Time to shake up golf, head of European Tour says

The tour’s chief executive, Keith Pelley, has pledged to shake up the European circuit since taking over from George O’Grady in 2015, and a couple of innovative tournaments this year are part of that effort.

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One is the World Super 6, which began at Perth’s Lake Karrinyup course in Western Australia on Thursday. After the usual three days of stroke play, the A$1.75 million ($1.35 million) tournament will end on Sunday with 24 players competing at match play in six-hole playoffs until only one remains.

Although the tournament makes a grandiose pledge to “revolutionise” golf, the change is more evolution than revolution.

A more radical shift will take place in May at the GolfSixes tournament in Hertfordshire, England. Two-man teams will compete in six-hole matches over a two-day weekend, with pyrotechnics and music and players hooked up to microphones to boost fan engagement.

The new tournaments have been written off as gimmicky by critics. But Pelley – a Canadian whose background is sport media and North American football, not golf – says golf needs to find a way to reach a ‘millenial’ generation that grew up with smart phones, social media and truncated attention spans.

“Golf at the end of the day is not just sport. It is also entertainment, and we have to face up to it that we are in the entertainment business,” Pelley told Reuters in an interview from the World Super 6 in Perth.

“When we grew up with golf, we didn’t have social media and all this technology. The younger generation, particularly, have grown up being able to get things on demand and instantly. It’s no longer the case that they are prepared to wait.”

With 72 holes played over four days a fixture at most tournaments for over a century, instant gratification is not a feature of professional golf. Watching for multiple days before a winner emerges is a heavy commitment for casual fans.

Pelley said 72-hole golf would remain sacrosanct at the four major championships. But he foresees lower-profile tournaments making way for a faster format of golf on the European Tour.

“Seventy-two hole golf is a fundamental part of the game and that will continue,” he said. “But is it something that we want at all tournaments? This is what we are looking at … We do not see the same number of 72-hole tournaments in our calendar in future.”

Getting the players on board may be key to the hopes of any fledgling revolution. The inaugural World Super 6 features a modest field headlined by world number 11 Alex Noren and former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.

The tournament’s hopes for a favourable first impression also might be tested if marquee players fail to make the final 24 that will compete in pairs on the match-play Sunday.

Organisers should still be applauded for trying something different, Pelley said.

“That does not mean we should throw away traditions of this great game,” he said. “But there is a narrative within the industry that we need to innovate and that change is necessary.”

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Larry King)

Finland to vote on same-sex marriage repeal days before legalisation

Finland’s parliament is on Friday expected to vote for a second time on same-sex marriage, just two weeks before a 2014 law enshrining it was due to take effect.

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The re-vote is a last-minute attempt by opponents to prevent legalisation of same-sex marriages in Finland, but is seen as having little chance of succeeding.

Finland’s previous parliament passed a law on “gender-neutral marriage” in late 2014, and it was due to take effect in early March this year.

Two weeks till marriage equality in Finland!!

❤️💛💚💙💜#lovewins

— Sonia (@Fandomwrs) February 15, 2017

But conservative opponents – who have called for a “Genuine Marriage” law recognising marriage as solely being between a man and a woman – resorted to a citizen’s initiative, gathering more than the 50,000 signatures required for parliament to debate an issue.

Parliament’s legal affairs committee rejected the counter-motion on Tuesday, but conservative members from the Christian Democrats and the populist Finns Party, one of the three members of the government coalition, insisted on having the plenary vote on it.

“It would indeed require a small miracle for the Genuine Marriage to win,” Antero Laukkanen, one of the initiative’s supporters and a lawmaker from the Christian Democrats, told Finnish news agency STT.

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Others have accused the initiative’s proponents of grandstanding for voters ahead of municipal elections in April and of wasting parliament’s time on a futile vote.

“I personally apologise to rainbow families who will have to listen to the matter being debated once more,” Centre Party MP Mikko Karna wrote in a statement.

Finland has recognised same-sex partnerships since 2002, but has until now remained the only Nordic country where gay marriage is not legal.

The Finnish legislature approved the law in 2014, after a second vote, by 101 votes to 90.

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Third person arrested over Kim Jong-nam murder

Two women and a man have been arrested over the killing of Kim Jong Nam, the North Korean leader’s half brother who was reportedly poisoned this week by a pair of female assassins as he waited for a flight in Malaysia.

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Investigators are trying to piece together the details of a death that set off a torrent of speculation over whether Kim Jong Un dispatched a hit squad to kill his estranged older sibling.

