Showing posts with label australia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label australia. Show all posts

Thursday, May 03, 2012

15 million of world's babies are born prematurely

beautiful babies photos
A mother carrying her unnamed twin baby, 11 days old, in a Care center
WASHINGTON (AP) -- About 15 million premature babies are born every year - more than 1 in 10 of the world's births and a bigger problem than previously believed, according to the first country-by-country estimates of this obstetric epidemic.

The startling toll: 1.1 million of these fragile newborns die as a result, and even those who survive can suffer lifelong disabilities.

Most of the world's preemies are born in Africa and Asia, says the report released Wednesday.

It's a problem for the U.S., too, where half a million babies are born too soon. That's about 1 in 8 U.S. births, a higher rate than in Europe, Canada, Australia or Japan - and even worse than rates in a number of less developed countries, too, the report found.

But the starkest difference between rich and poorer countries: Survival.

"Being born too soon is an unrecognized killer," said Dr. Joy Lawn of Save the Children, who co-authored the report with the March of Dimes, World Health Organization and a coalition of international health experts. "And it's unrecognized in the countries where you could have a massive effect in reducing these deaths."

Sophisticated and expensive intensive care saves the majority of preterm babies in the U.S. and other developed nations, even the tiniest, most premature ones. The risk of death from prematurity is at least 12 times higher for an African newborn than for a European baby, the report found.

Globally, prematurity is not only the leading killer of newborns but the second-leading cause of death in children under 5.

"These facts should be a call to action," United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote in an introduction to the report.

Three-quarters of the deaths could be prevented by spreading some simple, inexpensive treatments to the neediest countries, the report concludes. For example, providing $1 steroid shots during preterm labor hastens development of immature fetal lungs. They're standard in developed countries; wider use in low-income countries could save nearly 400,000 babies a year.

Even more lives could be saved by teaching "kangaroo care," in which moms carry their tiny babies nestled skin-to-skin on their bare chests for warmth when there are no incubators.

"To see babies who are 900 grams (about 2 pounds) survive without any technology, it's fantastic," says Lawn, who has watched kangaroo care save lives in countries like Malawi, with the highest preterm birth rate - 18.1 percent.

Also needed: Antibiotics to fight the infections that often kill newborns, and antiseptic cream to prevent umbilical cord infection.

Survival isn't the only hurdle. No one knows how many preemies suffer disabilities including cerebral palsy, blindness or learning disorders.

That's why preventing preterm births in the first place is the ultimate goal, one reason for comparing countries - to learn why some do better and some worse. Previously, the groups had estimated that 13 million babies were born prematurely each year, based on regional data.

About 12 percent of U.S. births are preterm, about the same as Wednesday's report estimates in Thailand, Turkey and Somalia. In contrast, just 5.9 percent of births in Japan and Sweden are premature.

Experts can't fully explain why the U.S. preemie rate is so much worse than similar high-income countries. But part of the reason must be poorer access to prenatal care for uninsured U.S. women, especially minority mothers-to-be, said March of Dimes epidemiologist Christopher Howson. African-American women are nearly twice as likely as white women to receive late or no prenatal care, and they have higher rates of preterm birth as well, he said.

More disturbing, the report ranks the U.S. with a worse preterm birth rate than 58 of the 65 countries that best track the problem, including much of Latin America. Add dozens of poor countries where the counts are less certain, and the report estimates that 127 other nations may have lower rates.

Whatever the precise numbers, "we have a shared problem among all countries and we need a shared solution," Howson said.

One key: Not just early prenatal care but more preconception care, he said. Given that in the U.S. alone, nearly half of pregnancies are unplanned, health providers should use any encounter with a woman of childbearing age to check for factors that could imperil a pregnancy.

"Ensure that mom goes into her pregnancy as healthy as possible," Howson said.

Scientists don't know what causes all preterm birth, and having one preemie greatly increases the risk for another. But among the risk factors:

-Diabetes, high blood pressure, infections and smoking.

-Being underweight or overweight, and spacing pregnancies less than two years apart.

-Pregnancy before age 17 or over 40.

-Carrying twins or more.

-In wealthier countries, early elective inductions and C-sections.

