Champion Ogier set for Monte Carlo Rally

Sebastien Ogier says he is well prepared and relaxed as he begins his title defence this weekend in Monte Carlo where Korean constructor Hyundai enter the world rally championship (WRC) fray.

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The fabled Monte Carlo Rally is the oldest in the world.

First captured by French pioneering aviator Henri Rougier in 1911, it might have lost some of its lustre over the decades, but it still holds a special place in the hearts of rally enthusiasts.

From Paddy Hopkirk’s win at the wheel of the iconic Mini Cooper S half a century ago, Monte Carlo’s fortunes dipped to such an extent it disappeared from the WRC calendar in 2009, returning in 2012 when it was won by Sebastien Loeb.

Ogier is favourite to kick off 2014 on a winning note.

“Testing and preparations have been running at full throttle since November and we are well prepared to start the new season as defending champions.

“I’m not incapable of making a mistake, but I’m more relaxed than last year because I know that I have a winning car whereas, in 2013, the Polo-R was making its competitive debut.

“I’m approaching the Monte Carlo rally with lots of respect and humility despite all the confidence generated from last season. It’s always held in very tough conditions.”

Volkswagen, Ford and Citroen have a new rival in Hyundai, with rising star Thierry Neuville and experienced Dani Sordi their drivers.

Neuville, second in last season’s championship, spelled out the team’s ambitions for Monte Carlo.

“Our aim is to finish the event and get some good experience and mileage to further develop our car.”

Hyundai team chief Michel Nando added: “We have two very good drivers who have given the whole team a big boost.

“We all know that Thierry can achieve outstanding performance levels despite his young age, while Dani has a lot of experience in the WRC and at Rallye Monte-Carlo. We have a very good mix.”

Ogier’s birthplace of Gap provides the backdrop for the first two days competition, before an overnight stop in Monaco and two runs over the legendary Col de Turini on Saturday’s third and final day.

Ogier is bracing himself for a tough championship defence: “Our main goal is obviously to defend the title. It is never easy to win a title, but successfully defending it is even more difficult.”

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Ogilvy seeks major redemption

After missing his first Masters in eight years and having to watch good friend Adam Scott break the Augusta hoodoo from his couch, 2006 US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy is determined to claw his way back to Magnolia Lane.

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Ogilvy was a poster child for bad luck around Masters invites in 2013, missing at 2012 year-end by one world ranking spot and then again falling outside the mark the week before the tournament with an untimely missed cut.

He’s not out for a repeat dose in 2014.

“Obviously I am targeting the Masters. As it stands, the only major I am in is the US Open and the goal is to get back into all of them, starting with Augusta,” Ogilvy said from Palm Springs where he will continue his quest in the Humana Challenge, his first 2014 start.

“Ever since I knew I wasn’t getting in (the Masters) last year, I have been pretty determined and hell bent on never missing it again. It definitely gets me going on the range and putting green, that’s for sure.

“It would have been really cool to be there as it was a pretty cool Masters for Australia and it was a little bit more sad to miss it given the result.”

To make it back, the 36-year-old will need some big results over the first few months of the year having fallen to 131st in the world, his lowest mark since early 2003.

A win automatically brings a Masters invite while his only other window is to be inside the world top 50 by the week before the April 10-13 tournament.

Ogilvy is confident of a move given tracks like TPC Scottsdale, Torrey Pines and Riviera coming up on the schedule. He lives near Scottsdale, used to live by Torrey and reveres the design of Riviera.

The Victorian worked his tail off to get to Augusta last year, playing 10 of 11 weeks to start the year, but will be more mindful of burnout after falling agonisingly short.

“I’m setting the schedule, both tournaments and practice, with my mind on the Masters but I went a little bit over the top last year and, with my time again, I would have taken a bit of a time off after getting inside the top 50,” he said.

“It is a week to week proposition. Win a tournament and you’re there or accumulate enough points but, to do that, I will have to play better than I have been playing.

