Labor edges ahead of Coalition in polls

Labor has edged ahead of the Coalition in the latest opinion polls, with less than two weeks to go before election day.

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The latest Newspoll and Galaxy polls, published in News Ltd newspapers today, show Labor ahead on a two party preferred basis.

The Newspoll, published in The Australian newspaper, gives Labor a 52-48 lead — up from an even 50-50 result last week.

The Galaxy poll shows Labor on a similar lead — 51 to 49 per cent — while almost half the population thinks Opposition Leader Tony Abbott isn’t ready to become prime minister.

It says 48 per cent of voters don’t believe a coalition led by Mr Abbott is ready to govern, compared to 43 per cent who think it is.

The Galaxy poll shows primary support for the major parties has changed little in the past week, with Labor on 38 per cent and the coalition on 42 per cent, while the Greens remain on 13 per cent.

Newspoll figures also show the coalition has 42 per cent of the primary vote, down two points from last week’s poll.

Labor’s primary vote is 38 per cent — up one percentage point — while the Greens have 13 per cent.

Mr Abbott’s approval rating was down compared with last week’s Newspoll, with 41 per cent satisfied (down three points), 49 per cent dissatisfied (up three points) and 10 per cent uncommitted (steady).

Forty-three per cent of those polled said they were satisfied with Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s performance (up one point since last week), while 41 per cent said they were dissatisfied (up one) and 16 per cent were uncommitted (down two).

Ms Gillard also leads as preferred prime minister with 49 per cent support, 15 points ahead of Mr Abbott on 34 per cent.

The latest Newspoll was conducted by telephone from Friday to Sunday and involved 1712 interviews around Australia.

Speed cameras ’cause erratic driving’

Speed cameras can cause erratic driving by motorists, according to a survey released on Friday.

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As many as 81 per cent of drivers said they looked at their speedometers rather than the road when a camera came into view, the poll by insurance company LV= revealed.

And five per cent admitted to braking suddenly when in sight of speed cameras, risking rear-end shunts.

The poll of 1532 drivers also showed that 31 per cent had witnessed an accident, or a near-miss, as a result of drivers’ erratic behaviour when faced with a camera.

Almost half (46 per cent) of those surveyed reckoned cameras diverted attention away from other areas of their driving, while 11 per cent believed cameras actually increased the risk of an accident.

Also, 46 per cent reckoned they existed only as a revenue raiser for the government.

As many as 91 per cent of those polled confessed to speeding, with 15 per cent exceeding limits on a regular basis and 69 per cent travelling at an average speed of 81 miles an hour on motorways.

Only nine per cent said they never went over the speed limit.

LV= insurance managing director John O’Roarke said speed cameras had been a feature on UK roads for almost 20 years.

“Yet the feedback from drivers is that while they may reduce speed, they also appear to impair driving ability or, at the least, concentration on the road,” O’Roarke said.

“As this report shows, some drivers behave erratically and, at worst, dangerously, around speed cameras.”

He said when driving, it was important to maintain a constant speed within the legal limits on the road.

“Excessive speed contributes to 12 per cent of all injury collisions, and we’d encourage drivers to stick to all speed limits and not wait for a camera to reduce their speed suddenly.”

AA president Edmund King said they believed far more crashes were avoided as a result of cameras than the few that might have been caused by sudden braking.

“Contrary to some perceptions about an alleged ‘war on the motorist’, the majority of drivers accept the use of speed cameras,” King said.

“Our last AA/Populus poll of almost 15,000 drivers showed that 69 per cent accepted the use of cameras.

He said they feared widespread scrapping of cameras may lead to more drivers ignoring the 30mph (50km/h) limits and therefore more crashes.

Britons have beef with cloned cows

British food safety officials have confirmed that meat from the offspring of a cloned cow entered the country’s food chain last year.

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The Food Standards Agency (FSA) made the discovery as it probed a report that milk from the offspring of a cloned cow had been put on sale for public consumption.

As part of this investigation, officials identified two bulls born in Britain from embryos harvested from a cloned cow in the United States, both of which had been slaughtered.

Meat from one had entered the food chain and “will have been eaten” and meat from the other had been prevented from entering the food chain, the FSA said.

The disclosure will heighten concerns among farming campaigners in Britain, where the subject of producing foodstuffs from clones and their offspring is highly controversial.

