A precious little earner

Peter Jackson’s Tolkien franchise generates millions of dollars for New Zealand’s tourism industry, writes Garry Maddox.
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Having seen how The Lord of the Rings movies attracted tourists from around the world, New Zealand is expecting Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy to inspire another boom.

From 1999 to 2004, the Oscar-winning filmmaker’s first journey to Middle-earth contributed to a 47 per cent jump in spending by international visitors to $5.7 billion a year.

And though just 6 per cent of all visitors cited The Lord of the Rings as one of the reasons for their trip, that would still be a significant boost for a country attracting 2.6 million visitors a year if it happened again.

“If we grew our tourism numbers by 6 per cent, that would be worth between $NZ400 million [$320 million] and $NZ500 million a year,” says the chief executive of Tourism New Zealand, Kevin Bowler.

The tourism authorities say the single most significant reason tourists cite for visiting New Zealand – outside the Rugby World Cup, at least – is the landscape.

“The films really help in that regard because they beautifully showcase that landscape,” Bowler says. “The level of integration of New Zealand and the films through the marketing that we do, Air New Zealand does and others do has really got that connection quite strong now.”

Bowler says The Lord of the Rings movies sparked visits by hard-core fans, who knew lines from the films, where particular scenes were shot and who wanted to have their photo taken at filming locations around the country. These were the kind of fans who flocked to Wellington in costume for the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in November.

Less-rabid fans are interested in seeing filming locations as part of a broader experience of the country’s landscapes. “What a lot of the operators have done really cleverly, particularly around Queenstown, is they’ve said ‘we’ll take you into the back country, we’ll show you gold-panning, we’ll take you in a four-wheel-drive and we’ll show you some locations from the films’,” Bowler says.

After the release of An Unexpected Journey, The Lord of the Rings tours around Wellington and Queenstown are likely to be popular as they no doubt expand to include Hobbit filming locations. The next two film instalments are due for release on Boxing Day in 2013, then July 2014.

Also expected to appeal to tourists is the improved hobbit village where Bilbo and Frodo live in Middle-earth, on a sheep and cattle farm at Matamata, 175 kilometres from Auckland.

After the location was used for The Lord of the Rings, the sets were dismantled. But the Alexander family turned the site into a tourist attraction, with tiny plywood and styrofoam hobbit homes, that attracted more than 260,000 visitors in a decade. When Jackson wanted to use the farm again for the Hobbit movies, the family had one condition: it had to be rebuilt as a permanent village. So the knighted filmmaker and the Alexanders formed a joint venture to rebuild Hobbiton.

As well as 44 permanent hobbit holes complete with gardens, orchards, smoking fireplaces and washing lines dangling hobbit clothes, the filmmakers have built a replica of the Green Dragon Inn, which serves hobbit beer and cider.

Follow Traveller at twitter上海夜网m/FairfaxTravel.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Molik sees bright future after jumping into captain’s hot seat

ALICIA MOLIK will succeed her former coach David Taylor as Australia’s Fed Cup captain, with one of the three unsuccessful candidates, Todd Woodbridge, appointed to a mentoring role. Nicole Bradtke will remain as coach.
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The popular Molik, 31, was unbeaten in doubles and compiled a 12-15 win-loss record in singles over 22 ties from 1999. Now forging a media career, she is a two-time grand slam doubles champion and Athens Olympic singles bronze medallist, whose opening Fed Cup assignment will be both difficult and immediate, for the opening world group tie will be played against reigning champions the Czech Republic in Ostrava in three weeks.

”Dave has left big shoes to fill and I am really inspired by the challenge. It is an exciting time in Australian tennis and we have the talent in this team to produce some great results,” Molik said. ”Of course we go in underdogs [against the Czechs], but undaunted. These girls showed against Germany in Germany last year that they are capable of playing wonderful tennis and winning ties that no one expects them to win.”

The other applicants were Rennae Stubbs and Nicole Pratt, with Stubbs – the most capped player in Fed Cup history – another to have broad support. Woodbridge, Tennis Australia’s head of professional tennis, will also travel with the team. ”Alicia has a wealth of experience at the top level and in Fed Cup and will be a great leader for this team,” he said. ”Alicia’s strong and recent involvement with the tour and Fed Cup give her a great perspective for the captaincy and her personality and leadership style will be an asset for the team.”

Meanwhile, former Davis Cup captain John Newcombe admits to the odd flashback to his chilly relations with Mark Philippoussis as incumbent Pat Rafter deals with the challenge that is Bernard Tomic.

”It’s a little bit similar,” Newcombe said on Friday when asked about the parallels with the Philippoussis and Tomic situations. ”Probably in some degrees it’s the same, so Pat had a look at it as part of the team [when he was a player], and now he’s getting it on the other side.

”It’s never easy on the other side, but I’ve obviously been talking to Pat through this and Pat feels that unless he can build a strong culture, he’s wasting his time. And it’s good to see everybody supporting him, because if he feels the culture isn’t right at the top, what chance has he got of creating the culture amongst the young ones?”

While backing Rafter’s firm handling of a situation that has been criticised by the likes of Paul McNamee, Newcombe said it was in Tomic’s best interests to heal his rift with Rafter, who overlooked the world No.43 for next month’s Davis Cup tie for attitude reasons. Tomic responded by declaring himself unavailable for the April fixture.

”He’s only 20 years of age,” Newcombe said. ”I think it’s very important for his future that he patches things up with Pat and that he becomes a part of the team atmosphere. If he embraces that and continues the way he’s going, he’s going to make a heck of a lot more money out of endorsements in the future.”

