Anti-terror laws could affect legal aid

The Law Council of Australia says, under new anti-terror laws put forward by the Federal Government, legal-aid clients would no longer be able to choose their lawyers.

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The council says the Government’s proposal, still to be passed by parliament, requires legal-aid lawyers acting on certain cases to pass security clearances first.

The Law Council’s acting president, Bob Gotterson says clients could no longer choose their lawyers in cases relating to national security.

He says clients would be forced to see lawyers approved by federal government security agencies instead.

Mr Gotterson says that would deny them fair hearings and would especially put newly arrived migrants, who often need to access legal-aid services, at a disadvantage.

“If you want to select a lawyer who speaks your native language and, therefore, get your message across much more easily, and that lawyer hasn’t got government approval, under this new system, then you are disadvantaged. What this really amounts to is moving towards a system, at least at the legal-aid level and for cases where there are national-security overtones, a system of state-controlled lawyers.”

Mr Gotterson says the federal government is intent on introducing the new laws, despite opposition from state and territory governments and from the legal profession.

He says the federal government is simply following the lead of the United States on national-security policy, rather than adopting a more independent stance.

“One might venture the view that why this proposal is coming forward is simply to harmonise the provisions that you might find in some other nations, particularly the United States, for example, and to bring Australia into line with that. National security is very important, but, under the existing court processes and disciplinary proceedings, there’s enough there to protect legitimately national-security interests.”

America remembers September 11

In New York, children guided thousands through a tearful September 11 remembrance, held under brilliant blue skies that were reminiscent of the day of the attacks in 2001.

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A total of 200 children, mostly sons and daughters of the dead, read the names of the 2,792 killed at Ground Zero.

While the event was scaled down from the first anniversary, the three-hour ceremony still carried a powerful emotional punch, compounded by the new-found uncertainties of a country at war.

President George W Bush observed the first moment of silence on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington after attending a special church service.

“We remember lives lost. We remember the heroic deeds. We remember the compassion and the decency of our fellow citizens on that terrible day.”

Ceremonies were also held in Washington for the victims at the Defence Department headquarters where a third hijacked jet smashed into the building killing 184 people.

Meanwhile a bell tolled 40 times in a Pennsylvania field where a fourth jet crashed after an uprising by passengers against four al Qaeda hijackers, killing all 40 passengers and crew.

But nationals from 80 countries were killed in the attacks on New York and Washington, and mourning was held around the world.

World leaders also seized upon the anniversary to share the grief of the victims’ families and reaffirm their commitment to fight terrorism.

The danger of further attacks was emphasised by a US State Department warning that al-Qaeda could use the anniversary to stage a new strike “more devastating than the September 11 attack.”

The warning stated the European or Eurasian locations could be targeted “possibly to closely coincide with the anniversary of the September 11 attack”.

Police hunt for Sweden murder suspect

Police in Sweden are searching for a homeless “drifter” with a criminal record in connection with the murder of Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, who was stabbed while out shopping.

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The 32-year-old man is known to use knives as his weapon of choice, two Swedish daily newspapers reported on Friday.

Tributes have been paid to the 46-year-old popular minister and mother-of-two and with national flags flying at half-mast, the Swedish parliament held a moment of silence. There has also been a special cathedral service.

Outside the Stockholm store where she was attacked, people placed flowers on the pavement and stopped to pay respects.

Tributes have also been paid around the world, with international politicians and leaders shocked by the murder of a leading campaigner for the euro.

Ms Lindh was a vocal supporter of the euro currency and there was a question mark over whether Sunday’s referendum would go ahead.

However, Prime Minister Goeran Persson said it would go ahead as planned, because to do anything else would be to give into violence.

A spokesman said initial inquiries suggest the attacker probably acted on the spur of the moment.

Police have said that they are searching for a man of Swedish origin who they described as having a haggard face and heavy build, about 1.80 meters tall.

The Expressen newspaper said police were able to link the 32-year-old man to a set of handprints lifted off an escalator handrail in the NK department store. Police also have information placing the man in central Stockholm hours before the attack, it said.

Comment: Killing sharks is killing coral reefs too

By Mark Meekan, Australian Institute of Marine Science

The growing demand for shark fin as an ingredient in Chinese cuisine has caused an explosion in the number of shark fisheries in recent decades.

