Posted on

Germanwings probe questioned

The Germanwings crash investigation shouldn’t set a precedent for future inquiries because it sought to assign blame before the probe was complete, a trade association representing the global airline industry says.

苏州皮肤管理中心

Airlines and aviation safety regulators have long-established procedures for investigating crashes that put correcting safety risks ahead of assigning blame, International Air Transport Association CEO Tony Tyler told reporters on Wednesday.

Investigating with the intent to punish risks a loss of transparency and openness, he said.

French prosecutors revealed within days of the crash that the cockpit voice recording indicated one pilot deliberately flew the plane into a mountainside, killing all 150 people on board.

The subsequent investigation has focused largely on the pilot’s history of depression and procedures at Germanwings and its parent company, Lufthansa, for screening pilots for mental health issues.

“The circumstances of the investigation of the Germanwings accident have been highly unusual, and something that began as an accident investigation morphed into a highly public criminal investigation in which it seemed that every day new revelations were coming out,” Tyler said.

“This is a truly an extraordinary case in many ways, but it shouldn’t set a precedent for the future.”

The Paris prosecutor’s office said last week it was looking into claims that information was wrongly leaked to the media.

The move came after a lawsuit was filed by France’s leading pilots union, SNPL, over leaks about the crash investigation.

The union is claiming a violation of French law about keeping information about investigations secret while they are ongoing.

“I’m not going say that they anyone’s done anything wrong, but the important principle to bear in mind is that accident investigations should be conducted on a non-punitive basis,” Tyler said.

“When you have the possibility of punitive measures resulting from an accident investigation you then start to introduce unhelpful dynamics into the whole process where you risk losing the transparency, the openness” that’s needed “to identify what caused the event”.

Posted on

Maids say Bali boss gave kill order

The maids of an Indonesian woman on trial for plotting the murder of her Australian husband in Bali have testified she ordered him to be killed, not “taken care of” as their former boss claims.

苏州皮肤管理中心

Julaikah Noor Aini, known as Noor Ellis, faces charges of pre-meditated murder over the death of her businessman husband Robert Ellis, whose body was found bound and wrapped in plastic in a rice field last October.

Ellis’ maids, who face the same charges, gave evidence at her trial in Denpasar on Wednesday.

Both said the five men accused of killing Mr Ellis were given orders to kill – despite Ellis’ claims she told them only to “take care of” her husband and end their domestic strife.

The trial has previously heard Ellis met the men in a hut on October 19 to plan the ambush of Mr Ellis at their Sanur villa, where they allegedly slashed his throat in the kitchen.

One of the maids, Marlina Bela Saghu, alias Feli, was on Wednesday asked about evidence she gave police, about a conversation with her boss the week before the crime.

That night, Judge Beslin Sihombing said, Ellis “spilled her heart out” to Feli and asked, “do you have a friend who could kill Mr Bob?”

Feli, 24, didn’t answer the judge, but later when he pressed her on what Ellis asked of the men, she said: “to kill”.

The Ellis’ second maid, Yuliana Bili, alias Yane, also attended the hut meeting.

She said Ellis told her to describe to the five men Mr Ellis’ physical appearance.

Asked by Judge Sihombing what the men were told to do, she said: “to kill Mr Bob”.

Neither woman was in the kitchen at the time of the attack but both told the court they cleaned the blood afterwards – Feli because she was ordered to, and Yane because she was scared.

Ellis, the Australian’s wife of 25 years, could face the death penalty for pre-meditated murder.

The trial continues next Wednesday.

Posted on

Harrington revels in his Masters return

The Irishman has been warmly welcomed by his peers and, following a morale-boosting victory at the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic last month, is excited about his prospects at this week’s opening major of the year.

苏州皮肤管理中心

“It’s like I’m playing my first Masters,” triple major winner Harrington told reporters during his build-up to Thursday’s opening round. “It feels like I didn’t miss one year, it feels like I missed a number of years.

“I’m in decent form so I’m a little bit more excited about going back to the Masters. It’s not like I’m going to have that many more Masters going forward, so I’m running out of time. I’m excited to be back.”