“The first (bull), Dundee Paratrooper, was born in December 2006 and was slaughtered in July 2009. Meat from this animal entered the food chain and will have been eaten,” an agency spokeswoman said.

“The second, Dundee Perfect, was born in March 2007 and was slaughtered on July 27 2010. Meat from this animal has been stopped from entering the food chain.”

The probe was launched after a report last week in the International Herald Tribune newspaper.

The paper quoted a British dairy farmer, speaking anonymously, saying that he was using milk from a cow bred from a clone as part of his daily production.

The FSA said it had traced a single animal, Dundee Paradise, believed to be part of a dairy herd, but could not confirm that milk from the animal had entered the food chain.

Under European law, foodstuffs, including milk, produced from cloned animals must pass a safety evaluation and gain authorisation before they are marketed.

The FSA, which is responsible for the assessment of “novel foods” produced by cloned animals and their offspring, said it had neither granted any authorisations nor been asked to do so.

Campaigners have voiced concerns about the possibility of produce from cloned farm animals entering the food chain.

Emma Hockridge of the Soil Association, which campaigns for organic farming, said there were concerns related to the safety of products from cloned animals and that they could reduce genetic

diversity.

But Dairy UK, which represents the industry in Britain, has insisted the products present no danger.

“Milk and meat from the offspring of clones does not present any food safety risk,” it said in a statement.

Argentina, Uruguay impress in Copa America warmups

In other matches, Ecuador trounced Panama 4-0 with two goals from Fidel Martinez in Guayaquil, while Radamel Falcao scored the winner in Colombia’s 1-0 victory over Costa Rica in Buenos Aires.

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Paraguay and Honduras drew 2-2 in Asuncion, with former Manchester City striker Roque Santa Cruz getting both Paraguay’s goals.

While Suarez was helping Barcelona win the Champions league title in Berlin, his young understudy Diego Rolan put Uruguay one up after four minutes from Alvaro Pereira’s cross.

Edinson Cavani then added a brace, his first a tap-in after Rolan had hit the post, then a penalty on the half-hour to put the home side 3-0 up at half-time.

Substitutes Giorgian De Arrascaeta and Abel Hernandez increased Uruguay’s lead before Guatemala pulled one back through defender Wilson Lalin 12 minutes from time.

The Uruguayans open their defence of the Copa America title against Jamaica on June 13 and also meet Argentina and Paraguay in Group B.

Suarez is serving a ban of nine international matches in competition after biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup.

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Despite missing Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez, all of whom played in the Champions League final, Argentina found it just as easy against Bolivia.

Di Maria had the opener after 24 minutes with an angled drive from the edge of the box. Aguero got his first four minutes later with a penalty kick and then added another on the half-hour when he clipped home a cross at the near post.

Di Maria slotted home from the spot at 54 minutes and Aguero sealed his hat-trick a minute later.

Ecuador, who are Chile’s opponents in the tournament’s opening match in Santiago on Friday, also ran up a 3-0 lead in the first half against Panama.

Striker Miller Bolanos scored the first from a pass by tricky winger Jefferson Montero after he had beaten two defenders in the box in the 26th minute.

Martinez then scored twice in eight minutes, first from Montero’s pass then with a header from left back Walter Ayovi’s cross.

Seven minutes into the second half, Montero added the fourth for Ecuador, who also meet Mexico and Bolivia in their Copa group.

Colombia captain Falcao settled a more even affair at the Diego Armando Maradona ground in the Argentine capital in the opening minute of the second half, scoring from Juan Cuadrado’s low cross.

(Additional reporting by Alexandra Valencia in Quito, Luis Ampero in Buenos Aires and Daniela Desantis in Asuncion; Writing by Rex Gowar; Editing by Ian Ransom)

Judd to decide on AFL future this week

Carlton champion Chris Judd will decide this week whether to call time on his decorated AFL career after suffering a serious knee injury in Saturday’s loss to Adelaide.

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The dual Brownlow medallist was pretty sure he had ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament as soon as he went down in the first quarter following a marking contest with Crow Patrick Dangerfield – a prognosis later confirmed by medical staff.

“I’ve done a medial ligament before and the feeling was just a bit different to that,” the 31-year-old Judd told Channel Nine on Sunday.