Tomic has been the shining light in a grim summer for the host nation, with the fact that only Tomic, Sam Stosur and James Duckworth reached the Open’s second round constituting the worst Australian result in the open era. ”I think in many ways this is taking a long time to regroup and rebuild, and it just shows you that the first half of the last decade how things weren’t right,” Newcombe said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Greens push to ban drug company perks for doctors

DRUG companies will no longer be able to pay for doctors to travel to conferences under new laws proposed by the Greens to get rid of a multimillion-dollar gravy train believed to be contaminating medical practice.
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As concern mounts about the influence of drug and medical device companies’ largesse on doctors, Greens health spokesman Richard Di Natale said he would introduce a bill to the Senate to clean up the pharmaceutical sector’s interaction with health professionals.

The bill would ban payments for doctors to travel or attend education seminars and conferences domestically and overseas, as well as the sponsorship of educational meetings intended for Australian doctors overseas. It will also ban gifts and promotional items and require companies to report the names of health professionals and the fees they are receiving for services such as speeches or consulting.

In Australia, drug companies are spending about $65 million a year on hosting doctors at more than 35,000 educational events and some believe it is polluting medical practice with commercial interests.

”The public expect that when they are seeing a healthcare professional, they are getting advice based on the best evidence available and not on whether their doctor has been flown business class to a golf resort to provide particular information about a product,” said Senator Di Natale who has previously worked as a medical practitioner.

He said the bill would be introduced to the Senate in February so a committee can be created to hear submissions on the matter.

However, chief executive of Medicines Australia Dr Brendan Shaw said the bill was ”jumping the gun” as his organisation was working on greater transparency measures as part of the industry’s code of conduct due to be renewed in two years.

Last year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission asked the group to improve transparency of payments and sponsorship made by companies to health professionals. A working party has been set up to do this.

President of the Australian Medical Association Dr Steve Hambleton said he wanted to examine the Greens’ proposal before commenting, but said ”engaging with pharmaceutical companies was an important form of education” for doctors who rarely experienced lavish hospitality.

However, several scandals have caused a worldwide push for greater transparency in recent years. Last year, a US government committee found medical device company Medtronic was heavily involved in shaping the content of medical journal articles written by doctors who were paid about $210 million over 15 years in fees, royalties and other payments. Critics say this influenced information being given to doctors about its product. Medtronic has disputed this.

In Australia, a former drug company representative last year spoke out about doctors receiving thousands of dollars in speakers’ fees and first class travel to attend conferences. On Tuesday, Fairfax Media reported a Geelong doctor had ”blown the whistle” on Pfizer flying one of his colleagues and his family business class to a conference in New York. The whistleblower believed this was influencing prescribing at Geelong Hospital and putting patients at risk.

However, the hospital’s medical director, Professor Tom Callaly, rejected this as a ”smear campaign” and said an investigation had found no evidence of unsafe prescription of drugs.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

All sport must learn a lesson

Adelaide’s shame: Lance Armstrong at the Tour Down Under.THERE was little, surely, if anything in the Lance Armstrong interview to surprise. So much had already been learnt that the latest instalment on Saturday was merely selective confirmation. And the denials – from an admitted self-interested, serial liar – can’t be assumed to be truthful anyway.
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Perhaps what this event might achieve is to cause those who have for so long swallowed Armstrong’s lies to ask themselves why. The evidence against him – if until recently circumstantial – has long been compelling. And it might prompt all who work in the industry of sport to confront the matter of what they can do better to seek to ensure this story is not repeated.

This is an important moment in sport’s history. Each new big catch in the war on drugs brings a new level of awareness at every level. While it doesn’t last, it does at least deliver a short-to-medium-term jolt. The Ben Johnson case shook a still-largely naive sporting world from its slumber. The waves spread as far afield as Australia where a parliamentary inquiry was held.

The Balco scandal has clearly had a significant impact on the psyche of some American sport in relation to performance-enhancing drugs. If you doubt that, compare the US’s recent Olympic track and field sprinting results with those of a decade or more ago.

Then there was the exposure of the erstwhile East Germany’s Stasi files and what they revealed of the capacity for a rogue nation’s administration to systemically rort sport. At least the world is now alert to this possibility.

As an aside, if there was humour in Friday’s interview it came in Armstrong’s use of the history of East German drug abuse to shield himself from USADA’s claim that his was the worst case yet. Here was a seriously charred pot seeking to claim some sheen by comparison with the nearby black kettle.

The name David Walsh, the Irish journalist who pursued the Armstrong story, and whose paper was sued by the cyclist, has been particularly prominent in recent days. During last week, in an interview on ABC television, he stated a couple of telling facts.

Of the period during which he investigated Armstrong, he said: ”What was astonishing was how few wanted to hear the truth at that time.” The other ear-catching comment Walsh made was that: ”There were good people: Emma O’Reilly, Greg Lemonde, Betsy Andreu … the truth wasn’t too hard to get at.” The truth wasn’t too hard to get at! What a damning indictment those words are on the Armstrong acolytes who claim they didn’t know, or were misled. Too many among the sport’s travelling media contingent were comfortable aboard the gravy train. Regardless of professional responsibility, they didn’t want to bite the hand that fed them.

Walsh has also previously said: ”To me there was a wilful conspiracy on the part of sporting officials, journalists, broadcasters, everybody.” Speaking for the media, I would say there are many in this industry who should hang their heads.

They have allowed themselves to be in the thrall of a superstar. That was more exciting, and more comfortable, than serving the responsibilities and ideals of their profession.