Harrington failed to qualify for last year’s Masters after his ranking tumbled to 174th and it continued to slide before he ended his 2014 campaign 265th.

Victory at the Honda Classic, where he beat American rookie Daniel Berger in a playoff, rocketed Harrington to 82nd in the rankings as he ended a title drought of seven years on the two main tours.

Now that he is back at Augusta National with the rest of the game’s leading players, the 43-year-old Dubliner aims to make the most of his Masters experience accumulated over 14 previous appearances.

“Experience is a very big factor here,” said the Irishman, who won his three majors during a remarkable 14-month span — clinching the 2007 British Open, the 2008 British Open and the 2008 PGA Championship.

“It is tough for anyone who hasn’t played here before. When you are not quite in an ideal position, where do you hit it?”

“There’s not going to be too many surprises.”

Harrington has recorded four top-10s in his 14 consecutive starts at Augusta National, most recently a tie for eighth in 2012.

“I played very well in 2012,” he said. “I hit the golf ball well and I putted a lot worse. Hopefully I’ll putt better this week than I did in 2012.

“Game-wise it was very good in 2012 and I’m hoping it could be every bit as good as that this week, and maybe a little bit stronger mentally.”

(Editing by Larry Fine)

Posted on

Treble-chasing Barca riding high before crucial run

Wednesday’s 4-0 La Liga victory over Almeria, which maintained their four-point advantage over Real Madrid at the top, was a more than satisfactory warm-up for Saturday’s game at fifth-placed Sevilla.

苏州皮肤管理中心

The clash at the Sanchez Pizjuan is followed by the two-legged Champions League quarter-final against Paris St Germain, with a La Liga match at home to fourth-placed Valencia in between.

Barca became the first Spanish side to win a treble of domestic league and Cup and Champions League under Luis Enrique’s former team mate Pep Guardiola in 2008-09 and are well placed to repeat the feat after winning 20 of 22 matches this year.

They will seek a record-extending 27th King’s Cup triumph when they play Athletic Bilbao in the final at their own Nou Camp stadium in late May.

Messi has been on scintillating form in 2015, while Suarez, who scored the winner in last month’s 2-1 La Liga ‘Clasico’ win at home to Real, netted two more on Wednesday.

Forward Neymar has been off colour recently and was rested for the Almeria game along with playmaker Andres Iniesta and centre back Gerard Pique but will surely get back to form soon.

Rather than showing signs of stress, Luis Enrique says he is looking forward to the challenge.

“It’s an attractive phase of the season, I am not sure if it will be the most difficult,” the former Barca and Spain midfielder told a news conference.

“I hope that we can play even more important matches in the Champions League but it will be very attractive for the Sevilla and Valencia games.

“In the Champions League we are putting everything on one card against PSG.”

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

Posted on

Cool nerve key on Masters first 9: Scott

Adam Scott’s nerves used to have him severely under the gun on the opening nine holes of the Masters.

苏州皮肤管理中心

Now, with a green jacket safely tucked away in the Champions locker room, it’s a different story.

Scott completed his preparations for the 2015 Masters with a final trip around the front nine at August National, a collection of holes he has played 22-over-par in his 48 tournament rounds.

While those numbers aren’t great reading, it is worse when you look at just the opening seven, where the Queenslander is 41-over, with the opening hole (+20) his clear weakness.

His first birdies ever on number one, known as Tea Olive, came in the opening rounds over the last two years and as such the 2013 champion feels he’s on the way to handling the problem hole.

“I think a lot of the pressure is taken off when you’ve won it,” world No.6 Scott said with a smile.

“I certainly identified it was a problem and there will be nerves for sure but I’d like to see them calm early and get off to a good start.

“A good start here can really set you up for a great round and one great round can go a long long way at a major.”

Asked how countryman and world No.5 Jason Day might be feeling, given he hasn’t won a green jacket but is a hot tip from many this year, Scott expected nerves would be a factor early.