The suspects were picked up separately on Wednesday and Thursday. The female suspects were identified using surveillance footage from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, where Kim Jong Nam suddenly fell ill Monday morning before dying on the way to the hospital.

One of the women had Vietnamese travel documents and the other held an Indonesian passport.

Indonesia’s foreign ministry has confirmed the arrest of a female national in connection with the killing.

A still photo of the airport surveillance video showed one of the suspects in a white T-shirt with “LOL” across the front.

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 On Thursday afternoon, police said they had detained a Malaysian man believed to be the boyfriend of the Indonesian suspect.

An autopsy has been concluded and could reveal whether Kim Jong Nam was poisoned, and possibly shed light on the tales of intrigue that have rippled since his death: the female assassins, the broad daylight killing, the estranged dictator-sibling looking to kill him.

Kim Jong Nam, who was 45 or 46, was estranged from his North Korean relatives and had been living abroad for years. He reportedly fell out of favour with his father when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport in 2001, saying he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

According to two senior Malaysian government officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Kim Jong Nam told medical workers before he died that he had been attacked with a chemical spray.

Since taking power upon his father’s death in late 2011, Kim Jong Un has executed or purged a number of high-level government officials in what the South Korean government has described as a “reign of terror.”

South Korea’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, said that North Korea had been trying for five years to kill Kim Jong Nam.

The NIS also cited a “genuine” attempt by North Korea to kill Kim Jong Nam in 2012, lawmakers said. The NIS told them that Kim Jong Nam sent a letter to Kim Jong Un in April 2012, after the assassination attempt, begging for the lives of himself and his family.

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Trump says Aust PM call leak ‘terrible’

US President Donald Trump has described as “terrible” the leaking of details of his fiery phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

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The president, speaking for 75 minutes at a suddenly-announced press conference at the White House on Thursday, attacked the media, labelled the Russian call controversy that led to the resignation of his national security adviser Michael Flynn as fake news and said he did not think Russian President Vladimir Putin was testing him with recent military manoeuvres.

Mr Trump blamed remaining members of the Obama administration in the CIA, FBI and other US government agencies for leaking classified information, including details of his January 28 call with Mr Turnbull.

Mr Trump said it was “terrible it was leaked” and he was concerned what will happen when he has calls to discuss hot button issues including North Korea and the Middle-East.

“The same thing with Australia,” Mr Trump, discussing the multiple leaks, told reporters.

“All of a sudden people are finding out exactly what took place.

“The same thing happened with respect to General Flynn.

“Everybody saw this.

“The first thing I thought of when I heard about it was , ‘How does the press get this information that’s classified. How do they do it? You know why? Because it is an illegal process and the press should be ashamed of themselves.”

The press conference was described by Washington DC political veterans as unprecedented for its tone and topics discussed.

At one point Mr Trump, while discussing media stories involving the leaks, raised eyebrows when he said: “The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake”.

The president also falsely announced he scored more electoral college votes in last year’s election win than any other president since Ronald Reagan.

A reporter pointed out three presidents who followed Mr Reagan, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, had more electoral college votes than Mr Trump.

“I was given that information,” Mr Trump replied.

Mr Trump has only been in the White House for 28 days and has been besieged by controversy and reports of “Game of Thrones” style infighting by members of his team.

The billionaire rejected this and blamed the media for generating fake news.

“This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine,” he said.

Mr Trump confirmed General Flynn was fired because he gave false information to Vice President Mike Pence on the pre-inauguration phone call the general had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

But, with the same breath Mr Trump defended General Flynn, saying he did not do anything wrong by calling Mr Kislyak because the Russian was one of 30 or so calls General Flynn made with representatives from other nations.

“Speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia,” Mr Trump said.

“I have no loans in Russia.

“I don’t have any deals in Russia.”

Mr Trump described as “not good” Russia’s recent moves to place a spy ship off the US east coast, launch a ballistic missile and have aircraft buzz a US warship in the Black Sea.

Asked if he thought Mr Putin was testing him he replied: “I don’t think so”.

He said they were indications Mr Putin had decided, after the General Flynn controversy, Russia could not build a new relationship with the US.

“If you were Putin right now you would say, ‘Hey, we’re back to the old games with the US. There’s no way Trump could ever do a deal with us’,” Mr Trump said.

Turnbull at memorial after jumping ditch

In a valley surrounded by soaring peaks it’s only fitting the Arrowtown war memorial is on a hill.

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The towering stone cenotaph was the first stop for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after flying into Queenstown on Friday to meet New Zealand leader Bill English for their first official engagement.