There is no place in modern sport for journalists and broadcasters to function purely as fans. This is a business and has to be treated as such. Sport has always produced those on the side of the angels, but there are plenty prepared to do the devil’s work. They actively corrupt their own industry. This cannot be taken lightly and those privileged with a role in media must be always on the look-out for sport’s criminals. And that – make no mistake – is what they are.

Then there are those associated with the sport whose stock response is along the lines that, ”Cycling is no worse than lots of other sports. It’s just the one being picked on at the moment.” This is a frequently heard lament to which I would respond: ”So how do you know about the other sports?”

And if you know about them, how much did you know about cycling – the sport in which you specialise – before Armstrong was caught? Why did you do nothing?” The shame of Armstrong spreads all the way to Australia. In recent years he has been handsomely paid by South Australian taxpayers – scandalously is a better word – to compete in the Tour Down Under. That he was clearly under suspicion before arrangements for this were made does the organisers of the event no credit. That race director Mike Turtur referred on television during the week to Armstrong’s ”great record … that we ought to acknowledge” is damning. Perhaps rather than complaining that his state is entitled to its money back, SA Premier Jay Weatherill should set about providing some education for those he employs. Because even though he wasn’t premier at the time, responsibility for his state paying big money to a crook rests with his administration.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Merewether, Uni post outright victories

MEREWETHER and University increased pressure on Hamilton-Wickham in the race for the Newcastle district cricket minor premiership today after recording outright victories.
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Merewether (67 points) flogged Belmont outright at Townson Oval to move within a point of Hamwicks (68), who only won bya first innings against Cardiff-Boolaroo, due to a century from Englishman Tom Jewell.

University moved to 60 points through a emphatic victory over Wallsend at University Oval.

Hamwicks were their own worst enemies at Passmore Oval with poor fielding costing them dearly.

Cardiff resumed day two at 1-10 and fell to 3-10 in a disastrous start.

Opener Joe Wenta (44) Jewell (109) and Ray Cooper (34) then rescued Cardiff to post 226.

That left Hamwicks with the impossible task of scoring 119 from seven overs for maximum points.

Hamwicks batted for four overs before calling stumps at 3-34.

‘‘You look at the table in the paper but if Merewether win there isn’t much we can do about it or anyone else in the competition,’’ Hamwicks skipper Kirk Mullard said.

‘‘We’ve just got to worry about ourselves and the only time we worry about Merewether is when we play them.’’

Merewether recorded their third outright of the season after declaring their first innings close at 4-187 with a lead of 68.

Belmont made 133 in their second innings, leaving the Lions (4-69) 33 overs to chase 66.

University declared overnight at 5-254, a lead of 176.

Wallsend held hope of saving the game at 4-104 with skipper Brett Jackson at the crease, but his teammates left him stranded on 66 not out in the team’s total of 176.

That left Uni with one run to score for the outright win.

Toronto Workers (7-259 and 1-15) fell four runs short of earning their first outright win of the season against Waratah-Mayfield (135 and 141) at Waratah Oval.

Toronto had two overs to score 18 runs in the second innings and required six off the final ball, but only managed three.

Stockton-Raymond Terrace also missed their chance to beat Newcastle City outright at No.1 Sportsground which would have pushed them into the top four.

City started the day 4-78 and were quickly rolled for 128.

The Seagulls swooped on the opportunity when Jeff Goninan (52) and Sam Jenkinson (68 not out) batted Stockton into a dominant position at 2-154.

City hung on to avoid the outright loss at 7-116.

At Kahibah Oval, Charlestown (207) produced an improved batting performance in their loss to Wests (238).

Daniel Arms (51) and Daniel Whittemore (37) impressed, but Wests veterans Ben Woolmer (3-42) and Anthony Hobson (3-34) were the difference.

Charlestown batsman Daniel Whittemore in action against Wests at Kahibah oval today. Picture: Ryan Osland

Rogers rolls the dice

Jaw-dropping: V8 Supercars team owner Garry Rogers has signed (from left) Scott McLaughlin, Alex Premat, Jack Perkins and Greg Ritter.COLOURFUL V8 Supercars team owner Garry Rogers is renowned for taking risks on untried drivers, but his decision last year to sign Frenchman Alex Premat was especially quirky.
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Rogers excels at spotting nascent talent, giving a disproportionate number of leading drivers their starts in V8 racing.

He has always swum against the tide of picking proven performers, betting on teen tyros or outcasts. But even by Rogers’ unconventional standards, Melbourne-based Premat was a choice so far out of left field it was regarded as a reckless gamble.

After all, V8 Supercars has a history of humbling even the most accomplished and experienced international drivers, who struggle to come to grips with heavy cars that are undertyred and overpowered.

Although Premat (pronounced pray-mah) was accomplished in European sports car racing and competitive in Germany’s high-tech V8 touring car series, his chances of adapting successfully were further hampered by not being in a front-running car. Garry Rogers Motorsport punches above its weight, occasionally emerging from the midfield to challenge the top 10, but it doesn’t have the resources to make its Holden Commodores consistent front-runners.

Predictably, Premat, 30, failed to make much of an impression last season, most of which he spent towards the rear of the field or coming off second best in altercations with the hardened local competition.

When Rogers suspended him from the car-wrecking Gold Coast 600, his prospects of retaining the drive this year looked hopeless.

But far from a French flop, Rogers is convinced Premat’s disappointing rookie season wasn’t a wasted effort, pointing to his end-of-season improvement as a sign of progress.

Confounding his critics, he has re-signed Premat to partner New Zealand teenager Scott McLaughlin in GRM’s Fujitsu Racing Commodores.

