Coleman Medal lead special for Sun Lynch

Scoring goals this season at twice the rate of his AFL career so far, Gold Coast forward Tom Lynch admits his early Coleman Medal lead gives him pride.

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The Suns’ vice-captain’s five-goal haul in last weekend’s loss to Queensland rivals Brisbane took him to 18 goals in just four games, well above his career average of 1.69 per game.

Lynch is two majors ahead of Sydney’s Lance Franklin and North Melbourne’s Jarrad Waite in the goalkickers’ standings.

While the season is only four matches old, Lynch says it is nice to have his name at the top of the charts.

“Obviously, it’s a bit of personal pride that I’m sitting on top of the Coleman,” Lynch told AAP.

“It’s nice but, at the end of the day, it’s about team results.”

Lynch’s 46-goal haul in 2014 is the best by a player in a season for the Suns.

In 2015, Lynch managed 43 goals for the club, but is already almost halfway to matching those totals.

The 23-year-old hasn’t kicked less than four goals in a match this year, a consistency he says has to do with increased fitness and the emergence of teammates such as Jack Martin as genuine goal threats.

“We’re not relying on one player to go out there,” Lynch said.

“Obviously, consistency in my performance but it’s not all about kicking goals.

“Our forward line’s been working really well so far – we’re working well as a group.”

Lynch will again be crucial for the Suns this weekend when they host fellow sharpshooter Waite and the unbeaten Kangaroos.

Last weekend’s loss to the Lions brought the Suns back to earth after opening the season with three straight wins, but Lynch said it was important he and his teammates didn’t dwell on that Gabba defeat.

“We’ve just got to get back on to what we were doing in the first three games as opposed to last weekend,” he said.

At least 200 drown as boat carrying Somali migrants capsizes

Somalia’s government says about 200 or more Somalis may have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to cross illegally to Europe, many of them teenagers, when the boat they were on capsized after leaving the Egyptian shore.

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“We have no fixed number but it is between 200 and 300 Somalis,” Somali Information Minister Mohamed Abdi Hayir told Reuters.

He did not give a precise timing for the incident.

Another Somali government statement, which offered condolences, also put the number at nearly 200.

“There is no clear number since they are not travelling legally,” the minister said, adding that he understood the boat might have been carrying about 500 people, of which 200 to 300 were Somalis “and most of them had died.”

Egyptian, Italian and Greek officials were unable to confirm the numbers.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella had said earlier on Monday that several hundred people appeared to have died in the tragedy but added his government were unable to confirm the deaths.

In a tweet UNHCR Central Europe said claims of hundreds of deaths appear inaccurate with the fact that the boat capsized at night in open sea contributing to the lack of availability of clear information.

 

Information on boat disaster killing 400+ #refugees at Mediterranian appears inaccurate 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/OGg3g7TUjz pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/Cfs0PLzlkh

— UNHCR Central Europe (@RefugeesCE) 18 April 2016

A UN refugee agency official told Swiss broadcaster SRF he knew of 40 survivors from what appeared to be the same incident.

“We know there are 40 survivors and that as many as 460 people may have been on the boat who sailed from Egypt,” the UNHCR’s Beat Schuler told the broadcaster in what it said was a report from Malta.

More than 1.2 million African, Arab and Asian migrants have streamed into the European Union since the start of last year, many of them setting off from North Africa in rickety boats that are packed full of people and which struggle in choppy seas.

One year ago, an estimated 800 migrants drowned off the Libyan coast when the fishing boat they were travelling in collided with a mercantile vessel that was attempting to rescue them – the most deadly Mediterranean shipwreck in decades.

– with Reuters

Secret Vic lab growing medicinal cannabis

A secret Victorian laboratory is successfully growing medicinal cannabis ahead of the drug being made legally available in 2017.

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Victoria will be the first state to roll out medicinal cannabis early next year with hundreds of eligible children to access the product.

The cannabis is being grown in a clandestine indoor laboratory somewhere in Victoria.

“It’s very secure, there are very few people who know the location, and I’m not going to be drawn on that at all,” Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford told reporters on Tuesday.

Ms Pulford said the seeds had germinated and Victoria was growing three crops with different medicinal properties.

The first roll-out will be for children with severe epilepsy – but future versions of the drug will be used to treat MS, HIV/AIDS and cancer.

Ms Pulford said Victoria could supply other states if it developed a large enough supply.

Premier Daniel Andrews says $11.8 million will be available through a hardship fund for families who might struggle with the cost.

