Shorten makes case for ETS on world stage

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has warned Australia’s decision to abandon carbon pricing puts it at risk of being isolated on the world stage.

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Mr Shorten made his case for emissions trading during a speech in the United States, where he also urged the Abbott government to make climate change a priority at the G20 summit in November.

The government has copped criticism as host of the global forum for not including climate change in the discussions, opting to focus specifically on economic growth, trade and investment.

Mr Shorten told the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington DC that as an economic, environmental and security issue, climate change well and truly belonged on the G20 agenda.

“Just as global growth, global free trade and multi-national tax avoidance require international consensus, climate change is a global problem that demands a global solution,” he said.

He conceded climate change had been a “politically difficult issue” for Labor but the party had decided the best policy for tackling global warming was an emissions trading scheme.

The combined value of the world’s ETS markets was more than $30 billion, covering almost a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions and economies ranging from Mexico to California and parts of China.

Australia made international headlines earlier in July when the government became the first country in the world to unwind its carbon pricing scheme.

Mr Shorten described the decision as regrettable but said the more serious risk was that Australia would suffer “damaging economic isolation” as the world moved to take collective action on climate change.

“It will not be long before a lack of climate policy is an obstacle to finalising trade deals,” he said.

“In fact, it is entirely possible that trade negotiations will mandate an effective price on carbon to ensure a level trading field.”

SAfrica jails rhino poacher for 77 years

A South African court has jailed a rhino poacher for 77 years, one of the heaviest sentences handed out for the crime as poaching continues to escalate.

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South African national Mandla Chauke was arrested in the iconic Kruger National Park in 2011 after he killed three rhino calves. The vast park has seen the highest number of killings, with 370 rhinos slaughtered since January.

The South African National Parks (SANParks) hailed the sentence, saying it showed that “the courts are keen on stamping out the scourge of poaching”.

“It’s one of the harshest sentences and we hope it will send out a strong message to poachers out there,” said SANParks spokesman Reynold Thakhuli on Wednesday.

This month, two Mozambicans were each jailed for 16 years for killing and dehorning rhino.

They were also caught in Kruger Park.

The vast area, roughly the size of Israel, forms a border with neighbouring Mozambique, a country where many poachers are recruited by international syndicates.

Rhino horns are prized as a status symbol in Asia, where they are falsely believed to possess medicinal properties to cure cancers and hangovers, despite being composed of the same material as fingernails.

A total of 558 rhino have been killed across South Africa since the beginning of the year, according to figures released this month.

Authorities have struggled to catch poachers who use increasingly sophisticated weaponry, such as semi-automatic rifles or poisoned darts.

Though 62 people have been arrested since the start of the year, most of the prosecuted are lower-level gunmen, while kingpins evade detection.

Pakistan unveils new domestic cricket comp

Pakistan’s cricket administration has unveiled a new domestic league revamp, though demands to remove commercial and government department teams from the competition were ignored.

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Pakistan has long suffered from a below-par domestic structure. Many of its cricket heroes, such as Javed Miandad, honed their skills in street games rather than with teams.

The new championship will have two divisions. Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Najam Sethi said that under the new structure regional teams could receive private sponsorship so that they can compete with better-funded government departments and teams run by private companies such as banks.

But former captain and chief selector Aamir Sohail slammed the proposed changes and said the regional teams would struggle to compete financially.

“The PCB don’t know how to administer the game. When regions don’t have full fledged offices and no marketing people they can’t do this,” Sohail said.

Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan has also been a vocal critic of the domestic championship, demanding that commercial organisations be excluded.

The PCB’s director of game development Haroon Rasheed said the new domestic cricket championship would have two first-class divisions.

“The division one tournament will be called ‘Gold league’ comprising six regional and six departmental teams while the division two will be ‘Silver league’ with seven department and as many regional teams,” he said.

Each year, the bottom two teams from division one will be relegated and the two top teams from division two promoted, he added.

Mexico is back on the F1 calendar in 2015

CIE announced to the Mexican stock exchange on Tuesday it has signed a five-year contract to host Formula One races but that the deal was still subject to final negotiations.

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The race will be held at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone earlier told the Forbes magazine website that the deal had been agreed.

“We have got Mexico past the post,” he was quoted as saying.

Forbes said that the plan to revive the race had the backing of a powerful management team, led by two key figures.

One is Tavo Hellmund, the creator of the U.S. Grand Prix and the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, and Soberon, whose CIE company is the world’s third largest live entertainment business.

Team members include Carlos Slim Domit, who sits on the FIA’s decision-making body the Senate, and is the son of Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man.