”Alex was a gamble last year and he struggled,” Rogers said. ”There was no doubt he has the skills, but we didn’t get the best out of him. I was disappointed – based on his history, we believed he could do better.

”I decided I had invested a lot in him and he has invested in us, moving his family over here. We can get more out of him.”

Rogers also cited the switch to the new Car Of The Future rules as a key factor, believing the design changes will suit Premat’s European racing pedigree. Among a host of under-the-skin changes, the new-generation V8 Supercars feature better tyres, bigger brakes and a more sophisticated rear suspension, designed to make them more responsive and less cumbersome.

Their driving characteristics are closer to the sophisticated V8-powered Audis that Premat raced in the German Touring Car Masters series for four years.

As well as being better suited to his racing experience, Premat believes the change to Car Of The Future means he won’t be so disadvantaged when the new season starts at the March 1-3 Adelaide 500.

”I have set my expectations to finish in the top 10,” Premat said. ”Everyone will be learning [the new cars] from zero and we will be doing the same. I want to start the year as I finished in 2012 and I’m looking forward to the new season.” While he is looking to Premat to justify his reappointment, Rogers is again investing in the future with 19-year-old McLaughlin, who won the second-tier V8 development series last year.

McLaughlin is the latest in a long line of young drivers who began their rise to V8 stardom with GRM, based at Dandenong South in Melbourne’s south-east.

Celebrating his 50th anniversary in racing this year, Rogers, 68, counts among his many finds reigning V8 champion Jamie Whincup, who is also the source of his greatest embarrassment.

”Over the years, we’ve had many great drivers in the team,” Rogers said. ”I have also proved to be an idiot when I sacked Jamie Whincup – not one of my better decisions.” Whincup didn’t impress Rogers in 2003, but he has since developed into V8’s most dominant driver, winning four championships and four Bathurst 1000s with the pace-setting Triple Eight squad.

Rogers has also confirmed that Jack Perkins and Greg Ritter have been re-signed as Fujitsu Racing’s co- drivers for the Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000 endurance races.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

S&P 500 takes aim at all-time highs

With earnings momentum on the rise, the S&P 500 seems to have few hurdles ahead as it continues to power higher, its all-time high a not-so-distant goal.
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The US equity benchmark closed the week at a fresh five-year high on strong housing and labor market data and a string of earnings that beat lowered expectations.

Sector indexes in transportation, banks and housing this week hit historic or multiyear highs as well.

Michael Yoshikami, chief executive at Destination Wealth Management in Walnut Creek, California, said the key earnings to watch for next week will come from cyclical companies. United Technologies reports on Wednesday while Honeywell is due to report Friday.

“Those kind of numbers will tell you the trajectory the economy is taking,” Yoshikami said.

Major technology companies also report next week, but the bar for the sector has been lowered even further.

Chipmakers like Advanced Micro Devices, which is due Tuesday, are expected to underperform as PC sales shrink.

AMD shares fell more than 10 per cent Friday after disappointing results from its larger competitor, Intel. Still, a chipmaker sector index posted its highest weekly close since last April.

Following a recent underperformance, an upside surprise from Apple on Wednesday could trigger a return to the stock from many investors who had abandoned ship.

Other major companies reporting next week include Google, IBM, Johnson & Johnson and DuPont on Tuesday, Microsoft and 3M on Thursday and Procter & Gamble on Friday.

Perhaps the strongest support for equities will come from the flow of cash from fixed income funds to stocks.

The recent piling into stock funds – $US11.3 billion in the past two weeks, the most since 2000 – indicates a riskier approach to investing from retail investors looking for yield.

“From a yield perspective, a lot of stocks still yield a great deal of money and so it is very easy to see why money is pouring into the stock market,” said Stephen Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco. “You are just not going to see people put a lot of money to work in a 10-year Treasury that yields 1.8 per cent.”

Housing stocks, already at a 5-1/2 year high, could get a further bump next week as investors eye data expected to support the market’s perception that housing is the sluggish US economy’s bright spot.

Home resales are expected to have risen 0.6 per cent in December, data is expected to show on Tuesday. Pending home sales contracts, which lead actual sales by a month or two, hit a 2-1/2 year high in November.

The new home sales report on Friday is expected to show a 2.1 per cent increase.

The federal debt ceiling negotiations, a nagging worry for investors, seemed to be stuck on the back burner after House Republicans signaled they might support a short-term extension.

Equity markets, which tumbled in 2011 after the last round of talks pushed the United States close to a default, seem not to care much this time around.

The CBOE volatility index, a gauge of market anxiety, closed Friday at its lowest since April 2007.

“I think the market is getting somewhat desensitized from political drama given, this seems to be happening over and over,” said Destination Wealth Management’s Yoshikami. “It’s something to keep in mind, but I don’t think it’s what you want to base your investing decisions on.”

Reuters

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Boeing halts delivery of Dreamliners

US aerospace giant Boeing has halted deliveries of its 787 Dreamliner but says it will continue to build the aircraft while safety experts examine its battery and electrical systems.
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The announcement capped a week in which all 50 787s in service around the world were grounded on orders from multiple aviation authorities to investigate the cause of two incidents, including a fire, linked to its batteries.

‘‘We will not deliver 787s until the FAA approves a means of compliance with their recent Airworthiness Directive concerning batteries and the approved approach has been implemented,’’ a Boeing spokesman said. ‘‘Production of 787s continues.”

Dreamliners had been flying in Chile, Ethiopia, India, Japan, Poland, Qatar and the United States until their flights were stopped after a global alert issued by the US Federal Aviation Administration.