“We want to keep the cost down, and we also know and understand that many families face hardship, so a hardship fund will help them,” he said.

Mr Andrews believes cannabis could eventually be listed on the federal Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) which provides subsidised drugs.

“If you can demonstrate you’ve grown, manufactured and dispensed a safe product, the efficacy of which is clear, the therapeutic benefits of which are clear, then there is all sorts of opportunities for us to speak to the Commonwealth about the PBS,” he said.

As part of an overall $28.5 million package, Victoria will establish the Office of Medicinal Cannabis, which will be responsible for clinical and manufacturing oversight.

It will also work with doctors and pharmacists to help them understand their role in prescribing the drug.

Vietnamese refugee wins Pulitzer Prize for fiction

Vietnamese refugee and professor at the University of Southern California, Viet Thanh Nguyen, has been awarded this year’s Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his debut novel ‘The Sympathiser’.

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Nguyen’s book tells the story of a double-agent from South Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam War, who moves to California and ends up finding himself on the film set of a war thriller. But the protagonist remains unnamed throughout the book, highlighting the psychological journey the character takes.

Nguyen, who was born in Buon Me Thuot, Vietnam and arrived in the United States in 1975 as a political refugee, describes the book as a confessional.

“The book is confession from one Vietnamese person to another,” he told the LA Times. “It was always designed to be addressed to Vietnamese people; anyone else who’s reading they are not the intended audience, at least not in the novel. I thought I was writing the book for myself, but to reach a larger audience it would have to speak to multiple audiences. From the feedback I’ve received, they’ve responded very positively to the book too.” 

Nguyen sited former Pulitzer prize-winning author, Jhumpa Lahiri, who won in 2000 for Indian migrant novel ‘The Namesake’, as significant to him. He also shared how he felt it was important for literature to reflect cultural and racial diversity.

“We are a Pacific-facing country as much as an Atlantic-facing one,” Nguyen said. “Literary culture needs to recognize that diversity.”

Responses to Nguyen’s winning novel have been positive, with many migrants and refugees connecting deeply with the story. 

Congrats @Viet_T_Nguyen! As a Vietnamese refugee myself, I’m so proud. Win 4 literary social justice. 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/x5r7abgcx3 @PulitzerPrize

— Thuy Vu (@thuy) April 19, 2016Viet Nguyen won the #Pulitzer for fiction – an earth shattering moment for Vietnamese American #literature 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/tP90Cqlaz7

— Andrew Lam (@andrewqlam) April 18, 2016Here is Mike Dohetry on Pulitzer Prize winner @viet_t_nguyen ‘s The Sympathizer 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/FuWFvHCoJt pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/5z8k3k9qfg

— Alexander Quon (@AlexanderQuon) April 19, 2016

Nguyen is currently working on a sequel to ‘The Sympathiser’. 

Last month, Nguyen released another book, a non-fiction work titled “Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War”.

Confidence rebounds on strong jobs data

Australia’s strong labour market and improving business conditions have helped lift consumer confidence.

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The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index rose 3.4 per cent last week, after falling nearly 4.0 per cent over the previous four weeks.

ANZ’s head of Australian economics Felicity Emmett said last week’s official figures showing the unemployment rate fell to 5.7 per cent in March likely sparked the rebound.

“The jobless rate is now at the lowest level in over two years, and we anticipate conditions will remain solid in the near term,” she said in a statement.

“The strength in business conditions, which are now back at their highest levels since the GFC (global financial crisis), points to a solid labour market in the near term.”

Consumers’ views of the economy over the next 12 months surged 7.5 per cent, while their outlook for the economy over the next five years also bounced, up 5.2 per cent.

Meanwhile, respondents’ views of their own finances were quite mixed.

Last week, they were 3.9 per cent more optimistic about their current financial situation, compared to one year ago.

But they were less optimistic towards about their finances over the next 12 months, with that measure down 1.9 per cent.

On the other hand, the subindex on whether “now is a good time to buy a major household item” jumped 3.7 per cent.

Ms Emmett said that while last week’s figures were solid, the key for the economy would be whether confidence translated into spending.

“Household spending remains a key risk to the outlook and, as such, confidence will be key to watch in the leadup to the Commonwealth Budget and what looks likely to be a July 2 double dissolution election,” she said.

Reliance set for biggest ASX IPO of 2016

Australian plumbing supplies company Reliance Worldwide could raise more than $900 million when it floats on the Australian stock exchange next week.