“I’ve come back from a true break in Australia with some fresh ideas on little technique things I haven’t appreciated quite enough and I am getting excited to get going.”

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Baby Fed credits Australian coach

Tired of being known as “Baby Fed”, rising tennis star Grigor Dimitrov credits Australian coach Roger Rasheed for finally giving him a grand slam edge.

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The Bulgarian former world No.1 junior takes on Yen-Hsun Lu on Thursday hoping to reach the third round of the Australian Open for the first time.

Dimitrov’s sorry grand slam record extends beyond Melbourne, with the 22-year-old yet to venture beyond the round of 32 at any of the season’s four majors, despite 13 previous attempts.

Lumped with the “Baby Fed” nickname since his junior days because of his Federer-like playing style and obvious talents, Dimitrov is intent on making his own name.

Hence why the 22-year-old boyfriend of Maria Sharapova hired Rasheed – former coach of Lleyton Hewitt and Gael Monfils – last September.

“He’s always been very picky with his players, which shows he means business,” Dimitrov said.

“So it’s a good sign that he’s someone who is going to push me around and we’ll have that mutual respect.

“But at the same time, he’s going to be tough but fair, which I think is important.

“We’ve been together for four months now so we’re a work in progress. There are a lot of things to come and we both believe in it.

“It’s exciting times ahead.”

Dimitrov said the partnership had already yielded dividends, with the world No.22 saying his tough four-set first-round win over American Bradley Klahn was a result of a a gruelling off-season with Rasheed.

“I ran around for around three or four hours and felt alright physically, which helps you lot mentally out there as well,” he said.

“I’m starting to find my way around a bit better in terms of preparing before a grand slam and finding the right to formula to get out there and play a good match.

“It’s our first grand slam together so we talk every day together about little pieces that we can focus on to be better.

“So hopefully with time and of course playing more matches and the experience of being together – and that experience that he had with past players – he can bring something extra and that’s what I’m looking for.”

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Ward’s upset win puts Britain 2-0 up on U.S

Ward let out a deafening scream after ending the match on the red clay surface with an overhead forehand smash, having improved his Davis Cup singles record to 9-5.

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Asked in a courtside interview how he had managed to claw his way back from two sets to one down and trailing 2-4 in the fourth, Ward replied: “I’m not quite sure at the moment.

“In the third (set), I started reading it a little bit better, he was going to my backhand quite a lot on every first serve. So I started to stand back a little bit further to give myself a little more time.”

Ward was delighted to have been brought in by Britain’s Davis Cup captain Leon Smith as the number two player behind the sixth-ranked Murray.

“I think he (Smith) has got confidence in me,” said the 26-year-old, who had upset Querrey 3-6 6-3 6-4 on the grass courts of Queens’ Club in 2011 in their only previous meeting.

“I have played these matches before and I’ve won a few big matches in Russia to get us here. It’s always a proud moment (playing Davis Cup), so when he decided to pick me, it was great news.”

WINNING TONE

Murray had set the expected winning tone against Young in the first match, powering down seven aces and hitting 33 winners to seal victory in one hour 38 minutes against his 79th-ranked opponent.

Though Young came up with 25 winners, 18 of them on his forehand, he piled up 55 unforced errors as Murray improved his Davis Cup record to 17-1 in singles and 20-6 overall.

Querrey then breezed through his opening set against Ward but lost the second on a tiebreak, which was won 7-3 by the Briton after the American blasted a forehand long.

Roared on by the U.S. fans, Querrey stepped up a gear to win the third set and he went up an early break in the fourth before losing serve in the eighth and 10th games as Ward levelled the match.

A fired-up Ward again broke Querrey in the second and fourth games of the fifth set to lead 4-0 before Querrey broke his opponent’s serve on a fortunate net cord to end a run of eight games lost.

However, the American again failed to hold in the sixth game and Ward served out to put his team 2-0 ahead.