Boeing’s chairman and chief executive Jim McNerney in a statement to employees defended his company and the aircraft against ‘‘the negative news attention over the past several days.’’

‘‘As everyone inside the company knows, nothing is more important to us than the safety of the passengers, pilots and crew members who fly aboard Boeing commercial and military aircraft,’’ he said. ‘‘We have high confidence in the safety of the 787 and stand squarely behind its integrity as the newest addition to our product family.’’

His comments came as US and Japanese experts began examining an All Nippon Airways 787 forced to make an emergency landing at Takamatsu in southwest Japan on Wednesday because of a smoke alert apparently linked to a lithium-ion battery, the plane’s main electrical power unit.

‘‘We removed the battery yesterday and are today inspecting the plane and its components, alongside the US officials,’’ said Japan Transport Safety Board spokesman Mamoru Takahashi.

A picture released by the JTSB showed scorch marks on the blue casing of the battery. Much of what looked like wiring around the eight cells of the battery – the plane’s main electrical power unit – was disfigured.

It was the second incident involving the battery, and one of several problems since the beginning of the year, including a taxiing 787 sprouting a fuel leak in Boston.

The problems have cast a cloud over the aircraft heavily dependent on pioneering electrical systems and lightweight composite materials that is meant to be Boeing’s future.

No airline has cancelled purchases for the 787, but with 850 of the ambitious $US200 million-plus aircraft on order, a fortune is at stake.

McNerney stressed that since they entered service in October 2011, 787s have completed 18,000 flights and 50,000 flight hours with no serious problems.

But US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood told NBC television that the 787 would have to prove itself again to US inspectors.

‘‘Those planes won’t fly until we’re 1000 per cent sure they are safe to fly,’’ said LaHood on Friday.

The focus of investigators was on batteries supplied to Boeing by Japan’s GS Yuasa through France’s Thales, two of many firms in a complex global chain of suppliers for the 787 program.

JTSB investigator Hideyo Kosugi said one theory was that there may have been insufficient protection offered by the batteries’ surrounding electrical system.

‘‘I’m sure that too much current or too-high voltage has gone to the battery,’’ Kosugi told reporters.

AFP

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Armstrong tell-all light on details

Reactions: Oprah interview as it happenedMovie bio already in the worksYes, yes, yes, Oprah gets her payday
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LANCE ARMSTRONG says he “deserves” to compete again and will fight his lifetime ban from sport, saying that he’s received the “death penalty” while other cheats have got off lightly.

Breaking down in the second part of a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey, the self-confessed liar, bully and narcissist accepted he should be punished for doping throughout his seven Tour de France victories, but not as harshly as he has been. The US Anti-Doping Agency stripped Armstrong of his titles and banned the one-time hero from sanctioned sporting events for life in October.

In what was billed as a tell-all confessional, Armstrong did not give information about who supported his doping, who he doped with, and who helped cover it up.

After the first part of the interview, televised on Friday, the boss of cycling’s besieged world governing body, Pat McQuaid, trumpeted that Armstrong had proved there was “no collusion or conspiracy” between the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the American cyclist. Mr McQuaid based that statement on Armstrong’s emphatic denial that he donated six-figure sums to the UCI to cover up positive doping tests.

Armstrong lamented he is banned from entering sporting events such as the Chicago marathon. “I got a death penalty and they got six months,” he said, comparing himself with riders who had given evidence about him to USADA and incurred a lighter sanction in return.

Armstrong went on to say that nothing was as bad as receiving a cancer diagnosis.

Anti-doping and sports officials have been scathing about the lack of detail he has shared.

International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound is suspicious about Armstrong’s motives. “If he’s going to sell the fact that he’s contrite . . . he’s going to have to do some more rehearsals,” he said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Live: Sydney FC v Wellington Phoenix

No one could have predicted that scoreline. Finally, the eastern(ish) half of Sydney has cause to celebrate their football team this season. Next up, Sydney FC travel to AAMI Park to play Melbourne Victory. That will certainly test the Sky Blues’ new-found confidence. Can’t wait.
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Full-time: Del Piero on the sideline: “Really happy but 7-1 is like 1-0. It’s three points and we concentrate on the next one.” On Griffiths, he says: “Nice, he play very good… we are very happy with him on our team.”

Joel steps up to return the favour. On the vibe among his teammates, he says: “It’s definitely up there. Confidence is high. It helps when Del Piero is on song. For myself especially … he’s a genius.” More generally, he adds: “We worked well off the ball and I think it showed …  Felt like a first day at school for me today. Probably could have got more minutes to be honest.”

93rd minute: Ifill puts the ball into the stands, Alex Smith tries to curl one in. Both to no avail as time winds down on a humiliating defeat.

89th minute: There’s no mercy rule in this game unfortunately for Wellington. Brockie, though, plays in Ifill, whose shot, from an awkward angle, somehow hits the underside of the bar. Brockie gets the second (or third) ball but can’t shoot past Janjetovic. The keeper has had a lot to do tonight despite the scoreline.

88th minute: Durante seizes on a loose ball but thumps it straight at Janjetovic. Emerton doesn’t do much better at the other end, shooting from an acute angle and finding the side netting.

84th minute: YAU GOAL! From broken play, Yau plays a one-two through a deserted Phoenix defence. It’s all too easy, and his right-foot stunner mocks poor Paston in goal. That smacked of capitulation by Phoenix.

83nd minute: The sting has gone out of the game somewhat, until Del Piero’s number is called. He’s being replaced by Powell. Standing ovation. He acknowledges the crowd.