"A healthy baby is worth the wait," Howson said, noting that being even a few weeks early can increase the risk of respiratory problems, jaundice, even death.

The WHO defines a preterm birth as before completion of the 37th week of pregnancy. Most preemies fall in the "late preterm" category, born between 32 and 37 weeks. Extreme preemies are born before 28 weeks. So-called "very preterm" babies fall in between.

Lawn's biggest frustration is how often later preemies die in low-income countries because even the health providers may not know simple steps that might save them - and the fatalism around those deaths.

"If you're in the States and have a preterm baby now, even at 25 weeks you've got a 50 percent chance of survival and people expect that. Whereas in Ghana, if a baby's born 2 months early, people kind of expect the baby to die," she said.

News by AP

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Diamonds not forever: Rio Tinto may sell business

(Reuters) - Rio Tinto (RIO.AX), the world's third-largest miner, effectively invited bids on Tuesday for its diamonds business, on its books at $1.2 billion, and joined rival BHP Billiton (BHP.AX) in backing away from a business that has lost its sparkle.

Rio Tinto (RIO.L), which runs three mines in Australia, Canada and Africa, said it was reviewing its diamond business and would consider selling it, as it focuses on expanding in more profitable commodities such as iron ore, copper and uranium.

Its diamond business - the 100 percent-owned Argyle mine in Australia, famous for its pink diamonds, as well as 60 percent-owned Diavik mine in Canada and 78 percent-owned Murowa mine in Zimbabwe - could come on the market at the same time as BHP Billiton (BLT.L) tries to sell its Ekati diamond mine in Canada.

"We have a valuable, high quality diamonds business, but given its scale we are reviewing whether we can create more value through a different ownership structure," Rio Tinto's diamonds and minerals CEO Harry Kenyon-Slaney said in a statement.

Rio Tinto's diamonds business could fetch around $2 billion, estimated one industry analyst, who declined to be named as he is not the lead analyst on the company.

It could attract the same bidders in the running for BHP's Ekati diamond mine stake, including private equity firm KKR (KKR.N) and luxury jeweler Harry Winston (HW.TO), which already has a 40 percent stake in Rio's Diavik mine.

A drop in diamond prices since July, knocked by Europe's downturn, has hit sentiment towards the sector, but the longer-term dynamics for the industry are looking up, with India and China expected to drive longer-term growth in demand.


Rio mined 11.7 million carats of diamonds last year, about a third of the amount dug up by each of the world's top two producers, Russia's state-owned Alrosa and De Beers.

Alrosa produces 24 percent of the world's diamonds, De Beers 21 percent, and Rio and BHP about 7 percent each.

Rio and BHP's exit from diamonds is unlikely to resurrect the diamond cartel they broke up a decade ago when they refused to sell their diamonds through De Beers, as the South African giant is now owned by global miner Anglo American (AAL.L).

"I'm not sure that's a way De Beers wants to go, or they are the right buyer to snap it up," said David Lennox, an analyst with broker Fat Prophets in Sydney.

Rio's diamonds assets would not be big enough anyway to enable De Beers to rebuild its cartel.

"Besides, if that appeared to be De Beers intention, I'd expect to see flags go up from anti-competition regulators," said Lennox.

For Rio, the business last year accounted for less than 0.1 percent of group net earnings, slumping 86 percent to just $10 million on revenue of $727 million.

The open-pit Argyle mine, undergoing a $2.1 billion expansion underground, is the largest diamond producer in the world by volume and the largest source for pink diamonds, though only 0.1 percent are actually considered pink.

News by Reuters

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Places where people live the longest

Monaco, the beautiest city of the world
Top 10 Hotspots for Human Longevity

In 1513, Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León set sail in search of Bimini, a mythical land said to house a spring that restored youth to anyone who drank from it. After scouring the Caribbean and Florida, he returned empty-handed, and the Fountain of Youth remained undiscovered. Perhaps he was just looking in the wrong place.

As part of their data collection for the World Factbook, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) combs through death certificates, recording race, gender, cause of death, and other factors to estimate the life expectancy of a nation's entire population. Calculating the average life expectancy of the world's total population at 67.59 years, the CIA has determined which societies live longer.