“It was a really sharp pain at the start and after the first 20 seconds, not incredibly painful after that.”

Judd seriously contemplated retirement at the end of the 2014 campaign before signing a further one-year contract.

If he were to undergo a traditional knee reconstruction he would face 12 months on the sidelines.

He did not completely rule out going for a LARS reconstruction that could potentially see him return before the end of the current season – although it shapes as a highly unlikely option.

“It will be based on what the surgeon thinks is likely to deliver the best outcome, so they will be discussions I will have with him,” said Judd.

The young Blues stepped up in Judd’s absence on Saturday, hitting the front in the last quarter and threatening to claim what would only have been their second win of the season, before going down by nine points to Adelaide.

After the match, Blues caretaker coach John Barker stopped short of declaring that Judd’s playing career was over, a decision that will be left to the player.

“The main thing now is just to take a deep breath, sit down and have a chat with the club, have a chat with my family and then make a call some time this week,” said Judd.

The midfielder has played 279 matches for West Coast and Carlton since making his debut with the Eagles back in 2002.

Waratahs secure Super playoff spot

Israel Folau scored three of the NSW Waratahs’ nine tries as the defending champions returned to the top of Super Rugby’s Australian conference and guaranteed a spot in the playoffs with a 58-33 bonus-point win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

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The Waratahs will not finish lower than sixth on the Super Rugby ladder, even if they lose to Queensland in the final round of the regular season next weekend.

Michael Cheika’s side came into the match in South Africa needing a bonus-point win over the 13th-placed Cheetahs to bump the Brumbies from top spot on the Australian conference as they chase a week off and prized home semi-final.

The Waratahs and Brumbies are now locked on 47 points, but NSW lead by virtue of having more wins this season.

It sets up a thrilling last round. The Brumbies get the chance to heap pressure on the Waratahs when they host the Crusaders in Canberra on Saturday afternoon, with NSW to face the Reds later that evening in Sydney.

Of concern for Cheika would be the Waratahs’ scrum, which crumbled a couple of times under pressure from the Cheetahs and that NSW let in five tries and trailed the hapless South Africans twice in the match.

Captain Dave Dennis admitted the Waratahs’ defence needs some work, but overall he was a happy skipper.

“To score 50-odd points away from home is probably a reflection of what we are capable of,” Dennis said.

“It was really positive. Although the Cheetahs have been struggling a bit this year, they are a good team, they showed that by scoring five really good tries.

“I was really proud of the way we kept fighting. We kept playing rugby and got the result in the end.

“We’ve got to shore up the `D’ (defence) a little bit but I’m really proud of the effort.”

Defence was optional in Bloemfontein with five tries inside the opening 20 minutes as both sides went on the attack from the opening whistle.

Folau bagged his first try on four minutes and had a double just before halftime when he scored the Waratahs’ fourth.

Giant NSW winger Taqele Naiyaravoro scored after the halftime siren to give the Waratahs a 29-21 lead at the break with eight tries scored in the opening 40 minutes.

Folau celebrated his hat-trick in the 60th minute which followed tries from Waratahs centre Adam Ashley-Cooper and electrifying Cheetahs winger Cornal Hendricks, who scored his second on 55 minutes after a first-half intercept try.

There was a run a of tries in the final 10 minutes with Bernard Foley crashing over before NSW winger Matthew Carraro and Cheetahs centre Francois Venter celebrated doubles with late five-pointers.

Scott Dixon takes IndyCar race in Texas

New Zealander Scott Dixon has won the Firestone 600 IndyCar race in Texas, winning by 7.

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8 seconds over teammate Tony Kanaan in the fastest race ever at the track.

Dixon led 97 of the 248 laps in a race that had only two cautions on a day to savour for the Kiwi, which was also one to forget for Australia’s Will Power.

After starting the race from pole Power finished a lowly 13th at a track where he has struggled on raceday after historically being strong in qualifying.

After anxiety about how the cars would handle on the high-speed, high-banked Texas track with the new aero kits, especially after three Chevrolets went airborne during practice for the Indianapolis 500, there were no accidents.

Driving the No. 9 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing, Dixon got his 37th career win. The New Zealander also won in 2008 at Texas, which has now hosted 27 IndyCar races.