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The Brisbane-based business is expected to list at $2.27 to $2.50 a share and generate up to $919 million, making the April 29 listing the largest local listing of 2016 so far.

Reliance, which sells valves, pipe fittings and thermostatic products across the English-speaking world and in Europe, is forecast to have a total market capitalisation of up to $1.3 billion.

Chairman Jonathan Munz, whose family has owned Reliance for 30 years, will retain at least 30 per cent of shares after the float.

Writing in the company prospectus, Mr Munz said the company had achieved average net sales growth of more than 13 per cent per annum over the past decade.

Mr Munz, a high-profile horse owner and breeder in Melbourne, said Reliance will use the additional capital to continue pursuing growth and increased market penetration in the United States and Canada.

“The purpose of the offer is to enable the existing owners to partially realise their investment in Reliance, provide Reliance with access to capital markets … broaden the shareholder base and provide a liquid market for its shares,” Mr Munz wrote in his letter to potential shareholders.

According to the prospectus, Reliance generated net sales of $451.7 million in 2014-15, with almost 70 per cent in the US and Canada.

The company expects to generate sales of $534.9 million in 2015-16 and $587.8 million the year after.

Sales were contingent on the shape of renovation and construction markets around the world, the prospectus said, as well as changes in economic conditions.

The company intends to target a dividend payout ratio of at least 40 per cent of net profit after tax.

Heath Sharp, who has been with Reliance since 1990, will serve as chief executive.

Syrian peace talks suspended by opposition

Syrian opposition negotiators and rebels have temporarily withdrawn from UN-brokered peace talks, vowing to strike back in reaction to the government’s alleged ceasefire violations.

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While an opposition spokesman says his side has “decided to postpone” the talks that started on Wednesday in Geneva, UN mediator Staffan de Mistura clarified that the delegation has left an opening.

The delegates will suspend their participation in official meetings at UN offices in the Swiss city, he says.

“They told us, however, their intention to remain in Geneva in their hotel and possibly, at my own suggestion, to pursue technical discussions with myself and my team,” de Mistura told reporters.

The opposition decided that continuing negotiations despite a lack of progress on humanitarian issues and escalating ceasefire breaches would be “increasing the ordeal of our people,” spokesman Ahmed Ramadan says.

De Mistura has been shuttling between the regime and the opposition teams, rather than bringing them to the same table.

US President Barack Obama telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to express concern about the status of the Syrian ceasefire and push Putin to pressure the Russian-backed regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stop attacks against the opposition.

Earlier on Monday, several major Syrian rebel factions vowed to retaliate against government forces for alleged violations of the cessation of hostilities in a further sign that the war-torn country’s ceasefire is teetering.

Rebel troops attacked government positions in Latakia province in the north and on the outskirts of western Hama in Syria’s central region, according to the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman.

The latest clashes come on the heels of recent skirmishes and a build-up of forces at potential flashpoints.

The opposition accuses the government of using the ceasefire, which was brokered by Russia and the United States on February 27, to gain ground and prepare for future attacks, especially around Aleppo city.

“The cessation of hostilities is still holding in many areas, but the increase in fighting is indeed worrisome,” said de Mistura, summing up the United Nation’s assessment.

Humanitarian shipments were proceeding too slowly he, he said.

In the Geneva talks, the opposition has been demanding a transitional government without the involvement of President Bashar al-Assad, while the government side has ruled out an early departure of the president.

Meanwhile, rebels including Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Qaeda wing al-Nusra Front are under pressure from the Islamic State extremist militia in the northern province of Aleppo.

More than 100,000 people are trapped in a small pocket in northern Syria, amid ongoing clashes between Islamic State and rebels, the aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned.

Tests suggest drugs can kill cancer cells

Dramatic trial results indicate that a combination of two immunotherapy drugs can wipe out the most deadly form of skin cancer even when the disease is advanced.

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Of 95 patients given the treatment, more than 60 per cent were still alive after two years and of these a fifth had no detectable tumours remaining.

A total of 142 patients were randomly allocated either to receive two drugs, nivolumab and ipilimumab, or ipilimumab alone.

The therapies, consisting of lab-made antibodies, are designed to overcome the ability of some cancers to evade the immune system.

Findings from a phase II US-led trial testing the effectiveness of the drug combination were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in New Orleans

British expert Dr James Larkin, consultant medical oncologist at the Royal Marsden Hospital, has treated patients with the drugs as part of another on-going trial.

Dr Larkin said: “Both nivolumab and ipilimumab have changed survival expectations in advanced melanoma over the last few years and these latest data show us that combining these two immunotherapies is an effective two-pronged attack against the cancer.