79th minute: The words “carnage” and “entrails” are being used in the commentary box to describe the damage wrought on the sorry Phoenix. But what word for this… ? Sigmund GOAL! Ifill crossed from the right and Sigmund had no marker to contend with. We’ll use the words “desperate consolation”. Doesn’t quite have the same sense of dismemberment, however.

75th minute: Correction. It was poor Durante bamboozled by the dancing feet of The Artist known as ADP. Ifill has a crack at a volley from a speculative ball and it swerves violently wide. Looked an act of frustration but more likely he feels, what the hell?

He cuts inside then jinks back behind the defender, in this case Bertos, on the fringes of the box. Del Piero just takes his time with way too much space and class. Another perfect curling shot gives Paston no chance. Finally, the resilient Del Piero fans in Turin have something to cheer at some ungodly hour.

70th minute: FOUR GOALS DEL PIERO!!!!!!

65th minute: Griffiths gets a good reception when he’s brought off for Yau. Silence for Huysegems when he makes way for the talismanic Ifill. Lochhead’s cross is headed into the arms of Janjetovic by Brockie as he falls away across the goal line.

60th minute: Sanchez goes for a jinking run but his final shot is off target. Boyd makes amends somewhat by forcing a foul when cutting back inside the Sydney defence. The two subsequent corners come to nought. Del Piero this time gets the ball through but Culina is ruled offside.

 59th minute: Bertos delivers a great cross from the right, and the ball breaks for Tyler inside the box. The youngster needs to pull the trigger but hesitates while looking to shoot off his less dominant foot.

55th minute: Identical situation for Del Piero. Plenty of space coming out of defence and his pass is just intercepted. One of these might bisect the defence yet. The Italian grasps his head. McLenahan on for Calvano.

52nd minute: Fabio on the break, in an advancing three-on-three situation. He blasts the ball on the angle but Paston gets a right hand to the ball. Parried away. Del Piero was unmarked on the inside. Missed chance for 6-0.

51st minute: Del Piero again with swathes of space out of defence and into midfield. He threads the needle and Durante only just gets a boot to the pass that would have found Griffiths with just the keeper to beat.

46th minute: Brockie fouls Fabio just after the restart.  Sigmund brings down Del Piero from behind to earn a yellow card. The Italian is sprawled out on the pitch. Herbert may have given them the word in the sheds: get serious, get physical. Glancing header from Griffiths a shade off target from a Culina free kick. It followed good build-up work from Sydney with Culina ever-present.

Half-time: Don’t know about the players, but I need a breather. Most uncharacteristic, Sydney. Most uncharacteristic. Five goals in a half? Tell ’em they’re dreamin’. Back soon.

46th minute: Two minutes of added time. Del Piero hasn’t been allowed this much space in a while and he looks likely every time he’s on the ball. The early goals opened up a game that was already likely to be a bit fast and loose.

44rd minute: Whoever prayed to Jude, the patron saint of hopless causes, has obviously been listening. At this rate, with Sydney’s goal difference narrowing very quickly, they could be in the top six by 7.30 tonight. Bertos delivers a free kick from the right but Janjetovic tips it away.

40th minute: I had to double check the scoreboard. Five-nil? Wake me up. Meantime Grant has a bash to bring the stats closer to parity. It’s now 13-8 in terms of shots on goal. The surprise? Phoenix are leading on that count.

39th minute: HAT-TRICK DEL PIERO! Pandemonium!! Calmly cut back in from the left, curling right-foot shot gives Paston no chance. Bertos was mesmerised.

34th minute: Frankie’s animated on the sideline but he must be pleased. Sydney, on the break via Griffiths, surge forward. Grant plays a one-two in the box his cross is saved and play moves rapidly down the other end where Boyd has another shot on goal. Again Janjetovic saves well.

30th minute: They’re shell-shocked. No one in their right mind could have forseen this. On their knees. And that’s just the Sydney FC fans giving thanks to whatever diety inspired this madness. Huysegems butchers another chance, heading tamely into the side netting. Sanchez launches a bomb, saved by Janjetovic, and then Brockie directs a his curling header straight at the keeper. Wellington have had plenty of shots on goal but they’re lacking the kind of grace attending the locals tonight. Now Boyd puts one wide.

26th minute: IMPOSSIBLE. It’s 4-0! Culina right-foot volley from the corner of the box. Sydney fans are delirious. Including last week’s late brace, Sydney have now scored 6 goals in 35 minutes.

23rd minute: GOAL! Del Piero. Penalty. Wild scenes here at SFS. Very lucky penalty to be given after Culina was clattered into in the box by Durante. They both appeared, at first glance, equally culpable.  But The Cove don’t care! First time this season they’re scored three in a game. And in 23 minutes no less. Joel Giffiths has had a bit of an impact.

The maestro toyed with the Wellington defenders in the box, turning this way and then that, before launching the perfect strike goal bound.

21st minute: GOAL! Del Piero. Here we go. Here we go.

19th minute: It’s end to end action. Ryall puts the ball into the net off a neat turn in the box but it’s a hand ball. Earlier, Fabio blazed over the bar with space to burn on the left.

16th minute: Del Piero is fouled but off the restart floats a wonderful ball to Emerton on the right. Emo finds Griffiths timing his run into the box to perfection but the header goes awry. Moments later, Huysegems volleys into the side netting at the other end.

14th minute: Rhyan Grant does well to block Jermey Brockie, who had got in behind the Sydney defence. Replays show Griffiths’ reaction to his goal: he jumped the hoardings but otherwise restrained himself. One goal a good return for under 10 minutes work in the sky blue.