In the United states, average life expectancy is 78.49 years, well above the world's norm. Many experts attribute this to ongoing medical developments, which have dealt with conditions that used to mow us down early. Meanwhile, nations without advanced medical care report a much shorter life expectancy. For instance, citizens of the Republic of Chad in central Africa are only expected to live until their late 40s.

Despite the fact that the average American lives into his or her late 70s, the United States ranks 50th on the CIA's life expectancy list. According to the World Factbook, these 10 nations seem to have discovered the secret to longevity--no magical spring water required.
10. Italy


Average Life Expectancy: 81.86 years

Italians live an average of 3.37 years longer than Americans. Many experts draw a connection between their longevity and diet--which is more than just pasta, meat, and cheese. The Mediterranean diet is credited with lowering the risk for all sorts of diseases. The antioxidants found in olive oil and red wine--two key features of an Italian meal--can improve cholesterol, prevent blood clots, and stave off heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. Italians also rely on spices like basil, oregano, and garlic to flavor their cuisine, while Americans depend heavily on salt. As such, Italians improve their odds against high blood pressure and stroke.

9. Australia


Average Life Expectancy: 81.90 years

Australia's long life expectancy can be attributed to several factors, including relatively low smoking and obesity rates, as well as an active lifestyle enjoyed by its citizens. But many Australian medical experts insist that the secret to Aussies' longevity is universal healthcare. While the ability to obtain healthcare in the United States depends heavily on employment status and personal wealth, Australians have access to necessary care no matter how much they make. That said, Aussies shouldn't get too comfortable; the obesity rate is steadily climbing, which could undercut their longevity in years ahead.

8. Hong Kong

Hong Kong
Hong Kong

Average Life Expectancy: 82.12 years

Hong Kongers can expect to live nearly four years longer than Americans. Like Italians, people from Hong Kong can partly attribute their longer lives to their diet--rice, vegetables, and tofu are staples--and active lifestyle. Hong Kong reports a much lower obesity level than the United States does, as well as fewer instances of obesity-related health conditions, like diabetes.

7. Guernsey


Average Life Expectancy: 82.24 years

This small island in the English Channel is not a member of the United Kingdom or the European Union, despite being a British crown dependency. Its independence means Guernsey has not been affected by its neighbors' flailing economies. How does this tie into the long life expectancies of Channel Islanders? One theory: Guernsey residents live longer because they are wealthy, which affords them above-average healthcare and better nutrition. Channel Islanders are well-off, thanks to Guernsey's extremely low tax rates and high-paying jobs.

6. Andorra


Average Life Expectancy: 82.50 years

Several factors may explain why Andorrans outlive residents of other countries. First, this tiny nation, sandwiched between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains, promotes an active, outdoor lifestyle. Residents have easy access to hiking trails and ski resorts, while clean and well-maintained parks are often used for friendly games of soccer and rugby. Its citizens spend lots of time outside, which experts say can lower stress levels and consequently, cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure. Secondly, the CIA states that 100 percent of Andorra's population is educated. High education levels account for Andorra's extremely low unemployment rate. This means most Andorrans can afford high-quality nutrition and healthcare.

5. San Marino

San Marino, Italy
San Marino

Average Life Expectancy: 83.07 years

Europe's third smallest state--behind Vatican City and Monaco--and the world's oldest republic has a life expectancy that trumps the United States by 4.5 years. Money plays a major role here, as it does in both Guernsey and Andorra, but another key ingredient could be the nation's work environment. This enclave on the Italian peninsula didn't rake in its riches through manual labor. San Marino's primary industries are banking and tourism, with the majority of the Sammarinese working in office settings. This drastically reduces the number of work-related deaths--a big problem elsewhere.

4. Singapore


Average Life Expectancy: 83.75 years

A sound diet and a clean environment contribute to the longevity exhibited by the population of this fast-paced city-state, located on the southern edge of the Malay Peninsula. Like in Hong Kong, Singapore's cuisine centers on rice and vegetables, which are rich in nutrients that help keep residents healthy and active. Singapore's government also enforces a strict code of cleanliness--such as heavily restricted smoking areas--to ensure that all residents live in healthy surroundings. Interestingly, back in the 1980s, the government recognized that the nation's population was aging steadily, and with careful planning, Singapore now features excellent healthcare facilities and programs for the elderly.