Team Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya finished third and fourth, respectively. Fifth-place Marco Andretti was the highest-finishing Honda.

After the start of the race was waved off because the field was not properly aligned, the first lap was counted as a caution before taking the green flag the next time at the line.

The only other caution came on lap 84 for debris on the frontstretch.

After the airborne cars at Indianapolis, IndyCar this week mandated the use of closure panels on the rear wheel guards. Those are designed to eliminate lift when an Indy car is traveling backward at a high rate of speed during an accident, and will also be required at California and Pocono.

Ryan Hunter-Reay had the only crash all weekend in Texas, in the first practice Friday when his No. 28 Honda spun and headed backward toward the outside wall. His left rear slammed hard before sliding down the track, but the car never went airborne.

Hunter-Reay finished 18th, seven laps behind Dixon.

There was a big surprise before the race. James Hinchcliffe gave the command for drivers to start their engines on video from his home in Indianapolis, where the driver is recovering after his left leg was pierced in a crash during Indianapolis 500 practice.

Using dancing to get back on their feet

A Brooklyn-based group is helping people with Parkinson’s disease use singing and dancing to keep active.

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Dance for PD is a non-profit collaboration between Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Parkinson Group, which for the past 14 years has offered dance-based workshops to help people living with the condition.

Kay Dunphy has suffered from Parkinson’s disease for the past five years, and she attends the Dance for PD class each week at the Hannaford Centre in the Sydney suburb of Rozelle.

She said dancing has provided her with a greater sense of self-awareness and understanding of her own body and what it can do.

“With Parkinson’s the body wants to shrink up, but these classes get us to open our bodies out and reach out with our arms and legs,” she told SBS.

“I’m much more flexible, and it’s great socially as well. When I initially discovered I had Parkinson’s I felt self-conscious, but coming along with other people with the same symptoms makes it a lot easier.”

Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative brain disorder and is estimated to affect around 80,000 Australians.

In most cases it develops gradually, initially causing tremors and developing over time to in some cases severely affect people’s body control. It can also cause muscle pain, memory issues and soft or slurred speech.

Prior to being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Tom Leung took ballroom dancing classes for around five years.

“By the end of the class they’re moving a little more fluidly and perhaps even smiling – that’s the most gratifying part.”

He attends the same weekly class as Ms Dunphy, and said dancing again has helped him manage the symptoms of his conditions.

“This is the main exercise I do,” he said. “It relaxes my body and helps mobility…walking down the street you don’t fall over so easily.

“You have more confidence in doing a lot of things.”

‘Dance for PD’ is a non-profit collaboration between Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Parkinson Group. For the past 14 years the organisation has offered dance-based workshops designed for people living with Parkinson’s disease. 

Beginning in Brooklyn, Dance for PD classes are now run in major locations internationally.

Sam Black has been a dancer with Mark Morris Dance Group since 2005 and has run Dance for PD classes across the USA for around three years.

He says regularly dancing with people that have Parkinson’s has provided him with a new perspective on dance.

“[The aim is] to try and implant some ideas and some concepts that you can apply to everyday life. So using some of the images that we use in a dance class can help you reach a jar of peanut butter off the shelf or bathe yourself,” he said. “Something that can relate to real world experience.

“We start in circle of chairs, sitting and doing general breath and torso warm-ups to get blood moving. And then we eventually make our way to standing, hold on to the chair and do some basic ballet exercises and we finish class by dancing across the floor.”

Rita Donahue teaches Dance for PD classes with Sam and has been with the Mark Morris Group since 2003.

She said the running the classes is a rewarding alternative to her professional dancing career, and allows her to use her dance knowledge in a socially beneficial way.

“The nature of the disease is that it is degenerative, so people’s conditions do not always improve,” she said. “But often we will see someone who was shuffling into class and then by the end of the class they’re moving a little more fluidly and perhaps even smiling – that’s the most gratifying part.”

The dance group behind Dance for PD, Mark Morris Group, is currently in Australia for a string of performances. While here they are running workshops at the Sydney Opera House for people with Parkinson’s disease.

 

Shouldn’t ‘dump’ terror supporters: Greens

The Australian Greens are worried that terror supporters who’ve been stripped of their citizenship could be dumped in countries where authorities aren’t equipped to deal with them.