There are two Mexican drivers currently on the F1 grid, Esteban Gutierrez at Sauber and Force India’s Sergio Perez who have both been bankrolled by Carlos Slim, said Forbes.

The return was originally planned for 2014, but the organisers could not update the track in time.

CIE’s Chief Financial Officer Jaime Zevada told Reuters in a telephone interview that the company would invest $50 million to complete upgrades, which include expanding seating to 120,000.

Zevada said the company could expect to see a profit of about $10 million to $15 million on the investment during the five-year contract.

The circuit, which had hosted grands prix from 1963-70 and 1986-92, is likely to be reconfigured from the layout last used when Nigel Mansell won in 1992.

Changes to the ultra-fast banked right-hander at the end of the lap, Peraltada, and resurfacing to reduce its notorious bumpiness, will be undertaken to comply with FIA regulations.

No date has been fixed for the race.

(Reporting by Tony Goodson and Tomas Sarmiento; Editing by Martyn Herman)

Colourful ceremony opens Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the 20th Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on Wednesday after a moving and colourful ceremony in front of a 40,000 capacity crowd.

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The Games will feature 17 sports across 11 days of competition with more than 4,500 athletes from 71 nations competing, making the event the biggest Scotland has ever hosted.

   

The Queen called on those present to “unite” in difficult times as a minute’s silence was held for the victims of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 flight disaster.

   

Eighty-two of the 298 people who died last week when the plane came down over eastern Ukraine were from Commonwealth nations.

   

The Malaysian team also entered the stadium with their flag at half-mast and wore black armbands.

   

“To you, the Commonwealth athletes, I send my good wishes for success in your endeavours. Your accomplishments over the coming days will encourage us all to strengthen the bonds that unite us,” said the Queen.

   

“You remind us that young people, those under 25 years of age, make up half of our Commonwealth citizens; and it is to you that we entrust our values and our future.

   

“I offer my sincere thanks to the many organisations and volunteers who have worked diligently to bring these Games to fruition, and indeed to the spectators here in the stadium and to the millions watching on television.

   

“Together, you all play a part in strengthening our friendships in this modern and vibrant association of nations.

   

“It now gives me the greatest pleasure to declare the 20th Commonwealth Games open.”

   

A colourful, nearly three-hour long ceremony began with an exuberant sequence depicting the history of Scotland was followed by live performances from world-renowned Scottish singers Rod Stewart and Susan Boyle.

   

The Queen then made her entrance, accompanied by Prince Philip, whilst the RAF Red Arrows performed a colourful flyover past the stadium.

   

Teams from all 71 nations were then paraded, starting with 2010 hosts India and ending with Scotland.

   

Six-time Olympic gold medallist Chris Hoy carried the  Queen’s baton on the final leg of its 100,000 mile journey through all of the Commonwealth nations over the past nine months.

   

There was a brief moment of farce when the President of the Commonwealth Games Federation Prince Tunku Imran couldn’t remove the Queen’s message from the baton.

   

However, once the message was finally removed, the Queen hailed Glasgow’s suitability for a competition often known as the “friendly games.”  

   

“Over the past 288 days the baton has visited all the nations and territories of the Commonwealth, crossing every continent in a journey of more than 100,000 miles.

   

“The baton relay represents a calling together of people from every part of the Commonwealth and serves as a reminder of our shared ideals and ambitions as a diverse, resourceful and cohesive family.

   

“And now, that baton has arrived here in Glasgow, a city renowned for its dynamic cultural and sporting achievements, for the warmth of its people, for this opening ceremony of the friendly games.”

   

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond also welcomed the team athletes and officials to what he described as “Scotland’s scene for 11 days of sport and culture.”

   

“Welcome to the Commonwealth of nations, welcome to Scotland,” he added.

Tartan-tastic ceremony opens Glasgow Games

As the sun set on the hottest day of the year in Scotland’s biggest city, a vibrant display of tartan-clad dancers, pipe bands and kilted entertainers kicked off 11 days of sporting endeavour.

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Famed singers Rod Stewart and Susan Boyle, along with over 3,000 volunteers, helped provide the entertainment for a packed stadium as they welcomed the 6,500 athletes from 71 mostly former British colonies.

The opening ceremony drew to a close after two hours when the Queen’s Baton Relay entered the stadium at the end of its 190,000-km journey around the Commonwealth.

“The baton relay represents a calling together of people from every part of the Commonwealth and serves as a reminder of our shared ideals and ambitions,” said Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, the head of the Commonwealth.

“And now, that baton has arrived here in Glasgow, a city renowned for its dynamic cultural and sporting achievements, for the warmth of its people, for this opening ceremony of the friendly games.”