12th minute: Janjetovic makes a simple save from a weak header.

Del Piero through ball released Griffiths, who beat the offside trap this time and got the faintest of touches to the ball. That touch was enough to beat the advancing Phoenix keeper Paston.

11th minute: GOAL to Griffiths on debut!

9th minute: Finally Griffiths gets a run on and Abbas puts him in the clear down the left again. Offside. Joel gives a rueful shake of the head. Strikers always thing they’re onside.

7th minute: Griffifths gets a first touch and it goes straight over the sideline. Ignominious beginning. Emerton then releases Fabio on the left and he’s brought down unceremoniously by young Tyler Boyd.

4th minute: Wellington dominating the early possession with Leo Bertos prominent. Stein Huysegems is put through on goal for a one on one with Janjetovic but he fluffs his shot. Weak effort.

Terry McFlynn with the armband. Tiago Calvano and Joel Griffiths come straight into the Sydney FC line-up.

Joel Griffiths hasn’t watched Sydney FC’s last two matches. He says he prefers not to muddy his “canvas” with preconceptions about how his new side plays. After all, the 33-year-old is onto his 10th professional club. He knows to play the ball to Del Piero’s feet and into space for Emerton. Given the Sky Blues’ disjointed recent displays, it’s probably a good approach as he makes his debut.

The Phoenix have been similarly discombobulated, thrown into a state of confusion by an owner dictating the game plan before hearing it from the coach. The all-new, all-attacking Phoenix is a work in progress. It’s the perfect time for Sydney to play the Wellingtonians. At stake is who sits where on the bottom three rungs of the ladder.

Join me for the live blog from 5.20. Kick-off is at 5.30pm.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Intel’s weak outlook unnerves investors

Intel Corp forecast quarterly revenue that disappointed Wall Street and a sharp increase in capital spending it plans for 2013 unnerved investors already concerned about slow demand for personal computers.
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Shares of the world’s leading chipmaker slid more than 5 per cent in after-hours trade on Thursday after it projected this year’s capital spending at $US13 billion, plus or minus $US500 million, exceeding many analysts’ estimates for about $US10 billion.

Intel said $US2 billion of its increased expenditures would go toward expanding a facility for researching future manufacturing technology. Some analysts worried that with PC sales already slow, expanding too quickly may create excess capacity that could hurt the bottom line.

“People are starting to freak out about the capex,” said Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Stacy Rasgon. “The concern is that if I spend a lot of money and I build up my factories, I don’t have enough demand to fill them. They have very high fixed costs, and it pulls your margins down.”

Outgoing chief executive Paul Otellini, who plans to retire in May after a successor is identified, said the investment in manufacturing would lower costs in the long run.

“The leading edge capacity is the lowest cost for us on a per unit basis,” Otellini told analysts on a conference call. “Regardless of what you think the size of the market is, the leading edge fabs are the single greatest asset that we have.”

Otellini said the higher capex is not intended to bankroll a foundry or contract chipmaking business, but he did not rule out manufacturing semiconductors for other chip companies as long as that did not empower a rival.

Intel has agreed to manufacture custom chips on behalf of networking equipment company Cisco Systems Inc, Bloomberg reported on Thursday. An Intel spokesman declined to comment.

In the fourth quarter, Intel’s revenue was $US13.5 billion, compared with $US13.9 billion a year earlier. Analysts had expected $US13.53 billion.

It estimated first-quarter revenue of $US12.7 billion, plus or minus $US500 million. Analysts expected $US12.91 billion.

Intel is used to being king of the personal computer market, particularly through its historic Wintel alliance with Microsoft Corp, which has led to breathtakingly high profit margins and an 80 per cent market share.

But it has struggled to adapt its technology for smartphones and tablets, a market dominated by Qualcomm Inc, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Nvidia Corp.

PC makers are struggling to stop a decline in sales as consumers hold off on buying new laptops in favor of more nimble mobile gadgets.

Microsoft’s long-awaited launch of Windows 8 in October brought touchscreen features to laptops but failed to spark a resurgence in sales that Intel and many PC manufacturers had hoped for.

Intel’s hefty investment plans reflect its confidence in the future, even as Wall Street worries about the chipmaker’s struggle to gain traction in the mobile market.

“Our core advantage really is our manufacturing leadership,” chief financial officer Stacy Smith told Reuters. “450 will give us a significant cost advantage relative to others.”

Intel is expanding its research fab in Hillsboro, Oregon, to develop technology for manufacturing chips on 450 mm silicon wafers, a complicated step up from the current 300 mm wafer standard.

Larger wafers can translate into big savings because more chips can be etched onto each of them. But building 450 mm plants is expected to be so expensive that only a few industry leaders, including Intel, Samsung Electronics and TSMC, are expected to have the necessary scale.

Some Wall Street analysts gave Intel high marks for expected operating efficiency this year.

“The revenue isn’t going to be there, but the margin and expense control is going to stabilise the bottom line,” said Cody Acree, an analyst at Williams Financial. “I think it’s probably a success if you can be flat in an industry that most people expect to be flat to down.”

Intel foresees first-quarter gross margins of 58 per cent, plus or minus two percentage points. Analysts on average expected gross margins of about 56 per cent for the current quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

It estimated a 2013 gross margin of 60 per cent, plus or minus a few percentage points. Analysts on average had expected 59 per cent.

Net earnings in the December quarter were $US2.5 billion, or 48 cents a share, compared with $US3.4 billion, or 64 cents a share, year-ago period.