“This was and is the most nervous I feel at any event I wouldn’t be surprised if Jason is the same,” Scott said.

“Anyone coming in who has not won, it’s a dream to win, and those nerves build and questions are asked the longer it goes on.

“It’s very difficult.”

Day opted to finish his preparation with the social par-three contest, playing with his wife Ellie and two-year-old son Dash as caddies.

He then headed to the range for some last minute fine tuning given he will go out in the final group of the day in the opening round.

“The amount of preparation I’ve put in, I feel really good about it.

“But now it is about going out there and executing the game plan, executing the shots and giving yourself the chance of winning the tournament,” he said.

It is all the old cliches but it is real. I have to stay in the moment. I have to hit the shot that is in front of me.

“It’s exciting because it feels like it has been a long week and I’m looking forward to it because I know from Thursday to Sunday it is going to go quick.”

Posted on

Jack’s ball goes in One Direction for first Augusta ace

Nicklaus has never had a hole-in-one in 163 rounds on the Augusta National competition course, but an ace at the 130-yard fourth was a nice consolation prize.

苏州皮肤管理中心

His shot across the DeSoto Springs Pond landed a few feet beyond the pin, took one hop forward and then put on the breaks and sucked back perfectly and disappeared into the hole.

“I had an interview this morning, and I said ‘well, all I’ve got to do is go out and win the Par-3 and make a hole and one’, and I make a hole in one,” Nicklaus told reporters afterwards.

Alas, that was the highlight of the six-time Masters champion’s day, as he later “choked” and put a ball in the water at the eighth hole.

World number one Rory McIlroy, in the group behind, saw Nicklaus’s ace from the nearby third green.

“I’m fortunate that I get to spend a little time around Jack, and I saw him practising for this day at the Bear’s Club the last couple of weeks down on Florida and he was taking it pretty seriously,” McIlroy said.

There were five aces in all, matching the record from 2002, and Colombian Camilo Villegas made two of them on a steamy afternoon in front of thousands of patrons who packed every nook and cranny on the compact nine-hole layout that is tucked away behind the 10th tee of the main course.

Woods, playing the Par-3 for only the second time, had two caddies – his daughter Sam and son Charlie – while girlfriend Lindsey Vonn swapped her ski suit for a lime green dress as she walked inside the ropes, completing an apparently perfect family outing.

Star sightings were everywhere. McIlroy was out-famed by his caddie, diminutive One Direction boy band member Niall Horan.

Though One Direction’s fan base skews somewhat younger than the average Masters spectator, 21-year-old Horan was widely recognised, according to Morgan Hoffman, who played with McIlroy.

“It was completely crazy,” Hoffman told Reuters.

For the record, American Kevin Streelman won the Par-3 in a playoff with Villegas, thereby disqualifying himself from any chance of winning the tournament proper, if past history is any guide.

No player has ever won the Par-3 and the main tournament in the same year, though that may be a coincidence more than the jinx it has come to be known as.

Streelman’s victory provided a special moment for his caddie, 13-year-old Ethan Couch.

Couch, who has a brain tumour, was invited by Streelman to caddie after they hooked up through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

(Editing by Steve Keating.)

Posted on

French banks ‘set lead’ by rejecting mines

Conservationists are calling on Australia’s banks to follow their French counterparts in refusing to fund proposed coal mines in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

苏州皮肤管理中心

Major French banks BNP Paribas, Societe Generale, and Credit Agricole have written to campaign group Market Forces pledging not to fund the development of the Galilee.

Indian giant Adani has proposed to build the $16.5 billion Carmichael mine in the region and export at least 50 million tonnes of coal a year through the Abbot Point terminal, north of Bowen.

The plans are currently the subject of a legal challenge mounted by conservation group Coast and Country in Queensland’s land court.

The decision of the three French banks is telling, according to Greens Senator Christine Milne.

“These French banks are some of the world’s biggest coal industry lenders and even they can see that investing in the Galilee Basin coal mines is environmentally and financially reckless,” she said on Thursday.