3. Japan


Average Life Expectancy: 83.91 years

Japan boasts an impressive obesity rate: 3.1 percent compared with 33.9 percent in the United States. Much of the credit is owed to the Japanese diet, which revolves around fresh vegetables, rice, and most importantly, fish. Fresh fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which promote healthy blood pressure levels and reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids encourage healthy brain function, helping prevent diseases like Alzheimer's. The Japanese also make healthier lifestyle choices: They tend to walk more and not overeat.

2. Macau


Average Life Expectancy: 84.43 years

Like several other nations on this list, Macau can attribute its high life expectancy, at least somewhat, to its fruitful economy. But why this tiny nation in the South China Sea is so prosperous might surprise you: Gambling is its main source of revenue, and 70 percent of the money generated on the casino floor is reportedly invested by the Macau government in public healthcare. The island boasts a variety of casinos, many of which are owned by the same bigwigs who gave Las Vegas its "Sin City" reputation. In January 2012, Macau welcomed 2,461,640 visitors looking to test Lady Luck.

1. Monaco

Average Life Expectancy: 89.68 years

Residents of Monaco live, on average, 5.25 years longer than the second longest-living nation, Macau; that's approximately a decade longer than the average American. Monaco shares several aspects with other long-living nations, including an abundance of wealth and state-funded healthcare. Monaco residents also live on a Mediterranean diet, which is associated with a reduced risk for a variety of health problems, including cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. But many say it's Monaco's relaxing atmosphere that keeps residents hanging on until a ripe old age. Its location along the Mediterranean Sea and clean environment do their part to reduce stress, which can lower immunity and contribute to cardiovascular diseases. Maybe Ponce de León should have stayed closer to home in his search for the Fountain of Youth.

News by Yahoo

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Skydiver Felix Baumgartner on track for super jump

 Skydiver Felix Baumgartner on track for super jump
Skydiver Felix Baumgartner
Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner is well on the way to setting a world record for the highest free-fall jump.

On Thursday, the adventurer leapt from a balloon-borne capsule 71,500ft (22km) above New Mexico, landing safely eight minutes later.

The dive was intended to test all his equipment before he tries to free-fall from 120,000ft later this year.

In doing so, he would better the mark of 102,800ft set by US Air Force Colonel Joe Kittinger in 1960.

Even just Thursday's jump puts Baumgartner in a select group as only Kittinger and Russian Eugene Andreev have descended from higher.

Baumgartner, who is famous for stunts such as jumping off the Petronas Towers, is seen in the special pressure suit he must wear to stay alive in the thin air and extreme cold of the stratosphere.

His Red Bull Stratos team estimates he reached 364mph (586km/h) during the descent, and was in free fall for three minutes and 43 seconds before opening his parachute. From capsule to ground, the entire jump lasted eight minutes and eight seconds.

The 42-year-old was quoted afterwards as saying that the cold was hard to handle.

"I could hardly move my hands. We're going to have to do some work on that aspect," he said.

The Austrian also said the extraordinary dimensions of the high atmosphere took some getting used to: "I wanted to open the parachute after descending for a while but I noticed that I was still at an altitude of 50,000ft."

News by BBC

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Airlines given permission to fly over North Pole for the first time slashing the hours to exotic destinations

boeing 777
A British Airways Boeing 777 which will be able to take a 'short cut' over the North pole
Airlines given permission to fly over North Pole for the first time slashing the hours to exotic destinations

Air passengers will be able to cut the times of long-haul flights by as much as half and fly faster to exotic destinations under a new relaxation of aviation rules.

It could also mean cheaper and cleaner flights for British holidaymakers.

The new rules will allow carriers operating in the South Pacific, to take a 'short cut' over the North Pole for the first time.

While pilots from Australia taking passengers to South America will be able to steer more direct courses making big savings in time, fuel and emissions.