Scotland is hosting the multi-sport event for the third time after 1970 and 1986, when they were held in Edinburgh, but this edition of the gathering will be the biggest sporting event ever held in the country.

Celtic Park, more usually decked out in green and white of one of the city’s two major football clubs, was awash with the sights, sounds and colours of the Commonwealth as the athletes entered the arena.

India, home to more than half of the people in the Commonwealth, led the parade of nations and each contingent was guided around the stadium by their own Scottish terrier dog.

To honour to the victims of their national airline’s two recent tragedies, Malaysian athletes wore black armbands and carried their nation’s flag at half staff.

The 298 people who died when flight MH17 crashed in Ukraine on July. 17 were also remembered with an impeccably observed minute of silence.

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Images of great athletes from competing nations such as Scotland’s six-time Olympic champion cyclist Chris Hoy and Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar flashed up on a 100-metre wide screen – the largest in Europe – urging spectators to make donations to the charity Unicef.

The biggest cheer of the night came unsurprisingly for the 310 Scottish athletes, who marched into the stadium behind the Cross of St Andrew kitted out in their controversial pastel tartan kilts and shawls.

Malaysia’s Prince Tunku Imran, President of the Commonwealth Games Federation, brought a temporary halt to proceedings and much amusement to the crowd when he struggled to open the baton, which contained the Queen’s speech.

Goodwill was the overriding sentiment of the evening, though, and loud cheers from the crowd greeted the baton’s eventual opening before the British monarch declared the Games open.

“To you, the Commonwealth athlete, I send my good wishes for success in your endeavours,” she said.

“Your accomplishments over the coming days will encourage us all to strengthen the bonds that unite us.”

After an opening night of celebration, the sporting action begins on Thursday with the first gold of the Games up for grabs in the women’s triathlon.

The closing ceremony will be held at Hampden Park on Aug. 3.

(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

Simpsons World will transform the show into delicious, delicious data

It is basically, if you are a Simpsons fan, like finding a coupon for a hundred free Krusty Burgers, and then finding out that they’ll be served to you by Krusty himself.

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It’s like getting a personal concert from Bleeding Gums Murphy. Or riding your skateboard, successfully, over Springfield Gorge. Or finding out that Mr. Burns returns your affection. Or … well, if you are aSimpsons fan, you get the idea. If you were Homer, you’d probably give it a loud “Woohoo!”

The “it” is Simpsons World—a project that will be, from the sound of things, like the ultimate DVD box set for the sitcom that has been the longest-running in American history (and that, as Wikipedia helpfully reminds us, “parodies American culture, society, television, and many aspects of the human condition”). Simpsons World won’t be a DVD set, though. It will be a continuation, basically, of the 12 days’ worth of Simpsons programming that the FXX network, which has exclusive cable rights to the show, will air at the end of August. It will be fully digital.

Simpsons World, Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff reports from a presentation at the Television Critics Association conference today, will be a website. It will be an app. It will be, he declares, “one of the greatest feats of engineering in human history.” 

It won’t, but if you are a Simpsons fan, the project will actually be pretty close. (Woohoo!) Here’s what it will feature, according to VanDerWerff: 

All 552 episodes of the show that have aired to date, which can be watched in any order at any timeClips of episodes A feature sharing Groening’s commentary on certain scenes and elements A feature that points out movie and other references in the showArchival shorts, possibly, from The Tracey Ullman Show that gave rise to The SimpsonsComplete scripts of the show, scrolling alongside the episode as it playsThe ability to share lines from those scripts on Twitter or Facebook or other social media platformsAn episode database A character database that allows users to cross-reference characters with other characters and locations The ability to sort episodes according to particular themes, topics, and charactersOf all of these, it might be the last three—arguably the nerdiest three—that are the most interesting. Because those last three are the databases. (Mmmm,Homer might say, delicious, delicious data.) What Simpsons World seems to be promising is not just the complete series in one place, in its 552-episode entirety, but also a way for viewers to break down that series into its constituent elements: characters, themes, plots, places. Through its interface, fans will be able to break the show down and build it up again, mixing and remixing its repeating gags. They’ll be able to analyze it. They’ll be able to categorize it. They’ll be able to take its genius and turn it into data. And vice versa.  Which is a fairly small thing, but a fairly big one, too. The archival approach to TV shows, after all, has generally made a point of selling the summative. LikeThe Wire? Buy “the complete fifth season.” Like Friday Night Lights? Buy “the complete series.” Even in digital form, on Amazon and iTunes and such, the assumption of the power of completeness has taken hold, a kind of conceptualskeuomorphism that has been based on the promises and the premises of the VHS and the DVD. While, sure, you may get the occasional deleted scenes and blooper reel and director’s commentary in those sets, the real thing you’re buying is a sense of compilation and comprehension. You are, literally, having it all. Simpsons World, on the other hand, is taking the basics of that whole transaction and flipping them. The site-and-app is promising completeness only as a starting point. It is also promising … well, the opposite of completeness. It is promising elementalism. It is breaking down the show—Springfield, and its wacky stories and people and places—into its component parts. It is outlining itself. It is taking what is usually the extremely nerdy work of extremely devoted fans (take this amazing specimen of Arrested Development appreciation) and doing that work itself. What, actually, is a TV show? What can it be? Though the series that, maybe better than any other, “parodies American culture, society, television, and many aspects of the human condition,” we might be about to find out. Woohoo! This article was originally published on The Atlantic. Click here to view the original. © All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.  