Making their way up a gravel path the pair, accompanied by their wives, passed white crosses of World War I victims before laying wreaths.

Mr Turnbull linked arms with wife Lucy before the Last Post was played and the Australian and New Zealand flags lowered.

War veterans, as well as children from a local childcare centre who have been learning about the Anzacs, watched on as the ode was recited first in Maori and then in English.

The ceremony marked the start Mr Turnbull’s fleeting visit as part of the annual trans-Tasman catch-up.

Formal talks on Friday afternoon in the resort town have an economic focus and will canvass more integration in the areas of science.

Ahead of the trip Mr Turnbull had nothing but admiration for the work of former NZ prime minister John Key and Mr English in growing their economy.

But he did acknowledge it helped in having one tier of government – unlike Australia’s three – and a smaller economy.

Mr Turnbull though has no plans to follow the NZ lead in broadening the GST and extending it to 15 per cent, insisting the two countries had different tax systems.

There will be no further announcements on pathways to citizenship for Kiwis living in Australia after an agreement was struck last year.

It’s estimated up to 70,000 New Zealanders who arrived between February 2001 and 2016 have been a resident for five years and contributed to Australia will be eligible from July 1.

The election of Donald Trump and the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership are expected to hang over the talks.

New Zealand – like Australia – has expressed hope of keeping the deal alive even without America.

Treasurer Scott Morrison and Industry Minister Arthur Sinodinos are accompanying Mr Turnbull and will join the discussions with NZ Finance Minister Steven Joyce and Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges.

Mr Turnbull will later see the sights of the resort town from Lake Wakatipu when he enjoys a private sail aboard a luxury super yacht with wife Lucy.

Why sitting is not the ‘new smoking’

Emmanuel Stamatakis, University of Sydney

Sitting has been branded the “new smoking” for its supposed public health risks, especially for people with sit-down office jobs.

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Over the past 15 years or so sitting has been linked with cancer, heart disease and diabetes and even depression. This has led to a surge in media stories on the risks of sitting, even for people who do a lot of exercise.

Then there’s the rise in the popularity of standing desks to encourage people to get off their chairs to improve their health.

But is sitting really that risky? And do we really need standing desks?

What does the evidence say?

In our latest study we investigated if not only the total amount of sitting, but different types of sitting, were linked with developing type 2 diabetes.

We wanted to see if there was any difference between sitting watching TV, sitting at work, or sitting at home but not watching TV.

We measured sitting behaviours of 4,811 British public servants, who were on average 44 years old and didn’t have diabetes, heart or circulatory problems at the start of the study. Over the next 13 years, 402 people developed diabetes.

Once we took into account obesity, physical activity, and other factors contributing to developing type 2 diabetes, neither total sitting time, sitting at work or sitting at home but not watching TV were linked with developing diabetes.

We found only a weak association with the time spent sitting watching TV and an increased risk of developing diabetes.

This contrasts with a recent review combining the results of five older TV studies that showed a stronger link. But hardly any of the included studies accounted for obesity, a major cause of diabetes.

For people who are physically inactive, though, the story’s different. Two recent studies show the total time spent sitting a day is linked with developing diabetes, but only in people who are physically inactive or both physically inactive and obese.

That’s not the whole story. At least two factors determine if sitting is a risk factor in its own right: the type and context of sitting.

Sitting down at work all day may not be so bad for you after all. How did we get it so wrong? from 长沙桑拿,shutterstock长沙桑拿按摩论坛,

Type and context of sitting

We’re most likely to sit at work, at play and while travelling. And a growing body of evidence suggests not all sitting is equal.

For example, sitting down at work isn’t strongly linked with long-term health risks. Perhaps that’s because higher status jobs involve more sitting, and higher socioeconomic position is linked with a lower risk of chronic disease.

It’s a different case for sitting watching TV, the type of sitting most consistently linked with long-term health risks such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and an early death.

People who watch a lot of TV tend to be of lower socioeconomic status, unemployed, have poorer mental health, eat unhealthy foods and be exposed to unhealthy food advertising.

Each of these aspects of watching TV increases the chances of poor physical and mental health. But studies cannot account for all these complex influences. In other words, TV involves a constellation of health risks that go uncounted. So TV studies only tell us that excessive TV viewing is a behaviour that needs to be reduced, but tell us practically nothing about the health risks of sitting.

Physical activity and sitting

An important aspect of our study was that participants said they were physically active, reporting an average 43 minutes walking a day, plus more than two hours of other physical activity a day.

A large recent review combining data from over one million participants found 60-75 minutes of physical activity a day eliminated the harms of sitting when it came to measuring death from cardiovascular disease or death by all causes.