In Saturday’s doubles, Americans Bob and Mike Bryan are scheduled to meet Murray and Colin Fleming before the reverse singles are played on Sunday when Querrey comes up against Murray and Young faces Ward.

The United States have won the Davis Cup a record 32 times and Britain will be bidding for their first victory over the Americans in the competition since 1935.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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Rising sea levels prompt relocations in Fiji

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

Rising sea levels have prompted the Fiji government to relocate one of the country’s most vulnerable seaside communities.

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Around 50 families have been relocated to higher ground to escape frequent flooding.

The government says it expects to carry out more relocations within the next decade to help communities adapt to rising sea levels.

Brianna Piazza reports.

(Click on audio tab above to listen to this item)

Until only weeks ago, around 140 people lived in the seaside village of Vunidogoloa, on Fiji’s second biggest island, Vanua Levu.

But rising sea levels have left the community’s 50 families with little choice but to permanently move to higher ground just over two kilometres away.

Locals say rising tides were flowing into the village, damaging houses and destroying crops.

Senior government official Alipate Bolalevu, says more than 600 villages across Fiji have been identified as threatened by rising sea levels.

More than 40 settlements are expected to be relocated within the next 10 years.

Mr Bolalevu says relocating is a difficult decision for people who don’t want to leave their traditional land.

He says it’s also an expensive process, with the Vunidogoloa project costing about 600-thousand dollars.

“It is the first project of its kind in the South Pacific and for Fiji. The most important factor is the will of the people and if they are willing to relocate to another location given their spiritual attachment to their land where their ancestors have lived for some time.”

Mr Bolalevu says those communities that can’t be relocated will receive assistance to help minimise the risk.

This includes constructing sea walls and planting mangroves near the coast to limit erosion, which is compounded by rising sea levels.

Australian volunteer worker Kiri McGrath spent seven months living on Fiji’s Motoriki Island.

She says recent years have brought more frequent floods to the island.

“The island is one of the smaller islands in Fiji with only about 200 people on it. People on the island live off the island and if they do have money it’s from going to the main island to sell their produce or some of them work in the factories. So in the past five years the sea level had moved in by about five metres. It has come right up close to where all the houses are now, so some houses have actually had to be moved inland. If it’s high tide when the kids are going to school their tracks are flooded so they can’t always get to school and people can’t get to the hospital.”

In a report last year, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that sea levels would rise between 26 and 82 centimetres within the next century.

Most of the increase is attributed to the ocean expanding as it warms.

Coastal geomorphologist from Melbourne University Dr David Kennedy says many Pacific Islanders may be forced from their homes because of rising sea levels.

But Dr Kennedy says his own research in Fiji shows some may be able to adapt as sea levels increase.

He says that depending on an island’s foundations, sand can sometimes shift to other parts of an island.

“Some islands with historical sea level rise can actually adjust if there’s enough sediment around to do that. On the flipside, some of the islands may disappear a lot quicker. As we raise sea levels more waves can get across the reef. So some these islands might not necessarily disappear completely but even if you don’t drown you’ll still be losing your house because the island shoreline might be shifting 100 metres somewhere else.”

The aid organisation, Oxfam, warns Pacific Islanders will be among the world’s first people to be displaced due to sea level rise.

Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change project manager Taito Nakalevu says the international community’s failure to reduce carbon emissions is unfairly burdening the Pacific Islands, which are poorer and have fewer resources.

“We need to have another agreement that should take over from the Kyoto Protocol that should be legally binding to ensure there is a reduction in emissions from our developed countries. It’s been way over 20 years now and some countries are going back on their agreements. We as Pacific Islanders need to maintain our countries and we don’t want them under water. We don’t ever want to be climate refugees.”

 

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Syria peace talks end with accusations

Syria’s warring sides have traded barbs over the failure to achieve concrete results at peace talks in Geneva, amid doubts over the regime’s participation in a planned new round in February.