Analysts had expected 45 cents, and said the surprisingly strong performance was partly due to a lower effective tax rate of 23 percent. This was below Intel’s forecast of about 27 per cent.

Still, shares of Intel fell 5.6 per cent in after-hours trade to $US21.43, after closing up 2.58 per cent at $US22.68 on the Nasdaq.

“This is a company that is continuing to spend money to participate in the market. That may concern some investors,” said Doug Freedman, an analyst at RBC Capital.

Reuters

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Armstrong wants to compete again

LOS ANGELES:
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Shamed cyclist Lance Armstrong, shorn of cycling’s greatest prizes and expelled from sport, wants to compete again and doesn’t believe he deserved the ‘‘death penalty’’ of a life ban.

‘‘Hell yes, I’m a competitor,’’ Armstrong told talk show host Oprah Winfrey when asked in the second installment of their televised interview on Fridayif he wanted to compete again.

‘‘It’s what I’ve done my whole life. I love to train. I love to race. I love to toe the line,’’ Armstrong said.

‘‘Not the Tour de France, but there’s a lot of other things I could do.

‘‘I made my bed,’’ he said. ‘‘But if there was ever a window, would I like to run the Chicago Marathon when I’m 50? I would love to do that.’’

In the opening segment of the interview shown on Thursday, Armstrong confessed that his record seven Tour de France titles were fuelled by drugs, confirming much of the US Anti-Doping Agency’s findings about his use of blood-boosting EPO, blood doping, cortisone, testosterone and human growth hormone.

Despite that, Armstrong said he believed he should have a chance to return to competition.

‘‘I don’t expect it to happen,’’ he acknowledged.

‘‘Frankly, this may not be the most popular answer, but I think I deserve it,’’ he said, telling Winfrey that former teammates who implicated themselves in testifying against him received lesser punishments.

‘‘I deserve to be punished,’’ Armstrong said. ‘‘I’m not sure that I deserve a death penalty.’’

Thursday’s first installment of the interview was a ratings winner for Winfrey, with its estimated 3.2 million viewers in the United States making it the second-most-watched show ever on her fledgling OWN network.

However, it left many still sceptical of Armstrong’s motives and methods, doubtful that he felt real remorse.

Genuine emotion seeped through on Friday. Armstrong struggled to keep his composure as he described telling his 13-year-old son Luke: ‘‘Don’t defend me anymore’’ when his transgressions caught up with him last year.

‘‘When this all really started, I saw my son defending me and saying, ‘That’s not true. What you’re saying about my dad is not true.’

‘‘That’s when I knew I had to tell him,’’ Armstrong said. ‘‘And he’d never asked me. He’d never said, ’Dad, is this true?’ He trusted me.’’

Armstrong recalled the days in October, after USADA released the report documenting its case against him, that led to his stepping down as chairman of the Livestrong cancer charity he founded and then leaving the board entirely.

‘‘I wouldn’t at all say forced out,’’ Armstrong said.

‘‘I was aware of the pressure.

‘‘It was the best thing for the organisation but it hurt like hell… That was the lowest.’’

He discussed the financial fallout, in particular the stampede of sponsors away from him with sportswear giant Nike in the lead.

‘‘And you could look at the day or those two days or the day and a half where people left. You asked me the cost,’’ he said.

‘‘That was a $75 million day.’’

Armstrong, who told Winfrey he’s in therapy, said he doesn’t know how his story will turn out – perhaps one of the most painful admissions for a man so determined to stay in control.

‘‘I do not know the outcome here,’’ he said. ‘‘And I’m getting comfortable with that.’’

– AFP

Lance Armstrong during the Oprah Winfrey interview.

Cool change eases bushfire crisis

Cooler and calmer weather has helped NSW firefighters strengthen containment lines around troublesome bush and grassfires, enabling warnings to be downgraded across the state.
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At midday today 142 fires were still burning, 29 of them uncontained. But the Rural Fire Service (RFS) said the weather change from the searing temperatures and strong winds of yesterday is in firefighters’ favour, enabling all alerts to be wound back to just advice level by midday today.

This morning there were five watch and act alerts in place, including for the Warrumbungle fire near Coonabarabran in the north, where 51 homes have been destroyed and 54,000 hectares burnt through.

Two homes were lost yesterday in the Millingandi fire in the Bega Valley in the state’s south.

RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers told reporters today the priorities now were to take advantage of the milder weather to reduce the number of fires and find and promptly tackle any new fires.

Today more than 1000 firefighters were battling blazes and reconnaissance flights were checking for new fires sparked by a lightning band that crossed the state yesterday.

An RFS spokesman said just before midday today that no homes were under threat but the Warrumbungle fire could threaten properties if the weather turned unfavourable again.

He said conditions were expected to ease further over coming days with firefighters taking advantage to consolidate and construct containment lines, while hoping for rain.

‘‘It’s pretty much all hands on deck and take advantage of some good weather while we’ve got it.’’

Other fires of concern being targeted were a grassfire near Boorowa in the state’s west, a bushfire at Aberdare near Cessnock in the Hunter Valley and the Deans Gap fire in the Shoalhaven.

Just north of Sydney, about 50 firefighters were battling a blaze in the Ku-ring-Gai Chase National Park which has burnt more than 200 hectares and closed access roads.

The fire was not threatening properties but campers at The Basin camping ground were taken out by ferry and smoke from the blaze was impacting Terrey Hills, the northern beaches and the north shore.

– AAP

Aerial water bombing at a bushfire at Aberdare, near Cessnock, yesterday. Picture: Peter Stoop