One possible explanation for the weak links between sitting and diabetes we observed is that participants were protected by their high levels of physical activity.

This suggests it’s particularly important to find ways to allow office workers forced to spend many hours a day in front of a computer to add physical activity to their daily routine.

As well as individuals changing their behaviour, governments need to provide infrastructure for active commuting, like bike lanes and secure bike racks at stations, and encourage people to use public transport. Employers could provide incentives and facilities for active commuting, like providing showers at work, and promote lunchtime walks, encourage the use of stairs instead of lifts, and even walking meetings when convenient.

How about standing desks?

Adjustable desks that allow a sitting and standing option (sit-stand desks) could be a good first step, especially for very sedentary and unfit workers. But these aren’t a complete solution as people don’t expend much energy, or exert themselves, using them.

Even well designed studies of people using sit-stand desks found replacing sitting with standing for 40-45 minutes each work day didn’t provide any measurable health benefits.

And people who use them may think they’ve done their bit and tend to be less physically active after work.

Reducing the amount of time spent sitting can be a useful option if people don’t want to walk or cannot walk, cycle or exercise.

But you would have to cut back your sitting by many hours a day to achieve the same reduced risk of dying from cancer and cardiovascular disease from doing even one or two exercise sessions a week.

Although we tend to assume it’s easier to reduce sitting time than to promote physical activity, unfortunately, they are equally hard to tackle.

Where to now?

Rather than being the “new smoking”, we need to think of sitting as an important part of the wider problem of physical inactivity.

We also need to read behind the headlines of how the media covers sitting. Research just published shows 30-40% of media stories on sedentary behaviour promote misleading messages, such as sitting undoes the benefits of exercise.

So, the first priority is to reinforce the most evidence-based message: move as often as possible, huff and puff sometimes.

Emmanuel Stamatakis receives funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council, the British Heart Foundation, the Ian Potter Foundation, and Rebecca L. Cooper Medical Research Foundation.

Vixens ready for netball derby opener

They may not have the star power of Collingwood but Vixens defender Jo Weston is backing her team to strike the first blow in the battle of Melbourne in the opening round of the Super Netball competition on Saturday.

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The freshly-minted Magpies, who boast five Diamonds players, have hogged the limelight in the lead-up to round one of the new Australian league but Weston says the Vixens have the defence to bring them undone on Saturday night at Hisense Arena.

“I’m fortunate to have a very good defensive cohort,” Weston said.

“As a group, we’ve played together for a number of years now at the Vixens – Chloe (Weston), Emily (Mannix) and I have played together since we were 15 – so we really do have a strong history.

“And bringing (Jamaican import) Kadie-Ann Dehaney into the group is so exciting; she’s completely different to what anyone has ever seen before.”

The Melbourne match follows a Sydney derby between the NSW Swifts and the new Giants side, while the Queensland Firebirds host the third new franchise from the Sunshine Coast.

Adelaide and Perth meet on Sunday to wrap up the first round.

Weston said she expected the standard to be at an all-time high in the new competition, which replaces the trans-Tasman league which included New Zealand teams.

“It’s really going to be an elevation of the standard in the level of competition and that’s something everyone is excited about,” 23-year-old Weston told AAP.

“There are only 10 spots in each team, it’s a pretty tight contest to get on a netball team’s list.”

Following in a decorated line of Vixens-grown Australian defenders, Weston is looking to step up her game again this season and further stamp her own style over the well-worn tracks of Julie Corletto and Bianca Chatfield before her.

Weston expects teams may underestimate the Vixens, who are this season without cross-city defectors Madi Robinson and young gun shooter Alice Teague-Neeld, as well as goal keeper Geva Mentor, who will captain the Sunshine Coast side.

But Weston said they had adapted.

“I like to think we’re all constantly changing the way we handle ourselves in matches and have different skills we have in the metaphorical toolkit, so hopefully that will give us the upper hand on Saturday night.”

Senate votes to scrap gold pass for MPs

One of the most generous retirement perks for federal MPs has become a “relic of a bygone era” as the federal government tries to rebuild voter trust after Sussan Ley’s expenses scandal.

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Legislation to immediately axe the life gold travel pass for politicians cleared parliament on Thursday night, despite the objections of veteran coalition senator Ian Macdonald.

“The life gold pass for parliamentarians is a relic of a bygone era,” Special Minister of State Scott Ryan said.

“Australians rightly expect parliamentarians and former parliamentarians to spend money efficiently, effectively and ethically.”