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The federal government has proposed legislation to take away the Australian citizenship of dual-nationals if they support groups such as Islamic State.

It would include both people at home and abroad, so long as they’re not left stateless, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton confirmed on Sunday.

“Whether they’re here or they’re offshore, we will strip citizenship from them under this proposal,” he told Channel Ten.

There have been 150 people identified in Australia as supporting fighters in Syria, by fundraising, training and preparing to join them.

Mr Dutton also tried to defend his power to make the decision instead of a court.

“We believe that … it’s a decision for the minister of the day, because we are elected by the people to make these tough decisions,” he said.

Deputy Greens Leader Scott Ludlam said the coalition was offering “half-hatched and half-baked” proposals in an attempt to appear tough.

“One of the perverse consequences … is you’re conceivably dumping really dangerous people in other jurisdictions or in neighbouring countries where police … won’t be as able or as prepared to deal with them,” he told reporters in Perth.

Senator Ludlam said Islamic State doesn’t present an “existential threat” to Australia, but rather a security risk.

“We don’t want to see some of the tactics the government is adopting potentially making things worse by polarising and dividing people rather than uniting the Australian community.”

He called for a more measured debate, arguing prevention, like de-radicalisation programs was more important.

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese reiterated the party’s in principle support to the proposed citizenship changes.

But he insisted it’s right for the opposition to want to see the legislation before giving full support.

“You have this ridiculous position … where it is almost as if some members of the government are trying to say we are more loyal to Australia than others,” he told Sky News.

Apple shows off software updates

Apple’s plans for 2015 are just about to be laid bare as the world’s most valuable company prepares to showcase software updates for its iPhone, iPad and Mac computer line-up,

It will also introduce a music streaming service to rival Spotify.

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The Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), the annual event where the iPhone maker unveils the next version of mobile operating system iOS – iOS 9 this year – as well as the next generation of Mac OS X that runs on the company’s desk and laptops, opens on Monday.

This year however a lot of attention is on how Apple will approach the music streaming business, with the California-based firm expected to announce they are entering the streaming service arena with a revamp of the Beats Music app.

The app came to Apple as part of their acquisition of Dr Dre’s Beats Audio last year, and is now set to power the new service, set to take on Spotify and Jay-Z’s TIDAL platform. There have been rumours musicians such as Drake and Pharrell Williams have curated special playlists to be included in the service.

No details have been confirmed but early reports suggest a STG9.99 ($A19.97) a month subscription-based system will form the backbone of the app.

“Every iOS release is a big deal for Apple fans and that won’t change with iOS 9,” Marc McLaren, technology expert and online editor at Stuff.tv, said.

It’s likely to include features such as vastly improved maps and a split-screen feature for the iPhone 6 Plus and iPads, while also giving us a few clues about the new hardware we’ll see in September.

“We’re even more excited about Apple’s new Beats Music-powered Spotify rival.

Though no major updates are expected to the Apple Watch’s software, there are some reports Apple will debut a new developer tool kit that will enable programmers to build native apps on the Watch.

The firm’s much-maligned mapping service, Apple Maps, could also be set for an update which will include public transport routes for the first time.

The keynote speech from Apple chief Tim Cook begins at 6pm in London on Monday and is being live-streamed online.

Brumbies and Tahs in conference battle

Super Rugby’s playoff sides have been locked in with the top six decided after the penultimate round, but the duel for the Australian conference between the NSW Waratahs and the Brumbies will go down to the wire.

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The playoff teams are runaway competition leaders the Hurricanes, fellow Kiwi sides the Chiefs and Highlanders, the Waratahs, Brumbies and the Stormers, who are the only South African team.

Michael Cheika’s Waratahs scored a nine-tries-to-five 58-33 bonus-point win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Sunday (AEST) to reclaim the Australian conference lead over the Canberra-based Brumbies as they chase a week off and prized home semi-final.

Star fullback Israel Folau scored three tries for the Waratahs who are locked on 47 points with the Brumbies but lead the conference by virtue of having more wins this season.

It sets up a thrilling last round, with the Brumbies having the chance to heap pressure on the Waratahs with a bonus-point win over the Crusaders at home on Saturday afternoon before NSW face Queensland later that evening in Sydney.

“We’ve always had a lot of history with the Reds,” said Waratahs skipper Dave Dennis whose side are second overall on the ladder.