Until now, Boeing’s 777 and the new 787 ‘Dreamliner’ jets had for safety reasons to stay within a  three hour range (180 minutes) of the nearest diversion airport.

Under the new rules, that has been nearly doubled to five and a half hours, (330 minutes) taking account of improvements in aircraft and engine  technology.

It means, for example, that planes from the UK  will be able to take a non-stop flight - dubbed 'Santa's short cut' - over  the North Pole to destinations such as Hawaii, Alaska or French Polynesia.

It also means shorter journeys, cheaper flights, less fuel, and lower emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) - the so-called greenhouse gas’ blamed for global warming.

The ‘extended operations’ rules define the time that an aircraft is permitted to be from an emergency landing site in case of an engine failure and is applied to two-engine jets.

It follows a decision  by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to allow up  to 330-minutes ‘extended operations’ for Boeings'  777 fleet.

It allows airlines operating Boeing  777-300ER (extended range), 777-200LR (longer range), 777 Freighter and 777-200ER models equipped with General Electric engines to fly up to 330 minutes from a potential ‘diversion’ airport.

Approval for the Boeing 777-200ER equipped with British Rolls-Royce and American Pratt & Whitney engines is expected to follow over the next few months.

The first airline to take advantage of the new longer ‘extended operations’ option is Air New Zealand which earlier this month flew from Los Angeles to Auckland.

Capt. David Morgan, chief pilot for Air New Zealand said: ‘What this means is that the aeroplane  is able to fly a straighter route between pairs of cities and that's good for the environment.

‘Less fuel is burned and less carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere. It's also good for customers because flights are potentially shorter and passengers could arrive sooner at their destinations.’

Virgin Atlantic airline president Sir Richard Branson said: 'This new development really does open up a whole new world.

'Our new fleet of 787s could well be flying to Honolulu or even Fiji one day.'

News by Dailymail

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

HTC Android Phones Are Being Banned from the US Next Year

Apple VS HTC
Apple just won a big court victory against HTC that could force HTC to stop selling its Android phones in the United States. The United States International Trade Commission ruled that HTC was infringing on an Apple patent that effects HTC Android devices running Android 1.6 to 2.2.

The devices that may be banned from being sold in the U.S. is basically a who's who list of Android phones: Droid Incredible, Evo 4G, T-Mobile G2, Nexus One and a bunch of older Android devices. The patent that the courts ruled HTC was infringing on (#5,946,647) is potentially a big one. According to Fortune, who took a deep look at the specific patent, it works like this:

When an iPhone receives a message that contains a phone number or an address — e-mail, Web or street — those bits of data are automatically highlighted, underlined and turned into clickable links.

Click on the phone number, and the iPhone asks if you want to dial it. Click on the Web address, and it opens in Safari. Click on the street address, and Maps will display it.

That's huge, not only because it's an important feature in smartphones but because it could mean Apple could go on to attack other Android phone makers because it's the OS that's infringing the patent, not the hardware. However, if HTC Android phones removed that feature (unlikely) or implement it in a different way (which we expect HTC to do), they could keep on selling. And that's pretty much what HTC expects to do, HTC, which has responded to this decision with rainbow colored unicorn tears, reached out to us with this statement:

This decision is a win for HTC and we are gratified that the commission affirmed the judge's determination on the ‘721 and ‘983 patents, and reversed its decision on the ‘263 patent and partially on the ‘647 patent. We are very pleased with the determination and we respect it. However, the ‘647 patent is a small UI experience and HTC will completely remove it from all of our phones soon.

Yes, the patent in question is a fixable problem but I'd hardly categorize the court's decision as a win for HTC. If HTC doesn't fix this issue however, the ban on HTC Android phones in the US is set to take into effect on April 19, 2012. That's not winning.

There are still some real moves left for HTC to make to avoid the import ban (a Presidential veto is an option) but this is sure setting up for a major stateside war (thermonuclear, even) between Apple and Android phone makers much like with what's happening with Apple and Samsung Tablets in Europe and Australia.