The new laws mean free travel will be limited to former prime ministers.

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New laws to establish an expenses watchdog to hold federal politicians to account over how they spend taxpayer money also cleared parliament.

The watchdog will audit and report on parliamentary work expenses as well as provide advice, monitor and administer claims for travel expenses and allowances by parliamentarians and their staff.

The Senate sat late into the night to debate the legislation, with Senator Macdonald voting against the government on the gold pass axing and attempting to move several amendments.

He objected to the retrospective nature of the change, insisting “elderly retired” politicians should not be stripped of an entitlement they were promised in the past.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the changes in January amid public outrage following revelations senior ministers were using taxpayer funds to attend parties and sporting events.

The expenses scandal claimed the scalp of former health minister Ms Ley after it was revealed she bought an investment property on a taxpayer-funded trip.

WATCH: Liberal senator ‘distressed’ by gold pass axe

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Disbelief relived at site of beach carnage

As Vivian Bullwinkel and 21 other Australian nurses walked into the sea, with Japanese guns aimed squarely at their backs, it was in a state of disbelief.

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“How can something as dirty and evil as this be happening in a place that is so beautiful?” the sole survivor of the following massacre later recalled thinking.

The same sense of disbelief was with the families and friends as they gathered together for the first time on Thursday at the same spot of the war-time atrocity 75 years ago.

Philippa Dickson laid a wreath on Radji Beach in Indonesia in memory of her aunt, Matron Irene Drummond.

It was here Ms Dickson’s aunt stoically told the women as they walked to their deaths on February 16, 1942: “Chin up girls. I’m proud of you and I love you all.”

The nurses who died in the Bangka Island massacre – were among 65 Australian nurses who, having been evacuated from Singapore four days earlier, had their ship sunk by Japanese bombers in the Bangka Strait.

Twelve nurses died at sea. Twenty-two others washed up at Radji Beach.

Here they tended to more than 60 British sailors, soldiers and injured civilian internees who lay strewn across its shores.

But it was in vain, when on the morning of August 16 the Japanese returned to shoot and bayonet the shipwrecked men.

As the Japanese began walking towards the women, the Australian nurses watched as they wiped blood off their bayonets.

Georgina Banks, grand-niece of Sister Dorothy “Buddy” Elmes who was killed that day, said her ancestor’s story was a mystery to her while she was growing up.

It was simply too painful for her surviving sister, Ms Banks’s grandmother, to speak about.

Instead letters by Buddy or Bud – as she was known by her family – sat silently in a rattan box in her grandmother’s home for decades.

In them are details of a fun-loving, adventurous country girl who tried to protect her mother from any worries.

Ms Banks said the story of what happened on Radji Beach is not just that of horror – but also incredible resilience.

“We are less resilient now than they were,” she told AAP.

Much of this strength, Ms Banks believes comes from their service to something bigger and their camaraderie.

“While it is only one experience and there are many more, I think it is a symbol of women’s involvement (in the war).”

For the sole survivor of the massacre, Vivian Bullwinkel, the horrors didn’t end of the beach.

She, along with other Australian nurses from the shipwreck, spent three-and-a-half years in an internment camp on the island.

Only 24 of the original 65 nurses would make it home.

PMP-IPMG merger cleared to proceed

Printing businesses PMP and IPMG have been cleared to go ahead with a merger despite the competition regulator acknowledging the move will lessen competition in the industry.

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Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims has announced the regulator will not oppose the merger of ASX-listed PMP and the Hannan family-owned IPMG but that it was “a finely balanced decision”.

“While the ACCC considers that the merger is likely to lessen competition, we do not believe that it reaches the threshold of being a substantial lessening of competition,” Mr Sims said.

The ACCC expressed concern about the merger when the companies announced their plans in October, saying it would look at the impact of competition in the magazine and catalogue printing industry.

A previous merger attempt by the two companies was rejected in 2001 but Mr Sims said market conditions had since changed.

“There has been a significant reduction in demand for magazine printing and there is excess capacity in the industry,” he said.

Mr Sims also said the recent expansion of ASX-listed print and communications business IVE Group was likely to provide competition to the merged PMP-IPMG.

Under the merger plan, PMP will acquire IPMG’s business by issuing PMP shares at 63.5 cents a share.

Post-merger, the Hannan family will own 37 per cent of the combined business.

The companies say the merger will save $40 million a year in costs and help them remain competitive in a declining printing market.

The two companies hold around 75 per cent of the market between them.

PMP shares had leapt by 10 cents, 15.2 per cent, to 76 cents at 1101 AEDT.