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No ceasefire was agreed, talks on a transitional government never began, and a deal to allow aid into besieged rebel-held areas of the central city of Homs went nowhere.

After a week of closed-door negotiations wrapped up in Geneva, UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said he aimed to get the rival camps back to the table from February 10.

“The delegation of the opposition agreed to this date. That of the government said they needed to consult with Damascus first”, Brahimi told reporters on Friday.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said President Bashar al-Assad and his government would ponder the next step, with the negotiators returning if the public demanded it.

That sparked criticism from key opposition supporter the US.

“The regime continues to play games,” State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said.

Opposition chief Ahmad Jarba confirmed his team would be back, even though sitting down with the regime for the first time since the war erupted in 2011 was like “drinking from a poisoned chalice”.

But he stressed that its presence was conditional on receiving “the means to defend our people on the ground,” according to an official translation of his Arabic speech in Geneva.

“The pace of supporting our revolutionaries is quickening, as you may have heard in recent days,” he said.

Media reports this week alleged that the US Congress had secretly approved funding for weapons deliveries to “moderate” Syrian rebel factions.

Working to rally support, Jarba was scheduled on Tuesday to visit Russia, Assad’s main ally on the global stage.

Before that he was to attend the annual Munich Security Conference, where Brahimi was also scheduled to meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the US and Russian top diplomats.

The regime also struck a combative tone on the last day of the talks.

“Neither in this round, nor in the next will they obtain any concessions from the Syrian delegation,” Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi told applauding pro-regime demonstrators outside the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva where the talks were held.

With the regime accusing the opposition of being the plaything of foreigners, Zohbi said his message was equally destined for Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and anti-Assad politicians in deeply-divided neighbour Lebanon.

Muallem said there were no “tangible results” from the Geneva talks – the biggest international diplomatic push so far to end three years of war – and blamed the rival delegation.

“They acted as if we had wanted to come here for one hour and hand over everything to them… It’s indicative of the illusions that they are living under,” he said.

Jarba rejected that hands down, saying there was no “serious engagement” from a regime that was “walking in its own funeral procession”.

The talks revolved around a roadmap drawn up by world powers in 2012 that called for negotiated political transition in Syria.

The opposition insists that the 2012 plan known as the Geneva Communique requires Assad to step down – something flatly rejected by the regime.

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Palace sign Hennessey and Ledley, Ince joins on loan

Winger Jason Puncheon has also signed on a permanent deal from Southampton having been on loan at Selhurst Park.

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The 27-year-old Hennessey has 41 caps, having made his debut in 2007. Wolves were his only previous club although he was on loan at Championship side Yeovil Town earlier this season.

He was the first signing of the transfer window for Palace, who have moved out of the relegation zone after winning six of their 12 league games under new manager Tony Pulis.

Ledley, 27, joined close to the transfer deadline on a 3-1/2 year deal having won two Scottish Premier League titles and played in the Champions League during 3-1/2 seasons with Celtic.

He began his career at Cardiff City where he made over 250 appearances after his debut in 2004. He joined Celtic as a free agent and scored 30 goals in 153 games in all competitions.

Dann, 26, who has signed a 3-1/2 year deal, played over 100 times for Blackburn and captained the side, having previously had spells with Birmingham City, Coventry City and Walsall.

England under-21 international midfielder Ince, 22 on Thursday, has joined from Blackpool where his father Paul, the former England midfielder, was sacked as manager this month.

Puncheon, 27, has signed a 4-1/2 year deal having been on loan from fellow Premier League side Southampton since August.

Leaving Palace was Spanish midfielder Jose Campana, 20, who moved to German side Nuremburg on loan to the end of the campaign. He had joined from Sevilla in the close season.

(Reporting by Josh Reich and Ken Ferris; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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Rodman offers to take jailed American’s place in North Korea

Rodman, 52, appeared on CNN less than a month after his fourth trip within 12 months to North Korea, where he sang “Happy Birthday” to supreme leader Kim Jong-Un, whom he calls a personal friend.