News by Gizmodo

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Where are they now? The Vancouver riot Kissing Couple

kissing picture
Kissing Couple
On June 15, 2011, Vancouver burned. The riots that followed Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final turned parts of the British Columbia city into chaotic scenes of looting, arson, violence and clashes with overwhelmed police.

It was there, amidst the anarchy, Alex Thomas fell to the ground and was too frightened to move. It was there that Scott Jones, her Australian-born boyfriend of six months, climbed on top of her and kissed her to comfort her as riot police marched around them.

Photographer Richard Lam preserved that moment in the most iconic image from the riots, one that became an instant sensation around the world and was recently named Esquire magazine's Photo of the Year.

It was a singular, beautiful moment — which is something Jones has had to explain to the couple's fans since they became The Kissing Couple of the Vancouver Riot.

"Just about everyone has asked us to recreate the photo," said Jones, speaking from Australia this week to Yahoo! Sports' Puck Daddy. "It was just in the moment. It would be just so cheesy for us to do it again. Why couldn't someone else do it again in all the riots going on around the world?"

Today, Jones and Thomas share a flat in Melbourne, having relocated there during the summer. "We had always planned to move," he said. "The picture was taken about three days before we planned to leave Vancouver. We were going to holiday in California for three weeks and then leave for Australia."

It was in California that they began to reclaim their anonymity, following a whirlwind of media attention after their identities were revealed. The photo ended up on Jones' Facebook page, after a friend recognized him and tagged him in the image. His sister saw the connection and contacted the media. Jones' father, a motivational speaker, publicized that his son was indeed part of the "kissing couple."

At first, Jones and Thomas were reluctant to say anything about the moment. "We weren't sure if we should say anything," he said.

The couple spoke with Lam before going public; finally, they decided to meet the press to clear up some of the misconceptions being passed around about them and their kiss.

"All of these stories started coming out … people were just making stuff up. Like I wasn't really her boyfriend, stuff like that," Jones said.

There were also claims that they had staged the kiss. "I know where that came from, because apparently there had been another photo that was staged," said Jones. "But once we came out with the story, and there was video footage … it was a little hard to fake. But people were so adamant."

They did a slew of print, radio and television appearances, including a satellite linkup with the "Today" show on NBC. They were instant celebrities, hiring a manager named Max Markson to handle media requests and explore any financial windfall from their accidental fame.

"Then we went to California. And we were anonymous again," said Jones.

After California, the couple moved to Australia, where they were met with more media attention. "Everybody who knew us had seen the picture and recognized me," recalled Jones. "We didn't know if it was going to carry on, or if Max had anything in store for us."

The local fame lasted only a few weeks; today, Scott Jones and Alex Thomas are random citizens, albeit ones with an extraordinary tale. The couple plans to return to North America at some point, as Jones would love to visit New York City and Thomas has family back in Canada.

Thomas, who graduated with a degree in environmental engineering from the University of Guelph in Ontario, is doing water management work for Yarra Valley Water. Jones said he's managing a bar called The Green Room located in Back of Chapel. He's yet to have a patron stagger up to him and give him grief for the kissing photo. In fact, it rarely happened this year.

"We had one random guy who came up to us in San Diego who saw us on TV. And then a lady in the airport," he said.

His standup comedy career is dormant at the moment, although he shares some comedic thoughts, videos and images on his Facebook page — where he jokingly refers to himself as the "Riot Romeo."

Didn't their surreal adventure last summer provide ample material?

"I think looking back on it, it might be a funny situation. But it wasn't a particularly funny moment," he said.

Jones, who said he and Thomas don't have wedding plans yet, hopes the moment is a lasting one.

"It would be good if it's a photo everyone talks about. If the photo carries on. That would be quite special," he said.

"To me it's very hard to judge. There's nothing else really to compare it to. The photo means something different to everybody, so it's hard to say if it'll mean something in time."

News by Yahoo

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Military of China denounces U.S.-Australia defense upgrade

Geng Yansheng
Geng Yansheng,
(Reuters) - China's military denounced the United States and Australia on Wednesday for upgrading military ties, warning that such moves could erode trust and fan Cold War-era antagonism.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng made the warning about a plan unveiled in mid-November by U.S. President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to form a de facto base in north Australia for up to 2,500 U.S. Marines.