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But sharks are important members of ocean food chains, and removing them can have unintended consequences. Our new study, conducted off the coast of northwest Australia, shows that killing sharks isn’t just bad for sharks; it can also harm coral reefs.

What do sharks have to do with coral?

Sharks are apex predators – they live at the top of the food chain. They grow slowly, mature late and have relatively low rates of reproduction. This means that their populations have little resilience to harvest and as a result, over-fishing of sharks has now become a worldwide problem.

Nowhere is immune to this phenomenon, as rising prices for shark fin drive fishermen to search every corner of the oceans to harvest sharks. Coral reefs, once renowned for their abundance of sharks, have been targeted by both legal and illegal fishermen so that today even areas as large and as well-managed as the Great Barrier Reef show alarming signs of diminishing shark populations.

While we recognise this loss is occurring, we still have very little idea of what effect the removal of sharks has on coral reef ecosystems.

This is because in most places, fishing is just one of many processes such as coral bleaching, cyclone damage, attacks by crown of thorns starfish, pollution and eutrophication that can occur simultaneously, all of which alter the structure of the reef in fundamental ways. Disentangling the effects of the loss of sharks from these other influences can be a daunting task.

But a unique combination of circumstances now allows us to test the impact of sharks on coral reefs, on offshore atolls in the remote north-west of Western Australia. Our results are published in open journal PLOS ONE today.

 

Study sites on remote atolls off the NW coast of Australia. Reefs open to Indonesian fishing are shown in the hatched area, reefs closed to all fishing – the Rowley Shoals – are to the south. Mark Meekan

 

For hundreds of years, fishermen from Indonesia travelled south into what are now Australian waters to fish for sharks. This long-standing tradition was recognised when our Exclusive Economic Zone was established; some reefs were set aside so that these fishermen could continue their harvest using traditional methods.

Although traditional, the methods used by Indonesian fishermen are still highly effective at removing reef sharks. Nearby are pristine reefs that are completely protected from fishing. Our decade-long monitoring programs at both these fished and unfished reefs allowed us to compare what happens to reefs with, and without sharks.

The difference between the two is striking. On reefs without sharks, smaller predators (known as “mesopredators”) such as snappers and emperors were many times more abundant.

This phenomenon is called “mesopredator release” in ecology. It’s common wherever top-level predators are removed from food chains both in the ocean and on land. For fishers, having more fish like snappers and emperors might seem like a good thing, but unfortunately the effects of the loss of sharks did not stop at that level in the food chain.

In contrast to the smaller predatory fish, herbivorous or algae-eating fishes (parrotfishes, rabbitfishes and the like) were less abundant on fished reefs. Herbivorous fish are vitally important to coral reefs because they eat algae that otherwise overwhelms young corals, particularly as they recover from disturbances such as cyclones and bleaching.

Given the predicted future of coral reefs under climate change, with more bleaching and cyclones at greater intensity, anything that potentially weakens the ability of reefs to recover is worrying.

We have limited ability to alter the trajectory of our warming climate. At least some of the challenges facing coral reefs are now locked in. But this is not necessarily the case with the loss of reef sharks.

Tracking studies show that in many cases individual reef sharks are closely attached to certain coral reefs, so even relatively small marine protected areas could be an effective way to protect these top-level predators.

Ultimately, this could mean that coral reefs are better able to recover from the serious disturbances they will face in the future.

 

Smaller predatory fish increase when sharks disappear. Peter Verhoog/Dutch Shark Society

 

The Australian Institute of Marine Science received support from Woodside Energy Ltd for the long-term monitoring program that provided the data for this study

Chelsea stunned at home by Basel

Chelsea, beaten in the Premier League by Everton on Saturday, looked short of ideas all night in a stuttering display, though they led 1-0 following a neat finish by Oscar just before halftime.

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The Brazilian hit the bar soon after the restart as Chelsea briefly turned on the style but they were never able to take complete control and Mohamed Salah equalised in the 71st minute.

Swiss champions Basel, beaten by Chelsea in the Europa League semi-finals last season, grew in confidence and completed their smash and grab raid nine minutes from time when captain and centre forward Marco Streller cleverly glanced in a near-post header from a corner.

It was Chelsea’s first home defeat in the Champions League group stage in 30 matches, dating back to a 2-0 loss to Besiktas in October 2003.

“We wanted to win of course but we have to respect a team who showed they have quality and experience,” Mourinho told reporters.