McCaw returns to Crusaders line-up for Sharks semi

The All Blacks captain missed the end of the regular season after breaking a rib playing against England in June and returns to reinforce the seven-times champions as they bid to reach an 11th final.

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With Matt Todd in such fine form in McCaw’s usual position of openside flanker, the 33-year-old will play on the other side of the scrum in the number six shirt with Jordan Taufua moving to the bench.

All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter also starts in an unfamiliar position, again lining up at inside centre outside Colin Slade as he continues his return from a six-month sabbatical.

McCaw’s return is one of two changes to the team that beat the Otago Highlanders in the last outing of the regular season with the other coming in the front row where Corey Flynn gets the start at hooker in his 150th game for the Crusaders.

The Crusaders will be looking to avenge their 30-25 home defeat to the Sharks earlier in the season and coach Todd Blackadder is expecting a stiff challenge from Jake White’s team.

“The Sharks have shown this season that they are an extremely classy outfit and a very difficult team to beat,” he said in a media release.

“This is our biggest challenge yet, but we feel ready for it.”

The winners of the match will play the New South Wales Waratahs or ACT Brumbies, who face off in Saturday’s second semi-final in Sydney.

Team:

15-Israel Dagg, 14-Kieron Fonotia, 13-Ryan Crotty, 12-Dan Carter, 11-Nemani Nadolo, 10-Colin Slade, 9-Andy Ellis, 8-Kieran Read (captain), 7-Matt Todd, 6-Richie McCaw, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Dominic Bird, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Corey Flynn, 1-Wyatt Crockett.

Replacements: 16-Ben Funnell, 17-Joe Moody, 18-Nepo Laulala, 19-Jimmy Tupou, 20-Jordan Taufua, 21-Willi Heinz, 22-Tom Taylor, 23-Johnny McNicholl.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Patrick Johnston)

To change attitudes, don’t argue — agree, extremely

Scientists tried this recently and discovered that agreeing with people can be a surprisingly powerful way to shake up strongly held beliefs.

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Researchers found that showing people extreme versions of ideas that confirmed – not contradicted – their opinions on a deeply divisive issue actually caused them to reconsider their stance and become more receptive to other points of view.

The scientists attribute this to the fact that the new information caused people to see their views as irrational or absurd, according to a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We truly believe that in most intractable conflicts, the real problems are not the real issues,” said Eran Halperin, a psychologist at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel and an author of the study. In reality, he said, both sides know what needs to be done; however, there are many “psychological barriers that prevent societies from identifying opportunities for peace.”

To see if tightly held attitudes could be pried loose, the scientists looked to one of the most polarizing issues on the planet, the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that flared again violently last week. People on both sides hold strong beliefs that make compromise difficult, as years of failed negotiations have proved.

“You take people’s most basic beliefs and turn them into something that is absurd,

The scientists, led by Halperin’s graduate students Boaz Hameiri and Roni Porat, recruited more than 150 Israelis and exposed half of them to video clips that related the conflict with Palestinians back to values that many Israelis hold dear. The other half watched neutral TV commercials and served as a control.

But instead of pointing out how the conflict stood at odds with Israeli values _ a common approach in persuasion _ the experimental videos illustrated how the conflict was consistent with many participants’ beliefs, taken to their extreme limit.

“For example, the fact that they are the most moral society in the world is one of the most basic beliefs of Israeli society,” Halperin said. So when the researchers showed participants a video that claimed Israel should continue the conflict so that its citizens could continue to feel moral, people reacted angrily.

“You take people’s most basic beliefs and turn them into something that is absurd,” Halperin said. “For an outsider, it can sound like a joke, but for them, you are playing with their most fundamental belief.”