Geng's comments came on the same day Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd was reported as backing the formation of a security pact with India and the United States, another step that could fuel China's worries of being fenced in by wary neighbors.

"Military alliances are a product of history, but we believe any strengthening and expansion of military alliances is an expression of the Cold War mentality," Geng said in answer to a question about the U.S.-Australian announcement, according to a transcript on the ministry's website (

"This is not in keeping with the tide of the era of peace, development and cooperation and does not help to enhance mutual trust and cooperation between countries in the region, and could ultimately harm the common interests of all concerned," he said.

"We hope that the parties concerned will do more that is beneficial to the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region, and not the contrary."

But the Chinese spokesman indicated that Beijing was not shunning Washington. Chinese and U.S. defense officials, led by Under Secretary of Defense Michele Flournoy, will hold talks in Beijing next Wednesday, Geng told the briefing.

Earlier this month, Obama told Asia-Pacific leaders that the United States was "here to stay," announced the plans to set up the de facto military base in north Australia and chided China for trying to prevent discussion of its South China Sea territorial disputes at regional forums.

The Chinese Ministry of Defense is the public mouthpiece of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), but foreign reporters are not allowed to attend its briefings.


Although falling short of full-throated condemnation of the U.S.-Australian move, Geng's words were tougher than earlier reaction from China's Foreign Ministry, which said Washington and Canberra should focus on cooperating with Beijing.

Geng said the idea raised by U.S. and Australian officials of advancing "integrated air and sea combat" amounted to "trumpeting confrontation and sacrificing others' security for the sake of one's own security."

Chinese President Hu Jintao has made clear that he wants to avoid repeating the rifts that soured ties with Washington in the first half of 2011. Hu retires from power late next year, when the U.S. is focused on its presidential race, making China's leaders especially reluctant to risk distracting rows.

Beijing is also still licking its wounds from last year, when loud maritime disputes with Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines and other neighbors fanned suspicions about China's intentions.

Chinese military officers have, however, sometimes taken a tougher stance on security worries than civilian officials.

Earlier this week, PLA Major General Luo Yuan, well-known for his hawkish views, warned that Obama's regional push showed that the United States wanted to encircle China.

The comments from Australian Foreign Minister Rudd could also magnify such fears among Chinese observers.

A new trilateral pact bringing in India into a U.S.-Australian security tent was worth exploring because "from little things big things grow," Kevin Rudd said in an interview with the Australian Financial Review newspaper.

"The response from the Indian government has really been quite positive," said Rudd.

The idea of an Australian, Indian and U.S. trilateral security dialogue, in part to counter China's rising might, has been pushed by a trio of think-tanks in all three countries, but has yet to be adopted by any government.

At a briefing in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei did not comment directly on Rudd's statement.

"China hopes that countries in the region will do more to promote regional peace, stability and development," Hong said in answer to a question about the proposal.

India's Foreign Ministry did not comment on Rudd's statement. But Indian analysts said Delhi was likely to be cool on the idea, partly out of reluctance to risk riling China.

"The Indian political establishment has always been wary of the idea of a military alliance," said Uday Bhaskar, the head of the National Maritime Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Sydney's Island Bar in full swing

Sydney, Australia
One of the best ways to kick off summer in Sydney might just be an outdoor barbecue in your best friend's backyard. Even better if that backyard has panoramic views of the city skyline and sunsets that most visitors to Sydney would pay a premium to see.

Island Bar, a trendy drinking oasis reached by ferry on the small, historic Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour, is back for its second season, and starting 1 December, will be open every day through 31 January.

The patio area, decked out with lawn chairs and an artificial grass lawn, is a stark contrast to the bar area, which is constructed from recycled shipping containers to honour the island’s shipbuilding and naval history. In the ample open-air seating, visitors can sip gourmet cocktails stirred up by mixologist Marco Faraone and dine on authentic Italian spuntini platters and wood-fired pizzas in Sydney's world-renowned summer weather. The new second floor Tropics Lounge overlooks the bar and water.