“Basel played very well. We had a lot of the ball but we couldn’t create many chances. In the end we lost three points, we must get them back somewhere.

“Normally you have to win at home and get a few points away Now we must win remaining home games against Schalke and Steaua Bucharest and will probably we will have to go away and win at Basel.”

That could be easier said than done as the team who have won the Swiss title four years in a row played with growing confidence and no little skill.

They were on the back foot for much of the first half as Chelsea gave a debut to 30 million-pound ($47.9 million) signing Willian and a first home start for 20-year-old Marco van Ginkel but although the Londoners dominated possession they were pedestrian and disjointed for most of the first half.

NEAT PASS

A neat pass by the ever-aware Frank Lampard enabled Oscar to give them a flattering halftime lead and their formidable home record in the competition looked safe.

But Basel, who took four points off Manchester United in the Champions League in the 2011-12 season, were always in the game and having survived Chelsea’s best spell it was no real surprise when they levelled after impressive Egyptian Salah played a nice one-two with Streller and curled in a confident low shot.

They went close again through Streller but Chelsea failed to heed the warning and the big forward got in front of Gary Cahill to head the winner nine minutes from time.

Chelsea, European champions in 2012, drew their first home Champions League game last season, 2-2 with Juventus, to set the tone for a scrappy campaign in which they failed to progress to the knockout stage.

“We go home sad, the supporters go home sad but tomorrow we wake up and go training and prepare for the next match,” Mourinho said.

“The only way is to believe in each other stick together and try to get the result against Fulham at the weekend to bring a smile and then try to recover these points we lost today in the next match in the Champions League.”

Basel coach Murat Yakin was delighted to take such a prestigious scalp.

“It’s a great honour for us to win here,” he said. “But we gained a lot of experience from last season’s games (in the Europa League) and we didn’t come here to hide.

“We had to defend a lot in the first half, we were probably too defensive, but we attacked a lot more in the second half and I always felt we looked dangerous.”

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

Lacklustre Milan ride luck to sink Celtic

There was almost nothing in Milan’s dreary display to suggest that they will go any further than last season when they were dispatched by Barcelona after a campaign which featured a home defeat by Zenit St Petersburg and draws with Malaga and Anderlecht.

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With Barcelona and Ajax Amsterdam completing Group H, the seven-times champions might not even get that far this time.

Only Celtic’s lack of composure and belief in the last third of the field prevented the Scottish champions from leaving San Siro with a memorable win against opponents who were barely able to string two passes together.

Milan’s performance was summed up midway through the second half when Mario Balotelli fired a free kick into the Celtic wall and the ball fell to team mate Nigel de Jong, who contrived to lose possession.

Celtic nearly took the lead in the 80h minute when Anthony Stokes’s curling 30-metre free kick bounced off the Milan bar with Christian Abbiati beaten, yet within six minutes found themselves two goals behind.

HARMLESSLY WIDE

Milan got their break when Colombia defender Cristian Zapata’s low shot, which was heading harmlessly wide, was deflected into the net by hapless defender Emilio Izaguirre in the 82nd minute.

Four minutes later, Balotelli, who had been ineffectual all night from free kicks, finally found the target and goalkeeper Fraser Forster parried the ball into the mouth of the goal where Ghana midfielder Muntari headed it over the line.

“We dominated the game for long periods,” Celtic manager Neil Lennon told reporters. “I said to the players that when you are on top you need to take your chances. I thought we were brilliant. Sometimes in football you don’t get what you deserve.”

Milan midfielder Nigel de Jong admitted it was a poor display.

“It was a lucky win but sometimes you need some luck,” said the Dutchman. “I do not think we started off very well. We let Celtic dictate in the first half. It is a very important result.”

Milan, who have taken four points from their opening three league games, were missing injured trio Stephan El Shaarawy, Kaka and Riccardo Montolivo but nearly all their starting line-up had international experience and looked good enough on paper to cruise to a win.

Instead, they were shaky at the back and devoid of creativity in midfielder while Balotelli and new signing Alessandro Matri never struck up an understanding in attack.

Balotelli spent much of the match looking out of sorts and complaining when he was not given free kicks

Milan created a couple of openings in a promising opening 10 minutes but after that were restricted to long-range efforts.