The trio join another eight international banks that have stepped away from the projects, she said.

“This leaves Adani, which is already mortgaged to the hilt, with very few options to finance the Carmichael mine and Abbot Point coal port expansion.”

Greenpeace and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) echoed Ms Milne’s call for Australia’s banks to follow suit.

But Adani had not formally requested any financing from the three institutions and therefore the news had no bearing on the company, a spokesman said.

“Adani’s projects in Queensland comply with the strictest environmental conditions in a world’s best practice environmental approvals framework,” he said.

“The company continues to progress the financing arrangements for its projects in Australia.”

Posted on

Is Foxtel most at risk in the new Game of Screens?

Ben Goldsmith, Queensland University of Technology

In the US, the phenomenon of “cord-cutting”, or “churn” – when a consumer cancels their subscription to a cable or satellite pay television service, often in order to take up cheaper “over the top” services delivered online, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Apple TV – has attracted increasing attention in recent years.

苏州皮肤管理中心

The US launch today of the stand-alone service HBO Now (initially available exclusively via Apple TV boxes) has increased the frenzy of reports on cord-cutting, and proliferated guides to “ditching cable”.

And yet while pay television subscriptions are falling in both the US and Canada, they are falling very slowly. One research firm has reported that the 13 largest US pay-television providers that collectively represent about 95% of the market, lost a total of 125,000 subscribers – or 0.1% of the total – in 2014.

In Canada, the drop in 2013 was even smaller, from 11.514 million to 11.507 million subscribers (or less than 0.1%). Meanwhile, revenues, profit, and employment in the sector all increased.

The Netflix wildcard

In Australia, Foxtel reported in its half-year results ending December 31, 2014 that its subscribers rose by 118,000 to 2.6 million. This rise, while probably due to substantial discounting by Foxtel in the lead-up to the Australian launch of Netflix, more than offset a very high churn rate of just below 11.5%.

Despite Foxtel’s rise in subscriptions, its revenue growth was a weak 1.2% for the half-year, and less than 30% of Australian households currently subscribe to a pay television service. This proportion has risen very slowly over the last decade. In the USA, the equivalent figure is more like 80%.

The “glass half full” take on this, represented by Telstra CEO David Thodey, (Telstra is a part-owner of Foxtel) is that the Australian subscription television/SVOD base is set to rise to approximately 70% in future. Thodey did not predict what proportion Foxtel would command.

At the end of 2014, approximately 40% of American households subscribed to an SVOD service, with Netflix by far the most popular.

In Australia, it has been reported that around 200,000 Australians have previously subscribed to the American Netflix service. Around ten times that number have reportedly indicated that they either already subscribe, or intend to subscribe to the Australian Netflix service. If this latter figure is correct, it is not far off Foxtel’s current subscriber base.

It is of course highly likely that many Foxtel subscribers are also subscribing to Netflix – at least during the latter’s initial first month free promotion. It will be fascinating to see whether Netflix’s numbers fall when this promotion ends.

Substantial price discounting

In November, Foxtel drastically reduced its prices for new subscribers, offering a range of new channel bouquets. In February, through its part-owner Telstra, Foxtel launched a “triple-play” bundle combining subscription television, broadband, and home phone.

And late last month, just as Netflix opened for business in Australia, Foxtel launched its new iQ3 set top box. Unfortunately for Foxtel, the box has been plagued with problems, much to subscribers’ annoyance.

All of these moves reflect the fact that Foxtel is not able to compete with Netflix on price alone. The new SVOD service’s basic offering costs A$8.99 per month, while Foxtel’s cheapest package is A$25 per month, which doesn’t include the new set top box.

Foxtel considers itself much more competitive in terms of content offered. Netflix’s Australian catalogue currently boasts about 1000 films and programs. This is substantially smaller than its offerings in the USA and Canada, leading the chief executive of News Corp (half-owner of Foxtel) to describe the Australian service as “slightly warmed-up leftovers”. This is both disingenuous, given Netflix’s investments in original content, and hypocritical, given some of the programs that fill Foxtel channels’ schedules. And further, takeup of Netflix to date suggests consumers are unconcerned.