“They’re playing some good rugby at the back end of the season, so we need to recover well and get back to Australia and prepare for that game.”

The Stormers snatched their third South African conference in five years with a 19-all draw against the Lions, while the Chiefs defeated Queensland 24-3 in Will Genia and James Horwill’s final game at Suncorp before continuing their careers overseas.

The Waratahs’ victory over the Cheetahs meant NSW would finish no lower than sixth and also knocked the Crusaders out of playoff contention.

On Friday, the Hurricanes eased past the Highlanders 56-20 before the Brumbies defeated the Western Force 33-20.

Star flanker David Pocock scored his second-hat-trick of tries this season in the victory to set up a big game for the Brumbies next week.

“If you finish third, there’s a fair bit of travel,” said Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham.

“We really need a good performance next week to give ourselves the best chance of getting in the top two.

“We’ve known from the last couple of years you can’t rest here and you can’t just get to the finals and say that’s a good season, we really need a top two finish.

“Next week is going to be a massive game for us.”

Earlier on Saturday, the Crusaders beat the Blues 34-11, and Melbourne ended South African visitors the Bulls’ playoff hopes with a 21-20 win in Victoria.

China pledges to end ivory trading but says United States should, too

China has pledged to end the processing and sale of ivory, a move that — if fulfilled — would be a major victory in the battle to end the slaughter of tens of thousands of African elephants by poachers every year.

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But it has not said how quickly it will act, and a top Chinese official called on the United States in an interview this week to also tighten its rules on ivory trading.

Wildlife experts said China’s recent announcement represented a sea change in official attitudes and called the prospect of an end to the legal trade in ivory in this country the greatest step that can be taken to reduce poaching. But they added that much would depend on when China acts, and how firmly.

China’s legal trade in ivory products — largely based on a stockpile imported in 2009 — provides the cover for a vast illegal trade that fuels poaching in Africa and involves global crime syndicates, experts say.

“His attitude is very firm, his point is very clear. It is not simply a sentence; China will really put this into practice.”

In an interview, a top Chinese wildlife official said his country was still deciding how far and how quickly it would act, but added that China could not be expected to act alone. Meng Xianlin, China’s top representative to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) said that other countries — including the United States — also need to toughen their regulations.

“Some people say, ‘China should take the leadership, you first, you stop everything and other countries will follow,’ ” he said. “I understand, but I think we should negotiate with other countries to push these procedures gradually.”

On May 29, China destroyed nearly 1,500 pounds of tusks and ivory carvings in a public ceremony in Beijing, after similar events in southern China and Hong Kong last year.

In a speech, Zhao Shucong, minister in charge of the State Forestry Administration, surprised assembled diplomats and environmentalists by announcing that China would “strictly control the ivory trade and processing, until eventually halting commercial processing and the sale of ivory and its products.”

The remarks prompted intense discussions within the wildlife conservation community, with enthusiasm mixed with disbelief. China had long argued that ivory carving was part of its ancient cultural heritage. Was it serious about closing its network of carving workshops, advocates wondered, or would it call a halt only when its existing stockpile was depleted?

Meng said there was a commitment at the highest levels of the Chinese government to build an “ecological civilization,” citing one of the many slogans of President Xi Jinping’s government. Now the principle has been established, he said, and it is just a matter of pushing the procedure.

“We participated in several rounds of discussion with our minister,” he said, referring to Zhao. “His attitude is very firm, his point is very clear. It is not simply a sentence; China will really put this into practice.”

Although stricter enforcement has helped reduce poaching and populations are growing in some nations, Tanzania and Mozambique have each lost half or more of their elephants in the past five years.

Wildlife groups have been campaigning for years to hear those words. A ban on the legal ivory trade in China would make it much easier to stamp out the illegal trade, they say.

“Ending the legal sales of ivory is the greatest single step that can be taken to reduce elephant poaching in Africa, and we hope it can happen as soon as possible,” said Peter Knights of WildAid, a San Francisco-based group that encourages Chinese people not to consume endangered wildlife products. “We applaud the Chinese government for its leadership.”

Cristian Samper, president of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, said Meng’s remarks should be “broadcast around the world, and should put all poachers on notice that their bloody market is no longer viable.”