Celtic more than matched them and could have gone ahead when Charlie Mulgrew’s indirect free kick from 10 metres was charged down midway through the first half.

Giorgos Samaras nearly put Celtic ahead early in the second half when he bursts forward and his powerful drive curled away from the post at the last minute.

“At the end, it’s the win that counts,” said Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri, who has spent much of his three years at Milan fighting speculation that he could be dismissed.

“We suffered a bit, especially in the second half…and the goal was a bit lucky, but it was a good win.”

(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Ed Osmond)

(Reporting by Brian Homewood)

IRB does not want Anglo-French breakaway league

English and French clubs announced last week that they planned to set up their own two-tier competitions after running out of patience with stalled negotiations over the future of the Heineken Cup.

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Europe’s two most powerful unions are frustrated by what they see as a qualifying system unfairly weighted in favour of Ireland, Wales and Scotland and want a greater share of the income from the tournament.

Since then both sides have used the media to present their respective cases, each saying the other was acting outside of tournament rules. It is the third major civil war to hit the tournament since it began in 1995/96.

Gosper, the IRB chief executive officer, was in London on Wednesday to promote the rugby World Cup, which begins in England in two years’ time, but instead the Australian found himself answering questions about the Heineken Cup situation.

“Our clear position is we support a full European competition and our desire is it is a bona fide European competition so we are urging all of the constituents of that conversation at the moment to get together and find a resolution because we obviously believe it is in the interests of rugby to have a strong European competition, it’s good for the clubs, it’s good for the (national) unions,” he told reporters.

“Obviously, they are in a negotiation, hopefully they are in a negotiation, some say they are, some say they aren’t.”

PREFERRED OUTCOME

Pressed for the IRB’s preferred outcome, he replied: “We don’t believe in an Anglo-French competition in itself. We don’t think a tournament such as that is in the interest of the game.

“We strongly believe it should be a European competition. That is what we would be supporting and throwing our weight behind. We know there are lots of discussions that are happening and there are different versions of how there have been fall-outs and disagreements. We urge all of those parties to get together and find some common ground because we believe it is in the interests of the game to do so.”

Gosper said the IRB was not getting formally involved in the current negotiations but were talking to both sides privately.

He said that he did not share the fear that this would be the last season of a competition that has attracted huge crowds and terrific TV audiences after producing consistently high-quality and entertaining competition.

“Let’s not get too carried away,” he said. “This is a negotiation where parties are seeking to get more than they had in the past. It is a normal process.

“This is a young professional sport. The international game is growing, the club game is growing. The clubs have businesses to run and the unions have to understand that. The unions are also providing the context through which the players ultimately come through the system, and the one percent of the system the professional players have. It is a partnership of a kind whether we like it or not. People have to realise we have a future together so we have to work it out.

“We’re confident the different parties involved will find some common ground and we’re optimistic there will be an outcome that will be good for rugby.”

(Editing by John Mehaffey)

Six dead as Canada train smashes into bus

Five people died at the scene – including the bus driver, whose remains were so mangled they could not be immediately formally identified – and a sixth in hospital.

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Debris and bloody medical towels lay scattered trackside after emergency services mounted a large-scale rescue in a quiet district on the outskirts of Ottawa.

Hours after the early morning commute turned to tragedy 10 of the 34 people injured in the accident were still in a serious condition.

“We had bodies and debris pretty much everywhere at the impact site,” fire department spokesman Marc Messier told broadcaster CTV earlier.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson later told a news conference the accident had been felt across Canada.

“We lost six of our neighbours, people who started off this bright, sunny day as we all did heading from their homes and loved ones to go about with their daily lives. And then this terrible tragedy struck,” he said.

Ottawa police launched an investigation of the crash in the suburban neighbourhood of Barrhaven, about 17 kilometres south of downtown Ottawa.

The Via Rail company operating the train on the Ottawa-to-Toronto line – on which traffic has been suspended – reported no fatalities. The train was on its way from Montreal.

The OC Transpo bus was headed downtown during the morning rush hour when the accident happened.

At the time, the train was just 30 metres from a nearby station to pick up waiting passengers on one of Canada’s busiest rail corridors.

The front of the bus was mangled and shorn off while the locomotive and four rail cars were derailed by the crash that left parts of the track twisted.

Witnesses recounted panic aboard the bus just seconds before impact, which caused passengers to be thrown from the vehicle.