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He said he felt for the family of Kenneth Bae, 45, a devout Christian tour operator arrested in November 2012 and later sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly importing “inflammatory” material.

   

“I feel for them deeply,” he told CNN’s “New Day” program.

   

“Like I said, I will do anything, literally anything — this is Dennis Rodman talking — if they say, ‘We’ll take Dennis Rodman and let Kenneth Bae go,’ straightaway, take me.

   

“I will do that… I have no problem,” he added.

   

Upon leaving North Korea earlier this month, Rodman prompted outrage when he suggested on the same CNN program that Bae was responsible for his own fate.

   

The player later apologized and blamed alcohol for his remarks.

   

In an email to AFP, Bae’s sister Terri Chung declined to react to Rodman’s latest remarks, saying: “We are going to decline politely from making any comments at this time.”

   

Rodman, who checked into a rehab facility in New Jersey upon his return to the United States, also spoke of his alcoholism, stating: “I’ve always been a party animal (and) the reason I drink is because I’m bored.”

   

Of North Korea’s leader, he said: “I don’t know him as a dictator. With him, he’s a 31-year-old guy and I call him a kid all the time, and yeah, he’s my friend.

   

“I look at him as that because he gave me the opportunity to at least come in to the country of North Korea to bring a basketball team, to show the world, just show the world that we can actually get along,” Rodman added.

   

Kim is reportedly a huge fan of basketball and especially of the Chicago Bulls, with whom Rodman won three NBA titles alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s.

   

Rodman also insisted he was “not a traitor” for paying repeat visits to a country that the United States regards as a major threat to regional security in the Asia-Pacific region.

   

“I’ve never been a traitor,” he said. “I want to make people happy in the world… My intentions are not bad intentions. I want people to understand that.”

   

Bae’s mother and sister attended President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address in Washington on Tuesday, a sign of that the US government is not forgetting his plight.

   

Washington has said it was ready to send its envoy on human rights in North Korea, Robert King, to the reclusive East Asian nation to help bring Bae back to the United States.

   

On January 20, Bae appeared at a press conference in Pyongyang at which he admitted to wrongdoing and appealed to Washington to help secure his release “at the earliest possible date,” Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported.

   

There was no way of knowing if Bae, whose Korean name is Pae Jun-Ho, was speaking under duress.

   

Bae is reported to be suffering serious health problems and to have lost more than 50 pounds (23 kilograms) since being jailed.

   

But at the press conference, Bae claimed he was in normal health after five months of treatment in hospital, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.

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Aussie Jones has share of Phoenix lead

Australia’s Matt Jones fired his second straight six-under 65 on Friday to seize a share of the second-round lead of the Phoenix Open, with countryman Greg Chalmers lurking just two shots behind.

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Jones reached the halfway mark of the tournament at the top of the leaderboard alongside former Masters champion Bubba Watson.

Watson, tied for the lead after a first-round 64, carded a 66 on the par-71 Scottsdale course to maintain a share of the lead on 12-under-par 130.

The leading duo were two strokes in front of Chalmers and Harris English, who both posted second-round 67s.

Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama also shot 67 to join the group sharing fifth place on nine-under 133. He was tied with Americans Pat Perez (68) and Kevin Stadler (68).

Watson, seeking his first victory since his 2012 Masters triumph, had seven birdies but he bogeyed two of his last three holes — the seventh and ninth.

Jones, who has a home nearby and is a local favourite, birdied three of the first four holes and after his only bogey of the day at the ninth added another three birdies at 13, 14 and 15 before capping his round with his seventh birdie of the day at the par-four 18th.

Ten players returned Friday morning to complete their opening rounds, and four players failed to complete the second round before it was suspended by darkness.

Along the way players coped with some gusty winds, and Jones was glad to have his second round completed relatively early before the desert temperatures dropped.

