our kids, the onus will be on us. To re-evaluate our own values. To think of a Facebook message wishing us a ‘Happy birthday’ as holding the same intrinsic value as a phone call (let’s be honest, it really doesn’t). Perhaps our relationships, too, will become more distant, always guarded through the defence of a screen.

But hey, at least we’ll be technologically savvy, right? Which is good for the economy – so maybe it’s not all bad. Or is it?

Saman Shad is a storyteller and playwright.

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Analysis – Japan glimpses rays of hope in All Blacks defeat ( admin posted on May 17th, 2019 )

For Japan, though, the 54-6 loss was far more significant, evidence that the wheels of progress, backed by a professional environment and infusion of international expertise, were turning in a country that will host the 2019 World Cup.

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Their previous two test encounters with the All Blacks, both at World Cups, had been lopsided defeats of 83-7 in 2011 and 145-17 in 1995 – the latter one of the lowest points in the history of Japanese rugby.

A similar defeat on Saturday for the ‘Brave Blossoms’, currently ranked 15th in the world, would have been highly detrimental to their build up towards the 2015 World Cup, not to mention the even more important tournament four years later.

As it was, though, Saturday’s tenacious and combative performance against the toughest of teams greatly excited a 21,000 crowd at Tokyo’s Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium and proved a point or two.

“New Zealand is undoubtedly the best team in the world,” said general manager Kensuke Iwabuchi.

“But we wanted to show ourselves and our fans that they are no longer a presence above the clouds, but a team to beat.”

Apart from anything else, it showed Japan’s win in June against Wales, albeit an inexperienced Welsh side without its British and Irish Lions, was no fluke.

TOP LEAGUE

Many credit the progress in Japanese rugby to the establishment a decade ago of Top League, a semi-professional competition which has drawn coaching staff and top players from around the world.

All Blacks Sonny Bill Williams and Jerome Kaino as well as Springbok Jaque Fourie are among those who have been drawn to Japan by generous salaries.

The Top League has undoubtedly raised the level of rugby and there have been early signs of a trade going the other way with scrumhalf Fumiaki Tanaka and hooker Shota Horie signing for Super Rugby teams.

The hope is that a two-way interaction between imports and exports to Super Rugby and New Zealand’s National Provincial Championship (ITM Cup) will provide Japan with the constant exposure to top level rugby that is key to further development.

“Currently we have a few players playing Super Rugby, and we would like more. It’s the same with the ITM Cup. We would like more players playing ITM Cup,” said Scott Wisemantel, the technical director who stood in on Saturday as coach for Eddie Jones, who suffered a stroke in October.

“The level of Top League has improved, it’s just that week in week out competitive rugby our players need.”

The appointment of former Wallabies coach Jones last year represented a continuation of a policy that began in 2007 when the Japanese Rugby Football Union (JRFU) appointed its first national coach from overseas in former All Black John Kirwan.

Kirwan and Jones have not only provided the JFRU with some needed clout in the international rugby community but have helped infuse the national team with a high level of technical expertise.

That was especially evident in the Japanese scrum on Saturday, which surprisingly pushed back the New Zealand pack on a few occasions and were clinical at the lineout where they also contested the opposition’s throw.

Australian Wisemantel credited the improved performance to the tutelage of scrum coach Marc Dal Maso, a former France hooker and one of a number of foreign advisors drafted in by Jones.

One of the biggest problems facing Japan has always been that of stature, with the country producing plenty of pacy backs but few players with the sort of physique necessary to compete up front and increasingly in the midfield in test rugby.

Imports have helped – the back row on Saturday was made up of players who qualified for Japan by residency – but there has also been progress on developing homegrown hulks and the tight five that played against the world champions were all Japanese born and bred.

If official statistics are to be trusted the combined weight of the Japanese starting front row on Saturday was 335 kilos, 10 kilos heavier than that of the New Zealand trio.

A competitive scrum is hugely important for Japan as the backs have so often spent large portions of tests against top nations starved of the ball as their forwards struggle.

Japan will have another chance to test its scrum on Saturday when they face Scotland at Murrayfield, just the sort of fixture they will have to start winning if they are to fulfil their ambition of getting into the top eight in the world by 2019.

“The short turnaround time before Japan faces another top team is a simulation before the World Cup in 2015,” Iwabuchi added.

“We lost to New Zealand but if this was the World Cup, we have to win our next match.”

(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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Nine TV parent’s float set to be worth $2b ( admin posted on May 17th, 2019 )

The company that owns the Nine Network will make a $2 billion debut on the local share market in December – less than a year after it almost went into receivership.

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Shares in Nine Entertainment Co, which owns the Nine Network, Ticketek and ninemsn, are expected to be issued at between $2.05 and $2.35 each.

If the higher price is achieved, chief executive David Gyngell would hold a $10.7 million stake in Nine, and will also be paid a cash listing bonus of $2.5 million.

That would come on top of his $2 million base salary, plus up to $2 million in annual bonuses.

Nine is expected to be worth between $1.93 billion to $2.17 billion when it lists on the Australian Securities Exchange on December 6, with new investors to make up one third of its shareholder base.

Steve Allen, the founder of media planning business Fusion Strategy, said institutional investors would be wary about paying more than $2 a share, considering that a year ago Nine owed $2.3 billion to US hedge funds Apollo and Oaktree, and another $1 billion to investment bank Goldman Sachs.

“I don’t think the big investors will be rushing towards this,” he told AAP.

“Most of the big investors don’t feel the media sector’s got much to offer.”

Still, Nine has been busy bulking up its business since a Federal Court judge in January approved of a debt-for-equity deal that ensured its immediate future.

It has bought WIN’s TV stations Adelaide and Perth, and just three weeks ago purchased Microsoft’s 50 per cent stake in digital group Mi9, which runs ninemsn.

In late January, a $3.4 billion refinancing deal ended private equity group CVC Asia-Pacific’s stewardship of Nine, and wrote off a $1.9 billion investment loss.

This gave Apollo and Oaktree major shareholdings in exchange for debt.

Mr Allen said smaller, retail investors were more likely to buy Nine shares, with signs the advertising market would recover during the next two to three years.

“Television’s a mature business but its outlook is quite reasonable,” he said.

“Many people have said `television’s terminal, it’s going to be dead’. That hasn’t proven to be the case.”

Mr Gyngell said the listing would help Nine maintain its market position as a leading free-to-air network, and expand its events and digital businesses.

“A listing on the ASX will help us to continue our strong momentum,” he said.

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