Several passengers braced themselves just prior to the collision.

Chad Mariage, on his way to work, was seated toward the back of the bus’s second level when the accident happened.

He wasn’t injured, he said, calling himself “one of the lucky ones.”

“The impact was pretty severe,” he said.

People on the bus were screaming just before the accident, he said, adding that the collision “wasn’t a direct hit.”

“We could all see the train coming towards us – almost in slow motion,” he said.

“The bus driver hit the brakes but too late.”

It was not immediately clear what caused the crash, which occurred on a cloudless and sunny autumn day in an area of wide open fields.

Lead investigator Jean Laporte of the Transportation Safety Board said his team was already documenting and photographing the scene of the accident.

They will assess the crossing – which had been upgraded in 2005 after locals voiced safety concerns – and its visibility lines, check signals and warnings and barriers to ensure they were working correctly, and analyse data from train recorder and the bus global positioning system, he said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his condolences via Twitter to the families of those killed.

“Deeply saddened to hear about the bus-train collision in Ottawa this morning,” he tweeted.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those involved.”

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, a member of parliament for the affected district, praised the resiliency of the people of Ottawa in face of tragedy.

“I have no doubt that today, our city will mourn those we’ve lost, and support those in need as we move forward as a city, and as a community,” he said in a statement.

Ottawa flags will be flown at half mast to honour the dead.

The accident happened just over two months after an oil tanker train derailed and exploded in the Quebec resort town of Lac-Megantic, killing 47 people.

US naval shooting: Military missed ‘red flags’

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has acknowledged that authorities missed some “red flags” that might have prevented the deadly mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.

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Hagel made the admission as he announced details of a sweeping security review at all military bases in the aftermath of Monday’s attack that left 13 dead, including the gunman, at a naval installation in the heart of Washington.

“Obviously, when you go back in hindsight and look at all this, there were some red flags, of course there were,” Hagel said.

“And should we have picked them up? Why didn’t we? How could we have? All those questions need to be answered.”

The security review ordered by the Pentagon chief will examine physical security at military posts as well as the procedures for vetting outside contractors.

The security clearances issued by the government are under intense scrutiny after the shooting, as the alleged gunman, Aaron Alexis, had a valid pass as a defense subcontractor to enter the Navy Yard.

Alexis had the pass despite a record of misconduct in the Navy and run-ins with the law, including two shooting incidents and a Rhode Island police report showing he had severe delusions.

The security clearance was granted during his four-year stint as a sailor and remained in force once he left under an honourable discharge, according to the Navy.

Navy officials said none of his behaviour during his time as a naval reservist would have disqualified him for a security clearance, as he had not been convicted in a military or civilian court for a serious crime and his offences were not out of the ordinary.

Meanwhile, Alexis’ mother, Cathleen, has apologised on behalf of her son.

“To the families of the victims, I am so, so very sorry that this has happened. My heart is broken,” she said in a statement that she read from her Brooklyn, New York, home.

“Aaron is now in a place where he can no longer do harm to anyone, and for that am glad.

“I don’t know why he did what he did, and I’m never going to be able to ask him why.”

‘Little doubt’ body found is Aussie killer mum

Allyson McConnell, convicted of drowning her young sons in a bathtub in Canada, was concerned about next month’s appeal lodged by Alberta prosecutors that could have led to her extradition from Australia to serve extra jail time.

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McConnell’s body was reportedly found under a bridge on Wednesday near her home on the NSW Central Coast.

NSW police were yet to confirm the body was the 34-year-old’s, but Peter Royal, the Canadian lawyer who represented McConnell at her trial in Alberta last year said he spoke with McConnell’s mother early on Wednesday morning.

He told Canada’s CBC News there was little doubt the body was McConnell’s as identification papers were found with it.

Royal also said next month’s appeal was weighing on McConnell’s mind.

“I won’t ever forget the evidence she gave in court,” Royal said.

“It was very moving and upsetting. She didn’t see any future and believed she would continue to try to kill herself.”

McConnell had made numerous attempts on her her life, including jumping off a freeway overpass in Alberta in 2010 just hours after drowning her sons, two-year-old Connor and 10-month-old Jayden, in the family home.

At her non-jury trial in Wetaskiwin, a judge found McConnell guilty of manslaughter, not second-degree murder, and sentenced her to six years jail.