“We definitely got the good side of the draw going early,” he said. “It’s going to be cold and the ball isn’t going as far.”

Watson was pleased with his round, despite his two late bogeys.

“Everything is clicking right now,” he said. “I played really well last week, just didn’t make the putts. This time I’m playing well and some of the putts are dropping.”

South Korea’s Y.E. Yang, who shared the first-round lead with Watson, stumbled to a 73 and fell into a tie for 15th on five-under.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson, who fired a first-round 60 en route to a wire-to-wire triumph here last year, carded a 67 that left him tied for 27th eight shots off the lead.

Mickelson’s title defence was in doubt until Wednesday, after he withdrew from Torrey Pines with a bad back last week.

He said his first-round 71 was due to rust rather than any back trouble, and he felt sharper on Friday.

“I didn’t make too many sloppy swings,” said Mickelson, whose 10 fairways hit in regulation were twice as many as he managed in the first round. “My distance control was back on.

“I don’t know if I’m too far back or not, but on this golf course you can really make some fireworks happen.”

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Missing Ukrainian activist tortured

A leading Ukrainian opposition activist who vanished for eight days has emerged bloodied and badly beaten, saying his captors cut off an ear and drove nails through his hands before dumping him in a forest.

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Dmytro Bulatov, a 35-year-old member of the opposition movement involved in street protests against President Viktor Yanukovych, appeared with his face swollen and caked in blood on Ukrainian television after going missing from Kiev on January 22.

Speaking slowly and visibly shaken by his experience, Bulatov said his unknown captors blindfolded and abused him before dumping him in a forest outside the Ukrainian capital, from where he was able to make his way to a nearby village.

“My hands … they crucified me, nailed me, cut my ear off, cut my face,” Bulatov told Ukraine’s Channel 5 television, still wearing his blood-soaked clothes and pointing to holes on his palms. “Thank God I am alive.”

“I can’t see well now, because I sat in darkness the whole time,” he said, adding that he was unable to see his captors.

Bulatov’s account drew immediate international condemnation, with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton who warned Ukrainian authorities not to target key activists that “must immediately be stopped”.

“I’m appalled by the obvious signs of prolonged torture and cruel treatment” of Bulatov, she said in a statement, calling it another incident in “continuous deliberate targeting of organisers and participants in peaceful protests”.

Amnesty International said the “barbaric act” must be investigated, adding that it is only one of several cases of similar disappearances.

The United Nations’ human rights office on Friday also called on Ukraine to launch an independent probe into deaths, kidnappings and torture amid the raging political unrest.

The US Embassy in Kiev posted a picture of Bulatov with a blackened gash on his cheek and said that “the government of Ukraine must take full responsibility for the timely investigation, capture, and prosecution of those responsible for this heinous crime”.

It further voiced concern over reports of 27 more missing activists, in a statement posted on official Facebook page.

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PM launches campaign for Bill Glasson contesting Rudd’s former seat of Griffith

The former Australian Medical Association President, Bill Glasson, is contesting the byelection for the seat of Griffith, prompted by the retirement of Kevin Rudd.

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Prime Minister Abbott praised Bill Glasson’s dedication.

“He’s not going into the parliament to promote his career or build his ego. He’s going into the parliament to serve our country.

“I have never met a man with better or purer motives for going into parliament in this country.”

Mr Glasson’s told Sky News the byelection is all about local issues.

“The message to the people of Griffith is that this is not a general election. This is a byelection. This is not about Mr Abbott, it’s not about Mr Shorten (federal opposition leader), it’s about Bill Glasson and his Labor opponent.

“And so the day after the byelection next week, you’ll still have Tony Abbott as the Prime Minister, you’ll still have an LNP government but hopefully you’ll have an LNP member for the seat of Griffith.”

Meanwhile, Labor candidate Terri Butler says Bill Glasson might have close ties to the Prime Minister but that won’t help the people of Griffith.