Content will be king

Exclusive content is the main battleground, and Game of Thrones is Foxtel’s champion – for the next ten weeks, at least. Two years ago, Foxtel signed a deal with GoT’s producer HBO. This was soon followed by a landmark deal for first-release content with the BBC. And of course Foxtel also has a slew of sports content that Netflix cannot match, for the moment at least.

Neither should it be forgotten that Foxtel has its own VOD service – Foxtel Play – alongside Presto, its SVOD joint venture with Fairfax Media. In theory, Foxtel Play should be Foxtel’s trump card. Along with access to a huge back catalogue, the service also allows subscribers to watch live television online.

But the app that allows access to Foxtel Play on mobile devices – somewhat confusingly called Foxtel Go – is as buggy and unpopular with subscribers as the new iQ3 set top box. And judging by comments on the app’s page in the Appstore, and on Foxtel’s own Foxtel Go Community page, these problems are not new, and Foxtel seems unwilling or unable to do anything about them.

Foxtel has a number of advantages that should help it maintain its business for the time being. First, it has a large and still growing (albeit very slowly) subscriber base, which delivers a very healthy average revenue per user of around $100. However, high churn rates and the issues with some of its services and technologies suggest that subscribers are not all rusted on.

Second, it has an extensive catalogue of exclusive content, including an unmatched offering of sports programming.

Powerful backers

Third, it is an innovator, brokering deals to offer its services through devices such as Microsoft’s XBox and Sony’s Playstation, as well as online. Its set top box technology, in theory, is top of the range, although teething problems have taken a bite out of the iQ3. It offered catch-up services online in advance of most of its competitors, but technological problems persist.

Fourth, it has the backing of two major players in the form of joint owners Telstra and News Corp. Neither of these behemoths are likely to see their offspring go down without a fight, and there are clear indications that they will do all they can to prop it up.

The “triple play” deal leverages Telstra’s market power, with Foxtel also an integral part of Telstra’s T-Box service. And if Megan Brownlow, editor of PwC’s Australian Media and Entertainment Outlook, is correct in arguing that “This will be a marketing war not just a content war”, then News Corp will be an invaluable ally.

Watch this space

There are also several factors that play against Foxtel. First, its overheads are considerably higher than Netflix’s, given the technological infrastructure and support services that Foxtel must maintain.

Second, Australians are increasingly comfortable with VOD services. In research conducted prior to the launch of Netflix, over 50% of Australians surveyed reported regularly watching video online. 50% of those surveyed said that they would watch more content online if they had a faster Internet connection.

It will only be a matter of time before this changes. In its latest Internet Activity survey, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that at the end of 2014, almost 99% of all Internet connections were broadband. Over 70% of broadband subscribers have a service with an advertised download speed above 8Mbps. While many still experience lower speeds, this is still more than sufficient to receive VOD services in Standard Definition.

There may be no ultimate victor in the new Game of Screens. But judging by the contestants’ moves, and by the audiences they are attracting, it will be compulsive viewing for some time to come.

Ben Goldsmith does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

Posted on

Police allegedly find blood, pic of body

Blood and a photo of what’s believed to be a burnt body have allegedly been found by police as a school cleaner prepares to front a NSW court where he’s expected to be charged with the murder of missing Leeton bride-to-be Stephanie Scott.

苏州皮肤管理中心

A 24-year-old man, a cleaner at the local high school, was arrested at his family home in Leeton on Wednesday evening.

Police have allegedly found blood in a car and photos of the body on a mobile phone.

The man, who is understood to have moved to Australia from the Netherlands four years ago, is in police custody and will appear in Griffith Local Court later on Thursday.

Ms Scott, a English and drama teacher at Leeton High School, had been planning her marriage to her childhood sweetheart Aaron Woolley when she went missing on Easter Sunday.

Ms Scott’s body has not been found.

A week before her wedding day she went to her workplace to finalise a handover to a teacher replacing her while she went on honeymoon in Tahiti.