With time served credits, she spent just 10 months in the psychiatric ward of Alberta Hospital before being deported to Australia.

McConnell’s former husband, Curtis McConnell, was outraged she received such little jail time and an appeal of the conviction and sentence was scheduled to be heard next month.

Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis had said if prosecutors were successful in increasing McConnell’s sentence via the appeal, the province would attempt to extradite her from Australia to serve any extra jail time.

Ronalee McConnell, Curtis’ sister, issued a brief statement on Wednesday.

“Our thoughts are with Allyson’s family and we send our condolences,” she wrote.

McConnell was working at a Canadian ski resort in 2006 when she met her future husband. They married, lived in Millet, Alberta, about 40km south of Edmonton, and had their two sons, but the relationship deteriorated.

* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 and the Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

Tiger targets sixth win to lock up Player of Year

Though he has not claimed a major title since the 2008 U.

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S. Open, the American world number one feels his 2013 campaign has been one of the most consistent of his career, having included two wins in the prestigious World Golf Championship events.

The top seed in the FedExCup standings going into the PGA Tour season finale, Woods is one of just five players in the field of 30 who would automatically guarantee overall playoff honours and the $10 million bonus with victory this week.

Each of the remaining 25 players has a mathematical chance of claiming both titles but would need several other scenarios to go his way.

“I’m excited to be back here at East Lake,” Woods told reporters on Wednesday before heading out for a practice session ahead of Thursday’s opening round.

“The playoffs have been pretty successful. I’ve gotten to the No. 1 spot coming into the Tour Championship and that’s kind of where I wanted to be, especially having the year I’ve had.

“Winning five times this year has been pretty good, and to have the No. 1 spot, just like the other four guys in the top five, we control our destiny. I’m looking forward to the week and getting started tomorrow.”

Asked how much bearing the season-ending Tour Championship would have on the battle for Player of the Year honours, Woods replied: “This tournament has a lot of value to it.

“There are guys who have won a couple of times but they’ve had major championships in there. I’ve won five times.”

Woods’ main rivals for Player of the Year honours are Masters champion Adam Scott and British Open winner Phil Mickelson, who have both triumphed twice on the PGA Tour this season.

“This week has a lot to do with it,” said Woods, a 14-times major champion. “Up for grabs are the Player of the Year, the Arnold Palmer award (leading money winner), the Vardon Trophy (best scoring average) and all those things.

“The Player of the Year award is something we hold dearly because it’s the respect of our peers. It’s pretty special. I’ve had my years over the course of my career, and hopefully this will be another one.”

BEST SCORING AVERAGE

Woods, who has the best scoring average this season with 68.87, has won PGA Tour Player of the Year honours 10 times and the Vardon Trophy on eight occasions.

Asked whether he felt he had already done enough to secure the Player of the Year accolade with his five-win season, Woods smiled: “Well, I’d like to get a sixth win, how about that?”

The American did not hesitate in his reply when asked if he felt his 2013 campaign had been one of the most consistent of his career.

“I think so,” Woods said. “I won some big events this year, two World Golf Championships, a Players (Championship) … I think that’s been a pretty good year.

“I’m excited the way I’ve put together my last couple of years, coming off the (assorted leg) injuries. A lot of people thought I would never win again, and here we are with some more wins.”

Woods, FedExCup champion in 2007 and 2009, feels very comfortable heading into Thursday’s opening round at East Lake as a twice former winner of the Tour Championship.

“I’ve had a good run here,” he said. “I’ve won twice and finished second four times. That’s not too bad over the course of my career here.

“I have felt comfortable on this golf course. This week’s going to be interesting. We’re going to get some different weather coming in here, and obviously got to make the adjustments.”

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

Scottish independence referendum: Braveheart this is not

The view from Princes street up towards the Royal Mile and Edinburgh castle is one that never fails to inspire.

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The castle is Edinburgh. Imposing on its ramparts, it dominates the city but today it’s the flags around the castle that catch my eye.  The (British) Union Jack stands tall fluttering in Edinburgh’s ever present wind. It is flanked by two smaller flags – Scottish saltires, the national flag of Scotland. The blue and white St Andrews crosses hardly visible, lying limp. The Union Jack standing proud, full of wind. The saltires dwarfed and hesitant.