Island Bar is a perfect place to partake in the very Australian "Sunday Sesh", where locals spend the afternoon lazily hanging around with their best mates and a couple of jugs of Cold War Sgroppino -- a delightful mix of Russian Standard Vodka, lemon sorbet, Aperol and lemon juice. There’s also a tennis court nearby with the best backdrop in all of Sydney.

Visitors to Cockatoo Island before 11 December can stop by the Outpost Project, a street arts festival featuring more than 150 street artists from around the world. Along with perusing some visually stimulating art, drop by some of the pop-up bars and galleries tied to the festival before kicking back for the rest of the evening at Island Bar.

News by BBC

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United States duo Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland win World Cup Golf 2011

Golf 2011
World Cup 2011: Final-round leaderboard

    * -24: U.S.
    * -22: England, Germany
    * -21: Australia, Scotland, Ireland
    * Selected others: -20: Wales, Netherlands
    * -19: Spain, Korea

United States duo Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland hit six birdies in a closing 67 to win the World Cup by two shots.

The Americans eroded the overnight two-stroke lead held by Ireland's Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell in China, with birdies on the first two holes.

Four more birdies lifted them to 24 under as Ireland faded with four bogeys in a level-par 72 to stay 21 under.

England's Ian Poulter and Justin Rose carded a nine-under-par 63 to finish second alongside Germany on 22 under.

"We were a little subdued [after the third round] and neither of us were much company," admitted Poulter.

"We stayed in our own rooms, and kind of rightly so as four under par in fourball was very disappointing.

"But to go and shoot nine under par in foursomes is crazy."

Poulter and Rose sank four birdies on the front nine and finished with two birdies and an eagle in their last four holes as they recorded the lowest score of the final round at the Mission Hills course on the southern Chinese island of Hainan.

But although they caught and passed McIlroy and McDowell, who had held an eight-shot advantage over the Englishmen going into the final round, they were unable to match the Americans.

Kuchar and Woodland played solid, rather than spectacular, golf in the alternate shot foursomes format as they finished with a five-under-par 67 to record the United States's first victory in the tournament since Tiger Woods and David Duval teamed up in 2000.

"You think of all the sporting events, and you think of all the teams that become world champions, and in golf there are not that many opportunities to be world champions," said Kuchar.

"So to represent the United States of America and become world champions just feels great."

Their only blip was a bogey on the par-three 11th, but that dropped shot was wiped out on the 12th with a sixth birdie of the round following on the 13th.

In contrast, McIlroy and McDowell, who led by three on the back nine two years but were beaten to the title by Italian brothers Francesco and Edoardo Molinari, again struggled on the final day.

They mixed two bogies with two birdies on the front nine to fall two behind the Americans.

A birdie on the 10th brought them within one shot of the lead, but a bogey on 12 checked their progress and another shot went on the par-three 15th after McDowell's tee shot plugged under the lip of a greenside bunker.

McIlroy could only blast the ball a few feet out of the sand but when his playing partner missed the 25-foot par putt, their challenge was effectively ended.

They finished joint fourth with Australia, Netherlands and Scottish pair Martin Laird and Stephen Gallacher who closed with eight birdies in a six-under-par 66.

German duo Martin Kaymer and Alex Cejka did not drop a shot over the last two rounds and played the final 18 holes in a three-under 69, sinking a lengthy par putt at the last to ensure they finished joint second.

The World Cup used to be held annually but was switched to biennial after 2009 to accommodate golf's inclusion in the 2016 Olympic Games.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rafters stars announce pregnancy

James Stewart and Jessica Marais
James Stewart and Jessica Marais
Packed To The Rafters stars James Stewart and Jessica Marais are expecting their first child.

The pair announced their news in a statement released by Marais's management company RGM on Tuesday.

"James Stewart and Jessica Marais announce they are expecting their first child," the statement said.

"The couple are excited and looking forward to this next phase in their lives."

No further details about the pregnancy were currently available.

Marais, 26, and Stewart, 36, became an off-screen item while playing an on-screen couple in the Seven hit drama series Packed To The Rafters.

Logie award-winning actress Marais quit the show and her role as Rachel Rafter in February to try her luck in Hollywood.

Stewart and Marais announced their engagement in October and have said they plan to wed next year.

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