“I know that my LNP opponent is very close friends with Tony Abbott. They’re so close that Tony Abbott’s out talking him up today despite not having been here since the byelection was called on the sixth of January.

“But even though they’re close, he hasn’t been able to change Tony Abbott’s mind, he hasn’t been able to speak out against LNP policies, he hasn’t spoken out against Campbell Newman’s (Queensland Premier) policies, in fact he defended Campbell Newman’s health care cuts.”

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FBI called over Super Bowl ‘hoax’ powder

A suspicious white powder that caused the FBI to scramble to hotels near the scene of Sunday’s Super Bowl appears to have been a hoax threat, police said on Friday.

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FBI agents and police were called to at least five hotels close to the Met Life Stadium in New Jersey, where 80,000 people are expected to watch the Seattle Seahawks battle the Denver Broncos.

The FBI mobilised its joint terrorism task force and hazard materials units in response to the suspicious letters.

The incident raised fears with US law enforcement officials already on a massive security deployment to protect the event, jittery after bomb attacks at the Boston Marathon last year.

But within hours of police receiving the first phone call from panicked hotel staff, who opened the mail to find the powder, local police in Carlstadt said it appeared to have been a hoax.

Although there would be an analysis for final confirmation, investigators tend “to believe at this time that it was a cornstarch-based substance,” said police detective John Cleary.

Police had secured and left the area, although the FBI will be continuing with the investigation, he told AFP.

“It’s looking like it’s just a hoax,” Cleary said.

Officials were tipped off to at least five letters mailed to five hotels close to the sports stadium in East Rutherford.

Use of powder sent through the mail recalls the 2001 anthrax mailings in Washington, which killed five people and injured 17, days after the September 11 terror attacks.

Massive security preparations have been underway for years to protect Sunday’s Super Bowl from any possible threat.

New York Police Department commissioner William Bratton had said work had been aimed at forestalling “lone wolf” threats, such as the deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon in April 2013.

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York, the Big Apple strengthened its police and security apparatus.

“There is a lot of counter-terrorism experience here,” US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson told reporters on Wednesday. “I take a lot of comfort from that.”

The NFL has hired more than 4,000 private personnel to work with a massive security contingent representing 100 agencies that have been preparing for three years for Sunday’s game.

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UN issues NZ 155 human rights tasks

The international community has issued New Zealand more than 150 recommendations to improve its human rights record.

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The recommendations, which come out of a United Nations meeting in Geneva, involve signing international conventions, reducing child poverty, minimising disparity between Maori and other New Zealanders and improving woman’s rights.

However, many of the 193 member nations congratulated New Zealand on its human rights record and progress already made.

Earlier this week, Justice Minister Judith Collins presented the country’s report for the Universal Periodic Review on human rights.

All UN member countries are required to report on their human rights performance every four-and-a-half years.

The government described New Zealand as having a “proud tradition of promoting and protecting human rights at home and overseas”.

The New Zealand delegation was required to answer a number of questions from member nations who considered New Zealand’s progress before posing recommendations.

The 155 recommendations by individual member nations, listed in a draft report released on Saturday, have been presented back to New Zealand.

Ms Collins said the reception New Zealand received in Geneva was “fantastic”.

“The rate of family violence in New Zealand is unacceptable but I’m pleased the Human Rights Council recognises the investment this government is already making to better support and protect victims of domestic violence,” she said.

But the Green Party says the recommendations are “embarrassing” and show New Zealand has lost ground on protecting woman and children.

On Tuesday, the Law Society criticised Ms Collins’ national report for omitting “significant human rights issues in the New Zealand context”.

The society says the parliament’s use of urgency to push through laws and enactment of Bill of Rights-inconsistent legislation are key human rights issues.

Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson hit back at the Law Society, saying the use of urgency is not a human rights issue and the comments show a “wilful ignorance of the facts”.

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