In many ways the flags are a metaphor for the countries they represent. Scots are a proud people but they have a tendency to be defensive particularly towards the English. Aggressive sometimes. Dismissive often. A nation that believes passionately in itself but one that is ultimately wracked with a healthy degree of self-doubt.

That much can be gleaned from polls conducted in the run up to next year’s referendum. Despite electing the Scottish National party to run the devolved Scottish Parliament, voters are lukewarm about its signature policy.

Only around one third of Scots are currently planning to vote for complete independence. In the eyes of many the Union is not broken and therefore does not need to be fixed.

Scotland forms just under one third of the land mass of Britain but is home to less than 1/10 of the population. It has a peculiarly left of centre political culture and it is the tendency for Scotland to vote left and England to vote right that has brought us to this moment. It is perceived wisdom that Margaret Thatcher’s unique brand of conservatism destroyed the Conservative Party in Scotland  (the party is still reduced to a rump nearly a quarter of a century after she left office), but since then Scotland has been given its own parliament and while many want it to have more powers the majority of Scots are firmly opposed to breaking up the United Kingdom, around 60% according to the polls.

The irony is that if it were to come to fruition it would likely be the death knell for the party supporting it and a life saver for one of the parties opposing it.

The SNP, currently the governing party in the Scottish parliament, would no longer have a reason to exist. And the Scottish Conservative party destroyed by its association with Thatcherism, (now reduced to just one seat in Westminster ) could re-build unburdened by its association with the English conservatives. For in truth many Scots who support independence do so because they want a divorce from English conservatism more than from the English per se.

Scotland the Brave is the unofficial national anthem, but one year out from the vote it does not sum up the mood of the people.  Braveheart this is not.

Watch the video above for the full story.

Click on the audio tab to hear the radio report.

Adam Scott in hunt for Player of Year

Adam Scott admits the $A12.

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3 million on offer for winning the Tour Championship title and FedEx Cup this week would be sensational, but he puts the US PGA Tour’s Player of the Year award on a higher pedestal.

While the $US10 million ($A10.6 million) prize for the winner of the season-long points race on the US tour – the FedEx Cup – is enormous by anyone’s standards, the reality is money isn’t a problematic issue in Scott’s world.

The Australian world No.2 is driven by beating the best and striving to be the best and so he’s excited about the possibility of being voted PGA Tour Player of the Year by his peers should he triumph this week at East Lake Golf Club.

Scott would then have his major win at the Masters, plus two wins in the US tour’s playoffs series at the Barclays and the Tour Championship on his resume, plus the FedEx Cup title, providing a legitimate argument for beating world No.1 Tiger Woods for the award he has won 10 times.

Woods has won five times in 2013, including two World Golf Championships events, but hasn’t won a major, which usually weighted much heavier by the golfing fraternity.

World No.3 Phil Mickelson could also enter the discussion with a victory given he won the Phoenix Open and then claimed the British Open in stunning fashion in July.

“It’s been a great year for sure, but I think this week counts so much for me and how the year will be remembered by myself and others,” Scott said.

“There’s so much to play for. Two trophies here this week and also potentially throwing my name in a Player of the Year debate, which I think is quite a prestigious honour amongst the company that I play golf against.

“I really need to win to even throw my name in the hat there – then it could be possible.”

Scott wouldn’t go as far as saying he felt he’d deserve the honour if he won but, when asked if he’d give his vote to Mickelson should the left-hander win this week, he admitted he would lean that way.

“It would be hard not to give him (Phil) the vote, as then he has three wins with a major and Tiger has five wins and Phil has the FedEx Cup,” he said.

“I think it’s a pretty strong case to say Phil. But if you feel like five wins is more impressive, you can put Tiger.

“I think you’ve got a strong case to argue for both so that’s why it could go any way.”

Woods has always acknowledged the weight of majors and reiterated the prestige associated with winning the Player of the Year title.

“Absolutely, it does (carry huge importance).

The Player of the Year Award is something we hold dearly because it’s the respect of our peers,” Woods said.

“It’s voted on by our peers. Having a year where they think that you were deserving of the player of the year, it’s pretty special.”

The 14-time major winner also admitted the result this week could certainly influence proceedings.

“I think this tournament has a lot of value to it,” he said.

“It’s up for grabs.

“There are guys who have won a couple times but they’ve had major championships in there. I’ve won five times.

“I’ve had my years (winning it) over the course of my career, and hopefully this will be another one.”