The 26-year-old was due to marry Mr Woolley in Eugowra on Saturday.

The town in southwest NSW, in the heart of the irrigation region, has a population of about 10,000.

Residents are in shock over the death of popular school teacher.

“We were all holding our hopes she’d be found alive and obviously to hear this, this morning, is just absolutely devastating,” said Leeton Shire mayor Paul Maytom.

“It’s devastating for the family and devastating for her fiance and devastating for all friends and our community,” he told Macquarie Radio on Thursday.

Ms Scott’s last known contact was an email she sent after midday on Sunday to a bus company about transporting wedding guests this weekend.

Officers visited a home on Maiden Avenue at about 7.30pm on Wednesday and were speaking to two residents, when a third resident, a 24-year-old man, arrived home.

Police are still searching for Ms Scott’s car, a red Mazda 3 sedan with the NSW registration BZ-19-CD.

Police are also keen to speak to anyone who may have seen an older model, white Toyota Hilux space-cab 2WD with a canopy over the back travelling in Leeton or the surrounding area.

Posted on

Protesters decry South Carolina police shooting

With dozens of demonstrators in North Charleston protesting the fatal shooting there on Saturday of 50-year-old Walter Scott, which was captured on video by a witness, officials held a tense news conference expressing revulsion and appealing for calm.

苏州皮肤管理中心

“I have been praying for peace, peace for the family and peace for this community,” North Charleston Police Chief Eddie Driggers said.

At protest over shooting of #WalterScott, protesters’ signs declare: “Back Turned, Don’t Shoot.” pic.twitter苏州皮肤管理中心,/s0F4h9adPz

— Steven Greenhouse (@greenhousenyt) April 8, 2015

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey told reporters that police officer Michael Slager, 33, had been fired. Summey said the remainder of the police force in North Charleston will soon be equipped with body cameras.

Slager was charged on Tuesday with murder in the death of Scott, the latest among several police shootings of black men over the past year in cities including New York; Ferguson, Missouri; and Cleveland, Ohio. The incidents have stirred debate across the United States about police use of lethal force and race relations, also drawing President Barack Obama into the discussion.

Chief Driggers says his heart goes out to the family of #WalterScott. pic.twitter苏州皮肤管理中心,/A5fcVO0vyj

— Colin Daileda (@ColinDaileda) April 8, 2015

Police said Saturday’s shooting occurred after Slager, who joined the department in 2009, stopped Scott for a broken brake light.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice are investigating Scott’s shooting. Civil rights leaders called for calm, and many people praised the courage of the witness who filmed the killing and gave the video to Scott’s family.

Protesters headed down the city hall stairs. #WalterScott 苏州皮肤管理中心,深圳上门按摩,/VpTdsxeqZf

— Colin Daileda (@ColinDaileda) April 8, 2015

Holding signs that read “The whole world is watching” and “Back turned, don’t shoot,” protesters said Scott’s death should not be viewed as an isolated incident.

The shooting was the 11th involving a police officer in South Carolina this year and the second in North Charleston, said Thom Berry, spokesman for the state’s law enforcement division. No one was injured in the prior incident in the city in January, he said.

The memorial at the spot where #WalterScott was killed. pic.twitter苏州皮肤管理中心,/VONDs9FkXQ

— Colin Daileda (@ColinDaileda) April 8, 2015

The video shows a brief scuffle between the pair before Scott begins to run away. Slager is then seen taking aim with a handgun before shooting eight times at Scott’s back. Scott then slumps facedown onto the grass.

According to a police report, Slager told other officers Scott had taken his stun gun from him.

At no point in the video, which does not show the initial contact between the men, does Scott appear to be armed.

Slager is seen placing the victim in handcuffs as he lies on the ground, and then the officer walks back to a spot near where he opened fire.

The video then shows him appearing to pick something up, return to Scott, and then drop it next to him on the ground.

Related Reading

Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins and Doina Chiacu; Writing and editing by Jonathan Kaminsky and Grant McCool.