“There is clearly a senior level of commitment from the Chinese government to stop the ivory industry in China,” he said. “Now, Chinese government agencies responsible for regulating and managing the ivory issue will need to develop a plan and a timeline to implement this decision. And people from all nations need to stop buying ivory.”

China imported 62 tons of ivory in 2008 at a time when elephant numbers were relatively healthy and limited international trade was allowed. It has been releasing that stockpile gradually to more than 30 licensed workshops to be carved into ivory products but refuses to say how much of the stockpile remains.

Meanwhile, poor enforcement of the licensing system allows the widespread sale of products made from poached ivory, fueling the slaughter. The African elephant population has fallen from more than 1 million in 1989 to about half a million now, with more than 20,000 animals estimated to have been killed for their tusks in each of the past two years.

Although stricter enforcement has helped reduce poaching and populations are growing in some nations, Tanzania and Mozambique have each lost half or more of their elephants in the past five years. There have also been big declines in forest elephant populations in central Africa.

“It’s up to us to change the laws — and actually enforce them — before it’s too late.”

Meng said the government is selling five tons of ivory a year to carving workshops but would “gradually” reduce that annual quota to zero. He said a total ban on ivory processing and sales could come “very quickly,” but then added: “One year, two years, three years, four years, 10 years. Is that quick or not quick compared to the history of the world?”

There is a precedent: Rhinoceros horn had been used in traditional Chinese medicine, but its use was banned in China in 1993 and it is hard to find here now.

Attitudes are also changing, with demand for shark fin soup sharply lower here in recent years. Meng said his son, and the younger generation in general, no longer wants to eat endangered wildlife products. WildAid says that 95 percent of people surveyed in China’s three largest cities now support a ban on ivory trading.

But Meng said China should not be the only country to act.

The United States is the second-largest market globally for illegal wildlife products after China, and it still allows trade in ivory acquired before a worldwide ban in 1989. Trophy hunters, Meng pointed out, are also allowed to import ivory into the United States for non-commercial use; Europeans still trade in ivory acquired in colonial times, while some African countries encourage trophy hunting for income.

In 2014, President Barack Obama ordered a tightening of the rules on ivory trading, while New York and New Jersey have both passed laws outlawing it. But the administration has failed to reach its ultimate goal of a national ban. The National Rifle Association’s support for trophy hunting and for trade in guns with ivory-inlaid stocks remains a barrier, environmentalists say.

“China’s announcement puts the ball back in our court,” Peter LaFontaine, a campaigns officer at the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Washington, wrote in a blog post. “The U.S. must lead by example to show we will not be an active player in the devastation and eventual extinction of such a majestic and intelligent species.

“It’s up to us to change the laws — and actually enforce them — before it’s too late.”

Washington Post correspondents Xu Jing and Liu Liu contributed to this report.

© The Washington Post 2015

 

Netherlands beat New Zealand 1-0 in World Cup debut

 

Playing in their fourth World Cup, New Zealand were again denied a maiden victory when Lieke Martens’ 33rd minute curling strike from outside the area sailed past the outstretched arms of Erin Nayler.

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“It was just one bit of brilliance from a player that we knew was capable of that, that made the difference,” New Zealand coach Tony Readings told reporters.

“We challenged ourselves as a team that we had another couple of gears to go up. We played OK in the first half but OK isn’t good enough in the World Cup.

“When we do up the ante and play to the pace we are capable of we can out-perform teams in this tournament.

“It’s a good lesson for us.”

Considered the tournament dark horse by many, New Zealand stormed through qualifying, outscoring opponents 30-0, but failed to test Dutch keeper Loes Geurts despite enjoying the better of the play.

Scoring goals has become a major problem for the Ferns who have now failed to find the back of net in their last four contests against Spain, United States, Japan and the Netherlands.

“We need to make our opportunities count because when you get to these tournaments it’s not just about putting in a good performance it’s about putting in a good performance and win games or take points,” Readings added.

The win moved the Netherlands to the top of Group A alongside Canada who opened the tournament with a 1-0 win over China.

Next up for the Dutch are China while New Zealand will face Canada.

“We’re very happy we could start this way,” said Netherlands coach Roger Reijners. “Everyone was very excited to be here but we know what we want.”

 

(Editing by Ian Ransom)