Although participants did not enjoy watching the clips, after numerous rounds of exposure over a period of months leading up to the 2013 Israeli elections, participants’ attitudes softened considerably; they reported almost a 30 percent increase in their willingness to re-evaluate their position compared with participants in the control group and took a more neutral stance on common political narratives like the idea that Palestinians bear responsibility for continuing the conflict. This shift persisted even a year after the study concluded.

Numerous studies have shown that confronting people with information that challenges their beliefs often has no effect at all

In addition, when the election rolled around, more people exposed to the so-called paradoxical thinking experiment reported voting for moderate parties _ those that favor conciliatory measures like evacuating some Israeli settlements in the West Bank _ suggesting the intervention led not just to changed attitudes, but also to changed behavior.

Traditional approaches for dislodging strongly held attitudes have proved stubbornly ineffective; numerous studies have shown that confronting people with information that challenges their beliefs often has no effect at all, or even strengthens their initial position.

But in this study paradoxical thinking seemed to encourage some people to privately re-evaluate their strongly held beliefs or political narratives, authors said. It may succeed precisely because it sneaks through the psychological security system that protects our deepest beliefs from inconsistent information without tripping the alarm.

The scientists say the method needs further validation in the lab, and they noted several glaring issues that made applying it to real-world situations difficult.

For one, there was the “motivation problem”: How do you get people to watch videos they find disturbing? Outside of a lab setting, nothing would force people to sit through more than one or two clips, which probably wouldn’t produce the same effects found in the study, Halperin said.

There is also a risk of backfire _- some people in the study took the videos at face value, assimilating the extreme messages into their personal beliefs. And, of course, nothing would stop governments or organizations from employing the same technique to promote their own agendas.

In fact, because the people who receive the paradoxical information know nothing about its intended purpose – an integral component to the method’s very success – the approach treads into ethically questionable territory.

“We are not supposed to fool participants,” said Gavriel Salomon, a psychologist at the University of Haifa who was not involved in the study. “But the paradoxical approach is still open to ethical debate.”

Halperin, however, sees paradoxical thinking as a potentially valuable tool for promoting peace.

“You can say it’s a kind of propaganda,” Halperin said, “I just see it differently. We all agree that reducing violence and promoting peace is a good cause.”

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

Distributed by MCT Information Services

MH17: Two fighter jets shot down near crash site, Ukraine says

Two Ukrainian fighter jets shot down in the rebel-held area where Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed were hit by missiles fired from Russian soil, Ukraine’s military said.

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“The rockets were launched from Russian territory,” Kiev’s National Security and Defence Council said in a statement on Wednesday.

The planes came down close to the village of Dmytrivka, some 45 kilometres south-east of the MH17 crash site, towards the Russian border, as they were providing air support for government infantry, the statement said.

The security council added that the Su-25 jets were flying at an altitude of 5200 metres.

Pro-Russian rebels have insisted on several occasions that they were not equipped with weapons capable of hitting targets above an altitude of 2500 metres.

However, a spokesman for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic told AFP its fighters had shot down the two aircraft.

Kiev’s National Security and Defence Council spokesperson, Andriy Lysenko, said Pro-Russian rebels could not have shot down the plane because it was “shot down very professionally”.

“They were shot down very professionally. The terrorists do not have such professionals,” he told Reuters.

Pentagon said it cannot independently confirm downing of two planes.

An AFP crew trying to reach the scene were turned back by rebels who fired shots near their car some 10 kilometres from Dmytrivka.

The press office for Kiev’s military campaign against the insurgents had earlier blamed “pro-Russian bandits” fighting in Ukraine for downing the jets.

The pilots from both jets managed to parachute out, it said, giving no further details about their condition.

The downing of the government jets comes just six days after the insurgents were accused of shooting down the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane using a surface-to-air missile, killing all 298 people on board.

The rebels have denied that they attacked flight MH17 as it flew at some 10,000 metres, accusing the Ukrainian military of being responsible for hitting the jet.

Pro-Russian rebels battling government troops in the east had previously taken out a string of Ukrainian military aircraft during their 15-week insurgency.

Kiev alleged last week that an airforce transport plane was shot down from across the Russian frontier, while another Su-25 jet was gunned down by a Russian plane.

The latest incident came after a ceasefire was declared by both sides in the immediate vicinity of the Boeing 777 crash site, where Malaysian experts and international monitors are examining the airliner’s wreckage.

Earlier, the first 40 bodies recovered from MH17 were flown out of the government-held city of Kharkiv, bound for Eindhoven in the Netherlands.