Month: August 2019

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.”

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.

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.”

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.

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”.