“The overall survival rates observed using the regimen of nivolumab plus ipilimumab are very promising and provide further hope for patients and their families affected by this disease.”

In 2013, around 14,500 people in the UK were diagnosed with melanoma and 2100 died from the disease.

Melanoma is at the forefront of new immunotherapy approaches to cancer treatment.

The immune system is constantly fighting a battle with cancer, and usually wins. But sometimes it fails, due to cancers exploiting mechanisms designed to prevent a too-strong immune response harming the body’s own tissues.

The antibody drugs, known as “checkpoint inhibitors”, interrupt two different signalling pathways to take the brakes off the immune system.

Patients taking part in the trial had two common forms of melanoma, one with a “normal” version of the BRAF gene and the other with a mutated version.

A total of 69 per cent of patients from the normal or “wild-type” BRAF group treated with the combination therapy were still alive after two years.

For the whole population of combination therapy patients, two year survival was achieved by 64 per cent.

Checkpoint inhibitors can have side effects linked to the way they impact on the immune system which may cause skin, gastro-intestinal, liver and hormonal problems.

In the trial, the adverse effects associated with the combination treatment included rash, itching, diarrhoea, gut inflammation and raised levels of a marker of liver damage.

Target the focus in Wesfarmers results

Wesfarmers’ problem child Target will likely be the focus of attention when the Perth-based conglomerate unveils its quarterly sales results.

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While Coles and Bunnings are the largest assets in Wesfarmers’ portfolio, analysts say the group is under pressure to address increasing speculation about the future of its discount department stores in the wake of an accounting scandal.

Wesfarmers will update the market on its March quarter sales on Thursday.

Target has been grappling with years of declining sales, while stablemates Kmart, Coles and Bunnings perform strongly with positive like-for-like growth.

Bell Direct equities analyst Julia Lee said the market expects Target to continue to struggle.

“Kmart and Target are very much in focus with a lot of talk about the Target brand disappearing,” Ms Lee said.

“Any commentary about Target’s future will be keenly watched.”

Market analyst Ben Le Brun of optionsXpress said Target has been the problem child for some time and the group was under pressure to turn it around.

“Wesfarmers is managing well in a tough retail environment with the exception of Target and that’s probably where the spotlight will be,” he said.

“There has been talk of merging Target and Kmart because they are so similar.”

Analysts expect Coles and Bunnings to continue to report same store sales growth.

However, Coles’ growth is expected to continue to slow amid an intense price war with Woolworths and German discounter Aldi.

The major supermarkets have been investing heavily in reducing its food prices as Aldi aggressively expands beyond Australia’s eastern states.

Investment bank Morgan Stanley has said Aldi could hit $15 billion in sales or 10 per cent of the Australian grocery market by 2020.

As for Bunnings, analysts will look out for whether the fire sale at Woolworths’ soon-to-expire Masters stores has hurt short-term sales.

Wesfarmers may also update the market on Bunnings’ expansion into the UK following its takeover of British DIY chain Homebase earlier this year.

Bill Campbell, mentor to Steve Jobs, dies

Bill Campbell, a former Ivy League football coach who became a management guru for Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and other Silicon Valley luminaries, has died.

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He was 75.

His death on Monday was confirmed by Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, a venture capital firm that often called upon Campbell to help mould entrepreneurs as they tried to manage the rapid growth often triggered by their innovations.

Campbell died after a long battle with cancer, according to the firm, which was speaking on behalf of his family.

Although he wasn’t widely known outside Silicon Valley, Campbell played a pivotal role in shaping the direction of both Apple and Google, two of the world’s most powerful companies.

After working in marketing and sales at Apple during the 1980s, Campbell joined the company’s board in 1997, shortly after Jobs returned as the company’s CEO.

At the time, Apple was flirting with bankruptcy.

Campbell frequently served as Jobs’ sounding board during one of the most resounding corporate turnarounds in US history as Apple first redesigned its Mac computer line and then rolled out the iPod, iPhone and iPad to emerge as the world most valuable company.

Campbell ended his 17-year stint on Apple’s board in 2014.

While working with Apple, Campbell played a behind-the-scenes role in Google’s success, too.

Prompted by Kleiner Perkins, Campbell worked with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and company co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to help them work out their early differences and eventually forge one of the most successful partnerships in corporate America.

Alphabet, Google’s corporate parent, is now the world’s second most valuable company, ranking only behind Apple.